03-04-15 3:15  •   Fanaticism Defined

Ms. KeeKee: This is the dictionary definition of fanaticism:



Excessive, irrational zeal, especially in politics or religion.

1. wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm

fanatical character or conduct.

Noun 1. fanaticism - excessive intolerance of opposing views

Ms. KeeKee: Agree? Disagree? Please explain and share.

I agree that this is a dictionary definition of fanaticism.

Ms. KeeKee: Do you have your own definition of what it means?

Fanatic is the root of the word "fan," and I admit I was something of a fangurl (albeit before that word existed. We just called ourselves "geeks.")

I knew people who took it to pretty extreme levels. I attended a Klingon wedding officiated by a member of Starfleet. I didn't stay in line for three days to get tickets to see The Phantom Menace...but I knew people who did.

Ms. KeeKee: It sounds like your are describing The Big Bang Theory lol

Very much like that, except much lower tech. Back in the day we didn't have laptops, so we all sat hunched over our Amigas, waxing our 300 baud modems to make them go faster, lol.

Ms. KeeKee: What do you think it means when related to religion?

I think that it is a great advantage to the group to have a few people in the group who take things to extremes. When people get thoroughly serious about a subject, enough to immerse themselves in understanding all the details, what sometimes arises is innovation. This brings the kind of benefit to the group that makes this personality selected for, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the technical wizardry which runs our society is adminstrated by fanboi personalities.

For many centuries, in the West anyway, the Church was practically the only subject there was to be fanatic about and so of course produced its share of zealots and what not. Also, recent twin studies suggest there is a hereditary component to religiosity, or how religious a person stays over their lifetime, essentially saying some folks are born that way.

So that at least suggests that various types of fanaticism play an overall positive role, which is why it occurs. However like a lot of things which are extreme, it also creates its share of problems.

Ms. KeeKee: The way I interpret it, its when a person takes a belief or interest to the very extreme and that belief or interest dominates their life and how they live day to day. IMHO it is not a very positive why to live a life.

Oh, I don't know if it's necessarily a negative way to live. If it wasn't for obsessive musicians taking their interest to the very extreme and letting it dominate their lives, we wouldn't have classical music today, or many other kinds. If it wasn't for obsessive programming geeks, we wouldn't have Microsoft Word or World of Warcraft. Some people have to take an interest to the extreme to push the limits of what can be done. All of society benefits.

And it's not so bad for the individual either. Sitting hunched over a screen pounding code, or over a piano, or over a workbench turning tiny screws, etc., can be a spiritual experience for the one doing it. Steeping oneself very deeply in the intracacies of a craft, getting to know all the little details, learning new ways to arrange the parts, and watching the results arise is transportive. Spending one's days immersed in that kind thinking is a feeling of uplifting adventure.

Does this sound like I'm speaking from experience? As an artist, musician and programmer, I would say that sometimes only a fanatical attention to a subject lets you get that deeply inside it, that you can break new ground. And that is important - and fun.

Ms. KeeKee: Surely it is a life with great personal sacrifice. Although there is satisfaction with a life filled, I wonder if it is a life completely full filled i.e. what needs to be given up to lead such a life.

Probably sometimes, other times perhaps not. People have different needs to be fulfilled, and it doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice at the time to do what you love.

Ms. KeeKee: and let's not forget fantacism that causes harm, if not globably but simply on a small scale. I am thinking here ISIS (globally) and WBC (small scale). Unless you do not consider this an example of fantaticism.

I think some members of these groups are probably fanatical about it and others probably less so. People have different reasons for joining groups like this and fanaticism about the subject matter is only one.

I would say that the fanaticism is not the worst part of what they are doing. The content of what they are fanatic about is at least as responsible for the harm.

Ms. KeeKee: Kathy gives the example of isis who have clearly lost their way- they are not true followers of their faith (even though some think they are).

I would agree they have lost their way as far as being moral human beings goes, but I can't agree that they are not "true followers of their faith," on either of two counts.

First of all, I have no doubt that some members of ISIS sincerely believe that they are doing what God wants. Since that is what they believe and have faith in, they are literally practicing their faith by doing it.

The second count is more than semantic. Do you mean, they are not true followers of Islam? People who are horrified that anyone could act so barbarously are quick to exclaim that this is not Islam, it couldn't be, because Islam is a religion of peace.

But peaceful people do not "own" Islam, any more than violent people do. No one does exclusively. Some in ISIS may say they know what Islam is "supposed" to be according to Allah, and others say they are wrong. But this is like if Quakers and Catholics each claimed the other was not really Christian, over any difference of opinion. Is the Quaker way or the Catholic way a better reflection of Christianity? Is Quakerism or Catholicism more pleasing to God? Is Christianity or Islam? How can we tell?

There is no way to check with God to see which version of Islam He prefers. Maybe He does want everyone to be Islamic, or else. Plenty of people have believed that the gods love war - maybe They don't, maybe They do.

It's just not possible to claim that any one religion is what God really wants, or any one set of ideas is the correct interpretation of a text. It's just he said, she said - there is no one to ask and nothing to check to settle the question. The differences are unresolvable.

That is why it is so important to figure out what to do based on observation instead of what people thousands of years ago said. What people say can be wrong, but what happens IS what happens.

Ms. KeeKee: IMHO I beleive relgion is being used for political/social causes.

Of course. That is what it is for.

Ms. KeeKee:To keep the masses under control and in-line.

Not quite; religion predates "the masses." It arose in tribal culture, which would have consisted of smallish bands where everyone knew each other and the distance between the highest- and lowest-ranking members was not great.

At its heart, religion is a narrative tradition, which people started keeping because the stories provided a standardized explanation for two key questions - what this life is, and what is important. By creating stories about gods, humans provided a foundation for both, by revering gods who are the creators of this world (what is) and the authors of the moral order (what is important.) Explanations for these provide not only personal wholeness, but a very high degree of social cohesion, which is tremendously important for ingroup relations in small tribal bands.

Later as humans developed civilizations, our gods and religions became more sophisticated, and so did many of the individuals creating and controlling them. From that point on at least some of the religious elements seem to be deliberately engineered for crowd control, but much is still organic - arising naturally from people as an aspect of their culture and mores, rather than tyrannically imposed top-down. So, religion is being used for social and political causes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing since that's what it's for.

Ms. KeeKee: As far as humans have come in evolution, we really are just neanderthals scrapping our knuckles against the pavement.

Yes and no. In terms of how long we have been around, we only just got civilized the day before yesterday. However once we discovered understanding by methodical observation, it was sort of a tipping point, and the advancement of knowledge has only ramped up since.

03-03-15 3:15  •   What do you want from Death?

MissDaMeaner: I hear people talk about Heaven, but I don't think it sounds that cool. So I'd like to think of something else. What would you want from Death, if you could have your choice?

I used to hope that dying would be kind of like graduating to Star Trek. Here in this kindergarten life we are stuck in on this one dopey planet and can't get out much. I figured after death I would be able to travel the stars as pure energy unleashed from the limitations of matter.

But, life without a body didn't sound too interesting after awhile, and the idea looks in no way possible, which is another big drawback.

So I decided the only thing I really want is to survive until the Singularity. Then I plan to have my personality backed up onto a hard drive and ported to a holographic or android body capable of sensation. While still technically impossible, the race is on to see if computers get good enough to back me up before I die.

MissDaMeaner: That sounds really cool.

Hey, did you notice there is a similarity between Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists? Yet they don't agree on the afterlife.

Unreason lies at the heart of it all. Accepting reality for what it is erases all these imaginary boundaries.

2-22-15 2:15  •   Why is ISIS like this?

BeeVooDoo: ISIS just beheaded nine Christians! Why are they doing this?

Why does ISIS want to kill Christians?

Why are the Abrahamic Faiths mutually exclusive?

BeeVooDoo: Umm, ISIS isn't a "faith."

They are affilated enough to consider Christians outgroup to them.

BeeVooDoo: Outgroup to them?

Yes. Humans are greatly disposed to love and favor their ingroup while despising and fearing their outgroup. If you are not familiar with the terms, your ingroups are the ones you belong to - your family, your tribe, your nation, etc., and outgroups are the ones you don't belong to - other families, rival tribes, different cultures and nations and groups.

This differentialtion in behavior was highly adaptive in human history, most of it spent living in tribal scarcity. However it is becoming increasingly maladaptive in civilization. We are working to correct it - some of the greatest triumphs of our civilization in recent history consist of expansion of the official in-group, to include women, non-whites, the disabled and most recently sexual minorities.

If we want to have a civilization that works and is fair, we just have to keep expanding the ingroup until it includes everyone.

However the fact that the AFs are mutually exclusive is a big stumbling block to that. Alas, they are required by tenets of faith to permanently outgroup each other in unresolvable conflict.

BeeVooDoo: Except I don't see any other ingroup kidnapping, terrorizing, and killing other outgroups in this day & age like we see ISIS doing.

Of course you do. Every single war is ingroups kidnapping, terrorizing and killing their outgroups. Every one. Us marching into Iraq was us literally capturing and "shock and awe"ing and killing them stictly on the basis of their outgroup status to us.

When you don't have a huge war machine, because you are not a civilization, you have to demonstrate your outgroup aggression in more tribal ways. ISIS is acting like a lot of humans have acted living at the tribal level.

At the moment ISIS is enjoying a peculiar intersection between tribal values and technological ability - they resort to spectacular gory ritual killing and then Instagram it on their iPhones.

However it takes civilization to maintain Instagram and the iPhone. So it can't last.

Steffy: It's because those who join ISIS are animals that love killing!

Hi there Steff, great to see you.

I think having some members of the group that love killing is absolutely unavoidable in a predatory species. I don't think that automatically makes those people "animals" (any more than we are all animals) or even necessarily bad people. Certainly Chris Kyle claimed to love his job - a lot. People who kill for our side are Heroes.

I think as long as we can acknowledge that such feelings are natural for carnivores and interwarring tribesmen, and find acceptable outlets to express these feelings, we don't have to demonize people for having them. I would say it's only human.

As I mentioned to VooDooB, ISIS is acting like many other humans in different places and times have acted before we invented not acting like that, ie, "civilized" behavior. Establishing and maintaining a civilization takes a lot of hard work and very organized effort and we're really new at it. Looking back at how humans have almost always warred and tortured and killed and beheaded and burned and indoctrinated outgroup loathing, a more interesting question is, why are we NOT doing that at any particular moment?

The answer is because of civilization. We created systems to use instead of doing that. We get billions of incalcuable benefits to life because of it.

The uncivilized have no hope of challenging us or even continuing, so they are resorting to spectacle. But tribal values can't run any group larger than a city-state for very long. Only knowledge can really make things work, and knowledge requires putting tribal things behind.

It is just taking a while for everyone to get it.

Steffy:Hi Raverlady:)

That's certainly food for thought.

Unfortunately the warring tribesmen have 21st century technology.

Allah cannot maintain the satellite network for the iPhones. It can't last.

When the Roman Empire fell, all the plumbing in Europe stopped working, because it takes a civilization to maintain complex technical water handling systems. When the Roman plumbing broke they couldn't fix it. People went back to lugging water in buckets for a thousand years.

Tribal values, including extreme religiosity, can't maintain technology for very long. Only civilization can do that. If people want their own sewage treatment plants, and satellite phones that work, the extreme religiosity eventually has to go on the back burner. Those things are not backwardly-compatible.

1-12-15 12:15  •   Abrahamic Faiths Inherently Offensive

Kathy: I just see the Jews to be 100% blind about Jesus. The Jews don't have any belief in Jesus, who I love, who I am so very thankful to for his death and resurrection. They are impossible to relate to.

They say they are Chosen. I know I am not in the elite. So I take more offense towards Jews. Because they don't see Jesus be the Messiah. If there was man named Jesus that died... He just died for nothing.

I can see 100% blindness.

Collective: Kathy, how can you insult the Jews! Your ideas are based on stereotypes.

For example, Jews do not interpret the concept of "chosen" as having anything to do with being better or elite. In Jewish theology, it's actually a concept of humility (one who is close to G-d realizes their own insignificance in the world).

Kathy: Hi,

I am really sorry I was being so rude. I really don't where this comes from. If I don't have anything nice to say. I should never say anything at all. I feel bad I was being such a tyrant. Sometimes I am mean,sorry.

Why should Kathy have to apologize? This was no personal failing on her part. When Kathy says "the Jews" are "100% blind" to ignore The Messiah, she is just clumsily stating exactly what her religion says. I think that crap about The Chosen People being "close to God" is pretty offensive too, but that is just CollectiveCow stating what her religion says. There is just no way to make claims to have knowledge of gods without being offensive, so people usually avoid saying the obvious out loud.

Of course it's much more polite to pretend that everyone has their own path, and every path is right "for me," but it requires that we ignore a HUGE elephant in the room - that the Abrahamic Faiths are mutually exclusive. If any one was true, adherents to the others - and Hinduism, Sikhism, etc - WOULD have to be "100% blind" to not see it.

Kathy, you are not rude or mean or tyrannical. Unfortunately, you belong to a rude and mean and tyrannical religion with rude and mean beliefs. There is no way you can state what your religion implies about the Jews without being rude to them. Sadly, there is no way the Jews (or Muslims) can say what their religion implies about the others without being rude either. Why? Because everyone has to claim their ancient tribe was right about God when there is no reason to think they are.

So what is the human race to do? Ignore the irreconcilable claims of two thirds of the world? If we can't say something nice, don't say anything at all? But then how can we talk about what is really true? How can we talk about what is important?

Kathy: I am concerned about the Jews. If the bible is right. Who denies Jesus, they will be deny by God. They will be cast away from God presence for eternity.

The bible is ridiculous and you know it. Don't worry about it.

Kathy: A Christian attacking a Jew, like I did. Seems not a loving thing to do at all.

Christianity declares Judaism false by fiat. Judaism declares Christianity false by fiat. And what kind of person would follow a false religion?

There is no loving way to say this, so for the moment everyone politely glosses over it. You just said it out loud.

I'm glad you did. It's time someone did. It is a really big problem.

Kathy: Do we really know what happens after we die? We really don't know. We are just guessing. That is all.

YES. Please remember this.

Kathy: I would never want anybody to go hell. This where the line is so thin. Good people could-should not go to hell.

You are a very compassionate and loving person. It's too bad your religion is not as loving and compassionate as you are. And I'm sorry this thought bothers you so much because there is no reason to worry about it. It's just a guess, remember?

The Christian guess involves heaven, hell, whatever. The Hindu guess involves reincarnation. The Australian aborigine guess involves The Dreamtime. All guesses are 100% blind.

Zen Buddhism does not have a guess. They do not bother guessing. There is no reason to guess.

Kathy: My point is, just saying, something doesn't seem right. Right?

Again, YES. It doesn't seem right, does it? That is because it isn't true.

Kathy: What is the truth?

CHECK! That is how you find out. It's not all guessing. If you want to know, look.

Kathy: So what then? We all just die, and only our memory lives?

Kathy, I just don't know. That is what it looks like. We are lucky to have that.

Think of all the cats that live and die. Millions live and die as human pets, loved and remembered by families. But cats have been around for millions of years, and billions upon billions of cats have lived and died, in forests and jungles and plains. They lived cat lives and then died, remembered only by other cats who knew them who would soon themselves die. They don't "go" anywhere, they just pass on and their bits dissolve.

And yet the beautiful, successful pattern, the cat, goes on.

Are we different?

Humans can create ideas that live beyond their time. That seems to me to be so amazing and wonderful and better than anyone really could ask for, that I am well pleased just at that. I will pass, but my blog will live on!

As for more, we'll see, but it's no use doing ANYTHING based on one ancient little tribe's uninformed guess. In fact it would be ridiculous to let the tribes tell you anything. They were babies in the cradle of civilization. We know better now.

1-2-15 12:12  •   New World Order Plus Swearing

Dearla: World leaders are meeting at the G20 to forge a "New World Order." Do you think the New World Order is a good thing? What of our sovereignty?

"New World Order" could mean anything. The United Nations represented a new world order compared to what came before. The spread of democracy was a new world order compared with the domination of hereditary monarchies. European colonialism was the new world order of the Renaissance. The world has already been through a number of "New World Orders."

The phrase itself is meaningless. What are the specific plans? That's what we would need to know.

As for sovereignty, it's not hard to figure out. People need good ways to work together on the things that concern everyone. Groups should work together with a level of autonomy for things that concern only that group. People should be free to work out their own solutions for the things that concern them only.

The reason we're divided into cities, counties, and states is to order the things that concern these geographical partitions. There are also things that concern everyone, worldwide, and having a means to deal with those concerns collectively is becoming more important. As long as it is done democratically, through negotiation and compromise rather than by force of arms, I think we could work together to figure out a way to handle "the world" well.

Dearla: What about a one world currency? A one world government? A one world justice system? Would you be OK with any of that?

It would depend on what form it took. I don't have any problem with a "one country government" from the east to the west coast of this continent. It seems to have worked okay for the last couple of hundred years.

Why don't you explain what you think the problems are with those ideas.

Dearla: Why do we need to be associated with those countries? What do we have in common with Russia? China? Africa?

Well, we have children that we love and they have children that they love. We like music and art and they like music and art. We like to make things and do things and they like to make things and do things. We like to work hard and accomplish things and provide for our families and they like to work hard and accomplish things and provide for their families. We sing songs. They sing songs. We dance. They dance. We like to make choices for our future and they like to make choices for their future. We like to live in safety and comfort and they like to live in safety and comfort. Our culture has gods we worship and folktales we tell. Their culture has gods they worship and folktales they tell. We like to laugh and they like to laugh. We cling together for comfort in grief and they cling together for comfort in grief.

In fact I'd be pretty hard pressed to think of much we don't have in common with our fellow humans. We are people. They are people too.

Dearla:Would we be allowed to keep our own customs or would we have to follow NWO customs and traditions?

Well, they haven't been forced to stop celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and we haven't been forced to take up the celebration anywhere else. Do you mean like that?

Dearla: Who gets to decide what laws to change and what laws to keep?

How do you figure out what laws they get to keep in Nebraska and in Oregon, and what laws you get to keep where you are? There are city, state, and federal legislatures who work it out, acording to the will of the people.

Dearla: How would our NWO leaders be selected? Would we have a global vote?

Why not?

Dearla: I think that this New World Order sounds nice in theory, but so do many things that we have learned are not good ideas. I'm sure slavery and the holocaust seemed damn skippy at the time for most people....

Do you really think the New World Order sounds like slavery and holocaust? No one has even described what it is yet. Why do you think it would not be democracy?

Dearla: Besides, the world would get very boring if we had a common culture.

A common culture is already happening. Who didn't see "Gangnam Style"?

It doesn't mean the old culture disappears. Cultures are always growing, blending and merging.

Anna: If by "new world order' you mean a common language, currency etc, it would not work without bloodshed.

I think a common language is inevitable. It won't be mandated, it will just happen. We already have much more language in common than would have seemed possible a few centuries ago.

Sadly, I think it will be quirky, clunky English. French traditionally the language of love, German the language of science, and English the language of business. Guess who wins?

It's not at the point of a sword, though. It's happening naturally.

As for currency, the various types of money are just insane. People need to be able to travel around without having to pay exchange fees at every border - not to mention the fluctuating exchange rates which change the purchasing power of your money whenever you switch it.

I really don't see why it would be a problem. The Italians weren't so crazy about the lire and the French weren't so nuts about the franc that they couldn't get together around the Euro.

It could be a long time before that comes together for everyone, though. Maybe the Eartho?

Anna: People get funny about their culture and history and go to great lengths to protect it.

Some do, some don't. But culture is always changing, merging, growing. A common earth culture is inevitable also. It doesn't have to do away with the previous culture. But there is nothing we could do to prevent it at this point even if we wanted to. Global communication means we are sharing world experience. Shared worldview will equal shared culture, at least in some respects.

Dearla: Oh, if only we could just sit around the camp fire and sing kum bah yah..........

I can. Do you think you can't?

Anna: I agree that there will be an assimilation of languages and the diversity will lessen, but i dont think we will get rid of them any time soon.

Having a global language doesn't mean getting rid of the local language. Most of the world speaks a local language and at least some English right now.

Anna:Quite a few countries resisted the euro and culture and history were the forefront of the argument.

I think they saw the logic of it eventually.

Anna: I can see some peopel getting on the "american" culture bandwagon like so many Japanese youth have but even in their quest for "All Things American" they have a culture that is NOT american.

I don't expect world culture to be American. Brand America is down the tubes and I don't think it will ever really recover. I don't even expect the world culture to be "western" or "northern". It will be a culture that we all share.

Anna: Like i said, it wont be in our lifetime. I dont think so anyway.

I agree, I don't think it will be in our lifetime either. Maybe not in our kids' lifetimes. But eventually a world culture is inevitable.

Anna: There will always be a controlling group of people and no one really realizes that they are in charge.

Sure, that is exactly how it is now. But there is one very important thing that they have discovered, and it is that there is a far easier way to be in charge than by forcing people at gunpoint to give up the freedom they love. It's much easier to dangle shiny bits in front of people and get them to hand you their power at the cash register.

I agree it's not a true power of the people. But it sure beats hereditary monarchy, dictatorship, and other brutal forms of single power rule. At least with oligarchy people choose which politicians get bought. We have a historically unprecedented level of control over our civic affairs. We can influence the guys in charge by eschewing whatever dangly bit they are waving in front of us.

And we can use the leverage we have for some concessions. Full education is far from undoable, and it would gradually shift some of the power back downward.

Look at it this way. In the last thirty years the oligarchy has manipulated the economy and the politics to amass unbelievably and unimaginably huge piles of money for themselves. They have used those piles to amass even larger piles of money and control the supply chains we depend on. But, they depend on us too.

When their greedy machinations became so egregious that they threatened to collapse the system, the greedy fuckers backed off. They admitted that they crippled the banks and asked us for help. They lowered the price of gasoline so that people could afford to drive and eat too. Their unbelievable concentration of power threatened them too and so they gave some back.

Having us as willing consumers is far better for them than having us as unwilling slaves. And they know this.

Dearla: I think we would lose our vote.

We don't have to lose our vote. We can fight for our vote the way we always have.

Dearla: Didn't you read those New World Order quotes? [about microchipping,etc.]

Fuck the "quotes." People can say anything. However blathering a quote and getting people to go along with it are two very different things.

Dearla: It's actually rather scary that some people think that the press and the government should just take over and do what they want with us.

Stupid people think a lot of stupid things. However, if we don't like what is actually proposed we don't have to go along with it.

Think about it. With the mightiest military in the world, with the world's most expensive weapons and the world's best trained soldiers, in five years we haven't been able to force the Iraqis to do doodly-squat. In sixty years the Israelis have not been able to subdue the Palestinians. In four centuries of colonialism, the great powers of Europe have had to relinquish almost all of the colonies to self-rule.

People will always struggle against subjugation. We can fight, we can resist, we can fail to yield. If we don't want that new world order we don't have to go along with it.

Dearla: If there was ever a NWO (one government for whole world) don't you think we would lose our voice in the way things are done?

Why should we? People in this world have far more voice in how things are done than any other people in any other time in history. The arc of history bends, however slowly, toward self-realization.

Look at it this way. Have you ever examined a dollar bill?

This is the Great Seal of the United States. The words "Annuit Coeptis" mean, "with approval of the beginnings" and "Novus Ordo Seclorum" means, "The New Order of the Ages."

When the United States won its independence from Britain, they vowed to create a new kind of world that had never been seen before. And this they have done. For all its faults and failures, the U.S. has moved inexorably towards greater equality, freedom and opportunity for all.

If there is to be a United World, we can strive for this same ideal...struggle, fail, keep trying, and eventually succeed. With our approval on its beginnings, the New Order of the Ages can be the kind of world we want to live in. We just have to make it so.

Dearla:You make it sound great but I just don't believe that it could ever happen the way you describe.

Who would have believed that women would ever be given the vote? Only men got to vote on the issue. Why would they ever agree to franchise women when they could control them?

It was because the suffragettes agitated and marched and raised hell and made headlines. They engaged in civil disobedience and staged hunger strikes. Women demanded that this nation treat us fairly and the bastions of male superiority could not withstand us.

Dearla: Man is power hungry, greedy and violent.

If that is all "man" is, then how come we live in a country that was conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal? How come most of the hereditary monarchies in Europe are now constitutional democracies? How come we don't have slavery anymore, if there is nothing to "man" but power mongering, violence and greed?

It is because people are not just power hungry, greedy and violent. They are also fair, generous and caring. These qualities we have in at least equal measure, and the strongest feature of modernity is our newfound tendency to let these qualities carry the day slightly more often than not.

Additionally, it is because the will of each person to have power of their own lives is equal or greater than the will of a few to control the many. And there are way more many than there are few. We do not have to submit to any order that is not what we want. If "they" try to impose it on us they will fail.

Dearla: when the new world order happens, it won't be as you describe it.

So, what alternative kind of new world order are you proposing instead?

StepMamma: your use of the F-word really offends me. Can you please stop using it?

If that is the only objection you can raise to what I wrote I must have been in top form. That's great to know, thanks.

StepMamma: I don't agree with your use of the women's vote as an example of new world order as you describe it.

That's fine, but that's not what I was using it as an example of.

I was using it to demonstrate that oppression is overcome by resistance. If some force tries to impose an oppressive "new world order" they will not be able to succeed because they will meet resisitance.

StepMamma: For all of us to become one world order as you have described it goes against human nature.

No more so than establishing the United States or the European Union does. These are large groups of seperate states organized into a whole to address situations that affect them all. They are democratic, generally egalitarian, and for all their troubles, they allow citizens the greatest freedom and self-determination that any human societies have ever experienced.

What can be done once or twice can be done again.

StepMamma: I don't think we will be forced. We will be deceived.

You can't fool all the people all the time. Bush used deception to sell his mass murder, but there were people, even back in 2002, who saw right through it. And, only six years later, the entire enterprise has been laid bare, and repudiated, because a) enough people have learned the truth, b) an enterprise which is not based in reality cannot succeed.

StepMamma: i will be watching from heaven.

If that's the kind of thing you enjoy watching, have at it.

StepMamma: So, about my comment to you on your use of the F-word.

What about it?

StepMamma: Actually, I was just seeing if you were going to stay true to your buddhist beliefs.

So, what is the result of your experiment?

StepMamma: you have said that is something causes hurt to another that you stop doing it. and if you are unaware that it cause hurt, when you find out, you try to correct it or at least not do it again.

I did at least not do it again.

StepMamma: So what say you?

What do you want me to say?

1) I wasn't speaking to you.

2) This is hardly the first instance of the f word in this discussion. You certainly never seemed to have a problem with it before.

3) I joined a group called Heated Debate because I thought I would find adults here who could handle it. I would hope that the other people who have chosen this group are looking for the same thing.

4) Offense does not equal harm. If there is some harm that has come to you please describe it and I will address it. However I am familiar with the use of language and I feel fairly certain that I did not do anything harmful.

I wasn't talking to you. I did not use offensive language against or describing you or anyone here. My use of this kind of language is precise and sparing. And if you couldn't handle the f-word you wouldn't still be here in this forum. I don't see how you could be damaged by this, but if there is a way, please explain.

StepMamma: I am really hurt by your use of the F-word. it really really bothers me. I take high offense at it.

That's kind of a waste, but hey, it's your outrage.

If it bothers you that much we can discuss it. Maybe we could work something out. I can certainly refrain from using the f-word at will. But I would need to know, are you asking me to never use it when speaking to you, or never use it anywhere you might see it, or never at all?

Are you asking everybody who participates here to refrain from the using the f-word, or just me? If the former, just with you or all the time? If the latter, why me?

Anna: Do you really think that any nation isn't more than 5 years away from being the same as nazi germany? Things can turn on a dime.

Of course they can. Before 9-11, who would have thought that America would be occupying, torturing and spying? One bad leader can take things down a terrible path very quickly.

But look what happened. We are turning back. People are rejecting the torture and the occupying and the spying. We don't want to live like that and we are working to change it.

I said, we can strive...struggle, fail, keep trying, and eventually succeed. There are no guarantees that we can teach the world to sing, in perfect har-mo-nee. But there is no reason to think that a United World would be more like Nazi Germany than the United States. People have created vast unions which improved the life of the citizens. Why do people think we could not do it again?

Nazi Germany lasted only ten years. Communist Russia lasted forty. The United States has been here two hundred years, and slowly getting better - ending slavery, sharing equal citizenship with women, creating the social safety net, establishing civil rights. Freedom has more staying power than oppression.

Yes, we took a quick turn for the crappy, and our dominance on the world stage may fade, but we are still freer than most humans who have ever lived, and we are using our freedom and what leverage we have to turn away from the path of oppression. Most of the western European countries learned this lesson decades ago and have been unifying peacefully ever since.

Just the idea of world unity is nothing to fear. We should not use ghosts of Nazi Germany frighten us into not striving for a good unified system. We don't have to do it like they did. We can do it so it works.

We have a lot of issues that concern us all. We need to work together on them.

Anna: You asked what kind of world order I would propose? A proper international council that actually has teeth and doesnt just pay lip service to the worlds inequities.

Sounds great. Let's do it.

StepMamma: What do you mean, what are the results of my experiment? It reinforced my thoughts that Buddhism has a relative morality.

You said you were trying to see if I was being true to my Buddhism. Did you find that I was or that I wasn't? If not, please explain in what respect.

StepMamma: I am not asking you or anyone else to stop using it.

That is not what you said. You specifically stated, "your use of the F-word really offends me. Can you please stop using it?"

You are now backpedaling. What's up with that?

StepMamma: I am not back pedaling - when I made that statement, there was a point to it. But in truth, i dont feel it fair of me to ask anyone to stop using bad language simply because it offends me. this is a public debate group, so it is not fair for me to expect people to change just for me.

I'm glad you agree.

StepMamma: As for whether you stayed true to your Buddhist values, well... you seemed to start to think about it, that if using the f-word bothered me, you were generally concerned and didn't want to cause me "harm" which is true to your beliefs. but then, you seemed to start to defend it and perhaps thought that my request was silly.....so at that point, i guess then you didn't stay true. but in reality your response was very real and i appreciate that about you.

i enjoy our debates (even though i get annoyed sometimes) because you seem to always remain real and rarely rarely use bad language. i respect you for that actually.

1-1-15 11:11  •   Why Belief Seems Wrong

Kathy: What does it matter that scientists agree? There is a whole group of church people who will agree with this statement. The statement is - all things were created by God. There was no "Big Bang" that brought everything into existence at all.

Do you know what the difference is between church people agreeing with ancient claims about gods and astrophysicists agreeing with descriptions of how the universe began?

Well, the astrophysicists are studying the matter and radiation in the universe. They are examining real things and measuring the directions the things are moving and how fast. They are using the data that they obtain by this observation to calculate where everything came from. The calculations were published in journals, examined and tested by other astrophysicists. Some of them were found to be imprecise, so they were re-examined, compared again with the observed data, and corrected. After decades of this, the description of where the matter and energy originated became more accurate. Later finds in the field - such as the discovery of the cosmic background radiation - confirmed that the origin of matter and energy in our universe was from a singularity which underwent a massive expansion event, or "big bang."

In other words, they checked.

On the other hand, the people sitting around in church blathering about "gods" did not get the information from examining and measuring real things. They got it from an old folktale. They are not comparing their information to the information of other people and trying to reconcile the discrepancies. They are simply insisting that their origin folktale is right, while the conflicting origin folktales of other cultures are just myths. After centuries of this, their descriptions are again and again found to be inaccurate claptrap, but they don't ever change. Later finds which show the folktales to be false are simply ignored.

In other words, they did not check.

Kathy: Somebody is right, and somebody is wrong.

That is why we invented checking, so you don't just have to scratch your head and say, Gee, which one, guess we'll never know. You can check to see which answer is right and which is wrong.

Checking has revealed that the "big bang" description of the origin of the universe is very accurate and the "god did it in intervals of six" explanation of the universe has no merit whatsoever.

Kathy: If I am right. Then there is A Creator who actually cares about us.

If the average American four year old is right, then there is a jolly old elf living at the North Pole who will bring them presents if they are good. Isn't that wonderful!? What a lovely thought!

However just because it's nice to think of a magic being who blesses them with gifts, that is not enough to make there actually be one. You can't make gods really exist by thinking about how great it would be. And longing for what is not the case is a fast trip straight to suffering.

Kathy: If you are right, then there is nothing.

Wrong. There is a universe, and there is us. Those are not nothing.

Kathy: I stand for God's righteous that lives inside all us. I don't believe my righteousness is the best way. My way is good, but God's ways are so much better.

So, you stand for being an inferior failure. That's a shame, but it's certainly very convenient for those who want to manipulate you.

Kathy: Maybe I am right.

You are one of the ones who is not checking. So I don't see how you could conclude that you may be right. Being right comes from checking.

Kathy: The Big Bang theory is void of the word of Love.

So what? It is meant to describe the behaviors of matter and energy at very low levels of organization. Emotions are an expression of a much higher level of organization, which comes into being very much later.

Love is a function of mammalian evolution. It arose as a behavioral adaptation to ensure that parents provided sufficient care for their offspring to raise them to reproductive age. It intensified among social animals because sympathetic understanding gives them a reason to cooperate and work for the survival of others in their own in-group.

Anger, hate, antagonism, xenophobia, or what have you, also came into being, to give individuals and social groups a reason to compete against other individuals and social groups of the same (or different) species.

Neither love nor hate come to humans from magical superbeings. They are ours, which we created ourselves for specific purposes of survival.

Kathy: You make things out of love. Like dinner for your family. You are driven by love, not nothing. God is love.

Way to rob humans of the credit for the great things that we do ourselves.

Kathy: God is love. I really believe all will be forgiven, all will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Gloria: Do you really think people like Hitler or Saddam can be forgiven?

And did they have coins for the Ferryman?

Kathy: Christians are good! They want all to come to Heaven.

MyMy: What about people like Gloria, who want others tormented forever in hell?

Gloria: How does that pertain to what I said earlier?

You seemed to be one of the people who wants this.

Gloria: I'm not going to go by what Kathy or anyone else says.

People were telling me my entire childhood, I had to believe God is what they say God is. Because of that I have so adamantly made the choice that God is to me whatever I want God to be to me. I don't have to follow guidelines or books or other's people beliefs. I can choose whatever I want, because that is the freedom I have been given.

What of the truth?

Gloria: So because I believe in hell, I must want souls tormented there forever?

How long do you want them to be tormented there?

Gloria: There is no truth where this matter is concerned because there are no facts about God, only beliefs.

There is a truth. The truth is that there are no facts.

Gloria: We don't know, we just choose to believe.

Why not stop at the truth?

Gloria, thanks for speaking of this with me. It is an honor.

Gloria: I know I've provided a lot of maybes but even I am able to say I don't know what God does.

If you don't know then where did you get all those maybes from?

Gloria: I fully acknowledged that there were no facts to prove my beliefs but there are also no other facts to disprove them either.

You could make up things which can't be disproved all day, each one more wonderful (or awful) than the last. But why believe them if you just made them up?

If the truth is that you don't know, and no one knows, why make stuff up?

Gloria: I don't really think there is a wrong or right answer here.

There is a right answer. I'm not just trying to be disagreeable; I am trying to explain something important about human knowledge.

The right answer is that humans do not know anything about gods.

They don't know if there are one or many or none. They don't know if gods like or hate humans, if they are just or fickle, if they prefer humans to take Friday, Saturday or Sunday off. People are simply pretending to know something about gods when they claim that there is one, and that it prefers a certain day off, and that it enforces moral justice. There is no evidence of any of this.

Pretending humans know anything about "gods" is ignoring this truth. Ignoring the truth is dangerous.

Gloria: You (general) don't know what my God is.

I know that your ideas about gods were made up by humans who did not know anything about gods.

Gloria: At some point in time, there were no facts to prove many of the ideas that we accept now, like gravity.

All the more reason not to jump the gun and start believing something made up now, with zero facts.

Gloria: Not knowing what gravity was or how it worked did not make it any less true.

"Gravity" is not "true." Truth is comprised of statements.

"Objects in Earth's gravity well fall at 32.2'/sec²-drag" is a true statement, in that it is extremely accurate.

Statements are true if they correspond accurately to what they are describing.

Statements about gods, afterlives, souls, etc. do not correspond accurately to anything. They appear to have been made up long ago by people who did not understand very much. There is no evidence of them and there is nothing that can be examined which suggests them. Reason and evidence suggest a very different reality, with very different mechanisms of cause and effect.

That is the truth which describes the situation and all conjecture to the contrary is wishful thinking.

And human actions based on wishful thinking instead of the truth (however uncomfortable) create a lot of problems.

Thanks again Gloria!

Hello there Gloria, great to speak with you again!

I'm really glad you raised this point because I wanted to address it separately from my previous post.

Gloria: You don't agree with what I believe, therefore my beliefs must be wrong.

That is not the reason.

Actually, it is a direct examination of reality which suggests that your beliefs are wrong. Here is why:

1. There are no apparent gods. Every single idea or argument humans have ever put forth concerning gods are all just words. There is no actual substance or observation or part of reality which can be examined which is a god. There is no effect that can be examined which shows a god. As far as can be determined, gods are no more a part of this reality than unicorns or Santa. Upon examination, every human suggestion of or about gods is comprised entirely of conjecture.

2. There are no suggestions of gods in nature. Everything that can be observed, from the motions of galaxies to the behavior of insects to the dreams of humans, can be seen to be arising from natural systems with mechanisms that can be examined and apprehended. Nothing that can be observed suggests any kind of supernatural agency in its creation or maintenance, and nothing has been examined which is inexplicable enough to admit a supernatural component. There is nothing in the universe which a god would have had to interact with for it to be like it is now.

3. Everything supernatural has been debunked. It is easy to understand why ancient humans believed in gods, fairies, ghosts, magic, etc. It was because they had not yet learned to apply observation and reason to understanding what is the case. Almost as soon as the system of reason and observation was put into use, the old supernatural claims began to fall apart. All of the magical things people used to believe in were found to be superstitions and just-so stories with no basis beyond confirmation bias and wishful thinking.

Almost all of the previous claims about gods have been debunked as well - that gods magically created the earth, that gods designed life, that gods cause plagues/cure illness, that gods caused a world-wide flood, etc.

Only claims completely outside the ability to be examined (like "afterlife justice") can continue to be associated with gods because any and all things which could be examined showed no gods and no supernatural agency.

4. People are known to invent gods to explain what they don't understand. Even in recent times, people invented a whole belief system - the "cargo cults" - to explain a sudden inexplicable interaction with strangers. Given this human propensity for invention, it is easy to see where the old god stories come from and why they are not a basis for understanding what is really happening.

5. There is no apparent moral order outside of humans. Morality was invented by humans as a social evolution strategy. Proto-moral behavior can be observed in our closest relatives and many species, so it is clear to observation that morality was devised as a means for creating social cohesion. However proto-immoral behavior can be observed as well, serving different purposes. The origins of both are rooted in the biological.

So, there is no reason to think that there is a supernatural component to "good" and "evil." These are judgements our species learned to make, among many, based on trial and error and how things worked out. It is an ongoing process and still underway. This is also why our moral arc slowly bends toward justice - it is a form of error correction.

6. There is nothing in nature which suggests any kind of afterlife. There is no observable mechanism by which an afterlife could occur. A very close examination of the foundation of being and personality show that they arise from physicality, from the mechanism of a functioning biosystem with a complex neurology. Everything that can be observed about these systems suggest that they are only temporary emergent properties of complex patterns which are not maintainable beyond the dissolution of the pattern.

There is no suggestion at all that humans could encounter a fate different from anything else that lives and dies, and certainly no suggestion that some humans meet different fates "after" death.

7. Given the utter lack of examination, evidence and plausibility, there is no reason that any one utterly arbitrary projection - for example, single god, binary afterlife - makes more sense to believe than any other projection - like binary god, single afterlife, or multi-god multi-life, or leprechauns, or what have you. With no suggestions of gods and no need for gods and nothing to go on, fixing on one and investing it with truth is nonsensical.

As you can see, simply looking at the reality that we find ourselves in very strongly suggests that we are naturally occurring biological organisms who rely on finite biological systems. Looking at our biology and our history it is clear that we are learning creatures who have only very recently learned to distinguish reality from fantasy and apply reason to our understanding.

So I hope you will see that for some, challenging your unfounded beliefs is not about disagreement. It is about the fact that they do actually appear to be incorrect.

Gloria: As far as where the ideas came from, that would be all the sources of information I have come across since I was old enough to understand them.

In other words, it came from other people. However, other people do not know any more about "the afterlife" than you do. If you can't tell anything about it, they couldn't either. So you know what they said about it means nothing.

Gloria: I kind of feel like that is all religion. For the most part it was made up by someone at some point and accepted by many as a belief system.

Yes. But we know better now.

Gloria: It might seem odd to you for a person to believe in something that is made up, but I can't give you a reason that you would find acceptable. I like the idea of believing in God. I like the faith I have.

I understand, but I was wondering if you might consider thinking of something beyond what you personally like.

I can see now that you do understand the truth. So, as people who understand truth, I feel we have a moral obligation to promote the truth, and the system of truth - reason - because understanding what is really going on is the only way to deal with reality well.

Perpetuating unreason is a really big problem for the human race right now. Being a voice for reason, and for accepting the truth, in a world where so few do, would be a much greater contribution than simply doing something that you happen to like.

Gloria: I have only stated my beliefs. I understand that there are loonies out there who use their beliefs to justify wars and genocides, but I am not those people.

Of course not. But unreason - believing things which don't seem to be true for no acceptable reason - is a problem everywhere, in every system. Part of why it is so hard for people to use reason is because religious beliefs systematically dismantle reason by dismissing it and degrading it. That's a big problem.

Gloria: I truly beileve in doing onto others as you would have done onto yourself.

You are a beautiful person. But you don't need gods for that.

Gloria: I only believe religious beliefs are dangerous when they are used as an excuse for hate.

This is where I disagree. Unreason and refusing to understand the truth creates a lot of error. The greater the distance between what is claimed and what the reality is, the bigger the error. For most religious beliefs, this distance is a chasm.

And right now, refusing to look at the truth isn't just happening in religion. It is happening in economics and business and politics. As a result, we're blowing it.

Generous estimates give the biosphere maybe twenty years before it starts to become completely unhinged from runaway warming. Whether lifekind can even be maintained beyond that point is not a guarantee.

Do we really need more delusion and believing nice things that aren't true and refusing to face reality? Or do we need truth?

Gloria: My logical brain says you are right. The spiritual side of me disagrees. You perceive faith in the unseen as wishful thinking. I do not. Faith is a state of being. It's a force inside you.

Again, I understand. What I would like you to understand is that you don't have to ignore the truth about reality to have those feelings. The most spiritual people I know are all non-theists, because at the heart of their spiritual quest was a desire to find out what is really going on, and be true to that spiritual quest, and this is where the truth in that quest inevitably leads. You have arrived there already yourself.

I am neither atheist nor theist, but I can tell you I have a vibrant spiritual life, and I feel a magnificent creative force inside me which animates every moment of my awareness. I feel a deep connection to all of reality knowing that the particles that make up my being are the stuff of stars. I feel a great reverence knowing the incredible age of the universe, and the unlikeliness of evolution to sentience. I feel wondrous awe at each sunrise knowing that matter and energy can become shaped into patterns that come alive and rejoice. And I feel profound respect for the greatest things of life - humans, who have made beauty and discovered truth and, despite our differences, have created great oceans of love for each other.

Understanding all of that, based on the truth about what is happening, does not detract from spirituality. My spiritual side and my logical brain are both in perfect agreement, because they are both telling me the same thing. That is what appreciating the truth does.

If you don't believe me, ask a buddhist. Buddhism does not even posit a god, or a soul , or an afterlife, or a supernatural. But this reality-based system is giving people spiritual awareness and experience and skill enough to measurably increase their well-being. Studies have shown that Buddhists really are happier than people in other religious categories.

Gloria: Describing faith in God to someone who doesn't believe in it, is like trying to describe the sky to a person who was born blind. It's just not possible.

This is where I very strongly disagree. Comparing people who use reason and observation for understanding reality to the "born blind" is getting it exactly backwards.

Gloria: Why should I abandon the beliefs I like to take up the Atheist cause? I don't want to convince someone that their spiritual beliefs are untrue. I don't really feel that is my calling.

I'm not talking about convincing others, I'm talking about you valuing reason and accepting the conclusions of reason because you understand that they seem to be true. The truth matters, and sometimes it matters more than what you personally like.

Gloria: I'm sorry, I just don't buy the whole idea that people who believe in God are so out of touch with reality that they can't distinguish between fantasy and reality.

There is a lot of evidence suggesting exactly this correlation.  The more devoutly religious people are, the less likely they are to accept the conclusions of science, the more likely they are to deny global warming,  and the more likely they are to support institutional immorality like war and  torture, etc.  The countries with the highest levels of social health are the ones with the lowest levels of religiosity

There is a reason.

Gloria: All I can do is point out that regardless of the lack of evidence for God's existence, that doesn't mean there is no God.

It means that the term "god" is entirely devoid of meaning, and any meaning you choose to assign to it is just you pretending.

The world does not need more people pretending.

Gloria: I don't know how else I can say it. Just as you probably feel there is no other way to express your passion for the truth to me.

Ha! Let me count the ways. I have been writing about this for ten years and I'm still coming up with new ways to express it.

The last thing I would do is shrug and give up and claim you just don't have what it takes to understand.

Gloria: And then you tout Buddhism! But the whole religion [of Buddhism] was created by a man nonetheless. It's just as made up as Christianity the only major difference being there is no gods in Buddhism.

The major difference being that in Buddhism people understand it was created by a human and in Christianity people have to pretend it was invented/revealed by gods. The pretending is the problem.

Gloria: There is no afterlife because they believe in rebirth. Can they prove rebirth actually happens? Can they prove Karma actually exists?

This simply shows that you are not familiar with the actual teachings of the Buddha, but I am glad to explain.

The Buddha did not teach reincarnation. He specifically taught Anatman, or no soul. He said the answer to what happens after death is unknown, unimportant and a distraction from enlightenment.

"Rebirth" was grafted onto his teachings by Hindus as a stand-in for reincarnation, but it is not the same thing. It is a somewhat vague reference to your legacy surviving you through the effects of your actions, not life cycles of an immortal soul.

Likewise, the Buddha did not teach a supernatural version of karma. He taught that effects have causes and how you act is reflected in what happens as a result. Can you prove that is true? Sure, just do something and see the effects.

Gloria: I also don't need a list of teachings from a man to know that you shouldn't harm others, or kill others, or steal from others.

I know, and that is not the point. I am not trying to sell you on Buddhism. I am trying to demonstrate through the example of Buddhism that your contention that spirituality is in conflict with logic is incorrect. They are not incompatible if both are guided by respect for the truth.

Gloria: You don't like my "blind man" analogy? Describing faith in God to someone who doesn't believe in it is not possible. Better?

Nope, still wrong. The feelings you associate with "faith" are experienced by everyone, not just by people who believe in pretend things. Religion has co-opted the feelings all humans experience, the "force inside you" as you put it, and pretended that this is about gods. But that doesn't make it really related to gods or something only godders can experience or understand.

When humans really do have differences in perception - like in color-blindness for example - there is lots of evidence of it and it can be demonstrated. However, there is no evidence and nothing that can be demonstrated to show that religious believers actually experience anything differently from any other human.

So, our disagreement is not because you are trying to describe the sky to blind people who, unlike you, can't experience it themselves. You are speaking to fully sighted humans exactly like yourself who experience the same things you experience.

The error is in attributing "faith in god" as responsible for what you are feeling. Those feelings have many sources and anyone can feel them.

Gloria, thanks again for discussing this topic with me. You are raising important points and I'm glad for a chance to address them.

Gloria: So what is the solution? To get rid of religion entirely ot just the ones with God or gods in them?

The solution is to derive truth from examination of reality and base religion on reality.

Gloria: You claim the word "god" is meaningless, but where do any words get their meanings from? Who decided that love means what it means. Who decided that a cat is a cat.

The concept we call cat (and others call something else) comes from a referent, a furry animal with distinct characteristics which can be described. Love refers to a specific set of emotional reactions with physiological components which inspire specific types of behaviors.

Yes, all words are made up, but some have real referents and some don't. Some words, such as Narnia, unicorn, Zeus and gods do not have any actual referent.

Gloria: It's an assumption to say there is no soul because it is unknown whether there is an after life.

It is an observation that there is no referent to the word "soul."

The point is that is possible to be richly spiritually fulfilled without assigning imaginary referents to words that no have no actual referent.

Gloria: You said that the last thing you would do is shrug and give up and claim I just don't have what it takes to understand you. Well, it's not about understanding. It's about acceptance. I can understand what you are saying and still decide not to accept it as my beliefs.

No, I was talking about about you claiming that non-believers cannot understand something you understand. You are shrugging and giving up and claiming that they just don't have what it takes - faith - to understand.

Gloria: I am speaking specifically to WHAT we have faith in and being able to explain why.

You are talking about NOT being able to explain why.

Gloria: A person who has no faith in God, for whatever reason, is usually unable to understand why a person does have faith in God.

Many people who are atheists used to have faith in God but don't any more. Do you think they used to be able to understand their own reasons but now they can't? This makes no sense.

If you talk to atheists who used to be theists, they can explain that what they thought they understood they later found to be incorrect. It's not that there were valid reasons which can't be explained; it's that the reasons were not actually valid.

Gloria: The difference really is having a belief that something bigger is effecting our lives in some way, which ultimately does affect the way we feel about certain things. It is extremely difficult to express to a person who doesn't believe in having faith in God these beliefs.

Case in point. The obvious reason why this can't be explained is because it's not really happening.

There is zero evidence of anything "bigger" like gods affecting our lives in some way. The evidence suggests that faith believers are simply wrong about this. Studies examining these reported "effects" have discovered they are a misperception, largely the result of natural human cognitive tendencies like agency assignment and confirmation bias.

Believing that effects are happening which don't seem to be happening is one of the biggest disconnects with reality presented by faith belief. It shows a chasm of misunderstanding between what people think is happening and what constitutes actual cause and effect.

I know that making up gods affects the way believers "feel about certain things." That's the problem. Trying to understand reality based on made up ideas which don't correspond to reality is how faith believers end up denying evolution and global warming. It doesn't work.

Gloria: I have enjoyed debating with you, however I've reached the wall.

Yes, I understand. There is absolutely no argument for theism.

Gloria: I can appreciate a person who shows so much passion about their beliefs....

I'm sorry that you have only noticed the "passion" and you can't appreciate the reason, logic and correspondence with reality that make these arguments meaningful.

Gloria: ...but I am just not going to be changing my mind anytime soon.

Yes, I knew that the whole time. But who knows, there may be other people reading this who are not entrenched in dogmatic positions, so it's worth saying anyway.

And, if not today, then perhaps some time in the future you will think about why your beliefs are indefensible. It seems to be because they are not true. And untrue ideas are not a good guide to reality.

Be as irrational as you think you have to be, but society is paying the price.

12-30-14 2:51  •   Bible Morally Neutral Continued

This is continued from a previous discussion here.

Hi GingerGale! Thanks so much for responding to my thread. It's great to discuss this with you.

GingerGale: Things like food, wine, money, etc., are morally neutral. Wine, for example, is neither good nor evil. It’s what we do with it that makes it so.

I agree, and I think the bible fits into this category. It is long enough that it can be used for anything.

GingerGale: The Bible is the account of God's action in the world, and his purpose with all creation.

That is what some people claim. Lots of people claim their writings are related to gods. However they are not all the same writings and they don't all say the same things.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to distinguish the claims and writings of any one group from the claims and writings of other groups. They all seem to be human writings about what they were thinking at the time.

There is no information in any scripture which can be verified to be accurate information about gods.

GingerGale: So what is the Bible? Well, in addition to all the above, the Bible is:

A guide for living life to the full.

I do agree that the bible is intended to be a guide for living life but I do not agree that it is a good one.

1) The bible was written a long time ago by people who did not understand very much. They did not have plumbing or understand infection. They did not have dental hygiene. They did not have democracy or social services. They had slavery and kings. They were not consciously deriving their guide for life based on what really works for good life, so ended up with a lot of superstition and tribalism mixed in. They did not know as much about the good life as we know now.

2) The bible is mainly about being obsequious to gods. There is no evidence, not one reason to think that gods made humans or interact with humans, and no evidence and not one reason to think that human morality is supernatural. So, an explanation for life that explains life as governed by the supernatural when it isn't is terribly misleading and does not lead to the fullness of life that comes with understanding what it actually is.

3) There is a reason why the time in history when the bible was used as the authoritative guide to life is called the Dark Ages. It doesn't work.

GingerGale: A storehouse of wonderful stories for children and grownups.

I don't disagree that the bible is a storehouse of stories, but compared to the wealth of human literature they are just a tiny fraction of all the wonderful stories out there. These particular stories are not better or more interesting or truer than the stories of other people or cultures. And the claim that these stories are actually about literal gods has given them significance not warranted by their actual content. Teaching people they are true is entirely unwarranted.

GingerGale: A refuge in trouble. People in pain, in suffering, in prison, and in mourning tell how turning to the Bible brought strength in their desperate hour.

Not surprising, because bibles are a very ubiquitous book and our society strongly glorifies it as The Answer for those in trouble.

However people turn to all kinds of things in their desperate hour and many things work for this. People in desperate straits often find ways to cope and be strong and persevere, and there are a million ways to do so.

Unfortunately, the subsequent Christian claim is that their overcoming adversity is due to supernatural intervention by gods. There is no evidence that this is true and by giving the credit to the supernatural, people are further degrading their own strength and wits and guts, the very stuff that actually got them through. This is not a means to realistic understanding of true strength.

GingerGale: A treasury of insight as to who we are.

It is an insight into who some of us were for two very brief periods in history. Like every piece of ancient writing it contains information about what some people thought, and some of what they thought is what all humans everywhere think, but much of it is very particular to those specific cultures and times.

GingerGale: We are not meaningless robots, but we are magnificent creatures of a God who loves us and gives us a purpose and a destiny.

Being creations of the tiny god of the Jews and beholden to that tiny primitive culture is not particularly magnificent. For one, the main "purpose" - to be subservient to Christianity - and the alleged "destiny" - perfect bliss forever, but conveniently placed where you cannot check, after death! - do not seem to be about anything real or important.

For another, the actual truth about human history and purpose and destiny is far more interesting and relevant. The truth about how humans came to be - not whipped up magically by a supernatural being, but slowly building ourselves through billions of years of effort - is far more magnificent than any of the various creation stories. The truth about how we acquired our amazing capacities for intelligence and complex social emotion and love tells us much more about how to use these capabilities than the claim that they serve gods. The truth about our purpose, to make life worthwhile for ourselves, is far more empowering and a far greater responsibility than serving the claims of those who claim to speak for gods.

And, the truth about our destiny, that we have to do real things to make it be what we want, is far more important than pretending the future is in the hands of supernatural gods. Only what we do will shape it.

GingerGale: A sourcebook for everyday living. We find standards for our conduct, guidelines for knowing right from wrong, and principles to help us in a confused society where so often "anything goes."

This is actually one of my strongest objections to the bible. The moral guidelines are terrible.

1) They are confusing. The two halves of the bible were written in very different times and there is clearly some change in between. So, particularly the older standards are extremely primitive and limiting. Like those in many cultures of the time, they seem largely based on tribal superstitions. In the second era some moral advancement is apparent. They did manage to codify "do unto others," and that's pretty good if not unique. But, having it yoked to the older moral structure, gods, and superstitions from thousands of years ago, makes it a moral morass and weakens the effectiveness. People didn't even start to "do unto others" society-wide within our own culture until about 1964, and we're still not very good at doing it outside our group. So, not a very effective "guide" for the cultures it dominates.

2) The bible contains so much about so many different things, which can be interpreted in so many different ways, that it can be said to prove the moral rightness of anything. The bible can and has been used to argue both against and for the morality of slavery. It can be construed to support or defend anything. It is a moral blank slate.

3) The central claim of the religion is that worshipping gods is moral. There is no reason to think it really is. It mainly seems like a tool used by humans to claim that going against their will is going AGAINST THE GODS. There is nothing inherently moral about worship or belief and they actually create more problems than they solve in the age of reason.

4) The bible presents mainly list-based morality, where specific actions are proscribed or encouraged. List-based morality is very limited, because it can fail in any situation that does not conform to the pre-defined parameters of the list.

A better form of morality is moral algorithm, which provides general decision-making criteria instead of specific do's and don'ts. Moral algorithms allow novel situations to be evaluated for harm vs. well-being as a guide to moral behavior. "Do unto others" is a moral algorithm but most of the bible is stuck in list form.

5) Again, what did they know? The people who wrote the bible did not know any of the important things we have since learned about how to create moral existence, so how could they tell us? We are on the other side of a two thousand year learning curve. We have abandoned slavery and rule by monarch and established democracy and equality under the law and public safety and public health and public education and invented electricity and global markets and enabled people in much of the world to live in peace with their neighbors and happily raise their families in security and comfort. And that is living life with a morality and fullness the tribes could not have imagined.

I am sure you have a very different view and would be happy to discuss it with you. Please feel free to respond to any point. Thanks again GingerGale!

12-18-14 2:51  •   Mindfulness vs. Buddhism

There was an article in Salon recently objecting to the "New Mindfulness Movement." Secular meditation is gaining in popularity, bolstered by scientific studies, highlighted in books like "10% Happier," presented in seminars, etc.

Apparently some Buddhists are not feeling the love. This article suggests that separating mindfulness practice from Buddhism is a problem. They give some reasons for their objections:

1) Mindfulness entrepreneurs are saying that meditation can be practiced secularly, some even going so far as to denigrate the rest of Buddhism, dismissing it as outdated and unnecessary.

2) Extracting mindfulness from Buddhism seems reminiscent of colonialist appropriation, proving the meme that Westerners always think they know what is better for Asians than Asians themselves.

3) Using mindfulness without the safeguards that are built into Buddhism is dangerous.

4) Mindfulness proponents are claiming there is science to back up claims about mindfulness. However these authors feel that a) the science is weak or being overstated, and b) not everything can be reduced to "science".

I do not agree with any of these objections. Here is my reasoning:

1) Mindfulness entrepreneurs do not have a responsibility to "Buddhism." Meditation is not exclusively a Buddhist practice; others have discovered it independently. It is a mental process, which does not require a religion or supernatural components to work. It can be utilized effectively to reduce suffering without the rest of Buddhism. And yes, some of Buddhism is outdated and unnecessary, as you would expect from a system 2,500 years old. I'm not sure why that would be a problem for Buddhists - even Buddhism says that Buddhism is just there to help you until you get over Buddhism. There is no reason this can't apply culturally and institutionally as well as personally.

2) "Colonialism?" Please. This seems like a reach, especially since for the most part the movement is not being directed back at Asians, or at Buddhists, but at Westerners not already doing any kind of Buddhism. In any case, cultural appropriation is natural and unavoidable. Nobody in America complains that Asians "stole" chemotherapy or rap music from the West because they now do those things themselves. People try ideas they see others using, sometimes changing them to suit themselves. There is no reason people should refrain from this.

3) The authors say that meditation can just as easily take one to dark mental places as good ones, and if that happens, "...that 10 percent [increase in happiness] can evaporate in an instant." They seem to be suggesting that Buddhism helps mitigate dark meditation experiences, so without Buddhism there is more risk of bad things happening.

I'm not buying this for two reasons. One, just thinking can take one to dark mental places, as can many other kinds of mental activities, so that is not to be avoided per se, and anyway the whole point of meditation is to learn to deal with such things.

Two, the idea that "all" of Buddhism would be preferable because it contains some way to make this easier or turn out better makes no sense. For one, guidelines that make for successful meditation in Buddhism can also be lifted from Buddhism and utilized secularly. Buddhism is still not required. For two, there is nothing in Buddhism or any religion that will allow you to escape your own head if that is where you need to go, and that is okay. Again, that is the entire point of Mindfulness.

A few minutes with some dark thoughts, learning how to deal with them, and then 10% happier the rest of the time would still be a really good deal. Their suggestion that the emotional gains of meditation would permanently "evaporate" without Buddhism to hold them in place is silly.

4a) The authors talk about "hype phenomenon" and "sounding science-y" to suggest the Mindfulness Movement is outpacing the actual science, which is weak. However there are actually a large number of well-vetted studies showing the gains of meditative practice. This includes well-known gains like lowering blood pressure and relieving stress, but also newer discoveries, backed by MRIs, showing that meditation increases neuroplasticity, or increases activity in the brain areas associated with compassion. So, there is definitely some solid science there and it is suggesting some pretty good things.

Some people may be "hyped" that the science is showing such promise for meditation, and some individuals could be overselling it, but the article presented no actual examples of this happening. They also mentioned fear that over-hype could create a backlash, but showed no examples of this actually happening either.

So at this point it doesn't seem to actually be a problem.

4b) The authors say using science to divorce meditation from Buddhism shows "...a naïve belief in the unassailable authority of science as the sole arbiter of truth, meaning and value."

This potshot at "science" is extremely typical of religious arguments which attempt to show that religion is necessary for human understanding, because "science" - conjure up images of mad men in lab coats and goggles, surrounded by test tubes and rising steam - is not the right tool for understanding "truth, meaning and value."

However I would argue that for anything to have actual truth, meaning or value, then it must be examinable - if not to "science" necessarily, then to the scientific method: observing what is actually the case and what actually works and then accurately describing the observation.

The purpose of striving for truth, meaning and value is to have understanding that guides behavior to positive outcomes. Truth creates understanding by being accurate descriptions of reality. The way you get accurate descriptions is by observing.

Values work the same. We can only figure out what constitutes good values by observing what works and what doesn't in human interactions. If we rely on edicts, we end up with values that cause suffering, like slavery and scapegoating. If we observe what actually works, the moral arc begins to bend toward justice.

What actually is, is the sole arbiter of truth, meaning and value. By showing exactly what is, science gets us a long way in understanding all of them. The rest we only do right when we do it the same way, by reality instead of edict or tradition.

So, arguing that there is some better way - or any other way - to truth, meaning and value is an empty argument. It shows all the more how desperate religions are - even Buddhism - to be relevant in a reality-based world.

The article raised one objection to the Mindfulness Movement that I thought had some traction. They suggest that, like a lot of fads deliverable by seminar, the movement is catering to the wealthy class. They further say that meditation was not created just so people could be relaxed and focused on the job, and therefore more effective at exploiting markets for their own gain. Without the moral component of Buddhism, where is the conscience?

I actually sort of agree with the spirit of this objection. But if mindfulness and meditation really do work for clarity of thought, and for helping people understand what is true, what is important, and what works, then I think the wealthy could not help but see the moral truth more clearly as well, since it also arises from reality. The conscience is built in. And since the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of power in society, who better could benefit society by having more moral clarity?

To be clear, I practice a lot of Buddhism myself, and I think the moral guidelines are amazing, largely in their purely secular nature. But even so I don't think "Buddhism" is necessary for moral advance by meditation. A lot of morality comes from observation of life, and if the mindfulness movement helps make people - any people - more observant, that will lead to better understanding of all kinds.

LotusFlower: Well, as a Buddhist, I believe that if this secular mindfulness movement helps people then it is a good thing.

I disagree that parts of Buddhism are outdated or unuseful. And Buddhism does not necessarily require belief in the supernatural. I am atheist and do not believe in the supernatural. It doesn't make me less Buddhist.

If you don't believe the supernatural parts of Buddhism, how do you consider them current and useful?

LotusFlower: I'm not sure what you mean. My school of Buddhism does not teach anything supernatural.

Some very prominent Buddhist traditions do have supernatural teachings, like the Tibetan Buddhists, who believe in reincarnating lamas, bodhisattvas and prayer wheels, among other things. If the "New Mindfulists" think that some of Buddhism is outdated and unnecessary, perhaps it is these parts they refer to.

You seem to be suggesting that those parts aren't "really" Buddhism, and I might not disagree. I practice a completely non-supernatural flavor of Buddhism myself, and I am aware that the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-fold Path, etc. do not have supernatural precepts.

But, I don't think the Mindfuls are wrong to refer to those ideas as "parts of Buddhism which are outdated and unnecessary." Those are parts of Buddhism as far as most people are concerned. And either way, their point is that the supernatural ideas commonly associated with Buddhism are outdated and unnecessary for the practice of mindfulness - a sentiment with which I am sure you would agree.

Thanks again Lotus!

12-13-14 10:11  •  Enlightenment

Little Texas Gal: Are you trying to bring people down? You say Christianity isn't true, but it's not like you are offering something better. Are you?

People don't usually ask me what I consider the alternative to be, and I'm not a proselytizer by nature, so I'm really excited about a chance to discuss this. Thanks, Little Texas!

Let me start by saying there are many, many alternatives. So what I'd like to explain is the particular spiritual path I am pursuing and present it as one alternative. The path I am pursuing is known in Buddhism as Enlightenment.

According to Wiki, "Enlightenment" broadly means wisdom or understanding enabling clarity of perception.

The Buddha is said to have discovered how to attain enlightenment, and tried to codify it a bit so others could become enlightened also. It is a process of shedding delusion and disciplining the mind to transcend suffering.

I became familiar with the practice about fifteen years ago when I met my husband. He clearly had something amazing going on in his life and he explained it to me very simply. It's not at all hard to do once you get the hang of it. It requires only a little basic meditation and familiarity with the process.

The Buddha codified the process by creating the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. But that is not to suggest that Buddhism is the only path to enlightenment. It is one that happens to work, though, in a way that is clearly demonstrable. For example, in studies of people of different religions, Buddhists were actually shown to be happier than people in other faith categories.

Study: Buddhists really are happier

So clearly, it can be shown to do what it says it does.

I can personally say that the path of enlightenment is amazing. It allows me to be so incredibly here, now, that I am never bored. It has allowed me to parent with patience and love with fullness and work with will and party with abandon and debate with passion and create art with exquisite skill. It allows me to face the unknown without fear. It allows me to accept and relish in reality exactly as it appears and require no words to add on to it.

Little Texas Gal: At least Christianity is offering something amazing, whether others believe it or not.

Reality is amazing. It does not require belief. It is before you.

I don't really have the words to describe the reverence and awe with which I view the immensity and intricacy and luminance of what is before us. It stuns me to silence. As I understand, this is much the same cosmic reverence that most humans experience in moments of spiritual transcendence, except without an explanation.

I believe that is part of what is meant by clarity of perception.

Little Texas Gal: Agnostics or Athiests, or even Devil worshippers are not offering anything...

Science, Buddhism and other studies of reality are offering something incredible and stirring and priceless, and that is a glimpse into the truth about what we are. Our place and history in the cosmos is so precious and wonderful it is a magnificent story, and all the more amazing for being, as far as we know, true.

Perhaps you can catch a glimpse of it here. This presentation was given at Beyond Belief, a three-day conference where the giants of science met to discuss the future of reason and their main focus was the same topics I am always going on about. The whole conference is riveting but there is one part in particular that illustrates this idea.

Beyond Belief - If not God, then what? Session 3-3

Please jump ahead in the video straight to 1:23:10. This is when Caroline Porco, the world's leading authority on Saturn, was asked to describe for the assembly what it is like to stare into infinity every day, and to relate of some of its magnificence. She quotes Jules Verne, who said, "Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them."

So, there are obviously other ways to find light and meaning and guidance and transcendence besides Christianity. I happen to know a bit about the path of enlightenment in particular and I would love to discuss it, so please feel free to ask me any questions.

HipsterChick: What are some basic steps you can take just to even feel better with yourself?

The first thing I learned to do is stop thinking.

That's what meditation is for, to teach you how to stop thinking. But, you can learn to do it anytime. It is a very valuable skill. This is how you keep the yammering of your talking brain from causing you suffering.

This is really an amazing way to take control of your experience. Life is hard, and we all have our pain and trouble, but we make it so much worse in our heads when we agonize. When something bad happens, we think "Woe is me, this is awful, I deserve this, I don't deserve this, why is god doing this to me, why are they doing it to me, my life sucks...." Etc.

Once you learn the trick, you can simply shut all that off. Then you are left with the just the situation, which is enough to deal with. And, turning off the suffering lets you free up your mind to address the situation with clarity.

The second thing I learned to do was pay attention.

My husband sums up the short version of his practice as this: "Do what is good, avoid what is ill, and learn to know the difference." The way you learn the difference is by paying attention.

I would also like to add that Jay says Buddhism is really only half of his practice. It is also equally informed by Epicurianism. The Buddha discovered how to overcome suffering, but Epicurus discovered how to create happiness. With both those skills in place you can have an amazing and happy life.

HipsterChick: Dumb question time. So, become emotionless?

No. I said, stop thinking. I did not say stop feeling.

Emotions are an important part of what makes life so rich and vivid. However they are feelings. The part you can learn to control is the words that are being chanted by your brain. You can feel pain and sadness without thinking to yourself, "This sucks, why me, this is the worst thing that ever happened..." etc. You can feel happiness without thinking, "How long can this last?"

Without all those words to get in the way of the feelings, I find I can feel them even more deeply. It has added a richness and depth to my emotional life that I cherish.

That's actually a great question, thank you for asking.

Wendy: So you question everyone else's religion but now you have a religion?? WTF??

Like you say - prove it!!!

Areyli: Raverlady, when you talk about Buddhism, I have often wondered how you deal with the more supernatural aspects of it, like reincarnation and Karma?

Wendy: Yeah, Raver keeps asking us why we believe what we do - now she runs away when the spotlight turn on her! Raver thinks her logic only applies when she uses it and no one else. Maybe you can get through to her.

Or, you could just avoid jumping to conclusions and give me a minute to get to your questions. I would not ask anyone a question which I would not face myself and your suggestion otherwise is unwarranted.

So, great question, Areyli, thank you.

First of all, it is important to note that Buddhism arose amid Hinduism, in which reincarnation was a central feature. It appears to be a Hindu graft on to the Buddha's teachings.

The Buddha himself did not teach reincarnation. His teaching is called Anatman, which means 'no soul.' When pressed, he said that it is unknown what occurs, if anything, after death. When pressed further, he indicated a burning branch in the fire, and said, "When the twig is consumed, where does the flame go?" This has been interpreted to mean that when the flame of life is at an end it simply goes out.

So, I approach reincarnation with the exact same scrutiny as any other "after death" or supernatural claim. Unless there is some evidence, it sounds like it could just as easily be made up.

As for karma, this is not a supernatural force as I understand it. It is simply the observation that effects arise from causes, and that actions have consequences. There is no evidence that it exists independently as a cosmic payback machine and so I don't concern myself with that interpretation.

Areyli: Do you feel you can truly find enlightenment without believing in these aspects if you don't?

I don't feel the supernatural aspects are central to it. Enlightenment seems to be about Now.

Wendy: What proof do you have that you have reached Enlightenment?

First of all, I never claimed that I reached enlightenment, so I don't really feel obligated to prove that.

Secondly, what I said I was that I was pursuing enlightenment. I would further describe it as an ongoing process. I would assess myself as considerably more enlightened than I used to be.

Most importantly, enlightenment is not a supernatural claim. It is not claiming to provide eternal life, or salvation, or forgiveness, or miracles, or answered prayers, or final justice, or paradise, or transubstantiation, or any other unverifiable promise.

It offers only the technique for how to live a happy life. For that I would say it seems to be working, and that the attainment is demonstrable. As evidence, I would offer the study I already linked to, showing that Buddhists really are happier than people in other faith groups.

And if you would like further evidence, allow me to bore you with numerous personal tales to show how happy I am, and how great my marriage is, and how wonderful my kids are, and how well we work as a team, and how well we handle adversity, and how we are living a rich spiritual existence of reverence and appreciation which strengthens us and fills us with awe.

Perhaps an anecdote from yesterday would be helpful. I was herding my crazy kids through a store, just trying to get a few items. I was calling on all of my practice to be calm, strong, reasonable and patient with my kids, because I felt like I was about ten seconds from selling them to the monkey house! Somehow I stayed calm, we got our stuff, nothing got broken, and we headed for the check out.

As we got in line, an older lady fell in behind us. She leaned over to me and said, "You're such a good mother. I was watching you with your kids, you were handling them so well! You were so patient. You should be proud. I raised six, so I should know!"

I was really honored, and so glad to know that something worked!

I would say this is evidence that my practice is working for what it claims to do, which is provide wisdom and clarity.

Wendy: How do you know for sure it's real?

I checked. But I'm willing to check again. What part seems unreal to you?

Wendy: Why do you suppose words of a man are right?

I verified it. They work.

Wendy: How can you prove the Buddha's words are right and you aren't just smoking pot?

I would not claim for sure that they are all completely right. "The Buddha" may not even have said all or any of it.

But, some of the words seem to be accurate, and I'm not required to buy into anything that doesn't hold up. I can verify that what is claimed to work actually works by doing it.

Ardrene: Wendy, why are you asking someone for proof of her religious convictions?

Proof connects to the idea of universal "concrete-ness', and in spiritual matters, there can be nothing concrete, thus nullifying the concept of a need for proof.

Ardrene, I appreciate your attempt to excempt me from having to back up my claims. I know this can be very important to people who don't want to be asked to back up their claims.

However I am happy to back up mine, and I will address any request for verification. So, thanks anyway. :-)

Ardrene: The scientist can make educated guesses, but in the end...everything is up for examination...even science and reason.

Of course! So is this. I only have concern when people say their claims are not up for examination, or can only be examined by those who already think they are true.

Ardrene: My favorite way to "clear the thinking" is through yoga, but I think any type of dedicated physical activity can achieve a similar purpose. I've had runners tell me that running does the same thing for them.

There are a lot of ways to do it, but the trick is to learn to do it at will, instantly, regardless of what your body is doing.

Wendy: Maybe it's not working.

Seems to be. The method is for achieving a happy life and that is what I have. But even my husband, the most enlightened person I know, has one or two blind spots he's still working on. Nobody's perfect.

I never expected anything to work perfectly all at once. That's the great thing about both enlightenment and science, they provide for error correction as you go.

Wendy: "Happiness"? That is your evidence? I have the same evidence for my faith. Funny, this evidence is substantial when it applies to you, but not me?

The claims of your faith are entirely different. As far as I know, you do not have evidence like this to substantiate claims that Christian descriptions of God are accurate, that there is an afterlife, that there is more than one afterlife, that you have to believe in Jesus to get the good afterlife, that humans are born with original sin, that God created the earth in intervals of six, that God responds to intercessory prayer, that God wants people to have a certain day off, etc.

If your only claim is that Christianity is a guide for living a good life, then your life might be proof of just that. There is no evidence for any of the rest that I am aware of.

My only claim is that my path works for happiness and so my happiness is substantial proof of that.

Wendy: The term "enlightenment." I believe in it, but your previous posts have made you seem hypocritical since now you believe in something you can not prove with empirical evidence.

There is nothing supernatural about it to "believe" in. My assessment is that it is a process which works. If it failed to work my assessment would change. Faith is not required.

Wendy: OH, ok...well, why didn't I think of just telling you that I have verified that my faith works too?

How have you verified that the Christian descriptions of God are correct? How have you verified that there is an afterlife? How have you verified that Adam and Eve were the first people? How have you verified that Christ was born of a virgin and died for your sins?

Wendy: My life is a prime example that closely following the teachings of the Bible and Koran lead to a happy and fulfilling life.

If the only claim the Abrahamic faiths made was that they provided a happy life, we would not be having this conversation. There are certainly bits of wisdom in those traditions which support that end. And, a happy and fulfilling life is something that exists in reality and is readily possible.

However that is not their only claim, or even their main claim. The main claim is that they are a path to salvation and to knowing God, and there is no evidence that either is possible, let alone what actually happens.

Areyli: So, you don't believe in reincarnation and karma. Do you hold Buddhists who believe in these supernatural beliefs in the same negative light as you do Christians?

I do not hold any human being in a "negative light" and I don't see questioning the veracity of fantastic claims as negative. I apply the tools of inquiry to any fantastic claims no matter who they are made by.

Areyli: Some Buddhists would see Karma more supernaturally, do you disagree?

I would say that I am not aware of any evidence to support a supernatural component to karma, and without evidence of it I would not be likely to agree that it exists.

Areyli: Do you follow all the Buddhist ethics? They seem as strict as Christian ethics.

There are major differences. For one thing, the Buddhist lists are recommendations, or advice, not commandments. Violating them is not a sin or an offense to a being in judgement. At worst they are simply mistakes.

For another, the precepts arose from a monastic tradition, and only monks are required to adhere to them strictly, and it is as an aspect of their vows, not to avoid divine wrath.

That said, I would say I generally follow the guidelines presented by Buddhist ethics because they are pretty common sense stuff that I was already doing from my secular ethical life - don't steal, don't kill, etc. Plus, previously I had never really considered "right speech" or "right livelihood," but when I learned of them they made so much sense I incorporated that into my ethical understanding as well.

This is a great question, thanks for bringing it up.

Wendy:You mock the power of The Lord. I've witnessed miracles AND had my prayers answered.

Large-scale studies of intercessory prayer have shown no evidence at that it works. In controlled studies, the people who knew they were being prayed for actually fared worse than those in the other study groups.

That said, I personally have witnessed some weird and amazing things, but there is no evidence that these occurances are the result of "God," and not, say, "Satan," or "House Elves" or "Wishing Upon a Star" or "Good Luck" or what have you. Maybe they were the result of all these, maybe none, maybe sometimes one and sometimes another. What occurs in unexplainable cases is simply unknown.

Wendy: A miracle occurred in my life. Unless that was a HUGE instant coincidence?

Perhaps it was a huge instant coincidence. But, who knows? If you have verification of a miracle, by all means, contact the Vatican. If they can verify that a miracle occurred I'm sure we'll be reading about it in the paper. :-)

Wendy: Your studies showing Buddhists are happier prove nothing. They don't show the happiness that comes from Christianity because they include Christians who do not thoroughly follow their faith. MOST Christians don't.

That is quite a claim.

Wendy: Buddhists, however, are usually those that go forward and put forth time and energy in finding a correct path. They actually apply themselves.

People are people. If a religion is not working for most of the people who try it, perhaps the religion itself needs scrutiny.

Wendy: That is why you seem to dislike Christians so much...

I have no dislike for Christian people. I admit Christianity is pretty repugnant in spots though.

Wendy: ...whereas, you cannot stand that I believe in a God.

My concern is specifically with the Abrahamic faiths and with dogma wherever it exists - even in Buddhism. The "existence of God" is not my concern and never has been, as I have stated repeatedly. I am not an atheist.

Wendy: Why is that? OH? Because it appears to be a big lie?

Yes. Making claims to special knowledge about the unknowable is dishonest.

Wendy: The big lie, has made for a life full of joy and happiness for me.

That's nice. But, as you youself state, that is not at all typical. The AFs are not delivering on their promise to give a good life to most people, right? And, there is no way to know if any of their BIG promises, like eternal life, paradise, salvation, forgiveness, etc. ever actually happen or not.

It could be a big con game. It looks like a ploy to control people's behavior through imaginary carrots and sticks.

Wendy: What's the problem?

The problem is the truth matters.

Without a standard of truth there is no basis for agreement. We can't make plans for how to live together in peace as a global society and be good stewards of our planet if huge chunks of the population are making their decisions based on various conflicting superstitions which can't be verified. We need a thorough understanding of what is real and can be shown to be real for everybody. We need a realistic framework for reality-based decision making with a goal of producing solutions that actually work.

Wendy: I don't know why I'm still talking to you about this. :P

I appreciate it. Glad to see you can hang. :-)

Wendy: You agreed that you want Christians to doubt their beliefs.

What is the possible harm of a moment's doubt?

Wendy: First of all, that's not very "enlightening" of you and I am sure Buddha would disprove of your efforts.

I disagree. He had no problem doubting the tenets of the predominant religions and practices of his day. Buddhism arose directly as a result of his questioning those beliefs and casting them off.

Wendy: They are evil. Let me say that it is very evil of you to try to change someones spiritual beliefs.

What is the pathology?

Wendy: Why can't you understand that a lot of people need God in their life?

God does not equal Christianity, or the Abrahamic faiths. And for the millionth time, I am not trying to argue that there is "no god." I am not an atheist.

Wendy: You are not a very enlightened person if you ask me.

Well, there's always room for improvement. That is what I am looking for in this very conversation. I would certainly like to find a way to communicate my meaning to you and I'm disappointed it hasn't worked so far.

However for just about everything else it seems to be working fine already.

Wendy: Anyone that cannot comprehend that Karma is very much real is not okay in my book. You avoid believing in the obvious.

If you are going to keep asserting that I am not okay you are going to have to name the pathology because this is starting to seem pretty desperate.

And, I never said karma wasn't real. I said it was not a supernatural cosmic payback machine. My understanding is that it is the observation that causes give rise to effects. That seems like an observation of something real to me.

12-01-14 4:50  •  My Stupid Mother

Cecilia: I can't believe my stupid mother! I got declined for a credit card yesterday, and it turns out it's because my stupid birth mom, who I never loved, has charged $8000 on my card!

When I confronted her she said, "Families are supposed to help each other. What are you going to do, put me in jail?"

My answer is yes. I am pressing full charges against her. My mom stole my identity and ruined my credit. My husband says once she's in prison, I'll feel guilty about it, but I really don't think so. I cant imagine doing that to my kid.

Marnie: Good for you! I am proud of you for pressing charges - no one should be taken advantage of like that - especially by their own mother!

Ev: That's what I'd do if my mom ever pulled a stunt like that!

Prison is pretty horrific. Your mom will suffer every single day. It will probably ruin whatever is left of her pathetic life.

Perhaps you should consider tempering justice with mercy.

Marnie: She stole her daughter's identity and feels no guilt over it. Why should the daughter be merciful?

This might be an option if her mom was willing to pay off the debt.

Money is not important. It would easily be worth $8000 to me to keep my mom out of prison.

Marnie: To do nothing would be an invitation for future abuse.

Unless she gets a life sentence, sending her to prison is no guarantee against further abuse either. It is a guarantee only of great suffering for everyone involved.

Ev: I could see it might be worth $8,000 to keep my mother out of prison...but my mother wouldn't steal my identity.

Mine wouldn't either, but even if she did, I don't want to tell my kids that I put their grandma in prison. That is not worth any amount of money.

Marnie: Would you put a stranger in jail that stole your identity?

Maybe. Depends. But that would definitely be different.

Marnie: What if you had no relationship with your mother and this was just one more betrayal?

I would not see her in prison for this if I could personally do something to stop it.

Marnie: Even if your mother had been abusive and you could only wish that she was a stranger?


Della: Prison? You call that suffering? Ha! My mother went to jail 22 TIMES!! She never suffered, because the 21st time when she got out she went back just two weeks later.

Do you think that means she never suffered?

Della: She actually complained when she got out because that meant she actually had to go look for a job and buy her own food.

I see. Well, I'm sorry to hear that.

However I doubt she speaks for many. Prison involves great suffering, and there is no denying it because that is what it was designed for. In any case, if Cecilia's mom really wants to go to prison I am sure she could find plenty of other ways to do it.

The point I am making is that sending a family member to prison is the kind of regret that really haunts people years later in life. It haunts people even if they have no other choice.

When you actually do have a choice you can try to avoid creating suffering and make a compassionate choice. You can choose to temper justice with mercy.

Cecilia: I hear what you are saying. I'm supposed care about my mom. But she abused me my whole childhood until my grandparents took me away.

When you hate someone THAT bad ... when the person who is supposed to protect you and love you goes THAT far to hurt you and disregard you, it makes it pretty easy to not really care whether or not they rot in a prison cell or not.

I'm so sorry to hear of the way she has cheated you. It is just so unfair. You are amazingly strong just to have survived it with your brains, sanity and humor intact. But please believe me when I say I don't give a shit about HER either. I am thinking about you.

Cecilia: She deserves it!

Of course she does. That is the justice part. But you don't. That is the mercy part. By showing mercy you are doing what will help you in the long run. It will make you the kind of person who can show compassion to a poor, pathetic, stupid shit who has done nothing to deserve it. It will make you a merciful person. Mercy is a quality the truly great people who walk among us all share.

Cecilia: My grandpa says if it was him, he would press charges, but he thinks I shouldn't because I would beat myself up about it once it was done. He said tonight, "Its not something you can undo. Once she's there, you can't change your mind. If you think you can live with yourself knowing you could have kept her out, then go ahead. But I dont think you can."

Your grandpa is thinking along the same lines I am. And he knows you a lot better than I do. But the truth is that sending a close relative to prison, no matter how much they deserve it, is destined to become a regret. It always does, no matter who you are.

You must do as you think best. And I will stand behind whatever decision you make. But if possible, please mull it over for a day or two at least. Don't think about your mother, fuck her. Consider what your decision will mean for yourself, and your kids.

Marnie: What Cecilia's mother did is unforgivable to many, and that's a situation I don't believe CAN be tempered with mercy.

It's only money.

Marnie: Stealing $10 out of a wallet, maybe. Stealing my identity and then putting her in the hole $8,000 and have NO REMORSE WHATSOEVER?

It's pretty pathetic allright. She sounds like she's several pecans short of a pie. But it's still only money.

Marnie: I really don't think anything BUT jail can solve the issue at hand, here.

Do you really think jail can solve it? When has jail ever solved anything? If jail was capable of ending crime it would be gone by now. We have more people in prison than any other nation, and still have high crime compared to other countries.

Sending her to jail is not about solving anything.

Marnie: It's not fair to take advantage of someone just because of blood relation.

It's never fair to take advantage of someone. But when people are stupid they do stupid and very wrong things.

However, being sentenced to prison doesn't do much to repair stupidity. It would be better if they were sentenced to college. :-)

Marnie: I don't think that the poster's mom committed identity theft because she was stupid. I think that she did it because she was selfish and didn't care if she injured her daughter.

Being selfish and not caring about injuring others is stupid.

Marnie: Unfortunately, I don't think that college repairs selfishness.

Actually, it helps a lot. People who are better educated not only learn skills and legitimate means of gratifying their selfishness, many of them also learn the limitations of selfishness and the benefits of cooperation, industry and service to others.

Della: What kind of liberal crap is this? If she did this to a person you didn't know, a stranger, do you think she should be just be allowed to go free and be forgiven, or do you feel she should be punished by the law?

Interestingly enough, I don't think those two are mutually exclusive.

I happen to think that imprisonment is a violation far, far worse than theft. Imprisoning people is a terrible affront to human dignity and one of the worst things we do as a society. Even so, of course, sometimes it must be done, because some people are truly a danger to public safety.

However, most people who have not commited violence against others are not at risk for violence or a danger to public safety, and I feel that locking them up for their crimes is not warranted.

That is not to say they should not be punished by the law however. Lawbreakers should be dealt with, and there are lots of ways to do it. There are community service programs and victim reparation programs where criminals can pay their debt to society in a much more productive way than sitting in a cell. There are counseling programs and life training programs and impulse management programs where people can learn better ways to get what they need. Sitting in jail with a bunch of other people who don't know how to get by legally is no way to learn how to get by legally.

And yes, whether they are imprisoned, punished or otherwise, I think they should be forgiven, because forgiveness is the right thing to do.

All of that is completely an aside to Cecilia's situation, however. I think I have let her know my thoughts on it, and I said I will stand by whatever decision she makes. It's a tough situation but I have no doubt she will do what her good sense tells her, either way.

Della: You have this crazy idea that people do selfish, wicked things only because they don't know any better and that this condition can be cured be giving these felons college educations.

Sometimes that is the reason why people do the wrong thing. Those people would certainly benefit from learning to do better. In fact I can't think of any person in this world who would not benefit in some way from a good education. A good education is its own reward. And it prevents at least some of the problems of ignorance. We should at least try.

Della: If I had not entered college already believing in coooperation, industry and service to others, I don't think that I would have picked these things up in college.

You might have. What other option is there? Do you recommend that once people get to college we should give up trying to teach them what they don't know? Like, if you didn't get it when you were a kid, from your family, then tough luck to you, now it's too late?

Read more in the Archives.