02-09-16 11:12"Government is Bad" Framing

Mellie: I have never supported Obamacare. I just don't feel comfortable with the government telling me I have to have a healthcare run by them. I want control over my body and my health and I'm not a fan of setting precedents that give the government control over our lives.

I'm sorry, I can't figure out what kind of control you have over your body and health in the United States that people don't have in Canada. Please, be specific.

Mellie: Right now? No difference. But if we had national healthcare provided by the government, I don't know.

Well, what, specifically, are you concerned about? What kind of control do you now have over your body and your health that you would lose if the U.S. had a system like Canada, or the UK, or Australia, or like in the Nordic Model countries? Unless it is something specific, I hope you are willing to re-consider it, because vague unease is not really a good reason for not moving forward into the 21st century on this issue.

Mellie: Why do I think ours would be different? Our economy is horrible, our national debt is through the roof, social security is broken and we're being run by leaders who refuse to work together. This doesn't instill confidence in me.

Wow, there is so much going on here I am not sure I can unpack it all, but I want to say upfront that these things are not good reasons to reject national healthcare. It works where it is tried and there are plenty of places you can see it action. The people in those places are not different from us. But we can get back to that.

What I'd actually like to address here is the framing. "Sure, government-run healthcare works in GOOD countries, but OUR government is BAD."

Let me start by saying that, as conscious social beings, we spend a lifetime weighing the balance between the needs of the self and the needs of the group. It's important to get a good balance, because the group always wants more from us than we want to give, and we always need more from the group than they think we are entitled to. Sometimes we have to stand for individuality. Sometimes we have to stand together. Both are required, and it can be a struggle to get the balance right.

The "government is bad" frame is activated to invoke this struggle, to make you fear losing your autonomy to the group. That is a legitimate concern, but there are numerous checks that work against that kind of loss. So please, look beyond your fear to what the reality is.

"Government" is not "BAD." It is what humans always use in groups larger than tribes to maintain the ability of working together. Some systems of government seem pretty bad; others don't. Representative democracy has been arrived at through millenia of trial and error and is the best thing we have managed to work out so far.

And, our government is not "BAD." It happens to be one of the best governments in the world, and has been for many a generation now. Our collective action as humans in a common group, i.e., our government, has done things humans have rarely done, like end slavery, enfranchise women, and minimize poverty. For all its mistakes, it has still created the one of most the representative systems and among the highest quality of life any humans have ever known.

No doubt, a large part of our success is the extensive use of markets. But markets are amoral and extremely exploitive. One thing that our government was particularly good at doing in the previous century was curtailing exploitation. However, this came at the expense of profits. So, to throw off this restraint, it became necessary for profit-holders to glamorize "self-first," to demonize "government" as a controlling interloper of self, and disavow the importance of any kind of cooperation.

Unfortunately, the market ideology of "self first" only works in markets, nowhere else, and then only somewhat. But this ideology has been so widely promulgated in our culture, it has created this crazy idea that as a human you are somehow better off handling your healthcare "on your own" than as a part of a group effort. (I told you we'd get back to it.) Human health is the health of the group, without which you have no health and no life. Human health can only be advanced collectively, by sharing what belongs to us all, our discoveries and cures.

So please consider an alternative framing, based not on one-dimensional competitive markets, but on a larger view of all we share. We are all in this together, most especially in our common experience of having fragile human bodies. Cooperative systems for health work better at delivering health, and they don't make you lose your autonomy, any more than your average Canadian has lost her autonomy. A working balance has been found.

And now I'm going to try to address each of your specific points, because they really do have answers.

Mellie: Our economy is horrible...

1) Our economy is recovering. It was hard to recover from so horrible a crash, but there has been a lot of improvement. We did some of the right things. What I'm wondering is why you don't know this. Have you not looked at all at economists' analysis of the economy? Indicators are up across the board.

2) "Government" is not what caused the crash or the massive inequality that precipitated it. Anti-government policies like deregulation are what caused it, and it will take specific government action to recover. The answer to the horrible economy is not "less" government. It is infrastructure spending, and it is better management of the system, and that means more government involvement to get things to work. Economies have to be managed, and it's our job to use our collective action, our government, to manage ours.

And to the extent that we have, it's worked. As I said, the economy is recovering.

Mellie: Our national debt is through the roof...

This is one of the main scare tactics of the "government is bad" framing. The debt is a factor, but 1) it is far from an urgent one, compared with getting the economy going again, and 2) belt-tightening by the government doesn't make it better, it makes it worse.

Debt is a systemic problem that can be dealt with in boom times, the way Clinton did. A stalled economy is a crisis. Unless we want to be plunged into the austerity nightmare that haunts Europe, we need to collectively spend on what is needed to make society work. It means short-term increases in the debt, but these become much less important as the economy grows. Right now, other things matter more.

So worry about the debt is misplaced at the moment, and is really sticking people in the "government is bad" frame so they can't use collective action to recover. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it doesn't have to be if you look at what works.

Mellie: Social Security is broken...

This is another big canard the scare-mongers throw around, but it is not true, nor is it evidence of "bad government."

Social Security is the moral foundation of our society, and it has worked, and it is working right now, to keep our elderly from the abject poverty they face in other nations. Far from being "broken," it is fully funded through 2036. After that, even unchanged it would continue to pay out at least 75% of its benefits, while a few minor tweaks would keep it solvent at current levels indefinitely. The "boomer" crisis is temporary. There is no reason to scrap SS or decry it as a government boondoggle. It is working and we can keep it working, no problem.

Mellie: ...we're being run by leaders who refuse to work together.

Refusing to work together is a misnomer in some ways. Obama has bent over backwards and made unnecessary compromises in order to "work together" and was met only with efforts to destroy him. So the "refusal" is rather one-sided.

But the gridlock is really a symptom, not a cause. It is a symptom something I have discussed elsewhere - the fundamental disconnect from reality that we have allowed to dominate our system.

The reason people can't agree on a consensus because they are refusing to look at what is real, and what really works. And not to appear partisan, but it is more the Republicans who are doing this, and the further to the right you go - such as to religious fundamentalism, and market extremism like libertarianism - the worse this disconnect with reality gets.

That is why we cannot move forward. Because we do not have an agreement that we have to move forward based on reality and what works.

But, that might be starting to change. Reality slaps us pretty fucking hard when we ignore it. Just ask Katrina and Sandy.

Mellie: This doesn't instill confidence in me.

Well today you should be feeling hope, because even though the oil and gas industries and the Koch brothers and the 1% are spending their asses off in our elections to try to pretend for a few more years that climate change isn't happening, reality is prevailing. It is starting to get the attention it deserves.

If you want a reality check on how "government-run health-care" would work in America, look at the "government-run" health-care we already have. Medicare and Medicaid are far more efficient and cost effective than private insurance. We are already making it work! What could inspire confidence more than that?

Mellie: What I'm specifically concerned about is being put into a situation where I don't have options. This is my single issue.

Well I still can't figure out where you think "the government" would steal "your options." The only actual "health care option" you have discussed so far is the choice go without a provision for healthcare. Is that it? Are you really voting against the principles of public healthcare just so you can have your way on this one issue? Or is there something more?

What, exactly, do you think we should be doing about healthcare? What do you think would better protect your "choice" and still deliver health to every person?

Mellie: I don't think our government is bad. I think it's broken.

Same diff. The "I don't trust our government to do healthcare" reason and the "we can't do anything right" examples you gave show that you are activating the "government is bad" frame.

Mellie: I do, however, believe in limited government.

Well I'd appreciate it if you would spell out what you mean by "limited government." Limited to what, specifically?

Mellie: I'm not holding Obama responsible for the lack of compromise. I believe the problem is with both parties.

No, it isn't. The Democrats are willing to compromise. The Republicans aren't.

And anyway, as I very painstakingly explained, a lack of willingness to compromise is NOT the reason for the gridlock. It is because some people are not facing reality.

If you want to know who, look at what they are saying and then compare it directly to reality. How big is the difference? That is how you can tell.

Right now the difference between reality and what the Dems are saying is small compared to the difference between reality and what the Republicans are saying. It's not "both parties," or both parties equally. It is the platform of the right becoming increasingly unhinged from reality.

Mellie: I honestly hope you are right.

Don't hope. Check.

Mellie: I appreciate your words and the fact that you inspire me to really think about things and research them.

I could not ask for more, thank you so much for sharing the discussion with me.

02-09-16 9:42Precepts vs. Commandments

Bandicoot: I happen to be a Christian Universalist, but I personally believe that ALL religions are inspired by God, that He has made Himself available to all the people of the world. The various religions are all branches of the same tree. The fact that you can see these similarities, across every time and culture, shows that they all come to us from the One God Who is the source of ALL.

How do you figure they are branches of the same tree?

Bandicoot: I do believe that all religions teach the same values and lessons, there are even many similarities in the practices from one faith to the next.

That doesn't make them "branches of the same tree", or suggest that they are all inspired by the "One God Who is the source of ALL."

I have given this some thought and I cannot really go along with your contention that Buddhism teaches the "same values and lessons" as Christianity, or is similar enough to Christianity to assume that they have the same source, other than that they both came from humans.

Bandicoot: Its not just commonalities in terms of worship or belief in general, but also the morality, such as the way Buddhism focuses on living a good life so as to end suffering.

This in particular is quite dissimilar from Christianity. Christianity does not appear to focus on "living a good life to end suffering." From what I can tell, Christianity focuses on God over self, on living a life that is pleasing to God to show Him reverence. Not to mention accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior to earn a ticket to the "good" afterlife. Or, as I sometimes call it, "Jesus or Burn."

(Yes, I know you are a Universalist and that's not what you think, but that is the central tenet of Christianity for most other Christians, as far as I am able to discern.)

Bandicoot: For example, the Five Precepts in Buddhism are pretty much the "ethical" half of the 10 Commandments: (do not kill, steal, lie, be unchaste, or drink intoxicants - 4 out of those 5 are commandments in the Abrahamic faiths.)

That is so far from being the same I'm really surprised you are suggesting it. The Five Precepts are more different from the Ten Commandments than they are similar.

First of all, Buddhism does not posit a deity or dedicate forty percent of their list to proper reverence of a deity. This seems like a pretty big non-similarity.

Second of all, the Five Precepts are not commandments. They are simply advice. Only monks are required to take an oath to adhere to them. Outside of monastic communities they are not injunctions, they are just guidelines, with no presumed "divine" offense added on to their natural consequences. Failure to comply is not a sin.

Third of all, the specific way in which you have listed them seems like an attempt to blur their differences. Particularly with the first on your list, "do not kill."

The First Precept is: Refrain from destroying living creatures. This means, strive not to take any life at all, not of another human or even of an animal. (There is some difference of opinion of how this applies to insects, and most think killing plants is okay.) However this can also apply to practices that destroy life without even taking it...like torturing, enslavement, or even despoiling a natural habitat.

The Commandment is: You shall not kill.

Yet almost every Christian I have ever met has said that it doesn't really mean do not kill, it actually means, do not murder, because some kinds of killing are okay. Killing in self defense, killing in war, executions, etc. are considered to be outside of the "do not kill" mandate.

So, the difference between "refrain from destroying living creatures" and "don't kill people sometimes" is a pretty wide chasm.

The Second Precept is: Refrain from taking that which is not given.

The Commandment is: Do not steal.

Okay, so those are pretty similar.

Next, there is no precept or commandment that says "do not be unchaste."

The Third Precept is: Refrain from sexual misconduct.

The Commandment is: You shall not commit adultery.

"Adultery" seems pretty specific - sex outside marriage. "Sexual misconduct" is understood to represent a wide range of careless sexual practices which cause suffering, but it's definitely not a mandate against sex or on who to sleep with. Sexual practices that cause suffering could be rape, promiscuity, unfaithfulness, etc. However, if your spouse was aware that you were having sex with someone else and did not have a problem with it, adultery might not qualify as sexual misconduct. If the sex was coerced, even sex within marriage might qualify as sexual misconduct. It's a matter of using your own judgement to avoid causing pain.

So, the sexual bits are not really that similar.

Next, the fourth precept is: Refrain from inappropriate speech.

The most similar commandment, presumably, is: Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The commandment is broadly interpreted to mean, do not lie. The precept, however, is a caution against many different forms of speech that can cause harm - lies of course, but also insults, gossiping, badmouthing, complaining, threatening, nagging, provoking, etc. It means, be mindful about what you say.

This precept is not really that similar to the commandment either.

The Fifth precept is: Refrain from abusing intoxicants. I've also seen it written as, Abstain from drinks and drugs that cause carelessness. Either way, it's not an absolute injunction against intoxication, but it is a warning of the possible negative consequences.

There is no similar commandment at all. And, obviously there are several commandments with no similar corresponding Precept.

It's not hard to imagine why there would be similarities in the values and lessons of different traditions. People are people, and act in many similar ways across cultures, so it's not surprising that people in different places would notice and officially inscribe warnings against some of the behaviors which are obvious causes of trouble. But there are also a great number of differences between these two moral prescriptions - enough so that it is hard to believe that they are actually just two versions of the exact same thing which came from the exact same God.

In fact that itself is another major difference. The Commandments are said to come from God, while the Precepts are acknowledged to be a human creation.

Bandicoot: The only point I was trying to make here is that, regardless of where the commandments/ suggestions come from, they do and can go hand in hand.

You said your point was to show that they were all from God.

Bandicoot: I just mean, if you look at their true purpose, all religions of the world could thus be used to support an individual becoming closer to God.

"God" may not be anything. Suggesting that "getting closer to God" is the "real" purpose of Buddhism is a failure to understand Buddhism.

Buddhism was not given to humans by God. We thought of it ourselves. It was not created to bring us closer to God. It was created to teach us to overcome suffering.

Trying to pretend it is more like your religion than it actually is, to derive some supernatural significance from the similarity, is disingenuous.

02-09-16 8:20Encouraging Business

TrumpFan: Bernie Sanders' Tax-and-Regulate-O-Rama will discourage business from investing, which is likely to produce the opposite result than what he wants. Business needs to be encouraged.

How much more encouragement does "business" need?

They have plenty of capital they could be investing right now. They are showing the highest profits ever while everyone else sees declines. They could not have a more favorable economic climate, tailored to their profits - loopholed taxes, hardly a regulation in sight and pro-business Koch Brothers spending billions to influence the election.

"Business" has literally nothing to lose by investing and yet they sit on the largest profits ever. They could hardly act more "discouraged from investing" than they are acting now. They are simply hoarding.

I'm sick of worrying about the needs of "business." "Business" has no concern for humans or even what works. The whim of "business" does not make good social policy.

It's time to stop letting what businessmen like decide how everything turns out. Some things are more important than "wealth". Basic human needs are not being met by "business" and they never have been. Business does only what they think works for them. If we keep waiting for "business" to make things that work for the majority they never will.

So, if we want our society to work we have to do it ourselves. We need to have public policies that make important things happen, regardless of what "business" decides to do that minute.

It wouldn't even take that much. Simply restoring economic policies which worked in during the boom years, like strong labor and public education, would help a lot.

The ironic thing is that fairer regulation and taxes would be better for business too. By hoarding wealth, the wealthiest are the ones strangling the economy. Getting the money back into circulation would ultimately just send it right back up to them again, only it will have created value many times over on the way there. They can't lose.

02-09-16 11:50Question Everything?

Kendall: I heard this quote from George Carlin where he said, "Don't just teach your children to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything."

Do you agree we should question everything?

BlueJeans: No, I don't think we need to tech our children to question everything. Questioning everything leaves them believing nothing and I don't think that is necessarilly a healthy mindset.

Hi there BlueJeans! Great to speak with you. I disagree and I'll explain why.

First of all, I disagree that questioning everything leaves you with "nothing." Checking to see what is the case leaves you with a mental construct that more accurately matches the case. That is not nothing. In fact it is vitally important. Inaccurate mental maps cause error.

Secondly, I disagree that "believing nothing" is unhealthy or problematic. Belief is not necessary, and beliefs that seem wrong are the source of a lot of problems in the world. Back before we invented checking, belief was the best we could do; now we have better methods.

There is no way that accurate understanding of the case could be a poorer tool than conjecture. Accurate understanding requires checking, and that begins with questioning.

02-08-16 11:50Nature

ChoirGirl: If you spend any amount of time in nature, it is truly difficult not to believe that a being greater than ourselves created all of this.

This shows no appreciation at all for the amazing ability of nature to create itself.

ChoirGirl: Nature created itself? That is a first for me...Please explain more...

Everything that lives is part of an unbroken chain of life extending back into the depths of time and the first self-replicating molecules. Changes to the molecules remained part of a reproducing pattern only if they worked. Molecules changed in different ways depending on what worked where they were.

So, nature created itself by changing in an infinitesimal number of ways, some of which continued because they worked.

Then, once neurons arrive on the scene, nature begins to directly choose what to create, by having beings make choices that affect the shape of life. For example, bees and butterflies really like big smelly flowers, and by pollinating more of the biggest and smelliest flowers they created ever-larger and more fragrant blooms.

Beings with neurons also shape themselves, by choosing the traits they like in a reproductive partner.

So, by surviving in the environment (before neurons) and making deliberate choices (after neurons) Nature has shaped itself into patterns that work.

ChoirGirl: Where did these molecules come from?

Molecules are assembled with bonding created by the electron exchange of atoms. The molecules that make up our world appear to have been part of a stellar core fragment thrown off from a blue star which went supernova.

ChoirGirl: How do you know there were molecules?

Everything more complex than an atom is molecules.

ChoirGirl: Where did the neurons come from?

Neurons originally arose to control contractive tissue for coordinated motion in organisms that move. Like other specialized cells, they arose from modifications which occurred in unspecialized cells.

ChoirGirl: Well how did the animals know what to like?

They tried everything. The ones who lived were the ones who liked what worked. The ones who liked what didn't work didn't live.

ChoirGirl: How did they know to pollinate?

Insects are not pollinating deliberately. They are feeding. It was the plants who made their pollen attractive and fun for insects so that it would get spread around.

ChoirGirl: I thought that was done automatically? I didn't know any being controlled traits. Please explain...

Well, obviously lady peacocks really like those huge tails.

ChoirGirl: I am not saying this is not possible, however I am not sure how life formed and maybe we did evolve from molecules, but was all part of a great design from a creator?

It doesn't seem to be. Upon observation, life seems to be creating itself by trial and error from the bottom up. Nothing appears to be designed and there is no evidence of a designer other than life, designing itself as it goes along.

ChoirGirl: Something cannot come from nothing. Does science know of a time when there was nothing?

There can't be a time when there was nothing because if there is nothing there is not even time. As far as we can discern time started with the Big Bang. There is no earlier time.

But, maybe something can come from nothing, or new time universes can be created by events in dimensionally antecedent universes. Perhaps this universe is one instantiation of many in a cycle. It is not known. However it is not unreasonable to surmise that this universe resulted from a natural cause, just like everything that has happened since.

First Cause aside, there is nothing that can be discerned in our reality that points to any kind of "design." The manifestations of matter that have formed since the Big Bang are arising as a direct result of the physical properties of space, time, matter and energy - how they move, stick, attract, repel, and bend.

These very simple properties of matter have caused it to splinter into the tiniest particles and then build itself back together again, but in beautiful spinning patterns.

I find it unutterably magnificent to comprehend that I have arisen as a being in this universe, part of this unbroken chain of successful life. Even more amazing and wonderful is that I can apprehend it.

02-08-16 11:50What Does God Mean

Spellain: Can someone please explain to me, with some semblance of logic, why gods (all gods from any religion) refuse to show themselves and put all the debates and fighting to rest?

Angie: It wouldn't work. Unbelievers saw Jesus with their own eyes and still did not believe.

Dancer: God is just a dick, getting a big laugh at our expense.

The problem is that the word "God" doesn't really mean anything. Some people mean a spiritual being who is watching us. Some think He controls the weather, some don't. Some think He controls our actions, some don't. A lot of people think He controls money, a few don't. Some people think He has appeared as a human manifestation at least once, many don't. Some think God us unitary, some think He is triune, some think He is poliune.

People get twisted in knots trying to rationalize how God could be all powerful and yet everything goes wrong, or how God could be benevolent and yet there is such evil, how God knows all and yet requires tests. They make up lots of stuff to explain it.

But I'm not sure why people automatically assume that God is all powerful, or beneveolent, or omniscient. Maybe there is an invisible being watching us, but He isn't all powerful. Maybe he is just more powerful than us. Maybe He is only powerful at times.

People often say they feel sure that God is at work in their lives today. But just because you felt some kind of Heavenly Presence, or witnessed Divine Intervention, that doesn't mean it's the same being who created the earth. We could have been completely taken over by a different entity and how would we even know?

For all we know God could have created the earth and then left. For all we know there could be four Gods who take turns watching the earth from different angles and that's why we have four seasons. For all we know, God only shows up and runs things one day a year. What do we know?

We do not know anything about any God.

When people use the word, they mean what they think it means. And I don't even know what "God" means. I've never seen a definition that matches anything that happens. I've never even seen a definition that matches any other persons definition.

God is a big blank slate so you can pick what you want.

Angie: I also believe that Satan has sometimes posed as God and convinced some Christians to follow him in the name of God.

Boy, Satan really played them for rubes, didn't he. Some Christians will believe anything.

02-07-16 11:50Why Argue It

Little Texas Gal: How can you argue with me? If what I believe God says is against this or that, or whatever it is we are talking about, someone arguing with me will not change my views, because I truly believe that God is telling me how I need to believe and what I need to support and as a follower I can not stray from that.

The reason "God said so" is extremely valid to many people because that is the exact reason they feel a certain way.

Nobody knows what God really "said."

Little Texas Gal: Where is your proof that God does not exist and never did?

Whether God "exists" is hardly the point. What matters is when people claim they know what God wants them to think. There is no evidence of what God "wants." No group appears to have a better line on "what God wants" than any other. Upon examination, it looks a lot like people just claiming they know what God wants, nothing more.

Little Texas Gal: One does not have to dwell so far in to the Word of God to be able to see what He wants for us and from us.

How are we to determine which words that people claim are the Word of God actually are?

WoonderCat: I don't get you. What determines what you decide to quote and respond to?

What appears to be interesting, salient, or indicative of a leverage point.

WoonderCat: Why bother? Can't you just accept that not everyone sees things the same way?

Of course it is obvious that not everyone sees things the same way. However I don't see any problem with suggesting other ways to see things.

If we just left everyone to their own opinion, there would be no way to share advances in knowledge or raise anyone's consciousness. There would be no way to disabuse people of outdated notions and end systemic injustice. Imagine if people looked at slavery, or suffrage, and just shrugged and said, "To MAY to, to MAH to," and left it at that?

All ideas should be open to challenge.

Little Texas Gal: I have learned, more so over the past month or so, that I do not have to defend my beliefs or God to any one.

Of course. Nobody has to.

But, why wouldn't you want to? If you really have the truth on your side and God on your side it should be a slam dunk.... easy, fun, worth the effort and emminently satisfying. Why isn't it?

I relish a challenge to my positions. For one thing, I love the opportunity to view things a different way. It's a great opportunity to learn and improve my grasp of the facts. For another, my positions are so well-supported I can hardly wait for a chance to expound on them. It's fun.

Why have positions that you don't think are worth defending?

Little Texas Gal: It's a matter of faith - faith is as a strong a notion as there is, but that doesn't mean you can convince other people of it - just as other people can't convince one of faith NOT to believe.

Yeah, but why not try? I don't expect to convince anyone of anything in particular, but I would love someone to challenge me on my positions anyway. It's good exercise. It's fun. It's very satisfying, even if no one agrees with a word of it.

And, there have been times when people did agree, or came to agree, and that was even more satisfying. Surely it's worth a chance.

Little Texas Gal: This is the passage that comes to my mind: Matt 7:6
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

The people in this discussion are not dogs or pigs. They cannot harm you. Why would you be afraid of this?

Little Texas Gal: I'd say if the religious debates were respectful - it might be fun to try. But have you not seen the kind of bashing people of faith get for sharing their beliefs online? To see something sacred being disrespected - no thanks.

First of all, I never let that stop me. Why come to a discussion group called "Heated Debates" if you are worried about that kind of thing?

Second of all, I don't do this. I am eminently civil. If you actually have some "pearls of wisdom" I want to know what they are and how you know they constitute wisdom.

Little Texas Gal: I have now come to a time when I have realized that I am not going to go in circles any longer.

Fair enough. However good debates sometimes linger in circles for a bit and then break free into real insight. Some things can be understood. Some meanings can be shared. Sometimes other people can get closer to understanding part of what you mean. I can't believe that if your message is true and important it wouldn't be worth defending and supporting, even for a chance at some understanding.

But, if that's not how you find it, suit yourself of course.

Little Texas Gal: Attempting to prove to someone something they will never understand nor accept time and again is not spending my time wisely and it teaches no one any thing.

It would be good exercise. Exercise is never a waste of time. And if your position is supportable, no one with any intellectual integrity could avoid understanding the connection between your position and your reason for having it. People could learn from it. You yourself would come to understand it better. People could learn a lot about it even if they don't agree.

I'm not exhorting you to continue, I'm just explaining why I disagree.

Little Texas Gal: I have realized that I am saying the same things again and again and those who are on the other side of the fence are doing the same.

I'm really sorry you see it that way. I am trying to say things differently every time. I am trying to chip away at the traditional dialog and get closer to what is actually important. I'm trying to find new ways to talk about the important things, ways that are capable of being understood by everyone. If I haven't found them yet, that is all the more reason to keep trying.

In the meantime, sometimes I do come up with a new way to demonstrate what I mean, and sometimes people do understand, and that is worth it. It's fun. Plus, I can make note of what worked and why. That gets me a little step closer to my goal.

WoonderCat: Honestly, Raver....in this group I find it personally pointless to engage in "there is a God/there is no God" arguments.

Well, don't then. But, when have I ever said there was no god? People should read what I actually say instead of just assigning me the "no god" position. I am not an atheist and never said I was.

WoonderCat: These discussions go in circles, they never change....I've honestly never seen a productive post in that vein.

Depends on what you mean by productive. I have had the opportunity to explore various strategies for this discussion and note what is more and less effective. A few people here and there have made small changes quickly, or big changes slowly.

I would like to find a way to bridge the unpassable chasm between theists and non-theists. I am looking for ways to say non-theistic ideas so that even theists can understand why they are important. This seems like a worthwhile effort even if I have not been altogether successful - yet. :-)

Little Texas Gal: I'm not worried about it, because I am strong in my faith. But not everyone is. Whether you have seen it or not, there are people who are already struggling with their spirituality.

Struggle is strengthening.

Little Texas Gal: You take someone who is immature in their faith or is already struggling, and expose them to that kind of stuff, they will no doubt start questioning things, and possibly even turn away from God.

If that is the natural result of their questioning, it seems like an allowable outcome.

Little Texas Gal: To me it is no different from someone being told all their lives how bad drugs are, and then someone comes along and says, your parents were wrong...they aren't so bad...you should try it! It can be hard to stay with what one has been taught.

Most drugs have a possible pathology. What is the pathology of non-Christianness?

Little Texas Gal: Raver you seem like an intelligent person but I just really get the impression from you that you want to make people question their Christian beliefs and spirituality.


Little Texas Gal: That is just a feeling I get from you based on what you have to say about religion here.

Ya think?

Little Texas Gal: It's like you are bound and determined to make someone question what they believe...

Yes. Questioning is vital.

Little Texas Gal: ...and like you, oh I don't know how to say it, but like you want to for some reason turn them away from Christianity. I don't understand why you would want that.

Because it appears to be a Big Lie. Big Lies are intolerable to me.

Little Texas Gal: For people who are really and truly trying to be solid in their faith and want others to as well, their salvation is not a joke.

I am certainly not joking.

Little Texas Gal: I mean, it isn't like you seem to be offering them something better.

Actually I am recommending Enlightenment.

02-06-16 9:11Banding Together to Help the Rich

Jenny Mulhenny: I joined the Tea Party back in '08 because I am sick and tired of people trying to stick it to the rich, soaking them for all of these handouts for the poor!

Social programs are not just for "the poor." They are for the society - everybody. Society works better for everybody when we work together to take care of everyone's health and well-being.

Jenny Mulhenny: There is nothing in the Bible that says anything against being wealthy.

That doesn't make hoarding wealth excusable.

Jenny Mulhenny: What does hoarding have to do with the Tea Party?

The Tea Party is pro-big business. Big business is pro-hoarding.

Jenny Mulhenny: The whole philosophy behind the Tea Party is the fact that it is a grass roots uprising.

Whoa, grassroots it isn't. It is "Astroturf" - phony grassroots sloganeering, organized and funded from the top by corporations.

The Tea Party Movement: Deluded and Inspired by Billionaires
By funding numerous rightwing organisations, the mega-rich Koch brothers have duped millions into supporting big business
Read the rest.

Jenny Mulhenny: The wealthy are the most generous, and would help the poor through charities if we didn't take so much of their money in taxes.

Not everyone. Typically, people are willing to be generous and charitable to their in-group and hostile or unconcerned towards their out-group.

How that shakes out depends on who you consider your in-group to be.

Jenny Mulhenny: Well I disagree that EVERYONE deserves help when needed. If you have done nothing to help yourself then you don't deserve help.

I don't know of anyone who "does nothing" to help themselves, but that would obviously be a person with serious problems. People with serious problems are the ones who need help the most. If people don't know how to "do anything" to help themselves then we need to teach them what to do.

Teaching people how to function correctly in society takes more from social programs, not less, but it pays off exponentially.

Jenny Mulhenny: Just because I don't want the government to decide how and when I help people doesn't mean I don't care.

This is a classic example of the in-group/out-group standard I was referring to. People don't want "the government" - that is, everyone - to decide who is in their in-group and who is in their out-group.

Jenny Mulhenny: I don't know what commie country you are from, but I was raised in America to believe that getting wealthy is winning, achieving success. I can't believe you would suggest there is something wrong with that!

There is an idea in Epicurianism that wealth is generally not to be desired. Certainly there is no need to make vows of poverty, but the idea is that once you reach a certain level of comfort and contentment, desiring more will lead away from comfort.

Studies show that people's happiness does go up as incomes go up from poverty to middle class, but above middle class happiness levels out and does not continue to rise with more wealth.

In any case, ordinary people and even ordinary wealthy people are not the problem with wealth.

The problems with wealth are:

1) hoarding - that is, massive accumulations of wealth among a very small percentage

2) inequity - massive wealth leading to unfair representation for the wealthy

3) disparity - massive income inequality with no real relationship to produced value

4) classism - the strenthening of class divisions and the disabling of class mobility

In other words, wealth extracts a social price.

These are issues which are easily addressed, by the way. These came to be big problems in America in the years before the Crash of '29 and the ensuing Depression.

A few key regulations and taxes were put in place and a few key social systems were started which worked to ease these problems, giving America a standard of living which was the envy of the world.

It wouldn't take much to return to a reasonable balance between wealth and society.

Jenny Mulhenny: The rich are the workers and the doers and the risk-takers. But hey, they must be greedy hatemongers if they have the audacity to believe the current welfare system isn't working.

It's working okay. If it wasn't, our streets would be thronged with beggars like they are in third world countries with no social systems. There would be suffering unlike anything our generation has ever witnessed.

I agree that the current system is not working well. However the answer is not to abandon our moral obligation to social welfare. The answer is to do social welfare so that it works well.

There are many ways it could work better, starting with massive investment in education and infrastructure.

Jenny Mulhenny: No, it is not working or we wouldn't have families on welfare for generations.

That certainly beats people starving in the streets, unless you actually like watching people starve to death.

However massive investment in education and infrastructure would take care of most of that. "Generational poverty" not a big problem in countries with good social services.

Jenny Mulhenny: Do other nations treat their wealthy with such contempt as I see oozing here toward Americans who have money?

The wealthy in our country are not suffering. Nothing that I would propose to bring our nation in line with other prosperous democracies would cause the wealthy to suffer.

Don't worry. They'll be okay.

02-06-16 8:42Hell Yes!

So, just suppose on the off-chance those Christians are right, and anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus during this life will go to Hell. Still, I have thought about it a great deal, and I simply can't see any reason at all to believe in the Jesus story. It's just so implausible. So, I guess Hell it is! Here's what I think about this:

If God thinks Heaven is going to be paradise without me there, He doesn't know what paradise is. That will totally be His loss.

In the meantime, I have big plans for Hell. I will immediately organize grass-roots activism and agitate for reforms. Give me a millenia or two and you won't even recognize it. Hell will be remade into the happening party spot across all celestial realms. And we'll have something great The Other Guys won't - we will accept everybody.

Larky: You do realize that if Stalin, Hitler, Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, and Mao haven't gotten control away from Satan, then you RaverLady most likely don't have a chance.

Men. Ha!

Lorraine: LOL!! I hope you are successful. What a blessing it would be for everyone in hell to turn away from sin. Perhaps you demonstrate immense faith just by posting what you post...I don't know. Good luck.

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