01-22-16 1:05Eye For An Eye

Dearly: I'll tell you what justice would be. An eye for an eye. The man they caught deserves to have the same thing done to him that he did.

By who?

Dearly: Whoever got to him first... the victim's dad; another inmate; whomever...

So, would you then expect the victim's dad to stand trial for torturing and killing a person? Or, if we're going "eye-for-an-eye" here, who would you recruit to maim and kill the victim's dad, who would now deserve it also?

Dearly: It sounds cruel, I know, but I don't believe people like that change.

I don't think they change either. But who cares about them? I am talking about us.

If murdering and maiming are wrong, we should not be doing them. When we torture and murder others, no matter what the reason, we become torturing murderers ourselves. Long after the criminal is gone, we must live on, in the horrible knowledge of what we have done, dragging our own murder and torture along with us like chains. The memories will haunt our dreams. All who look upon us will know what we are capable of.

No person, not even the "victim's father" or "the executioner," deserves to be turned into a murdering, torturing monster.

"Eye for an eye" does not work. It just creates more suffering.

Edna: Raver..your "thinking" gives me "peace" at times.. I can't explain it but I truly believe you are a "peaceful" individual...

That is a great honor, thank you. :-)

01-22-16 10:40Bad Directions

Brooke: Is religion inherently bad for the general population?

Unreason is a major contributor to social ills. To the extent that a religion requires or promotes unreason, in the form of unsubstantiated claims, etc., it is contributing to social ills.

Canby: Religion is not to blame for social ill. I believe religion was intended to be a positive asset, and people choose to use and apply it badly. Religion cannot act on its own, it only has the influence/power that people give it.

I am not really buying this. This is like saying that Nazism cannot act on its own, it has only the influence/power that people give it, and people choose to use and apply it badly. Does this mean that the tenets of Nazism cannot be evaluated for what they say?

I think a religious tenet can evaluated all on its own, for its content. And religions have some bad tenets. To the extent that bad tenets are allowed, the content of a religion can contribute to social ill.

Canby: That is different. If a religion or ideology such as Nazism explicity promotes and exhaults bad behaviors, then yes it is ok for people to say that religion is to blame.

What is different? Religions do sometimes explicity promote and exalt bad behavior. In particular, the suspension of reason and the condemning of those who believe differently are promoted and exalted in Christianity. So, to this extent, it's ok to say that religion is to blame for unreason and ingroup-outgroup divisions in our culture.

Canby: On the flipside, it is wrong when a religion that promotes good behaviors gets blamed for the evil acts of some of its followers.

What religion only promotes good behaviors? Does that include stoning? How about misogyny?

Canby: Not everyone in a religion believes the same thing. So shouldn't we hold only those who subscribe to bad tenets responsible for them, and not blame religion as a whole?

Who blamed "religion as a whole"? I said "to the extent that bad tenets are allowed." That is holding those who subscribe to and teach those tenets responsible. It also acknowledges that religions aren't just good ideas that people "apply badly," but that some of the ideas themselves stink.

Gretel: This is just another way that someone can say it was not my fault, something else made me do it and that is BS!!!!!! We are taught the difference between right and wrong growing up and it is a choice that we make, we when do something right or something wrong.

Some people are taught a "different" right and wrong. Is a person who was taught from birth that God Hates Fags entirely responsible for choosing his own bigotry? Does the "gay sex is abomination" tenet of Christianity have no bearing?

Gretel: Just because a religion teaches something does not mean that people should believe without thinking.

Christianity teaches that you should believe without thinking.

Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

It would be great to demand that people examine their religion but there is no way to make it happen, especially when the religion itself is demanding the opposite.

Gretel: I was raised in a religion that does not believe that gays are "worthy" of the same things as others, but do I believe that? No. Because I can think for myself.

It's great that you saw through the lie, but I don't think that lets the religion off the hook for promoting the idea.

It's like giving people an IKEA bookcase and a set of assembly instructions with both true and false directions all mixed up together. You have to think for yourself and figure out which directions to follow and which to ignore.

Sure, most people could probably piece the bookcase together eventually, but does that mean it's a good way to run your furniture business? Does it need to be that hard?

Should we blame only the people who are confused or can't get the bookcase together? "Just because the directions say something doesn't mean you should believe it. You have to think for yourself!"

Or would the bad directions be at least partly responsible for the problems?

Brooke: I think if there are people following the bad things in a religious teaching, then the religion and that person are both to blame.

That seems reasonable, and I really think it would be difficult to understand only for people who do not grasp the concept of shared responsibility.

01-22-16 10:40Quantum Mystics

Celestia: There are physicists who believe in God. Their belief seems to be supported by quantum mechanics.


Celestia: According to QM, we create atoms by conscious observation, therefore we are creating the entire universe with our belief. How could it be wrong if we are creating it?

That isn't what quantum mechanics says.

Celestia: How do you know? Unless you're a physicist, most people don't really know much about this new and interesting type of science.

I know enough to know that the "we create atoms by conscious observation, therefore we are creating the entire universe" extrapolation is an unwarranted claim which is not supported by the actual evidence from experiments in qm.

The "measurement problem" in quantum mechanics is that we cannot observe particles in the state where they are thought to exist simultaneously as probabilities in linear superpositioning. Our observation inevitably collapses the waveform. This is because we have to "do something" to particles, change how they are acting, in order to observe them. This is because the way to observe particles is to collide other particles into them, and that changes where the particles are going and at what speed like throwing balls around on a billiard table.

The fact that we have to collapse waveforms to observe particles is not suggesting anything special about "conscious" observation, especially not that our "consciousness" is "creating the universe." Objective analysis of the universe shows that it appears to pre-exist consciousness, mostly in much simpler forms of organization than those required for consciousness. Clearly, probability waveforms have been collapsing into interactions unaided by our observation for billions of years.

Celestia: I'm saying that these understandings we're finding in physics shows that science can be a way to finding God.

What is the God part?

01-21-16 9:40Leadership

Sheena: How can we have leaders, when we can't trust anyone who wants to be a leader?

I think enlightened leadership is possible, but only when it is highly checked - in both senses of the word.

Sheena: We need to move beyond the need for leaders.

I think leadership occurs naturally in human groups, and attempts to prevent or subvert it would fail. Like everything else that humans naturally do, the trick is to find ways to do it that really work.

Sheena: In truth, I get a tight knot in my gut when I think of authority.

Perfect. That is one of the checks.

Sheena: Who would check the leader?

Everyone else.

Sheena: What does "enlightened' mean?

Acting in accordance with the truth and what works.

Sheena: Explain the integrity of the leader, explain why you think I could trust this person(s).

The integrity of a leader is in his mandate. How well is he holding up his end of his agreement with the people he is leading?

Trust in a person is a personal evaluation. But I would say that having some people in the group not trust the leader would actually be another vitally important check.

As long as there are good mechanisms which really work for checking power, including good ways to get bad leaders out, leadership can help groups of people organize around goals.

01-19-16 11:22Christian Atheist

Malla: There's this lady who is claiming to be a "Christian Atheist." She seems to think that would be an improvement. Is that even possible?

BluesSinger: I get where she is coming from but you can't be a Christian and an atheist.

I know a couple of people who consider themselves Christian atheists. They started as Christian theists, and later came to realize that they did not believe in the supernatural. But, they did not want to abandon their Christian identity, and so chose to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus as an enlightened human being instead of as a supernatural figure.

A lot of Buddhists are non-theistic and do not consider the Buddha to be a divine figure, but just a wise person who figured out how to live a good life of compassion. Jesus can be followed in the same way, and at least some people find that sufficiently Christish to claim they are Christian.

Malla: If you are even remotely an atheist or agnostic, you cannot truly be any form of Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu etc. You either believe or you don't.

I disagree with the statement that all religion equals theism, because Buddhism is a notable exception. Buddhism does not have a god. The Buddha is said to have considered gods a distraction from enlightenment.

The basics of Buddhism - the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts, etc - mention nothing about gods or the supernatural. What they state is that life has suffering, suffering comes from attachment, and to you can minimize attachment and suffering through thoughtful, compassionate living. It does not require believing in anything that cannot be verified.

Malla: I'm going off what the faith is; what the Bible says.

Labels are not important. I'm not an -ist and I don't believe in an -ism.

What matters is, what are people claiming? Is it good?

01-18-16 11:17Getting Answers

Belinda: Do you have questions about Christianity, but feel you are not getting answers? I'm a Bible-believing Christian, ask me anything.

Zeena: Why is there Hell?

Belinda: People have free will. God wants to have a relationship with us, but, we are free to reject Him. Why would it be fair for God to make someone who did not want to be with Him in life, be with Him for eternity?

So do you think Hindus will prefer Hell?

Belinda: I think God is very clear about how to get to heaven, and if we do not do it, we don't get there.

That does not answer my question or have anything to do with your previous statement:

Belinda: Why would it be fair for God to make someone who did not want to be with him in life, be with him for eternity?

Are Hindus Hindus instead of Christians because they do not want to be with God in life? Are they Hindu because they would prefer not to be with God for eternity? Will they prefer Hell?

Belinda: Do Hindus follow God's word here on earth?

I certainly know some who feel they do. What do you think?

Belinda: Are you saying because they follow *something*, they will go to heaven?

No, that's not what I was saying.

You said, it would not be fair for God to make people be with Him who did not want to be with Him. So, God is giving people what they prefer.

Do you think people choose to be Hindu instead of Christian because they prefer to not be with God in this life and not be with Him in the next life? Do they go to Hell because that is what they prefer?

Zeena: And what's with the Trinity, how does that make sense?

Belinda: Now I agree the Trinity makes no sense. It's not Biblical. If God dropped me here on earth, alone, with no prior religious training or knowledge, and all I had was a copy of the Bible, I would not get any hint of a trinity.

That's an intriguing hypothetical. What if God dropped you here on earth, alone, with no prior religious training or knowledge, and no bible?

Belinda: Id like to think Id still "sense Him" but, without His book or a prophet... I wouldnt really know what He wants me to do.

That's right. Everything you know about what God wants came from a person telling it to you. So, without being told, how can you find out what God "wants"?

Consider this. If every science book, and all knowledge of science, engineering, medicine, etc. were to suddenly disappear, people would be completely bereft of understanding how things work. They would have to start over from the beginning.

But, they would eventually figure it all out again. All of the knowledge of science was gained by observing this world and learning how it works. All of it is apparent to examination and can be discerned.

If, on the other hand, all of the Bibles and all knowledge of their contents suddenly disappeared, there would be no way to figure them out again. There is nowhere you can look in nature or the cosmos to learn that a guy died on a cross for your sins and God wants you to accept this. It only exists as words people say.

Belinda: I think the desire and curiosity would still be in us to search for a higher power.

Why wait? I would suggest that you to use that desire and curiosity right now. Forget the Bible, and the Upanishads, and the Vedas, and the Quran, and the Bhagavad Gita and Dianetics. Forget what other people say.

Look directly into this existence, into nature, and life, and the cosmos, and draw your conclusions about God only from this, only from what you yourself can discern.

No other person has any power to know more about God than you do. Do not let any other person tell you what God is like or what God wants. Find out for yourself.

01-17-16 11:17Kids Today

Babycakes: Do social programs support irresponsibility? I mean, people thinking, "We can't afford another child, but let's have one anyway, we'll just go on WIC." Does that happen?

Rhonda: I don't know about the effect of social programs, but I think that as a whole our society has backtracked in terms of maturity and responsibility. Many young people these days can hardly survive on their own. Whereas years ago, young people were starting families and working hard to support those families from much younger ages than we see today.

When exactly are you referring to?

Before about a hundred years ago, people did not live in nuclear families where "young people" were the heads of household. People lived in extended families with several generations all living together in the same house and working together. New couples started having kids while still living in the ancestral home, and had loads of help with childcare, etc. while they all worked to run the farm or support the family trade.

A few paltry thousand years before that, people lived in hunter-gatherer tribes where no one person was ever expected to accomplish anything difficult alone. All efforts were group efforts.

As for more recent history, if young people today are finding it harder to get set up on their own, who can blame them? A generation or two ago a high-school education was considered sufficient or even admirable. Nowadays a person can't expect to have a decent career without four years of extremely expensive advanced education. Life has become so complex in just the last generation - I certainly don't wonder if people need more time to prepare for it.

Rhonda: Even further back in history, there were young men and women in their teens who were responsible for leading countries and armies.

Occasionally. Not usually. Socrates said that a man could not be trusted to vote until he was 40 or lead until he was 50. It was often felt that people needed maturity to make decisions that affected others. Older people were usually far more valued by society than we see today for their wisdom and experience.

Rhonda: It is concerning to me that we may regress as time goes on in terms of responsibility...whether or not these programs are in place.

There are always some people who are more responsible than others, old or young. But people usually step up to the plate and take the responsibility that is thrust upon them if they are able, regardless of age.

Rhonda: Seriously, though, work ethic for a pretty good chunk of our young people today...has gone to hell.

You would not believe how many generations of people have thought this...like, all of them.

Rhonda: Too much is handed to kids these days and it gets worse as time goes on.

Everybody thinks this about the next generation of kids. There are documents written by Roman centurions patrolling the provinces which make this same complaint. There are scrolls from ancient Egypt complaining about how lazy and coddled the youth of "today" are. There are pieces of bark carved with runes by the Vikings to send messages, complaining about how the young people "today" are spoiled and won't work anymore and could never be trusted to take over for us when we're gone.

These are also filled with complaints about how long they wear their hair.

And yet, each generation somehow steps up and takes the reins and keeps things going.

Rhonda: Expensive toys are just handed to these kids as gifts without them having to work 5 minutes for any of it.

I never had to work for a gift. That's what makes it a gift.

Rhonda: What happened to the days where if you wanted something, you had to work for it?

Those days are always now. People have to work for most of what they want, but some of it they get as gifts. Like always.

01-17-16 4:42The Point

Jean Luc: If you don't believe in God, what is the point of Earth?

The earth appears to have condensed out of gasses around a stellar core fragment. Complex chemicals were formed by molecules bonding under heat and pressure. Because of the shape of the chemicals, some began to make copies of themselves. Once the copying process began, a process of selection ensued which allowed the most successful copies to thrive.

This is what can be ascertained by examining the earth, the chemicals and the copies. There may be more to it than that, but no one knows that there is. There doesn't seem to be anything to gain by picking a speculation and deciding it's true.

01-17-16 3:42Transcending Suffering

Wulfie: Chimpanzees, the closest evolutionary relatives of humans, react to death in a similar way that humans do, according to research. How are humans even different, if animals understand mortality?

Susan: Maybe we aren't that different, but I think humans have it worse...that shit is what makes people crazy.

Susan, I think you have an important point, because this right here is exactly the reason why meditation allows humans to transcend suffering.

Susan: Fortunately for them, animals don't worry so much about things they cannot change. They just live their lives.

It is possible for humans to learn to do this too.

I have often noted that while animals obviously feel physical pain and even emotional distress, they don't seem to agonize about their pain the way humans do. I think this is because animals do not have a word-based language to agonize in.

Every life has pain. It is unavoidable. But what you can avoid is the agonizing - when the brain kicks in using language to add to the pain, thinking things like, "This is so terrible! It's the worst thing that ever happened to me! I don't deserve this! I do deserve this! I'll never live it down! My life is ruined!" Etc.

This is what suffering consists of - using language in our brain to compound our pain with agony. This is why meditation is the cure for suffering...because it trains you to be able to control the words in your brain, and stop them. So instead of having pain and agony, you can forgo the agony and just have pain. It still sucks, but it's a lot more bearable. And if you are not busy agonizing you can see the situation more clearly, and perhaps find a way to alleviate the pain itself.

Language and sentience are a great wonder, but they do have their unfortunate side effects. Luckily it is possible to overcome these limitations.

Read more in the Archives.