Saturday, August 28, 2010

Good and Evil

Epicurus? - Beliefnet:

A personal view of good and evil is "Perhaps an Epicurean POV, or a caricature of a theist's view of atheism. Or both.

It has no basis in reality. Good and evil are determined by the effects of the action on the society of the person. The effect on the yenta. If she shakes her finger it is evil. If she perchance smiles it is good. We all have yentas in our lives. It usually starts with mom and ripples out from there to the yenta on her stoop. Some people replace the yenta with God but God usually devolves into that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the overdecorated balcony. If hesh blows the vuvuzela better not do it again. Hesh never smiles."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Christian for Eternity

The Bright Line - Beliefnet:

"We atheists will die and as a result of our living a righteous and moral life according to our chosen society that society will be a little or a lot better because we lived. We get continuous feedback from that society that we are doing the righteous and moral things that improve that society so that when we die the society will be better than when we were born. We have no need to imagine what will happen when we die, we can look back as others will and see how we made our society better. I am using 'we' here not to represent all atheists, just the ones that think as I do about living and death.

I am glad you, as a Christian, believe that God will take care of you when you die. You seem to have done nothing of worth in this life but annoy strangers with your blather about God and the Hell you created for yourself in this life as a rebelling Christian. I hope God will ignore all that and reward your belief with His eternal presence. I doubt it, but hang tight to that belief. It is all you have."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Mind?

Where Is The Mind? - Beliefnet :

"Lets be honest here. In Christian myth, human minds created God, in order to create and sustain their little universe. Y'know the circle of the earth with the canopy of the heavens and a pile of dirt to turn into a human in the image of the minds that created God."

Good and Evil

Epicurus? - Beliefnet:

"Human social structures originally tribes and later villages and parishes decided definitively what was good and what was evil. Basically what was good was what created trust and cooperation within the tribe and what was evil was that which weakened the tribe by causing divisiveness and intra-tribal strife. Shamans quickly discovered that using God as a super cop not only gave them power as the interpreter for the super cop, but allowed them to add control rules to the natural good and evil recognized intuitively by the tribe.

As societies got larger the God interpreted good and evil was no longer effective as inter-tribal warfare was the norm for God, and the society needed to control this with secular laws and punishments for transgressions in this life not the next.

Good and evil were still defined by what created trust and cooperation and evil was still that which created divisiveness and strife. One important advancement in larger societies was recognizing that God inspired intra-tribal strife was an important evil and must be controlled."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scientific Literacy

Scientific Illiteracy - Beliefnet:

"Your elitism is showing, I know people of average intelligence that paid attention in good schools that can read a science article in the NYTimes and discuss, for example, the political implications with competence and incidentally correct English. That is what I mean by scientific literacy. In fact I have discussed science articles with a Down's Syndrome adult, that could make sense of them and make reasonable decisions about them. No special ed. Just an ordinary NYC public high school. He took biology and chemistry, and was delighted that I had a BS in Chem and would discuss things with him. Yeah, a Nobel Prize isn't in his future, in fact college wasn't either, a minor problem with College Board scores. But he was very good at what he did, and did what he could with what he had intellectually."

Cultures Decay

The Bright Line... - Beliefnet:

There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew
that cultures decay, and life's end is death.
Robinson Jeffers The Purse-Seine, 1937

"I might add that religious cultures also decay. In any event life's end is death. For the theist, for the failed theist and for the atheist: life's end is death. Perhaps only atheists have come to terms with that truth."

Christianity or Shinto

On replacing Christianity with Shinto - Beliefnet:

"I find the evolutionary reason behind religion is not spiritual fulfillment, but for community identity. The spiritual fulfillment is co-opted by the shamans as a community building and unifying technique.

While Shinto has some very attractive attributes, I suspect that trying to convert Christians is a lost cause. Christ gives hope to the hopeless at least after they die, and the minister makes sure they are hopeless sinners, at least in their own minds.

A more useful exercise, is to promote 'Progressive Christianity' with its emphasis on Jesus' teachings of a direct personal relationship with God and its corollary love your neighbors even if your other neighbors hate them. It is a natural progression for Christians who get tired of the hellfire and damnation bigotry of traditional Christian teachings. They get to keep their Jesus mediated afterlife, and all the spirituality. A much easier conversion process.

I find the Two Great Commandments very easy to live with as an atheist, and the personal God of the first does not bother me at all. If a person needs to believe and many do, the absence of proselytizing is welcome. They will of course be enthusiastic about sharing, but they can't really tell you how to believe in their God except have faith. Much easier to live with than Christ or Hell, take your pick. As the classic Jack Benny line goes 'I am still thinking about it'"

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tell Me of the God You Don't Believe In.

When You Say "God"... - Beliefnet:

"In the general sense, anything that is greater than, and superior to, an individual that an individual can commune with is not useful for me. I do not say it doesn't exist for a believer but I suspect it is an emergent property of a human mind after years of conditioning or, as the religious say, indoctrination.

I have yet to encounter an emergent God that I would wish to commune with, although there are many that I can learn from. I learn from the myths, stories, beliefs, rituals, and the related liturgy relating to them. Usually what not to do, and what is immoral that the gods try to justify: Genocide, misogyny, sexual sin, even misanthropy for at least one common God."

The concept of sexual sin is probably the most prevalent immorality in many religions. There is always something, usually nearly everything, that one can do with sexual parts that is sinful. These activities are all natural reward mechanisms for creating and preserving the pair bond. Shamans observe that pair bonding interferes with God bonding. So anything that improves the pair bond must be sinful. A properly pair bonded couple turns inward to the relationship first, and to the family and extended face group that they can effect and which effects them. Generally this extended face group will exclude God as they can never hope to be face to face with God.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vuvuzela Music?

WHY belief in gods? - Beliefnet:

"Ah, the wonder of the internet. You can find out more than you ever want to know about something that you don't want to know anything about in just a few minutes. Like how to make music on a vuvuzela. One of the most hilarious introductions to a serious topic that I have ever read.

Aug 15, 2010 -- 3:12PM, J'Carlin wrote in response to teilhard pointing out that a tinhorn in a fancy dress was hopelessly outdated:

'that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the overdecorated balcony?'

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Truth

Hidden Secret? - Beliefnet :

"I am using human knowing in an individual absolute sense. For an individual something they know is true is in fact true for them. For you God exists is true. Whether God exists or not as a supernatural omnipotent alpha humanoid or anything else the statement that God exists is true for you (I assume.)

What I interpret from sensory data is true for me. Whether the things I touch, see, hear, etc actually exist is of no importance. For me observations of the material world including other people and their truths whether expressed as fiction, myth or fact, as I interpret them are true. I could not function if they were false.

For either of us new data may indicate that a truth is in fact not so, and we must deal with that as we must. For me, if a Universalist God were shown to mediate a real afterlife, I would have to figure out how I must modify my life to reflect that new data. You can forget the God of Paul, Even if proved unmistakably, I would change nothing to spend eternity in Herm presence. That would in fact be Hell."

The ability to determine personal truth, appears to be an innate function just like language and morals. Certainly it is heavily conditioned by the circumstances of life, but the ability to sort out all of the conflicting data, weight it appropriately with social values, and come up with truth on a particular subject seems to be as human as speech. Truth is as idiosyncratic as an accent, like an accent it may be understood by someone with similar truth conditioning, and may even be accepted as truth by others. It appears that we are conditioned to accept truth from others who are effective communicators of their truth if and only if it doesn't stray too far from our previous conditioning. Shamans, novelists and other story tellers, artists in several genres. Indeed people tend to choose shamans, novelists, and artists that agree with their previous conditioning, as those folks speak the truth.

But stray too far out of your comfort zone, and extreme efforts are necessary to even begin to understand the truth being presented as for example a fundamentalist preacher of a tradition far from your own. For some it is not even worth the effort. There are large areas of fundamentalist Christianity and Muslim that I will waste no time trying to understand. They have no truth that is useful for me, even though they spell it TRUTH!

I have strayed out of my comfort zone to understand the truths of Catholicism, just because the Catholic God has the best music, and Reformation Protestants and Jews, just because they have so much influence in and over my life. I may take their truths with much salt, but I can appreciate how they work for believers, or should I say adherents to the faith. I am not implying there are not both, and probably a continuum between adherents and believers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Scientific Illiteracy in America

Scientific Illiteracy in America - Beliefnet :

"The good science journalists, are no longer found on the general news channels. They are on the blogs sponsored by the real science popular journals that are written at the GED level or higher. The US is headed for a self selected third world underclass of science and general education illiterates coexisting with an educated small segment of the society that does the science, technology, and economics that matters.

Whether or not this educated minority will be able to support the third world underclass is mostly a political issue but I suspect that the third world economists will insure that meaningful adequate 'stimulus' support to pay for the subsistence retail jobs will be shouted down by the couch potato media and their 'conservative' that is super rich supporters. I hope the fundamentalist churches are up to providing the beds for the believers that will need them."

Christianity and The Empty Tomb

Why Was The Tomb Empty? - Beliefnet :

I think Paul's brilliance in making everything people do sinful including sex and judgement is what gave his sect a leg up on all the rest. The peroration in Romans 1 continuing on through the first lines of Romans 2 insured that everyone needed a savior. Paul touched all the bases there, and the cherry on the top was the better to marry than burn. It is no wonder that Christians think sin is pervasive. One can't do anything that isn't sinful. Then adding in the Original sin so that just breathing is sinful, made salvation an absolute necessity.

Just to set the record straighter for me. The only Christian cult was Paul's. The others were more or less Jesus cults maybe with a bit of savior God especially in John, but the synoptics celebrate the ministry of Jesus not his Godhood

As for the empty tomb, the best explanation I have heard is that the rich guy donated it only for the burial and maybe anticipating a need for it removed the body over the weekend. Or maybe he was part of the conspiracy, and since it was his tomb nobody asked any questions.

As for Jesus resurrecting and pushing the rock and leaving in the dark of the night, before anyone could check the three day prophesy, seems pretty goofy to me. It would have been much better theater to push the stone, and be sitting there and say 'Don't cry ladies, here I am again. Go see if you can find a few disciples that aren't hiding from the authorities and tell them to come and see for themselves.'"

America Goes Dark -

Op-Ed Columnist - America Goes Dark - "The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.

So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere."

Continually Seeking God

Continually Seeking God:
The Talmud reads, 'Never pray in a room without windows.' Never pray without the world in mind, in other words. The purpose of the spiritual life is not to save us from reality. It is to enable us to go on co-creating it.
- Joan Chittister

God or no god the best reason for spirituality that I have ever heard.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Constrained Choice

Is the world intrinsically knowable? - Beliefnet

"The option to free will is constrained choice.

Believer or atheist, one can go months making choices that while theoretically can go either way are constrained. The constraint for believers comes from the little tinhorn in the fancy dress in the overdecorated balcony speaking for the local mores in the congregation or denomination. In the case of a non-believer the choice is constrained by their internalization of the mores of their chosen society.

If you really dig out the root of the constraint in either case it is the memory of a parent shaking herm finger and saying 'We don't do that!' The we is clearly defined in the child's mind as everybody in the child's world. Siblings, relatives, other caregivers, friends, and God if the parents are believers. In big things like unprovoked hitting, or little things like table manners, one simply has no free will to do what is contrary to a life time of doing 'What is right' and not doing 'We don't do that!'

As a thought experiment, at a formal dinner, say your daughter's wedding banquet, imagine yourself making the free will choice to pick up the bone of the steak and gnaw on it.

Go ahead. You have free will. Your daughter won't spoil the party by slapping you upside the head and shouting use your damn knife and fork.

Your spouse won't give you that look that says you are sleeping in the doghouse tonight. Hmm, since that is a very private communication hesh might, but your free will will let you ignore that.

So what is stopping you? You have free will! Go ahead. The best part of the steak is the taste of the bone."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carlton Pearson : the gospel of inclusion:

"Then Pearson got a divine revelation, as he tells it. Watching a news report one night in the spring of 1996, he was getting worked up about the genocide in Rwanda. His assumption was that the victims were bound for hell, persecuted yet unsaved. Feeling angry at God, and guilty that he himself wasn’t doing anything about it, he recalls, he fell into a sort of reproachful prayer: “God, I don’t know how you can sit on your throne there in heaven and let those poor people drop to the ground hungry, heartbroken, and lost, and just randomly suck them into hell.”

He heard God answer, “We’re not sucking those dear people into hell. Can’t you see they’re already there—in the hell you have created for them and continue to create for yourselves and others all over the planet? We redeemed and reconciled all of humanity at Calvary.”

Everything Pearson thought he knew was true started unraveling, as he began to realize: The whole world is already saved, whether they know it or not—not just professed Christians in good standing, but Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, gay people. There is no hell after you die. And he didn’t have the good sense to keep it to himself."

200 of his 5000 Pentecostal flock followed him eventually to the Tulsa UU Congregation where he got the first of two similar services the first of which is decidedly not the typical UU frozen chosen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Legacy and Reminder - John Dobbs


John Dobbs

The world began the day that I was born
and on the day I die the world will end.
Between these dates there will have been
Matters of great importance.
But no awakening apparently
to the neglected knowledge
that energy lies in the grains
of wheat and rice
as well as mass twice multiplied
by the speed of light.
The poor are as poor
as history has ever recorded
and there is nothing I can leave
on the final date
but a legacy of urgencies.


John Dobbs

I leave you this space
which I have occupied

now clean as a vacuum
to hold short sorrow,
and brief remembering.

There are no shards,
no broken statuary.
I had no idols.

The proud thoughts
and the humble things
remain unshattered.

I leave you this valuable
and useful