Monday, November 29, 2010

On Wolves and Poodles.

'not all speciation was caused by mutations'- Beliefnet:

6. How did these 'losses' become fixed in a population? (Remember, you don't have Betty BigCat Breeder there deliberately breeding these cats for specific traits; this is a wild population like wolves. And in the thousands of years that wolves have been breeding, there hasn't been a single instance of them producing a Miniature Poodle.) What evidence can you produce to substantiate your opinion?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ontological Emergence

Emergent Properties (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy): "Whether there are any instances of ontological emergence is highly controversial. Some metaphysicians and philosophers of mind contend that there are strong first-person, introspective grounds for supposing that consciousness, intentionality, and/or human agency are ontologically emergent. The intrinsic qualitative and intentional properties of our experience, they suggest, appear to be of a fundamentally distinct character from the properties described by the physical and biological sciences.[12] And our experience of our own deliberate agency suggests a form of ‘direct’, macroscopic control over the general parameters of our behavior that cannot be reduced to the summation of individual causal interchanges of relevant portions of the cerebral and motor cortex.[13]"

Friday, November 26, 2010

U.S. divorce rates: for various faith groups, age groups and geographical areas

U.S. divorce rates: for various faith groups, age groups and geographical areas: "Barna report: Variation in divorce rates among Christian faith groups:
Denomination (in order of decreasing divorce rate)

% who have been divorced
Non-denominational ** 34%
Baptists 29%
Mainline Protestants 25%
Mormons 24%
Catholics 21%
Lutherans 21%"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Religious Myth as Wisdom?

Joy and Wisdom? - Beliefnet:

"[Materialists and rationalists are] a small subset of atheists here, albeit a noisy one. I suspect that most atheists are quite comfortable with myth even religious myth as a valuable source of knowledge about people living together. The difference is that since none of it is TRUTH™ we can learn from that which is worth learning from, including incidentally what doesn't work, and integrate all into a coherent and joyful wisdom about living and incidentally dying. One of the things I learned from religious sources is that the proper bet on Pascal's wager is to bet nothing in this life."

The Value of Religion in a Scientific Age.

In a Scientific Age is Religion a Hereditary Delusion? - Beliefnet :

"The spiritual, actually religious component, of human history contains much of value in how to get along, or not, with your fellow humans. But where it becomes a delusion in a scientific age is when it becomes a Belief System, all of which must be adhered to and the God worshiped, feared and obeyed. I find it interesting that Progressive Christianity, in denying the God mediators in favor of the direct relationship of people with God, has largely abandoned the Belief System of Christianity, and is learning from the social truths that are an integral part of Christian history."

Including most particularly the myriad lessons on what doesn't work. One could build a pretty decent life just not doing what religions did for most of their existence.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joy and Wisdom, and Purpose.

Joy and Wisdom? - Beliefnet:

"As I never had the problem of living with God myths and life after death worries, I discovered both joy and wisdom around 2 when every 'Why?' was met with an answer or a 'Lets find out!' I have never stopped asking 'Why?' and having to take charge of finding out for myself has provided a never ending source of joy, wonder, spirituality (the reward mechanism in the mind for special discoveries) and I trust wisdom. The fact that I have a limited time to do it all, just makes it more exciting and challenging.

The other source of joy and wisdom is the intelligent, educated society that I have chosen as my own personal 'village.' Every time am able to help make that village a little better, by helping new people find their way in it, or by teaching which is the best way to wisdom, I find not only joy but meaning and purpose in the finite life that was nurtured by my parents.

Gods and other fictions are great sources of wisdom, a compelling story is the best way to learn, but it is important to remember that the weaknesses of the protagonist whether called God, or Gandalf, or Batman, are as important as their strengths, as they all are all of us writ large."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spiritual Exercises

Spiritual Exercises | A Sermon by Forrest Church:

"3. Pray for someone you hate. Hatred stokes the mind’s satanic mills, but it is never good for the soul. For this reason, you should choose your enemies carefully. Odds are you’ll become like them. Lifting the burden of hatred from your soul, however, is surprisingly simple. Close your eyes. Imagine your enemy’s face in your mind. And then (in the best 'Love your enemy' spirit) magnanimously pray, 'May so and so find peace within his or her soul.' Such a move is both 'spiritually correct' and self-serving. You are doing yourself the favor. And it always works: you simply can’t hate a person and pray for him at one and the same time."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Fairies, Pots of Gold and Astrology

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet:

"If you could explain what I should reject for all of the above I might be able to answer your question. Must fairies be visible to everyone in the world for them to exist? Must they be visible to anyone in the world? If fairies affect the actions of those who find fairies helpful even if they are never visible, is this data acceptable as to the existence of fairies as conceptual entities?

I have actually seen the end of a rainbow. Technically a halo interrupted by my body which appeared through an artifact of sun position and body position to end at my pockets. The pot of gold turned out to be a few credit cards in one pocket and a bit of change in the other. Must the pot of gold be literally that, or were a couple of credit cards with substantial unused credit lines a modern material equivalent? Or does the fact that the credit lines are imaginary entities in the bank's computer make them unreal? If I use the credit line to buy a pot of gold, does that reify the credit line or the pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow?

Must astrological bodies actually have a measurable effect on people at the time of their birth to consider astrology to be true. Or since astrological signs correlate with seasonal variations and birth times correlate with conception times, might there be some scientific correlation with personality types and birth and/or conception times? As a speculative example, perhaps a child born in the depths of winter to parents affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder might have less loving care in the critical first few months of life. This could have permanent effects on personality characteristics. If astrologers are using the constellations as a marketing tool for personality analysis guided in part by birth date, does this invalidate astrology?

Just for the record, I consider fairies to be conceptual entities occasionally useful for entertainment value only. I know of no other values associated with fairies. As for the pot of gold, as an allegory for hope at the end of a storm I would find it of some value even though non-existent physically. In spite of my confirmation of its actual existence in one special case. Astrology I consider to be useless, as the potential for scamming totally outweighs any folklore basis for the readings."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Religious history.

How Religion conquered Science - Beliefnet:

I wouldn't hesitate in agreeing that human beings throughout history have been driven by curiosity. They have also been mightily inventive.

I would also concede that we humans have largely been religious throughout history, although that propensity has certainly waned over the last three or four hundred years as our species has intellectually and spiritually matured. Religion now is a sort of hereditary delusion, a hangover from the infancy of mankind, or, as someone once put it, a withered figleaf that hid man's ignorance and fear in ancient times."


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sexual Maturity

Christian Preschool and Daphne: - Beliefnet :

"Perhaps the confusion is the focus on sexuality. That is the focus of any relationship being on whether or not the pants come off. If the focus is on gender preference, that is who you want to party with for whatever reason, I think the distinction still holds whether or not sex is a consideration or even a possibility.

I will admit that there are many, usually men, for whom the only purpose of a relationship of any kind is sex, testosterone is a powerful driver, a male dog will try to mount a pillow. But part of socialization in humans should be the ability to have relationships where sex is not the driver. In business or community activities sex, as in getting the pants off, had better not be in the picture at all.

In casual relationships one generally sees the heteros gravitating to the opposite gender, and homos toward their own gender whether or not sex is on the horizon. In most cases where testosterone is not the driver, the focus of most casual relationships is developing trust and empathy, perhaps with a closer friendship in mind, and maybe even eventually sex, but the sex would be the icing on the cake. Not the focus of the whole meal. One might call it social maturity. Getting past the puberty rut."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Atheists and Jesus

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet:

"The sin of Sodom that got it destroyed by God was inhospitality. In a desert community refusing hospitality was probably comparable to refusing to help an injured man by the side of the road. The chances were good that one refused a drink of water, could dehydrate before getting to the next stopping place.

But he was not telling us to love just the nice neighbors, but all of them. This of course does not mean approving of everything they do, but that violations of the social contract must be dealt with with love rather than hate. This is quite similar to the UU first principle of radical respect for all people. This does not give them open season on your wife, your car, or your dog, but you do not assume that that is what they want in life. Even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary it may be possible to encourage rehab rather than revenge.

This is not an easy standard even today. Many years ago my young kids shared a park with drug dealers in NYC. The dealers had their side, and the kids and university people the other side. It was not easy to teach children that these were not bad people but that their wares were dangerous. It was important to do so because there were 'good' people selling drugs. In fact it was the good people that were the most dangerous as they could mix with the university people and the kids unnoticed. You may have read of my encounter with a drug dealer on the wrong side of the park. He was by all appearances a good person. Had he not solicited me for business I never would have looked at him twice. Prejudice cuts both ways."

Atheists and Jesus

Atheists and Jesus -- Beliefnet:

"Since the God Jesus was referring to was a personal God not subject to anyone else's approval I suspect that your secular conscience would be acceptable to Jesus as the God he was referring to. But again, God was the dominant social paradigm at the time atheists and secularists really were non-existent. Even a personal God independent of any religion was radically humanist for the time.

I see no religious establishment in the sayings of Jesus. He was in all sayings directly attributed to him giving religion back to the people. John and Paul were of course trying to build a religious establishment on the back of Jesus. But I don't find that in the teachings of Jesus."

Men are Dumb.

The Fruit of the Teaching "Males are Superior" - Beliefnet :

Men are dumb. Very dumb.

"Probably one of the major causes of misogyny. As my med professional ex frequently asserted, 'To succeed in medical research a woman must be smarter than all the men around her. Fortunately, this is a normal condition.'

Intelligence breeds true, and in the Kinder, Küche, Kirche world intelligence, including social intelligence is a key to reproductive success. It is no wonder that when women get out of the house sexism is the only advantage men have.

When you think about it, reproductive success for males has much less to do with intelligence than with power and dominance skills, including sexual dominance, one does not kneel before the male leader to get tapped on the shoulder. Physical skills as in staying alive in the hunt or the battle are important as well. Even today the Homecoming King is not the science geek, but the athlete. As my father the athlete would remind me 'Don't think, you weaken the ball club.'

So, Dar, don't hold it against men that they are dumb. You women selected them for that feature."

The rough patches in life.

Pulling at the threads - Beliefnet:

"Most of my University educated friends don't reach for history books or religious works to help them through their rough patches. They are more likely to turn to modern philosophical fiction or other modern mythology in cinema, dance, music, or whatever their dominant genre is to gain the strength to solve their problems.

Some use eclectic combinations that may include ancient mythology, (it won't last if it doesn't contain some truth) in my case religious music, not for the God data but for the problem solving data that it contains. But a reliance on a single source God, the Bible, or even a personal conversation with God, generally results in bad solutions to the problem.

Underlying it all is the collected wisdom of the social group chosen by the individual which points them in the most useful direction. For the religious this may well be God or the Bible, but mono-cultural data is normally useful only within that culture."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Atheists and Jesus

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet:

"You need to strip the God from Jesus the man, and the stage magic that was his stock in trade, then put the rest of what he said in the context of his time. A good place to start would be the Jefferson Bible in which Jefferson, an atheist, well, Deist politically, literally cut up the Synoptics to find out what Jesus was all about.

While you are at it forget about prooftexing it is no more becoming for an atheist than for a fundie.

As a starter take Matthew 22: 37 ff.
...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

There is a good reason that much of modern Christianity, the 'Progressive Christians' have for the most part reduced the entire law and the prophets, that is the whole Bible, to this teaching of Jesus. An atheist can learn simply by studying this and its context.

True it refers to God but look at the God it refers to: Thy God. Not the God of Moses or Abraham, or the prophets, or the priests. Thy God, God which speaks directly to the individual. With this three letter word 'Thy' he is basically telling the whole religious establishment to go to Hell in their own way.

'Love thy neighbor.' He goes on to identify the neighbor as a Samaritan, in our terms a Muslim terrorist. He had recently left a Samaritan village where he was refused hospitality, one of the most grievous affronts in that desert society. And now a Samaritan is his neighbor?

'As thyself.' In those days as now religion made a good living selling self-hate. Jesus is clearly stating that all humans are worthy of self-respect. You can't get much more humanist than that. Theistic humanist? Of course theism was the language of the time."

God's All-loving Nature. Not

God - Tales of Mere Existence - Beliefnet:

"As someone who has put serious effort into understanding God I have come to a quite different conclusion. I find nothing at all of God's all-loving nature and therefore have no wish to conform to His mysogynic and hateful teachings. I am assuming you are talking about the Abrahamic God who not only has one but is one. I will admit that Jesus tried valiantly for his era to counter some of this hate, but was immediately trumped by Paul who discovered that self-hate sells better than self love. Perhaps you are one of those fighting a rearguard action to return Christianity to Jesus. But I don't see how that is possible by including God in the picture.

Such effort is not easy, but I can see no other conclusion but to reject God in all known forms. By the way Jesus is excepted from this rejection as he was in no way a God."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Atheists and Jesus - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet:

"It is perhaps useful to understand the background and biases of the creator of the entity, but you need to know nothing about Paul to understand that the entity of Jesus Christ is the savior of all who do bad things. You need to know nothing about John to understand that the God he was creating based loosely on the contemporary myth of Jesus of Nazareth was bringing Godhood to humanity. You need to know nothing about Mary Magdalene to understand the message of the itinerant preacher/entertainer she was telling about. You don't even need to know if Jesus was a real person. Her creation, even if a roman à clef was extremely influential, misused, abused, or studied."

Atheists and Jesus - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet:

"Kermit the Frog, Jubal Hartshaw, Jesus, and God are well defined, consistently portrayed (at least locally in the case of God) constructed entities that are used for the purpose of entertainment and perhaps teaching. While it is useful to understand the background of the the creator of the entity it is not necessary at all to appreciate the message of the entity.

It is quite reasonable to discuss the social and moral views of the entity as depicted in the realization of that entity, without knowing anything at all about the creator. It is useful to suspend disbelief in the reality of the character to appreciate the entertainment/message but not necessary. One can appreciate the message of It isn't Easy Being Green even if one is well aware of the fact that what is being referred to is a green sock puppet. Of course the target audience is not adult curmudgeons who cannot get past the reality of a sock puppet, but small children for whom suspension of disbelief is as natural as breathing.

As an aside one of the reasons for the success of Sesame Street was that much of the entertainment/message was directed at the parents who were being lulled into not believing the sock puppets were real. It is no easier being a minority parent than it is to be a green sock puppet."

Friday, November 5, 2010

US Politics and the Third World

As you know I was active in the Obama and health care campaigns. It turned out he was just another Chicago politician. He had the votes for real health care reform, real stimulus, and real financial reform. He blew all three. I won't say he was listening to the big money he claims he didn't take, but you can draw your own conclusions. He sure is listening now.

I am beginning to think that the federal government is largely irrelevant anymore. They will continue to drive the red states into third world status, and the university enclaves will make their own little worlds. The beach states in the West, New England and the Middle Atlantic and a few enclaves in the rest of the country will, in effect ignore the rest of the country and Washington, and build their own society.

Watch California. We beat the money. Whatever you think of Gov Moonbeam he was the best Governor in the past 50 or so years. We may even get our own health Care system. The rudiments are in place now. It will be interesting. Even Orange County left the tea party. It was either that or join the third world.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blag Hag: Ripping MS -ogyny

Blag Hag: Does the media really care where the atheist women are?
The main article is an incredibly good response to a MS(ogyny) article on female atheists. Don't bother with the MS article.

"jgbel in reply to J'Carlin
So, when you say 'theists,' you of course mean only male theists, right? Which makes up what percentage of the population, and excuses what?

J'Carlin in reply to jgbel
Not really, look at any religious site and see the number of females that buy into the 'be submissive' role. I don't have demographic data, I don't think Pew Research has done a survey on submissive females in the churches.

It excuses nothing. Bigotry and sexism has no excuse. But it is all too common among both genders in religious circles. Certainly more among the men, and men are more blatant and proud of their misogyny."

Atheists and Jesus

Atheists and Jesus - Beliefnet :

"I think it is important to recognize in any discussion of Jesus by atheists that we are dealing with a very sketchy story heavily edited to conform with the theistic tenor of the times. Even emperors were promoted as gods.

What I get from the story is a humanistic and anti-religious message. Radical for its time and place. Certainly God is there but it is a personal not a male religious God. I find a strong feminine influence on the message at least as unpolluted by John and Paul who were usurpers not apostles of his message.

Admittedly a lot of soup from one oyster, but when the oyster is strongly and uniquely flavored, it may not be a useless soup. Even for an atheist. I and many Christians frequently use Jesus as a powerful weapon against Christian hate. It is hard to rationalize a hate mongering preacher/pastor in the face of 'love thy neighbor.' In particular when the neighbor explicitly referred to was a member of a hated group that had just caused Jesus to 'shake the dust off his sandals' for one of the most serious breaches imaginable of the social contract of the time. Even the 'love thyself' can be a powerful weapon as the control mechanism of the preacher/pastor of hate is self-hate. 'I confess I am a miserable sinner who can only be saved from Hell by Christ' This of course is pure Paul, and has nothing at all to do with Jesus."

Fighting Two Fronts - Discuss Atheism - Beliefnet Community

Fighting Two Fronts - Beliefnet From a generally useless thread:

"For those for whom God is the awe-ful, controlling big daddy (always male) in the sky, they must fight every loss of power. If God looses control over creation, and in particular creation of man (human males) in His image, He loses control over everything: Morality, the prieshood, women and even men.

However, this is not by any stretch all theists. Frequently atheists spend entirely too much energy and ammunition (torches for straw men) on this God which you note correctly is increasingly irrelevant.

In general God is a centering/focusing point or entity which is a community building aid for the moral and social cohesion for a functioning society. I would suggest that a majority of theists in Europe and the 'Blue' USA are using God in a beneficial way for the larger society including atheists, and atheists should be careful in choosing the enemy. A blanket condemnation of all theists or even all Christians, may be alienating some powerful allies in the fight against fundamentalism. Many of the scientists eliminating the gaps for the creationist God to hide in are Christians, and quite devout in their God beliefs. It is just that the Male Creator is not the God they focus on. It is important to be aware of the difference. I find 'He' is the touchstone. Anyone referring to God as He can be presumed guilty. Those that are aware of the gender issues are our friends."

I find it very encouraging that many devout Christians are focusing on the direct connection with God advocated by Jesus. "Worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart...." in effect eliminating that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the overdecorated balcony unless hesh looses the hubris of speaking as God but is speaking for God as hesh understands God in herm society.