12-31-16 11:59Same Truth, New Year

Kathy: My New Year's Resolution is to spread the truth!

What is the real truth?

Every time I tell you the answer to this question you ignore me. But, I have plenty of time today, so I will tell you again.

The real truth is the stuff that can be verified. You can tell it is true because you can check yourself and you will see that it is true, and because the truth works to make things happen, like bring electricity and screens to your house.

Kathy: You know I believe reading the bible shows me what is the 100% truth too :-)

That is your first big mistake.

Kathy: I believe the whole the bible. Every word of it.

That is a mistake. There is no reason to think, and not one scrap of evidence to show, that the bible is "divinely inspired." It is the work of barely literate tribesmen from thousands of years ago.

Would you want to live with a strip trench instead of a bathroom? Would you like to be cured by shamans with chants instead of by doctors with antibiotics? Would you like to live in a society where people keep slaves instead of one where every person is a citizen under the law?

If you aren't using the knowledge of the tribesmen to inform you for plumbing, or healing infection, or creating a moral and democratic society, why rely on what they had to say about gods? They didn't know anything. Nothing they said can be confirmed. And, other tribesmen are saying something completely different, in a different book, also suspiciously unconfirmable. Why trust one group of tribesmen but not the other?

If you want to know the truth, what you have to do is look. What people found when they looked created incredible knowledge, far more beautiful and wonderful than anything the tribesmen could have dreamed. We are the cosmos, did you know that? The elements that make up our bodies were forged in the furnaces of stars.

That is true. It is a truth that can be confirmed by any person, no matter what they "believe." That is how you know it is true.

Thanks again Kathy.

Kathy: What are God's rules for a good church service anyway?

There is no evidence of "God's rules" for anything. There are just people, claiming that their rules are "God's" rules. Get it? It is always just people.

Kathy: We don't agree, but you Know I love you anyways :-)

That is very nice of you to say. I care about you too but let's not get distracted.

Kathy: Ok, I am trying be open minded. Go on -----------What is the truth?

The truth is statements that correspond accurately with reality. The accuracy can be determined by examining the reality and comparing it to the statement.

Kathy: What is the truth about the bible, God, religon?

The truth about the bible is that it is the work of humans. The truth about God is that nothing at all, not one thing, is known of gods. The truth about religion that is is a social system.

Please, do not just take my word for the truth of these claims. This is what it looks like if you examine it. This is what you and any human will also find if you check.

Kathy: Do have peace in your life not believing in God? I really don't know.

You should know by now because many atheists have answered this question here. Yes, they have peace in their lives, often times much more peace in their lives than when they believed.

If you are asking me personally, I have a peace of mind I never could have imagined before I discovered enlightenment. It is not associated with any kind of gods.

Kathy: Awe :-( sad. What I am going to believe in then?

There is no reason to believe anything. I certainly avoid belief wherever possible. I can know, or not know, or try to find out, without ever having to believe.

It means being okay with not knowing, and not making up answers to fill in the unknown. But the unknown, completely unobscured and unadorned, has a massive power to inspire awe.

Kathy: You asked me about a "strip trench"? I wonder where you are going with this.

You don't want to use the plumbing technology or the medical technology or the social technology of bronze-age sheep herders from thousands of years ago. So, why would you want to use their spiritual technology? Do you want a bronze age sheep herder to tell you how to build a sanitation system, or cure an infection, or construct a functioning democracy?

The answer is, no, of course not. Those people from two-thousand-plus years ago did not understand what we now, today, understand. We can have flushing toilets and antibiotics and democracy because of what we understand. We know MORE than they did. We don't need their advice, about anything. They did not know anything special.

The people who wrote the bible were just people, like us, except they knew far less. They are not a trustworthy authority on any subject, least of all gods.

Kathy: Just makes sense to forgive others, and turn away from wrong.

It does make sense. However that has nothing to do with gods.

Mork from Ork said a lot of nice things about forgiving, and not judging others, and doing the right thing, too. That doesn't make Mork a prophet of God, or Mork and Mindy non-fiction. It means some people thought of it and wrote it into their story, that's all.

Kathy: I would actually rather sometimes kill somebody than forgive them. I'd rather hope or order harm on somebody's life that offends me, makes me mad, than forgive them. But, with God's help, I can forgive.

Unless you are saying you have actually killed somebody rather than forgave them, I am going to surmise that you have normal human self-control which almost everyone is capable of exercising. There is no reason to think some kind of supernatural magic is stopping you from killing instead of forgiving. Your forgiveness is yours, you can be proud of it.

Kathy: I wish I was a history buff. I am wondering if all the accounts about kings, pharaohs are true.

No. Some of the accounts could be true, some almost certainly are not, but with history you never really know and it doesn't really matter.

Kathy: The accounts about the temple, and the ark is true too.

If you are referring to Noah's ark, please do not be ridiculous. Noah's ark is a folktale.

Kathy: Christians believe God was the inspiration behind the bible's words.

So? Muslims believe they have God's Word as the inspiration behind their words, too. But, theirs are different. Hindus too. That is how you know it is just people claiming that their own words are "God's".

Kathy: All the words in the bible are God's Words not man.

Kathy, that is not the truth.

It's easy to say. But there is no evidence of it. There is nothing in your books, or their books, that could not have been said by a primitive tribesman.

Kathy: -I could be wrong. I just don't to believe I am made in the image of a star.

I didn't say, "in the image" of a star.

You are made mostly of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen, elements which were fused together from hydrogen in the fusion reactors of stars. Every piece of your body, from your hair to your brain to your organs to the tips of your toes, was once inside a star. We are standing on a stellar core fragment from a blue star which went supernova.

You don't have to "believe" this. It is apparent to examination. People have examined the composition of human bodies and the composition of stars, actual objects, to make this determination. If you examined bodies and stars as thoroughly as they did you could confirm this yourself. You wouldn't have to just read about it. You could examine the actual objects, yourself.

That is what makes it true. It is an accurate description of what you, and anyone, will find on examination of actual objects.

Kathy: I want to believe there is much more than I can see too.

Undoubtedly there is. We have barely begun to look! But in the meantime, there is no reason to pretend to know anything about things we actually do not know anything about. Even worse is to start taking the word of ancient tribesmen about it, who couldn't even see what we can see today.

Kathy: I see only the temporary things.

That is what is looks like to me, too. And, increasingly, to physicists and astronomers, too. It looks like all formations of matter and energy are temporary, in that no pattern is ever stable.

But, if that is how it looks, then why not accept it? I would rather accept the truth, than live an obvious lie to hide in fear of the truth.

Kathy: To me Heaven is not fantasy at all.

If you have to start it with "To me," you know it is fantasy.

Kathy: The cosmos don't have a moral code connected to them.

The stars do not need moral codes. They do not have neurons.

Moral codes are designed by beings with neurons to create generationally transmissive norms of conduct which allow them to enhance well-being and minimize suffering in social groups. We need them, so we made them.

Thanks again Kathy, and Happy New Year!

12-29-16 7:01Finding the Truth

Lawin4gingers: What is important to you? Like, issues? What do you care about?

I care about the truth.

Lawin4gingers: Cool! But, can humans, who experience the world through our perceptions, know truth....or can we only get glimpses of it?

Truth is statements which correspond accurately to what they describe. Can humans experience statements like this? We seem to be able to. If we do not know the accuracy of a statement, we can check. If there is accurate correspondence, the statement is truth.

I think what you may be asking is, can humans experience reality? I would say, sure. Maybe not everything, maybe not exactly - but, a lot of it, close enough. If our perceptions were not mapping onto reality sufficiently accurately, we would not have survived or been able to make reality work in ways we could predict and exploit.

Lawin4gingers: I think we get "close" enough, but I believe our experience of the truth is markedly different from one person's perspective to another.

That is why we have checking. We don't just rely on what people say to determine truth. Correspondence to reality can, sometimes, be confirmed by examination of reality.

If you have a variety of "truths," but nothing you can check, then you still have an accurate truth - that you do not know the actual state of the matter.

Lawin4gingers: The fact that I sometimes don't know what is "truth" will not keep me from searching for it.

If you can say "I don't know," you have found it.

12-19-16 7:01War on Christmas

JewishMom: WTF? Why is everyone insisting on saying "Merry Christmas" now? Even liberal, genderfluid-inclusive Target? Since WWII we have been trying to include Jewish people by saying "Happy Holidays," and that was working. We are losing ground.

I love Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Life Day, and every other winterfest. I hope all will be celebrated for a long time to come, and I wish everyone a joyous season of peace.

I think it would be nice if someone would discuss the real elephant in the room, however - that millions of humans are still in thrall to ancient supernaturalism. It's a big problem. People in our society routinely have to forgo critical thinking to accept the claims of faith. Then, they don't have those skills to bring to bear in big civic decisions. Witness the result.

12-02-16 7:01Jobs Suck

Lintrap: Most manufacturing jobs are lost to technology, and Trump can't solve that without addressing the real problem.

So how do we create jobs for these people? We need a solution that is clear for everyone to understand and not buried in millions of lines of tax code.

The fact that robots can do all the toil is good, not bad. It should mean the end of human toil!

Except, we can't figure out how to distribute food to the unskilled without their toil. We can't just give people what they need to live. They have to toil for it, somehow.

What toil will we artificially create to prevent the untoiling from eating?

Lintrap: "Give?" You mean without work? Of course we can't do that!

Of course not.

Bendy Wendy: I'm just going to riff here...

If by "riff" you mean blue-sky, brainstorm, think outside the box - thank God! Glad someone is willing to.

Bendy Wendy: There is this idea about providing every citizen what they need to live. Housing, food, education, healthcare. Childcare.

Ten years ago I called it "The Full-On Society," specifying that we need to pad the bottom of the economy. Now that robots will soon be much cheaper than humans, we are that much closer to what we consider "jobs" becoming a thing of the past.

And why not? Toiling long hours at meaningless crap for the benefit of others just to pay the rent is a crappy life. Good riddance!

Bendy Wendy: Working for the local supermarket for minimum wage becomes viable when those other expenses are taken care of.

Yes. Or, working there for nothing, just because you care about the community and the co-op. Or, NOT working, letting the machines toil, while humans do uniquely human things, like enjoying life and creating art.

Bendy Wendy: If they aren't working to pay for childcare and/or saving for college, we can focus on our families. Let's make everything more efficient.

And more fun. I know, we aren't allowed to prioritize "fun" over "work." But we should. Why did we even bother inventing electricity and computers and robots to do all the work, if not to make life more fun? When do we get to start enjoying it?

Bendy Wendy: At the same time come up with a different system of wealth accumulation and distribution.

I call it Post-Monetarism. It's kind of like now, except you only have to play the money game if you want to.

12-01-16 6:32Name of God

Mary Beth: Most Christians do not use the proper name of our Lord. He is not generically referred to as "God," His name is Jehovah.

Florita: No! We are told His name is Yahweh!

Great Grams: Those are the same.

Florita: No, "the J-word" is a perversion.

Mary Beth: Well, at least Christians around the world are united in our beliefs.

Great Grams: I don't know, seems like Christians have a lot of differences.

Mary Beth: Christians have always been united in worship of Jehovah, even when they disagreed on ways to do things.

Disagreeing on whether to have the church picnic in spring or fall is disagreeing on ways to do things.

Disagreeing on the most basic things God wants from humans - Is He fussy about what He is called? Does He require baptism? Does He send people to Hell? - is not a difference of opinion. It is people not being able to tell which answer to these questions - if any - is correct.

Mary Beth: I am so glad to have His Word to show us how to be, You are right, people can take an apple and say its an orange, grapefruit or grape.

Or people can take a god and say it's a Jehovah, or a Yahweh. Both are using His Word. But, they still do not agree.

So, having "His Word" changes nothing. People are still not able to tell which - if either - is correct.

11-28-16 10:01Destiny

Terry: So what are your thoughts on destiny? I tend to think we make our own destiny, but I also admit there have been a couple of times in my life where things have lined up so perfectly I have thought to myself 'it's like it was meant to be'. lol

When "everything just falls into place," that isn't destiny, any more than it is "destiny" the rest of the time when everything fails to fall into place.

When everything just coincidentally comes together like it was meant to be, it is called "synchronicity." This is especially fun for humans, because one, we take a lot of enjoyment from things coming together, and two, because our brains are pattern-seekers and prone to seeing patterns even where they don't exist, we experience syncrhonicities even more often than they happen.

11-25-16 9:01Economic Hope

Centerville: Trump just asked Apple CEO Tim Cook to voluntarily move Smartphone manufacturing back to the United States. He is reported to have said, "I understand."

Let me know when they actually start doing it.

Centerville: You sound skeptical. It might not work, but we can hope!! He is offering them great big tax breaks!!

That is the essence of supply-side economics. We shower lucrative incentives on those who don't need help, and then just HOPE that their self-interest will turn out to have a benefit for society.

However hoping doesn't work. We've been hoping and waiting 30 years for the gains at the top to trickle down and it hasn't happened yet.

On the other hand, there are tried-and-true methods which really work for producing a burgeoning middle class, where the gains in the system are shared throughout the system instead of concentrated. They are:

1. Organized labor. For the first sixty years of the last century, unions fought for many of the concessions we now take for granted, like a 40 hour week, an end to child labor, compensation for injury on the job, etc. Organized labor is still needed to make sure the majority of the workforce is represented fairly.

2. Public education. After WWII an unprecedented number of young men went to college on the GI Bill. This created a vast, debt-free educated class who went on to establish a new human standard of well-being and prosperity.

3. Social safety nets. After the Great Depression, social programs were established to do what all the hoping in the world was not capable of doing - systematically providing for the elderly and poor who had always been previously overlooked.

4. Regulation. The first Great Depression was triggered by a runaway financial crash, just like the most recent one. After the great Depression, the Glass-Steagall regulations separated commercial banking from investment banking, providing a necessary check on speculative finance.

5. Progressive Taxation. History shows that America experienced sustained, widespread prosperity and rising quality of life at every level when taxes on the most successful were higher, more than double what they are currently.

Not coincidentally, these are the exact areas which are under attack from the plutocrats - unions, public education, social programs, regulations and taxes. These are the institutions which have been systematically weakened for the last 30 years, resulting in the current extreme inequality.

The answer is not continuing to wait for volunteerism. Big businesses are doing fine. They are making record profits right now doing nothing. Why should they change?

What would actually help is strengthening the policies which created and maintained the middle class the first time, which creates and maintains the middle class in other developed nations - the working social tools I described above.

This can be achieved the same way it was achieved before - by a widespread, organized demand from the majority that we, as a society, employ systems that work.

11-03-16 9:01When is Lying OK

Maylor: Going by your belief system, is lying ever ok?

In Buddhism, lying is generally considered not to be 'right speech.' But, Buddhism is very pragmatic, and so if there was a circumstance where lying was the only option - say, lying to convince someone who refused to leave a burning building, for example - then it could be considered "expedient means." In other words, it would not be morally wrong to lie in these circumstances.

But the explanation goes on to further state that once the person had left the building and was in safety, the truth and the reason for the lie would be explained to him, so that there would be full disclosure and no on-going misapprehension about what had occurred and why.

Neoism does not address lying per se, but the moral technique for all action is to evaluate the circumstances in terms of harm vs. well-being. As in Buddhism, the practitioner has to decide for himself what to do based on this evaluation.

But one of the main purposes of Neoism is to revere the truth, as derived by evidence-based reason. This applies not only to scientific and rational truth, but to personal truth as well. The idea is that the closer the description of reality is to matching reality, the less error is produced by the system.

So the lesson of Neoism would be, if you want stuff to work, play it straight.

11-02-16 8:42God? Really?

NinjaLoan: Is there really anyone who still believes in God? Really?

I mean, I don't hate you if you believe in that stuff, I do believe everyone has the right to believe whatever.

Everyone has a right to believe stuff that is clearly incorrect, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

NinjaLoan: I just think it's a little silly that we, as adult people, can't admit that "god" and Jesus and all those neat little stories, were probably just written by someone who loved to write?

I think it is seriously problematic for society that we are expected to act like Christianity, et al, might be true.

As we have accumulated knowledge through evidence and reason, it has become obvious that today's supernatural religions are derived, like those that came before, from just-so folklore and mythology, and have no more relationship to reality than the myths believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

This is problematic because the distance between what is believed about reality, and how reality actually is, creates a lot of error. Humans are way overdue for getting on board with what is real and how we know.

I would say that the arguments about existence or non-existence of "God" are not really meaningful. Who knows what "might" exist? However it is clear that there is no evidence at all of supernatural origin or intervention in this universe. So, I think a more meaningful question is, "God? Important? Really?" and "How so?"

FaithFull: Not religious? Good for you. But I don't owe you an explanation about my personal beliefs.

You owe yourself explanations that are true.

FaithFull: The fact is that "Belief" doesn't have to be proven to anyone else.

Yeah, but why wouldn't you want it to be? If it's true, it should be apparent to anyone. If it's not, there is a reason.

FaithFull: There are many things that are "true" and people don't believe in them, therefore it's not apparent to everyone.

Well, good thing I didn't say "everyone." I said "anyone." Meaning, any person who wants to know the truth can examine reality and see what anyone else can see is the case. There is zero evidence that accurate descriptions of reality exist which some people can "just tell" are accurate, but other people can't tell the accuracy no matter how they try. True claims can be checked.

If you have a basis for declaring a claim to be true, that basis is available to anyone. If it is not available to anyone it is not a basis for declaring accuracy.

That is how the system which gave us our modern world works.

FaithFull: We still have Holocaust deniers and there are groups of people who maintain the flatness of the Earth.

People can say anything. The accuracy of a claim of truth is compared against reality, not what people say.

As I have mentioned, the question of whether god or gods "exist" is really pointless. A far more interesting and relevent question is, what difference does it make? If the gods are so insubstantial that they are not apparent to examination, and there is not a single trace of verifiable evidence for their existence anywhere in the universe, then how could they possibly matter in the slightest? They aren't anywhere. They don't do anything. Our universe would look exactly like this in every way even if there were no gods at all.

So how could "God" possibly be important?

Munchies: I believe there is a HUGE difference between spirituality and religion. Religion was created by man.

Spirituality is every bit as created by man.

Munchies: The way man has used and corrupted spirituality over time is disgusting and I can understand that.

It's no more disgusting than the way humans corrupted the earth's atmosphere with fossil fuels. We were just trying to get by and we didn't know better at first.

But, now that the corruption has been exposed, it's time to rethink the system. To continue as before, without addressing what we now know - that would be disgusting.

Hi Munchies! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to make these points. Please do not feel this is intended to reflect upon you personally. I know you are a person of great integrity.

Munchies: I completely agree with you that atrocities committed under the excuse of religion needs to be identified and corrected.

At the very least. However that is not what I am saying. I am saying that you can't have Christianity (to pick one) without corruption, because the start of the corruption is that Christianity is not true.

I am saying, now that reason and evidence and reality have laid bare that Christianity and other faith religions are nothing more than sociocultural mythology, with no relationship to reality, requiring that the culture continue to pretend they are real is disgusting.

Munchies: The difference for me is that I don't feel the issue is the faith and beliefs people have.

Sorry, but I could not disagree more. The central tenet of Christianity - that humans are born with original sin, and must accept Christ's sacrifice on the cross or they will not be saved in the afterlife - is cruel and exclusionary. As long as people continue to propagate a religion based on such a cruel and exclusionary tenet, which has no known correspondence to reality, corruption is embedded in the fabric of the enterprise.

Munchies: I think the issue is that, like many other things, humans screw shit up.

Sorry, I do not agree and I think that is just a rationalization.

People act like the specific tenets of a religion do not make any difference at all to how it is applied. I disagree; I think it's obvious that the cruel and exclusionary central tenet of Christianity, and the horrific god of judgement and wrath depicted in its scripture, have directly contributed to the bloody history of Christianity's past.

By contrast, consider Buddhism, an even older religion. It is a point of honor to Buddhists to say that in 2,500 years, there have be no wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism.

Some counter-examples exist, a very few and far between, but suffice it to say the history of Buddhism is very much less violent than the parade of Holy Wars, persecutions, inquisitions, crusades and witch hunts which litter Christianity's past.

Why is that?

Munchies: When our natural need for power and greed kick in, we seem to have the ability to turn anything good into something corrupt.

And yet it happens very much less frequently in the history of Buddhism, almost never. Why isn't our natural need for power and greed kicking in, turning Buddhism into a corrupt purveyor of violence?

I think it has something to do with the content of Buddhism, what the central tenets actually say. In Buddhism the central tenets are not injunctions about supernatural jealous deity worship or exclusive afterlife conditions. They are simple guidelines for overcoming suffering, living this life well and in peace.

My point is not to sell Buddhism, it is to show that the content of what is believed matters. I am saying that in Christianity the tenets themselves, being 1) not true and 2) cruel and exclusionary, are the factors causing the corruption.

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