11-20-14 4:50  •  Spiritually Blind

HandyLady: The problem with Christianity today is that too many Christians fail to love others. That is why people do not trust Christianity. As Christians we should be very loving. We show the truth of Christ only when we follow His command to love first.

The problem with Christianity is that it does not seem to be true. Christians who are very loving are great, as are non-Christians who are very loving, but it doesn't change the fact that ancient religions appear to be folktales and just-so stories invented by humans, and Christianity is not different in any respect.

HandyLady: Most atheists would agree with you.

Most theists would too. There are more theists who are not Christian than who are.

HandyLady: I am convinced of the truth of Christianity for a variety of reasons and most Christians are able to give reasons why they believe as well.

Unfortunately, the reasons people give for believing in Christianity are the same as the ones given for believing in Hinduism, Islam, Scientology, etc. They have nothing to do with the content of the religion actually being true.

HandyLady: This was not my purpose here, however, if you want to ask those of us why we believe...then by all means, do so.

I am already pretty familiar with the reasons why people believe. But people believing it doesn't make it actually true, which is what I was discussing. If you can actually show correspondence between the claims of Christianity and reality, I am very interested in hearing what you have to say, so thanks for the offer.

HandyLady: You said, "If you can actually show correspondence between the claims of Christianity and reality, I am very interested in hearing what you have to say, so thanks for the offer."

Let me ask this... extra-biblical proofs, archaeological evidence...what kind of correspondence are you looking for?

That which can be verified.

HandyLady: Just wanting to clarify what you would consider a solid correspondence.

Accuracy between what is claimed and how things are.

HandyLady: OK... for a jumping off point, let's discuss the often repeated claim that there is no extra-biblical evidence that Christ even existed... are you of this opinion? That there is no reliable extra-biblical evidence for the historicity of Jesus?

No, I don't see how it makes any difference. Mohammed was almost certainly a real person but that doesn't make Islam true.

HandyLady: I appreciate how hard this is for you to understand so I will try to explain. You are like a profoundly blind person. Those who are profoundly blind cannot see any light at all. Consider for a bit how you could "prove" to such a person that light exists, even though they completely lack the ability to experience it.

I know of no blind people who do not accept that light exists. Not a single one. Blind people are in a world where only they need braille and everyone else doesn't. Light is the reason. They know this.

HandyLady: Now, trying to explain the reality of the spiritual to someone who simply does not perceive it is comparable to trying to explain light to someone who has never perceived it. It's very hard.

No, it's very easy, and blind people have no problem understanding light. The whole "can't persude a blind person that light exists" thing is a myth. Ask any blind person.

For the sake of this discussion let's just say that you and I are normal humans who can experience the normal range of human perception.

HandyLady: My "description of spiritual reality" is and will always remain Christian. I am fully convinced that Jesus Christ is God the Son, Who brought the real spiritual truth to this world and validated it by dying then rising again from death, the one thing no mere human could ever do. I also earnestly believe that He desires all the world to know this.

Well, perhaps it's not like this. This could just be you projecting Christianity on a "spiritual reality" which has nothing to do with any of this.

HandyLady: How can you, RaverLady, verify this as what spiritual reality really is?

You can't. ...and I can't do it for you either. Nor can any one else.

So, as I said, there is no reason to think the Christian description of spiritual reality is correct. For all you know, it could be a tribal story that was made up a long time ago by people who did not understand anything.

HandyLady: Being blind, only a miraculous surgery could allow you to see. In Christianity, that "operation" is faith and the Surgeon is the Holy Spirit.

Muslims have as much faith as Christians, if not more. Yet, they cannot see that Christ is God the Son and risen from death, etc. Are you saying you possess the ability to see this but they are blind to it? How?

HandyLady: You said, "Ask any blind person." For your information I got this analogy from a blind person! He was Christian too. He didn't deny the existence of light, he knew there was a part of the world he didn't experience...

...so he was completely unlike non-Christians, or non-theists, who do not agree with you that they are blind and you are sighted to a part of the world they don't experience. This analogy is failing you.

HandyLady: It was very interesting to me, and his use of his blindness as a metaphor for trying to explain spirituality to someone who doesn't experience spirituality made sense.

No, it doesn't, and accusing normal people of being profoundly blind compared to you is cruel and unwarranted.

HandyLady: ...just as those who do not experience any kind of spirituality do not understand spirituality in the same way that people of faith do.

There is no evidence that you understand anything other people do not understand. You could simply be wrong.

HandyLady: Muslims have a deep respect for Jesus as a Prophet and spiritual teacher, but just as with every other person on the planet, and this includes Christians, they cannot perceive Jesus' true nature without the Holy Spirit.

So, the "faith operation" fails for these guys, big time. They faith it up, all day, all night, all their lives long, generation after generation, and never get to perceive Jesus' true nature like you. They love God and strive to do His will, but stay blind.

Why would anyone even want this to be true?

HandyLady:Just to be clear.. no Christian should ever take pride in this.

See, you can hear yourself how awful it sounds.

HandyLady: I'm not about to condemn any other person of faith... or even a person without faith.

Accusations without evidence are the first step on the path to condemnation.

HandyLady: That is not what I said! There was no "accusation" that there was something "wrong" with non-spiritual people...

Of course, and there's nothing "wrong" with blind people either - except they can't see. You are saying that the "non-spiritual" are lacking the sensory experience available to you. There is no reason to think they are.

HandyLady: ... I am simply making the point that they don't experience spirituality the way spiritual people do.

You are incorrect about this. Almost all humans experience the same kinds of things, including mystical affirmation experiences, and it happens to people who don't believe things, and people who believe different things.

You are incorrect to label believers as the "spiritually sighted" and non-believers as the "spiritually blind." There is no reason to think this distinction even exists. People are people.

HandyLady: You seem to be saying that spiritual people are not experiencing spirituality at all, we are simply "wrong".

No, I am saying the fact that you have these experiences does not make Christianity correct. I was talking about Christianity, remember?

Christianity does not seem to be true. You say, But it is. You can tell. The Holy Spirit performed the faith operation that removed the cataracts from your spiritual eyes, and you can now see Jesus' true nature in a way that other humans, like "non-spiritual people," or Muslims, cannot. There is no evidence that it is true, but since you have the Power of the Holy Spirit, you can just "see" it.

Well, there is no reason to think this actually works.

HandyLady: Where did I say Muslim's faith "fail" them?

It fails to cure them with spiritual surgery so they can see the truth of the spiritual reality, that Jesus Christ is God the Son, Who brought the real spiritual truth to this world and validated it by dying then rising again from death, the one thing no mere human could ever do. According to you that is the spiritual truth, and you can see it with your surgically enhanced eyes. But despite their great faith, Muslims (or Hindus, etc.) "cannot perceive it" like you do.

Your explanation is that Christianity is true, but some people can't tell because they are, like, "blind," so if they want to see the "operation is faith and the Surgeon is the Holy Spirit." But, this process only lets people see that Christianity is the spiritual truth if their faith is in Christianity - and maybe not even then. Otherwise, they "cannot perceive it."

Sorry, this explanation does nothing to suggest that Christianity is true. This makes it sound more than ever like a mental construct you have to hypnotize yourself into believing.

HandyLady: I think this is important enough to reiterate as well... this part that you did not quote and did not comment on:

The Bible clearly teaches us that God...

Thanks, but I am talking to you.

HandyLady: I won't apologize for being Christian, and there are just certain things about the Christian faith that are basic to it and cannot be denied. One of these things is that no one can say "Jesus is Lord, except through the Holy Spirit".

I'm very sorry your religion compels you to draw this artificial line between yourself and your fellow human beings. That is one of the worst things about it.

HandyLady: I think it's clear that we have a fundamental disagreement about spirituality and that's OK. We're just two people with different views on the subject.

Accurate descriptions of reality are not a matter of opinion. They derive their accuracy from verification. That is why they work.

11-20-14 4:20  •  Sin Works

Buttermilk: We are all sinners, every one of us. We are not the perfect beings God intended; we are fallen. That is why we act selfishly.

MyMy:Speak for yourself, sheesh.

Buttermilk: Ha! Like you have never sinned. I'm sure I would have heard of you. There aren't too many completely altruistic people walking around and that's why people like Jesus and Buddha stand out.

It's not important to be "completely" altruistic. You have a responsibility to yourself too. There is no reason to claim that anything less than "complete altruism" is evil.

But this was certainly a clever move on the part of the people who invented Christianity. It's like saying anyone who ever dropped something is evil. Only complete coordination is what is intended by the gods. So if you ever stumbled, or spilled milk, or played the wrong note on the piano, that just goes to show that you are born lacking the perfect coordination you were supposed to have. Therefore there is something very wrong with you. It's a great way to make humans, in whom coordination is learned and never perfect, feel like failures right from the outset just for being what they are.

If you can make everyone feel like a failure, and make them believe that their natural foibles as bios stem from inherent evil and loathseomness, it makes them much easier to control. They practically beg to be told what to think and where to drop their coins if it can ameliorate the stain on their souls.

11-10-14 4:14  •  Mentally Unsound

Buttermilk: One of the basic tenets of secular psychology is that belief in anything that is unseen is deemed a symptom of mental illness.

That would mean anyone who believed in God, Christ, angles, or any other deity not in the flesh but in the spirit, would be mentally unsound.

THAT would mean most of the world's population.

It is probably good for humans to have a variety of mental "unsoundnesses". Human groups have to have a lot of different types of personalities to take advantage of opportunities that become available. Some things we consider somewhat "mentally unsound" now, like Asperger's for example, probably had great advantages to human groups, by creating certain members from time to time who were more attuned to detail, or less socially pressured, etc. and so were able to think about things in very different ways, coming up with inventions or novel ideas which could be utilized. In this way, this particular "mental unsoundess" would be selected for by survival.

Similarly, humans - as you would imagine for an animal that was once prey - are very likely to attribute agency, to see intelligent forces at work when there isn't any. This bit of mental unsoundness produces a great evolutionary advantage, because fleeing nine times from random noise which you think is a predator will save your life the tenth time when there is an actual predator there. So again, such traits are selected for.

The fact that belief in supernatural beings is "mentally unsound" doesn't make it useless. Obviously it is extremely useful and that is why it is around.

But, our needs have changed so much since the days of our tribal ancestors. Now we have to think fast and hard about how to save our species and we don't have time for evolutionary solutions if we want to preserve anything of our current civilization. So, when it comes to conditions of "mental unsoundness" that can be changed, this is probably one of the important ones that should be. We need to clean house of the mental unsoundness which is built into our culture and "most of the world's population."

It is the only way we will be able to agree on what is happening and what to do in in order to survive.

11-07-14 10:12  •  Science vs. Religion

Mrs. Dash: I myself have two science degrees, and work in a lab, and I'm a Christian. I love science and Jesus, and it seems my oldest is following in my footsteps.

How do you reconcile the fact that Christianity does not seem to be true?

Mrs. Dash: It is true to me.

I mean actually true.

Mrs. Dash: There are many things in science that people did not believe were truth, because they could not see it with their eyes. But we now accept gravity, atoms, molecular structure, and DNA.

Yes, we accept them now because they can be verified. Our descriptions of gravity, atoms, molecular structure and DNA are extremely accurate and they can be shown to be extremely accurate to anyone. Our extensive knowledge of exactly how they work has produced an explosion of human knowledge which we can use to create technology and cures and inventions and exploration beyond what we could have imagined. The method used to acquire knowledge about these things - examination of reality - has also produced a moral revolution whereby humans officially discarded age-old standards of slavery and subjugation.

That is what happens when things are actually true.

Mrs. Dash: I know what I feel and beleive to be true when I pray and read His Word.

Except it does not seem to actually be true. Certainly not true like descriptions of gravity and atoms are true.

There are no descriptions of gods which can be verified to be accurate. The descriptions differ wildly and they are only agreed to be accurate by people in one's own religion (if then.)

The particular descriptions of Christianity do not produce good human societies, or advancement in human knowledge or morality. Humans did not start to produce good societies or scientific or moral advancement until they began to escape from Christianity and end the Dark Ages.

That is what happens when things are not actually true.

Mrs. Dash: I do not try to convert anyone, I am just me.

That's great! Unfortunately, our soceity is dominated by a lot of the unreason it takes to understand knowledge by examination without applying it to religious belief. And without reason we may be headed for another Dark Ages.


Mrs. Dash: What I meant is, a lot of scientific discoveries were true to someone, but not to everyone.

Only until other people start checking. Then, they find out too. If they see something different, then it's back to the drawing board on the description until everyone who looks agrees they are seeing the same thing.

If the descriptions are actually true, eventually the issues get worked out.

Mrs. Dash: Athiests can't show me God isn't there.

Whoa, let's stay on topic here. I never said anything about atheism.

I said, Christainity does not seem to be true. Theoretically, gods could be real as toast and Christianity could still be a completely wrong description of them. There is nothing to compare the descriptions to, to see if they match. The descriptions of Christianity could be completely fanciful, no different than the descriptions of gods of the ancient Greeks, and Romans, and Egyptians, and Sumerians, and Hindus, etc.

There is no way to check. There is no way for any human being to ever work out the issues. That is part of what makes them so problematic.

Mrs. Dash: I know He's there because I have faith.

That doesn't make Christianity true.

Mrs. Dash: And a lot of the greatest discoveries were from people of faith.

Using science, not using faith. Faith is a faulty method for determining truth.

Even supposing that it was working for you, faith would still be faulty for Muslims, Hindus, and all the other faithful except Christians. If faith worked, how could Muslims and Hindus be so far off in their decriptions of the Almighty, when they pray harder and more often than Christians do?

Scientific discoveries are made by examination of reality and made relevant by uncompromising verification. That is how science is different from religion and why science produces truth and faith produces unresolvable conflict.

Mrs. Dash, thanks so much for sharing this discussion with me. It is a pleasure to discuss this with such an intelligent person.

Mrs. Dash: Atheists are people who do not believe in any God, not just a Christian God. So it would be athiests who would try to prove God does not exist, yes?

Maybe, but since that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about it's just a red herring in this discussion.

Mrs. Dash: And I have never said Christianity is truth.

So the answer to my question, How do you reconcile the fact that Christianity does not seem to be true, would be, you don't, because you know it is not true.

Mrs. Dash: I believe all religions are true religions for their believers.

That's sweet, but it does not seem to be true. I mean actually true.

Just as a quick example, Christianity says that Jesus was the Son of God who died on the cross. Islam says that Jesus was NOT the Son of God and did NOT die on the cross. How could these possibly both be true?

The most generous interpretation is that the stories are just "metaphorically true" and each story is "truer" than the other to its believers, within its own cultural and metaphorical zeitgeist. But if that's the case then there can be no actual significance to the death on the cross vis-ŕ-vis human sin, rendering the entire enterprise of Christianity useless at a stroke.

There is no logical way this idea of every religion being "true...somehow," could be actually true.

I understand, you don't care about the things you believe being actually true, but that is an unfortunate misunderstanding of reality which creates a lot of error. The actual truth matters.

Mrs. Dash: And I did not say faith leads to scientific discoveries. I am saying people OF faith, have advanced science.

But since that is nothing more than a coincidence of history, and faith is anathema to science, this is also a red herring. It doesn't mean faith is like science, or good for science. It certainly doesn't mean religious claims are compatible with scientific understanding. When the claims are examined using science they immediately evaporate.

Science, and humankind in general, would be better off with less religious faith, particularly in ancient legacy religions which even believers know are not actually true.

Thanks again Mrs. Dash!

Tiny: There is a lot of so called "religious" people out there that get it wrong.

There is a reason for this type of error. The claims made by religion are so far removed from actual reality that the distance between what is claimed, and what is or what happens, is a huge chasm which cannot be crossed except by subverting the truth.

In other words, faith is bound to go wrong.

Tiny: That does not mean that God don't exist.

I agree, and in fact the question of whether gods "exist" is a big distraction from more important issues.

Tiny: The ones who get it right do not condone things that create hate, unforgiveness, etc.. When someone "gets it right" when it comes to religion and God, they experience peace, love , and joy despite their circumstances. When someone gets it wrong they think they have to judge others and they create hate this way. They create walls, wars and so on. This really gives religion a bad name.

I would say that when people get life right they experience peace and love, when they get life wrong they judge and wall and war, and such things are independent of religion. Individually, most people get life mostly right and some few get it way wrong regardless of what religion they belong or don't belong to.

However religion can contribute to getting it way wrong. Religion is social, and so it can be used to activate social movements. This is problematic. Social movements based on unsubstantiated supernatural claims can be easily made to serve atrocity, because the claims cannot be checked against reality or morality.

In particular, Christianity has preserved itself by creating extreme in-group / out-group divisions (the saved vs. the damned) and this feature is so discriminatory - and so far from true - that it has been practiced to the level of atrocity many, many times. Over the centuries Christianity created huge populations of people with very divisive in-group / out-group demarcations, a kind of social tinder which can be lit and fanned to extremes with little effort.

That is what gives religion a bad name. Along with the fact that the legacy religions don't seem to be anything like true.

Tiny: Its sad because these misguided souls turn others off to something as extraordinary as God. I also heard someone saying this once and it really makes sense. Why wouldn't Satan create turmoil and war over religion.

Humans do not have any information about gods, so there is zero point in speculating how they are or what they might do. They might be dull and limited. They might be somewhere else entirely. It is not known. No religion contains any descriptions of gods which actually seems to be true. Not one claim.

Along with existence, the nature of gods is mainly a distraction from more important issues.

Tiny: Another thing I have wondered is what if God is the creator of science,d therefore giving the universe a way of becoming real. Science might at first make religion seem false but the more knowledge we acquire, it seems entirely possible to me that we will overcome this tendancy for science to disprove religion or a belief in a higher power and see that God is behind it all after all.

The exact opposite is occurring. Every single place where "God" used to be the default explanation there are now natural explanations. There is practically nothing left for gods to do.

But, if there is something that humans can learn about gods through examining the universe, the time to describe it is AFTER is has been examined - not before. Right now every description is 100% blind, based on ZERO examination, only old folktales. They are meaningless as descriptions.

Only when people stop looking for folktales and look at what actually is, do they see what actually is. If somebody actually finds gods I'm sure we'll hear about it, but not so far. Not even a little.

Just some things for you to consider. Thanks so much Tiny!

Mrs. Dash: Christianity is truth to me and the millions of believers.

I understand, thank you for your time. Great speaking with you Dash!

Brenda: Why do you bash religions? They bring people peace.

Claire: Yes they do.

Nobody denies that religion has some good effects.

The problem is that it also has some bad effects.

You know I have the solution to this. I really think humans could experience all of the upsides of religion without compromising our understanding of reality, by creating religion based on the truth.

What could be more awe-inspiring than the great understanding we are just now beginning to acquire, the magnificence of creation, as can be viewed by anyone, experienced by every person, no matter what they think or believe? What greater moral guide could there be than actual observation of what happens when people act?

I envision religions of the future as great institutions of moral and social uplift, based on examining the universe and human well-being for ever-deepening understanding of what is and how to be.

The human brain seems to love religion. Why not use religion in service of the truth?

10-20-14 10:48  •  Rube

Daisy:Christians are way smarter than atheists! We are making the smarter choice.

If we're wrong, than we're no worse off than you. We'll all just be dead in the ground.

Yeah, after you're dead. But for right now, if you are wrong that makes you a total rube who believes in something completely false with no evidence to support it just because someone told you to. Why be more concerned about "after" than being this now?

Daisy:But if you're wrong...well, God have mercy on you.

If He wouldn't, He's not worth revering now anyway.

10-20-14 8:48  •  Blacks and Education

Awesome_MIL: Liberals are always whining that black people's problems are all white people's fault. Well I'm sick of it! Black people's problems are black people's fault!

Way more black people shoot black people than white cops do. Black on black crime is the real epidemic, but nobody wants to admit it, because that would be acknowledging that blacks bring their problems on themselves. So black on black crime persists, and we pretend it's our fault. *rolls eyes*

High levels of violence are a common feature in slums everywhere, regardless of the race of the people involved.

In the United States, the segregation and concentration of black people into slums seems to be a hangover from centuries of slavery, subjugation and inadequate civil rights. Full equality under the law is less than two generations old. We can't expect an institution which was deliberately and systematically structured to keep black people a subject race for centuries to suddenly righten up and produce equality, just because we changed the laws on the books. It takes time, sometimes generations, to overcome the lingering stereotypes, prejudices, and structural disadvantages.

It takes a long time to right the great wrongs of the past. We're still working on it.

One obvious step in the right direction would be to massively increase our education budget. The one thing we all agree that we must provide to our citizens is a basic education, and yet only the priveliged schools are able to provide it. Everyone else must scramble desperately and go without. And we are not providing a sufficient level of public education for a complex, technical society. We need to provide life-long, high-quality education for every citizen like Finland does.

We could afford this if we diverted only a minor percentage of our insanely bloated military budget to public education, and it would be a far better use of the money. It would be an investment in our infrastructure.

Awesome_MIL: It is not as easy as a field of dreams mentality...."if you build it, they will come"......What if "they" don't want to be educated?

Who said they? I didn't say we should educate "them." I said we need to adequately educate our citizens.

And anyway, that's a pretty big "if". We can cross that bridge when and if we come to it. That hardly seems like a good reason to continue to fail to provide adequate education.

Awesome_MIL: Why is it on us? What about a little personal responsibility? It seems many people lack that and refuse to acknowledge it.

How is a person in generational poverty in a slum with no education supposed to figure out what personal responsibility is and how to do it? Are they supposed to learn it from watching television?

We have a responsibility too, to fully educate our citizens. That includes teaching personal responsibility, what it is and what it means.

That certainly was a big part of my education. It doesn't seem to be part of the shitty education kids get in the slums, and how could it be? If it's not part of some kids' education we need to correct that.

Mazzy: You say slavery caused this? Maybe, but considering those who are at fault for slavery are no longer alive, how is this problem to be addressed and by whom and for how long?

Problems need to be addressed by the people experiencing them until they are solved.

Mazzy: Oh. In that case, I guess I agree.

Awesome_MIL: You can't "educate" your way out of this. They are apathetic to education.

Personal responsibility needs to begin with the individual, to at least stand up and take a look outside of their realm of life and see what else may be out there, what may be there to be learned.

How do you know it needs to begin there? Perhaps it begins with presenting good, realistic options that people can consider. I can certainly imagine being apathetic to a shitty education that clearly leads nowhere. However if the choices included a great education, I have no reason to think most people would be less interested in it than you or I would be.

In any case, if large segments of the population don't seem to be getting the hang of personal responsibility, we can't sit back and wait for them to figure it out. How is that supposed to happen?

Personal responsibility is a life skill, and if people haven't learned it, it can be taught. The fact that some people may never get it is no reason to refrain from teaching it. We should be trying.

Mazzy: I agree that teaching personal responsibility is important, but it was not something that I learned in school. It is something that I learned by watching how my parents lived their daily life. I watched my parents set priorities and goals. I saw the sacrifices that my parents made to meet their goals.

That's great, but what are you supposed to do with kids whose parents are not like this? People growing up in generational poverty are not surrounded with great role models to this effect. The people who win the struggle get out.

If parents don't know personal responsibility, they can't teach it. Why should we wait around for other people to figure out something they don't know? We know. We can share what we know, along with real opportunities to do this and see it work first hand, by providing an excellent education. That way even people whose parents were not as great as yours would have the opportunity to see this, learn it and do it.

Awesome_MIL: I simply think that that it is a poor substitute for decent, responsible role models.

It may be, but when the role models are absent you have to start somewhere.

Awesome_MIL: I simply question how effective teaching this in school can be when the kid goes back home to the same shitty environment with the same irresponsible parents.

More effective than not doing it.

Awesome_MIL: How long do we try to lead those who refuse to be lead?

Who are you talking about?

Awesome_MIL: There are far too many people in this world that do refuse to be educated, for whatever reason. What about them?

I'm really not sure who you mean. Are you talking about prep students who are offered free college by their parents but become hippies instead? I thought we were talking about people in slums. I don't see anyone there walking away from a great education.

Awesome_MIL: Do we continue to try where they are concerned to no avail?

Who knows? Let's get the trying going first, and deal with people who it doesn't seem to help then. Certainly most normal people would benefit from a great education.

Awesome_MIL: Where does it end for those who we make the attempt to educate but our attempts are shunned?

Some very few people are so sick and stupid they can't get the hang of life no matter what, but we will probably continue to do what we already do with them, which is provide. When those numbers are few it is no burden to do so. However that certainly doesn't describe most normal people.

Mazzy: I agree that when a kid is lacking decent role models, a class in personal responsibility is better than nothing.

A class in personal responsiblity would be nice, but an all-around excellent education would be far better.

Mazzy: But don't you agree that it would be far better for the kid to not have shitty, irresponsible parents?

Sure. And it would be even better if food just fell from the sky. But we gotta go with what we got.

In generations of oppression and poverty, where whole cultures of people seem unable to get the hang of the basics, you have to find the intervention point to try to correct the problem. Providing great education to the kids is how you start to turn that around.

And, I also mentioned that excellent public education should not be limited to kids. It should be available to all. Statistically, becoming a better, more responsible parent comes along with a good adult education. Great public education would help everyone.

Awesome_MIL: Of course, you expect the state to take responsibility for everything. But it doesn't work that way. You have to educate yourself.

Did someone educate you....

Of course. I was educated by many.

Awesome_MIL: ....or did you, yourself, pursue an education because you wanted it?

This is ridiculous. I certainly wasn't sitting in the third grade because I "wanted" an education, and understood what it was for and how important it is, and had the get-up-and-go to pursue it. I was at the school because someone drove me there, doing the work because people told me to. I was lucky enough to be at a school where people knew how to teach and had good resources and cared about how I did. Kids in slums don't have that.

Awesome_MIL: You are the racist. Why do you think black people are incapable of educating themselves?

Again, ridiculous. Children do not "educate themselves." They are educated by grown-ups.

What I said was that we, all of us, the adult generation of Americans, have the responsibility to provide an excellent education to the children, the next generation of citizens. All of them.

Awesome_MIL: You think that would work? Show me some proof of this.

Good education reveals dividends everywhere in the world it is implemented. It is absolutely known to improve quality of life and reduce social ills.

‘Education Pays’ Report Showcases Importance of Access to Educational Opportunities

Study: Higher Education Improves Quality of Life for Recipients, Society

NEW YORK—From earnings to pension plans and overall community vigor, higher education yields significant rewards to its recipients and society as a whole, shows a College Board study.

Awesome_MIL: The government has been trying to throw money at the inner cities for decades.

Yet, the schools in the inner city are garbage. Expecting them to produce an ordinary level of education is unrealistic.

This study shows how targeted changes in education policy would yield big dividends for kids in poverty.

Improving educational outcomes for poor children

Here are some excerpts:

More relevant for present purposes is whether the challenges of living in poverty cause poor children to benefit less than nonpoor children from similar types of schooling experiences. Our reading of the available evidence instead suggests that improving the quality of academic programs is at the very least sufficient to make noticeable improvements in poor children’s educational outcomes. In fact, studies of early childhood education programs typically find that disadvantaged children benefit even more from these interventions than do nonpoor children.

Most antipoverty policies focus on lifting adults out of poverty. These policies are often controversial because of an unavoidable tension between the desire to help people who have been unlucky and the motivation to encourage hard work and punish socially unproductive behavior. In contrast, successful education policies can not only help reduce poverty over the long term by making poor children more productive during adulthood, but also foster economic growth that expands the “pie” for everyone. Educational interventions also benefit from a compelling moral justification. Disadvantaged children should not be punished for the circumstances into which they are born, and improved education policy is one of the best ways to prevent this from happening.

10-16-14 9:09  •  Bad Ideas

This exchange was on last week's Real Time. Bill Maher and Sam Harris are arguing that liberals have failed to champion values like free speech and equality when it comes to the Muslim world, out of fear of it being seen as bigotry against Islam.

Ben Affleck argues that it is bigotry to suggest that any generalization applies to all members of a group, and compares it to racism against Blacks and Jews.

Sam Harris responds that calling Islam into question is not criticizing people, it is criticizing bad ideas.

Ben Affleck is audibly shaken when Sam Harris refers to Islam as "a motherlode of bad ideas."

Interestingly, I have been through the same kind of conversation for criticizing bad ideas in Christianity.

I found that it is extremely difficult to discuss the actual merits of the ideas of religions, because people strongly wish to avoid generalizing on the one hand, or because the ideas are so deeply held that people can't stand to have them questioned on the other hand.

But, the legacy religions of the world do contain some bad ideas, like any system would that was developed thousands of years before we invented quality assurance.

Can the quality of ideas in religion be discussed? What makes a particular religious idea a good idea or a bad idea? Or is there no such thing as a bad religious idea?


Here is a quote from a Salon interview with Reza Aslan, a critic of Bill Maher's approach to Islam.

"There’s a difference between criticizing extreme religious beliefs and practices and ascribing those extreme beliefs and practices to an entire people. One is simple criticism; the other is flat-out bigotry."

While I don't disagree with this statement, I think it makes a major incorrect assumption. Aslan thinks that criticism is only merited for extreme religious beliefs, which presumably few people hold, while all other religionists are beyond question.

However, I think it is the main, common, basic beliefs of religions which must be questioned. For example, at the heart of all the Abrahamic faiths is the fundamental notion that humans can speak for gods - an extremely bad idea which has caused the human race nothing but suffering.

That's not ascribing extreme beliefs and practices to everyone, that is talking about what almost everyone in those religions thinks.

Is it bigoted to say that people of the Abrahamic faiths seem to be wrong about this?

UltimateG_Mod: You say this bad idea is the problem, but that is not exactly the case.

Close enough.

UltimateG_Mod:"Locus of control" is the determining of whether events are derived from ones own behavior (internal locus of control) or derived from outside themselves (external locus of control) tends more to be a factor in maturity rather than in superstition.

Interesting, I hadn't considered that as such. Thanks for the concept.

UltimateG_Mod: When religions societies are made up either of the extremes, it becomes a disaster.

Undoubtedly, but that is not the disaster I am specifically referring to. No matter where the locus of control, it is a fact of reality that humans are not in communication with gods. The Abrahamic faiths are built on the idea that certain humans - Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, what have you - could speak for gods. Therefore, what they said is very, very special.

However this appears to be in error. Humans are not in communication with gods, and there is no reason to think that they are. The words that humans claim are from gods are obviously from humans.

Trying to act like the ideas of ancient humans are right because they are from gods is not working. They are not from gods and they are very often not right either. It is way past time for people to recognize that the AFs are based on this disconnect with reality and because of this are not sustainable.

Until we do, we will continue to waste vast amounts of precious human resources and potential trying to prop up an unsustainable system with its plausibility pouring out a million holes. We can't afford this waste of effort.

10-16-14 8:08  •  More Capitalism

This conversation is continued from here.

Buttermilk: Capitalism is how we protect our individuality. Socialism definitely stifles the pursuit of happiness for the individual.

I think you may be misinformed. We have a lot of "socialism" in the United States and we we would be a far worse country without it. It was Socialists in the 20's & 30's who pushed for policies like Social Security and Medicare to keep seniors out of poverty after they were too old to work. Eating dog food stifles the pursuit of happiness for seniors a lot worse than having a social safety net.

"Socialist" policies like national healthcare are certainly not stifling the pursuit of happiness in Canada. Canadians are very happy with their healthcare system, and statistically they are healthier, and get way more health for their healthcare dollars, than Americans.

"Socialist" policies like lifelong public education are not stifling the pursuit of happiness in Finland. The people of Finland can attend public college without tuition, just like signing kids up for grade school in our country. The people of Finland are among the best educated in the world and are on the cutting edge with advanced technical, medical and scientific industries. Also they have better health and longer lifespan and lower infant mortality and less crime and no poverty. They have all the same civil rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of self-determination that we have in this country, even though they are the most "socialized" nation on the planet.

So I really don't know if it is an understanding of actual socialism that you are basing your critique on.

Buttermilk: I don't know what else you'd have beside capitalism that would work any better for people to have and maintain their individual rights.

Every country in the first world, including the United States, is using a combination of a market economy and "socialist" services. They can't really exist without each other. A market economy is a great engine, but like an engine it needs to be carefully maintained or it will break. Also, market economies do not provide for everything. Some things are better accomplished as cooperative efforts. Running the society with a representative government is one of them. Providing for the needs of everyone is another.

So both have to exist together in order to work. Social efforts like government run and regulate systems and social efforts like services provide for human needs. This generates an environment where markets can be effective, and market activity in turn provides the source of revenue to pay for the society.

Right now "capitalism" represents an extreme view of market economies in which every need of every person must be met through their own market efforts. However this is impossible. Markets do not allot essential civil infrastructure like healthcare or education to those who need it most. Markets are amoral and without oversight quickly degenerate into exploitation and monopoly. We can see the results of too much "capitalism" in exploitation and degredation all over the world. Getting people to understand that markets don't do everything would help swing things back into balance.

Buttermilk: Is this the best we could do, or is there some other economic system that would allow for that?

Getting a good balance between the needs of the market and other human needs is the best anyone has managed so far. In the United States it was working pretty good for awhile, but has since run amok. Other places have it working better, and people here are starting to be aware how amok it is. So I expect a swing in a more balanced direction.

At least I hope so. Putting the market before the health of the biosphere is certainly not going to work. Creating a sustainable human society needs to be based on other things besides everyone scrambling to get the biggest pile.

As for what the best we could do might be, it's not hard to imagine a future where getting the biggest pile is considered gauche. Let the greedy children play with their piles. Educated and refined people will have more important and wonderful and artful and intellectual and nurturing and beautiful matters to be concerned with than piles.

With oversight, we could easily regulate market economies to produce some pretty big piles for the greedy bastards, while providing everyone else with meaningful pursuits and sufficient means, and at last shift the human focus from what we can get, to what we can be.

10-16-14 8:16  •  Why Christianity III

This conversation is continued from here.

Buttermilk, it is an honor to speak with you on these matters. Thank you so much for sharing this conversation with me.

Buttermilk: You keep mentioning "gods." Christianity doesn't claim that there are gods, plural uncapitalized. Christians only believe in one God. All others are false. This does not mean other gods are inferior; this means other gods do not exist.

Yes, I know. Sorry, I should have explained this usage before. As I said earlier, I'm not trying to pick on Christianity per se, and so I usually try to speak in terms general enough to apply to other supernatural beings and other religions. The issues apply to all the gods/supernatural beings people discuss.

However I am happy to use terminology more specific to Christianity if you prefer.

Buttermilk: It's just that those who believe in God and those who don't believe in God, look at reality differently.

That is true, but it looks like people who believe are looking at it incorrectly. Upon comparison with reality, their descriptions of reality do not match what reality looks like.

Buttermilk: To those who do not believe in God, you have a different authority that you respect for holding the key to the world's ultimate absolute truths.

No, that is incorrect. Reality cannot be understood by authority. Authorities can be wrong. Reality can only be understood by direct examination of reality and subsequent descriptions which can be confirmed by anyone (not just "authorities" ) to be very, very accurate.

Buttermilk: We come from different paradigms.

The problem is, your paradigm does not seem to be true. The fact that it is so far from being like reality is making it unworkable and a burden to society.

If you are wondering why I say your paradigm doesn't seem true, here's the quick breakdown:

1) The supernatural claims cannot be verified and many are not remotely possible in this part of space time.

2) Lots of cultures have deity and origin myths and this one has no distinguishing features to make it somehow true while every other one is false.

3) The system has not produced great examples of human society or any advances in understanding or morality in 2000 years.

If you are wondering why I say my paradigm does seem to be true, here's the quick breakdown:

1) Understanding reality by examining reality produces information which can be verified by anyone to be accurate. It seems true because it corresponds directly to reality, as accurately as possible, and that is what true means.

2) You can tell the paradigm is correct because it produces. Learning to understand reality by examination instead of authority opened a floodgate of discovery, which exploded into inventions and cures and advances in understanding that changed everything for human existence and turned much of the developed world into a wonderland. It's happening so fast we can barely keep up, but for good or ill there can be no denying that reality-based knowledge is by far the most powerful force humans have ever harnessed. The evidence is right in front of you, the screen you are looking at now. My paradigm created this.

3) The release from rule by authority caused by the discovery revolution also freed minds for a moral revolution. No longer stuck in morality from thousands of years ago, humans applied the same technique - a direct examination of reality - to moral questions. Since then we have discovered that slavery, subjugation of women and condemnation of sexual orientation are all morally wrong and cause terrible human suffering. That is why society has worked so hard to right these moral wrongs and why we still have a ways to go on all of them.

The moral revolution, based on observing what happens because of what people do, and how it effects human well-being vs. suffering, is also a demonstration that the examination paradigm is accurate.

Buttermilk, I appreciate the opportunity to explain this. I know your ideas are very different, and I'm interested in hearing your side of the debate too.

Buttermilk: Neither what you believe or what I believe changes that there is absolute truth, concrete reality.

I completely agree that there is concrete reality which exists independently of our thoughts. How it is, is the only possible authority on what it is.

Thanks again Buttermilk!

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