Monday, October 20, 2014

Douchbag Tax

Many years ago I proposed a tax with the unfortunate acronym of VAST.  Value Added by Status Tax.
In concept it was very simple: For each category of consumption a basic level of value would be established.  A public bus seat mile for transportation, a simple diner for a meal out, a street market for groceries, a basic Ford or Chevy for a car, a Boston Whaler for a boat, etc.  Any vendor charging more than the basic level value would be required to add a substantial tax based on the price paid minus the basic level.  If a family meal out were determined to have a basic value of $10  restaurant charging $25 would be required to pay tax on the extra $15.  A resraurant charging $100 would pay tax on the $90.  The tax would show on the receipt as the VAST tax.  Each category would have its own rate to give politicians something to argue about, with luxury categories taxed at a higher rate. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stories as Lore

Should atheists be against these types of creations which spread religious ideas?

No more than I am against the 8 Bibles on my bookshelf.  Good ideas and even new truth can come from anywhere.  Good stories, music, even video if one can resist the temptation to believe.  (Video is so immersive it is hard to be intelligently critical.) 

Humans live and die by the stories we listen to.  Choose them wisely.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life After Death.


Is there life after death? We can't prove that there isn't life after death.

No, but we can live as if it doesn't matter. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Moral Statements and rules.

10 Commandments and 613 detailed rules were not flexible enough even for a bunch of desert marauders.  And certainly not for the religious groups that followed, using those Commandments and rules as Scriptural truth. 

Any moral system will be local to a defined group, extremely complex and detailed, and interpreted intuitively by the members of the group.  Some moral systems will include Paul's vague stupidity, others will be based on radical humanistic standards.  There will be a lot of workable moral systems in between. 

But even something as intuitively correct and simple as don't steal. Gets mired down in situational ethics, and definitions of what is not to be stolen.  Is a song property that should not be stolen?  At what point from the composer trying it out on a group of friends to a viral iTune does it become wrong to steal it?  And that is an easy one.  What about that baguette thrown into the restaurant dumpster?

It doesn't matter whence, that is a different issue.  For the purpose of this thread throw away all the commandments, all of the rules, all of the laws and follow your conscience.  At the least it will keep you out of trouble with your family, friends, and neighbors.  In its highest form it will keep you out of trouble anywhere. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Immaterial Reality and Community Wisdom.

I would agree that there is something beyond the material.  That which we can imagine, dream, derive inspiration from, etc. is certainly immaterial.  It may even in a sense be real, that is able to be identified and used coherently by others.  But nonetheless it is an ersatz reality, as the only way to use immaterial ideas coherently is to agree that they are defined in the mind only.  

Mystical experiences point to the collective wisdom of our community as realized within the individual’s mind.  The mystical experience allows the mind to focus on and isolate an aspect of that collective wisdom and reinforce the conceptual memory for future access.  It is nonetheless important to be aware that the realization is within the mind of the mystic, not external.

The human brain-mind (mind from here on) is necessarily well adapted to isolate and store concepts and behaviors that are important to the community.  But that activity is wholly within an individual’s mind.  The community may have effective ways to indoctrinate these concepts and behaviors.  But until they are realized and implanted in an individual mind they have no reality ersatz or other.

Defining Communities.

How fortuitous that life had not only given us minds to create Gods but also the curious nature to seek these creations, and find experiences to keep us on the trail and validate our belief.....Curious_Soul

The key word here is Gods.  Study a community's God(s) and how the community stays on the trail and validates their belief and you have defined the community and have a reasonable idea on how to relate to them.  It even works well for those who worship no god.  How they keep on the no-god trail and validate their beliefs is extremely useful information.  Which is why my community which studies all gods and trails none is so misunderstood.  No victimization, we like it that way.  But people are always trying to pin a belief where none exists. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

So Help Me God

An oath to God when one does not believe means nothing. No Christian should support forced oaths to God.
Which is why as an atheist I have no issue with emulating George Washington and adding "So Help Me God" for political reasons in court or anywhere else someone asks.  It would be much better if they made me affirm rather than swear at God but that is their problem not mine.

If it gives me credibility among the credulous why should I care?  I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, (but not God's TRUTH™) because it is my responsibility as a citizen to do so.   

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Curious_Soul wrote:
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
― Winston Churchill

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Politics and Morals

Politics, religions, cultures, views of reality all greatly differ, yet morals are largely consistent. Why is it just so naturally consistent in the arena of morals, but not these other areas?

Because humans are intelligent, tribal, social animals. The differences in behavior among all of the above are simply the size of the tribe and the power of the leaders. But even the strongest leaders are bound by the simple tribal morality of respect for tribe members, follow the leader, and ultimately do what mama tells you to do before you are six.

Alive with Stories

 “When you’re ready to wake up, you’re going to wake up, and if you’re not ready you’re going to stay pretending that you’re just a ‘poor little me.’ And since you’re all here and engaged in this sort of inquiry and listening to this sort of lecture, I assume you’re all in the process of waking up. " Alan Watts

 I was born awake and never was put to sleep by dogma.  I never had that rude awakening to find out that God, the divine and everything else was just a story.  Stories to help me learn how to be a better person and contribute to my chosen society but stories nonetheless with some truth and lots of garbage. 

My society is relatively demanding, one must think rationally and independently, one must constantly be aware of the mores of the society and comply with them intelligently rather than dogmatically, and problems must be resolved reasonably for all involved.  The stories are there to help, even the religious ones, but none of them can tell me what is right or even what to do.

Secular, Secular Humanism and Humanism


I’ve seen the term “secular” used interchangeably with the terms “secular humanism” and “humanism”.
*sarcasm*   I have seen religious used interchangeably with Christian bigots, Televangelists, Bob Jones University and many other manifestations of spirituality.  So it is OK for me to say religious means Christian bigot? */sarcasm*

"Secular" has a well-defined and limited meaning as explained above, and may not involve humanism at all. Communism and Fascism and Capitalism are secular and not humanist by any stretch of the definition of humanist.  "Secular Humanism" is a well-defined organized society not to be confused with "secular humanism" which is a worldview based on the rejection of supernatural influences over human behavior and generally promoting a human centered social philosophy.  "humanism" may or may not involve God, god or gods, but is again a human centered social philosophy.

Many of my social mentors have been theistic humanists.  Indeed the only Christian churches I respect and enjoy visiting are humanist in the sense that they essentially reduce the message of Jesus to the Two Great Commandments.  Note that the First involves God and I have no problem with that.  I might argue that they are not Christian, but that is another definitional blivot.    

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Contraception Affects Men.

Try as you will, you just can't get secular morality to come up with the rules about adult consensual sexual activity that religionists seem to find so necessary.
Perhaps the problem is less religion vs secular than pre vs post contraception controllable by women.  Women today have many opportunities for sexual gratification outside of the traditional Kinder, Kirche, K├╝che with a rich husband.  Kirche being redefined as socialization, usually in a church, but not necessarily so.  Since ~1975 women have been able to make choices about sexual activitiy that do not necessarily involve marriage, children, or even men. 

Old socialization is hard to break so most women buy into the find a good provider as a husband, ditch the contraceptive and take the mom track. Premarital discreet sex optional. But this is a choice not an obligation even for religious women.  Admittedly a strongly mandated choice for religious women.  But even religious women can choose a career track "celebate" that is not married, and keep the sexual activities in the closet bedroom.  Or less frequently be "celibate" until well established in the career track and find a partner willing to help with the kids. 

For secular women the choices are more open: sex, marriage, and children all totally unrelated choices.  And the partner(s) for each also unrelated.  Still some socialization for the mom track, but less pressure from one's society to choose it and more ways to get there and still have sex on the way. 

All of this freedom for women has left men, shall we say, unfucked.  Since ~1975 their manliness and suitability as a mate counts for little in the sex dance and they need to figure out other ways to get laid.  Unfortunately tradition has very little help to give in this regard especially religious tradition. Religious tradition is still stuck in the celibate till 18 (unless you can get any behind the woodpile, wink, wink.) then marry your H.S. sweetie and live happily ever after.  Sex is just animal rut anyway, but sweetie is always available and dependent on you so the animal needs are slaked.  'Tis better to marry than to burn with lust.  

But H.S. sweetie has other plans and other opportunities both for sex and independence. So what is a manly man to do?  The hormones are raging and society and many women are telling him male dominance isn't going to work any more.  Men have very little guidance from society and religion both of which are telling him to be celibate and no one is telling him how to unlock the closet bedroom door.  The answer is clear. You have to ask for the key, demanding it doesn't work any more, and it will be on her terms not the man's.  

Welcome to the world of women's absolute control over their own sex lives.  Anybody surprised that porn is ubiquitous? Religions say you can't do that either, but if praying doesn't help?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

John B Christ


So what you are saying (see christine3 below) is that it should be John B Christ rather than Jesus Christ. 

That works for me and explains why Christianity has nothing at all in it from the Gospels that isn't pseudographia.  It has always bothered me that after Paul's conversion event he never showed any interest at all in the Jesus Cult lore.  Following John the Baptist rather than Jesus makes it much clearer.  Both for the origins of the Mandean influence on Christianity, and the absolute break with the Jesus Cults.

It doesn't make me like Paul any better, but the clear separation of Christianity from Jesus makes the Gospels much more interesting and believable.  And makes Jesuism much more viable as a humanist religion totally independent from Christianity.  

John B Christ on a crutch! What a revelation!   

 christine3 wrote:  [with permission from Christine]
By now most of you know that I think at least 15% of the activities ascribed to Jesus were really John the Baptist's activities, such as accusing the Pharisees of becoming corrupt. I've read some of John's writings where he accuses the priests of living in a brokendown house, a metaphor for corruption, falling apart. Like Jesus, John was a prophet, teacher and healer; was considered a criminal and was put to death. The cross did not become a popular symbol for Christianity until the fourth century, so it is unlikely that Jesus would have been crucified on a cross. As for the rest of Jesus' persona, it is taken from Mithras and other cult godmen from the past.
If you Google Gamaliel, you can read the whole article, but I copied some interesting information, a couple of paragraphs. Paul of Tarsus is said to have been "raised at the feet of Gamaliel," to answer who influenced Paul.
Two sentences caught my eye. The first, Gamaliel says "a fish from the Jordan River: one who has learnt everything, but dodsn't know how to respond. This is a very snide remark, and I think it was said against John the Baptist, because the Jordan river is where he did all his baptizing and preaching.
The next sentence that caught my eye was where Peter and the apostles are brought before the sanhedrin and prosecuted for preaching the gospel. A gospel is an account describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The prosecutors want Paul, Peter and the apostles to cease with this teaching as it is considered almost shameful, it is so not keeping with Jewish teaching.
It's funny, but I feel the same way about the 'resurrection' story; it just isn't true. I also feel that the bulk of the the life, death and resurrection reads like a three act play, written to attract converts. So, I am really siding with the Jews here. But my problem also comes from not knowing from the Jewish history what really went on at that time. All we have to my knowledge is Mark, which turns out to be Peter's account, and similar accounts which are near duplicates of Mark. The Jewish have no way to defend themselves other than to ask, "What story, who is Jesus?"
Perhaps Paul and Peter were initially attracted to John the Baptist, and over the ensuing 400 years from John's death, the name got changed from John to Jesus. John the Baptist's descendants are the Mandaeans, and they have an idea of a multi-leveled heaven (dimensions?) Paul says he went to the third heaven, which echoes the Mandaean belief.
ritually impure fish: one who has memorised everything by study, but has no understanding, and is the son of poor parents
A ritually pure fish: one who has learnt and understood everything, and is the son of rich parents
A fish from the Jordan River: one who has learnt everything, but doesn't know how to respond
A fish from the Mediterranean: one who has learnt everything, and knows how to respond
In some manuscripts of Dunash ibn Tamim's tenth-century Hebrew commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, the author identifies Gamaliel with the physician Galen. He claims to have seen an Arabic medical work translated from Hebrew entitled "The Book of Gamaliel the Prince (Nasi), called Galenos among the Greeks." [17] However, since Galen lived in the second century and Gamaliel died during the mid-first century, this is unlikely.

In Christian tradition[edit]

The Acts of the Apostles introduces Gamaliel as a Pharisee and celebrated doctor of the Mosaic Law in Acts 5:34–40. In the larger context (vs.17–42), Peter and the otherapostles are described as being prosecuted before the sanhedrin and senate (or elders) for continuing to preach the gospel, despite the Jewish authorities having previously prohibited it. The passage describes Gamaliel as presenting an argument against killing the apostles, reminding them about the previous revolts of Theudas and Judas of Galileewhich had collapsed quickly after the deaths of those individuals. Gamaliel's advice was accepted after his concluding argument:
"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." —Acts 5:38–39
The Book of Acts later goes on to describe Paul the Apostle recounting that although "born in Tarsus", he was brought up in Jerusalem "at the feet of Gamaliel, [and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers". (Acts 22:3) No details are given about which teachings Paul adopted from Gamaliel, or how much Gamaliel influenced aspects of Christianity. However, there is no other record of Gamaliel ever having taught in public,[2] although the Talmud does describe Gamaliel as teaching a student who displayed "impudence in learning", which a few scholars identify as a possible reference to Paul.[18] The relationship of Paul the Apostle and Judaism continues to be the subject of scholarly debate. Helmut Koester, Professor of Divinity and of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University, is doubtful that Paul studied under this famous rabbi, arguing that there is a marked contrast in the tolerance that Gamaliel is said to have expressed about Christianity with the "murderous rage" against Christians that Paul is described as having prior to his conversion (Acts 8:1–3).[citation needed]

This is from one of those interminable historical Jesus threads that can't seem to keep a historical Jesus separate from all the Christian accretions and the mythical Jesus arguments based on Mithraic Gnostic and Mandean influences.

If in fact as Christine suggests that Paul's Christ was based on John the Baptist with heavy input from Gamaliel (or even without Gamaleil) we have a clean separation between Christianity and Jesus.  It also explains the disconnect between the Gospels and Paul's Christ.  Perhaps Paul thought John the Baptist didn't have enough of a following or reputation to be believable as The Christ, and grafted Jesus' name on John the Baptist's ministry.

This is all new to me as I know nothing about John the Baptist.  As far as I am concerned he was a minor figure in the life of Jesus which has been my interest in the NT.  I am not particularly interested in the influences on Christianity, so for the moment, I will accept the revelation as best guess and let others fill in the details.

Note: Christine will be busy for a few months, so if anyone would like to pick up the connection of John the Baptist to Christianity it would be appreciated.  Lots to work on in her quote.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Evolution of Belief

Evolutionary models explain how humans evolved social brains that were optimal for conformity to group norms, and that means they will adopt whatever ideas, rituals, art, attitudes, etc. that identifies tribal association.  That's why someone from Denver is more likely to wear a Broncos jersey rather than people living in othe cities with their own football team.  Or why people in the USA are more likely to be some form of Christian and people in the Middle East more likely to be Muslim.  People affiliate and then defend affiliation for various reasons, but most certainly involves a degree of denial. F1fan

How do you determine which group norms are untrue?  If one gains social status (in Denver) from arguing that John Elway, or whomever is the greatest Quarterback in the religion of the NFL is this denial that there may be other quarterbacks that may be in the running? Is it a false belief? Is it a disfunctional belief in Denver?  Do you think a Bart Starr fan store selling nothing but Packer and Starr paraphernalia would be successful in Denver?

Is your belief that there is no guiding force behind evolution necessarily true?  Does a plurality of Gods indicate that there must be none or "One ring to rule them all" including the god of unguided evolution?

Perhaps the human brain evolved to conform to group norms and accept those group norms as true, since arguing the falsity of group norms carries social penalties up to and including death by torture.  Including arguing against secular beliefs. 

Atheists still are subject to social sanctions for arguing against the prevailing religious beliefs of a country or state.  Does this mean atheism is false?  Does it mean atheism is true?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WEPC, Morality and Humanism


In my opinion, preaching the innate superiority of Western European Protestant Culture as he is doing skirts very close to fascism.amcolph

You realise that you are insulting the majority of atheists who post here, amcolph?  For them, morality is mere fashion, and Twenty-First Century Western Liberal Culture (which is a not-very-developed development of "Western European Protestant Culture") is the zeitgeist which molds their fashion, so it must be "superior".  Thus, for example, they frown on slavery because Western Liberal Culture considers slavery to be "bad"; but in the rest of the world, slavery is the norm. Thus, again, they consider women to be full members of society, equal to men; but in the rest of the world, women are chattels of men.Lavengro

The morality of many of the atheists who post here is humanism which is complete and utter repudiation of the elitist "Western European Protestant Culture" (WEPC).  The WEPC is being dragged, kicking and screaming, to a more humanistic morality. 

Humanists oppose slavery, all forms including wage slavery, as slavery only benefits the fascist elite and the syncophant WEPC priests/preachers/pastors/vuvuzelas who provide God's moral blessing on the fascist elite in exchange for a tithe.  But as one of the elite warns, the pitchforks are coming. Here as well as the rest of the world.  In the immortal Janis Joplin line "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

The rest of the world is finding out that women as chattels of men is not working too well as women gain control over their fertility.  Hobby Lobby notwithstanding.  That minimum wage slavery is easy to buy into and an independent nuliparous woman can use it as a springboard to personal fulfillment while working men's egos for pleasure and additional support without a care about hosting some prick's seed.  She may choose to do so but the choice is hers in the US as well as India, China, and much of the western world.  So much for WEPC misogyny.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Origins of Morality

I have an extremely rational and objective basis for my morality.  It started at 2 or 3 when I was taught not to hurt other friends even accidentally because they would avoid me in the future and I would have no friends to play with.  Simple, rational, objective, social consequence based morality.  As I got older the definition of hurt and responsible behavior that defined the morality became more complex and stringent, but it was very simple.  If you want to play in this society you must be responsible for your behavior and avoid hurting the people who are part of it.   

The society which I choose to identify as my own is the society of highly educated, intelligent, cosmopolitans.  The definition of hurt includes the treatment of any other person as a lesser being, to be exploited or used in any way that is detrimental to their own interests. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Belief as Life


I don't think that problem is a matter of 'religion' at all!   There are some individuals, yes, who DO use religion as a substitute for making their own choices based on their own thought.

But then there are people who will NEVER go against their political party's most idiotic 'talking points'.  And people who insist on defining absolutely EVERY situation according to their political rubric. -  LeahOne

Some believers, and believers come in many varieties, religious, political, ethnic, even local sport team fanatics, have no ability to evaluate their beliefs.  This is attributed by scientists studying the phenomenon to an imbalance in risk of countering belief and accepting it unquestioning.  As a result information contrary to the belief system is not even registered in the brain of the believer.  See The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer for an accessable discussion of this science.  It is well documented for those wishing to check his conclusions.  

Simply, the cost of losing ones major social support group due to shunning as a heretic is so high, relative to the value of intellectual integrity, that the brain rejects without recognition any challenge to the beliefs of the social support group.

Or one might ask 'Does a true atheist put so much effort into attacking religion, as opposed to simply explaining - and defending - atheism?' -   LeahOne
The question for atheists is not as unrelated as it might seem.  There is no belief system or social support group associated with "True atheism" that conditions the brain to trigger either confirmation bias or self-justification bias.  While there are some atheist groups that resemble religions, typically the group conformity imperative is very weak.  Atheists even argue about and with their "Four Horsemen" anti-theists. 

Even on a board like this which attracts atheists who like to discuss religion, "attacks" are not on religion in general, but on specific religious or politico-religious beliefs that strongly affect atheists. There are a few exceptions to add a bit of spice to the board, but you will notice that most of the atheists here attack specific beliefs brought up by theists rather than the religion of the theist promoting those beliefs.  Even for those way out there on the belief irrationality scale are challenged on specific beliefs rather than their religion itself. I find it amusing that a specific religion is challenged here more by the theists participating than the atheists. 

One of the problems for atheists in challenging specific strongly held tenets of belief systems is that the challenge is interpreted by the believing brain as a general challenge to the belief system rather than a challenge to a small and perhaps unimportant part of the belief system.  And the believing brain overreacts to protect the belief system as a whole rather than just the specific challenge.  This is a necessary reaction of the believing brain, as any crack in the belief monolith can have disastrous consequences.  

We have on occasion on beliefnet seen the disastrous effects of an "insignificant crack" in a belief system, and may be seeing it in a creationist who has admitted just recently that God's real world creation may be another source of information to supplement the biblical account.  It will bear watching.  She is quite old, but may still have time to let her intrinsic reason and intelligence take over to reject Creationism for a more reasonable version of Christianity.  She seems to be relatively isolated, so the social support group may not be significant.  

Major cracks in the belief system especially life style choices incompatible with the belief system are obvious and traumatic breaks with family and friends in a tight belief circle, but as these frequently take place in a diverse school setting with other social support groups to replace the church family they are normally successful.   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Animal Grouping for Survival


Evolutionary science of social animals indicate that for survival most members of the social group, whether it is a herd, a tribe, a pod, a pack, or whatever,  are genetically programmed to follow the leader, without question, even over the cliff.  Secularists are not immune to this programming, see the Secular Humanist Manifesto, Modern Paganism, The Human Potential movement, Western Buddhism, sundry woo-woo gurus, etc.

There is also strong survival programming for those separated from the social group for whatever reason, including refusal to jump the cliff, to find others of their species to start a new social group to continue the species.  The new social group will create new leaders to provide coherence and stability, and not incidentally protect the social group from predation frequently from others of the same species. 

I just spent a weekend at a popular convention where people gathered to find Dungeon Masters to lead them into battle and adventure.  The attendees were by and large well educated, secular, comfortable financially, but in need of a group adventure temporary and fantasy but nonetheless a group experience.  See also any sport fanatic. 

Life Before Death


I have considered the various fables of after death existence, reincarnation, physical or emotional resurrection, and find them all manipulative to distract the individual from paying attention to a personal contribution to society.  I choose, in the words of Forrest Church, "To live a life worth dying for." 

I see life after death every time I read a favorite book by a dead person, when I think about the lessons in self reliance taught by a special uncle on a pack trip into the high Sierra when I was 10, when I remember the importance of giving pleasure to strangers when my sister played an impromptu concert in a department store lobby on the display piano, and standing up to authority when she said to the guard "The rope is to save it for me."

I could go on endlessly and do in quiet moments of reflection.  I think I have Paid it Forward by doing my part for others, by teaching the lessons I have learned and creating some of my own.  I am content with my legacy, which is, not incidentally, a gift from a deceased person.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happiness and Suffering.

What awareness has you come to you through happiness?  What awareness has come through suffering?  -  Seefan

Happiness, both for those important to me and for myself brings awareness that my behavior especially my social behavior is correct and moral.  Technically it means that dopamine and serotinin are stimulating the social awareness compliance centers in the brain to produce the feeling of pleasure in complying with social rules for good behavior.  

Suffering, both for those important to me and for myself means that something is seriously awry in my social system and I must do whatever is necessary to repair the damage.  As an example I hear a baby crying in a burning building indicating that it is suffering.  Since a universal evolutionary imperative for social animals is to protect the next generation at any cost including a serious threat of survival for the adult, I am compelled to enter the probably fatal environment to attempt to get the baby out.  If I can get the baby out of a window safely, the dopamine and serotinin will activate the social compliance centers to mitigate the pain and suffering I feel from the fire.  If I can get out the window myself great, if not I have done the socially necessary thing and will die happy as the building collapses around me.  

Please note that death is the other bookend to my life and nothing follows.  My social group may remember me as a hero, but I won't be aware of that except momentarily as the building collapses.  But no matter. I have done other beneficial things for my society, and when death comes the dopamine and serotinin will flood the social compliance centers so at death I will be happy and I will indeed rest in peace.   

No God. Just evolutionary success that allows the baby to live to enjoy my legacy.