05-07-17 2:25Typical Convo About Religion

Baton Rouge: Check out the latest executive order on religious liberty! Trump is putting an end to people of faith being bullied in this country!

Leaner: That is not what Jesus would do. Where in the NT does it say we should treat gays badly? Nowhere!

Or even if it did, we are obligated to reject all parts of the Bible that are morally wrong.

Leaner: What parts of the Bible are wrong?

Do you think the bible is infallible?

Leaner: I do, and that's where I stand!

I understand, thanks for speaking with me.

Humoress: Wait, what? What do you think?

I think we started error correcting already in the NT from the OT and have continuted apace.

Humoress: How is the anti-gay message part of Christian teaching?

Christian teaching is that the bible is infallible and it is in the bible.

Some claim the NT voids the OT. Obviously people who don't want to sell flowers or cake to gay people think the OT still counts. Which is right? How can we tell?

Since even Christians can't figure out what the bible says, or which parts matter, perhaps we should quit relying on it for public policy in the 21st century.

Humoress: What do you mean?

The bible is a Forer text. That is the technical term for a text which is so vague and all-encompassing that it can be used to prove any point. Like a horoscope, anyone can read it and find information that seems tailored to them personally.

The bible is so huge you can find anything you want in there.

The real problem is millions of people walking around believing in magic books. We have thousands of years of error correction to apply to human knowledge since then. We have invented democracy and verification, ended slavery, enfranchised women. You can't blame the primitive tribesmen who wrote the bible for not getting any of the good stuff into it. There is a learning curve. But why keep going back to before reason and public morality for advice?

Humoress: The whole bible isn't relevant. We have to ask, What did Jesus do? What did he say? How did he act? How did he treat people? What was HIS message? That's the important stuff.

I don't agree that Jesus is "important" to morality. I think even the specific tales of Jesus' words and deeds are not uniformly good. Again, the best stuff has become the best well known, but it's cherry-picked.

Certainly some genuine wisdom was attributed to "Jesus." They gathered up the best they could think of at the time. But obviously we have had more time and have far surpassed what they came up with, and have a much fairer, less brutal society as a result.

My concern is that the emphasis on "Jesus" is focusing on the wrong things. We are supposed to think that "Jesus" was so kind and compassionate because he was magic. Looking to "Jesus" for moral behavior focuses on the link between morality and magic, which is spurious. It also suggest that morality is a superhuman ability.

We have to determine what is moral. I don't think we can do that by asking Jesus. He is not here, and things have changed since he was.

This doesn't mean we have no place to go to determine what is moral. We determine it by looking at ourselves. What do WE do? How do WE act? What results do we get, and which ones worked? That is where morality comes from, no where else. "Jesus" was just shorthand for this 2000 years ago.

Humoress: I absolutely ask the Holy Spirit to give me understanding and knowledge about what He wants me to know! And it's taken many years of practice to get out of His way!! LOL!!

This is an interesting topic. Are you willing to discuss the subject of spiritual confirmation?

Humoress: i don't know what that is, but sure!

Spiritual confirmation is what you described. The Holy Spirit is guiding you to know that what you think is what He wants you to think.

Have you thought much about how this works? Do you feel it only works for Christians?

Humoress: That's a good question. The Lord spoke to Paul before his conversion. I know of some others. Hagar, who was the mother of Abraham's OTHER son, Ishmael, was spoken to by the Lord, after Sarah threw her and her baby out of her house. Hagar thought that she was about to die in the desert, but the Lord spoke to her, and sent angels to tend to her and her baby, who became the patriarch of the Arabs!

Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive. Which is correct? Or do you think they are both correct?

Humoress: I'm talking aobut God the Father! I haven't thought about Islam much.

Here is why I asked. Many Christians have told me they know Christianity is the true religion God wants humans to follow because they can just tell, spiritually. They get feedback from God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, that confirms their reading of the Bible, or their message from Jesus, or whatever.

However, since you don't know much about Islam, you may not realize that this happens to Muslims too. In prayer, meditating over their holy book and the words of their prophet, God and the Holy Spirit tell them they are right too. God "tells" Islamic people that Islam is right the exact same way he "tells" Christians that Christianity is right.

In fact it works for every religion. When deep in prayer or meditative trance, feelings come to us, seemingly from the outside, giving us spiritual confirmation of what we have been taught to believe about God.

So, since it works for every religion, it's not a very good guide to what is actually the case.

Leaner: WTF?

Here is why this matters. People of faith are not being bullied. Faith itself is a big problem. It's hard to deal with such a big problem, with such good people involved.

I think the only way we can come together is to stop thinking there is such a thing as non-consensus reality. Unfortunately, the AFs are the reason we think it.

Leaner: Are you agnostic?

I am really unconcerned with deities. My concern is for society being stuck in a set of rules written thousands of years ago before we understood how to make good rules. It's creating a lot of error.

O-Range: You certainly don't have to believe in God, but you also don't have to be insulting to people that do, or try to stamp out religious faith altogether.

I agree completely.

Which is not to say that I think we should keep doing faith. It's a poor system, invented long before we understood what works. But I am not for "stamping out" anything. Why bother?

We didn't have to "stamp out" astrology. It just collapsed.

O-Range: Well I guess it would fair in denying religion to everyone across the board, but that also seems rather tyrannical.

Let's be clear. I have never suggested any religion be banned, or any force be used to end faith, except persuasion and evidence. It is unnessary, anyway. It will fall away naturally. It's already happening throughout the developed world.

And, please be clear that I love religion and see no end to it in sight. Religion is fun and serves very important roles for society. The religions of the future could be even more fun than the ones of the past because they could be constructed deliberately.

However the "faith" part is the problem, and that is the part that will fall away.

O-Range: But people will always have faith.

I don't think there is any reason to assume this.

O-Range: When you tap your car brakes you have faith (or trust) that they will work. You have faith (or trust) that you can depend on certain people to help you when you need it.

Sometimes car brakes don't work. Sometimes people let you down. Having "faith" that it would not occur, doesn't change it.

Having realistic expectations based on past performance about real objects is different than believing a story another person told you about the supernatural.

O-Range: There will always be people that have faith (or trust) in something much larger than our comprehension.

That is very different than making specific claims, like that the bible is true.

O-Range: I don't see it as being bad at all.

The bad part is that our society must maintain very low epistemic standards to accomodate the supernatural claims of the dominant religion. The low epistemic standards of the last forty years are the reason we have problems with "fake news" right now.

If anything anybody says has to be treated as true, just because they have faith in it, how do we talk about what is ACTUALLY true? How do we make people care about accuracy?

O-Range: And people will always guess or try to create reasons for the WHY behind everything. And while it is totally okay to say, "I don't know," there is also nothing wrong with making a guess or creating a purpose for something.

I don't agree that Christianity falls under the heading of "making a guess" or "creating a purpose for something." It is flat-out selling ancient superstition and fear as accurate truth. There is something wrong with that.

O-Range: I think what you are most bothered by (or at least what it sounds like) is that you would prefer that people gain universal acceptance of certain truths a lot sooner than they currently do.

It's like waiting for people to catch up with math. :-)

O-Range: No one has any control over that.

That is where you are completely wrong. By saying things, I am affecting the brains of the people who hear me. The louder and more often I say it, the more people hear it. The more people say it, the more people hear it, the faster the process. We turn the wheel with our own hands.

That is why it is so important to say it in this discussion. It's already having an effect. Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss such an important topic O-Range!

O-Range: You can't do that. I mean, make the effort, sure...

I'm glad you agree.

O-Range: And I still don't understand the hate towards Christians wholesale.

Me neither, but that has nothing to do with me or this discussion.

My concern is with Christianity as a system. It is very problematic for society because the tenets of the system cannot be reconciled with observable reality. Also, a lot of it is very cruel and exclusionary. Also, it is mutually exclusive with the other AFs, and this creates permanently unresolvable disputes which are fueling military conflict.

O-Range: I've known MANY Christians, my Nana and my own husband included that are gentle and very accepting people.

Everyone I know is Christian too. They are great. It doesn't change anything.

O-Range: Not everyone takes the Bible or Christian ideology to the extremes that concerns you the most. So I don't think it is really fair to lump all of Christianity as if the WHOLE faith is the problem.

That is why faith is the problem.

The fact that no two Christians can agree on what Christianity is just proves my point. A system that no one can check, where there is no way to come to agreement on the terms, is not a good system.

O-Range: What, you think there has to be some big agreement!? Hell there are people even in scientific fields that argue!

Only at the edges, on the frontiers of science, where not much is known. There is little argument in established science where the results are well-understood and replicable. That is what the scientific method is for, to provide a process for going from argument to consensus based on verification. That is checking.

And if someone does propose a radically different understanding of established science - usually due to new information not previously available - it is NOT the system to say, "Gee, which is right? Guess we'll never know. But as long as it makes them a nice person, it doesn't matter what they think." Instead, the system requires that people look into it. They have to replicate the experiment or observations themselves, or show why the new results are spurious. They DON'T agree to disagree.

Eventually, after lots of experiements and papers and everyone in the field examining the new information from every angle, a new consensus is forged. That is the scientific method. You can see how great this system works and builds on itself by the rapid and accelerating growth of discovery and advancement.

That is checking.

O-Range: And there are PLENTY of times that I see Christians check each other.

That is not what I mean by checking. Can Christians check to see if Jesus Christ is really the Son of God who was born of a virgin and died for your sins?

The system does not produce consensus, it produces fracturing. It does not produce new information unavailable previously. It protects claims from thousands of years ago which seem wrong.

Thanks again O-Range!

05-01-17 12:21Slowing Down with Civilization

Villager: Did you hear? Utah is going to start execution by firing squad. It's because they can't use lethal injection drugs anymore. This may be the end of the death penalty soon, if we can't find a way to do it.

We will find another way to torture the evil. The new way will seem much better for two hundred years, then we'll come out against that too. Eventually we will cure evil instead of hating it.

Villager: And how exactly will that work? Curing evil that is.

The same as curing any mental illness.

Villager: You think evil can be "cured"?

There is no supernatural evil. There are only defective brains. Some defective brains can be cured, treated, mainstreamed, normalized, or improved. Someday technology will allow us to fix even more of them, of course.

Rainbow Gatherer:

Evil actions begat more evil actions...

Slowing down the cycle is how you cure it eventually...

At the social level I agree. A lot of what we consider "evil" would be genesaving in a tribal crisis. We have to slow down and let our biology catch up with our ability. In the meantime, a culture-wide "slowing down" is necessary to compensate.

Villager: What's this? "A tribal crisis"? What do you mean?

Most of human behavior evolved to work at the tribal level.

Tribal hunter-gatherers do a lot of killing. They have to kill animals all the time to eat. They have to be comfortable with killing, literally stabbing the life out of living things. Tribal people also kill a lot of people. They war other tribes. When your tribe is at war with another tribe, the tribe that does the most killing wins. The winning tribes preserved their genes, which we inherited. The tribe they wiped out did not save their genes.

That is why it is important to have people who can kill other people in your society. If your society did not have any of those people, you would get wiped out. We are all descended from the killing tribes.

It's even more complicated than that. In a tribal situation, tensions are very carefully balanced. If one person is really disrupting tribal life, someone else in the tribe might have to kill them. Or people just get in fights and go too far. You have to be able to defend your own life. You might have to kill someone yourself.

The ability to kill or harm another human being is not "evil". It is part of a toolkit that we evolved living in tribal groups where it was important to have many different kinds of people in the tribe, to take advantage of all the different circumstances that arise. Killing is important, genetically. It is gene-saving. So, at least some of the people in our group are going to be okay with it.

That is why we have invented such an elaborate civilization. We can see that we need a better system, but we are still evolved for killing. So, "slowing down the cycle," by having peace and justice and non-violence as strong cultural values, helps us compensate.

Thanks so much for the chance to explain.

Villager: OK, and we've done a stand-up job with mental illness, haven't we.

We only discovered it maybe a hundred years ago. We only started studying it systematically 50 years ago. That's less time than we have spent on the automobile. Give it a chance.

Villager: Evil is not an illness.

What is it?

04-27-17 7:18Rise Up or Die

Economic conditions are worsening. It is time to Rise Up.

Jasper: Economics are so good! Love Capitalism!

Hi Jasper, thanks for giving me something to write about today.

Jasper: I was brought up to stand up on my own two feet. Welfare was a last resort back then.

The American economy produced a lot of middle class jobs "back then," available to practically anyone (white & male). In fact for most of the last century there was a labor shortage, and worker conditions continually rose as companies competed for workers.

Once women joined the workforce in large numbers, and automation began to take over human jobs, the labor shortage evaporated. We now have a labor surplus, so companies now compete to lower the bar for worker conditions instead. So people cannot act now like they did then.

Welfare will be a last resort again when there are plenty of good opportunities and everyone is provided the education and ability to seize them.

Jasper: We are an all-processed civilization now. We eat pizza for breakfast, fast food for lunch, junk food for dinner and call it good.

Humans are biologically programmed to seek out food with the highest reward - the most energy - for the least effort. This leads humans to naturally crave food rich in fats and sugars. Megacorps work fanatically to ensure they reap the benefit of this tendancy, by creating conditions where this biological trigger system is constantly activated and they provide the easiest available options for satiation.

Jasper: We as population really need to try to do better.

People do better when they understand better and when better choices are easier.

Jasper: We have to get rid of unions. Only the incompetent get jobs! It is so much harder to be fired if you have a union.

The point of a labor union is not to make it harder to be fired for cause. It is supposed to make it harder for the workers to be exploited. Owners hold all the cards. Workers need some kind of collective negotiating ability to work in their interest, because the owners certainly aren't. Profit decisions expediate any degree of exploitation that can be gotten away with.

Jasper: I am represented. We elected our officials to stand in our place, voicing our concerns.

Unfortunately, government officials are not standing in our place. They are not voicing our concerns. They are standing in the place and voicing the concerns of the organizations who are paying them - the megacorps.

Jasper: So they are a good thing too.

Our representatives will be standing in our place and voicing our concerns when elections are publicly financed and money is not speech and corporations are not "people." That would be a good thing.

Jasper: I see people today acting like they are so helpless.

The American education system is one of the worst in the developed world. Americans in the lower classes of the economy are extremely uneducated and ignorant. They are completely disenfranchised from the forces that control how they live. They have no role models exhibiting genuinely empowered behavior. They have no accessible on-ramps to enfranchisement.

How do you expect them to act?

People will act empowered when they are empowered.

Jasper: Retiring at 55yrs old so they can just sit around and be more lazy.

People evolved in scarcity. We are biologically programmed to conserve energy wherever possible. However humans are also both socially and physically programmed to expend great energy in the worthwhile.

Humans do things when there are good and/or important things for them to do. They can be lazy the rest of the time, and why not?

Jasper: People should work always.

Well, I completely disagree. People should do what needs to be done and not be required by economics to sell their souls and their planet in degrading busywork.

Jasper: If they would stop being so pathetic, that would be a plus too. Nobody likes to see somebody looking for hand out. We would rather see people get off their butts and make a difference in this world instead. Get a job.

This is not possible.

We are in a labor surplus. There are thirty+ people who need a job for every job. Many of them are way over-educated. The jobs being created today are unpleasant, servile and meaningless, very low-paying with no predictable schedule, no benefits, no upward mobility and no security.

Is this really the best we can do as humans - almost everyone being forced to do meaningless busywork that destroys the planet and demeans them as human beings, just to get a bite to eat and a roof?

People will do work that demands to be done and innovatively create the surplus which sustains a broad prosperity when there are forces working to make this possible. However right now, the forces which create these conditions - government and labor representation, public education, social safety nets, etc - are being destroyed.

Jasper: They need to stand on their own feet.

Humans are social animals. We also must stand together.

Jasper: What you see wrong in this world?


Jasper: Maybe negative people like me.

Your negativity is not your problem. Your unreason is.

Jasper: Do see our welfare is making people lazy and fat, and unhealthy too?

No, but I see how spreading this lie is making it easier for the megacorps to destroy us. The welfare system is not what is making people not work. The lack of reasonable jobs is making people not work. The definition of anyone not making money as lazy is what is making people "lazy." And people with jobs are pretty fat too.

Jasper: It is not to late for change, Right?

Right. Rise Up!

Agitate for change. Join with organizations who are working for change. If people get together in enough numbers and demand social justice, it can shift the discussion.

Jasper: What happen all the parents out there wanting make this world better for our children?

They just need to know what to do and feel the strength of others doing it with them.

Jasper: Stop burning all the Fossil fuels too!

Making this possible is a very important first step.

Jasper: Everything isn't only about me, and what I want.

We can have what we want. It just takes some cooperation.

04-17-17 1:23The Big Lie

In creating propaganda to manipulate a society, there are a variety of techniques which can be employed. One of them is called The Big Lie. This is a specific term referring to a kind of huge lie which is so outrageous, and is foisted on the public so agressively, that a majority of people begin to believe it could only be true.

As an example, this technique was deployed in the buildup to the Iraq war. Several Big Lies, such as "Saddam Hussein has WMDs!" and "Saddam Hussein did 9-11!" were aggressively foisted on the public by President Bush and a national echo chamber to drum up support for an invasion. The result was that as we marched into the quagmire, 83% or so of Americans believed that Saddam either had WMDs or was behind 9-11 or both....even though there were weapons inspectors and authorities on the ground at the time who were saying that there was no evidence for either. The voices of fact were drowned by the immensity of the Big Lie.

There is no evidence that Christianity is true, or represents a better understanding of what God is, what God wants, what God does, etc, than any other religion. Like every other religion, it appears to be a cultural mythology. Yet is is declared to be absolutely true. It is massively and aggressively promulgated throughout American culture. Though it has no more basis than any mythology, it is believed to be true and treated as true by a majority of Americans.

What's more, this belief is deliberately manipulated by our political system to achieve political outcomes, particularly by the utilization of wedge issues.

This would seem to fit the criteria of a Big Lie.

Is it? Why or why not?

Tika: There is no bigger lie than god!

Well, who knows. If the only thing Christians were claiming is "god" I might not even take notice of it.

But, Christians - people of all faith religions, of course, but Christians specifically for the sake of this discussion - are claiming a lot more than just "god." They are claiming to know specific things about God, like what He did and what He wants. They are claiming to know about what "happens" after death, and what certain steps are required to direct aftelife disposition, etc.

The basic claims of Christianity are completely unsupported, and seem to be obviously not true - at least, obviously no truer than any other myth.

Yet the majority of people in our society are acting like it is true. And, voting like it is true. This is a problem.

For one thing, the disconnect between what is actually true and the many things people are claiming is true is creating a lot of error. Worse, in order to suspend verification to believe the unsupported, verification itself is devalued, leaving people vulnerable to all kinds of unsupported lies - like, "Saddam had WMDs."

If people in this country required verification for what they were told, we never would have become mired in Iraq. If people in this country used critical thinking, we would not now be ignoring every real problem.

Christianity is a part of the problem in this country because it shows no respect for the truth, and it is being manipulated like a propaganda tool to serve extremely narrow interests.

I'm tired of seeing my country turn to ash over lies. We need to respect the truth, or this continuous disconnect with reality will destroy us.

Laurens: I couldn't disagree with you more!

Hi Laurens, thank you for speaking of this with me. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this.

Laurens: The whole point of faith is that there is no "evidence".

Yes, that is why faith is such a tremendous problem. It requires the complete suspension of reason and verification. It allows people to take any old unwarranted claim and treat it exactly as if it was the truth. This creates a lot of disconnect with reality, and a lot of unresolvable conflict.

Laurens: Obviously because this country was founded by people who were mostly Christian and the majority of people in this country today are Christian, of course our cultural values will reflect that.

Most of the western democracies were officially Christian at some point, and yet they are moving to secularism much faster than we are. Studies show that the most secular democracies are the ones which exhibit the highest levels of societal health. We could use some of that kind of health.

Laurens:That doesn't make it wrong, or a conspiracy, it just makes it what it is.

What makes it wrong is that people are claiming it is true, and using it to manipulate.

Laurens: Go to a Middle Eastern country and it will be the same way, except it's Islam, not Christianity.

Yes, faith is creating a big disconnect with reality over there, too.

Laurens: As I see it, the beauty of our country is that we are allowed to believe any darn thing we want.

What we are "allowed" to believe is not the issue. Of course people are legally free to believe lies, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so.

Laurens: I don't understand the problem. Christianity certainly is equal with any other faith system.

Faith systems are the problem. They create a disconnect with reality, and a lot of unresolvable conflict.

Laurens: Knowing that, is this the right discussion for me?

If it will help you to decide, I can tell you that you are very welcome here and you seem to be doing fine.

Laurens: Or are you just here for Christian-bashing?

I strive to debate with courtesy, and I am certainly not bashing any person. But, I can't ignore the problems created by Christianity. I think they can be addressed in a civilized manner.

Thanks again for speaking with me.

Laurens: What seems like a lie, or fantasy to some people is very real to another.

Not all claims about what is real are accurate. That is why it is important to check.

Laurens: I personally believe that there is a God. I feel very sure about it. Can I prove it? Nope. But that doesn't make it a lie.

You could simply be incorrect. However the "existence" of God is not important to this point.

Laurens: So please forgive me if this sounds smarty-assy, but what is the point of debating something that you either believe or you don't?

The point is to examine the efficacy of belief.

Laurens: Humans seem to feel a need to believe in something bigger than themselves.

That is pretty vague. I am talking specifically about believing the central tenets of Christianity - that the Bible is the Word of God, and that humans are born with original sin and require salvation through faith in Jesus Christ or they will be eternally separated from God in the afterlife.

That is a lot more than "something bigger than themselves." Those are very specific claims which are completely unsupported and upon examination appear to simply not be true, no more true than the claim that thunder is caused by Thor's mighty hammer.

We are allowed to call the Thor story what it is - a myth - but we are required to treat the Christ story as if it was true. We would be better served to treat our traditional socio-cultural stories for what they appear to be - myths, like those of any other culture. This would allow us to make decisions about reality based on observations of reality instead of just some stuff people say.

Laurens: I guess I don't understand why that is a problem.

Becuase one, it could be an utter fabrication with no relation to anything that is real or that actually matters. Upon examination, that is what it looks like. If Christianity is myth like any other, then having the majority of people in the society acting like the myth is true is going to cause a lot of problems, because it represents a huge fracture between what people think about reality and how reality actually is.

And two, buying this one unsupported and and implausible myth and separating it from other myths is so difficult that it is seriously crippling the ability of Americans to use critical thinking or examine what they are told. People are not checking.

Laurens: I think that if no one believed in God, we'd still have problems, in my opinion we'd have more.

There is no evidence of this. Religiosity is not associated with societal health. Secularism is.

And again, "belief in God" is not at all the point. I am specifically addressing Christianity, not theism.

Laurens: People can do some truly evil things in the name of God, but people also do some truly beautiful things in the name of God too.

Error can be corrected by respecting the truth.

Laurens: What a boring, vanilla world it would be if everyone thought the same thing.

This is one of the most pernicious rationales I see offered for embracing unsubstantiated claims - that consensus about reality would be so "boring." It is a major fallacy.

Assessment of what is real and true is not like picking your favorite ice cream flavor. It is not a matter of opinion. It has to be based on what is observably real, and statements about it that are verifiably true, or it will not work.

I mean, 2+2=4 is pretty boring too. So what do you say we posit 2+2=5 and 2+2=3 to liven things up? It would make math way more interesting if you just got to pick answers you like, wouldn't it?

But what happens when you build a bridge using the sexy new "interesting" equations? It collapses. Because, interesting as it may be, 2+2=5 has no touch on reality. It doesn't really work. Measurements based on it will not produce working results.

If we want to make decisions that will keep our bridges - and our society - standing, we have to make them with information that is true and can be shown to be true. Bridges that remain standing are a lot more boring than bridges which collapse, but boring and standing is still infinitely preferable.

Understanding how things really work may bring about boring old consensus, but it is worth it for the benefit the understanding produces, even if the understanding is that we do not know.

Laurens: I choose to practice Christianity because I believe in a God and Christianity is a comfortable fit most of the time.

What of the truth?

Laurens: I can't prove it, but no one can prove otherwise either.

If that is the truth of the situation, how are the claims of Christianity in any way warranted? If the truest statement you can make is that you don't really know and no one really knows, how is anyone justified claiming that faith in a Son of God who was born of a virgin and died for your sins is preferable to the truth?

03-28-17 8:13Ted Talk Enlightenment

The following is to be delivered as a short presentation to my English class about my term paper.

Last week Professor Hunt mentioned Ted Talks. So, since the subject of my paper is Enlightenment, like in the Buddhist sense, I decided to look up some Ted Talks on it, see what people were saying about it these days.

The first video I saw was technically informative. It described Enlightenment as a kind of psychedelic experience you get sometimes from meditation, like a feeling of one-with-everything. The speaker had slides to show how MRI brain scans correspond with certain meditative states. I thought it was relevant, and took a few notes.

The next video was a guy talking about Boddisattvas. In Mahayana Buddhism, this means, enlightened beings who forgo full transcendence to spend lifetime after lifetime re-incarnating, as many lifetimes as it takes, helping others, until all beings are fully enlightened. I thought, yeah, that sounds great, but, what makes you think that actually happens?

Then, just because it looked weird, I clicked on a third Ted Talk. This one featured a funny little man, literally about this tall, in a wheel chair. He was giving his Ted Talk in a prison. And his first words were, "Never believe any prediction that does not empower you."

THAT got my attention. I dropped my notes. The man talked about prison, the kind of prison that we all share...the prison of the mind. We are all trapped in here, with the chatter, the doubts, the fears. And he explained, no matter where we are trapped, that it is by learning to surf this...this is how we set ourselves free.

By the end of his Ted Talk, I was sobbing. I thought, Yes, yes, this matters. This could actually makes peoples lives better! This guy gets it! That funny little man didn't even mention Buddhism, or enlightenment - but he knows what it's about.

So that is what my paper is about. Enlightenment isn't a trance state, and it has nothing to do with "incarntations." It's not a supernatural concept that involves gods or souls. Enlightenment is a process of learning how to transcend suffering, through focused attention, deliberate compassion and moral striving. It's real. It's easy enough that anyone can do it. I'm going to explain what Enlightenment is, how to do it, and how to get everyone thinking about it. Because, we don't have a lot of reintarnations to get it right on earth. The time for enlightenment is NOW.

03-01-17 8:13Is College Necessary?

BluesSinger: Look at this cartoon. It shows a guy sweeping the street. A snooty lady says to her kid, "Study hard, or you'll wind up like him!" A nice lady says to her kid, "That man has a union job with great benefits! He makes more money than this stupid bitch ever will with her liberal arts degree."

What do you think?

My first thought is, For fucks sake, get a robot on that shit work.

The point of educaton is NOT to turn you into the perfect cog for someone's profit machine. It is to turn you into a critical thinker who can make the most of life.

Public education lifelong to all who wish it is the only answer. That anyone who wants to cannot effortlessly get into a classroom is a crime against humanity.

BluesSinger: My brother has no desire to go to college. Not everyone wants to learn.

True. That is why I used key phrases like "all who wish it" and "anyone who wants to."

However if adult education was free-at-delivery, and available to all comers, your brother *might* take a class sometime. I mean, probably not, but maybe...? At least he would have the option. Think how much better this society would be if people could simply take classes and become better educated at will!

Even better, a lot of fence-sitters and the edu-ambivalent would see the true advantages of public education all around them - people engaging in enlightenment and betterment, and gaining in capability as a result - and they just might decide to join in the fun too.

Most importantly, no person who DOES want to grow in a classroom would be left out. That is where the failure is now.

BluesSinger: Some people love manual labor.

There will always be plenty of manual labor for people who just like to do it. You can just start doing it. No one will complain if you sweep up trash voluntarily.

The point is that people should not have to do it, even if they don't want to, just to be able to eat and have their own bed. There was a time when everyone had to work to survive, but that time is long past.

So, we should work, and be educated, for the love of it, and to be helpful, and not because it's that or the street.

Villager: So people without an education is not a critical thinker??

Critical thinking is a talent and a skill, like art. Most people are able to do it to some degree, and some seem to be naturally better at it right out of the gate, but almost anyone can become better at it with training. And, like art, no matter how naturally talented you are at it, the greatest skill comes through years of concerted, deliberate practice.

Villager: They are not as smart as college educated people??

What do you mean by "smart"? I.Q. appears to be inborn and shifts very little over the course of a lifetime, regardless of education. But, people who are educated know more things. Otherwise what's the point? They have a lot of deliberate, graded practice in critical thinking. They know more about history and are less doomed to repeat it. They have been forced to develop working routines for information processing and retrieval.

I would say there is an undeniable mental advantage to college, an improvement to the intellect as a direct result of exercising the brain. Otherwise why would any normal person pay for it? Why do employers pay more for it?

Sotomayor: There is so much more to moving forward than just going to school, passing a test. The "real" part of life....putting yourself out there to the 'right' people, knowing where to find them, etc. Networking.

*Nods* It's not what you know, it's who you know. And how good you are at glad-handing.

Which all seems perfectly natural. The only real problem is when people pretend we're a meritocracy, when this is what really makes careers.

KitchenWitch: How could you give that street sweeping job to a robot!? Get a human who needs a job to do that.

Oh boy, what a future to look forward to. The pinnacle of human achievement, when there are finally enough street-sweeping jobs for everyone!

In other words, Bleh. "Needing a job" isn't a human characteristic. Wage labor is an invention of the Market Revolution and the whole concept is only a couple hundred years old. "Jobs" are a way of turning the contents of your life into profit for another person. It's an improvement over slavery, but not by much. The entire modern concept of "jobs" is utterly anti-democratic.

Furthermore, forcing humans to do work that could be done by machine is torture. Human minds are precious and human lives are short. We do not need to be wasting irreplaceable human time in boring lives of menial, toiling labor, every moment spent wishing to be elsewhere, just so that some profit-taker can justify letting them live.

Within the span of a historical eyeblink from now, there will no longer be any reason in the world for people to do mindless work that robots can do (unless they WANT to.) So, let the robots get on with the menial tasks, and allow human life to flourish in uniquely human endeavors of discovery, adventure and growth.

Human work should be voluntary or as needed, meritorious, and for the sole purpose of accomplishing the task. NOT busywork just because it's work or starve. Busywork is killing the ability of the planet to sustain civilization.

KitchenWitch: Give it to someone who went to college and came out with a degree in Liberal Arts or something equally as useless in the real world.

Human knowledge is an end to itself. If no one studied it, the discipline would wither. Are you really okay with letting entire branches of accumulated human knowledge die, just because you personally don't see the use? That would be a waste of human accomplishment, like leaving good food to rot on the ground.

KitchenWitch: "Who can make the most in life" ... I think someone forgot to tell those people with four year degrees that are flipping burgers or begging for food on the streets.

It is not their fault they were born into a wage-slave economy, or that some people think what happens to McDonald's is more important than what happens to them. It is a sign of major dysfunction in the system that we cannot simply allow people to use their education.

That doesn't make the education the problem.

KitchenWitch: And who would pay for this "public education life long"?

The public of course. We already supply most public education. We just need to do what other advanced nations do, and supply the rest. They are not better than we are. If they can do it, so can we.

Indeed, public education is a very lucrative investment. For every dollar spent, the society gets back four in savings on public health and public safety. Are we really better off, pinching a dollar on school and then spending four on prison?

In any case, there is plenty of money in the world. We have to stop pretending that, well, we'd like to educate the populace, but human resources are just stretched too thin right now. The fact is, we have plenty of resources, and we are wasting them on other things. This should be the priority.

KitchenWitch: I'm sorry, but HOW is that a "crime against humannity"?

It is cruel and harmful to subject human minds to ignorance and toil instead of nurturing them to their highest levels of achievement. It is extremely damaging to a democratic society for citizens to be unable to engage in enough critical thinking to evaluate machinations on the political landscape.

One of our most valuable resources is the novel neural configuration of every individual. Each mind is unique. Failing to utilize this resource is hurting everyone, and depriving humanity of the great new ideas that strong trained minds can produce. Why keep the person who could think of the cure for cancer, or the next great composition, or the next great moral advancement, out sweeping the street? Why keep anyone doing it?

We deny people their potential at our own peril.

Thanks again for letting me explain. It's important to imagine a better future. It will be what we make it. Why imagine a future with the same toil and dreariness as the past?

02-21-17 6:13God Not A Parent

Slider: You seem to think God is not real just because you do not understand Him.

Why He does what He does, or doesn't do what we think He ought to...I suspect it's just like any children not being experienced/mature/developed enough to understand why their parents do what they do.

I don't think there is any reason to suspect this. There really isn't any place in the current chain of events for a "God" or "Gods" to be doing anything. Each circumstance that arises can be seen to have arisen in some way from prior circumstances. There is no evidence of effects which didn't arise from physical causes.

I'm not an atheist, but I disagree with this particular rationale for how "God" could have done something. For one, as I said, there is no evidence of any supernatural doing, and for two, I think this infantilizes humans by portraying us as inexperienced, immature and undeveloped. Compared to...what? A perfect creature of our own imagining? Some other kind of being about which nothing at all is known? There is no reason to assign us a role subordinate to nothing apparent.

As far as we are able to observe, humans are the most advanced intelligence in the universe. We are able to gaze far into the past and far into the future, we can create incredible devices, we can splice our own genetic instructions. We can love with a sublime joy that bonds us for life with our loved ones. We can create art that enlightens the mind and music that stirs the soul. Particularly since the Enlightenment, we have striven to develop morality and governance that is meaningful and fair. For all our pettiness, our mistakes, and our ignorance of all that is unknown, we have managed to engineer a paradise to live in and share. Humans are divine beings all on our own...the most divine that are known to exist.

Who knows what kind of intelligence may be "out there." When we meet it, then I will decide if humans are inexperienced and undeveloped in comparison. In the meantime, I don't think it's necessary to portray us as the immature children of some great being who is arranging things for a purpose we just don't 'get.'

Slider: I can't disagree with you. But, for some reason, I can't seem to completely dismiss my belief in Grace...that sometimes prayers get answered with a yes or surprise gifts show up. I seriously doubt that everything that gets a "Thank God" from folks is anything more than coincidence. Yet, I accept the possiblitiy that there's a force (for lack of better term) that cares and might sometimes give a push or a leg up.

There is a force that cares and gives a push. It is us.

The human brain is designed to perceive the seemingly random as purposeful, and see the unrelated as significantly caused, and especially to look back and remember mainly the positive correlations and forget the misses. The 'forces' at work are forces of human cognition like agency attribution, the placebo effect, and confirmation bias.

But, knowing this does nothing to diminish the wonder of an answered prayer!

I experience this every holiday with the Thrift Store Gods. I don't have a lot of money and yet I still like to spoil my kids with too many presents. So, I spend a lot of time scouring thrift stores for like-new gifts I can afford.

It's amazing, but I always seem to find exactly the right stuff to blend into a theme, or make pieces from different places come together into something cool. Through their incredible control of coincidence, the Thrift Store Gods brought me the exact furniture I needed for the dollhouse, extra track to go with that exact train set, etc,etc. They brought all kinds of science gifts the year we did Science Easter, and lots of pirate gifts the year we did Pirate Treasure Christmas. No matter what I need to make my goofy gift ideas work, the Thrift Store Gods always seem to come through.

I don't even have to believe that there are ACTUAL gods out there, somewhere, somehow, arranging items on shelves in stores for me to find. I can see that the doing is being done by me, and that it is pattern recognition and agency attribution which make coincidence and ordinary cause and effect feel magically personal.

Entreating the Thrift Store Gods allows me to enjoy the wonder and fun of answered prayers and caring forces without having to actually believe in things that are not indicated. And, without wondering "why" these Gods help me find presents but don't save babies in tornados or starving children in Africa. It's not their jurisdiction. :-)

Slider: But that which we are able to observe is so small compared to the hugeness of that which we are not able to observe. That leaves room for so many possibilities that we can only eliminate with time, experience and growth.

I don't see why the "benevolent magical push from grace sometimes helps" possibility in particular has any merit. It certainly has no more evidence than the "malicious magical curse from evil spirits sometimes harms" possibility. Do you consider that equally likely? Or, the "God is playing cards, darn He just pulled the Cautionary Tale card for your life" possibility. Or, the "consequences of your life are determined by the position of the stars at the moment of your birth" possibility. Or, the "you brought this on yourself with your thoughts by the Law of Attraction" possibility. Or a million others I could dream up on a summer's day.

When you are talking possibilities, I certainly see no reason to just suggest the "grace of a smarter being" possibility and leave out all these others.

This is why I disagree with the "possibiliarian" theory that it's important to think things are "possible" until they have been specifically eliminated. Anything is "possible" when you are making stuff up. The imaginary is promoted to equal footing with the real.

I think it's far better to simply look at what is available to see and make no assumptions about what is beyond. If there is something to know there, we may find it in time. If not, we can work with what we do have. Which, as I have said, is so amazingly cool that it presents a magnificent and wonderful story without any need for baseless conjecture, all the more wonderful for being verifiably true.

02-17-17 2:17Robot Takeover

CJs: Bill Gates thinks the robot that takes over your job should have to pay taxes.

That is, the company should have to. He thinks the tax money could be used to train people for other jobs. At least, it will slow down the automation process, and keep humans in those jobs for awhile.

It is lame that we have have to force people to remain in menial work that could be done by machines just so we have an excuse to feed them. We don't need an excuse. Let the robots get on with the sweeping, give people their food, and let people do only the work they want to do and that needs to get done.

BingeWatchGoT: Businesses get huge tax breaks already. If they don't want to pay people to work then they can pay taxes which can go to the unemployed in some way. Education and advancement type stuff.

This is how it will be. Except instead of being "the unemployed" you will just be a person.

People will wage earn from time to time if they just need money for things they want beyond the necessities. Some will work all the time for money, so they can get lots of it and become rich and buy expensive things, or because they like the work. But much of the work people will do will be unpaid, because they want to study some topic or advance some project. When you don't have to toil like a mindless robot for a living, you are free to do interesting and great things.

CJs: But we are automating ourselves right out of work.

Very true. The only problem is the idea that this is somehow a bad thing. Why should most humans toil lifelong at menial crap that is not of their choosing? We have invented incredible technology to do the work for us. Why don't we now sit back in the shade and enjoy it?

Because, we are running on outdated software which dictates that everyone must work, hard, or we'll starve. This is no longer true. We now have the production capacity to provide the necessities for every person.

We just have to disconnect the idea of "deserving" from food, and then we can stop forcing everone to toil to stay alive. We don't need this much toil. The combined toil of every person to make their living is resulting in massive overproduction. It's harming our bios.

It's time to update the software.

CJs: I happen to agree with you 100%! But you'll never get enough people on board with not equating the right to food with working to earn it.

I agree for the moment. But eventually there will be no choice. We can't keep valorising the planet forever. We are meeting a variety of hard limits.

Either we figure out how to value people for something besides how they can profit owners, or we destroy the ability of the planet to sustain civilization. That's the choice.

BingeWatchGoT: I think, just because a job has been needed up to now, doesn't mean that will continue. We need to find new work, change with the times to keep people employed as we go forward. We have to start thinking about jobs and employment (and education) through a different lens.

I agree, but I don't think that what you describe here is a very different lens. Every person working for their living is producing too much work.

The different lens we need is to shake off the Puritan work ethic. We really don't need to work as hard as they did. Trying to keep it up is killing the planet.

BingeWatchGoT: Don't robots need to be manufactured? Maintained?

Sure, but it takes many fewer people to maintain the robot army than it does to do the work they are doing. Otherwise why bother? Why lay off a thousand people, buy a thousand robots, and hire a thousand-person robot maintenance staff? Owners don't move to robots until it replaces many people with very few.

The thousand people can try moving to a different industry, but eventually we will have computers and robots to do that work too. Not every job, but most of them.

So, should we just invent make-work to keep people toiling for others? Or do we admit that humans now have some free time, and start enjoying it?

01-01-17 12:42Animal Sacrifice

Nodster: I heard that the ancient Jews used to sacrifice animals, but in the new covenant Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, so that is no longer necessary. But, can someone please explain to me why animal sacrifice was necessary in the first place?

Ritual animal sacrifices were never necessary.

Katy: They aren't necessary now, because Jesus' blood covers everybody's sins now. It's a better way now. Seems to make sense to me!

It only "makes sense" - and I use the term very loosely - if you accept the ridiculous idea that the ritual animal sacrifices were necessary in the first place. There is no reason to think that ritual animal sacrifice was ever necessary.

Humans are predators, in a very intertwined symbiotic relationship with our prey, particularly the domesticated ones. Killing animals is practiced by most humans, for food purposes, and it's easy to see why this very special relationship would be ritualized. But that doesn't mean the ritual is required, by humans or anyone else.

If you don't buy into the ridiculous idea that animal sacrifice was necessary to cover "sin" - another ridiculous idea - then the entire argument for why you need "Jesus blood" collapses. You don't need it. You never needed it.

The whole thing is a story invented by very unsohpisticated people thousands of years ago. We really have learned a few things since then. It's time to let all that stuff go.

Linda: Ok lemme see if I can explain why they were needed. The laws of heaven and earth have a penalty....

Yeah, who told you that load?

Linda: Yahweh through His word and son Yahshua.

So, a person.

Well, people can say anything. If you want to find out if what they are telling you is true, you have to check.

Linda: The Holy Spirit has confirmed it to me.

That is not checking. If you want to find out the truth about reality, you have to check the reality, not the inside of your mind.

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