01-28-16 9:27Freedom to Hoard

Ingrid: Bernie Saners is a communist!! He will take away our freedom! So tell me, Bernie supporters, what freedoms are you ok with losing?

I would be fine if the multibillionaires lost their freedom to hoard money indefinitely. I think they should at least have to spend it.

Ingrid: Why? It is their money, they earned it.

First of all, no person "earns" billions of dollars in a year. No work is worth that, and nobody makes that kind of money as a salary. It comes from no-value transactions like "investment vehicles." And multibillionaires are not working, as in exerting any effort, for this money. They just paid brokers and accountants to push the numbers around until theirs got really big.

Second of all, no multibillionaire is an island. He could not have found a way to attach those big numbers to his name without all that we are giving him. Nobody makes that kind of money unless they are part of a system that supports and underpins their every effort. The system provides mail service, a power grid, communications infrastructure, roadways, distribution channels, an educated work force, a consumer base, a judicial system, a regulatory commission, a stock exchange, financial institutions, emergency services, and many other vital ingredients which require a complex, well-supported society to maintain. He is reaping his success largely from our contribution.

Third of all, hoarding that money eventually destroys it. The strange banking schemes that are used to make a few people's numbers look big, stretch the money so far from any touch on actual value that it lost all meaning.

That is what the banking crisis was. The super rich guys manipulated the money to their advantage until it broke, and suddenly when everybody looked for their huge piles of money it wasn't there. Their bank didn't really have it. It was just on owsies to them from another bank. But that bank didn't have it either. Nobody had it. It was gone.

Now with the "Obama Recovery" the money piles are even huger than before. Where do you suppose all that money will be the next time they look for it?

Ingrid: Shouldn't they be able to do as they see fit with it?

Most people agree that your right to swing your fist ends at the other person's nose. Well, that guy's right to hoard that wealth ends where it hurts our economy and all of us. Some things are more important than that one guy's hoarding, and that is not draining so much money out of the system that no one else has enough left to run the economy with.

I think they should buy what they see fit with it. I don't think they should bizarrely accumulate it until it disappears. They should return it to the economy where most of the people live so it can create value in all our lives instead of just his.

Morally, he owes it to other human beings to not hurt them. He owes it to the society for allowing him to succeed. And, he even owes it to himself, because if he destroys the economy his fortune disappears with it.

Ingrid: I understand that if they all went and spent their outrageous amount of money right now it would help boost the economy, but still it is wrong to force them to do such.

Rights must be weighed. Weigh the right of that guy to hoard the majority of the world's wealth against the rights of billions of other human beings to have an economy that works, and a job that pays enough to live on, enough education for their civic duty, and treatment for their ills.

Why does that one guy win?

01-28-16 9:27Nuclear Family

Deedra: I don't agree with them legalizing gay marriage. But it's not because I am prejudiced. My beliefs about marriage are based on social evidence about the nuclear family, and it's importance to a healthy society.

Are you saying that you are against gay marriage because of the nuclear family? This makes no sense. For one thing, gay people have nuclear families. For another, the "nuclear family" itself is a contrivance only a century or so old. Almost all people in all societies before modern times lived in extended families. The nuclear family has several detrimental features including generational separation. It's too new to tell if it is the be-all, end-all of family structures. It might not be.

Deedra: You are an idiot if you think that type of family is only a century or so old.

Wrong and wrong.

From wiki -

The popularity of the nuclear family in the West came about in the early 20th century, prompted in part by business practices of Henry Ford, such as the "8 hour day, $5 week", and later the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This enabled more and more families to be economically independent, and thus to own their own home.

This is what I am talking about.

Deedra: I will clear up what I mean by "nuclear" family. I mean, mom, dad and kids.

There is no reason a family would not be nuclear if the two parents were gay.

It's actually a pretty interesting story about the nuclear family question, at least I think so. When I wrote the original post, I remember thinking, "Widespread nuclear families are pretty new, aren't they? Rural families usually live in extended units because of the requirements of that lifestyle. I guess nuclear families would not really become widespread until the onset of industrialization. I guess that would make it about a century ago."

That was my musing, but I didn't actually check, I figured it was close enough.

I can't tell you how gratifying it was to be called on it, and look it up, and see that the encyclopedia entry described exactly what I had been thinking, for the exact same reason - industrialization. I felt like my reasoning and facts had been shown to be quite sound.

Carli: Thanks for the info about the nuclear family. I think we were all probably better off when we lived in extended family units instead of being carved up and spread out across the country.

The nuclear family has pros and cons. One of the (sort of) pros is that it doubled the number of households needed for the same number of people. This doubles the amount of economic activity because people need so much more of everything - more houses, more sets of furniture and dishes, everything.

One of the cons is that people do not have the support structure for caring for young children. We didn't used to need "daycare" because if the primary parents worked - and they did, hard - there were other adults in the picture to take care of the kids.

Deedra: Nuclear families!!!! With a married mom and dad and kids!!!

You obviously do not understand the use of the term "nuclear family." It is used to describe the socioeconomic unit of the household. A married pair with children is a nuclear family regardless of the genders of the adults.

01-28-16 9:27Sin Every Day

JewelsMom: I give in to sin on a daily basis, as do all human beings.

I don't.

JewelsMom: Are you saying you don't sin, or you don't sin every day?

I would say that if you can't go a single day without sinning maybe you need to try harder. It's not that difficult.

JewelsMom: For me sin is even the little things, like swearing when I stub my toe, letting my anger get to me, holding unforgiveness in my heart, worrying about how I'm going to get all my bills paid.

Wow. Is that Biblical or did you make that up yourself? Either way, it sounds like an extremely unpleasant way to go through life. Everything less than perfect is a continual affront to the Lord, huh?

However, I don't swear, let anger get to me, hold on to unforgiveness or worry about bills, and I'm not even Christian. It's really just not that difficult. If you think those things are wrong, you should stop doing them. Then you wouldn't have to worry about what God doesn't like about you.

JewelsMom: Anytime I am not looking to God or seeking him, I am sinning. This is what I mean when I say I sin everyday.

That just seems so unpleasant and unnecessary. Why do you have to do this?

Do you think this applies to everybody?

01-27-16 9:27Logical/Rational Public Policy

Dedumdee: What is your problem with religion? So it's not logical, so what? We're not Vulcans. On the individual level, does it matter if we are always logical/rational?

Always? Maybe not, but certainly being rational most of the time seems to work better. I would say that the more people a decision affects, the more important it is to make the decision for good reasons that make sense.

Rationality works. I would consider the tremendous advancements in science, technology and human understanding since the Age of Reason as massive evidence that the rational approach gets results. What has irrationality ever produced?

Dedumdee: How about on the group level, family or even government decisions?

I cannot think of any public policy decision which would be better made on something other than a reasoned consideration of the facts.

Which is not to say that it doesn't happen. For example, public health education decisions are often made based on an ideology - "sex should be within marriage only" - which results in a poor public policy - "abstinence-only education" - which results in worse public outcomes - more teen pregnancies and more STDs. A better decision would be to consider the facts - some teens have sex, but studies show they are more likely to use protection if they have a balanced education - and then have better public outcomes - less teen pregnancy and less STDs.

I don't know of any ideology-driven public policies that are producing better results than fact-based public policies would.

Dedumdee: As for religious groups -- how much influence should they have on the public based on or their faith?

Based on faith? None. Faith can be in anything. How could we possibly justify making public decisions that affect everyone based on some peoples' unsupported notions?

Based on having good ideas that can be shown to work? Sure.

TrailerTrish: Sex within the covenant of marriage is a beautiful thing and a GREAT, in fact, PERFECT way to avoid STD's and unwanted pregnancy. That's rational. That's not based on faith...it's based on fact.

Far from perfect, alas. Abstinence is the method subject to the most user failure.

TrailerTrish: This is what I will be teaching MY children.

That seems fine. Do whatever you like of course. We were not discussing what parents should teach their children. We were talking specifically about public health education.

When it comes to public policy, this message produces more teen pregnancies and more STDs, not less. Abstinence-only education does not result in teens having less sex. It results in teens having the same amount of sex but with less protection.

Studies show that a balanced health education which includes condoms actually results in lower rates of teen pregnancy and lower rates of STD transmission, because the teens who would be having sex either way are much more likely to use protection if they have received instruction in it.

People's personal goals are whatever they want them to be, but our public goals should be to strive for better public health. In this case, that means acknowledging the facts - balanced sex ed works better than ab-only. So, a logical, rational public policy whould be to use the approach that works better for supporting public health.

01-26-16 8:05The Damage of Sin

Kay: Gays just can't win in this country. As soon as the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, physical attacks and bullying that targets homosexuals started ramping up. Do we now need hate crime laws targeting homosexual bullying?

May: I think that specifically targeting homosexual bullying is wrong. Even kids who wear glasses get bullied. Homosexual bullying is no worse then other types of bullying.

The reason why hate crimes are different is because they represent societal movements. There has long been an effort by our society to specifically demonize homosexuals as deviants. There is no social movement to demonize kids who wear glasses.

Both kids who are bullied can feel equally bad, but the bullying against homosexuals makes a social statement of repression. This is exactly why lynching was specifically made illegal, even though there were already laws against killing people. It was to recognize the social statement inherent in lynching - that blacks are not inherently eligible for due process.

Hate crimes are specifically recognized to counteract the social injustice of their expression.

Kay: It's damaging enough that homosexuality is classified as a "sin."

May: Classifying homosexuality as a sin, is no more damaging than classifying premarital sex as a sin, or divorce as a sin, or lust as a sin...

What is damaging is the whole ridiculous concept of magical crimes like "sin."

"Sin" is not just "something bad". It is transgression against Divine Law. Sins aren't bad because of what happens in life as a result - they are bad because God Doesn't Like Them. Offending God is a "supernatural" crime.

However it's easy to examine our reality and see that homosexuality and lust are perfectly normal and healthy human occurrences. Premarital sex and divorce are both very serious decisions, but they don't automatically turn out "bad" - it depends entirely on the circumstances.

In the absence of a pathology - that is, a deviation from health and well-being - there is nothing inherently "bad" about natural human behaviors if they are handled responsibly. Certainly there is no reason to think responsible human behaviors are abhorrent to any "God," - particularly not just because some people say so.

There is no reason to think "sin" even exists, except as an idea. Certainly we should be countering all attempts to define homosexuals as guilty of magical crimes or offensive to a particular "God."

May: ...and the list of sins continues.

Also problematic is the "list of sins" mentality. It's easy to see why primitive tribesmen would have concocted a list of taboos to try to steer people right. Life has a lot of pitfalls. But a mindless list of taboos is the least effective way of dealing with them, because it does not allow or foster the ability to use discernment.

For contrast, consider the third Buddhist precept - "Refrain from sexual misconduct." This isn't a commandment - it's simply advice to acknowledge and warn that sexual decisions are very serious and should be made with great care to avoid causing suffering. It is up to the individual to examine his own specific situation and discern how to make sexual decisions which will not cause harm.

Failing to follow the precept is not a "sin", either - it is, at worst, simply ignoring good advice. Negative consequences may result, but it certainly is not considered offensive to a magical being who sees all and sits in judgement.

Upon examination, it seems obvious that unmarried people and homosexual people can have sexual relationships which are not in any way misconduct. It harms no one. It brings great joy and closeness to people. Why get bogged down in abhorring it?

So, because sin 1) appears to be pretend and 2) is derived from a taboo list, it is damaging because it undermines reason and the ability of society to distinguish superstition from actual harm.

01-25-16 8:05Angry Anxious Voters

Layla: The mood of the electorate is very angry and anxious right now. I would just like to see someone say what they will do to help working Americans so we can afford to live. I am so sick of the economical divide in this country. So I ask what are they going to do to help everyday Americans support our families?

There is plenty of money in this country. However most of it is being hoarded.

The policies that prevented hoarding in previous generations were: 1) strong worker protections and collective bargaining to ensure that the gains in productivity were spread to all who contributed, 2) strong public education policies which created a well-informed and responsible work force and electorate, and 3) strong regulation of the financial sector to prevent them turning money directly into power.

The candidate promoting actual policies like strong unions, strong public education and strong regulation of the financial sector is Bernie Sanders.

Tallest: Yes, people should not be angry or scared of a potential President that wants to tax, and tax, and tax so everything is essentially free.

Hi Tallest, thanks for bringing this up! This may be what you have heard, but it's because Bernie's actual policies are so sensible that they have to be distorted into hysterical straw men in order to even attempt to speak against them.

First of all, Bernie is proposing tax increases on the hugely wealthy. This is not unfair or a bad policy. Most of the world's wealth is being funnelled to the wealthy in funnel systems they have spent the last two generations setting up. This will only continue.

Requiring that some of that wealth be returned to the rest of the world through taxation is not only reasonable but an essential check on unmandated power.

Second of all, Bernie is proposing that public education be continued past the high school level like many other advanced democracies do. That is no more of a "freebie" than public kindergarten through high school. Public education is absolutely essential. Furthermore, he is proposing to pay for it with a tax on financial speculation. This tiny tax of far less than one percent - 0.2% - would not only move some wealth back into society, it would provide a check on manipulative schemes and bubbles that threaten to destabilize the entire world economy.

Thirdly, the only proposed change for middle class taxes would be a 9% payroll tax hike to pay for national health care, of which about 2.2 percent would fall on employee take-home pay. But, in the United States right now the average family is paying 23% of their income for health insurance. That they would get to keep, a net gain of about twenty percent for them.

There is no question that national healthcare provides better health for less money. In Canada they spend a dollar for every four Americans spend on health care and they get measurably better health for it.

We do need to rebalance our tax and public systems, but it would result in more fairness and better outcomes for everyone. The current system of letting the superrich keep most of the world's wealth isn't working.

BluesSinger: People are angry because it is the easiest emotion to have. People want change however from what I have seen they don't want to work to make that change. We are not the WW2 generation that gave up luxuries and put their nose to the grindstone to make things better. No. We are complacent.

They had a very different, very clear challenge. Everyone here, everyone I know, almost every human being, will work and do what is necessary for what is worthwhile. It is human nature, survival instinct. There is no lack of ability, effort or will.

There is only lack of consensus. It's hard to act when no act seems worthwhile. Billions of different voices are spinning madly in a billion directions, a festival of our new electronic connectedness, and it's hard to see what is true and what works.

But at last the reality is starting to set in. It can't be denied that other systems work better, and all systems work better with less concentration of power. More people see this now than I ever thought possible. Eventually it will become blindingly obvious to everyone.

01-24-16 8:05The Thrift Store Gods

It certainly appears that I have magical deities at work in my life. I get help from them all the time when I'm doing my holiday shopping at the thrift store. I'm always finding amazing items that are way too spooky to be coincidence.

Like for example, one year I bought my son a cool toy truck that lays out special dominoes in a long path to knock over. It's neat, but I thought it would be much cooler if we had a lot more dominoes. Soon afterwards, at another store in a different part of town, I found a huge bag of those exact same dominoes! Coincidence?

In another case, I bought a like-new-in-the-box playset consisting of flexible tracks and a car to drive on them. When I got it home, I opened it up and found the car was missing, alas. But before Christmas, just in time, I found another similar set - with the car! So I ended up with the car I needed plus all kinds of cool extra track.

In another case, I bought my daughter a couple of tiny pet shop houses with little slots for the pets. I later brought home another of the pet shops in a grab bag, but the little slots were empty. So I got out my original purchase and opened it, and out rolled three extra pets - the exact number I needed for the new little house! I ended up giving my daughter three perfect sets with a pet for every slot.

Well, I've bored you with minutae long enough, but honestly I could recount a dozen more examples like this I experienced during my holiday shopping over the years. Whenever I went thrifting I just seemed to find exactly - or better than - what I was looking for. It was thrilling, and it made me feel like Someone was looking out for me.

If I was feeling theistic, I might theorize that there are gods at work, arranging the universe to answer my thrift store prayers. Specifically, I like to imagine that there are gods who do nothing but manage thrift stores. This gives me a fanciful way to enjoy and benefit from the amazing coincidences which brighten up my life. And it totally lets the Thrift Store Gods off the hook for the suffering children in Darfur, etc. Sure, the Thrift Store Gods have deific powers and all, but that's just not their jurisdiction. Their job is specifically to do little favors for thrifters like me.

So...supposing you believed in a managing deity, why should there only be one of them? Perhaps there are lots of them about, each managing different things.

ClearEyes: This is sweet, but I prefer to recognize my desire for something, and my expectation of it, so that when it shows up, however random the time or place or circumstance, I know my own hand was at work.

That's why it works.

ClearEyes: *I* am why it works, is that what you're saying? If so, I agree.

Yes, that's what I'm saying.

It is very interesting that a combination of psychological propensities such as placebo effect, confirmation bias, pattern recognition, cherry-picking, synchronicity, etc. work along with the actual effort - in this case, my effort of traipsing from store to store - to create a very strong impression that my great good fortune is Magical.

So, I go ahead and enjoy that feeling of Magic, understanding that it is perfectly rational magic entirely of my own making.

ClearEyes: Why the need for a deity, though, or "lots of them about, managing different things"?

Well, I said I was feeling theistic, remember? If I wanted to feel New Agey, I might imagine instead that I was using Creative Visualization to activate the Law of Attraction, la The Secret.

ClearEyes: Why not just be empowered with ones own ability/responsibility to create?

This is more fun. Recognizing that we can see and do "magic" in a world where it does not exist is very empowering - and thrilling! - as long as we acknowledge the truth.

NSC: Well, I would think that the thrift store god/s/esses would be in close relationships with gods who control charity donations to countries in need...like cousin deities....so thrift store god could be partly responsible because they could send very much needed things to those countries....

Well, that would not be a very effective way for me to set it up, would it? Because then I would have to answer questions about how the Thrift Store Gods could spend time and energy helping me find just the right little toys for my children and do nothing - or not nearly enough, anyway - to help starving children in Darfur.

That's why I don't understand monotheism. People who set up their system with a single, all-knowing, all-powerful, beneficent deity who does favors have to spend a lot of time trying to explain how It can do favors for them while ignoring others who need favors a lot more.

I'd like to get around that headache. Polytheism seems handy for that purpose.

NSC: But seriously..this is just confirmation bias at work.

Of course it is! Confirmation bias can be a lot of fun, if you are realistic about it.

01-23-16 1:05Science and God

Belle: I just saw this really cool science video about the origins of the universe and the Higgs Boson. How anyone could watch this and still believe in god is beyond me!

I'm not an atheist, but I would tend to agree. Learning about the early universe certainly makes the idea of a Creator God (particularly a "jealous" one) seem incredibly miniscule and small-minded. It contains our human conceit that "intelligence" must be responsible for what happens, as if "intelligence" was the biggest thing ever or the only thing that worked. Well, it doesn't seem to be.

Jillian: But you see, science just shows how God did it.

Well, considering that science for the last several centuries has shown how the things we thought were God's doing actually turned out to be natural processes, what science seems to be showing is how God didn't do it.

So when I look at the universe, which certainly seems to be proceeding as arising from natural conditions and acting according to the properties of matter, I say "What part is God doing?"

And that's when I get a reply like, "Well, I'm a just theist and you're just an atheist and that's that. I'll never convince you and you'll never convince me so let's stop talking about it."

I'm tired of seeing the conversation die at that point. Readily available to our observation is a magnificent universe of dazzling beauty. The processes we can observe seem to be occurring in ways that we can find out about. Nothing that can be observed points to magical or otherwise intervenening actions by an intelligence.

Why insist that God is "out there" and is doing all that? That appears to be doing itself. Why posit a responsible intelligence?

The God that people know is in their hearts. Does the God you feel have to be responsible for the creation of the universe in order to qualify as God? Maybe God didn't do that part.

Jillian: Well I'm a scientist, AND a "creationist." When I look at the universe - and in my job I have to look at what we consider to be hard facts - I always KNOW that there has to be a force behind this science.

Science is investigation. The force behind the science is the human urge to investigate.

Or do you mean, a force behind the motion of MEST that our science observes? What kind of force?

Jillian: I saw that it was impossible for there not to be something driving all of this and it's not all coincidence.

Are those the only two choices? Believe God did it all, or believe that it is all coincidence?

Jillian: If you say "god is in our hearts" but is not responsible for our creation, what purpose would a god like that serve?

I don't see any evidence that if gods exist they must have a purpose. Perhaps gods do not serve a purpose.

Jillian: Think of the complexities of human beings and all of their working systems. Chance - time and time again - with regard to so many intricate systems would need to be precise to arrive at these developmental complexities.

Like what specifically? What working human system does not appear to have arisen as a result of trial and error interacting with a natural environment?

Jillian:...the complexities and details of the universe, etc. etc.

What specific complexity or detail of the universe could not be naturally occurring?

Jillian: What I mean to say is that coincidence or chance seem to be a weak stance...

Who is presenting the "coincidcence or chance" stance? Someone here? Everyone who doesn't believe in your God?

Jillian: I relayed that the world needs a creator just as a sculpture or painting does.

Are you saying that planets could not coalesce out of interspacial matter?

Jillian: Yes, science is investigation. And what's behind that human urge to investigate?

Investigation is very advantageous for an intelligent species. It often leads to innovation.

Jillian: Why has the majority of humanity throughout time had some sort of Deity?

It appears to serve some socio-cultural purposes. However, not every religious tradition automatically posits deities. For example Buddhism does not.

However even if it did, that doesn't mean that a deity must exist, or that any group actually knows something about any particular deity, like, it created the universe.

Jillian: Either God created it or it was random chance. What other option could there be? There either IS an intelligent, creative force or there isn't...

If there isn't, it doesn't mean that everything occurs because of "random chance" instead. Things seem to occur because of the properties of matter.

And even if we posit that there IS a "creative force" doesn't exactly answer anything. If nothing could possibly occur without a "creative force" behind it, then how did the "creative force" occur? Where did it get the ability to manipulate matter? How is this manipulation accomplished - by what means?

Jillian: If you can provide me some hard evidence that there ISN'T a creative force, I'll show you my list of "evidence" that there is...

Are you saying you have evidence, but you will not tell anyone what it is unless I succeed at a accomplishing a logical fallacy? That seems like a pretty convenient dodge, since it is not possible to prove a negative.

The burden of proof is on the person making the posit. If you already have a list, what is it?

Jillian: I believe in logic and reason above all else.

If that is true, then why are you engaging in a logical fallacy - asking me to prove a negative? If you respect logic you should know that is considered a logical no-no.

Jillian: I believe (for reasons that I can explain to you elsewhere) that there is some sort of supreme being that humans are incapable of physically proving or disproving.

Perhaps there isn't. Either way, if there is nothing that can be known of it, why make posits about its nature or abilities?

Jillian: You have very, very good points. However, they still do not disprove a creator.

That doesn't mean there is one.

Jillian: As to your last question, I'm saying that if you wanted me to list "hard evidence" that God exists, I could, the same as I could give you a list of "hard evidence" that a creator doesn't exist.

Actually, I would be very interested in both. Please, provide your list of hard evidence that a creator exists and your list of hard evidence that one doesn't.

Jillian: I wasn't trying to dodge a question, rather than make a point that humans can neither prove nor disprove a supreme being.

That doesn't make positing one a good idea.

Jillian: As you say, perhaps there isn't a God. But I take that with a grain of salt, because perhaps we're not really having this conversation, perhaps I'm not really typing or don't have a child. Perhaps everything is an image that synapses in my brain have created my false world to look like.

We seem to be having this conversation. There is evidence of it that would be admissable in a court of law. That seems like a decent quanta of proof by which to make a determination. If there was as much evidence of a Creator God as there is of this conversation, we would not be having it.

Jillian: My main reason of belief is Pascal's Wager.

You mean, your belief in God? Or are you referring specifically to belief in salvation through Jesus Christ? That is usually what Pascal's Wager refers to. Are you saying your choice is based on possible afterlife outcomes?

Jillian: My others are from personal observations.

If you have personal observations of a Creator God, that would be interesting to hear about. If your personal observations were of an Interventionist God, that would be more like ones I have heard in the past. Certainly one does not guarantee the other.

Jillian: Humans naturally make assumptions about the deity of their nature because we are naturally inquisitive creatures and if one chooses to worship that deity, assumption made about it make it easier for a human to relate to a god.

Not every human does this. It is certainly not required, nor is there any reason to think doing so produces better life results than not doing so.

I do think you are correct in saying that people make assumptions about Gods so that they can "relate" to them. However elevating these "assumptions" to the level of truth would certainly seem unwarranted.

When "I don't know" is the correct answer, playing fill-in-the-blank with "assumptions we made to relate" seems dishonest.

Jillian: Pascal's wager is not just about Christianity. If God exists and you wager for God, you will have an eternity of happiness.

Where, outside of Christianity, does it say that faith is the test of whether one has earned the good afterlife or not? The Unitarian Universalists think you can wager against God and still get the eternity of happiness. Are they wrong?

Jillian: Many religions claim that our behavior on earth is the determinate of what happens after this life.

Some do, some don't. A lot of religions seem to place far more emphasis on following proper burial procedures to obtain the good afterlife than on particular life behaviors.

Others have behavior requirements that are considerably different from the ones you propose - for example, to gain entrance into Valhalla, you must have died bravely in combat. Are you willing to take a chance that you might not make it to Valhalla!?

Jillian: I'm no one to say Unitarian Universalists are wrong, in fact, it's one organized religion that I have great respect for!

Pascal's Wager only holds up if they are wrong. It requires a very narrow supposition, that "wagering for God" is required. However there is no evidence of this.

Jillian: I said many, not most.

What does it matter? The point is, there is no reason to think that the main premise of Pascal's Wager - that there are exactly four possibilities - is true. A fifth possibility, that you could wager against God and still get the eternity of happiness, is not one iota less likely than the other possibilities you listed. Thus, Pascal's Wager is completely meaningless.

Jillian: The argument between religions is even more pointless that the argument of the exists of a god.

I am certainly not discussing the existence of a God. I am discussing whether it is a good idea to posit a Creator God as an explanation for the existence and configuration of the universe.

Since there is no evidence at all of this, nothing at all can be known about it, and the number of "assumptions" we could make about it are limited only by our imagination, claiming to "KNOW" things about it is unwarranted.

Since you have nothing to back up your assertion, and you refuse to support your claims of having "hard evidence", I reject your assertion that as a "scientist" you KNOW that there is a "creative force" behind the universe. You do not appear to KNOW any more about it than anyone else. You appear to just think it, or have faith in it, like most people. Calling on your credentials as a "scientist" is meaningless if you are not willing to apply scientific scrutiny to the question.

Jillian: I would hope that an intelligent person such as yourself would have already understood that evidence when discussing the existence of a deity is irrelevant.

That is why claims of knowledge of a deity are unwarranted. You do not KNOW that a deity created this universe any more than any other person does.

01-23-16 7:42Human Nature

Mazzy: It's more popular than ever to bash Christianity.

However, I think that the source of the problem isn't the belief structure, but the base, cruel nature of human beings. We can and will twist anything good into something negative.

I think one of the things I find most unfortunate about Christianity is the underlying assumption that "human nature" is basically negative, and that humans are basically "bad" beings. I don't see any reason to think humans are more, or more fully, "base" and "cruel" than we are good, honest and kind.

As much as humans are capable of malice, hatred, destruction, stupidity, and war, we are capable in at least equal, if not greater measure, of compassion, love, creativity, wisdom, and peace. And as time goes by, and we learn to correct our greatest errors, our societies have slowly grown in equality, compassion, and justice.

Martin Luther King Jr observed, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." I think this is because we can learn from our mistakes and accumulate knowledge which leads to better choices.

So why, when humans have come so far, and most folks really seem to be pretty good eggs, are people compelled to define human nature by only its negative aspect? Doesn't this ignore the positive, which is at least as fully present?

Anna: Not all Christians believe that "human nature" is basically negative.

Then why can't they just waltz into Heaven without "salvation" from Jesus? That's supposed to be the fix.

I know that not all Christians believe anything in particular. Christian beliefs can be very diverse. However a main theme in Christianity, which I have encountered in many, many Christians, is that because Adam and Eve ate the fruit, all humans are born with Original Sin. All are born "sinners," all fall short in the eyes of God, all have a propensity to do wrong, etc. The basic "badness" is supposed to be the result of The Fall.

But, humans seem pretty cool to me. So I don't think labelling all people as "sinners," for example, as if the "badness" was the defining feature of human character, is warranted.

Mazzy: What I was trying to get across with the statement was that religion isn't the thing causing people to do things malicious to others, but it was people doing malicious things, using religion as an excuse.

Ideologies lend themselves to this more or less readily depending on the content of their tenets.

Mazzy: It's not the ideology that is to blame, it comes down to individual people carrying out acts or not.

What you seem to be saying is, "There is nothing bad about Christianity. There are just people, and since human nature is "base" and "cruel," people naturally twist Christianity for their cruel ends, and you can't blame Christianity for that."

This is where I beg to differ.

There is something bad about Christianity. The central tenet, that only Christian believers get to Heaven - along with various interpretations of terrible for everybody else - is cruel, exclusionary, and a million miles from anything that could be considered truth.

It is cruel because people fear death. Exploiting this fear with big promises and big threats that never have to be delivered is despicable.

It is exclusionary because it is a naked demarcation of in-group - ONLY WE ARE RIGHTEOUS. The obvious implication - that all other people are BAD people - is inescapable.

It can't be considered anything like truth, because the truth on this matter that is immediately available to every human is that we do not know what happens after death. Taking this set of stories, indistinguishable from any other traditional mythology, and declaring it THE TRUTH, and all who doubt it be damned, is wrong.

I don't see how the cruel, exclusionary and untruthful tenets of Christianity can be disregarded, as if they could have nothing to do with the numerous holy wars, inquistitions, crusades, persecutions, witch hunts and suppressions which occur in its name. Christianity is to blame, at least partially, for having bad tenets, which practically guarantee some cruel and exclusionary action. There's nothing like thinking only you are right with God to create delusions of grandeur. There's nothing like thinking others are damned to justify any cruelty towards them.

So, it's not just that people are base and cruel and will use any religion for their base and cruel ends. Christianity greatly lends itself to being base and cruel because of the base and cruel nature of the central tenet.

On the other hand, consider that Buddhism has been a religion longer than Christianity and has nothing like this long list of wars and persecutions in its name. There is nothing particularly base or cruel among the basic tenets of Buddhism. So, while it has been abused or misused on the rare occasion, it lends itself to the corruption very much less.

In terms of ideology, what makes Christianity different from say, the KKK, is that Christianity is also home to some of the world's greatest wisdom, presented in the actual teachings of Jesus. This is part of what makes the trap so insidious, because despite the main thrust - afterlife disposition - there is also some pretty good stuff for living there, and some things that seem to be true.

So how could anyone separate the useful from the destructive, the truth from the unwarranted speculation? By checking.

Mazzy: the point I'm (obviously badly) trying to get across is that "Christianity" is an idea, a philosophy.

Actually it is a set of ideas and some of them are really bad.

Mazzy: There are plenty of people on the planet who identify as Christians who are also evil. I don't dispute that at all.

How nice of you to not dispute a point I never tried to make. I never asked you to agree that there are evil people who are Christians. The actual point is that even people who are not evil can do bad things if they worship bad ideas.

Mazzy: You also ignore the fact that the wars, etc. are completely against one of the other basic tenets of the faith: love your neighbor.

"Your neighbors will go to Hell if they are not Christian" is completely against "love your neighbor." Christianity should get rid of the Hell thing if they want to avoid being completely contradictory.

Read more in the Archives.