09-11-15 8:28  •  Preventing Abortion

Spangle: If pro-lifers wanted to end abortion, they would support pregnancy prevention! They would teach safe sex, even to religious teens, even in the schools. They would acknowledge the new realities of career and family life include delaying marriage well into adulthood. They would provide reproductive health services free of charge to those most at risk.

Paula: I prefer self responsibility.

What part of this is not self responsibility?

Aunt Bea: In my opinion, women have GOT TO get to a place of valuing themselves, protecting themselves better (not just through bc), and prioritizing their needs and goals. THAT would reduce abortions!

How is that different from this?

Aunt Bea: Where is personal responsibility through helping women better value themselves, better protect (not just through bc or reproductive health education), and prioritizing their needs and goals highlighted by the op?

Where isn't it? What could be more responsible, more self-respecting, and more goal-oriented than understanding your own fertility and controlling it?

What I was asking is, how is the approach in the OP failing in those regards? What part of a woman understanding and controlling her fertility has anything to do with not valuing herself? What is this "other" protection she needs (not bc or reproductive health education) and how will fully understanding and fully controlling her fertility interfere with her getting it? How will fully controlling her fertility undermine her ability to prioritize her needs and goals?

Spangle: What?! Self responsibility is part of it, of course it is! I don't get it.

Often "self responsibility" is a euphemism for "slut should keep her legs closed."

However it is a very inapt euphemism, because forgoing sex is one way to be responsible, but it is not the only way. Safe and responsible sex is not only possible, but it is fun, and worthwhile, and part of a good life. It is entirely possible for women to value themselves, and protect themselves, and properly prioritize their needs and goals, and still have sex.

A sexless life is great for people who want no sex, but unfortunately, people who want no sex, often want no sex for everyone (except very specific subsets.) They even want no sex for people who do want sex! So that is moving far beyond the realm of "self responsibility" and attempting to make decisions that are the responsibility of another.

Sadly, "preferring" no sex for everyone makes people stand in the way of full saturation education and prevention like the kind described in the OP. It would be better to practice sex or no sex for oneself, and still support full saturation education and prevention for society. The gains to everyone from humans fully understanding and fully controlling our fertility are incalculable. And anyway, avoiding full fertility control while preferring that sluts keep their legs closed has never had any effect.

Hello there AB, thanks so much for speaking with me. I appreciate the great compassion you show and the thought you have given your position.

Aunt Bea: To be clear, I don't think those things hurt at all. I absolutely support them.

Thank you for clarifying, because as I mentioned, people who are for no sex are often for no sex only, and consider any plan that includes sex off the table. I'm glad you understand how impractical that is.

Aunt Bea: I just think most girls and women already understand their fertility (at least that sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancy.)

I would call that understanding fertility like having a phone is understanding integrated circuits.

Women need to understand everything about their fertility and sexuality and reproductive capabilities, down to the specific details, not just the vaguest notions. And, you left out the most important part of what I said. Most girls and women are NOT already fully controlling their fertility, and all the knowledge in the world isn't enough without the means.

Luckily for us, for the first time in human history, the means to fully control our fertility - for women and men - is almost within our grasp.

Aunt Bea: But then you have to deal with all the other factors that lead girls and women to have sex despite knowing they are or might be fertile. Impulse, alcohol, pressure from mate, peer pressure, societal pressure, etc. What makes girls and women vulnerable to that?

They want to have sex.

Aunt Bea: I think we really have to find ways to increase hope, self-esteem, focus, solid goals, guidance and support for girls and women.

Sure, but I totally disagree with the idea that women only have sex because they don't have hope, self-esteem, focus, solid goals, guidance or support. There is no reason to think that women are only participating in sex because they are so lost and devastated that they can't muster up the strength for a 'no'.

Most women, like most men and or just most humans generally, want to have sex.

You can try to make people want no sex, or replace sex with self esteem and goals, etc., and it works a bit, especially at first. But, at least by the time they reach adulthood, most people are going to want to have sex and will find ways to make it happen.

That is why it is so vitally important that humans fully control our fertility in ways that are not dependent at all on people wanting no sex. Because that is not what most people want.

Sex is not a pathology. There is no reason why a happy, healthy person, in full control of their fertility, cannot have self-esteem, focus, solid goals, guidance, support, and plenty of sex.

This is why full saturation education and prevention is so vitally important. Everyone needs to fully understand and control their fertility, so if women and men want to have sex, or even if they just slip and have sex because of low self-esteem, it doesn't ever result in an unintentional brand-new person.

Thanks again Aunt Bea!

09-06-15 8:28  •  What Atheists Discuss

Lorali: Can you believe it? There is a high school that is cancelling ALL school clubs so they won't have to have an atheist club.

Tea: Who cares if there isn't an atheist club! What would atheists sit around talking about, anyway?

We sometimes participated in a local atheist group back when we lived in Oklahoma. Here is what they talked about:

1) Activism. At the time the local atheist group was talking about recently-proposed legislation in Oklahoma - to promote prayer and the teaching of creationsim in school, to allow government money to support religious groups, to criminalize stem cell research, etc. - and what could be done to counter it.

2) Prejudice. The atheists commiserated about the negative treatment they received from their neighbors, employers, families, etc because of their lack of theism.

3) Being "out". Many atheists are "in the closet" in Oklahoma and cannot reveal their atheism to anyone they know except fellow atheists. They get together with other atheists so there is one place they can be true to themselves.

4) Science. The atheists had a book group and they usually read books about the latest discoveries and new advances in understanding.

5) Ordinary things - lives, jobs, kids, problems. Like anyone, atheists like to talk about themselves and what is on their minds. Meeting with other atheists allows people to discuss the ordinary ups and down in life without being told that they need to pray, or that it is God's will, that God has a plan, or that they should look in the bible, or that it's God's justice for their lack of faith, etc. Sometimes it's just nice to socialize for an hour and a half without anyone having to mention Jesus.

To many of the people in the group, this was the only place in the state where they were considered sane. That is important.

09-06-15 8:28  •  Missing From Secularism

Lorali: This social scientist, Phil Zuckerman, wrote an Op-Ed stating that secular values are working quite well. Statistically secular nations do better than more religious ones. And, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology.

Zuckerman's previous studies showed a high correlation between organic atheism and social health. I am all for secularism and think a secular state is the only choice.

That said, I think there are some areas which secular society does not adequately address, which religion has traditionally been the home for. For example, secularism by definition does not provide many tools for spiritual experience or for the use of "magic." Our secular society does not describe a path for Enlightenment. Below the level of law, it does not necessarily provide a moral rubric. I think those are all very important parts of the human experience which should not be neglected.

That is why I think, even as the ancient, ineffective legacy religions crumble, there is room for a new kind of religion to emerge.

First of all, in order to avoid the problems with the legacy religions, the new religion would formost have to be true. But that is not a problem. It is not necessary to make any kind of unsupportable supernatural claims to have religion. The basic tenets of Buddhism, for example, do not posit any kind of gods, souls, afterlives, etc. The Four Noble Truths and the 8-fold Path are just a set of moral guidelines, which anyone can check for validity.

Secondly, the new religion would have to really work. But, the technologies for creating spiritual experience or moral rubric are not mysterious, and can be lifted from legacy religions without bringing along the supernaturalism. The techniques exist and only need to be codified.

Dr. Loyal Rue, a professor of religious studies, explained that religion is not about God. It's about providing a narrative that brings together facts and values to provide personal wholeness and social cohesion. There are lots of secular ways to get both of those things, and secular nations are doing a pretty good job. But I still think there is plenty of room in society for a religion that is true and works, and it can be derived from our true narratives and true values.

09-06-15 5:28  •  Class Warfare

Lorali: When you cut $2 billion from homeless assistance grants while adding a $2 billion tax loophole for hedge fund managers, that is class warfare all right - and the rich class is winning. Trickle down doesn't work!

Cella: No, the unions and the government are winning their war on us. Why should the taxpayers be picking up the tab for all these unionized federal workers?

The taxpayers are the ones receiving the services provided by the workers. Do you expect people to run your society for you for free?

Cella: Why don't you give examples of how "trickle down" doesn't work?

In the graph below, you can see how Average Earnings and Minimum Wages started dropping off around 1980, never recovering to their 1980 levels again.

Earnings and Minimum Wage have consistently dropped since Trickle-down economic policies were put into place

The graphs below break down the income changes for different economic groups to make it very clear which groups have experienced the benefits of these policies and how the “trickle-down” effects have not actually made their way down the system to benefit the middle class and the poor.

The wealthy have seen progressive rise in their wealth since the '80s while the rest of American households have remained stagnant
The wealthy have seen progressive rise in their wealth since the ’80s while the rest of American households have remained stagnant

Income by Economic Groups - in 1997 Dollars

The Income of the Top 1% Wealth Has Dramatically Risen While All Others Did Not Change
The Income of the Top 1% Wealth Has Dramatically Risen While All Others Did Not Change

Here's a slightly more whimsical take on it:

Cella: Businesses don't want to hire under these conditions!

Having everything in society ordered by what billionaires want is not working. They have no mandate.

Cella: We'd better watch out. If the US keeps unjustly taxing the wealthy they will leave.

Good riddance. Let them go buy the politicians and write the laws of some other country to benefit their own narrow self-interest.

They are not the only people in America capable of doing things. And it will make room at the top for the next generation of entrepreneurs, entertainers, and greedy.

Lorali: The policies and practices of the Bush admin are what brought us to the financial nightmare of 2008 PRIOR to Obama ever taking office.

Yes. Clinton seemed to strike a pretty good workable balance. The 39% tax rate balanced the budget.

However the Bush tax cuts pushed that down to 35%, and crossed the margin from what works into what doesn't. Also, Clinton's big mistake on the way out - repealing Glass-Steagall regulations on the financial industry - would have to be repaired to return to the workable balance of his years in office.

Cella: My point was that you are blaming the "evil rich."

Increasing the responsibility of the rich, or putting checks on their weilding of unmandated power, is not "blaming" them. It is using a system which works better.

Cella: Representatives are representing the taxpayer, the little guy, by standing up to public sector unions.

The people the unions represent are the little guy and tax payers too.

Cella: Government produces nothing, it only distributes earnings by force.*

Government produces our country. That is not nothing.

Cella: *Taxes by force is coercion.

No more so than any other law. It is part of the balance of living in a civilization.

Cella: "Responsibility of the rich"? That's interesting...and what responsibility would that be?

The same responsibility that everyone has - to do what we have to do to keep our society functioning.

Cella: LMAO...government produces our country? How is that?

"Government" is the name of the system humans invented to create large social organizations. The government is us, the humans who live in this place, trying to live here together and make our systems work without devolving into chaos.

The shape and nature of our country is formed by our mutual agreement and effort to work together. It takes a huge amount of mutual agreement and effort to build a great nation. "Government" is a great part of what we do to organize our effort.

Marian: The middle class is struggling. if the wealthiest leave and take their money with them, that puts a much larger burden on the working middle class, many of whom are barely making it now.

The middle class is struggling because the policies which created it have been dissolving for the last thirty years, in favor of policies designed to further enrich the extremely wealthy at the expense of the economy. If we had equitable taxation, labor protections, full public health care and full public education, the middle class would not be struggling.

Marian: Something has to give.

There is plenty of give at the top.

Cella: Providing for jobs, providing taxpayers, and producing material is not good enough?

Apparently not.

Cella: Our government was not meant to produce social organizations.

Our soceity will be run by someone. If we the people do not run it, through our power as the electorate, it will be run by the wealthy for the wealthy. Would that be better?

Cella: Why aren't businesses hiring?

Why should they? They are already making record profits with the people they have now. Thanks to ever-improving automation and outsourcing, next year they will make even bigger profits with even fewer people. Why would they do anything else?

All they have to do is sit back and wait for the Congress they just bought to increase their tax breaks and loosen regulations and their profits will go up again. That is way easier than adding to the payroll or taking risks on innovation. So why bother?

The real question is, how long are we going to keeping waiting on the businessmen? Why are 311 million people in this country held hostage to the whim of a tiny handful who serve only their own interests? How much longer should we wait for the greediest 400 people on the planet to do what is best for anyone except themselves?

The answer is, or should be, not one more fucking minute.

We need working systems now. If those people will not do what works, why the fuck should we wait for them? Are they they only people who can do anything? Why do they get to make the important decisions? They are not qualified. Leave the economy to them and they game the system until it crashes.

Since they are not acting to help or preserve this society, it is up to us, the people of this country, to do what it takes to make things work again. Our government is the system we have in place for making things work. We can use it to specify working systems.

Cella: ...cause they're all evil?

The only one talking about "evil" is you. Instead of worrying about meaningless ideology, perhaps you should take a look at what actually works.

Adam Smith was wrong. Laissez-faire capitalism does not work. It inevitably becomes corrupted as profits are concentrated in a smaller number of hands. The only checks against monopoly - regulation, competition and consumer choice - are strangled out of the system.

Then, when money reaches a certain amount of massive accumulation, it ceases being money at all and becomes directly convertible to political power. All systems in the society can then be organized around a single outcome - increased power for the powerful.

Capitalism is vitally important, but it must be checked with regulation and taxation, or the greediest accumulate power and use it to crush all others to serve their greed.

In a country that prides itself on our ingenious government of checks and balances, for some reason we allow the super-wealthy to wield massive unchecked power at their own self-serving whim. The decisions of a tiny number of men affect the well-being of every person on the planet.

But nobody elected these guys. They have no mandate to do what will work. And, they aren't doing it.

So, we have to do it ourselves.

09-05-15 5:28  •  Knowing the Truth

Buttermilk: If you are right...why would it matter knowing the truth, and why the f* would you want to know it?

MyMy: Why does it matter knowing the truth?

Only a xtian would ever ask that question.

If the lie of god and an afterlife matters so much to you, how much more important is actual truth?

Actual truth is why you are likely to survive most automobile accidents today.

Actual truth is why we can cure so many diseases today instead of helplessly praying while 1/3 of all infants die.

Actual truth is why we can see across the universe and down to the atom.

Actual truth is why we know the bible and creationism are bullshit no matter how one feels about them.

Actual truth would let you know what the word nihilism means and why I'm not one.

With it I can do things you only uselessly pray about. I can even make ways for you to do things too, despite your ignorance.

History is resplendent with what happens when people like you are in charge. The dark ages, the inquisitions, the crusades, genocide of indigenous peoples...all in the name of your "god of love." Even today that ignorance still burns our society.

That is why it is important for you to know. Right now you are trying to spread your ignorance and that ignorance effects the enjoyment of life for all who come upon you. You, personally, are inhibiting the progress of humanity and increasing the likelihood of our extinction.

As for me...sure, it is so terrible living without the guilt of imagined sin or the fear of having to deal with a psychopathic god after I die. I have to do without hating people just because bronze age jews hated them, or closing my eyes to the true wonders around me.

Then there is understanding. Do you know why dirt is so special? How a star or a cell works? Did you know that lightning is triggered by the after glow of supernova and blackholes? Or how to build a fusion reactor in your basement using common items and a process called electrostatic confinement? Yes, real fusion with fast neutrons, hard x-rays and gamma radiation (so don't try it if you don't actually know how to truly do it safely.)

I would not trade real knowledge for even pleasant lies, let alone the ugly lies of xtianity. And make no mistake. Xtianity is ugly to its core and that ugliness inevitably makes its way out in the fanaticism and bigotry of its zealots.

I'm no nihilist. I'm your worst nightmare...a happy and pragmatic hedonist. Someone who loves and understands life, and how to live, free from the slavery you embrace.

(RaverLady also takes up the questions.)

Buttermilk: That supercomputer you made will be nothing when you die. So why waste time creating it?

It passes the time. What else are you gonna do besides be amazing?

Buttermilk: If that were true....why would it matter knowing the truth, and why the f* would you want to know it?

It makes life better. Things make sense. Morality makes sense. It allows error correction, advancement. What's not to love about understanding?

Buttermilk:why do you fight so hard for people like me to "know the truth" with your pithy comments, as if it would matter?

We are here together. What you think affects us all. And, happiness and understanding work even better when shared.

It's like wanting everyone to be literate. It sets the stage for a lifetime of individual learning and a whole society of thinkers. Why fight for anything less?

Buttermilk: What do you mean, "morality makes sense?" You know I won't go for this one, right? lol...

Morality by evaluation of harm vs. well-being makes sense because there is a cause and effect relationship between actions and the results of actions which can be observed and analyzed for error correction. When you see what causes bad outcomes and what causes good outcomes you can adjust for better outcomes. The sense of it comes from learning the relationships between behavior and outcome and growing in ability to anticipate which actions produce the greatest well-being. Growing in ability is a demonstration of understanding.

By contrast, morality by stricture is just a list from a long time ago.

Buttermilk: Understanding something that doesn't have any real meaning, and just to know what is and think you know why but with no higher power behind it, that's sort of pointless to me.

That is how I know you don't understand. People who really understand are filled with wonder.

Buttermilk: If I didn't believe, I wouldn't have my priorities straight. I wouldn't put kindness first...I would just do whatever felt good regardless of the consequences...With belief, there's a reason to restrain yourself in some ways, and be more giving. Without it, why bother?

Wow. Well, I'm sorry you would be such a lame person without belief, but there is no reason to think that is true about anyone else.

I know a lot of people who are not believers. They are so motivated to understand they spend years studying, trying to learn and discover the tiniest details, and wake every day in a fever to get back to the quest. They understand what it takes to make things work, and so know how to exercise appropriate behavior. They can observe that what people think matters and see how we all affect each other, and so are compassionate and giving. They are frosty in the clutch, and live lives of great joy and love and learning and sharing.

There is really no reason to think you would be any different.

Buttermilk: "Wanting everyone to be literate?" So many ideologies are completely Utopian...until put to the test in real life, up against powerful people.

If you are suggesting that literacy is a pipe dream, you give up too easy.

Buttermilk: I think socialism is fighting for ideas that sound nice but never come true.

It really doesn't matter what Karl Marx or Oscar Wilde thought socialism was a hundred years ago. Today, "socialism" is what we call organized systems of social health, like Social Security, Medicare, etc. They have come true and are working well right now. Socialists are fighting for universal healthcare. This came true in Canada and other countries. They are fighting for full public education. This came true in Finland and Germany, etc.

That is what socialists are fighting for, what democrats are mostly ignoring...and what republicans are fighting against. However dismissing ideas that already work, because "Marx", is not going to hold. People can simply look and see what is being proposed.

Buttermilk: To me, socialism is taking everything from everyone (taxes) and then deciding what they want for them and only giving them that.

That is a straw man. Look at what socialists today are actually doing and you will see that the hybrid economy works.

Buttermilk: I not only think that's a poor solution, I think it's not a solution at all.

No one is proposing it.

09-05-15 4:05  •  Not Loving

Edna: I don't want gays around me. For one thing, I don't want to get hit on by a homosexual. I'm sure most heterosexual people feel the same.

MyMy: I'm as hetero as it gets and have never cared one whit what another's orientation is. I find it weird how sexually repressed people have this absurd idea that GBLT people have some interest in them. They don't.

Edna: So people who disagree with gay marriage and think a penis is meant for a vagina and visa versa are sexually repressed?

They are misinformed.

There is plenty of evidence to show that nature has all kinds of strategies for providing species with non-reproductive adult members. Homosexuality is just one strategy and the human species is not the only one that employs it.

On the other hand, there is no evidence at all that the superstitions of the ancient Hebrews about homosexuality have anything to do with any kind of "gods."

The "penis and vagina" crowd simply do not understand why homosexuality exists and the important evolutionary advantage it serves that causes it to be part of natural human variability.

Edna: No argument that homosexuality exists. I see it on the news every day.

It exists for a good reason. It is not a form of wrongdoing. There is no objection to gay marriage which can be supported.

Edna: Lots of sins exist.

As I said, there is no argument against gay marriage that can be supported. It is not a form of wrong doing. People who oppose it eventually have to resort to blathery auto-responds about the supernatural because there is no actual reason to object.

Edna: God still loves His creation.

I am talking to you. You standing in the way of the natural happiness of others is not loving.

Edna: How can I prevent or stand in the way of sin?

How could you stand in the way of other people's happiness? By calling it "sin," when it isn't bad, by pretending it is wrongdoing, when it isn't, and by taking a stand against it for no reason.

Edna: He will still love them.

What "He" does or does not do is not apparent. You taking a stand against gay marraige for no reason is what is apparent. That is the only thing that shows.

Edna: I take a stand for God and the Word...

All that can be seen is you, standing in other's people's way.

Edna: Just remember...what's important is that if you ever need God or seek Him....He will be there for you..and that He loves you..

I would rather have you doing the right thing.

Whine: And what is the right thing? Please tell me how you know.

By the evaluation of harm and wellbeing.

Whine: Also, why are you the authority?

What works is the authority.

Whine: Better yet, why should anyone listen to you?

So you will know the actual content of what I am saying when you check it yourself.

Whine: Maybe an aversion to homosexual relations, particularly marriage is a social evolutionary mechanism used To ensure reproduction of our species.

It doesn't seem to be. Most species have ways to ensure that there are non-reproducing adults who are otherwise typical. This does ensure the reproduction of our species, even better than having all adults do reproduction themselves, because it means there are "extra" adults who can help care for the offspring.

Great questions, thanks for asking Whine!

09-04-15 9:27  •  Bible Challenge

Buttermilk: I challenge anyone who is up for it, to read the Bible for a period of 1 week.

As it happens, I have been reading the bible all week. Got it from the library. Now what?

Buttermilk: Congratulations!

You are the only person here thus far who appears to have any integrity at all.

Please, do not give me too much credit. I said, "as it happens..." because the timing with your post is purely coincidental. Also, this is not the first time I have read it.

Buttermilk: Ok, so what did you read, and what are your thoughts and comments?

I started at the beginning and am only up to 1 Kings 18. (I'm very busy.) Frankly, I find it more troubling than ever.

Buttermilk: The Old Testament can be troubling to some degree because in it God is displaying his absolute power to those who reject him, so people get destroyed and bad things happen.

Oh, that is not the troubling part. Who could expect anything less from Ol' Smites-A-Lot? The alternative would be like Zeus without the thunderbolts - not a very interesting character for the story, amirite?

What is troubling is that anyone wants this to be true.

Buttermilk: It's not that people want it to be true. It is true.

How do you figure?

Buttermilk: Everything I know in my heart. Every intuition, every prayer answered, and observations in life.

Muslims use that exact same method to confirm that Islam is true.

Buttermilk: And?

I don't believe what they believe, but that's their thing.

How could they be wrong? They have hearts; they have intuition. They pray...a lot. According to you, that is how a human determines if a religion is true. Their hearts and intuition and answered prayers are telling them it is, and that can't be wrong.

Buttermilk: What do you want from me? I gave you an honest answer about how I know it to be true.

You should hopefully now understand that that doesn't work. Everybody's intuition and heart and answered prayers tell them that the religion they WANT to believe is true.

So, to get back to my previous point about the bible, it IS that people want it to be true.

And that is troubling. At least we could want better.

Buttermilk:How do you vett any of your own thoughts?

I check them against reality if necessary.

Buttermilk: How do you know your husband doesn't cheat on you while he's at work?

I don't know it for a fact. If I got concerned about it for some reason I suppose I would look into it, maybe ask him. In the meantime I don't worry about it.

Buttermilk: How are you sure the weatherman will accurately predict the forecast for today, because he was wrong about that snow storm back in March? It can't be proved he's right, but he's been right most other times.

I just accept that the prediction could be wrong. It's okay if it is.

Buttermilk: Do you go through life having to prove every step beneathe your feet and that gravity is actually working to get from point A to B?

No, only things that I am claiming are true.

Buttermilk: Enough of this, it's not what I intended for my challenge. I want to have a fun weekend. You have fun too.

Thanks Buttermilk!

09-01-15 1:20  •  Making a New Religion

(This conversation is reposted from a discussion in 2011. It preceded the invention of Neoism.)

I was considering what I would want from a new religion. I would want it to be true, and work. I would want it to have a grand cosmology and some great stories, and I would want it to address the most important human needs.

Is that enough? What would you want a new religion to be like?

Lawsy: I would make it celebrate love and life! And it would be good if you could work in the Wiccan Rede. :-)

As long as it works, it would fit the criteria.

FishSticks: I would need it to have a just system, acceptance and tolerance of those with differnces, and a non-wishy-washy punishment system.

I would say that a true and working moral system would be essential for meeting human needs. This would require a human-behavior-based system derived pragmatically by examining what works and what doesn't. The Wiccan rede or the Golden Rule would be a great place to start. Something like the Noble Eight-fold path/Five Precepts could serve as further elaboration on moral action.

FishSticks: None of this "pedofiles accepted into heaven if they accept jesus" kind of shit!

As far as I know, nothing is known of what, if anything, occurs "after" death, so there is no kind of afterlife conjecture which would qualify as either true or working.

Luckily afterlife conjecture is not required for a religion.

FishSticks: wouldn't after life things be a big part of religion? Every religion has some idea of what happens when we die.

While some Buddhist traditions discuss "rebirth," this is not necessarily an afterlife concept (it is distinct from the Hindu idea of reincarnation.) There are many varieties of Buddhism, such as Zen, which do not posit any kind of afterlife at all. Furthermore, afterlife posits make up no part of the basics of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path or the Five Precepts. When asked if the soul "continued" after death, the Buddha himself said that the question is not answerable, or even important. So, obviously afterlife conjecture is not necessary.

And, more importantly, what of the truth? This is the first requirement of the system I am proposing. Since nothing at all is known of what - if anything - occurs after death, what could we possibly have to say about it that could be considered true? If we wish to speak the truth, we can only say, "We do not know anything about an afterlife," and leave it at that.

That's not a problem for the kind of religion I am envisioning. Accepting the solemn immensity of the truth is awe-inspiring and spiritually humbling, and learning to live with the unknown is a key lesson in transcending the fear and attachment that lead to suffering in all parts of life.

FishSticks: ...i think its huge part of society, considering the motion we go through for death.

Well that's different. Death itself is manifestly present and a part of every life. There is no question that dealing with death is a prime function of religion, from helping people cope with their own impending death to comforting the bereaved and providing a ritual structure for closure and mourning.

There needn't be deities or afterlife conjecture involved in order to celebrate and remember the life of the departed, and provide the comfort of community to the bereaved. Just as it is possible to joyfully celebrate the changing seasons, and the passing phases of life, without invoking conjecture, a ritual structure and community celebration could be part of the "new religion" without ever having to make unsubstantiated claims.

Most importantly, is there anything in the truth of the universe, as we understand it, that we can take comfort in when confronted with our own inevitable mortality?

I think there is. We can be comforted knowing that death is necessary for life and change, and the same fate is met by every thing that lives. We can see that death is a natural process and a part of our intimate connection to the incredible universe in which we find ourselves, however briefly.

We can know that the patterns we have been, while impermanent, are part of an unbroken chain of life which has continued since the first living cells, an amazing emergent property that really works. We can know that our patterns have allowed a part of this universe to become sentient, and gaze upon itself with awareness, reflecting with awe upon our own magnificent splendor. We can take comfort in knowing that, while the specific pattern which makes up our particular life is not sustainable, we are all in fact made of particles that are as old as the universe itself. We are the stuff of stars, and to the stars we will inevitably return, to become part of the beautiful dance of the cosmos.

Lastly, the truth of death can show us that Life is Now, and give us the urgency to love others more fully, assess our time more carefully, and be in the present as much as we possibly can, because these moments, with these people, are precious and will not come again.

Thanks again Fishy!

Expat: I would honestly love a world WITHOUT religion. I certainly don't want new ones added.

Actually, Expat, I would like to respectfully disagree. Religion serves very important roles in society, which is why it exists. Religion creates a narrative which allows people to bring together the world of facts and the world of values into a cohesive whole. This brings meaning to the facts, and provides a cosmological basis for the values, which allows our brains and our societies to create adaptive behavior for personal wholeness and social cohesion. (See Dr. Loyal Rue, "Religion is Not About God," for more on how this works.)

Unfortunately religion also creates a great deal of error and dysfunction. But I think this can be tied directly to the fact that traditional religions arose as mythologies long before actual cause and effect was the least bit understood. So, the error is caused by the massive disconnect between the mythological claims of religion, and the true facts about reality as they are increasingly revealed.

I think that by respecting the truth and what works, it would be possible to bring together facts and values in more meaningful ways than ever, and create a religion - or philosophy, if you will - that meets our needs for personal wholeness and social cohesion without resorting to superstition and ignorance and fear.

Expat: i truly think values and ethics can exist WITHOUT religion.

That is very true. Studies show that more secular societies actually have better social outcomes from their values and ethics. I wouldn't mind a society with "no" religion.

But cultures always have narrative value traditions, even if they are secular. The point is there is nothing inherently wrong with narrative value traditions. In fact they are important. And I think using a true narrative which can be shown to be true would be better than using an unsubstantiated narrative which nobody can verify.

Expat:There is not a need for "G-d" to feel whole and have societal cohesion.

I agree completely! But, where did you get the idea that I was suggesting any kind of deity?

I specifically said the religion would have to be true, and that positing mythical beings did not fit the criteria. Nothing at all is known to be true about deities. So what could there be to say about them? Nothing.

The religion or philosophy I am proposing is non-theistic.

FishSticks: ...here, i think this fits all of your criteria.

That is so cool, thank you!

I agree google fits the criteria of a god, but since the religion is non-theistic we won't be needing a god. Still, I want to incorporate any real magic that is true and works. I think google would be a great oracle. :-)

More on real magic that works...

Sam and I were just discussing this in the "ultimate religious question" thread, so I hope you won't mind if I paste a couple of exceprts, which got me thinking about this in the first place.

We were discussing casting spells. I said:

There is plenty that can be understood about the effectiveness of "spells" simply by examining human cognitive function. I love casting spells - who doesn't? - but I understand that the placebo effect, confirmation bias, agency assignment and serendipity can be shown to be responsible for my perception of their effectiveness.

Knowing this doesn't diminish the fun or success at all.

and then went on to say:

If I was starting a new religion, I would require that it be true. But I would also want it to be full of magic and wonder, and speak to the human need to peer into the mystery.

So, in my religion we could fully utilize the ability of the brain to see magic in every day life, and divine benevolence at work in our lives, to create working spells and prayers. What could be understood as placebo and confirmation bias would be acknowledged and even celebrated as exactly such. What could not be understood would be reverently marked with a question mark, and then investigation could continue.

Expat: Why the need to have a religion, though?

Good question! Perhaps we don't need one.

But, it could be fun. People seem to really like religion. There seems to be a "spiritual" dimension to human experience. It may not be a god, or imply an afterlife, but it's still cool, and having an environment to express it, and wed it to our value system, seems like a good outlet.

Expat: The basic need for an organized philosophy under the umbrella of a "religion", IMO, is in and of itself a crutch.

I would say that organizing under a social philosophy is a quintessential aspect of all human groups, and not inherently negative. Not every tool is a "crutch".

If the word religion bothers you so much, just consider what I am proposing a philosophy.

Expat: It is the idea that people need an organization of some sort to be good, instead of allowing them to be good without the structured guidance.

I don't see how that is preferable. This is like saying that we don't need a constitution in this country, we should just allow people to do democracy without structured guidance. How would that be better?

I don't see anything wrong with taking a social philosophy like, say, Epicureanism for example, and learning great techniques and ideals for how to create a good life from it, as long as they are true and they work. I see no problem with sharing those true and working techniques, passing them around to others, and perhaps joining with them to create an Epicurean garden society based on the ideals that are shared, and on a desire to have a really cool society.

I don't think anything I have suggested is in any way more problematic than that. What are the problems you forsee from what I am proposing?

Expat: there's not a single positive in your abv rebut, that couldn't exist in a secular world.

I agree, they can and do exist in the secular world, to an extent. Perhaps someday our society will be entirely secular and our narrative value tradition will be built right in. That would be great. As I said to Ep, I am not troubled by the idea of a society with no religion at all.

But, right now, there are some key areas that I feel are not being adequately addressed by secular society. So, in the meantime, I'm experimenting with the idea of a "new religion" to meet those needs.

Here's what they are:

1) Real Morality.

For many people in the world today their morality is supernaturally derived. That is, people are taught to be good because God wants them to, or because He will see if they are not.

Well, there is no way to tell what gods want, or see, if anything, but that doesn't mean there is no reason to be good. There are reasons, real reasons. For one thing, because it works, and for another, because the new science of morality is showing how moral behaviors came to exist and the important purposes they serve in human interactions.

As an alternative to existing religions, the "new religion" would celebrate the truth about morality as we understand it - that morality exists as a marvelous human invention, created by us to serve human needs.

The morality of the new religion would be based on a realistic evaluation of the causes of harm and suffering, what works and what doesn't, rather than on arbitrary or traditional "sins." It would not be merely list-based, with an inflexible menu of transgressions; it would be a method for critical moral thinking, providing the tools to allow each person to evaluate their own situation and take the appropriate action.

2) Spiritual Experience.

Right now the secular world doesn't offer much in the way of spiritual experience. Humans are clearly capable of "transcendent" feelings - feelings of great awe, feelings of connection and one with everything...feelings of great love, divine benevolence...feelings of presence, or comfort in grief...feelings of calm and great peace. When the language specific to particular religions is stripped away from these experiences, it's amazing how similar the descriptions seem to be.

Nothing outside of human agency can be determined to be responsible for these feelings. Most religions attribute them to some kind of god. But, not all do - in Buddhism they might be attributed to "nirvana." They are almost always perceived within a religious framework.

There is very little in secular society which provides a context for these feelings, and even less which serves to deliberately invoke them. Yet spiritual experience can be a greatly enriching part of life, a great tool for interpreting ourselves, and a great source of inspiration and insight.

The "new religion" would celebrate spiritual feelings as a marvelous dimension to human existence, and utilize spiritual technologies for inducing them, without assigning any unsubstantiated conjecture about an external "source."

3) "Real" Magic

The human brain is somewhat geared toward religious belief and other forms of "magical thinking." People have what seems like incredible good luck, miraculous cures, answered prayers, predicted futures, uncannily accurate character descriptions, incredibly close calls, and large numbers of coincidences which seem far too meaningful and fortuitous to be "just" coincidence. These strokes of luck and appearances of divine intervention are usually interpreted within a religious structure, as the acts of outside agents like gods. Conversely, they are sometimes attributed to personal magical power, like Creative Visualization or The Secret.

Upon examination, easily observable human phenomenon are often shown to be responsible. For example, the placebo effect alone can explain all kinds of fortuitous healing and other turns of fortune. Large numbers of answered prayers or realized predictions can be attributed to confirmation bias, the tendency of the brain to highlight occurrences which conform to a pattern and ignore or downplay any that don't. Having evolved as prey animals, humans also have a great tendency to assign deliberate agency to any unexplained occurrences in their environment. And, sometimes things just line up in amazingly meaningful synchronicity.

The point is, within a religious or supernatural framework, the world feels like a magial place where you can exert a lot of personal power through ritual and concentration. We don't have to give up the feeling of magic working around us to respect the truth, as long as we are willing to be honest about why it exists.

The "new religion" would celebrate the placebo effect, confirmation bias, synchronicity, etc. as tools for enjoying how cool and weird and lucky this life can be, without using unsubstantiated claims to explain them.

4) Enlightenment.

Enlightenment, in the Zen sense, is not a supernatural concept, or one beyond the reach of normal humans. It is simply a combination of techniques and realizations for learning to alleviate suffering. Individuals, societies and the world could benefit greatly from learning a system for developing happiness, compassion and clear thinking.

Yet, outside of Buddhism, Enlightenment is hardly ever considered. Certainly people in our culture are not presented with Enlightenment as an attainable or desirable goal, or routinely provided with any of the tools for achieving it.

Contrary to how it is portrayed, Enlightenment is actually a very worthy and reachable goal for the average person. For one thing, it's actually easy, and fun. People certainly don't have to have Complete Awakening to start reaping the benefits of the path. Even a little Enlightenment starts paying off in big ways fast. For another, learning to alleviate suffering and practice compassion not only helps the individual, but also the group.

Enlightenment - respecting the truth, developing skilled attention, practicing non-attachment, and showing compassion - is a worthy goal that increases personal happiness and, if wide-spread, would make the world a better place.

The "new religion" would include an entirely secular path to enlightenment, which could be used by anyone to generate the insight and practice which allow it to occur.

Again, I agree that all of these can and do exist entirely secularly. So while we're waiting for everyone to get on board with that, disseminating the ideas specifically as an alternative to traditional religions seems like making use of an existing leverage point.

09-01-15 10:12  •  Childhood Poverty

BluesSinger: Guess what country leads the developed world in childhood poverty? The. U.S. has more poor kids than any other advanced nation. But, America's wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion.

We must be a great place to do business. We have far more money than ever.

What reason could there possibly be for not providing what people need?

Carpter: If only we had a government interested in fostering a job friendly environment, rather than a democrat voting environment.

If only the profits were higher?

BluesSinger: Wealth increased by 60%. No new jobs. Capitalism doesn't work.

Increasing the wealth at the top doesn't work. There is no pressure at all to push wealth downward. The only reason business people part with wealth is because they have to.

In business the only time they have to is when there is demand. Demand is the only thing that will get a business to turn profits into jobs, because demand means more profits.

However to get demand, you have to increase wealth at the bottom, not at the top.

Requiring businesses to turn profits into wealth at the bottom, ie, minimum wages, labor protections, social services, etc. increases demand. When the business is swamped with demand they will find a way to meet it, eventually by new hiring if there is no other way. Then you finally get new jobs.

That is why capitalism works, but not for everything. Wealth flows up, to those who want it most and have the most wealth to use for further accumulation. So it can get stuck at the top. Helping to push it back down for everyone to use is part of the social work of the society.

BluesSinger: Maybe paying them a livable wage would help to bring up that demand...

It absolutely does, because people in the low income range have a lot of pent-up need. They immediately spend extra money. So, paying a living wage is only parting with the money temporarily. It will go right back into the pockets of the businesses as it is spent on their services.

Carpter: You say, "Capitalism doesn't work" but you don't know. We don't have actual capitalism in the country. Haven't for over a century.

Honestly can't say I share your nostalgia for those days. Early industrial capitalism produced great wealth for a tiny few, a smidgen of a middle class, and mostly teeming, infested, disease-ridden slums where each day brought a new opportunity to lose one's hand in a mechanical fish chopper. in 1904 one out of three people living in the cities were close to starving to death. Right?

There is a reason we stopped doing it like that. It was hurting a lot of people more than it was helping.

The system we have today, like most of the systems in the world which are working, provides a balance of the capital and social needs of society. All the advanced democracies, including the U.S., are using a lot more than "capitalism" to make things work, and all these societies are clearly benefitting from their use.

The only debate left is where the balance point should be.

LittleLamsyDivy: The poor have plenty of opportunities if they take them. Growing up poor is not an excuse to continue the cycle. Both of my parents were poor and worked harder than anyone I know to join the middle class.

It annoys me when people make poor choices, make excuses for them and then stick out their hands. Every poor choice I ever made had consequences, some very serious. Those people should be feeling the pain of their choices just like I have.

Some people it does not work out for. Upon examination, it looks as if our system functions like a game, and like most games it produces both winners and losers.

Suppose it is the loser's own fault. They did not compete as effectively as the other people they were competing against at the time. Some other person got the scholarship...some other person got the job. The loser is not as smart as other people, or he did not learn good ethics, or he made a mistake as a teen that set him back.

So, the loser is a bad person and deserves to lose. No argument there.

Then, the only question is, what does losing look like in our society? Starvation for the losers and their offspring? Homelessness? Begging for food on the street? Vast slums made of cardboard? Is that bad enough for our losers? Or should it be worse?

Yes, they lost. Yes, they are lame human beings who deserve bad lives as karma to pay them back for their poor choices, for being less good than we are. But how bad?

Our society makes the choice of how bad we want the losers to hurt. Some people have noticed that the losers hurting too much hurts all of us, lowers the quality of life in our cities. So we try to make a bottom that keeps their pain from hurting us too much.

Don't worry, they still suffer. But the winners, the good people, who work hard and always make the right choices, get more. Isn't that good enough?

Gramma: Want to not be poor?? Get an education, and do not blame the schools for your lack of education, blame yourself and your parents. Start mowing lawns, babysitting, etc as a teenager and putting your money away instead of buying the newest elctronic gadget. Study hard and earn scholorships so you can get more education. Stop blaming others and expecting them to support you. Do the dirty jobs and work your way up.

BluesSinger: You do realize it doesn't work that way for everyone, right?

Gramma:It can with hard work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some people don't work hard. They are evil, of course. Some other people work very hard, but don't get much reward from it. They should have planned better - they are evil too. Anyone who isn't paddling their own canoe deserves to starve to death.

But, there is no way to make everyone paddle their own canoe. Starving to death doesn't make them start paddling, or there wouldn't be beggars starving to death in third world countries. The threat of starving should make them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and start paddling their own canoe. But oddly, deprivation does not cause canoe-paddling to start. Year after year, century after century, the starving non-paddlers remain. They never learn their lesson.

So, making their lives as horrible as possible, while fun, is not actually getting rid of them. And streets thronged with begging idlers make life unpleasant for all the good people who are paddling their own canoes. They have worked, hard. They don't deserve to have their nice shoes smudged with the grimy fingerprints of the evil non-hard-workers as they pass.

That's your choice. You can leave the evil idlers in the street, where they will mess with you as you pass, or you can see that every human being gets enough food and shelter to keep them off the street and out of your sight. That is not for them, it is for you. They didn't work hard and don't deserve it - but you did, so you do. You deserve them not starving, because their starving hurts you.

LittleLamsyDivy: Personal responsibility. Its not up to others to help you find an opportunity.....sometimes....you have to search for it. Its does not always land in your lap.

No clue why we are using such a crappy system.

We should set up the system so that every person has ten opportunities and they just have to pick the one that they like the best. If that doesn't work out, they can have ten more opportunities. That would be a great system to live in, where people can start over any time.

Economies are mental constructs entirely of human invention. They are what we make them. For some reason we are choosing to make our system a scarcity economy, where people have to scrabble and scrape and compete for opportunity and if you snooze, you lose. Your life is determined by the quality of the choices you make at age 14 and there is no way back.

We should make our system an abundance economy where it's easy to get enough to squeak by, and there are lots of opportunities for anyone, no matter what their age or present circumstance, to learn and improve and do better and get more.

That would be a system worth using.

LittleLamsyDivy: I truly believe that there are those....who are content with squeaking by, and want and expect....to not have to sacrifice anything...to get what they want.

They are not important.

In the meantime, most ordinary people want to do something with their lives and acquire some cool things as they go along. However we are quickly inventing an economy where there isn't any work for ordinary people to do. Almost all labor and even a lot of thinking jobs will soon be done better by devices and expert systems. This will free humankind from the burden of labor, at last allowing all the full time pursuit of art and science and discovery and philosophy, and lifting up all people in a new age of enlightenment, advancement and knowledge.

Except, unfortunately, without lots and lots of work to do, there aren't lots of jobs to pay money, so ordinary people will not be able to afford the devices and businesses will have no mass markets.

It's obvious that we can't keep demanding people show their worth as human beings by how "hard" they work. The work is drying up.

Robert Reich (political economist) has a completely different idea. He suggested that part of the profits of the patents we protect should go to us, every citizen over 18, as a guaranteed minimum income. That would not prevent people who wanted more from working for more, but it would give everyone a minimal amount of money with which to purchase labor-saving devices. He says:

"This outcome would also be good for the handful of billionaire executives and owner-investors, because it would ensure they have customers with enough money to buy their labor-saving gadgets.

Such a basic minimum would allow people to pursue whatever arts or avocations provide them with meaning, thereby enabling society to enjoy the fruits of such artistry or voluntary efforts."

I just read about this a few minutes ago so I don't know how feasible I think it is, but I came across it as I was trying to find a way to express how outdated is the notion that human life is, and always will be, about toiling for bread. Surely, in our genius, we can invent better.

Read more in the Archives.