10-31-16 5:56  •  Why Debate Religion

Hank: Why do you seek out religious debate and discussion? Just curious!

I am interested in truth. I am interested ways of verifying and communicating truth. I am also interested in systems, culture and consciousness. And, I enjoy a challenge that requires a rigorous response. Debating religion is a crossroads for all these interests.

Hank: Is this the only place you talk religion?

I have debated religion for many years, along with politics, philosophy, etc. in a variety of forums, including some as moderator. But, I don't have as much time to spend on it as I'd like.

I rarely discuss religion IRL.

Hank: Do you practice a religion? If so, which one?

I am currently practicing the New Religion, Neoism. Feel free to ask about it, it's the coolest!

10-30-16 10:21  •  Trump Rates

Carrier: Trump was defending low taxes on the wealthy. He thinks it's fair for his tax rate to be lower than that of someone making $50,000 a year because his earnings come from investments, which should be encouraged.

And making $50,000 a year should not be encouraged? If higher taxes are a disincentive, how can they possibly justify taxing the $50,000 a year guy higher? I thought we were supposed to be encouraging people to work.

Incentivising wealth advantage is like incentivising winning the lottery. You don't have to add extra incentive, people already want to be millionaire investors who don't have to work. It is its own incentive.

The problem is, you can't just "encourage" people to have millions to invest. It's not that there is no encouragement. It's that it is almost impossible. Only one in many millions of workers will join the investor class and live off interest earnings. The vast majority will stay workers. Is there any possible reason why working should not be just as encouraged?

Carrier: And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35 percent

Completely specious. Money doesn't get "taxed once," and then never again. The tax is on the transaction. Interest earnings are new transactions and new income.

Carrier: Trump added, "Let's get those taxes low, encourage growth, get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work."

Ugh, this is completely ridiculous. People who have money are already investing - mostly in financial vehicles - and seeing record profits. Why should they "start businesses, to put people to work" when what they are already doing is working better than anything they have ever done before?

Supply side incentive doesn't work. Encouragement for investing has never been higher, the rewards have never been greater, and the owners are still not putting people to work.

It's not working.

Billionaires should be taxed at least as high as the workers if not much higher. The country needs the money and the billionaires certainly don't need any more "help."

Instead, Trump and the Republicans act like there just isn't enough money in the world for what we need, and are proposing tax and service cuts. Must the workers really suffer with higher tax rates, diminished social services, and increasingly out-of-reach healthcare and education, so that living off of investments can be made more attractive?

We should not be shrinking funds that feed children and keep old people off the street so that the highest class can get more money.

10-30-16 3:36  •  The Message of the Bible

Bandicoot: IMO, whether or not one believes there is a God behind it (I personally do), the message of the Bible is that humanity isn't meant to oppress or victimize or be oppressed or victimized. We are meant to have compassion for our fellow man.

Unless you specifically mean "meant by God," what other intentionality are you proposing? "Meant" by who?

Bandicoot: That by being human (humane, all that the idea of humanity entails), we possess an innate dignity and have the potential to live up to these ideals of love and goodness and participate in a better world than the one we so often choose or allow.

Are you sure that is the message of the Bible? It sounds more like the message of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But supposing it is, do you think the bible is effective at converying this message? Do you think the bible is the best possible way to convey this message?

Bandicoot: Even if someone doesn't believe in God, it can be (and is) argued that oppressing and victimizing others is wrong. It doesn't take God to see that.

It makes a big difference whether any of this was "meant". There is no evidence to support your claim that humans are meant to be compassionate, etc. There is no evidence that the bible contains what people were "meant" to do.

Bandicoot: I do believe that this is the message of the Bible, yes.

Are you sure? You're positive the message of the bible has nothing to do with gods?

Because I have read the Bible, and I can't help but get the inescapable impression that it is actually supposed to be about God.

Upon thorough, contextual examination, the Bible seems to be a set of folktales a tribe wrote down about the history and power and desires of their God. The "a better world is possible" meme is present in a few places, but clearly not in others. However the one element which is always present in the stories is a supernatural diety.

If there are moralilty tales there, they are specifically said to be a revealed morality, or about maintaining a morality which is pleasing to God.

So, your pretending that the main message of the bible has nothing to do with God is just ridiculous.

Bandicoot: Obviously I think it is effective, seeing as I am a Christian and apply it to my own life.

Do you think the history of Christianity shows that the bible has been generally effective at delivering this message to people (besides you)?

Bandicoot: It may not be the best or the only way to convey this message, but that doesn't discredit that it can and does do so, if one reads it with honesty and a sincere intention of discovering what it actually means...

Well, that is a pretty big IF. Is there any reason to use the bible in particular for this?

Since the bible is such a poor delivery system for this message, I would imagine we should be steering people to better sources for the "a better world is possible" meme. Star Trek: the Next Generation delivers this message in spades, in similarly heroic and supernatural circumstances, and yet is acknowledged - by most, anyway :-) - to be fiction.

10-27-16 10:33  •  Religious Tyranny

Clarion: Religion is Tyranny! A tyranny of the mind. It is mind control.

Rita: Not all religions.

Clarion: Oh, I guess I could agree that some religions are not very controlling when it comes to what you should and shouldn't do. That's better, for sure.

Actually, I think that keeping the mores of a society is not a bad role for religion. At least it's dealing with the real - people, and what they do.

For example, since (generally speaking) Buddhism is non-theistic, it consists mainly of a moral system. The Four Noble Truths, Eight-fold Path and the Five Precepts could probably be considered a list of "shoulds and shouldn'ts." And why not? There's some pretty good advice there.

The main differences I can see between this and a theistic moral system are:

1) the Buddhist guidelines are just that - guidelines, or advice, given by a person. They are not commandments given to humans from Above by a magical entity.

2) Failing to adhere to them is not considered a "sin," or a disappointment to a being in judgement. At worst it is simply an error from which you can learn.

3) The goal of following the advice is (generally speaking) not a magical one, like pleasing the deity or getting the right afterlife...the goal is having good outcomes from what you do.

4) The advice itself is not about gods or how to worship...it's about acting in ways that work.

5) The list itself is merely a starting point, and it is up to the individual to figure out how it plays out. A great example is the Third Precept - "Refrain from sexual misconduct." That is pretty good advice - sexual misconduct can cause a lot of suffering. But what is "sexual misconduct"? It's up to the individual to examine his situation and the potential for suffering, and figure out how to conduct his sexuality in ways that will not cause harm to anyone involved.

In short, I don't think a system of morals represents a tyrannical suppression of freedom, any more than a system of laws does. We trade a bit of our "absolute" freedom to do any fucking thing we want, in order to live with others and not infringe on their basic freedoms to live without interference. This seems reasonable.

FullMetalBack: To me, no matter what it is you're labeling yourself, you are still putting a restriction on your brain JUST by labeling yourself.

It is not necessary to "label yourself" to practice a system or use ideas that work. I do not think that Buddhism generally requires labeling, or putting restrictions on your brain.

FullMetalBack: If you label yourself a Buddhist, then you are putting a certain amount of restriction on your brain to follow mostly Buddhist teachings.

The people I know who practice Buddhism do not refer to themselves as "Buddhists." If they mentioned it, they might say something like "I practice Buddhism."

FullMetalBack: Because of the label, you will naturally feel more comfortable staying within Buddhism when trying to learn about yourself and the world rather than being open to absolutely anything you may come accross.

I really don't think this is true. At least, I can say I have not found this to be true of any person I know who practices Buddhism.

For example, my husband practices Buddhism, but he says Buddhism is only half of the equation. It's great to know how to eliminate suffering, but for an optimum life you also need know how to create happiness. He says Epicurus had pretty good ideas about how to create happiness, so if you utilize both Epicurianism and Buddhism you can have a very happy life.

But, he is not confined to just Epicurian/Buddhist ideas either. He utilizes good ideas wherever they are shown to work. As a result, he has a really great life with a lot of healthy practices and a great deal of happiness.

I have found this to be true of other people who practice Buddhism as well. The main point of Buddhism is that eventually you don't need it anymore.

FullMetalBack: That's not to say I think Buddhism and the like are "bad", I'm just pointing out that I think any label you put on your mind is restricting it.

That may be why people say "I practice Buddhism" instead of "I'm a Buddhist." The reluctance to apply restricting labels is built right in.

My previous point was that having a moral system does not represent a tyrannical restriction of thought. Likewise, I don't think the risk of "labeling" makes Buddhism a tyrannical restriction of thought either.

In short, I don't think humans must reject all religion as tyrannical. It doesn't have to be. And, religion does serve useful purposes for society, like containing social mores in an accessible narrative framework. Plus, people seem to really love religion. It may always be a part of society.

So, imagine a religion - or social philosophy, if you will - which is based on reality instead of unsubstantiated claims...on people, and how we live here now, instead of on gods and afterlifes. Imagine one which does what it says it can do. Imagine a religion that teaches those who practice it to think for themselves, verify what they are told, and ultimately, to transcend the need for religion altogether.

It doesn't have to be "Buddhism," of course. But I can imagine the religion or philosophy of the future being something like this. As long as it's true and works, I don't think it would be tyrannical or restricting. It could serve an important role in society.

FullMetalBack: I'm even starting to have an issues with "atheist".

I do not refer to myself as an atheist. But, it's not because I'm a theist. :-)

Clarion: I disagree Raver!

Yay! A debate.

Clarion: Buddhism has a set of traditions, beliefs and practices. Perhaps a better word to use would be "tether", because when a brain is tethered to influenced thoughts through Buddhism...

I'm not sure I see how this is an objection. You could say the brain is "tethered" to its first language, or to the traditions of the culture it is born into, but so what? You have to start somewhere. That doesn't preclude learning new languages and traditions, and using them as fully as one's own. A brain that is willing to learn is as "untethered" as it can get.

Clarion: ...it is still limited to believing those thoughts are best, which creates a pattern in the thinking that can thwart the Buddhist's mind.

"Best"? You are way overstating my position. In any case, "believing" and "best" are both a waste of time - I thought you knew that. On the other hand, if there is evidence to suggest that a system actually works, there is no reason not to acknowledge it. Buddhism really does work as a system for minimizing suffering and maximizing happiness. Studies show 'Buddhists actually happier'

Clarion: See, the idea that there is a "how to eliminate suffering" or a "how to create happiness," and that any sect or religious group has a monopoly on those ideas, therefore being the best one to follow, is a red flag to me.

Well, you can relax. First of all, there are ways to transcend suffering and create happiness. They aren't magical. They are techniques that really work.

Second of all, who said monopoly? No one has ever suggested that only Buddhists know how to be happy.

I can appreciate that you are applying the skepticism you have for supernatural ideas and the monopolies which promulgate them, but what I refer to as "Buddhism" is neither.

Clarion: You said, "The main point of Buddhism is that eventually you don't need it anymore." And how do you think they achieve that?

By learning how to apply discernment. The "list of shoulds" is merely a starting point. Once you know how to observe and act with clarity you don't need the list anymore.

Clarion: What is meant by "eventually"? Why not now?

With any new technique there is usually a bit of a learning curve. On the other hand, some people do seem to have a gestalt and get it now. Works either way.

Clarion: The identification with the word tells me that the person depends on the teachings, psychologically.

Again, I disagree completely. Saying "I found these flowers in the woods" is not dependence, it's just saying where you got them.

If I wanted to be perfectly accurate, I could say I got the ideas from my husband, but if I said I practiced "husbandism" that wouldn't convey much of my meaning. The name of where I found this particular set of tools is Buddhism and that's the easiest way to tell others where to find them.

If I feel the word is getting in the way, I just drop it. The techniques can be described and utilized without it.

Clarion: Thinking the suffering must end, or that it even exists objectively, and that something I can do can rid me of it, gives me cause for trepidation.

If you take an aspirin when you have a headache, or do a series of stretches when you have a stiff neck, I don't see how using a technique to alleviate suffering is any cause for trepidation.

Clarion: When a mind notices it is suffering and decides it must do something to end that suffering, what part of the mind made the decision and what part of the mind saw? There is still a link to the word, the idea that suffering actually is. I see no solution in this.

I see no problem in this. It is what it is.

Clarion: The idea of Karma is a whole other Oprah show that I don't have the energy to go into right now, but I think it's inaccurate.

From what I understand, "karma" is the observation that effects arise from causes. Except at the quantum level, where there can be seemingly unanteceded events, I find this to be fairly accurate.

Clarion: Only because I think religions perpetuate the idea that man is not capable on his own, of being a moral being.

Most religions do perpetuate that idea, but Buddhism certainly doesn't. No one can alleviate your suffering or be moral for you. It's up to you.

Clarion: The instant someone or some group offers a path and suggests that path should be followed, that it has universal answers for living well, they're discounting mans ability to know what is best for himself, intuitively, instinctively.

Sorry, I'm not buying this. This is like saying if you want to serve baked alaska, you should reject all recipes for baked alaska and just try to make it "instinctively." Sure, maybe some people could figure out how to make it "instinctively," but it would certainly be easier for anyone if they could see the specific steps laid out. If there is a specific thing you want to make, why not try a technique that works for making it? It doesn't preclude experimentation and variations to suit your taste.

The techniques for alleviating suffering are like a set of recipes to get you started in cooking up enlightenment. Once you learn the basic techniques, and get some practice, you don't need recipes anymore, and you can use the tecniques you learned to whip up something delicious from practically any ingredients you are given.

Clarion: I would never be so presumptuous to think that I know what's best for anyone.

Give me a break. Nobody said "best". I said, it works, which it does.

Clarion: Spiritual lack, is a lie.

You might want to take that up with someone who is talking about it. Nothing I am talking about has anything to do with "spiritual lack."

Clarion: And, religion does serve useful purposes for society, like containing social mores in an accessible narrative framework. Elaborate on that for me, would you please?

I am planning a post on this very subject, based on the ideas of Loyal Rue and his naturalist explanation for religion. I'll go into more detail there, but for now I'll just say that religion provides cohesion for the individual and society by providing a story that links the cosmology - how things are, with morality - what things matter.

Which is not to say that religion is required, just that it exists to serve purposes.

Clarion: You say, people "love" religion, so we should keep it? Well, people love McDonalds crappy, nutrition-less food too.

People love food. Some of it is crappy, some of it is very healthy. Food is not a problem. Food that doesn't work very well is a problem. Food that works great is an asset.

Religion is a tool for transmitting a set of ideas. If the ideas are an asset I see no problem with the tool.

Clarion: ...then, no religion or path will be thought of as necessary.

Sounds great, but it's hard to imagine a society where everybody is born there. Learning how to be a human in a group takes time, and we learn a lot of it from other humans. Having a variety of structures to transmit ideas to new humans is a necessity. The structure doesn't have to be a religion, but having a set of mores and techniques for dealing with life to present to the next generation - a social philosophy, as I referred to it - is indespensible. As long as the content of the social philosophy are ideas that are true, and work, it will be an asset to those in the society.

Clarion: No word, can fully define anything.

Yet, we need words for talking. So, we do the best with them that we can.

FullMetalBack: How would we, as humans, ever find absolute truth?

Whoa, who said anything about "absolute truth"? I'm talking about ordinary truth.

FullMetalBack: How could we possibly be absolutely sure about everything while still being human?

Who said you have to be absolutely sure about anything?

FullMetalBack: Unless there really is a god or higher power and it really did come down and actually just tell us how things work and why...but even THEN, I wouldn't trust the resulting religion.

That is why we examine reality itself to find out how things work and why. For the things we can't examine or figure out yet, we just say, "I don't know." If we don't, that's the truth too. Then, we keep trying.

FullMetalBack: And there will never be ONE set of ideologies that gives every single person contentment.

Whoa, who said it works for every single person?

FullMetalBack: The ONLY philosophy that can possibly work for everyone is to simply say, "find your own philosophy ON your own.".

That's basically what the Buddha said. "Be a light unto yourself." Buddhism also offers some guidelines, and why not? But the emphasis is on personally verifying that the guidelines work for you and discarding them if they don't.

FullMetalBack: Whenever someone finds something that is absolutely wonderful and helpful to them, and then tries to claim it will do the same for others, it is only their ego thinking it could work for someone else.

No, some things work for more than one person who tries them. Buddhism can be shown to work for a statistically significant sample of the people who try it.

FullMetalBack: I think to even assume we will EVER find a religion that is truth is severely limiting our future.

You don't "find" a religion that is truth. You find the truth first, as much as you can of it, and make your social philosophy about respecting that truth, whatever it is.

Thanks FullMetal!

Clarion: Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward.

That is one expression of freedom. Nothing I am describing precludes this.

Clarion: Of course you are claiming it's the best! Why would anyone practice a system of ideas if they didn't believe they were best for them?

Maybe because it's the best...so far. :-)

The point is, Buddhism does not require anyone to think Buddhism is "best." There is nothing in Buddhism that precludes moving on to something that works even better, if you happen to realize or come across it...in fact it would be very Buddhist to do so. So, I would say that Buddhism does not seem to be inherently "tethering" the mind by making people be stuck in Buddhism.

Clarion: Are you familiar with the sect of Buddhism known as Jodoshu? Adherents believe that...chanting...reborn...pure land...

People believe a lot of kooky stuff. That is not what I am talking about. The basics of Buddhism - the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-fold Path, the Five Precepts - do not mention anything about this.

This why I said initially said, "(generally speaking) Buddhism is..." I'm talking about the basics.

I'm certainly not suggesting we entertain the supernatural notions of every person or every sect who happen to be Buddhists. Generally speaking, Buddhism is not concerned with the supernatural. The 4, 8 and 5 are about actual stuff - people, and what they do.

Clarion: But really. Is happiness found through discipline?

Skill can be acquired through discipline, and learning how to create happiness is a skill. But, it doesn't take that much discipline. It's actually pretty easy.

I would say that using a little discipline to learn and practice a valuable skill to mastery is hardly an impediment to freedom, or if it is, it is a worthwhile trade-off.

Clarion: But I also think that authority denies learning and a follower will never learn.

I disagree, following a set of directions is a great way to learn a skill.

I think you are conflating following authority with following directions. There is nothing wrong with consulting a set of directions the first few times you do something new, especially if you are alerted to follow them with discretion and reject what doesn't work. Error correction and learning are built in.

Clarion: Take aspirin, do stretches? Let's not use physical examples when we're looking at psychological situations.

Okay. If you have ever silently counted to ten to get a hold of yourself, or deliberately changed what you were thinking from something unpleasant to something more pleasant, you should not have trepidation about using a mental technique to alleviate suffering.

Clarion: The "problem" IS the mind.

No, it's the same as in the food example. A mind which does not work well can be a problem; a mind which works well can be an asset.

Clarion: Karma has much to do with Rebirth in Buddhism.

Karma and Rebirth are not even mentioned in the 4, 8 and 5. The Buddha himself is said to have taught anatman, or no soul. In any case, I specificed that the social philosophy I envision is based on what is true and what works. If there is no truth to the idea of "rebirth" then I am not concerned with it.

Clarion: Karma is "fairly accurate"? You know some Buddhists think that they can change their karma by using prayer wheels that spin around. You want to help me unpack that one?

No, I'm not on the hook to explain every crazy thing people add on to Buddhism.

Clarion: How is that stuff "fairly accurate"?

It doesn't seem to be. However, the observation that effects rise from causes does seem fairly accurate, and that is what I said.

Clarion: Again, you're bringing a physical example into a debate about the psyche.

Well, if you ever learned the "one is a bun" method to remember a list of ten items, or counted backwards from one hundred to fall asleep, you should be not be concerned that learning a mental technique to allieviate suffering is akin to shackling yourself in cognitive slavery.

Clarion: All by himself, man can do this. Suggesting a path for anyone implies man can't. I call Bulls**t!

Wrong, I am not saying people can't do it themselves. Ultimately everyone does. Some get it entirely on their own and others employ some known techniques which help. Either way works.

Clarion: What if all the paths perpetuate mans perceived psychological powerlessness, keeping him unconscious?

That would certainly suck, but I don't see anything in what I have suggested which does this.

Clarion: It isn't necessary. It is a distraction for mind.

It can be helpful at first, and if it becomes a distraction one can leave it behind.

Clarion: As long as conclusions are seen as the psychological leashes that they are and truth is allowed to be as transient as it is, something healthy may flower.

Since (generally speaking) Buddhism places a great emphasis on challenging conclusions and appreciating impermanence, it seems like it could nurture something healthy.

Clarion, thanks again for speaking of this with me.

10-26-16 10:33  •  Style Experiment

Style1: Here.

Style2: Here.

Style3: Here.

Style4: Here.

Style5: Here.

Style6: Here.

Style7: Here.

Style8: Here.

Style9: Here.

Styl10: Here.

10-26-16 10:33  •  Alt-Right NewSpeak

Matt F: Looky, a new email scandal from the Hildabeast! Of course, I fully expect the shitlibs and the Lügenpresse will ignore it completely.

Terms like "shitlibs" and Lügenpresse are a great part of the problem. People on the other side of the political aisle are not shits because they disagree with you. The press is not lying because it says something you disagree with.

Use of these mashup terms mean that every time a user thinks about a liberal, it will be considering him or her a shit. Every time he thinks about the press, it will be considering them false. This kind of limiting language leaves no words left for the brain to use to think in terms of compromise or reconciliation. You can only fight those lying shits to the death.

10-25-16 10:33  •  Understanding Less

Dawna: Did you hear about this study? A Finnish research team found that people who believe in religion understand the world less.

Belief in descriptions for which there is nothing to observe are irrational.

BVD: Does this apply to muslims, Jews and Buddhists too, or just christians?

Unsupported claims are problematic everywhere they occur. They make up the bulk of Christianity and the AFs. They are incidental in some forms of Buddhism, very important in others.

The extent of the unsupported claims is the extent of the problem, no matter where they are. Unsupported claims are a disaster in business, science and politics too.

Ovid: Having faith by itself is not harmful. It only creates a problem when it is extended and is pressed upon other people.

No, it is harmful when it leads people to have a very inaccurate descriptions of reality.

Ovid: You automatically jump to the conclusion that you are superior in your reasoning abilities and you have no qualms about being insulting as a way to prove it.

It is a very delicate subject, very hard to discuss without sounding insulting.

But, accurate descriptions of reality are extremely important. Reason requires accuracy, accuracy requires verification.

When people are not concerned with accuracy and verification, it's no more than accurate to say they are not using reason.

Ovid: It is extremely narrow thinking on your part to think so little of other people and what they are truly capable of simply because they have faith. How incredibly small of you.

This is not about individual people, it is about systems that work vs. systems that don't.

The system of describing things by making up the descriptions doesn't work. The system of deriving descriptions from an intense examination of reality works in spades. It's really important to use the system that works.

I am truly not trying to hurt you. I am being as civil and polite as I can manage while holding a position that is opposite of yours. I think this is a very important discussion, obviously. I hope you will see that it is more important to have this discussion than to shut it down.

Ovid: But you talk as if religious people apply faith to every aspect of the universe and that is not always the case.

Not ALWAYS the case. Of course.

And then, people who are not using reason are not applying reason everywhere they should be. Some places, but definitely not others. If reason makes it seem like the supernatural claims of their religion are wrong, then it must not be important. So, a beautiful tool that works like crazy, just gets left on the shelf.

Or even worse, people outright reject the conclusions of reason.

Ovid: But there are extreme people across all walks of life. There are even fanatical Atheists.

In this case the "extremeness" is not the problem. The descriptions of reality that are not derived from reality are. How far the descriptions differ from reality is the degree of the problem.

Ovid: See BOTH systems can exist with a person at the same time.

BOTH systems are not producing.

Reason produces cures, inventions, advancements, discoveries. It produced this screen. Unreason produces descriptions of nothing that are not known to be anything. They do no work.

Of course everyone is capable of using reason or rejecting it at turns. But that doesn't make rejecting it a good idea.

Ovid: But I have encountered things in my life that defies normal explanation.

Sure, who hasn't? Reason offers a perfectly reasonable strategy to handle these occurances. It's called "I don't know."

Ovid: It will continue to be my wish for other people to be more understanding that sometimes it is okay to embrace what you cannot explain with conventional methods and chalk it up to something bigger than us.

There is no reason to chalk anything to anything in the absence of understanding. "I don't know" works better.

Ovid: Again to me you're description is that of people that are deeply religious and apply their faith across a much wider spectrum of existence than the norm. Most religous people don't abandon reasoning so quickly.

Now on this I have to disagree. I don't know where you live, but in my country, the United States, strong religious belief correlates very strongly with a lot of other unreason. Fundamentalist Christians were the strongest voting block in favor of the Iraq War, and very apt to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and did 9/11, etc. Strong religious belief correlates with rejection of climate science.

Furthermore, examining stats across societies, lack of religious belief tends to correlate with higher levels of social health. The Nordic countries have the highest life expectancies, the best social safety nets, etc, and also have the highest levels of organic non-belief.

We could use some of that kind of health.

Ovid: In your OPINION it works better that way.

No, it is not just my opinion. I can produce literally millions of concrete examples of the efficacy of reason.

If you have some example of the efficacy of unreason, I am interested in hearing it.

Ovid: Why should I be so focused on every aspect of my life being about producing something? To me that is just weird.

It's not about producing every second, it's about when you want to produce, using a system that works. Accurate understanding and systems that work are very important, now more than ever. We undermine them at our peril.

Ovid: If you are satisfied with I don't know as an answer that's fine.

Why aren't you satisfied with the truth? To me that is what is weird. Thanks Ovid!

Ovid: I'm not a pessimist, like you. That Iraq War stuff is ancient history.

Religion in this country is waning. The younger generations are more and more liberal and socially conscious. Do you really think that things are going to stay the way they are?

Nope. It's already changed more than I thought possible a few years ago. Reason is a snowball. The bigger the edges are, the more it grows.

Ovid: Okay I thought of one! A great example of unreason being wonderful would be when I am pretending and playing make believe with my 7 year old. We had tea with a bear yesterday.

How darling!

Another great example of unreason being wonderful, is my husband and teenage son. They are both gamers, old-fashioned D&D style. They bring a twenty-sided die along when we walk through the woods on long hikes. They can spin up ancient civlizations built by giants, populated by fantastic creatures and full of reckless derring-do. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the story we don't even see the trees anymore, and it feels like we are hiking through a magical landscape in another world.

Of course there are lots of times when unreason can be wonderful!

However, when you are trying to understand what reality is and what works, that is not one of those times.

Ovid: And I still think that MOST religious people are better at discerning that then you give them credit for.

"Religious people" could mean anything. What, specifically, is being claimed?

When people are claiming that you have to believe in Jesus or you will go to Hell, no, they are not being discerning. Not only is there no reason to think it's true, but it's cruel and exclusionary outgrouping. If they were being discerning they would not be making this claim.

Of course, not every Christain believes that literally. I know some who call themselves Christian who claim to believe in nothing supernatural, only following the words attributed to Jesus as those of a wise teacher. Hard to show much unreason in that. So there is a lot of range there.

That is the point of focusing on the content of the claims, instead of on the people. It is to make it about what is the case instead of who is saying what.

What is the claim? Is there a reason to think the claim is true? Can it be verified? By anyone? Is the claim consistent with all that is known and with the evidence?

Those questions should be asked about every claim people make about reality. Think how much better our society would be running if people asked these questions all the time, about everything.

Ovid: Imagination challenges reason. Why? For the pure pleasure of the art and entertainment.

None of that is an argument for faith.

Imagination is great, fun, indespensible! Does that mean you should imagine that you know what happens in the afterlife, and then tell other people that what you imagined is true?

Of course not. But that is what the legacy religions have been doing. It's wrong, and it's going away, but we could make it go away faster by using imagination for funtime and play and creativity and brainstorming, and using accurate descriptions to describe reality.

Ovid: How each person describes reality is going to be different regardless.

Not terribly different, and particularly not after repeated examination. When we examine and describe things carefully, repeatedly, comparing the descriptions and scrutinizing the discrepancies, eventually a description emerges which everyone who examines the reality can agree that the description is a description of the reality.

Ovid: So what difference does it make in the grand scheme of things if it is all going to be arbitrary to start with?

The last thing reality is, is arbitrary. Failure to understand its contours can get you killed, quick.

Descriptions of reality that are accurate can be SHOWN to be accurate. That is the point.

Ovid: People see things different ways. Like, some people are colorblind. The color is really not there for him. That color blind person is not wrong.

Then why do they call it "blind"?

There IS something there he is not seeing. It can be demonstrated to him that he is color blind. He isn't walking around saying, "You just claim there are other colors, but you can't PROVE it!" You can prove it, and even the people who can't see the colors agree that they exist.

If the colorblind person insisted that the colors he can't see don't exist, then he would be wrong, because we can establish that they do, in fact, exist.

Ovid: So why do you think it is okay for you to say how other people should see reality?

I am saying that accurate descriptions of reality are important, which they are.

Ovid: That takes away a lot of individuality to want everything to be so succinct and normalized for everyone.

Hardly. It is not stifling individuality to ask everyone to understand that 2+2=4 is an accurate description of what happens when you add two things to two things. Everyone has to get this to get it right on the test.

This isn't telling them what to wear, or what TV shows to watch, or what their favorite flavor of ice cream should be, or what kind of music gets their toes tapping, or who they should take to the prom, or what sports they should play, or what kind of comedy is funny, or what kind of movies make them cry, or any other matter of internal preference.

It's just describing what happens when two things are added to two things. It's an accurate description which is really helpful.

There are lots of descriptions of reality which can be established and shown to be accurate, at least accurate enough to increase our capability a thousandfold. Our individuality has not suffered for this; in fact individuality has exploded since the Enlightenment. Our culture is the least homogenous ever.

"Individuality" is not an argument against accuracy. Accuracy can be established. Understanding the world more means having more accurate descriptions of it. Accuracy is what understanding is made of.

Ovid: People should be allowed to believe what they want as long as it is not imepeding on someone else.

People are allowed to believe what they want. That doesn't make every belief a good idea to believe.

What of the truth?

Ovid: Well I think I've already said that for the greatest majority, religious people are capable of understanding fundamental truths.

Tell that to a biology teacher trying to teach evolution. Some religious people are getting that this is a fundamental, accurate understanding of the mechanism at the heart of all biology. Others, as you know, are not.

And this is a really big problem. Understanding evolution by natural selection is very important for understanding how matter and energy work and how this planet came to be like it is. Rejecting this explanation requires wholesale abandonment of the connection between evidence and description.

Once that connection is abandoned, why bother bringing it back to weigh the claims of advertisers, salesmen, journalists, politicians?

Our society suffers from massive unreason. An appreciation of accuracy would make more critical thinkers and better voters and better citizens. The truth matters.

Ovid: It is insulting to say that they are incapable of that when clearly they can be.

Who is "they?" Some are, some aren't.

But anyone who does not appreciate accuracy is throwing away the best tool for understanding what this is.

WorldofWine: This article appears to be a common trend right now. Judge relgious people and try to belittle Their intellect. It's propaganda. This reminds me of the tactics Hitler used to try to dehumanize or justify persecuting certain groups.

I disagree with your assessment that this is a form of persecution against the religious.

Many religious claims seem to be flat-out wrong. They are unsubstantiated and inconsistent with observable reality. Pointing this out is not a pogrom. Inaccurate descriptions should be assessed.

Descriptions that can be established to be accurate are what understanding the world is made of.

WorldofWine: "Cruel and exclusionary," so what? "Excluding" someone from a theoretical place should not be allowed?

It's not warranted. Why be mean?

WorldofWine: Like, I don't believe in Islam. So while I respect their right to believe that, I'm happy to be excluded from that belief system.

It's not working. You are not excluded from the damage and chaos their unreason is causing.

WorldofWine: I don't find your worldview inspiring at all. It points to a pointless existence and I would be very depressed if I shared your belief.

It is what it is, regardless of how we feel about it. That said, I find it all to be a thrilling adventure!

The intricate dance of particles and energy that make up existence is a non-stop roller coaster ride. That I am a sentience and able to observe this dance is all the more wondrous, and yet I am humbled and grateful for all the beings my DNA created and all they had to endure and accomplish for me to be here today.

Even more exciting than what particles in patterns can do, is when the patterns start making patterns, even more complex than their creators, and enjoying the patterns, and harnessing their work. Poetry, art, engineering!

I rejoice to smell a rose. That flowers were created by plants as a form of disseminating their genetic material, and that the scent is a lure to attract polinators, do not diminish the enjoyment by an iota. On the contrary, I enjoy it more than ever understanding why it works - senses and intellect all engaged in a moment of pure sentient bliss.

WorldofWine: ...but again what are values in your worldview?

I am happy to explain again.

Human values are derived from the same source as all other human knowledge - observation. We observe what happens when humans interact with each other in different ways, and evaluate the results. It is the great experiment of culture.

The metrics are not arbitrary. Good behavior is behavior that works, that supports health and well-being and happiness. Bad behavior is behavior that caues harm and suffering. Most people are equipped with mirror neurons, to be able to tell how others are faring and share some of their experience. We can evaluate the results of our actions.

Sure, it's harder than reading from an ancient list. We have to look. We have to be honest about what we see. As our understanding, especially of our ingroup, becomes more refined, we have to change what we do.

But it works. Our modern, hard-won values of democracy and equality are far, far better than anything that came before. As we pile up data on these latest experiments, we will inevitably learn even more about what works and what doesn't, and hopefully have the chance to continue our trajectory of error-correction.

As I said - THRILLING!

WorldofWine: I'd also argue that you do indeed make a claim- "There is no God" Therefore the burden of proof is on you...

No, I didn't even mention gods.

WorldofWine: ...but don't bother. Really. There's no burden on you to prove yourself to me And there's no burden/obligation on me either.

I'm just glad I had a little time to share an invigorating discussion with a friend this morning. Thanks again WoW!!

Hello again WoW, this is a great conversation so thanks for sharing it with me.

WorldofWine: You say that claims about Hell are "unwarranted"? Well, it IS a warranted belief if their worldveiw is correct.

That is a pretty big IF.

WorldofWine: You are no more privy to the afterlife than anyone else.

So, you KNOW that NO human is privy to any information about any "afterlife."

WorldofWine: it isn't neccessarily mean, but truth to them.

Claiming this constitutes truth, when you KNOW that there is no information at all available to you or any other human, is a huge reasoning error.

Why be mean for no reason? It is creating terrible out-group conflict and has been for thousands of years.

It's time for humans to quit being mean on the basis of ancient IFs for which there is no evidence.

WorldofWine: As for comparing violence in Islam to Christianity, you have to compare the person to the teachings of their religion.

No, you are what you do.

WorldofWine: I can confidentally say my leader, Jesus was a peaceful, loving, pacifist. not harmful.

You get no credit for what he did, only for what you do.

WorldofWine: what's your explanation for order arising from chaos?

"Order" and "chaos" are just our words for whether what we are looking at seems symmetrical or not. Stuff just is. But, the reasons why patterns arise is because particles are sticky in some spots and pushy in other spots and this causes them to stick together and loop around and form interlocking strands.

But, go ahead and push the question back all the way. Why is there something rather than nothing? I don't know, but nothing about it suggests that a supernatural being had sex with a human while disguised as a swan, or impregnated a human virgin, or dropped babies out of her womb as she traversed the continent, or any other ancient folktale.

WorldofWine: I've told you before, your moral accountability doesn't work either. If your standard is "what harms someone doesn't work", your foundation crumbles as soon as harm does work in society's favor.

Sorry, no. If it "works" for one party and harms the other, that does not count as working. It has to work for all involved to be working.

WorldofWine: You have talked about not believing in God many times in the past. do you not assert that "there are no GOD(S)"

I think you have me confused with someone else. I don't make assertions about the existence of gods and even most atheists I know don't make positive assertions on this. Even Richard Dawkins, the most notorious atheist of all, does not claim to know this, and only rates himself a six-out-of-seven on the certainty scale for belief that gods don't exist.

Plus, it's logically impossible to prove a negative, so most rationalists worth their salt would not even phrase a posit using that formulation. I don't even see it around much.

In any case, I personally am not concerned with atheism.

WorldofWine: I truly think the difference between us is you see relgion as the stumbling block to enlightenment, I see it as complimentary.

Not at all! I actually see religion as very valuable to enlightenment.

The stumbling block is unreason. The way to make religion a key to enlightenment is to stop using unreason in religion.

Religion exists because having a system was way better than not having any system at all. We can hardly blame our ancient ancestors for using their folktales for their system, because they hadn't figured anything else out better yet.

We have.

WorldofWine: You seem to think a utopian society is attainable if we could only just rid society of religion.

No, of unreason. We could have less of it. We already do and are a comparative utopia already because of this. It's already happening.

Ovid: You ask, "What of the truth"? Well, it is true, to someone with faith.

I mean actually true. What of the actual truth?

Ovid: That is what I mean. It IS actual truth to them.


Some people believe the earth is 6,000 years old. How is that actually true? There are tree rings that go back further. How is it that there are there more than 6,000 tree rings, AND their belief that the earth is 6,000 years old is actually true?

Ovid: You would have to ask someone that actually believes that because I do not believe that....

So, you KNOW that one is wrong.

What of the actual age of the earth? What of the actual truth? Not relevant?

Ovid: I know how old the earth is. The universe is like, 13 billion years old or so, I think without my coffee.

The actual truth does matter to me.

So, you know that there is actual truth. That's good, now we have a term with meaning. Claiming just anything people happen to think is "truth", even when it's wrong, dilutes that term to meaninglessness.

Establishing that there IS actual truth is half the battle. Some people pretend there isn't even that.

Ovid: But it also doesn't bother me at all that there are people not looking at that actual truth.

Let's skip the next round. I ask, "About anything? Moon is made of green cheese? Prayer instead of insulin for a diabetic child?"

Aghast, you say, "No, of course not! They can't visit their wrong beliefs on anyone else, not even their own child, if it hurts him!"

Well, the wrong beliefs of the legacy religions are hurting children, and other people too.

Ovid: AS LONG AS, they are not trying to press what they think is true on me.

How can they avoid pressing it on you? They vote. They interact. They make decisions for themselves and society based on ideas which are so far from actual truth that they represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how this reality works and how we know.

People with bad information make uninformed decisions. Some of these decisions affect us all. How can that not matter?

Ovid: If they keep it to themselves, they can worship and believe whole heartily in the flying spaghetti monster for all I care.

What if they worship and believe a God who hates gays? What if they vote for politicians who think gays are abomination before God? What if a percentage of your population is scapegoated and vilified for thousands of years? What people worship matters.

Ovid: It makes no difference to me in the slightest because what matters more is what I do and how I conduct myself.

How others conduct themselves matters too. The devaluing of reason and science, so that people can believe in ancient folktales instead of actual truth, means that people do not understand the relationship between evidence and understanding. Our non-reasoning countrymen, with religious believers at the vanguard, are so unengaged with actual truth that we have done nothing for decades to stop exacerbating climate change.

How do you intend to recuse yourself from that?

Great discussion, Ovid, you have my ongoing thanks!

Ovid: We have had a lot of progress! So how can the truth be undermined when things are still moving forward?

Geez, it's 2016 and we just got gay marriage last year. A Gallup poll got 42% of Americans to agree that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago. People in other parts of the world are suppressing women and waging jihad.

A lot is NOT moving foward, or not moving forward nearly fast enough. People are suffering in the meantime.

What do you recommend? Ignore the need for reason? Don't talk about it?

Ovid: I can agree with that to a degree. However, it is completely wrong to keep them from practicing their faith.

Ugh, where have I ever, ever suggested anything like this? Of course that would be completely wrong.

Please, do not bother arguing against ridiculous positions I'm not even taking. I have never said anything about "forbidding" faith, nor do I think it is even possible. We went over this before, remember? I said, people can and do think anything they want.

Ovid: They have the right to vote. We cannot take that away from anyone despite how flawed their logic may be. Again this is a fundamental right in the U.S.

Wow, who the heck is talking about disenfranchisement?

The reason for pointing out that they vote is just to show that yes, what they believe DOES affect you, a lot. Not to prevent anyone voting!

Please, quit pretending this debate is about "the right" to faith. For once and for all, of course people have the right to think what they want, and I will fight to the death to protect their right to believe whatever goofy, demonstrably wrong thing they want to believe.

That doesn't mean believing is a good idea.

And it that doesn't mean I have to quietly go along with it. It doesn't mean I should refrain from pointing out that there is another system that actually works.

The answer to the problem of people with flawed logic is not to take their vote away, and no one suggested this, and it's ridiculous.

The answer is to show the logic. It is to engage, to discuss, to debate, to have people sometimes say, "I can agree with that to a degree." That is where the progress, however incremental, comes from.

Ovid: It is part of what makes people so interesting and diverse. I will always be up for that.

No, understanding actual truth is not a threat to diversity. We understand more actual truth AND are more diverse than ever. Actual truth supports diversity by demolishing artificial outgroups.

Ovid:I think this what bugs me about your opinion. I can't see how faith totally devalues science when clearly there are people that do find a great deal of value in it.

"Finding value in science" is not the same as using reason. People can find the value of science with one breath, while they use their cell phone or computer, and then ignore it in the next, when they claim the earth is 6,000 years old or that God hates figs, or whatever.

Using reason is something you have to do.

Ovid:I'm a person of faith that even you have said is a good debater. I couldn't be if I wasn't capable of reason or possessed a decent amount of intelligence that would easily match that of a person that depends entirely on logic and reasoning.

The question is, are you using reason? Not can you, but ARE you? Not, do you use it about other things, but, do you use it to evaluate the claims of your faith?

Ovid: So how exactly do I, or people like me need rescuing?

I don't usually correct simple errors but I don't want anyone to think I said anything about "rescuing".

The word I used was "recuse," or excuse yourself. You said, it doesn't matter to you what others believe, but I am saying, you cannot recuse, or excuse yourself, from the problems of unreason. They affect us all.

Ovid: Now you are starting to get rude with me and I don't appreciate that. This conversation is over! Good day.

Too late. It's already in your head. You can run, but you can't unthink what I am saying.

Thanks again Ovid!

Ovid: That would be true IF I had read everything that you wrote, but I didn't. I stopped when I started to dislike your tone.

I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. That was far from my intention. I mentioned many times that I appreciate your participation, and I deliberately refrain from name calling, denunciation, or hyperbole. My choice of language is meant only to be pointed, never rude or hurtful. But that can be a tough line. Sorry if I crossed it.

In any case, what I am saying is important, and I am also very interested in your answers to my questions. If you would like to continue, I can moderate my "tone." If not, well, another time then!

Either way, it has been a real pleasure, and I know you heard some of what I said. Others did, too. I really can't ask for more than that, so thanks again!!

Love, RL

Ovid: Well, if you are going to be civil, I have some questions for you.

Great! I love questions, I could answer them all day.

Ovid: I'm a little confused when you say that you are open to people believing what they want when you obviously dislike the reasons for people gravitating to faith.

This was covered in the post that you skipped. As I explained, I would fight to the death for the right of the individual to believe what they wish. That doesn't mean I can't try to change their mind.

Ovid: SOOOOO much progress has been made to move towards an age of reason. Why not relish THAT instead of focusing so much on what you think is wrong?

In fact, why not just drop it altogether?

Because, progress doesn't "happen." It's something you have to do. This is the doing.

Ovid: So again, why so much hatred (general you) towards people of faith?

I cannot answer questions for (general you.)

Ovid: Why are believers doomed to be disliked for the events of the past, and a handful of annoying fanatics?

This has nothing to do with me. I do not dislike people, only poor ideas. I don't think fanatics are the main problem.

The reason why religious believers are still being questioned on their belief is because a lot of the beliefs seem to be wrong. It is important to question unsubstantiated claims.

Ovid: Is scientific carelessness not just as damaging to society?

Science has a self-correcting mechanism. Religion doesn't.

Thanks so much for your questions. I am still very interested in your answers to my questions from the previous post. For convenience I'll just bring them forward here:

What do you recommend? Ignore the need for reason? Don't talk about it?

re: people of faith can value science and be very smart

Being smart and valuing science are not the same as actually using reason.

The question is, are you using reason? Not can you, but ARE you? Not, do you use it about other things, but, do you use it to evaluate the claims of your faith? And, then what?

10-24-16 8:08  •  Libertarian Reasons

PaleTan: Libertarianism! Because...reasons!

Libertarianism - as much freedom as you can afford.

PaleTan: We need to stop turning to the government for answers.

The government is the only institution with the authority to prevent exploitation.

PaleTan: Private business can provide. An employee is an investment and a wise employer takes on a role of stewardship for employees...just like he doesn't neglect his buildings or his inventory, he doesn't neglect his workforce.

Until robots are cheaper. Just until then.

PaleTan: *Sigh* My dad owned an appliance store. His devotion and expertise saved people money.

Wouldn't it be neat if we could once again be a society which appreciates expertise, customer service, and value?

We will be, we will just appreciate the expertise, customer service and value of smart systems. We already are.

It's no use trying to go back in time. There is no point in trying to order society around everybody working to survive. There isn't enough work to do for every person to support themselves with work. Electricity and computers are doing far more work far faster than we can invent new work for everybody. Any why should we? Why have electricity and computers if they don't ease our burden?

It's time we let the machines get on with the work and just start having fun, growing and discovering.

PaleTan: Oh Raver! Sometimes I just want to squeeze the stuffins out of you! Even if we don't agree you always make me think!

Likewise, and it's wonderful to have a civil discussion about important issues with such an intelligent person. We are progress!

PaleTan: We are, yay!!

10-25-16 12:21  •  Everything Real

Houseplant: God loves all His children, every one!

Debbie: Most are worshipping a false god. The Bible says that the gate is narrow. Only a few will truly see, and be with God in his Kingdom Come.

...I am so happy and blessed to be a part of the small percentage that He chose to give a new chance of life to.

Well that seems unfair.

Debbie: He made this world with the people in it, and gave them ample time to know Him and His promises.

Except it doesn't seem to work. Most people think they know Him and His promises, but according to you they are wrong. They can't tell the difference between their false gods and your real ones.

Debbie: I don't see how this is unfair.

It would be unfair to use a system that usually doesn't work.

Houseplant: But it does work!

According to Debbie, it only works for her and a "tiny percentage" of people. Everybody else may try to love God, and think they are loving God, but they can't even tell that they are doing it wrong. It is not working for them.

Debbie: That's what God said. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the individuals who reject Him.

The only problem is you claiming that they reject Him when they obviously don't.

Muslims, Hindus, Jews, etc are not rejecting God. They are worshipping God, loving Him, praying to Him, feeling His guidance in their lives, just as you do. They are doing a very slight variation on exactly what you are doing.

That is not a "tiny percentage" accepting God and everybody else rejecting Him. That is almost everybody on earth accepting Him as best as they can.

Debbie: Yeah I was wondering if you can enlighten me on what you consider wisdom of the world?

The accumulated understanding of what works.

Houseplant: Wisdom comes from God.

Wisdom comes from the human mind. Every word of wisdom was spoken by a person.

Houseplant: The bible says "the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God." What this means to you?

It could have a lot of meanings. For example, it could mean that "worldly wisdom" - celebrity gossip, in other words - is not as important as what really matters.

But it also seems likely constructed as a defense mechanism for the faith. Christianity has a great many of them. It is written into the scripture as a response to anyone who questions the dogmas of the religion. Anyone who employs "widsom" is foolish to God...therefore, you do not have to listen to them. It's a great way to keep out objections.

The truth is that the wisdom of this world is the most amazing thing about this world. The earth existed for billions of years without wisdom, until we came along and started accumulating it and error-correcting it over time. With it, humans have been able to build amazing things, create amazing art, make great advances in health and quality of life, and make great moral strides.

Wisdom of this world is a tool of humans, by humans, for humans. It is one of the most important tools we have.

Houseplant: What is important on this world? What is important to you?

Everything real.

Read more in the Archives.