10-13-14 8:09pm  •  More Meaning

SandraDee: What is the meaning of life if most of it is spent suffering? I'm so done!

Zima: From my perspective, as a Christian, the meaning of life is to know God and to Love God. As for suffering, I believe it is to grow our character and be a witness for Christ through that.

SandraDee: So, my dad started molesting me when I was 11. Did God allow this traumatic thing in my life to grow my character?

Zima: God has His reasons. Perhaps you will be helping someone else through that, or be a witness for others as to how to overcome it. We never know what our impact will be on people.

So God allows men to rape little girls so they can grow up to help the other little girls God allows men to rape. Why? To grow all of their character! Because god knows a world without this kind of character would be so colorless!

SandraDee, with all due respect to Zima's beliefs, my advice would be to ignore them completely. Dragging gods into this is just adding a layer of inexplicable intent where there isn't any. It results in a lot of reeeeeally reaching explanations as to how this is all for the good...somehow. But there is no reason for this kind of reaching, and it is a waste of human time and energy and emotion.

Gods have no effect on human affairs. I'm so sorry you had something terrible happen to you but the causes of it are obviously not supernatural.

Zima: Not to sound trite or theological, but I really do believe that God can take horrible situations and turn them for His good.

People take horrible situations and turn them to good. It is our greatest strength.

SandraDee: For some reason I like your attitude about it. It is reaching to say that God allows it so He can use it later. Maybe it is because we live in this sin filled world and "shit happens". That makes more sense to me than to bring God into it. Thank you!

10-12-14 9:09pm  •  Why Christianity Continued

This discussion is continued from a previous one here.


Thank you Buttermilk for the lengthy response. I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into this along with your thoughtful words.

Buttermilk: I don't think individuals are being picked on who believe it, but I do feel that Christianity is a target.

There is a reason. Christianity has a horrific history and has very cruel, exclusionary and irrational claims. There is no way to address unreason without confronting this.

Buttermilk: I think non-Christians fear Christians seek political and social domination, and that that will destroy their civil rights or even affect their children or society at large in negative ways.

There is a reason to fear this. It has happened with Christianity before a lot. It is happening now with the other AFs. It can happen anywhere there is massive unreason.

Buttermilk: There is evidence! Take the time to look up Ryan Wyatt and his archaeology of the Holy Land. What it will show, esp. if you take the time to watch the documentaries, that there is very concrete archaeological evidence to back up much of scripture.

There is no evidence that the claims about gods are true. Those are the claims whose falseness creates all the error.

Buttermilk: You have to be careful. Things we call facts that are paraded as truth aren't always true.

That is why we invented checking.

Buttermilk: People claim that dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. But that is all speculation. Believing the normally accepted version of when the dinosaurs lived or how they died, is a leap of faith akin to a religious belief that has no concrete evidence.

No, not akin. The physical features of fossils and remains and other objects - not what people said, but actual things - are concrete evidence which can be checked.

There is nothing that can be checked to determine if claims about gods are true. Thinking something based on physical objects is not akin to thinking something because a person said it.

Buttermilk: Carbon dating is full of holes.

You are misinformed. Carbon dating is only used for objects up to 60,000 years old. Other radiometric dating is used for older stuff like dinosaurs, with margins of error shown to be only 2 - 5%

Buttermilk: But people don't see truth the same way.

Very simply, take a statue. Say, a ballerina by Degas in a museum. You look at the front. You walk around and look at the side. THe back. If you were to draw that statue from the front only, that is one perspective. If you were to sit behind and draw that statue from the back, that is another perspective. This is a statue, so it is 3D. A picture from the front even though it is different than a drawing made of the back, doesn't discredit the view from the back. It has many sides that in reality exist, and exist simultaneously.

Interesting example, however not a support for the idea that truth is too subjective to be determined. How we determine truth is not like this.

Determining truth is more like examining the statue from every angle, over and over again. It's like many different people examining it, and measuring it, and observing it under every condition, comparing notes with each other, checking each other's measurments, rejecting measurements which are found to be inaccurate, measuring it again, comparing again, and finally arriving at a description that everyone who checks can agree is an accurate description of the statue.

That is the kind of understanding that can be used to make things work. It may not be perfect, but a description doesn't get to be truth unless it is really, really reliable for describing. That reliability is what makes it completely different from ancient claims about gods. That reliability is what makes it work.

Buttermilk: We all want to know how old the earth is, but we get different answers based on how we calculate it. Some believe in evolution and use carbon dating, while others believe in Adam and calculate the generations using his story from God's book. Each point of view has different tools to calculate this.

What somebody said a long time ago is not a reliable tool for determining the age of the earth. Examining physical objects is much more reliable. It's not "fifty-fifty, they both work great so who really knows." It's that one of those methods can be shown to be a reliable system for determining the age of the earth and the other cannot. The showing is what makes it a better tool.

Buttermilk: But the world works differently depending on who you are.

Truth about reality is based on the parts that work the same for everybody, which is most of it. The age of the earth is the same for everybody. The forces that move matter and energy are the same for everybody.

Buttermilk: It depends on how much money you make, how much money you were born into (or not), how much education you have or have not, your positive or negative experiences, what religion you were raised in (or not), what culture you grew up in, etc etc.

Those factors have no effect on the age of the earth or whether gods interact with humans. None. And those are the claims from Christianity which are causing the problems.

Buttermilk: There are certain facts we all know to be true.

I'm glad you agree. That is where to look for reliable understanding of how things are.

Buttermilk: But there are others that are greatly disputed and it seems a lot of times that scientific beliefs with really good theories behind them but are not backed up completely are erroneously or prematurely presented as solid fact.

That is why we invented checking. Upon examination the issues get worked out.

Buttermilk: Who controls the truth today?


Buttermilk: I can look anything up on the internet, and for whatever I find, will also exist it's antithesis.

No, not checking the internet, checking the actual thing. If somebody says it's true that X exists and has Y characteristics, you can yourself go and look at X, and see if it indeed expresses Y.

Buttermilk: We have to take the word of others. We cannot all be astronomers, biophysicists, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, plumbers....

You can check any claim you are interested in. If it's true X is there to be examined.

Buttermilk: Even you, Raverlady, rely upon beliefs that you yourself have not directly verified.

I rely on claims which I can directly verify and so can you. Christianity relies on claims which you cannot directly verify and neither can I or anyone. That makes it quite different from the verifiable.

Buttermilk: I don't think Christians ignore that they don't know things.

They are ignoring that they do not know certain specific things. They are ignoring that no human knows anything about gods, and they are making claims about gods. They are ignoring that no human knows anything about "the afterlife" and making claims that there is an afterlife and they know how to get the good one.

Buttermilk: You think that because you are going by numbers, concrete evidence that you can see or that someone else can prove to you. That's not how Christianity works, or I guess any religion for that matter.

Yes, that is why Christianity is not a good system for determining truth.

Buttermilk: I remember when I was a kid the cafeteria at the Catholic school wouldn't serve meat on Fridays. The Catholic kids didn't even know why. Then my mom told me it was man-made, not scriptural.

Therefore, to me, commanding people not to eat meat on Friday and pretending that was a law made by the authority of God, was a lie.

Every word people say about gods appears to be exactly this.

Buttermilk: You said, "The distance between what people are claiming and what is true causes great error." Well, if you don't want that you have to go and make the people claiming things accountable.

Okay. You are claiming this:

There is only one [God] that even exists.

Christ was God's son.

God made us in His image.

I am attempting to hold you accountable for these claims. How can it be confirmed that these claims are true?

10-11-14 2:55pm  •  Captialist Unreason

Buttermilk: You said that capitalists were "more dangerous" than Christians. Capitalists are a broad group. How do you see them as being dangerous?

In this context "capitalists" refers to the policy position that society should be ordered around economic activity. This is dangerous because:

1) Economic activity is not the only aspect to human existence. Having everything run by profit motive does not take care of everything that needs to get done, but reduces everything to current market value. Talk about not very colorful!

2) Economic activity requires vigorous supervision or it quickly becomes exploitive and unjust. The profit motive allows for anything.

3) Unsupervised economic activity has so severely unbalanced our civilization that a tiny number of humans with no mandate other than their own narrow self-interest are controlling what happens to the biosphere of the planet. If these capitalists have their way we will not address climate change. That seems pretty dangerous.

Thanks for asking!

Buttermilk: If there are capitalists with a disregard for human life, who view humans as nothing more than capital, you might have a relevant conversation there.

Yes, there are, but they are as much a symptom of the problem as the cause.

Buttermilk:That being said, not all capitalism or capitalists are without morals or ethics, nor do all disregard human rights or life.

I said I was referring to the policy position that society should be ordered around economic activity. It is an ideology. The ideology contains no inherent morals or ethics.

Buttermilk: Capitalism is simply an economic system, which like any tool, when used with consideration towards others should be benign and perhaps even beneficial.

The tool you are referring to is markets. Capitalism is market-based, and markets are indeed a great tool which provide for people's needs and can be a great engine for prosperity and progress. However the idea that all human life should be ordered around markets is inherently flawed for the reasons I mentioned.

Capitalism in this context refers to the ideology that all human life should be ordered around market activity, and "capitalists" refers to those who espouse this ideology. American Capitalism refers to our particular cut-throat version of the ideology, in which "consideration towards others" is legally required to be ignored if it gets in the way of corporate profits. Right now the capitalism which is being practiced in our country is extremely unjust and exploitive. Support for this system runs high because it is bought and paid for by the ones who benefit from it, the extremely wealthy capitalists.

Right now "consideration towards others" is not even on their radar anywhere that counts. They are not concerned with what will benefit the economy or the country - that's why they broke the money in 2008. They are not concerned with how addiction to growth is trashing the planet. They are not concerned with massive inequality. They are not concerned with human suffering on a grand scale.

No matter how considerate and well-intentioned the people might be individually, every decision made by corporate entities is required to ignore that in favor of profits. No matter their personal ethics, the requirements of the system keep them incrementally slouching toward greed and destruction.

The good news is there are better ways to harness the great power of markets. At one point the U.S. had a better system with a much more workable balance between markets and social needs. We did this with a lot of oversight on the markets, particularly financial markets, and a lot fairer sharing of the gains. If we were willing to oversee the markets and share the gains again, we could again have a capitalism that works in benign and perhaps even beneficial ways.

10-08-14 2:55pm  •  What is Popular?

Mazzy: My 8 year old who is in the 3rd grade, asked me what it takes to be popular in school. Seems that being popular still out weighs academics. Starts a hell of a lot earlier as well.

So, what say you? What does it take to be popular?

Humans have deeply ingrained, rigid social ranking systems. Where you end up in the strata is based largely on personality types and behavior patterns which are also very deeply ingrained, and hard to significantly alter.

In other words, the effort to become more "popular" than you naturally are may not yield much result. Various studies of social ranking showed very little mobility between established ranks.

But, that doesn't mean a girl shouldn't work to be more confident, more friendly and more at ease. That will pay her back just on its own merit, and give her better relationships with everyone.

When I was a girl, I remember me and a couple of my friends weren't in the "in group," but we all wanted to be. And the sad thing was, we turned our backs on each other to try to get there. It didn't work but we alienated each other in the process.

If I had it to do over again, I would value my friends more for who they are and less for how they rank. I wish someone had told me back then that having popular friends wasn't as important as having good friends.

Mazzy: I mean, where is it all stemming from? The parents? What the parents allow the children to watch, to listen to, to wear? WHAT?!?!?!?!?

No. It is instinctually inborn in our species. Human relations have always been like this.

Our closest relatives, the other primates, have very rigid social ranking systems which the members observe practially from birth. They don't even talk, but they play out the same social games that humans do - making alliances, establishing dominance, conflicting over position, scapegoating, you name it.

It's happening in every corporation, every schoolyard, every neighborhood in the world. It's a part of human life.

10-08-14 8:16am  •  All Paths Lead to God

Zeena: I keep hearing, "All paths lead to God." I don't usually hear people say that "some" paths lead to god, or that their personal path, and only their path leads to God. But that ALL paths lead to God.

Really? Every path?

HinduGirl: It's true. Your path is science. Your soul will learn the lessons that it needs to know in this life from this path. And you are lucky have me around, because even you "hearing" the Holy Names of the Lord online, your soul is advancing.

Actually it's the opposite. Just "hearing" the names Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris online made your soul dissolve. Sorry.

HinduGirl: You can't change someone's beliefs. For example, my stepson, who is seven, denies his bio-mom is his real mother. Just because I can take him to her and offer all the proof I have to him doesn't mean he has to believe she is his mother.

His belief or lack thereof is irrelevant. She is his mother and it can be proven.

HinduGirl: The belief is in the heart of the believer and if he chooses to not believe in her, no proof will help.

Then he would just be incorrect.

At age 7 that is hardly an issue. However if he got to be an adult and still refused to believe that she was his bio mom despite conclusive genetic tests it would mean that he was irrational.

HinduGirl: A person's path is individual. Someone who is very free spirited and not into ritual will not be happy in a religion that requires strict attendence and study.

So is personal happiness more important than doing what God wants?

Or if a religion claims - as many do - that strict adherence to their rituals and taboos are what God wants, is the religion wrong?

HinduGirl: Your path is the correct one for YOU.

I don't think there is any doubt that people can pick the set of rituals that suit their propensity to perform rituals. The question is, are the rituals actually a path "to God"?

HinduGirl: Hindus believe all paths lead to God. Other religions dont.

Are the religions which state that only their path leads to God wrong?

HinduGirl: No they are not wrong.

How is that possible? What they state is in direct contradiction to what Hinduism states. Is Hinduism wrong to state that all paths lead to God, or are other religions wrong to state that only some paths lead to God?

Or, does no human actually know more about how to get "to God" than any other human?

HinduGirl: Prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no Supreme Deity, and I will stop worshipping and raise my kids to know the truth.

Well, I am not an atheist, so I certainly would not try to prove that there are no deities. As far as I can tell, no human knows if there are deities or if there are not. Nothing is known of them.

However I don't see what that has to do with raising your kids to know the truth. The truth is the stuff that is known about.

EpicJill: Zeena, your path may have turned you away from G-d, but He wants you to return to Him. Now, G-d is willing to go with us to the the highest relationship level possible. But He will respect what level each of us chooses.

Because of your choice, your soul is searching for a way to get to G-d, but your physical body is blocking that soul.

MyMy: How can you know that?

EpicJill: You can't prove it's not true!

You are the one making claims that you know what God wants and what Zeena's soul wants. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim.

EpicJill: How am I making claims that I know what God wants?

You claim to know what Zeena's soul and body are doing relative to God. You are claiming to know how God acts, what He is "willing to do" and what He will "respect." How do you know you are right?

EpicJill: I never said I was right.

Then why bother claiming it if you don't know if you are right?

EpicJill: I NEVER said or even implied that my path is the only valid one, I would appreciate it if you wouldn't twist things around to make it look as if I did.

I cut and pasted your exact words.

EpicJill: Personally, I have certainty in my path being right (check it out not the ONLY one, just right).

I never said you were claiming it was the only one. I said you claimed to know, and you do claim to know.

EpicJill: Yeah, I do claim to know this is the right path for ME.

Well, that is a completely different argument. "This path is right for ME" is a waaaay different claim than "this path is right."

In any case, I am not talking about your claim to know that this is the "right path for YOU." I am talking about your claim to know that Zeena's body is blocking Zeena's soul from reaching God. How could "Zeena's body is blocking Zeena's soul from reaching God" just be true "for YOU"?

EpicJill: And that's SO wrong because...?

Because you could be wrong. There is no evidence that you are closer to God than Zeena. Perhaps God prefers rationalists. Perhaps God is equally close to all beings. Perhaps "God" is just this thing people say. You do not actually know more about God than Zeena or any other person. So why bother claiming you do?

EpicJill: You tell me something, why is it that your inability to accept those beliefs as valid makes them inherently wrong?

It's not anyone's ability to accept claims that make them right or wrong. It is whether they seem to be true or not.

If you are talking about your claims to know that the body can block the soul, or God wants a relationship with people, what makes them seem wrong is that you are claiming to know things that no human knows.

EpicJill: And to whom exactly they have to "seem true" to be considered right?

Claims seem to be true when they can be verified. They don't seem to be true when they are just something that people say. People can say anything.

EpicJill: And ONCE AGAIN, I'm not claiming knowledge of certain things. I'm answering questions with the answers *I* belive in according to what my religion says.

So, they don't even seem to be true to you, except that your religion happens to say them. Religions can say anything.

EpicJill:Just because you're ignorant about the evidence, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

What is it?

EpicJill: It won't mean anything to you if you go towards it with a biased and prejudiced attitude.

I am not biased or prejudiced. What is the evidence?

EpicJill: It's not my job to give it to you.

I'm sorry you feel this way. I would certainly provide evidence for any claim I made, no matter who was listening, whether they agreed with me or not. I have the courage of my convictions. I don't care if it's my "job." It is a pleasure and an honor to share what I know with others.

EpicJill: You are just luring people into providing information to ridicule and tear apart.

I do not fear this about my ideas. Why should you if you are right? Truth can survive any inquiry.

EpicJill: You can look at the balance in the Universe, at the diffrent colors, sounds and tastes, at your children, at the perfect complexity that is your body, at your feelings and consciousness, at the balance of nature and think "hey, cool accident of atoms and forces" or you can realize that there's no possible that's all the Universe is, that there has to be something more than mere chance holding all the balance together.

How is that evidence that Zeena's physical body is blocking her soul from reaching God?

EpicJill: The impression I'm getting is, you don't need to be Hercule Poirot to doubt the intentions of the Atheists that from day #1 start with an attacking and belligerent attitude.

What does this have to do with me? Where did I ever say I was an atheist? Where did I attack or become belligerent? I don't see why you have to visit your problem with them on me.

EpicJill: Besides, as I said, it's not MY job to prove anything to you or to make you see the evidence the way I see it.

As I said, I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way. Who cares whose "job" it is? When I make claims they can be supported, and I relish the opportunity to share the support with others. What difference does it make if they will accept it? It is an honor and a thrill just to have the opportunity to share.

EpicJill: If you have ever gone through questioning and soul searching, then I'm sure you appreciated the value of finding those things on your own, not having someone else throw them at you.

How could I be sure that the "answers" that pop into my head during "soul searching" are correct? All alone I could just make up anything.

The most important things I have learned in my life have been learned with the help of others, and confirmed by verification.

EpicJill: I learned not to bother long ago explaining anything to Atheists.

This is ridiculous. I never said I was an atheist and I have been perfectly polite. Are you going to use your problems with them to continue to avoid my questions?

EpicJill: I'm not avoiding your questions.

Great! What is the evidence you have that Zeena's physical body is blocking her soul from reaching God?

EpicJill: As I said, I simply don't trust your intentions.

What does that have to do with it? I don't have to "trust" people to share the evidence which supports my claims. There is no reason for me to hide my reasoning from others, even from those who might not agree with it. The evidence stands on its own regardless of what they think, and I consider it a great honor to share.

EpicJill: I'm seeing ignorant, hateful people coming here just to bash.

This has nothing to do with me. I have been entirely civil, as anyone who has read this conversation can see.

EpicJill: Besides, I can't give you evidence of the specifics when you don't believe the basics.

Real evidence is not dependent on preconditions in the listening audience. It stands on its own.

This is indistinguishable from not having evidence.

EpicJill: Get over it, what do you care if I believe that, if that's what my religion says or if I made it up? if I have evidence of it or not?

The truth matters.

EpicJill: You are wrong, the preconditions of the audience matter. My aunt is an astronomer and she can show me evidence of many things she claims exist in the Universe. But because I lack the necessary knowledge to determine whether that's actual evidence or not, it would be pointless and meaningless to try to determine that for myself.

So your aunt just tells you to get lost when you ask about her work?

First of all, anyone can find out the knowledge necessary to make the determination. You don't have to "believe" it or agree with it - you can simply learn it.

Secondly, astronomers like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson had no problem explaining astronomical concepts in ways that even non-experts can understand - it can be done.

Most importantly, no astonomer worth her salt would say, "I have evidence, but I'm not going to share it with you." Even if you could not understand your aunt's evidence, that would not make the evidence invalid, and if she cares about what she knows and why it supports her claims she would probably be honored and thrilled to share it.

At least, that is how every knowledgable person I know feels about it. They are happy to go on and on about their evidence, what it means, and how imporant it is and why. They are thrilled to provide whatever background information they can so that you can really appreciate the keeness of their insight and the magnitude of their contribution.

If your aunt would refuse share her knowledge with you when you ask, she would be very much the exception among knowledgeable people.

So, I'm not buying this as a good reason for you to keep your evidence secret.

EpicJill: Just this morning someone posted about how Jesus IS the only way, I didn't see you demanding evidence of that "truth".

I'm getting to it. If there is evidence of this I would be very interested in knowing what it is.

I was simply evaluating your claims in this discussion to know what Zeena's soul is doing and how God acts in relationships, because those seem like claims of extraordinary knowledge. I know of no person who really knows more about how God acts than any other person.

Faithful: Jesus IS the only way! I'm not afraid to say it. I know it is true.

Prove it.

Faithful: So... when it was known that the atom was the smallest structure, was that truth? When it was known that the earth was flat and you could fall from the edge... was that truth? When it was known that 19 people in Salem were witches, was that truth?

They thought they knew, but they could not prove it. We have a higher standard for knowledge now. Now knowledge is not accepted unless it can be proved.

Of course knowledge is still subject to error. All the more reason not to make any claims of knowledge without good, solid evidence.

EpicJill: "Prove it?" LMAO! Do you have any other arguments?

This is the one that matters. The difference between knowledge and what you happen to think is that knowledge can be supported with evidence.

EpicJill: So it wasn't truth then, it was just that we had limited resources and information. And that cannot apply here because....?

It applies perfectly here. Yes, it wasn't truth then. It could not be proved. It was wrong.

What you are claiming may not be truth now. It cannot be proved. It could be wrong.

Zeena: Hey, remember me? Now that you have been talking about me for days can I say something?

I'm not an atheist, I don't claim to know what's out there. But, I am positive that the Bible is not the word of God, nor does any human on the planet know the word of God.

EpicJill: Oh well, then why don't you go ahead and prove THAT then.

That's a pretty safe position.

The bible is a book of words. It can be examined, and it does not appear in any way different than any other collection of words in a volume. There is no evidence that it is the "word of God" any more than "Gone with the Wind" is the word of God.

The burden of proof is on the people making the claim, and people who claim the Bible is the Word of God have not produced any evidence to support that claim.

Some people claim knowledge of God but they cannot back up the claim with evidence. The burden of proof is on them to support their claim.

Unsupported claims do not have to be credited.

EpicJill: I'll prove to you that I know people who know better than some hateful, prejudiced, ignorant Atheist the nature and actions of G-d. Why don't you come over and I'll introduce you to them? I live in Mexico City. Let me know when you want to meet them.

I have already met people in Mexico who claim to be very learned about God. They did not have any evidence to support their claim.

If there was any person in Mexico with evidence to support their claim that they knew more about God than other people I'm sure it would be on the news. That would be important.

EpicJill: I mean, I could be wrong.

Well, there you go. You could be wrong. So, what you are claiming is not knowledge. It is just what you think.

EpicJill: But as I said, I personally have enough evidence to make me think that I believe is true. And that is perfectly valid and perfectly logical.

Sure you do.

EpicJill: You are making A claim: the Bible isn't the word of G-d.

That is not a claim, it is rejecting a claim for lack of evidence.

EpicJill: I don't have a burden of proof simply to believe what I think is true.

That is different from claiming that you know.

EpicJill: I'm not claiming it's an undeniable fact because obviously it isn't.

That is the point.

HinduGirl: I dont believe the Bible is the word of God either. Nor the Vedas. They were all written by men, some with the best of intentions, some with maybe not so good intentions. But I do believe they contain valuable instructions on how we should strive to live.

Upon examination, that is what it looks like.

EpicJill: Your misguided definition of evidence only allows for DIRECT, UNQUESTIONALBE evidence and that is but one type of evidence that's actually extremely rare.

Not for claims which can actually be considered true.

There is direct evidence to support the claim that objects in earth's gravity well fall at 32.2' /sec². Anyone can directly, unquestionably verify this by dropping objects and measuring the speed of their descent.

This is a claim that I would consider true. There are many, many claims which I can personally, directly verify which I would consider true.

EpicJill: But hey, if you think a thing doesn't exist if you can't see it, then by all means show me electricity.

MyMy: On a cold dry day get some nice rubber sole shoes and rub your shoes on the carpet and put you finger next to a grounded object in a dark room. You can not only enjoy the plasma light show of the electrons rushing about which we call electricity; you can corroborate it via feel as well.

Wow, it worked!!

I did exactly this and exactly what you describe happened. Zap! I have personally verified electricity.

Thank you for providing evidence. I'm impressed.

EpicJill: You VERIFIED electricity. You didn't SEE it.

I saw it. Heard it. Felt it. It was real.

EpicJill: Now care to SHOW me gravity?

Your turn. Show God.

10-08-14 6:16am  •  Star Trek Morality

I have been studying and pondering various moral systems lately and I was wondering what other moral systems might exist besides the ones we usually discuss. I watched a Star Trek episode today and it suddenly occurred to me what a wonderful moral system they have in Starfleet and the Federation. Here are some features:

1. Every single person is fed, clothed and housed. No one is considered unworthy of a meal.

2. Everyone is healed. People don't have "coverage" and "copays." If you show up in sick bay Dr. Crusher does everything she can to heal you no matter who you are - even an enemy.

3. Violence is used in defense only. And with absolutely as little harm as possible - phasers are set to stun.

4. The social ranking is a true meritocracy. People gain rank through service and performance.

5. Social stratification is minimal. Even the admirals are only a half dozen steps above the ensigns.

6. Heads of state are elected.

7. The highest goal of society is exploration, discovery and understanding.

8. The first duty of a Starfleet officer is to the truth, be it scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth.

9. The first duty to life is to safeguard it.

10. Humans treat each other with polite respect.

People often use stories - parables - to teach moral lessons. Previously I made my son watch a Star Trek:The Next Generation episode with me because I thought it made a particular moral point I wanted him to learn. Now I'm thinking I should just go through the whole series with him. I think he's finally old enough to appreciate non-cartoon sci-fi, and I can't think of a better bunch of stories showing the kind of morals I value.

AB: Are you seriously trying to compare The Bible to Star Trek?

How are they different?

AB: That is not a serious question worth devoting time to.

Not everything has to be serious. Things are worth time if they are interesting.

So, just for fun I thought I would run a quick comparison. They are similar in that:

1. They are sets of stories.

2. They have many different authors.

3. They are an attempt to describe a moral structure which people can use to live a better life.

4. They place a strong emphasis on things which are possible outside the laws of physics.

5. They both mention historical facts and work them into the stories.

They are different in that:

1. The Bible is old and Star Trek is new.

2. The Bible contains the moral ideals of Christians and Star Trek contains the moral ideals of Trekkies.

I'm sure there are many other similarities and differences.

AB: It figures you would take some crazy sci-fi idea and pretend it could be true. Ha! The only reason it can be this way in Star Trek is because the material has no value.

I would not disagree with this. However, it would seem to imply that right now there is only so much material and there just isn't enough to go around for everybody. And I certainly don't see that as being the case.

On the contrary, there appears to be enough material to go around. However, a very few people on this earth lay claim to most of it. They lay claim to absolutely as much as they can acquire, in any fashion, by whatever means, far beyond what would be necessary to meet any possible human need that they could have. Then, only what is left over is available for everyone else.

The very easy answer to this is that the simplest, most basic needs of all must be met first. Then the rich can divide up the largesse in whatever greedy fashion they see fit. My sweetie likens it to serving Thanksgiving dinner for the family - "Everyone gets firsts before anyone gets seconds."

We almost have this now. In the U.S. it is almost unheard of for people to starve. Our elderly and disabled are cared for by our group effort. In Canada they do it even better, so that every citizen can be treated for their illnesses. In Finland, every person can become educated to whatever degree they desire. It can be done.

Just a tiny shift in our public policies could meet the Star Trek ideal right now of providing the basics for everyone.

We could practically afford this right now too, without increasing our taxes by a penny, if we were to divert some of our bloated military budget into public services. Worldwide, ensuring that the simplest needs of food, shelter, clothing, education and health are met for everyone could be done with scraps from the tables of the rich. They would suffer no deprivation.

All we need is a public perception that it is important to do so. If these were our shared human values we would already have it.

We can't afford to wait until they invent replicators. People are suffering deprivation now. Those people will represent a lifelong drain on our entire global society. It's not working.

We need to shift our value system from Us and Them to just Us.

AB: The rich try to exploit the poor and the poor try to exploit the rich.

Maybe, but the rich have great power with which to exploit all others. The poor have no power at all with which to exploit the rich. Systems that attempt to benefit the poor by, say, taxing the rich are implemented by the other rich - not by "the poor" themselves.

AB: You think the Bible and Star Trek are comparable?

I think Star Trek is certainly comparable with heroic mythology like the Greek and Roman myths, the Viking sagas, the Egyptian mythos, the Hindu panoply, etc. The Bible does not seem to be particularly different from other human mytho-historical religious traditions.

AB: Well...the story of Kahless is not too dissimilar from Jesus.

I am sure it was meant to be directly allegorical.

AB: At least in Star Trek no one belittles Worf for his belief in the Kilngon mythology or his rituals.

I like what Worf said when he was asked if the Klingons had gods.

He said, "All our gods are dead. They were killed by warriors centuries ago.

They were more trouble then they were worth."

AB: You don't know really know your Trek - you forgot the Prime Directive!

Only after I had written out my Star Trek morality list did I remember the Prime Directive, and I thought about trying to add it in somewhere. After all, it is Starfleet's General Order Number One.

However in the end I declined to include it because I don't think it represents a real value. I think it serves only as a plot contrivance, to spice up episodes by making simple decisions seem monstrously complicated.

10-07-14 12:16  •  Is the Bible Morally Neutral?

I was watching Chris Hitchens discussing the bible, and how Abraham was rewarded for his willingness to sacrifice his son to please God. Some Christians have suggested to me that Abraham was doing the right thing because God requires 100% obedience. I've heard some non-theists like Hitchens argue that this is morally reprehensible because killing one's kid is wrong.

Then, I have heard some Christians argue that it's all a matter of interpretation. If you examine the context of the time, so the explanation goes, you can see that it was not meant to be taken literally, and is meant to be symbolic of man's understanding of the divine.

However the same could be said for any bible passage. You could interpret every sentence as morally acceptable, even if it shouldn't be, because God said so. You could interpret every sentence as it was written, and see tons of literal horror which make the bible seem morally awful. Or, you could interpret every sentence as an attempt by humans to touch the divine and therefore morally good because of that.

But, since the interpretation is the only place meaning can be derived, the work itself is literally devoid of meaning. It contains no inherent moral guidance or uplift, even though people claim it does. There is nothing especially positive or negative about the contents - they are always both and neither.

So what use is it? Word buffet, from which anyone can "interpret" the bits they like to prove their point? Is that good?

UltimateG_Mod: The old testament is morally neutral. It is sacred because it records the journey of a people trying to continue on as "family" and the moral issues they followed and/or broke in order to do so as they as a people grew up. It bound them together.

So, it's a lot like my family scrapbook. Glad mine is not morally neutral!

MyMy: The Bible is morally horrible. What about the story of Jeph'thah? God arranges to have his daughter burned to death as a sacrifice. What a dick.

Houseplant: Why do we teach our children these stories? Just Why? I don't see any love. The bible stories we teach our children are disgusting. I really just don't get it at all.

It's tradition. That's the only reason.

UltimateG_Mod: We do it because it is fun... It is tradition, and it usually binds us as a community together.

I'm all for carrying on fun traditions, but the world would be a better place with fewer disgusting ones. It's great to tell kids stories, even scary ones, but there is no excuse for teaching kids that they are true, or that they are About God, or that they represent morality when they don't.

UltimateG_Mod: The human spirit has dignity and worth! We are not just some biochemical machine.

Whoa, big slam on biochemical machines, out of nowhere! Biochemical machines are the coolest things we know about. They can do practically anything, even evolve intelligence! Don't dis my homies the bios! :-)

MyMy: Well I am.

UltimateG_Mod: Perhaps you are [a biochemical machine]... I own one that I inhabit.

That is not what it looks like. Upon examination, it appears that DNA is the actual being, and the rest of you, including your brain and personality, are the "suit" which the DNA owns and inhabits. We are lucky our DNA figured out how to wear sentient beings - that is what created us and gives us the chance to live and laugh and make music. Sometimes DNA doesn't even bother with neurons and just wears a tree.

But either way, you are both people. How could it possibly be different for MyMy than it is for you?

FairyCrap: You do not understand the story of Jeph'thah's daughter. God did not do the evil here. Jeph'thah did. This shows man's folly in his decisions, and what happens when he asks for wicked things, that wicked things come back on him like a boomerang of his own wickedness.

So she got what she deserved.

UltimateG_Mod: Kind of like karma. The seeds you plant with your thoughts and actions eventually come to maturity.

Wow. Sorry, I should have indicated the sarcasm. How did she deserve this?

Now, please note that I don't think myths have to be fair. Persephone didn't deserve to go to Hades for half the year, does that make it a bad myth? Of course not.

However no one is claiming that the Greek myths are a vehicle for the morality of the gods. There might be some lessons to be learned about karma or stupidity or whatever from either myth, but right now only one of them is supposed to be The Word of God and an example of His Perfect Moral Justice. No one is required to painstakingly explain how Persephone got what was coming to her because her father was a complete idiot who carelessly threw her life away. But since Jeph'thah's daughter is in The Bible, her fate has to be explained so that it is all actually morally perfect.

That is the problem.

UltimateG_Mod: Somewhere along the line you have to make a leap of faith as to who is telling you what you need to know about planting for a good harvest in your future.

Again, wow. No you don't. Every person figures this out mainly by trial and error. Whether you are trying to follow someone else's code or making it up yourself as you go along, life itself shows you what works and what doesn't. That is karma.

10-07-14 7:16  •  Social Security

Bunny: Those crazy liberals! According to them, I have to save for retirement by putting money in Social Security rather than being wise enough to invest it myself.

Not everyone is wise. What do you want for the people who invest for retirement foolishly? It's their bad. They should have been wise, and they weren't. So, should they just spend their golden years eating dog food or what?

Blecky: People need to be responsible, but it's true, some aren't. I don't what the right answer is.

People take care of each other. Old people have always, always been cared for by the younger people. Humans are social animals and taking care of each other is how we have survived for millions of years.

"The government" is us, our social group, working together, trying to care for our elders as humans have always done. That seems pretty magical to me. :-) And it works.

Blecky: There is no magic answer that would make everyone happy.

That's why we need to do what works.

Blecky: I never thought of it that way before. It makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

10-06-14 8:16  •  Some Perspective

If you think our problems seem big right now, here is a little bit of scale on our universe.

I am sharing this today because recently, while in a state of deep meditation, I was contemplating the sheer immensity of the universe.

I considered the great vastness of the giant stars, so huge that you could drop our whole solar system into and it wouldn't even make a splash.

And, I considered the far, far greater vastness of the spaces in between the masses.

Vastly, unimaginably huge empty spaces.

And out of our entire immense, cold, empty universe, how tiny and unlikely our own little life-giving world is! I could see that in all the vast cosmos of space and time, this tiny blue dot is the only place that exists where we can live.

And we're fucking it up.

We need to stop screwing up our only home. We need to quit sacrificing the earth for "the economy." Money is not going to buy us another planet when this one is used up. Money is not the most important thing to consider in this life, in this universe...or in this election.

Don'tTread: I could never consider voting for a Democrat! They just want to tax us to death! I want to keep my money!

Seriously, people. Is warming the earth to beyond the point of life support worth the risk just to sustain the economy? Is voting for more Republican domination and Republican ideas, just to get more money, worth throwing away the only planet we could ever love?

Don'tTread: What makes you think you are going to out live the earth? Cancer is a more immediate danger to all of us.

Cancer is not a different danger, it is part of the same danger. Toxic exposure is killing us and the planet.

However, I am not thinking about me personally. I am concerned on behalf of our species and in fact all life.

Our crazed obsession with - you guessed it, money - is drowning out the cries of a million species who are slowly being baked in a climate that is just a little too warm for them. The coral is bleaching. The seas are de-oxygenating. The amphibians, an ancient lifeform whose phylum has been around second longest after fish - are dying out from skin disorders. Birds can't nest. Invasive insect populations are proliferating and destroying the forests - but not as fast as we are.

Things are changing. A lot. Quickly.

Life is not that common in the universe. We're currently the only kind we know about. The conditions which allow it to rise are unimaginably rare. Killing the only place in the universe (that we know of) which can sustain life is not only stupid, it is suicidal. It is genocidal. It is organicidal.

We should not be gambling with the world's ability to sustain us. Especially not for a shallow and selfish reason like more money.

We need to make the saving of life as we know it a priority. For this there is really only one option. Notwithstanding the policy minutia of the candidates themselves, the Democrats have always been the more "environmental" of the two main ones. They may not be Greens, but they are likely to spend slightly more time and concern on this than the Republicans.

We need to make the saving of life as we know it a priority. At least as much of a priority as a few percentage points of taxation which a few of us might have to endure. What are "taxes" in the universe next to W CEPHEI, 288194 times larger than Earth? They are insignificant in the extreme. We should not be letting this rule us.

I would advise everyone to think about this very carefully as we choose what party to put at the head of our energy and climate policies for the next several years.

As a bonus for laughes, here is an example of an embedded video, old style - Mr. Deity.

Read more in the Archives.