01-08-16 11:14  •  Psychedelica

The term Psychedelica refers to the art, music, culture and ideas that revolve around the use of psychedelic drugs.

In the sixties and seventies, psychedelica could be heard in the music of the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and the later Beatles stuff. It could be seen in art of album covers and posters, and represented by artists like Andy Warhol and Robert Crumb. In the eighties, psychedelica was an early victim of the War on Drugs and largely disappeared from public consciousness.

There was a resurgence of psychedelica during the rise of the rave scene in the nineties, represented in the techno music of the time by the Chemical Brothers, Paul Oakenfield, and Robert Miles, and also less well known names like Juno Reactor, Cosmosis and Astral Projection. The rave scene gave viewing to all kinds of psychedlic visual art, much of it electronic. Probably the best known psyechedelic visual artist of the time - and still - is visionary Alex Grey.

I am an artist and psychedelica is my medium. I do psychedelic black light body art, like this:

I also do psychedelic sidewalk art:

And animated electronic art for projection on big screens:

The reason this is related to psychedelic drugs is because it is immediately obvious - at least, to anyone who has similarly indulged - that the sights and sounds are inspired by what is experienced as the effect of consuming them. Drugs which fall into the psychedelic category include acid, mushrooms, and ecstasy, along with lesser-known items like DMT, DXM, 2CB, ayahuasca and nitrous oxide. Also pot is a great add-in with most psyechedelic experiences.

I am particularly interested in discussing psychedelica these days, because people who are interested in this have been forced to live "in the closet" for most of my lifetime. This "alternative lifestyle" isn't just frowned on, like homosexuality, but it is actively illegal in the U.S. The threat and fear of arrest and all the life-ruining consequences that go with it have conspired to keep discussion of psyechedelica a whispered, clandestine act of revolution.

I'd like to throw back the veil. This stuff is interesting! And now, nearing the healthy and happy age of fifty, I think I can respond to people to who say, "Drugs? Do you want to ruin your life!" The answer is, "No, and I'm not worried about it, because that is not what has happened."

Some drugs come with a high risk of ruining your life, however psychedelics are not among them. Psycehelics, used well, are life enhancing, and a great experience of exploration and adventure that is not available any other way.

Skeptica: Ha! I certainly could not pop a pill of E, or take a hit of acid, and either would "enhance'' my daily routine.

As part of the daily routine, of course not.

Under other circumstances, they certainly could, if you were seeking something that they are known to deliver.

Skeptica: You mean to tell me, as a parent, you don't think the drugs you listed don't have the potential to ruin your life??

A bottle of aspirin can ruin your life if you use it stupidly. So can a car. Or a bottle of booze.

What is your point?

Skeptica: Everything can be addictive. Even food, or sex. The chances of becoming addicted aren't worth the risk.

Psychedelics are not addictive.

Seriously. People can be stupid with anything, including food and sex. However, addictive substances like heroin, cocaine and speed, along with tobacco and alcohol, contain specific chemical compounds which physically alter the receptors of the brain with specific neurotransmissive effects to create physical dependency. The psychedelics I listed to not contain chemicals which act on the brain in this fashion.

For one important thing, they are not given to re-dosing. You can keep snorting coke all night, but if you try to take acid or E again after taking them, they don't really work. The chemicals in your brain that they act upon have been temporarily depleted and you need time for them to naturally replenish before they will work again. So people taking psychedelics aren't given to "chasing the dragon," or re-dosing to bring back the high, which re-enforces dosing behavior, a major factor in addiction.

Alcohol and tobacco are among the most addictive and toxic substances humans ingest. If they are legal, then non-addictive, non-toxic substances should be legal also.

Skeptica: Nevermind the fact your child could get taken away, or you could DIE and your child would lose a mom.

The fact that your child could get taken away is sadly true, but THAT is the crime. These things should not be illegal.

I'm not saying they should be avialable at the QuickieMart, but there is no reason a responsible adult should be denied responsible adult choices.

And as for DYING, you are hundreds of times more likely to die of slipping in the shower than from a psychedelic experience. Psychedelics are far less dangerous than going fishing. If showers and fishing are legal, psychedelics should be legal.

Skeptica: Your comparison against alcohol is really laughable. At least when you drink you can stop at a few.

Excuse me while I clean up the milk that shot from my nose!!

This is ridiculous. Some people can, maybe. Many, many people cannot. The world is full of alcoholics who cannot stop at a few. Alcohol has ruined more lives than all other drugs put together, except tobacco. Alcohol is extremely addictive, dangerous and stupid. But it's the traditional drug of choice for western culture, so it's legal.

Skeptica: You also get sober in the morning.

You get hung over in the morning and it is almost as dangerous as being drunk when it comes to driving and functioning properly.

Skeptica: You don't know what you are getting when it comes to hallucinogens.

Depends on where you get them. If they were legal it would never be a problem.

Skeptica: Plus, there is no risk of your beer being laced with something else.

"Lacing" is largely a myth. However if psychedelics were legal it would never be a problem.

Skeptica: IF you go to bed at all after your trip, you usually wake up with a lot worse than a headache and the side effects last for days even a week or more...

Sorry, no. This does not even remotely describe my experience or those of people I know.

EvenMoreSkeptica: How could you use these drugs every day and still claim you are not addicted?

Wow, what makes you think I do drugs every day?

EvenMoreSkeptica: Your post indicated it was a "way of life". One could only assume you meant daily.

This is a pretty big assumption.

Having a "psychedelic lifestyle" does not mean taking psychedelic drugs every day. Have you ever, ever heard of that happening for long enough to qualify as a lifestyle? It doesn't.

It means, being amenable to psychedelic experience. It means having a taste or talent for the art, music and culture of psychedelica. Attending Burning Man could be a part of the psychedelic lifestyle, for example, even if one didn't take any drugs at all while they were there.

Thanks for the chance to clarify.

EvenMoreSkeptica: I know what it's like to take Ecstacy. You're on cloud nine, but when it wears off, and your serotonin levels come crashing down, all you want to do is cry or fix it by taking another pill.

This would be a waste. The seratonin levels are depleted, the next hit of E will not work. If it was legal and people had a shred of education about how to do it well, this would not happen.

Take 5hpt instead. You can get it at Wal-Mart. It is the precursor to seratonin and gives your body plenty of what it needs to replenish your supply. It keeps you from feeling blue. And you can save your extra E tab until next time when it will serve you much, much better.

EvenMoreSkeptica: Then there were the times I tried to get E but it turned out to be something else.

Sadly this does happen. But if it was legal, and available to adults, say by a recreational prescription, this would never be a problem.

EvenMoreSkeptica: It's not worth the risk of getting your kids taken away!

Mabeline: Assuming the kids are not present, nor will they be present for any effects, how exactly are the kids harmed? What justifies them being taken away from the parents?

Nothing. In the absence of actual harm, it would be tragic, far worse than most natural consequences of responsible drug use.

Mabeline: On the other hand, I get why they're illegal. They can be dangerous.

I don't think they should be available at the QuickieMart. But, I don't think beer should be available at the QuickieMart either.

Look, if you wanted to scuba dive, you couldn't really just buy the equipment and jump into the water with it. You have to take a training course to learn how to do it safely and be warned about the risks. In most places you have to pass a test to show you understand. Then, if you still want to, you are deemed eligable and you can proceed, with caution.

Like any other difficult recreation, there should be a system where people who are adults, who have demonstrated that they understand the risk and know how to be safe, can be certified to participate. There should be regulated substances with predictable dosages available for a fee.

In any case, how could sending someone into a jail cell over this, destroying their record and career, removing them from their job and their family and their home and every positive influence in their lives, and locking them up with a bunch of violent crazies, ever, possibly help? How is that less dangerous?

Skeptica: I am still not buying your insane argument that they should be legal. They are nothing like alcohol. When I drink - I drink usually a half to a whole beer. That is it. I don't get drunk.

That's you. The legality of the substance is not based on you. Plenty of people, like millions of them, can't handle it. But, that is not enough of a reason for it to be made illegal, is it?

Skeptica: However, ANY TIME you take psychedelics you are completely trashed.

Where are you getting this? I wouldn't recommend driving during a psychedelic experience, no. However you can still function within acceptable parameters. You can get up and go to the bathroom, you can get yourself a drink of water from the fridge, you can talk on the phone if necessary. Musicians can usually still play their instruments. Artists can continue to do psychedelic art.

If you can't do this much, if you are "trashed," it is for the same reason you get trashed when you drink alcohol - because you have stupidly taken way too much. Which is a waste, because if you are "trashed" on psychedelics you will not be able to remember anything meaningful, and you have wasted a dose which would serve you better at a later occasion.

There are two major differences. One, with psychedelics you normally dose once and that's it, you don't just keep taking and taking it all night. You don't have to figure out "when to say when." Two, people who know what to do with psychedelics can avoid this problem altogether. Even the best intentioned and informed alcoholic can't.

Skeptica: I have NEVER heard of someone taking ecstasy without having major depression for days on end after their high wore off. Ever.

They should have taken 5htp.

Skeptica: And I am sorry- but every time I ever did any hallucinogens I had MAJOR side effects.

That's you. The legality of the substance is not based on you.

Skeptica: You are a fake, if you don't even realize that psychedelics cause hallucinations, which can get you killed.

Even if that was typical, what of it? Drunks are notorious for getting themselves and other people killed while intoxicated. This is not deemed sufficient reason for the substance to be illegal.

Skeptica: You haven't ever taken hallucinogens.

If you have read everything I have written, and you think that I have come by this information second hand, so be it.

Mabeline: Coming from a family of alcoholics, I know the risk I run in becoming addicted to anything, so I'd rather not partake.

Of course. The decision is yours and yours only. I would never recommend that anyone partake in a situation they are not completely comfortable with. I am all about the freedom of choice!

I'm sure you can appreciate that your discomfort with alcohol is not a sufficient reason to make the substance illegal. I would like to see freedom of choice in both directions.

Mabeline: No, I still can't see legalizing psychedelics. The effects on a person taking them are even less predictable than the effects of alcohol or tobacco.

Only if you don't know what to expect.

BathBeyond: Psychedelic drugs profoundly affected and changed my life. FOR THE BETTER. I loved using them, I loved the psychedelic experience and I can honestly say that I tapped into a new level of being by using them. It was deliberate and it was not done lightly or as an escape. You can't escape...it's completely from within.

Mabeline: What I think, is that you are rationalizing drug use. I don't see how psychedelics have ever changed the world or anyone's life for the better. What could it change? It may open "the doors of perception," but when you open the doors, you are still you.

I don't think anyone suggested otherwise. You are always still you, no matter what tools you use to expand your horizons. There is no such thing as a spiritual cheat. Spiritual tools allow you to see distant peaks you may not have seen before...but once you know they are there, you still have to make the step-by-step journey to reach them.

For example, it was during a psychedelic experience that Francis Crick conceived the double-helix shape of DNA. It came to him in a sudden insight with the flash of revelation. However, just this thought was not enough to change the world of biology forever. He took this insight back to the lab and did the laborious work of scientifically demonstrating that his insight was correct.

That doesn't mean there was no value to the psychedelic experience, or that it was a "cheat." It showed him the peak in the distance, and then he made the trek to get there.

I can definitively say that people can gain insight through the use of psychedelics. Many people have shared their personal positive psychedelic experiences with me.

Some explained confronting and ridding themselves of old fears. Some described seeing beatific visions of incredible beauty and magnificence - crystal cities, alien landscapes, swirling galaxies, impossible geometries. Many reported ecstatic feelings of oneness with all creation and a newfound appreciation of life.

At a practical level, many people have told me that the experience allowed them to look at problems and situations within their lives in new ways, and helped them make better decisions about their personal and career goals.

One young woman said that her LSD trip let her see herself separately from her overbearing mother and restructure their relationship to a more egalitarian one. A college student said that he realized during his trip that his problems at school were because he didn’t like his major, and it was then he found the courage to tell his dad he needed to change.

An older woman told me that it was during a psilocybin mushroom experience many years ago that she realized how imaginary most of our money is, and how futile and unimportant is the accumulation of wealth. She said this experience alone had a profound positive effect on her life, because it allowed her to live happily and without worry in good financial times and in bad.

One young man told me that it was during an ayahuasa experience, conducted by a shaman from Peru, that he realized that religion is an alternative form of government, a government of the mind. This insight allowed him to drop the destructive bonds of his religious upbringing and shed his fears of Divine Retribution. He later came out as an atheist.

One new couple who tripped together found that their relationship was turning out even stronger and more beautiful than they had hoped for, and came to the decision that they could indeed start a family together - a few months later she was pregnant. Another couple, not getting along, found a way to communicate their desire to end the relationship well. A few months later they were both happy with new partners and all four have stayed friends.

Most importantly, almost all of these folks have described these experiences as intensely unique, enjoyable and fun. Tripping together, they built strong bonds of friendship and love, and joyfully celebrated the beauty of life and the universe.

I hope you are able to understand what I am saying. Cultures throughout the world and history have valued this type of experience. It may not be everything but it's not nothing.

01-08-16 11:14  •  Legalization

Mabeline: If anyone & everyone could get their hands on psychadelic drugs at the corner store, the world might be a more beautiful place...or it might be a place full of irresponsible users doing horrific things.

"Corner store"? Did you even read what I wrote? That's not what I am recommending.

The world is already full of beauty and irresponsibility. Decriminalization would keep the worse fate - jail - from ruining the life of a peaceful person who is not harming another.

Tell me, exactly how do you think getting shipped to a jail cell is going to improve the life of the acid tripper, or his family or neighbors?

Mabeline: These laws were made to protect society as a whole.

The laws are not working. They are not protecting society as a whole. They are not preventing drug use. They are especially not protecting people who want to trip, and people who want to trip are part of society too. These laws are hurting people who want to trip a lot more than the psychedelics would hurt them. They are hurting trippers worse than the trippers are hurting society.

The punishment is way worse than the crime. How do you figure that is protecting society?

Mabeline: For those who want to partake in illegal drugs in the privacy of their own home, that's their business, & I won't bat an eyelash at it...

If you insist that they should be illegal, that is more than batting an eyelash. That is throwing your support to a system that does not work and is crushing others.

Mabeline: ...but to suggest that society would be a better place if all of these drugs were legal...well, simply put, that's hogwash.

Are you positive about that? Got any thing to back it up?

The country where mushrooms and weed are legal has a lot fewer addicts and general drug problems than the U.S. Their society is a better place than ours in that respect. They have a policy which works better than ours.

Why on earth would you want to keep doing a failed policy?

Mabeline: It's a matter of opinion that making these drugs illegal is a "failed policy."

The policy is not stopping people from using drugs. That's what the policy is for. In what sense has it not failed?

Mabeline: I see what you are saying. I'm simply not naive enough to think that decriminalizing drugs is going to create this "enlightened", beautiful utopia. In fact, I think it would do just the opposite.

Who is suggesting this? The keys to enlightened beautiful utopia are in another post. :-)

Decriminalizing drugs would do one very important thing and that is stop turning people without problems into criminals. This would be a good thing and I'm sorry you don't see it.

Mabeline: So, what then? Just legalize everything for everybody?

No, of course not! Every substance is different. Each and every substance would have to be examined for the unique thing it is.

Drugs that are not more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco should be legal for the same reason that alcohol and tobacco are legal - because that is the best way to manage them.

Mabeline: Show me how legalizing these drugs will make the world a better place.

Here are fourteen ways that legalizing pot and some other drugs would make the world a better place:

1. By not turning people with no problems into criminals.

2. By not turning people whose only problems are with drugs into criminals.

3. By not taking people who have harmed no one away from their families and their jobs and every positive influence in their life and penning them up with a bunch of violent crazies.

4. By not burdening people with a criminal record which will block their every attempt to improve their lot.

5. By giving people with addictions access to support groups, counseling and medical treatment instead of a jail cell.

6. By draining away the main source of revenue for organized crime syndicates and restoring billions of black-market dollars into the legitimate economy.

7. By relieving the overburdened court and prison systems from having to deal with hundreds of thousands of non-violent people who are no more of a danger to society than your average beer drinker.

8. By making it possible for terminally ill and hurting medical patients to use effective medications to relieve their suffering.

9. By relieving the tremendous racial bias in drug enforcement which is serving to further disenfranchise minorities.

10. By creating a strong taxable market which could generate the revenue to pay for programs addressing abuse issues, as well as many other worthy causes.

11. By providing regulation and oversight, similar to alcohol regulation, which serve to minimize underage use, driving under the influence, etc.

12. By making it possible to draw distinctions between the risks and dangers of various substances, allowing people to make informed decisions about use.

13. By acknowleding Cognitive Liberty and the right of adults to make their own recreational choices in exactly the same manner we currently do with alcohol.

14. By restoring public confidence in criminal justice and alleviating systematic disregard for the law, in the exactly the same manner as occured when the bloody Prohibition of the 20's was repealed.

I hope you are able to see that there are problems created by prohibition that are worse than drugs, and prohibition is not effective anyway. So why keep it up?

Mabeline: I'm sorry you don't see that not everyone sees things the way you do.

I do see it. What of it? I'm trying to explain that there are reasons why I see things the way I do. I am trying to change how people see things. Do you think I should stop trying?

Mabeline: Drugs are illegal and they need to stay that way. If you use them anyway, then you run the risk of facing the consequences.

The "consequences" are contrived, artificial, and are not appropriate in any way to address the situation they are supposed to be helping. They are worse than the crime. How is this just?

Mabeline: Most who use them responsibly & safely don't have any consequences to face because their actions have not negatively impacted society.

This is, sadly, not true. Any person who is found in possession of these things can go to jail if it is discovered. The possession is not negatively impacting society but there is no allowance for this in the law.

There are many wonderful people like college professors, doctors and scientists who have had their lives and careers ruined because their "secret got out." They are engaging in an activity no more dangerous than drinking a beer, but they get arrested, thrown in jail, and sent to trial. They may be imprisoned for months with a bunch of violent lunatics. They are stuck with a criminal record that destroys their career and makes it hard for them to earn a living. Their families are left alone to struggle by without them. Their children grow older without the guidance of their parent.

How is this good?

Mabeline: Maybe drugs are harmless for most people, but there are always those few who ruin it for everyone.

I want you to know how much I appreciate being able to discuss this with you. Thank you. And, I totally see your concern about this.

But obviously, we don't let "the few ruin it for everyone" when it comes to tobacco or alcohol. Alcohol in particular is far more dangerous than marijuana and some psychedelics. But we learned during the Prohibition that prohibiting alcohol does not stop its use. It puts the sale and use into the black market and a frightening, lawless underworld of crime. Making it illegal did nothing to make people consume less. And it led to widespread disregard for the law in general. It was a terrible social experiment which totally failed and, eventually, was repealed.

The War on Drugs is just a wrong-headed as the Prohibition in the 20's. It's not working. It's hurting people. It's weakening the law. It needs to be repealed.

Mabeline: Maybe you don't see it as a problem, but most addicts don't see their drug use as a problem either.

Some do, some don't.

Removing the criminal penalty, and viewing it as a medical issue, could allow more of them to get help evaluating what the problem is.

Mabeline: Yes, the consequences of getting arrested are pretty bad, that's the point. Again, it's very simple. Don't partake in an illegal activity, and you've got nothing to worry about.

This is extremely unrealistic.

For one thing, again, it doesn't work. People do not refrain from use of substances. It is a very natural part of human behavior. That's like saying that people should just not commit adultery and then everything would be fine. Maybe that's what they should do, but they never, ever do. You have to deal with it realistically.

For another thing, putting people in jail when they are not even hurting others is a crime against their freedom. They have literally done nothing to deserve this. How can we just sit back and tell them it is their problem, they should just be different and then we wouldn't have to think about it any more. That is unjust.

Having unjust laws is bad for the society and weakens the social structure. We need to reddress injustice when we see it.

Mabeline: As far as I am concerned, you do the crime, you do the time.

This is wrong. That's the point. The "crime" is not a crime and the punishment is. It is unjust. We must redress injustice.

Mabeline: If you disagree, then fight the "good fight" with someone that can do something to change it--write your representatives, organize rallies, etc.

You are a voter. You can do something to change it. I am fighting it with you because what you think matters.

And because you are a good person and a caring person and a friend. I want you to see that what I'm saying is that our current policy is not a caring approach. We should change it.

Mabeline: You can make the choice to follow the laws, or you can make the choice to break them.

You can make the choice to change them.

Mabeline: Arguing with me isn't going to do anything to change what you feel is "unjust."

If I could explain it so that you can perceive the injustice as well that would be great. I can work out what words to use so that people can understand what I'm saying. That really means a lot to me. Do you want me to stop trying?

Mabeline: I'll message you. I'm open to learning more.

Mabeline, thanks. This was an important conversation, thanks for sharing it with me.

01-06-16 10:26  •  Smith v. Nash

BluesSinger: America is possessed by individualism! In this book The Good Society, the authors argue that in the face of all these problems with society, we have retreated into our own private worlds, instead of working together. They say philosopher John Locke emphasized individual achievement and self-fulfilment, but back in his day, it went unsaid that this would be in an environment of public spirit, which we no longer have.

Adam Smith was wrong. John Nash demonstrated mathematically through his Equilibrium that everyone benefits most when people work for themselves AND the group. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics for this in 1994. So why are we still going by Smith?

BluesSinger: I am not familiar with Adam Smith, can you please elaborate?

Adam Smith is considered the "Father of Modern Economics." He wrote a treatise in 1776 called The Wealth of Nations which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers, and led to the pre-eminence of markets in modern economics. He established the doctrine that if every person does what is best for himself, that action will automatically be the best thing he could do for his nation. Smith invented the term "invisible hand of the marketplace" to suggest that all bad outcomes are automatically corrected in in markets.

However Smith was also a philosopher who studied morals and empathy, and did not imagine markets without empathy. Like your article says of John Locke, there was a strong current of public spirit at the time which Smith felt was inevitable and would help with the correction.

And, he thought all this before the industrial revolution and modern markets, which require oversight to prevent exploitation.

As John Nash later demonstrated mathematically, everyone working just for themselves creates a lot of sub-optimization. Nash's idea was that Adam Smith was incomplete. When everyone works for himself AND for the group, they are doing better for everyone than if they JUST work for themselves.

The Gilded Age, the Crash of '29 and the New Deal are the rise, failure and correction of Smith. Nash codified it a few decades later.

Humans are a social species. We have always survived by taking care of each other. Modern economics of scale would allow us to do it in the simplest way possible, by sharing the burden until it is spread so thin it is nearly invisible, and still make sure that every person benefits. We just have to step up. A lot of nations are doing so already and it has done a lot of good for their social health.

BluesSinger: I have absolutely nothing to add here since what you just posted solidified my beliefs about economics. Thank you for teaching me something today.

The honor is mine, thank you.

BluesSinger: The thing about it is that you can see in this group where women demonstrate that they have no care about anyone other than themselves and their own. They see everyone who has a collectivist mindset as people who simply want to leach off of their successes while not sacrificing anything. It makes me wonder, what are they afraid of?

Helping their outgroup.

01-06-16 10:26  •  Feminism

LDSGal: Of course we believe that women and men should be equals. However the woman still needs to be obedient to her husband and the husband still needs to earn his wife's obedience.

This is so stereotyped. I know many relationships where the man has a leadership role and it really seems to work. But, I also know of relationships where the woman is truly the head of the family and that works for them, too. I also know relationships where they seem to act more or less as equals and that works too.

Despite what some religions state, it's not cut in stone. It really depends on the personality types of the individuals. Some people - of both sexes - are leaders, and some are followers, some are both or neither, and a good pairing would be one where the dominance patterns of both partners are compatible. It really doesn't matter who takes the lead if both are comfortable with how it shakes out.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, we have legalized and subsidized abortions all over the world.

Abortion has been part of human reproductive patterns since the days of the cave dwellers. There are herbs and techniques which are known to women all over the world for terminating pregnancy and until the last century or so it was considered a private matter for women and their midwives to deal with as they saw fit.

Legal abortion does not mean more abortion. It means safe, medical abortion instead of chancy, unsanitary, sleazy abortion. It means successful abortions instead of horrible failed abortions. It means women who survive abortions instead of dying of abortion. It means women who can go on to have children at a later time instead of women who destroy their reproductive ability for life.

Furthermore, giving women the right to control their own reproductive destiny has freed them from the bondage of biology and done more to empower women than practically anything else except suffrage.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, mothers have been encouraged to leave their children to be raised by “a village”.

This is one of the poorest interpretations of the "takes a village" saying I have ever heard. The saying is supposed to mean that it always "takes a village" to raise children, and it always has; until the last few generations, a couple trying to raise children without an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, neighbors and tribal elders would have been unthinkable. Women have always had to work their asses off, either in the home or out of it. They can use all the help they can get, and the rearing of the group's children has almost always been a shared endeavor of the group.

The recent widespread division of the social unit into mobile "nuclear" families is a result of our current subsistence patterns. I think the point was supposed to be that today's kids are missing out on an extended network of help, support and love which has, until recently, always been a part of human childrearing and group social structure.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, men have lost their sense of identity and masculinity.

You need to meet a better class of men.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, fathers have left their homes and families.

There have always been some fathers who do this. Soldiers, sailors, travelling salesmen and other tomcats used to leave a trail of bastards in their wake and there wasn't much anyone could do about it. However with DNA testing and child support and permanent personal records it's actually a lot harder to get away with now than it used to be.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, men have sought companionship with other men; and women have sought it with other women.

If you are talking about homosexuality, there is no evidence that this is the case. Homosexuality exists in roughly 3-5% of every human population no matter what the cultural level of acceptance or taboo.

If you are talking about just hanging out, the social gender association patterns appear to be dictated mainly by culture. In some cultures the sexes mix freely throughout their lives; in many the children are segregated by gender until puberty; in other cultures the adults hang out in same-gender groupings almost exclusively.

LDSGal: Because of the feminist movement, religious beliefs have been questioned as “outdated” and “unlawful”.

Some religious beliefs are outdated and unlawful and some of them just stink. Rethinking belief can be a positive force for social health, particularly when it means abandoning superstitions and falsehoods. In any case, it was underway long before feminism and simply continues.

Modern social ills are no more the fault of "feminism" than any other push for civil rights. The main goal of the feminist movement is to elevate the status of women to adults instead of full-grown children. It did not come a moment too soon.

01-05-16 10:26  •  The Harm of Belief

Melrose: What do you even mean by "reason"?

"Reason" refers to arriving at conclusions based on evidence.

Melrose: Many people come to their belief based on reason.

If you have evidence you don't need belief. If there is evidence, you can simply have knowledge, which anyone can verify.

There is no evidence to support beliefs like "Islam is true" or "Christianity is true." There is no evidence to support claims that a woman was impregnated by a god. There is no evidence that there will be a "judgement day," or that there is an afterlife, or that the afterlife is divided into two parts, or that some religions know the things you can do to make sure you get into the good one. There is no evidence to support the central tenet of Christianity, that humans are born with original sin and require salvation through Christ or they will be damned. There is no evidence to support the central tenet of Islam, that there is only one God and Muhammed is his messenger.

For all we know, there could be many gods, many messengers, many afterlifes, etc. Certainly there are religions which preach these conclusions just as adamantly as the single-god, limited-prophet, binary-afterlife religions. But, there is no evidence that any of those conclusions are the accurate conclusion either. It could just as easily be the case that there are no gods, no messengers, and no afterlifes. There is no evidence of any of these.

People did not arrive at these beliefs based on reason because they are unsupported by evidence.

Melrose: You are making claims too. You said belief is harming society. Can you provide evidence - staying with in your definitions - of how belief is creating a problem for humanity?

For one thing, belief is creating unresolvable conflict. There is no way to determine whether Christianity or Islam is a more accurate description of what God is and what God wants. People are artificially divided into opposing groups based on unsubstantiated ideas that could be no more than fantasy.

For another, belief is creating bad social policy. For example, there is no evidence that God thinks homosexual sex is abomination. This unsubstantiated claim was used to relegate a large segment of our population to second-class citizenship up until very recently. There is no evidence that God only wants people to have sex within marriage. This unsubstantiated claim is used to promote "abstinence-only" sex ed which drives up pregnancy and STD rates. There is no evidence to support "intelligent design." These unsubstantiated claims are used to subvert science in the classroom. There is no evidence that God doesn't want people to use condoms. This unsubstantiated claim is driving up the rates of AIDS in Africa. There is no evidence that God wants a particular group of people to control "the holy land." The unsubstantiated claims are used to support apartheid in the Middle East. Etc.

Even worse, once people abandon reason to support unsubstantiated claims, they are not discriminating about accepting any old unsubstantiated claim they hear. Beliefs aren't always religious. For example, the unsubstantiated claims that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and was responsible for 9-11 were used to stoke up war fever for the march into Iraq. These claims were unchallenged at the time...80% of Americans believed them even though there was no evidence to support them and they are now known to be total bunk.

The evangelically religious were the strongest voting block in support of the war. Evangelicals are also the strongest deniers of critical science, including climate science. Etc.

These are just a few of the problems created by belief. The difference between what the beliefs say and what the reality is creates a lot of error.

Additionally, the healthiest and most successful societies on the planet are the ones which rely least upon belief. Studies show that the more secular societies are measurably the healthiest in terms of life expectancy, happiness levels, low crime rates, preventing teen pregnancy and drug addiction, low infant mortality, etc.

We could use some more of this kind of health in our country.

01-04-16 1:51  •  Political Substance

Concerned: With Trump's absurdities driving the conversation, political discourse is getting dangerously anti-intellectual.

Trump_Fan: Oh yeah? Well what is Bernie or Hillary saying that is of substance, other than "free college, free healthcare, free food!"

Actually, what you are dismissing is the substance. Democrats are advocating REAL systems that really work in many places and even in our own country.

"Free college"

We already have "free school," or public education, in the United States through the high school level. It has supported the middle class for three generations. However a high school education is no longer enough in a complex, highly technological and politically demanding world. In order to have a functioning democracy and a viable economy the citizens need full access to education, and with the middle class disappearing, fewer than ever can afford it.

Many other countries have full public education lifelong. They are among the best educated and happiest people on earth.

Also substantive is Bernie's plan to fund full public education. He is proposing a tiny financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculation. This is 1) more than fair - Wall Street is far richer than ever and failing to compensate the rest of society with the gains, and 2) part of a systematic approach to restraining the out-of-control speculation which creates financial bubbles.

"Free Healthcare"

What Bernie Sanders is actually proposing is single-payer healthcare, a system that is working in many other countries. It is far more efficient at containing costs and delivering health than our current system. Canadians spend a dollar for every four we spend on healthcare in the United States, and they are getting better health for it. Statistically they live longer, have lower infant mortality, have faster recovery times, less chronic illness, etc. Single-payer works.

"Free Food"

Of course Democrats support public programs to prevent starvation, anything less would be terribly detrimental to the society. If you think cutting off food aid will make people go "get jobs," it won't. For one, technologically advancing economies shed jobs at a constant rate, leaving even qualified workers scrambling over and over again. There are more workers than jobs. For two, look at conditions in countries where there is no bottom to poverty provided by social assistance. People are literally starving in the streets, millions living in mud slums. That is what our country would look like if we did not stop the descent.

People cannot make a good life or a good country to live in if they are not educated, healthy and free from want. This is the substance of a good community and a good life.

01-03-16 8:51  •  A Good Tip

Uma: Did you hear about this dirty trick? People are making tracts which look like cash, leaving them as tips. You think you got a $20, but it turns out to be a fake, with the message, "Some things are more important than money."

It then reads, "Christ died for your sins. If you completely trust Him, He will change your life for the better. Say this simple prayer, out loud, and God will do the rest."

EllenD.: Ooh, most Christians would never do that! Uma, you are always highlighting the assholes to try to put Christianity in a negative light.

It is the content of Christianity which puts it in a negative light. Telling people that there is a magic chant which will make the gods start working for them is lame.

Carole: Nobody's ever told me that. And I was raised Catholic. I was told it was about loving one another.

That is what it says on the tract. It's right there in the photos in the OP. Did you read it?

It says, recite this chant and then God and Jesus will start doing things for you in your life. It says nothing about loving one another.

People seem to think it's lame to leave a fake bill. Yes, the fake bill is lame, but the message on the tract is even lamer.

Carole: The person who left this "tip" was not acting in a manner Christ would recognize.

If Christianity consisted entirely of instructions on how to act loving, it would be a different religion. It does have some of that, but contains in at least equal measure claims that salvation through Christ is required to secure the good afterlife. And that is really lame.

If Christians really want to have a good religion they have to take the lame parts out.

Carole: :-) Some of us already do.

I agree, in fact I think most do. However it needs to be done institutionally.

It can be done. For example, the Universalists decided that "hell" was not consistent with Christ's message of unconditional love and compassion. So, they removed it from their beliefs, establishing instead the doctrine of Universal Salvation - they believe everyone goes to Heaven, no matter what religion they were or what they thought or believed while alive.

I don't know as many Christians who believe in literal hell these days, but they haven't taken it out of their version of the religion formally, doctrinally, the way the Univeralists did. That is because a lot of people think the religion is the way it is becuase GOD WANTS IT THAT WAY. They don't usually realize that religions are human inventions and they can be changed to be better.

When the Catholic Church starts taking the lame parts out then we'll be on to something. :-)

Tux: "Take the lame parts out"?? What did I just read!!??

Carole: The problem is, there isn't ONE form of Christianity.

If I may respectfully disagree, that is not the problem. That is a symptom of the problem.

The actual problem is that there is no justification for making any claims about gods.

Carole: One of the reasons there ARE so many versions of Christianity is that there is disagreement about what matters and what doesn't.

That is one reason, but the main reason is the same reason that some people have Christianity and others have Islam, or Judaism, and why long ago people worshipped Zeus and Apollo and Anubis and Set.

It is because humans made up stories to explain things, different stories in different places and times.

The reason there is so much unresolvable disagreement is because there is nothing that can be checked to confirm that the descriptions are accurate. Yet everyone claims their descriptions are true.

Making claims of fact that can't be verified is wrong.

Carole: The Catholic Church can do what it wants. Doesn't mean the Baptists, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Episcopalians and so on will do the same.

Eventually they will all have to admit it.

Carole: My Episcopal priest shares the UU idea that everyone goes to heaven, even the atheists.

There is no way to check and see if that claim is any more valid that the claim that some people go to Hell, or get stuck on the wrong side of the River Styx, etc. No human knows anything at all about any kind of afterlife. We made up lot of different stories about that, too.

But making claims to have information about what no human can get information about is also wrong.

Carole: And the Episcopal belief is based on Scripture, tradition and REASON... that third being vital. Scripture and tradition tell us what has been. Reason tells us what needs to be.

I appreciate that you and your group are trying to foster a belief that is kinder and more compassionate than the regular Christian belief. However belief is the problem. There is no reaon to think that people who lived thousands of years ago figured more out about anything than we can, let alone about "the afterlife." What they wrote on the subject is not dispositive.

I also appreciate that you credit reason, but the keystone of reason is verifiable accuracy. In order for conclusions to be sound the premises must follow logically AND be true.

The actual answer produced by reason about the afterlife is that nothing is known of it at all.

01-02-16 1:51  •  Unlevelling the Field

Gypsy: I see Bernie Sanders, complaining that things are unfair, and blaming corporations. I still don't understand how corporate America has unleveled the playing field to the extent that John Smith feels he can't get ahead in life.

Generally speaking, corporations are using their great wealth to buy legislation that favors their profits. This increases their wealth, allowing them to buy more legislation, which increases their wealth more, which gives them more political power, etc. It is a vicious cycle which serves to disenfranchise almost all workers, voters, etc. in favor of the extravagant luxury of a small group of power holders. Power becomes massively concentrated in a tiny number of hands.

Concentrated power is why we abandoned monarchy and aristocracy centuries ago. And yet here it is again. When power is that concentrated, without checks or balances, John Smith is deprived of self-determination. The decisions that affect his life are made by a tiny few people who nobody elected, who have no mandate, and who make every decision based only on their own narrow self-interest.

Specifically, here is a short list of the ways corporations are unlevelling the playing field:

1. Union Busting

Corporations support politicians who weaken and destroy unions, so that workers cannot collectively bargain or effectively strike to redress their grievances and needs. This allows corporations to consistently make decisions which fatten their profits with no regard for the workers, who get less and less.

2. Outsourcing

Unions and rights advocates won decent wages, benefits and pensions for many employees in the United States. These gains expanded the middle class and set the economy booming for decades. But, this was resulting in some benefits going to the workers and not onto the corporate profit sheets. Corporations saw that they could pay slave labor pennies on the dollar in other countries which did not have unions and legal protections. So they took jobs which had supported American families and moved them to other countries. This increased corporate wealth while decreasing the wealth of the American middle class.

3. Externalizing costs and risks

Another great advantage of outsourcing is externalizing costs. For example, many other countries have weak or non-existent environmental laws and health regulations. This allows corporations to unrestrainedly pollute their environment and expose workers to toxic chemicals in order to maximize profits. The cost of getting Product X to your shelf is not truly reflected in the price of Product X, because the people of other countries are bearing the cost of the toxins in their water, air and bodies.

Also, by being "too big to fail," corporations are externalizing their risk as well. They can bet on risky financial transactions because the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill if they gamble and lose.

4. Weakening regulations

Corporations are continuously at work to remove or weaken regulations which restrict their profits. This includes worker and environmental protections, but also anti-trust and financial restraint regulations which are designed to prevent financial crises like the one of 2008. Without firm regulation, the only force at work is unrestrained greed.

This is worsened by "fox guarding the hen house" regulators chosen from the industries they are supposed to be monitoring. With no one checking, profits go up, costs are externalized and the worker gets screwed.

5. Unethical business practices

Corporate giants like Microsoft, Walmart, Exxon, etc. are regularly caught fattening their profits through monopolies, price gouging, labor exploitation, dissolving pensions, etc. When they are caught in these activities, they have teams of the most expensive lawyers in the world to make sure they are not served with due process, or that whatever fines are levied against them are recouped many times over in profits. Punitive fines are regarded as part of the cost of doing business and have no actual punitive effect.

6. Offshoring profits

Corporations create skeletal headquarters in other countries with minimal tax burdens. This allows companies to fully utilize American infrastructure - like using our highway and postal system to transport their products, and our court and legal system to enforce their patent protections, etc - without paying the money which maintains these systems - ie, American taxes.

7. Hoarding the gains

In the last thirty years the output of the American worker has exploded. Automation and modern business practices mean that people today are far out-producing workers in comparable jobs decades ago. This has resulted in real income at the very top increasing by 275% since 1980, while the average worker is working longer hours with fewer benefits and seeing his purchasing power slip year after year. Almost all the gains of modern production have been realized by the top 1%.

Also, corporations sit on trillions of dollars and do not spend them on "job creation." Why should they, when they can get higher profits the fewer people they have working for them? The money does not "trickle down," it is used for financing mergers, wagered in bizarre financial transactions or used to buy politicians. People work harder and smarter for nothing.

8. Buying politics

Corporations have far more than their fair share of influence on politics. Corporations can use their massive spending power to sway elections in favor politicians who will weaken regulations and lower their taxes. They can afford to put thousands of lobbyists to work writing legislation to enhance their profits. They can massively fund "astroturf," or phony grass-roots campaigns, to get average workers fighting for corporate profits against their own financial self-interest. They can run a revolving door for politicians to become lobbyists and vice-versa.

With the Citizen's United decision, corporate spending on electoral politics quadrupled in the last election and can quadruple with every election. There is no way government can represent the people when the people only get one vote each and the corporations get billions.

9. Gaming the economy

Particularly in the financial sector, the corporations are using their great wealth and power to create new wealth and power out of thin air. They can manufacture meaningless new investment vehicles which enhance short-term profits but try to pass the inevitable future losses on to the next firm. They then use hedge funds to bet against their own worthless products while continuing to sell them to consumers. They game the system back and forth until the so-called "money" produced by these schemes has no touch on any actual asset or anything of any real value.

Then, after they inflate financial bubbles until money itself becomes meaningless, they beg for bailouts. Once bailed - and bonused - they go right back to their bizarre banking schemes with more gusto than before. Another collapse is just a matter of time.

10. Warmongering

The military-industrial complex is at its most profitable when America is at war. So, corporations support politicians and programs which take America to war in other lands and kill innocent people to fatten their profits. Corporate behemoths also benefit enormously from other drummed-up "wars" like the "War on Drugs." Major public initiatives, which have a very negative effect on American society, are propped up by companies who stand to gain money from them, while citizens pay with their lives.

11. Devaluing life

Ultimately, the quest for profit-über-alles has a deleterious effect on the culture and personality, by making all other concerns in life unimportant in comparison. The value of an American individual is measured by his bank account. All art and culture is subsumed in materialism. The constant drone of advertising is mental pollution which skews people's value systems. People are valid in this culture only as "consumers."

The dollar-value assesment system pits the middle class against the poor. It reduces a human worker to the worth of cogs in a machine - unthinking, unimportant and eminantly replacable. The keystones which uphold a happy human life, like education and health, are seen as nothing more than profit-taking systems. Vital infrastructure is monopolized. Greed and exploitation are extolled, while the great strengths of humans as a social species - compassion and care for others - are derided and jeered as "hand-outs."

In the 1950's, 60's and 70's, John Smith could get a college education without loans, he could get a decent job that provided for his health and recreation as well as food and shelter. He could take decent vacations with his family, so that life could be about more than just working, and he could look forward to a secure retirement. Unions and social safety nets made this possible.

Today, John Smith cannot afford to get a decent education, he can't get a job which will pay enough to support a family, he can't get health coverage, he can't take a long vacation, and he can't see the gains of his increasing productivity. He's lucky to have a job at all and has no sense of self-determination. A single illness or layoff can put him and his family on the street with no easy way to return to self-sufficiency. And, most of the effort he expends during his entire working life will go towards making profits for others, for a tiny handful of people who already have more wealth than they can spend.

Is he supposed to think this is fair?

01-01-16 1:01  •  Christian vs. Muslim vs. Me

Atheist: I'm an atheist, and you are an atheist too - with respect to all other gods besides yours. I just believe in one less god than you do.

Christian: Actually I dismiss many other faiths based on my belief of who Jesus was. So then with respect to Islamic belief in Allah I am not atheist, but Christian.

Why do people think Islam is true if it isn't? What is wrong with those people, that they cannot see who Jesus was like you can?

Christian: I have not always held to the belief I have now of who Jesus was, my understanding is based on the realities I have witnessed in my life which have pointed to my belief in Jesus as being One with God.

Why can't Islamic people tell this?

Christian: I don't dismiss a persons belief in Islam with ridicule, or imply that they have not come to their beliefs based on what is reasonable to them, but simply because we hold different views on the person Jesus.

Which views are accurate?

Christian: Who do you beleive Jesus was and why? Perhaps in answering your own question you may be able to understand why someone who beleives in Islam holds to theirs.

When I want to examine what I think, or what Islamic peope think, I can make a go of it then. On this occasion however, I am specifically asking you to tell me what you think.

Is your perception that Jesus is One with God more accurate than the perception of an Islamic person? If so, why can't Islamic people tell?

Muslimah: To her, I think she has been clear what is more accurate to her. To me, if you know anything about Islam, then you know which is more accurate to me.

I'm not concerned with "to her" or "to you." Which one is a more accurate description of how things actually are?

Muslimah: This is the second time, maybe third you've asked this question. I dont understand your point here.

The point is that according to both of you, one of you is wrong.

Muslimah: I see God as Truth and a Source of all Life....even yours.

I'm sure that is reassuring to everyone who was thinking I might be the exception.

Muslimah: As an atheist, why does this concern you?

Wow. First of all, where on earth did I ever say I was an atheist? Second of all, it concerns me because I care about the truth.

Muslimah: Yes, I suppose one of us would have to be "wrong."

So, how is that possible? If Islam is right, why isn't God telling the Christians this? If your description of reality is more accurate, why can't they tell? How can they be so wrong?

Christian: I sense a lot of doubt in you. If you were secure in your beliefs, you would be capable of discussing your beliefs in a respectful way.

First of all, I am not concerned with being "secure" in beliefs. In fact, that seems like a great way to get stuck in wrong answers with no way out.

Second of all, I have been completely civil. If that is not sufficient, then it seems the only way to be "respectful" enough for you is to accept your claims unquestioningly. That wouldn't make for much of a debate.

My question is perfectly civil. If Christianity is a more accurate description of what God is and what God wants from humans than Islam, then why do you think Islam exists? Why can't those people understand the accurate description of reality which you understand?

Christian: The answer is, Islam exists because God allows it to exist. So is my answer sufficient enough for you or are you going to ask the question in a different way because I didn't answer this one right?

Since this answer is a dodge and you obviously know it, of course I am. The question matters.

My question is, if you can tell that Christianity is correct, why can't they tell? It's not like they are atheists, who care only about logic, who reject everything spiritual and refuse to look in their hearts and minds for God. Generally speaking, Muslims are devout. They feel God and feel His answers in their heart and mind just as Christians do. And yet, in the Big Choice, they are not choosing salvation through faith in Christ. They are not choosing the truth that you can tell God wants humans to choose.

How do you figure this is possible? If you can find out the truth, why can't they? Are they soulblind? Deceived?


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