Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Religion, Misogyny, and Fecundity.

Perspectivism II - Beliefnet

In general, religions particularly Abrahamic religions and their bastard offspring are fundamentally based on the persecution of women. All of their indoctrination of girls is designed to make them believe this subjugation is the right thing to do. Famously quoting Corinthians 14:33-35 at every opportunity as if it were the word of God not that of the misogynist Paul.

The problem won't be solved politically, as the political reality is that free speech does not include criticism of religion, any religion, Christian, LDS, or Islam. However, as the Catholics and the liberal Protestants have shown us, when the propagation of the man's precious seed is a matter of negotiation and not rape, the power balance changes considerably. The issue is not decided yet but Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin seems to be clearly on the wall of misogyny. When Chinese and Indian women are saying one, maybe two if you ask nicely, I doubt that Muslims or Christians can fight the trend.

It will be ugly, I think we are seeing the suicide of the Christian Right. I suspect that the left will allow gridlock continue and the states that wish to will starve their schools, medicine and welfare for the less fortunate, until they find that the less fortunate are not powerless and the streets once again will become the political forum. They will try to arrest the moms who send their kids to the unstarved schools, but separate and unequal didn't fly then and it won't now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Naive Musical Experience

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

I was, just this morning, a naive listener to the Allegri. I had never heard of it prior to Shirley's suggestion. One of the reasons I used it as a seed for the spirituality thread is that I expect few have listened to it. I had no preconceptions. The Miserere theme is common in liturgical music.

I found it to be as exquisite as Shirley promised, and while the piece lasted less than 10 minutes. I spent much more time than that thinking about it. Looking up Psalm 51, and especially thinking about the meaning of the boy treble solo. I still haven't listened to it again, although I will, as I am still savoring the experience of the music.

I have recently been introduced to the music of a traditional Chinese instrument somewhat like a zither, and am enjoying the experimentation of my wife's son who is learning to play it. He is quite talented as even a naive listener like my self can hear the music he is getting out of the instrument. The music speaks for itself. No indoctrination or prior knowledge is necessary.

Certainly being a musician helps, I do know what to listen for. So I can probably get more out of a first hearing than someone who has not studied music, but I suspect the difference in the effect of a powerful piece is much smaller than one would expect. 'I don't know anything about art but I know what I like.' is not a denigration of ignorance but a celebration of the power of art.

Mozart of God, take your pick

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

I will take Mozart thanks. I can be enchanted any time I wish (and have time) just by mentally recreating that oneness with Mozart or whoever suits my mood at the time. Always fresh, influenced by my present emotional state.

I will take your word for the bliss of God being available at any time. But it sounds boring to me. One of the reasons an afterlife has no appeal for me. I suspect a few minutes in heaven would have me screaming for something interesting to do. I like the variety of Mozart one moment, and Mahler the next, with a little Messiaen thrown in when I really need a challenge. Please note the humanity of the composers. I may not have their compositional skills but I can facilitate the connection of others with Mozart, and celebrate the humanity of us all.

The human connection between the composer, the performer, and the appreciator in one of those magic performances when all are in sync is an transcendent moment, without any God needed to provide the transcendence. I don't even think of the composer as dead even though hesh usually is, the human connection and therefore immortality is still there.

Spirituality and music

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

[Becoming one with the music of Mozart] is called human spirituality. It is available to all. The problem comes when a believer must put God between themselves and Mozart. It then becomes a triangle and you frequently cannot overpower the influence of God to become one with Mozart or at least his music. I will take my spirituality straight up. Uncontaminated by God and that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony. It sounds like you are missing that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony, but even God comes between you and Mozart. Your choice of course. I choose differently.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Natural Spirituality in a Christian context.

Atheists at end of life. - Beliefnet

[It was not the best Christian theology] Nor was it the best of natural spirituality I have been presented with. But when you are dealing at the McGuffey level at best, one must pick extremes to illustrate a point.

I could discuss the natural spirituality of Messiaen playing his Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité at the National Cathedral, and explain why the Christian Theology of the composer and performer made the Christian interpretation of the experience less impressively spiritual even though God was an integral part of the natural experience. But that would be a dissertation in atheist spirituality, that neither you nor Ken would even try to understand.

I spent a good chunk of my time after the performance framing this dissertation, as I was frankly expecting a Christian spiritual experience. I didn't write it as I was the only one who would read it and I didn't need to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is an atheist like?

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

I doubt you will find what you are looking for on beliefnet or in atheist blog-space either. The problem is with the a- of atheist. An atheist is almost by definition a reaction to theism. Those that call themselves atheists generally have a bone to pick with the dominant theism.

Away from where I call myself atheist most of my life is simply living without any thoughts of God or what God can do. I am cultivating the society of those I wish to associate with and living in the words of Forrest Church, a theist by the way, a life worth dying for. I am not worried about piling up points for infinity, I am worried about piling up points with my friends and neighbors so that all our lives will be better. Death is not really an issue for me. I have spent my whole life building a legacy for those who are meaningful to me. What they do with it is not really a problem any more. If I have lived properly there will be plenty to work with.

How am I inside? I am an intelligent, thoughtful social animal. I am sensitive to the mores of my chosen society, and comply with them. Not because I must, but because they work for me. Some of these mores originate in religious traditions. This does not influence me at all as atheism has little to do with evaluating anything. So it came from God. If it works it works for me as an atheist. I happen to have an interest in the study of religions. They have been around for a long time and there are good things to find in them.

I am a choral musician and most of the good choral music is religious music. In order to perform it one must understand it. Not believe it but understand what is believed. Therefore I know more about most religions than those who believe in them. I or at least a group I perform with can terrify you with the Dies Irae not because I believe in it but because I know what it means for believers.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Facebook: "Thank NoGod that somebody is running things. The governments both federal and state are totally dysfunctional. We are living in a democracy, look what it got us Fox News, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.

OK, your elitist here. Popular democracy hasn't worked since Regan, except for the accident of the Clintons. I had hopes for Obama with his web 2.0 base, but he ignored it except for a money pump, and went back to Chicago politics. Surprise! Not.

The only hope for democracy in the US is a Web 2.0 based independent party active in all states. Please Mr. Bloomberg. A full Web 2.0 community with extensive forum feedback and discussion has the potential to take back the country, in a real democracy of the elite. Those active on the web will coerce their friends and neighbors to actually get out of their fancy cars taking them to their fancy jobs and vote. Messrs. Jefferson and Franklin would be ecstatic. They had no use for the rabble voting.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brain/Mind Separation

The Neuroscience of Tone Deafness: Scientific American: "This conclusion is strongly supported by the results of functional and structural neuroimaging experiments. In people with congenital amusia, frontal areas are more weakly coupled to posterior auditory areas. These findings thus suggest that the brains of people with amusia can detect discordant notes just fine – the people are simply not aware of it. Their brain knows but their mind does not.

Very similar effects have been observed in neuroimaging experiments of people with prosopagnosia. Normally, the activity of a brain area in response to a specific stimulus (such as a particular face) will decrease with repeated presentations, but will increase again in response to a new example from the same category (a new face). If the brains of prosopagnosics are really unable to discriminate between different faces then the increase in response to a new face should be absent. In fact, the “face areas” of prosopagnosics are still quite sensitive to differences in facial identity. What is different is that these responses are not communicated to areas in the frontal and parietal lobes, where conscious awareness is triggered.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tribal Issues

At Davies Symphony Hall last night sitting in the cheap seats next to a family obviously out of place in the setting. Chit-chat quickly revealed that the youngest daughter was in town for a master class with the musician on stage. The family was obviously uncomfortable with the fact that ":She really likes classical music:" but were determined to give her a chance to follow her muse. Probably putting a fair dent in the family budget to do so to provide lessons with a world class musician in the rural city. Kudos to that world class musician who was "also an attorney" for carrying the rational educated tribal values to the hinterland.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is America

Facebook (1): "Meg Barnhouse
From Chip Roush: This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President.' Mark Shields, PBS.

And the assassin was American as well. Fed by hate rhetoric from American politicians and the Austrian Glock purchase enabled by the American National Rifle Association.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Intelligent, Rational Tribalism

Our potential - Beliefnet

But ive changed that attitude by seeing myself as a tribalist and I think our church would be better as seeing ourselves as more Tribal. Tribal as in were all good and valuable for something and we all depend on each other to survive and everyone is on the same level nobody's better then anyone else therefore looking down your nose at others because you have a certain gift is not valid, we all depend on each other and are valued,everyone contributes.I dont have any gifts but I want to go in and do community service this year, helping clean the church and community service is important as much as serving on any committee is, showing up and being there and being loving towards others at church is valuable, paying our monthly dues is a value. Showing up to board meetings that are open to the public and offering your support is valuable.

were all valuable somehow and we contribute to the tribe and as a tribe we depend on each other to survive. [corrections for spelling only]

A beautiful synopsis of what is wrong with UU churches and how to fix it. And maybe the tribe of intelligent rational people that I like to think I am a part of as well. If we all look at ourselves as good and valuable for something and dependent on all for everything the world would be a much more livable place.

I think about the phrase "intelligent rational" and think about those who might not be immediately considered to be a part of the tribe, that can be given the opportunity to find their place in the tribe using whatever intelligence and rationality they have to offer. I was pleased to be able to help a Downs Syndrome person use the "affection magnetism" so common to the syndrome in a service position, that was within his ability level. It seems we all can be intelligent and rational enough to be important to the tribe of intelligent rational people.

Self Realization and Religion

Your Zodiac sign - Beliefnet

The essence of religion is the belief that life cannot be managed by oneself. Indoctrination begins at birth and continues to puberty and beyond if possible. At puberty a few find this indoctrination onerous and search out other paradigms.

For women especially the indoctrination that life consists of the missionary position under the husband is easily rejected, but the self management of ones life is harder, as there are fewer opportunities for most women. The insignificant self worth for women taught by most religions makes pleasing men via beauty contests, provocative dress, cosmetics, etc. one outlet. Astrology provides a gender neutral way to get guidance in life management while breaking free from that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony. I see astrology as training wheels for self-management of ones life as the choices still need to be made from the options provided. I also find the predominance of women in Wicca is another way to break the stranglehold of misogynistic religion for women without giving up the direction from other.

In atheistic communities this is less of a problem as young women as well as young men are expected to learn self-realization early in life through participation in sports, the arts, and science fairs. Sometimes the young men long for religion as the young women excel in all areas as they mature earlier than the young men.

In atheistic communities the choice for women is not the 'Turning Point' of career vs marriage, but which career to choose among several options. I know of several young women who are combining science at Eg. Harvard with music at N E Conservatory. or Music and Physics at Cal or U of Miich. (My world is music pardon the bias.) Somehow the missionary position isn't anywhere in the immediate future.

This is not to say that reproduction is out of the picture, in fact a dual career in the arts and academia/business research is seen as an ideal basis for family support. For both men and women I might add. Many atheist men view parenting as a critical part of building a legacy that they would be willing to die for. No need for pie in the sky, the echo of the meaning and purpose that has been taught from ones children and their friends and seeing them take it and grow with it makes the end of life a welcome coda. I need no heaven after I die. It is right here. Now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

Harris Determinism - Beliefnet

Far better than giving a child a cheeseburger or teaching them a skill is to teach the child rational and critical thinking. That way hesh will choose to pass on the cheeseburger, and choose skills that are rewarding and interesting. Therein, not determinism or God, lies success.

It seems that teaching skills even quite advanced skills is compatible with religious beliefs. It is no longer surprising that scientists, engineers, and even hack lawyers, can be believers. If they can avoid the critical thinking courses at the University or get past them by using the skill of regurgitating the thinking of the professor (or buying a creative paper on the net)it seems they can do quite well for the Church.

This does change the ring speciation outlook a bit, but skill education only for the men seems like an evolutionary dead end to me. I will still bet on critical thinking education especially for K-12 women to tip the balance, even though believers will out breed the rationalists by a large margin. I don't think they will retain control over their women.

Biology of Belief

Philosopher of Religion...Calls it Quits - Beliefnet

Andrew Newberg, M.D., et al., Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (2001, Ballantine)

Some, but not all human brains are wired to include god beliefs, leaving them susceptible to the con artists pushing religion. This wiring may even be beneficial to those unable to manage their lives without God or at least that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony telling them what to do. The afterlife belief is simply an empty promise of a reward for a wasted life.

I suspect that this wiring was important in evolutionary history when a huge portion of the population had essentially no control over the course of their lives and had no ability to affect their society or even their family in any meaningful way. They learned the trade of their father if male, were bred at puberty if female, and lived out their lives basically as their parents did from one day to the next doing what they had to to to please the lord of the community, and had the Sabbath off to please the Lord of that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony. The Sabbath was usually heavy in the psychological reward department: Inspirational stories, music, drumming, social networking, etc. and of course elaborate rituals promising a rewarding afterlife if they do what they are told to do the rest of the week.

A major paradigm shift occurred in Europe when the communities became big enough that the lord, now King, began to encourage and support secular education, art, and music for some in the court, especially the children of the high status courtiers. The connection between music and art and rational rather than belief based thinking is well established. Thus high status people began to gain control over their own lives and the god belief wiring atrophied. This self-actualization spread as education became more general and religion became relatively less important in the lives of the well educated.

The biology of belief was once critical to survival. It is now possibly an evolutionary dead end. And ring speciation of believers and rational thinkers with continue apace. I doubt that God belief will survive as they seem to be out-breeding their resource base. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Morality and Relition

Antitheism? - Beliefnet

I might agree that religions can cause moral behavior if you are referring to the religious context as a social framework. I am skeptical that anyone does anything good or refrains from anything bad because that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony told them God said so. They are moral because they are intelligent social animals and Mrs. Grundy at the coffee hour will gossip about them if they break the social contract. The only advantage of a religious social framework is that it is small and tight. That is the good news and the bad news. Immoral behavior promoted by the church can be just as important to Mrs Grundy as the moral issues of an intelligent social animal.

Conspiracy Laws for Religious Hate

Antitheism? - BeliefnetyThe simple expedient of applying the conspiracy laws to religions would do the trick. They can conspire about hate or whatever, but as soon as an overt act is committed against society, the whole church can be thrown in jail, or at least the leadership thereof. If a hate crime or other offense against the society is committed, and the perpetrator properly convicted. The next step is connecting that offense to that little vuvuzela in the fancy dress in the over decorated balcony. The link may have been part of the defense of the perpetrator, or it can be properly established by normal prosecutorial investigation, If the conspiracy is proven the vuvuzela can't claim 1st Amendment protections.

In light of recent political news perhaps the conspiracy laws might be appropriate in the political arena as well. If might be difficult for the prosecutors to link any overt act to a conspiracy. But if for example Palin's bulls eye poster is found among the effects of the assassin it might be the link that is necessary.

Society and Religion

Antitheism? - Beliefnet

Society is doing a pretty good job of sorting out the religious claims as useful only to believers and useless for society. Creationism is dead even though a majority of people seem to believe in it. Women's reproductive rights are right where they should be: in the hands of the women. They can be influenced by religious beliefs, but that is the problem of the religion not the women in the rest of the society. Female contraception is readily available to anyone without religious prohibitions and it is damn hard for the male priests and imams to do anything about those who ignore those prohibitions. Abortion is properly a backstop when all else fails and OBs that will perform them are easy to find although they don't advertise the fact.

I see no reason to worry about beliefs, rational, irrational, or just plain idiotic. Particularly when they affect only the believers, even the children of believers, as socializing of children is a measure of evolutionary fitness. Saving religions from themselves is not a proper function for the larger society.

Why Believe?

Case for God a "Fraud" - Beliefnet

Personally I would change the statement [of a willingness to believe] to a indication of a legitimate God. I have no need in my life for one, I am doing quite well without God. However, if some religion could show how a God could help manage the life I am sure of better, I would be a believer in a heartbeat. In other words If someone could show me a God that would help me build a more valuable, more useful space to leave for those who follow me I would certainly accept such help. So far, God seems to be a distraction from that process and therefore a hindrance rather than a help.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Is Web 2.0 the New Democracy?

Obama's limited use of Web 2.0 to fund his Chicago Politics, may point the way to a new internet democracy, where people actively back their representative of choice and more important shape the policies of that candidate through the Web 2.0 interactivity. Churches already have a leg up on the rest of the world as many have robust Web 2.0 presence to serve their congregations. Whether these can be co-opted by the punditocracy remains to be seen. I wonder how much of the Tea Party support came from church based Web 2.0 support.

Perhaps a well financed independent, Hello, Mr Bloomberg, might set up a Web 2.0 infrastructure for independent candidates, as much for policy discussions as financial support. It would be interesting to see if the web could counter the punditocracy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

16 yo world female chess champion

China Rises, and Checkmates -

You see, Ms. Hou gamely agreed to play me after I interviewed her. She had just flown into Beijing after winning the world championship, and she was exhausted — and she shredded me in 21 moves.

Most dispiriting, when I was teetering at the abyss near the end of the game, her coach nudged her and suggested mischievously that we should switch sides. Ms. Hou would inherit my impossible position — and the gleam in her coach’s eye suggested that she would still win.

It will be many, many decades before China can challenge the United States as the overall “No. 1” in the world, for we have a huge lead and China still must show that it can transition to a more open and democratic society. But already in discrete areas — its automobile market, carbon emissions and now women’s chess — China is emerging as No. 1 here and there, and that process will continue.

There’s a lesson for us as well. China’s national commitment to education, opportunity and eating bitterness — those are qualities that we in the West might emulate as well. As you know after you’ve been checkmated by Hou Yifan.
Nicholas D. Kristof

I wonder if Mr. Kristof may be putting too much emphasis on open and democratic society given the dysfunctional open and democratic society he lives in. My guess is that the real government of the USA is less open and democratic than he thinks, although the banking/tech/internet complex which is now running the country is open it is meritocratic rather than democratic. It may be the vehicle for the USA keeping up with China and perhaps India. But the shake out will be ugly and democratic may fall by the wayside.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Academic Achievement and Parenting

Why does religion ... moral? - Beliefnet

What got me thinking about ring speciation was a comment by several women medical students that the 3rd year of Medical School was the baby year. There was even pressure on a philosophical non-breeder I know of to get pregnant. Other female academic achievers generally plan on the first baby in their second to last year of their planned scholastic career. While advanced academics and atheism tend to go together, there are many men and women active in the campus churches, who fit into the late parenting end of the Ring.

The ring is driven by the acceptance of women as productive contributors to the intellectual and economic segments of the society. They are no longer viewed as breeding stock and property of men. One of the reasons I identify the other end of the ring as religious, is that the Abrahamic traditions, tend to strongly reinforce the status of women in the society as the property of and subject to the men, their fathers prior to puberty and their husbands, defined as the man who took her virginity. Many of the Abrahamic traditions have involved sexual rules designed to insure the position of women as breeding stock.

At the late breeding end of the ring, generally the women are the choosers. Sexual rituals are designed around building the parenting pair bond enabled by female control of contraception. Loss of virginity is largely incidental and no longer the equivalent of betrothal. Sexuality is just part of the dance of long term mate selection, although it seems that casual sex among the late breeding end of the ring is uncommon, as sex is viewed as a relationship building activity by both the men and the women. Biology still rules, but sexual partners are chosen by those aspiring to advanced education with longer term goals in mind than simply satisfying biological drives although those drives still encourage early mate selection although the breeding will be deferred by consent of both parties.

The negotiation involved in removing the contraceptive is complex, involving child care issues, career support, and generally recognition of the fact that a male's career is generally more flexible than that of the female. I speak largely from experience here, three times I had to play the male MBA card to change careers to accommodate the inflexible career path of my co-parent. I am also seeing more males deferring career building for parenting either in the sense of limiting hours and travel at the cost of career advancement to outright deferral of employment for the child care role. Please note that dissertation completion, is quite compatible with primary parenting and is not viewed by the larger advanced educated society as a career interruption for either gender.

As you look at the median age of first child for couples with advanced degrees, it is mid to late 20's for the women and much the same for the men. Compare this with the believers, defined in this context as people who adhere to the dogma of their church or mosque with little questioning who generally are parents in their late teens at the latest. Particularly the females have no interest in advanced education unless they didn't get their Mrs. in high school. The men may well go on to advanced education, with mom tagging along but as mom will be using the church as support, the man will be tied there as well. Even well into graduation and career.

The ends of the ring are breeding couples only. Evolution doesn't "care" about non breeders. Some will op out of the breeding cycle although not of sexuality depending on contraception to prevent undesired progeny. Certainly there is a lot of room in the middle of the ring for many variations on the theme. A common mix of education for the and traditional role for women involves usually a major age difference with the male breeding at the completion of the educational phase and selecting younger women from the church as parent. The man will continue in the traditional role of provider for the family and the woman and church will do the parenting and socialization.

UU Elevator Speech

Dashboard - DISQUS

UU is a personal religion which brings the wisdom of all religions to each member.

I was a RE teacher, and found that rewarding and challenging as the kids were bringing their friends' religion to class for discussion. My own response was what can we learn, rather than what is wrong with that religion. You are correct that we all must contribute but one of the things that has turned me off from most UU congregations is that the Pagans are in their group in the parking lot, the UUChristians are in the Fireside Room, the atheists are protesting any mention of God in the main service, and (this happened to me) atheists are banned from the God discussion group. This should be a religion concerned with spirituality, meaning and purpose in the lives of those in the congregation. If not, bye.

The important word is "brings." What you take is up to you. Personally I have found much wisdom in most religions. None are "The Truth" and usually the God is an idiot at the very best and dysfunctionally misogynist at worst, which is why I am an atheist. But religions have been serving people for thousands of years. I find it useful to find out why. If only to find out what does not work for me.

I think agreed upon wisdom is the problem not the solution for most UU congregations. Ideally a UU church should somehow find a way to present wisdom from many traditions for people to incorporate (or not) in their personal faith.

As an example every UU should know what they think about the Et Expecto section of the Mass. Do you or don't you expect resurrection after you die? If you do do you buy into the Iudicare section or do you buy Forrest Church's Universalism? If you answer is what is that? IMO your church failed you.