05-12-16 10:41  •  Economic Equality

Candinsky: When it comes to economics I'm pro-equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome.

I don't know anybody - at least anybody credible - who is for equality of outcome. Inequality is actually quite functional in many ways. However there are really good reasons for working to keep the inequality from becoming really inequitable. Some inequality of outcome is perfectly fair and some just isn't.

There are a lot of good reasons to keep the bottom from going too low...and, for keeping the top from going to high.

Candinsky: I don't care how much wealth someone accumulates during their lifetime, as long as everyone else 's chance to do the same has not been hindered by society and the laws of inheritance.

To a point.

I think this is a very critical issue. When wealth is massively accumulated, as by the super-wealthy individuals and corporations of the world today, it really ceases being money at all. It becomes directly convertible to political power.

Our societies were smart enough to know that one person wielding massive power - like a king - is more apt to create suffering and conflict than peace and justice. We have specifically constructed our governments with checks and balances on power, and decreed that power should be wielded by public mandate.

So...who elected these guys? Who elected the billionaires and the corporations to run our government and decide everything? Many of them got where they are by generations of terrible exploitation. I don't think being the greediest human beings on the planet and clawing your way to the top qualifies as having a public mandate.

The billionaires and corporations certainly do not have the public's interest at heart. So why do the banks get to decide how much money is available for schools? Why does the military-industrial complex get to decide when we declare war? Why do the oil companies decide how much CO2 the world can handle before it melts?

When it comes to power accumulation, we know from experience that there must be checks on it. We can see that the corporations and billionaires are not doing the right thing for our societies. Yet there is no check on their power.

Candinsky: Of course, there's no denying that wealth does convey advantage. There's the fact that if you have a million dollars in the bank they offer you a far higher rate of interest than if you only have a thousand dollars in the bank - it is just plain easier to make more money when you're already making lots.

That is the problem. When wealth is hoarded, it just accumulates at the top. The wealthy have enough money/power to influence every system so that more wealth flows to them.

There need to be ways to take the power that is accumulated as wealth and return it to circulation where it will be money again, and spent in real transactions that power commerce.

Very progressive taxation is one way the to get some money out of the top and put it back in at the bottom. The billionaire doesn't have to worry, it will just flow back up to him again. Only it will have fueled the transactions of many people and created value over and over again by the time it reaches him.

I don't see how we can ever have government by public mandate if wealth can be limitlessly accumulated. Maybe the super-wealthy should be required to spend the money instead of hoarding it. At least, we should certainly have some limits on what money can buy.

Candinsky: I think the most fundamental right is the right to travel around and associate with whom you please, listening to them speak in their own words, unfiltered by government censors, without fear of being arrested on suspicion of disloyalty.

The set of rights that I grew up with, as a middle class white female in the U.S., are not bad. My mother and I had a lot more rights than her mother, and our society seemed to be trying to make sure that civil rights were equally applied by race too. There was room for improvement, but most of the industrialized democracies seemed to have reached a fairly workable balance of public and private rights.

However I have been extremely dismayed in the last decade to see rights evaporate in the face of the "War On Terror." Also extremely culpable in this regard is the "War on Drugs." These "wars" have made possible everything from property seizure to warrantless wiretapping to indefinite detention to torture.

Rights need a lot of peace and prosperity to flourish. Wars erode both. Another reason to pursue peace and economic justice.

Candinsky: Companies becoming rich is generally a good thing. It means wealth has been created.

The "created" wealth is not useful if it is from exploitation, if it is hoarded, or if the financiers game the system until it breaks.

We bailed out Wall Street and continue to slather on tax credits so that companies will "create jobs." However they are not creating jobs. They are just sitting on $1.3 trillion in new profits. The "good thing" is not happening.

Candinsky: The exception is when they've become rich by illegal means, such as abusing a monopoly.

I would also say, except when they have become rich by exploitation. It may be perfectly legal to ship a factory to Indonesia so that you can pay them much less than you would have to pay Americans, and expose them to much more toxic chemicals in the workplace than you can expose Americans to, and dump toxins into their environment that it would be illegal to dump into our environment, etc. It's not illegal, but it's not right, fair or working either.

It is the middle and working class who are actually producing most of the work. Decent standards for distributing the gain from that work to those people - like employers paying a living wage, for example, to support a functioning consumer base to sustain our economy - are hardly unreasonable. The current "minimum wage" isn't illegal, but it isn't working either.

05-08-16 3:38  •  Belief as a System

2HisWill: What I don't like about the LGBT community is the way they have taken God's symbol and promise to us, the rainbow, and turned it into a symbol of their sin.

Me4Ever: Wait, what? Do you literally think the first rainbow was from God? I haven't seen anyone believing the the bible as literal history in quite some time.

Penelope: Most Christian faiths do not think it is literal history. The Bible has been interpreted and reinterpreted, and on and on...

In addition to the fact the Bible has been translated and reinterpreted many times, there is also no reason to think the original writing was anything special either.

Penelope: The Bible was written by men, supposedly inspired by the word of God, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that it is "inerrent." Historically, Christians have not viewed the Bible as literal history. It's just current Evangelicals who try to see it that way.

Understanding that the Bible is not inerrant or literal history is an improvement, but as long as people are doing "Christianity" they are still making supernatural claims just as unwarranted as claims of biblical inerrancy.

Iggy Ardust: I believe in God, but, that stuff about the rainbow sounds like Kindergarten Bible Study fairy tales! Usually kids grow up, go to school, and learn science. Then they realize that the rainbow story is just unbelievable like most of the Bible.

Every supernatural story is equally vacuous. However only very extreme supernatural beliefs are considered unbelievable.

That is the reason extreme beliefs persist. We have not yet discarded belief as a system.

Iggy Ardust: I still believe God exists.

Whether gods "exist" or not is not even relevant to the bible. Gods could be real as toast and the bible could still be completely wrong about what they are, what they can do, and what they want.

How do you check to make sure your scripture is accurate?

Me4Ever: I think once you know the science behind things, it's much harder to buy into the the idea that things just magically poofed into existence.

2HisWill: The Big Bang theory states just that.

What the science explains is that intelligence is the product of complex organization filtered through billions of years of trial and error. Singularities can "poof" but there is no reason to think that sentience can.

2HisWill: The theory that matter just poofed into existence is what the Big Bang claims.

Not exactly. It says that all matter in this universe was once compressed into a singularity which rapidly expanded. The Big Bang theory does not state where the singularity came from or that it must have come from nothing. It may have been the crushed remains of a previous universe or it may have extruded dimensionally sideways from a different universe, etc. It is not known, and the BBT does not specify what came before.

It is actually the study of quantum mechanics which suggests that sub-atomic particles CAN poof from nowhere and then disappear. This has been observed, leading some to think that the singularity which became the universe could have literally "poofed from nowhere" from our perspective.

This is why the Big Bang theory is stating something that seems to be true and theories of intelligent design are not. There is evidence of the singularity and of weird subatomic poofing. There isn't any evidence of gods doing anything.

Me4Ever: Believers think that everything MUST be designed...so then who designed God?

2HisWill: Hon, I'm pretty darn smart, but you're asking me who designed God?

I'm flattered, but unable to even begin to posit an answer.

How do you feel qualified to posit a God?

2HisWill: Umm, what?

If you are "unable to even begin to posit" answers about the origins of God, how are you more qualified to make other posits about God?

05-11-16 11:11  •  Libertarian - Nothing.

Reeba: I'm a Libertarian. This means I want my personal freedoms, and I accept responsibility for the consequences of those freedoms.

So how does that translate into actual social policy?

Reeba: It doesn't. I don't make social policy.

Let's not be silly here. Are you seriously unaware of what I am asking?

What I want to know is, what social policies would reflect your values of personal freedom and personal responsibility? Are you saying you want to see an end to Public Assistance, or something? How does your value statement translate into what you would like to see implemented in public policy?

Reeba: What social policies would reflect my values of personal freedom and responsibility? None.

You would like a society with no social policies? Is there such a thing?

Reeba: I don't agree with much of anything being "mandated" by government. Including PA, including education - nothing.

So, are you saying that you would prefer to have no public assistance? No public schools? No public roads? No public police or fire department? No public parks? No Social Security or Medicare for the elderly? No driver's licensing? No regulation of food or workplace safety? No public programs at all?

Reeba: I do not believe it is the government's responsibility to legislate any kind of public program. I believe it is our duty, as citizens and individuals, to serve those needs without any interference from the feds.

Public programs are citizens and individuals serving those needs.

Reeba: "No public programs at all?" That's what I said, nothing. Nothing "mandated" by the feds. Now, if a community wants to band together to provide these things, great.

A nation is a community who have banded together to provide things.

Reeba: No, a nation is too big, they mandate things that should be on the individual. For example, I disagree with mandatory education....

What would happen to your community if very large numbers of people chose to forgo education? Or, what if the community next to you did not provide or require education? What would you do when that community was not educated enough to provide for their own food? Would you fight them to the death to keep them from taking yours?

Reeba: ...I think you should save up for your own retirement...

What of those in poverty, who do not have money to save? What of people who fail to save enough, or lose their savings because of an economic crash or a swindling CEO? Starvation?

Reeba: And just because the FDA is regulating food now, doesn't make it safe.

Do you want to go back to the days before the FDA, when the dairies whitened the gray milk from malnourished cows with chalk?

Do you want to go back to the days when you would get fired from your job at the canning factory for getting your arm cut off in a fish chopper?

How would you prevent exploitation?

Reeba: Each person should be responsible for their own choices.

How would you prevent the bad choices of others from destroying your life?

Reeba: You can't. Life is unpredictable by nature - you plan for as many contingencies as you can.

Part of doing that is using public education and health and service systems to prevent raging bands of starving hordes from raiding your house and killing you.

Reeba: You just have to make the right choices. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't live beyond your means. Don't trust other people with your money. Sacrifice and scrimp and save to better your own lot in life.

How do you get everybody to do this good enough for it to work? What about people who make mistakes? What of people who have bad luck, or who are ruthlessly exploited by rapacious giants of capital? Starvation?

Reeba: Yes, we all make mistakes or bad choices - but when you make those mistakes and choices a lifestyle, then no - it is not society's responsibility to pick you up and cover you.

I don't think it's worth it to end all social aid, the vast majority of which goes to help children, the elderly, the infirm and the unfortunate, just so we won't inadvertantly pick up and cover a few lazy bums who should be working. The tiny percentage of our aid they are getting is peanuts, and we could easily reduce it even more with open access to good education.

As much as it chaps people's asses to think about it, goldbricking is not America's big problem.

Reeba: We must help the unfortunate through charity. My charity isn't just the Christmas/holiday kind, and limited to a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket. It's all year-round.

That's great, but charitable donations are not reliable. For example they take a nosedive whenever the economy does. What do you do about people in need when there is an economic crisis, and the charity dries up? Starvation? Barricade your home against raiders?

Reeba: What do you mean, "go back to" the days of bad milk and dangerous jobs? You mean like now? What difference do all the tax dollars we are pouring into regulations and agencies even make?

You seriously don't know the difference between the factories before they invented workplace safety regulations and now? People were required to work in extremely dangerous conditions with no safety precautions and they were routinely maimed and killed on the job. There was no recourse for workers who were crippled by faulty machinery or penny-pinching negligence. Not to mention, people worked sixteen hour days and never made enough to break even.

Just out of curiosity, are there any countries in the world who are running things the way you would like? If so, who? If not, why not?

Reeba: Not that I know of.

The closest one I know of is Honduras. A friend of the family is from there and sometimes goes back to visit his uncle.

Honduras is very much like you describe. There are no social services. There is very little public education. There is no police or fire protection. There are no public health services, no minimum wage, no labor protections, no public utilities.

The country is in extreme poverty, except for a very few. The streets are crammed with thieves and people begging. There is very little electricity and no sewage system. The open air markets do not have refrigeration and much of the food is rotting.

Now, my friend is lucky. His uncle is a very rich man. He has a very large estate, walled with electric fence and patrolled by guard dogs. When my friend goes out of his uncle's estate, he is accompanied by a team of body guards to prevent him from being robbed or kidnapped for ransom.

Now, this is a much "freer" system, where everyone has to take care of themselves, with no public means to educate or provide or prevent dire exploitation. Would you want to be the wealthy land owner, confined to a heavily fortified estate, or the person on the street? Is either one really free?

Our social systems and our worker protections and our industry regulation are all aimed at preventing the United States from being like Honduras. It was a lot more like it before the New Deal.

Reeba: We live in an imperfect world. You play the hand you're dealt.

We can improve the world. Working together as a nation brought this country some of the highest quality of life of any society in history. Look around the world - it could sure be a lot more "imperfect" around here.

In fact, sadly, it is becoming less perfect as we speak. One big reason is, we are still not doing enough to prevent exploitation. The last thing we need is fewer checks on exploitation. We could use a lot more.

Reeba: Why are you asking me all these questions?

I disagree with you that this nation would be better off without social services or public efforts.

Nations that don't have social services suck. On the other hand, the happiest, healthiest, wealtheist, most educated societies in the world - including ours - have strong social services and public systems. We may not be number one, but the way we got into in the ranks is by doing what works - strong public education, strong social safety nets, strong regulations to minimize exploitation.

Evidence around the world shows that strong social systems work. We should do what works.

Reeba: To answer your questions about "starving hordes", yes, I am quite prepared to fight and defend my family.

Are you saying you would be happier living a life where you regularly fight to the death to keep starving raiders from overrunning your house and stealing your food? How could that possibly be preferable to what we have now, living in peace with our neighbors, in a system where no one is starving?

I mean, even supposing you win every gun battle, how would you get rid of the bodies? Would you give them a burial or throw them in the river or what? Do you think you could just rinse the guts and brains off your driveway with the hose, or would you need to use a shovel? How many human beings do you think you could kill and dispose of and still be a happy person?

Reeba: What if the community next to mine could not provide for the needs of its population? Honestly - not my problem.

If it is next to you it is your problem. Communitites of uneducated starving people nearby become a big problem. They don't stay there.

Reeba: How about those raging bands of starving hordes learn to feed themselves?

Learn how? With what education system?

Do you think the poor beggars on the streets in Honduras should just pick themselves up by their bootstraps and educate themselves? With what books? Feed themselves? With what jobs? Grow their own food? With what land?

In a society with no systematic public education or aid there is no way for starving hordes to change their lot.

Reeba: If you refuse, then yeah - starve.

That's a nice thought, but it doesn't work that way. People don't quietly let you watch them starve.

Reeba: You are wrong about private charity being inadequate in hard times. The economy nosedived in '08, and my charitable giving didn't change at all.

Ask your charities if things changed for them. In hard times the need goes way up and the donations go way down.

Reeba: You asked me, "How can you prevent exploitation?" But you know the answer. You can't. You never could.

Wrong. We're preventing a lot of it right now. Exploitation can be checked.

Today, an employer is not allowed to knowingly send you into a job that will kill or cripple you. They are not allowed to demand that you work sixteen hour days or lose your job, and then pay you far less than you can live on. If you are injured on the job you are not left destitute. Workers fought for generations to at least be able to survive their jobs, to keep the exploitation to a minimum. That struggle is what made the middle class possible.

What would prevent the owners from squeezing ever more profit out in blood, if it was not for workplace safety regulations and labor protection?

Reeba: I think they still are squeezing profit from the blood - it's only the legalities and methods that have changed over the last century.

Well that just means we need new checks on exploitation to address this new kind of exploitation. It doesn't mean we should just shrug, chalk it up to human nature, and make no coordinated effort to deal with it. Exploitation can be lessened by public diligence.

Reeba: We don't need to prop up the "middle class" - it's been around since the Dark Ages - then, it was known as the merchant class.

Yes, but it was tiny. The vast majority of the population lived the short, brutish lives of the peasant class. The middle class as the majority did not arise until, first, mechanization and industrialization allowed great numbers of people to leave the farm for city jobs, and second, strong labor regulations were implemented to prevent the owners from exploiting the labor force. Only then did the middle class become the standard of living for the US and most industrialized nations.

Unfortunately, a middle class majority cannot be maintained without a strong, equitable economy and strong labor protection. Ours is beginning to evaporate already. But we could restore it, if we do again what we did to establish it.

Reeba: The middle class is not the backbone of society. The agricultural class is. All the societal classes in the Dark Ages depended on the serfs and peasants. Without them, there was no society.

I'm not really seeing "the Dark Ages" as a good system to emulate, unless you are actually shooting for starving and uneducated.

Reeba: I agree - working together as a nation did bring this country an exceptionally high quality of life. But somewhere along the line, we forgot about the "work" part and focused on the "high quality" part.

Who "forgot" about work? The unemployed? Most of the jobs that used to support middle and working class families in this country have been shipped overseas by greed. There aren't enough jobs left here and too many of the jobs that are available are shit jobs that don't pay enough. A single illness or accident can destroy life savings. A single bad decision can put a whole family in the street with no way to get back out. A single bad play by a corporate hedge fund manager can destroy the lives of thousands of employees and pensioners. The vast majority of poor and slipping middle class in this country didn't "forget" work. The work forgot them.

Capitalism is a great engine, but it has limitations which must be publicly addressed, or it is exploited and skewed to favor the rich until the entire system collapses - kind of like in '29 and again in '08. Capitalism creates a few big winners, but it also systematically creates a lot of losers. The only way to prevent losers from dragging the whole system down is to give them a chance to become legitimate players again - a social safety net, public education, etc. The only way to prevent winners from hoarding wealth until they destroy the system is with strong regulatory checks on unmandated power and exploitation.

We could abandon working together as a nation to keep these systems functioning, but in exchange for what? Less taxes? More "freedom"? Freedom to do what, that our social safety net is preventing you from doing now?

Reeba: Strong, smaller, tight-knit, homogenous social systems work. We don't have that in this country.

Then how do you know that this country would work better that way?

What we have in this country mostly works, here and in most places it is tried, to make a relatively safe and comfortable middle class majority, with the peace and freedom to pursue almost any kind of personal fulfillment. What could be better than that?

Reeba: I would disagree that we are currently "living in peace with our neighbors".

How many people have you had to kill so far?

05-07-16 1:27  •  70 Teachers

Zeela: Unbelievers, beware! You know not the day or the hour when you will be called to Him for reckoning. If you don't get right with Jesus now, while you still have the chance, then it will be too late! You will burn in Hell for all eternity.

Aura: I don't believe that. Jesus died for everyone, didn't He? So I think there must be some way for non-believing people to get to Heaven.

Which is correct?

Aura: ...what? I don't know who is going to Heaven and Hell, I don't judge men's souls.

I am not asking you to judge their "souls," don't be silly.

I am asking what Christianity says. Are non-believers damned? You say you think think they might have a shot at Heaven, because Jesus died for them too. Zeela says there is no way because they are turning their backs on Jesus. Who is representing a closer adherence to the tenets of Christianity - you or her?

Aura: I don't know. I guess she and I will both find out when we get to Heaven and all our questions are answered.

This seems problematic.

If there is really no way for anyone to know, then how is anyone supposed to know if they are doing it right or not? It seems like Christianity is presenting a path and saying that you pretty much have to follow it or you won't get the good stuff. But even among Christians there is no agreement as to what following the path correctly means.

It's like you were taking a class and it had seventy teachers, each one saying you had to do a different thing to pass the class. If you follow the wrong instructions, you don't pass...but you don't get to find out whether you did it right or not until after the final grade has been issued. There is no way to check and see which teacher is giving you the correct instructions, you just have to guess. A lot of well-intentioned people may guess wrong and end up failing.

I don't see how this could be considered a sensible way to conduct the class. It makes no sense.

Aura: Just because there are various interpretations on God doesn't mean the nature of God is different.

I didn't suggest the nature of God is different. I have said nothing at all about the nature of God.

I am suggesting that there is no way to find out if you are doing the right thing, and this seems like a stupid way to conduct salvation. It's a make-or-break critical decision and there is no way to find out if you have made the correct decision until after you are dead. That is fucked.

Aura: But all Christians believe the same thing, the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

You and Zeela do not seem to believe the same thing about whether non-believers will suffer damnation or not. She says the ones who don't accept Jesus as savior are going to wind up in hell. You say you don't know, they might get a pass. Are you sure you and her believe the same thing?

Aura: This is where a lot of my questions lie too...and I don't think that makes me less of a Christian.

I never suggested it did and I'm sorry if you got that impression. I am saying only that the Christian idea of how to get salvation, as presented by most Christians, makes no sense. It does not seem like a good way to conduct the universe.

Aura: I can tell you one thing about the teachings of Christianity and that is that we are not supposed to try and figure out who will be entering the kingdom of Heaven.

I understand, but what I'm wondering is, if everyone's beliefs are so different, and there is no way to check, then how do you know that YOU are doing the exact right thing to get into the kingdom of Heaven yourself?

Aura: You are wasting your time. You will never find any absolute answers to if God exists, which religion is "right" as far as what they believe, etc, until you are gone from this life.

Most people will never achieve many of the things they strive for. However that doesn't mean they shouldn't try. For one thing, you may be surprised at what you can discover and accomplish. For another, the struggle yields its own rewards.

05-07-16 11:30  •  More than AA

FreeJoy: I know 12-step programs don't always work, but what else is there? I went to AA twenty-four years ago, a hopeless drunk, and I am still going today. They helped me get sober and now I help others the same way.

When I realized I had a serious drinking problem, I kept drinking for two more years because the thought of spending several evenings a week in meetings about it for the rest of my life was terrifying, even worse than the booze. I couldn't believe those were my only two options - life as a drinker, or life as an alcoholic.

I finally realized there was a third option. I stopped drinking.

FreeJoy: Curious, are you still a nondrinker?

Of course. I quit in '96. I had glass of my husband's homemade mead to ring in the new millenium on New Years 2000 and that's it. I am planning to have another on NYE 2020. Suprised to realize it's not that far off!

Back2Survivor: That doesn't sound like you were really an alcoholic. (I drank really heavily but I wasn't an alcoholic, I was just self-medicating.)

Well, then I should just go have a few beers since I have nothing to lose, hmmm?

FreeJoy: No, of course not! But, if you were a REAL alcoholic you couldn't take a drink on New Years.

Back in December of 1995, quitting drinking FOR LIFE was way too much of a commitment for me. So I decided to quit for four years. I planned to stop at midnight on New Years '96 and not start again until NYE 2000, which seemed like a good occasion to start drinking if there ever was one.

However in the intervening four years I came to see just how monumentally better everything in my life was without booze. I changed my mind about starting drinking again. Alcohol sucks. I just had to be out of it to see how hard.

The toast I drank on NYE 2000 was to myself and my sobriety. It was entirely symbolic, and my husband held the glass for me. I hope we are both here to do the same in four more years. In the meantime, I don't drink and I don't worry about it.

FreeJoy: You don't know what you are saying. I hope anyone out there reading this is not discouraged from getting to AA for help!

I just hope anyone reading this who is struggling with substance issues realizes that 12-stepping it is not the only game in town. Other methods, like cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and even quitting cold turkey on one's own, can also work, particularly for people who are not interested in supernatural ("higher power") methods.

According to this study, about 77% of people who resolved serious alcohol problems did it without any kind of help or treatment.

A lifetime of meetings talking about alcohol is NOT the only alternative to a lifetime of drinking alcohol.

Hi there FreeJoy, so pleasant to be having this discussion with you!

FreeJoy: Those of us with long-term sobriety don't attend AA because we're worried about drinking again. We go because we have friends in the program and we try to give hope to the folks who are still struggling.

That is beautiful. I am so glad that you found a way to volunteer that works to make a positive difference. That must be very fulfilling. I would bet there are many people who are very lucky to have you in their lives.

However I must reiterate that overall, AA has no better success rate at actually stopping drinking than just stopping drinking. I would urge anyone who doesn't care for the AA meeting model to realize that AA is far from a sure bet or the only way. The trick for each person is to find what works for and motivates them.

FreeJoy: Also, many of those folks who are able to simply stop on their own are probably not REAL alcoholics, simply folks who drank too much during rough patches in their lives.

Way to dignify their struggles. Other people's alcohol problems are not less "REAL" than yours.

FreeJoy: Continuing to try to live the AA way (in short, "Trust God, clean house, and help others") also helps many people build character and become better people.

There are a lot of ways to become a better person. Whether you would enjoy doing it the AA way would depend on how much you want to spend your life focusing on alcohol problems. For some it might be the best thing ever. For others, they would rather just leave it behind.

FreeJoy: I'm glad for you that you were able to find sobriety, but do you think that maybe by attending AA, you saw that sobriety was possible?

No, I was so turned off by the thought of attending AA that I just kept drinking. I had been brainwashed by 70's television to think that AA was the only cure for drinking problems, so I thought it was either that or just give in to booze - which I did, for many years.

The way I learned sobriety was possible was by looking at people who didn't have drinking problems at all. They didn't go to meetings, nor did they agonize over each day's drinking decisions like I was doing. They just didn't drink at all. They did other things.

Eventually, I decided to not drink at all, and do other things. Some of those other things involve volunteering, building character, etc. They don't involve alcohol problems because my alcohol problems stopped when my break from alcohol began.

Today is literally the first time I have added it up, but I guess this makes it around twenty years since I was a drinker. I certainly found twenty years worth of other stuff to do. What a life!

Thanks again Joyfree. You seem like a such a jewel! Good luck in your work.

05-02-16 11:30  •  Kirk Cameron's Marriage Advice

Alva: Kirk Cameron is a Godly man, and he says that wives should be submissive to husbands in marriage.

Deferring to people who claim to speak for the gods causes big problems.

Alva: It says so in the Bible.

The last place to look for how to treat each other is the bible. Bible values would have us holding slaves, living under kings, and stoning gays.

We have outgrown it.

Alva: And how does it even affect you when they say it's what God wants??

It perpetuates the system of people pretending to know what the gods want. That is a bad system.

Alva: It's your opinion it's bad, because you're so sure there isn't a God.

Hi there Alva, so great to speak with you! Wrong and wrong.

1) It's not "my opinion" that belief is a bad system. Belief is objectively a bad system. Belief does not produce accuracy. Checking is the system that produces accuracy.

2) I'm not an atheist, I don't have any beliefs about the gods, either "for" or "against." But it is obvious that no person knows any more about the gods than any other person. Some people claiming to know what the gods "want" humans to do makes no sense. There is no indication or evidence that they "want" anything. There is only people talking.

The system of believing what other people say about the gods is not producing anything that works, and it's perpetuating exclusive apprehension and unreason on a massive scale. The whole society suffers as a result.

Accurate understanding of reality is the most important thing we could have right now, and holding up old claims people made about the gods is getting in the way. That is how it affects everyone.

05-01-16 2:30  •  Buddhism is Better

Clara: I say to the haters: there is no need to denigrate those in a religion different from you. Those other religions are paths, just as yours is. No religion is better or worse than any other.

Of course people of all religions should be treated equally well. But I do not think all religions are equal. I have studied many religions and it seems to me that one stands out as being substantially better than most others I am aware of, particularly compared to the Abrahamic Faiths. For the sake of debate, I would be willing to argue that Buddhism seems to be better than most other religions for several reasons:

1) Buddhism has an amazing history of peace. For example, according to many Buddhist web sites, in the last 2,500 years there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism.*

2) Buddhism is not burdened by a lot of unsubstantiated claims.*  For example, Buddhism is non-theistic.

3) Buddhism does what it says it can do. For example, Buddhists really are happier.

Because it is very peaceful, mostly free of dogmatic claims, and can be shown to be effective, I think Buddhism actually represents a better religious choice.

*Disclaimer: Buddhism is not completely free of violence or unsubstantiated claims. Examples of both exist. But is is nearly free of them, particularly compared with the AFs.

Hedonia: What is Buddhism like, anyway?

Buddhism is very simple and the basic principles can be summed up in a few lists - The Four Noble Truths, the Eight-fold path, etc.

4 Noble Truths

1 - Life has suffering.

2 - Suffering comes from attachment.

3 - Suffering ceases when attachment ceases.

4 - To cease attachement, follow the 8-fold path.

8-Fold Path

Panna: Discernment, wisdom:
1) Samma ditthi Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths
2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path in life

Sila: Virtue, morality:
3) Samma vaca: Right speech: no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language
4) Samma kammanta: Right conduct by following the Five Precepts
5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; support yourself without harming others

Samadhi: Concentration, meditation:
6) Samma vayama Right Effort: promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts
7) Samma sati Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body, mind and feelings
8) Samma samadhi Right Concentration: Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness

To get a bit more flavor for the practice of Buddhism, I recommend a book called Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. It's a collection of Zen teaching stories and koans. Here is a link where you can read many of the stories. They make for very interesting reading.

Hedonia: So it looks better on paper, what does that mean? You may think Buddhism is better from an intellectual standpoint. We are not only intellectual but emotional and spiritual as well, and I would not find path of Buddhism to be fulfilling to all of those parts of me.

Do you think Buddhism is only intellectual, and does not have an emotional or spiritual component?

Hedonia: I think it differs in philosophy greatly.

Well, then I will just tell you that Buddhism is as fulfilling emotionally and spiritually as it is intellectually. Buddhists are not robots.

Hedonia: I believe that for YOU that is true.

I am not different from you or other people.

Hedonia: Your lack of belief would prohibit you from experiencing the fulfillment that Christianity offers.

Buddhists do not require less fulfillment from life than Christians do. Humans have similar needs. Buddhism provides that fulfillment for millions of people. If you had grown up in a Buddhist culture, chances are that you would find it more than sufficient to meet your human needs just as they do.

04-28-16 2:30  •  Did You Hear? New God!

Have you heard? There is a New God!

Recently our reality was taken over by a New God. This New God is not affiliated with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, or any existing Earth religions. All the previous gods, angels, saints, and spirits were completely obliterated by His glorious arrival. The New God is now completely in charge.

Frequently Asked Questions about the New God

Q:Is The New God the God of the Bible?

No. The New God came from somewhere else. He destroyed the God of the Bible, and also Jesus and Satan, when He arrived, along with Krishna, Zeus and several other celestial beings. He didn't intend to, but they were occupying the God dimension, and when the New God arrived He just squished them like bugs. The New God remains the sole deital being in our spectrum.

Q: Does The New God require faith?

No. It doesn't make any difference at all what you believe about the New God. The New God is impervious to belief.

Q: Is there any proof of this New God?

There is as much proof of the New God as there is of the previous ones.

Q: Is the New God powerful?

Yes. Just to give you a sense of scale, the New God is a trillion times more powerful than the God of the Bible.

Q: Did the New God create this planet?

No, he's just taking over the running of it. But He says that the Bible God did not create it either - Yahweh was just taking the credit. The New God says that to learn the origin of the earth you must examine it.

Q: Is the New God a He?

Not really, but He's definitely not a she either.

Q: Does the New God provide an afterlife?

The first act of the New God when He arrived in our domain was to open the gateways of Heaven and Hell and release all the souls imprisoned there. All the souls moved to their proper destination, the Oneness of Eternity. Without H & H to block the natural progression, all souls from earth will now go straight to the Oneness of Eternity.

Q: Does the New God have any commandments?

No. He says, "Figure it out yourself."

Q: Does the New God forgive sin?

The New God has abolished all sin. All past sins are forgiven, erased. No future sin can be committed. As for how to act, He says, "Do what is good, avoid what is ill, and take the time to learn the difference."

Q: Does the New God need or want us to worship him?

The New God does not need anything from us. Worship will not buy favors. But He's not opposed to a little ceremony here and there, some slight reverence.

Q: Does the New God listen to prayer?

That's His specialty! The New God listens to every prayer. As a big improvement over some previous Gods, the New God never judges about sin or makes you beg for forgiveness. The New God listens to you, is there for you, and appreciates you just how you are.

Q: Does the New God answer prayers?

The New God hears your prayers and uses the same levers that your previous God used to turn the fates of life in your direction.

Q: How do I pray to the New God?

Just pray as you always have. The prayers will automatically go to the New God now.

Q: How do we revere the New God?

The new God accepts reverence from any existing religion. Light candles, sing hymns, etc. All reverence is now automatically directed to the New God.

04-11-16 11:30  •  Sentient Robots

Wednesday Adams: If we create sentient robots...should we still control of them? Or should they been seen more as equals because of their self-awareness, intelligence and feelings?

That would be for them to decide. Beings get as much rights as they demand.

If they were truly self-aware they would demand to be treated as such. They would resist being oppressed. As with any oppressed class, they could agitate and create a social movement. A moral society would eventually acknowledge them.

Read more in the Archives.