Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The politics of religion

We'll be treading into a minefield, today, taking on the role of religion in politics, asking first...

God can't pick a winner? All of the Republican candidates who claimed to have been chosen by God have now dropped out. Those 'following Heaven's plan' included Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee - as well as Ted Cruz, who said he would represent the 'body of Christ' to save the nation from nonbelievers. Cruz's father asserted that Ted had been ‘called and anointed’ by the Holy Spirit to be the next president. Former Fox News host Glenn Beck predicted that America would suffer 'violent revolution' if Hillary or Rubio were elected; after Cruz dropped out, Beck opined that "you will never have another Republican President ever again."

A majority of American voters consistently poll it is important to them to have a president with firm religious beliefs... yet the pack of seventeen thoroughly pious Republican candidates steadily winnowed, leaving still-standing the least religious among them - and the most-proudly indulgent of vices - Donald Trump. So now, perhaps it is time for the Republican Party to reconsider their identity with Southern conservatives, as now Trump exposes the GOP's religion problem.

To be clear, this illustrates yet again how our divisions are not left-vs-right in any classical meaning of that silly, lobotomizing "axis." Culture (and now civil) war in the U.S. is more about personality than anything else. 

Sure, there are now record-high numbers of atheists and agnostics and secularists in Blue America (following trends in Europe.) But there are also many millions of old-fashioned Christians, Jews, Muslims and "spiritually curious." Moreover, the victory of a philandering-adulterer-divorcé gambling lord over the anointed-one Ted Cruz shows that sanctity is no more a determiner in Red America than it is in Blue.

Decrypting the Trump phenomenon in his own uniquely contemptuous way, Dilbert creator Scott Adams calls all of us deeply irrational and natural prey for a master emotion-manipulator like Trump, who shrugs off "facts" as irrelevant to his next, expert, savanarola twist. Elsewhere, I will debunk this mythology of Adams, who assumes that the Blue side of this 200 year civil war is just as emotionally-erratic, romantic, reflexive and easily fooled as confederates have always been. In other words, Trump has been successful exactly as Adams describes... on republicans.  Fortunately, that won't be enough.

But let's veer back to religion. Especially the way it has in many sectors catered to a rising volcano of spite.

== Jesus... hijacked by John of Patmos ==

Has “fundamentalism” conquered what used to be called “evangelical” Christianity with memes of hate? Much of this polarizing rant - "Evangelicals are hurting the GOP: The movement is now synonymous with bigotry and stupidity" - is apt...

... but such denouncers miss the pertinence of scripture. And they are unfair to another branch of deeply sincere Christianity.

Take the humble and yes evangelical goodness of Jimmy Carter. "Red Letter Christians” (Many modern New Testament editions convey 
Jesus’s words in red type) can be Carter-like in their sincere modesty, tolerance and compassionate generosity. Many take part in overseas missions that do more aid-work than preaching. As I have described elsewhere, some even look forward to building starships and spreading "the word" to aliens out there! Oh sure, you have a right to smirk. But at least it allows for an open-ended and upward-aiming human future. That's respect-worthy and if it comes true, then you'd both have fun arguing across the light years.

Such old fashioned, Carter-style evangelicals stare in confusion across a scriptural and emotional chasm at fundamentalist neighbors who focus instead on poisonous purities… e.g. Genesis literalism and 
vindictiveness toward science. Toward all knowledge professions. Or the hypocrisy of citing three vaguely ambiguous passages in Leviticus to justify homophobia … while stuffing down pork, which is banned explicitly in scores of places.

We discussed all of this back in 2012, the year that Robert Heinlein had forecast for the squeaker election of one Nehemiah Scudder, who would quickly clamp down, toss out tolerance and constitutional rights, then establish a theocracy as Prophet of the Lord. That political year did not feature a likely parallel with Scudder. This year though...


Look into the background of near-miss, runner-up Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has smiled and nodded as his pastor father declared him to be the anointed deliverer of America and the world into a new and foretold age. Look up "dominionism," the doctrine that the faithful have a right to all the goods and property and wealth of unbelievers, who will all die horribly soon anyway, in apocalypse, followed by eternal torment. 

Of course, Ted Cruz has lost to Donald Trump. Only here's the irony. Despite the GOP establishment's fervor to stop Trump, Cruz -- so despised that former Speaker of the House John Boehner called Ted "Lucifer int he flesh" -- was the only rival able to garner enough zealous backing to even challenge the Donald. 


Moreover, when you look at Trump supporters and Cruz-backers, there appears to be very little difference!  Members of the slightly larger group are likely to claim very similar religious convictions, only a bit looser. Just loose enough to look past Donald's roles as gambling czar and twice divorced womanizer, and so on. And a bit less focus on yearning for apocalypse. For them, culture war, confederacy and (yes) racism trump religion by a margin. Maybe 60:40.

For Cruz-supporters, the ratio was reversed. That's about it. Similarities outweigh differences (which is why I expect more post convention unity than others do). Moreover, I would lay down wagers that both crowds will nod happily if a sermon by Raphael Cruz is played for them, promising them an IOU on all the wealth now held by those dastardly, den-of-iniquity Blue Americans... as a down payment to even greater rewards, further downstream.


Oh, sure,
 now some evangelicals have taken a  'call to resist' against Donald Trump. Where will they go? 

Indeed, there are still millions of Jimmy Carter style, red-letter evangelicals, and tens of millions of other U.S. Christians who are sincerely compassionate, reasonable, even liberal in many ways! It's a horrendously bigoted error to lump blame on all, for the frenzy of some. 

But those "some" now are in a froth. They are eager to scudderize America. And you need to understand the central sun around which their alien solar system revolves.

That central sun is a poem that's about 1900 years old, a rant of stunning hate.

== The Cuckoo's Egg in the New Testament ==

The core illness separating the now-dominant fundamentalist movement from Red Letter Christians swirls around the screed where latter-day thumpers go, to stoke their rancor -- the Book of Revelation (BoR). 

Barely added to the early Christian canon, over strenuous objection by the era's top sages, and despised by later scholars, such as Martin Luther, this froth of cackling sadism is diametrically opposite -- at every level of morality, compassion and intent -- to the homilies of Jesus. 

Those who express hand-rubbing yearnings for the world to tumble into armageddon, as soon as possible -- in the BoR's forecast bloodbath for all-but-a-very-few -- thus disqualify themselves from any say over the use of our nuclear stockpile, which was designed by scientific geniuses to end major war, not to end the world. 

Note that every generation of BoR thumpers have recognized End Times signage in the personages and events of their own era, as in 1799, when the most popular book in Europe assigned every role to Napoleonic era figures, or when both sides of the 1860s Civil War called that fight the BoR precursor, or when Hal Lindsay declared it "obvious" that Babylon just had to be the commie USSR, or today's demonization of all Islam. (When in fact, scholarly analysis shows that the BoR was entirely about Nero and the times in which Patmos lived.)

In fact, pattern Recognition does not matter. What matters is desire! It's what they want so very much to happen.

They are praying for billions - including you and your children - to suffer incredible horrors. followed by eternal torment. (See the BoR brilliantly and satirically conveyed in comic book by Patrick Farley.) To be clear, they pray specifically for an end to all democracy and science, to all human ambition of any kind... and for an end of the United States of America, amid a blood bath that slaughters nearly all of its population. At minimum, that gleeful anticipation disqualifies them from claiming the word "neighbor."  Or, morally, "citizen."

How disappointing that not a single sage or minister has - to my knowledge - refuted the BoR with a single word that tears that bloody howl of schadenfreude into confetti. 

That single word is "Jonah," referring to an earlier and more authoritative passage - one of the finest and most moving in the entire Judaeo-Christian canon - that renders all BoR "predictions" utterly moot. Because the theme and message of Jonah (reiterated in Isaiah and several other places) is the God can, and will change His mind!  
He can get ticked off and make a threat... but then withdraw it!  And never, anywhere in the Bible's long litany of tales, does He wait 1900 years before carrying out a dire promise.

Hence, even if John of Patmos's raving, asylum-worthy rant did channel a genuine threat-revelation, once upon a time, the clock ran out on it, long, long ago. Duh.

Oh, sure, we are busy singeing our fingers, concocting new ways that the world might end -- ways a whole lot more interesting and realistic and potentially devastating than a bunch of sword wielding angels riding lion-horses. This new crisis ... whether we can choose to become wise apprentices while picking up the very tools of creation... is simply far, far more interesting and dramatic than the silly, pre-medieval frippery of schadenfreude in the BoR.

The Book of Revelation is a Rorschach test, exposing those who yearn for an insane deity, not the Creator of Maxwell’s Equations and a gorgeous, galaxy-rich 14 billion year ongoing-bang, and the refractive laws that give us rainbows... as well as the gifts of Beethoven and Schweitzer and liberty and tolerance and the joyful ambitions that fill a child's heart.

But no. What’s mind-boggling is the fact that millions of our neighbors seek "solace" in such a hateful screech. 

Ask them this question! 

“Do you actually want THAT to happen to me and to those I love? 

“You actively pray for that to happen to us? 

"You would love and serve the source of such horrible hate and madness?”

That's not Jimmy Carter, whose envisioned Lord simply would not do such things. No, that is barbarism and lunacy. But it is more than that. Stand up and recognize one pure and irrefutable fact.

It is war.


143 comments:

David Brin said...

Perhaps I should have used the phrase... "satanic verses."

Tim H. said...

Nothing like starting the comments with a bang.
The verses don't need to be Satanic, taking them out of context accomplishes that and with a scripture accumulated over nearly a millennia, there's plenty of opportunity for that.
Tim H., not a believer, but not too proud to pick up good ideas where I see them.

Alfred Differ said...

Yearning for a crazy deity? Hmm... I read it more as a test for those who willfully choose Pride over Humility. Carter demonstrates humility wonderfully and how it is not about self-abnegation. Listen to the Witness in another.

BoR points the other way.


While I'm embarrassed for my nation to find Trump at the top of the heap in the GOP, I'll admit that I appreciate him making politics a little less than sacred. When we seek the transcendent in our lives, I'd really rather we didn't turn to government. I'd prefer it played a more mundane role in our lives.

Trey Alexander said...

When I was in seminary -- back when I was a believer -- we studied and understood the BoR as an only slightly veiled denouncement of the current political situation of that time. Like the Book of Daniel and other apocalyptic writings, it wasn't meant to be a fortuneteller's account of the future-to-come, but rather a call to return to religious righteousness. Prophecy in the Bible is not about predicting the future, but rather about telling a story that relies on what people know in order to shed light on or prove a point. Take the Gospel narratives of Jesus' lineage and birth. They don't agree with one another on details, but instead pull from different scriptural traditions -- from what Christians call the Old Testament -- to "prove" Jesus' righteousness and, later, his divinity. Those who simply read the text at face value, or follow the rants of minimally educated fire-and-brimstone preachers, fail to comprehend the richer message behind the myths, legends, and literary tropes used in the book that they'd rather simply think of as word-for-word "fact".

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

after Cruz dropped out, Beck opined that "you will never have another Republican President ever again."


From his lips to God's ear.

David Burns said...

"Elsewhere, I will debunk this mythology of Adams"
You tease!

David Brin said...

Trey, indeed. And that is why Lutheran and Episcopal and Presbyterian and Methodist and most Catholic theologians stare in bewilderment at these goings-on.

Adams is a real piece of work. Though he is very smart and perceptive, his contempt for his fellow citizens knows no bounds.

Hint: The emotionalism and prey to manipulation is a confederate trait. Not a deeply American one.

Duncan Cairncross said...

From the previous thread,

HVDC - grid to spread loads/supply over the entire country

I don't know how that will turn out - if battery prices keep falling storage may become a cheaper way

A hybrid of both is probably the best way to go - additional power storage has the effect of making the grid much more "robust"

Chevrolet is selling replacement packs for the Volt for $4K - that is $250/Kilowatthour

When you combine that with Solar at less than $0.44/watt
(I was quoted nearly 2 years ago)
Then solar and battery or wind/solar and battery make a lot of sense

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm glad Jimmy Carter's politics are not forgotten. That said, what happened to the division between religion and the state?

Alfred Differ said...

Formally speaking, the division protects Faith from Government. It doesn't protect Government from Faith.

Lots of us like to imagine a full separation, but it I doubt it would actually work if we have government by the people.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Such old fashioned, Carter-style evangelicals stare in confusion across a scriptural and emotional chasm at fundamentalist neighbors who focus instead on poisonous purities… e.g. Genesis literalism and vindictiveness toward science. Toward all knowledge professions. Or the hypocrisy of citing three vaguely ambiguous passages in Leviticus to justify homophobia … while stuffing down pork, which is banned explicitly in scores of places.


I've long stopped being amazed at the political-Christians' worship of the Old Testament. None of these "Christians" ever insists that the Sermon On The Mount be posted in county courthouses.

Treebeard said...

Seems like you do a lot of the righteous “us vs. them” , “this is war”, “we must destroy them before they destroy our relig...er science” preacher shtick yourself, old boy.

David Brin said...

You guys started it, oh Ent. When your side is vastly more immoral by almost every standard that your side claims to value, that's low moral ground. But that's subjective. What is objective is when these folks openly avow to want command over nuclear weapons while praying that me and people like me and our children suffer horrible agony and "fire from the sky."

I am only doing what the northern states did in 1861... realizing that war has already been waged against us for years and years.

Ooh, so sorry that we're waking up! You guys called it "war' long, long before we did.

donzelion said...

"Culture (and now civil) war in the U.S. is more about personality than anything else. "

Cult is about personality. Culture requires participation, adoption, interaction. Cult requires abandoning all such niceties, submersing personal identity into the vortex of some 'greater' persona, a frenetic maw that annihilates facts, thoughts, meanings, within its own grandiose engine. Trump, Cruz, Beck, Murdoch, and so many others - all donning personas as a braying circus of contending paladins asserting some attack (on Christmas? on marriage? on the flag?) that only they could perceive and defend against.

Tired, angry men, cognizant of their declining centrality, huddling for some balm against their own imminent mortality - today's Republicans have embraced a Trump Cult simply because they're inured to the BoR calls of a too-studied quisling circle. Trump is a new balm, and within his simple claim that "wealth means I'm blessed/anointed by God, even if I don't know my #2 Corinthians from my #2 pencils" is the cult-like adrenal joy of dicing with the devil. Such men, fading has-beens and raging lions, embrace cult - but insofar as culture is concerned, they withdraw to mad rantings and nostalgic ennui: they swallowed soma and lit a match to see what burns (with the BoR remaining nearby, a handy 'lifeboat' not quite Left Behind).

Anabelle said...

Have you ever actually asked those three questions to anybody who didn't reply "I'm not one of those Christians."?

David Brin said...

Anabelle bull puckey. Yes I have. And they blink at me, utterly surprised at my anger.

You are (as always) a fool. They do not deny praying for Jesus to return and rule for a 1000 years. When one points out the accompanying forecast glories -- the bath of blood and the end of the USA and democracy and all human ambition and consigning 99% of all humans to eternal torment in hell -- they shrug and say "I don't make the rules. It is inevitable, but YOU can join us if you repent and are bathed in the blood of the lamb. Like I am."

In fact, given ethnicity, I would - under those conditions - instantly leap HIGHER than them on the last-days pecking order! Hence they see their "support" for Israel as genuine, though it involves praying for a new holocaust... because some thousands of Israeli Jews will convert and instantly become high commanders of the Saved.

Sick. And yes, there are many Christians who are not "that kind." I refer to that. They see the BoR in the context of its wretched, pain-drenched, Life-of-Brian times, in which context it is a terrifyingly moving metaphor. Jimmy Carter does not claim that 6 days is more accurate than the clock of geology. And today, neither does the Catholic Church.

No, I find the BoR junkies are armed against most arguments, but terrified when I mention the lesson of Jonah. That He is capable of changing his mind.

donzelion said...

“Do you actually want THAT to happen to me and to those I love?
Many of them will say, as I once said, "no, of course I don't want that to happen to you, that's why I want you to join my [church/cult]." In that view (which once upon a time, I tried to will myself into sharing), the hope is NOT for an apocalypse, but to save a remnant from its ravages.

And there's nothing necessarily horrible in such posturings - how much of American history (and world history) can be linked to similar intentions (our own 'city on a hill' pioneer conceits). Connecticut parts from Massachusetts, and Rhode Island from Connecticut, and each time, frenetic fights over whatever "evil" policy will lead us all to hell results in some novel twist - just as Europe moved on, and others, enmeshed in their own fundamentalisms of whatever flavor, will in time, move on as well.

Anabelle said...

I see. We must move in very different circles.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "(When in fact, scholarly analysis shows that the BoR was entirely about Nero and the times in which Patmos lived.)"

That's pretty much what the catholic sunday school my parents sent me when I was a kid: "Well, Revelation is obviously about Nero and the callous selfishness of the Roman elites of the time, and, well, Rome fell as a consequence of it's upper-class corruption, and it wasn't pretty, so that prophecy came true fifteen centuries ago, so just remember that selfish pricks should not be allowed to wield power and that's today's lesson".

I didn't come across the sadistic, genocide-gives-me-a-raging-boner, dominionist interpretation until way into adulthood, and was quite baffled when I first saw it, as in "Wait a minute: there are people who want the apocalypse to happen? And they're not even part of an oppressed group?" I mean: enslaved people, colonized people, and/or people on the receiving end of an ethnic cleansing wishing for everything to end so that they'd get a final vengeful catharsis, I can understand: Valar Morghulis and all that; but seeing what's basically a subset of the White Petits Bourgeois crowd throwing an actual cosmically suicidal temper tantrum for the pettiest of reasons? urk: religious fundamentalism does strain one's faith in Humanity.

Midboss57 said...

Been following Scott Adams for a while now as I like Dilbert but I have to say his focus on Trump in recent times has been quite perplexing. I don't know if it's just me but it reminds me a bit of that scene from Alien:
Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Lambert: You admire it.
Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

raito said...

It is always amazing that the same religion can make one person a better person, and another person a worse person.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

From last thread. Bankers who don't want to foreclose? They're liars, plain and simple. Or not so simple, as they're corrupt (but still liars). The talk from the bankers about how they don't want to foreclose, and don't want to own those properties is bunk.

The last time we were looking for a house, the market was down, very down. Three times we tried to buy houses whose owners were in mortgage trouble. And in each and every case, as soon as our offer was withdrawn (because the banks never responded and we weren't going to wait forever), the house was immediately foreclosed upon, and sold for a price less than we offered.

Banks aren't stupid, and any banker who consistently lost money in that manner ought to be shortly in a new line of work. So somehow, the bank must make more money by selling for less than what they were offered. Which is the opposite of what they say.

The foreclosure racket isn't for those with a good heart. That's why my grandfather was in it during the Depression.

Robert said...

I'm actually fairly good friends with a chap who is very Christian, believes I will be burning in Hell for not being Christian (I was pagan for a bit and have gone full-blown agnostic with a strong couple dashes of atheism due to the lack of verifiable evidence - Dr. Brin might remember when I was one of those fantasy romanticists who felt the lack of five-sigma evidence for dark matter and dark energy meant magic could exist as something outside our current technology's ability to detect; amusingly enough it was meeting a young lady who was a strong atheist whose arguments swayed me toward atheism from the original fuzzy wide-eyed faith in the unprovable), and even prefers Trump over Clinton (though he does kind of like Sanders seeing Sanders is anti-establishment in several ways).

We frequently argue over religion and belief and the like. But in some ways I get the feeling his religion and religiosity is an old comfortable blanket. It's tattered, has holes in it, but still keeps him warm and he's willing to share it. And in time I hope to slowly open his horizons to be more inclusive as I doubt he considers shrimp to be damned but isn't so lenient on some minority groups mentioned in passing in the Bible.

Oddly enough I argue more online on Facebook with another religious chap from England who doesn't quite comprehend why I have grown so distrustful of things religious... seeing England is not nearly as nuts religiously as the U.S. is. But then, I suspect religion came into existence for two reasons: to help create a sense of community within diverse groups of people, and to give people something to argue about. ;)

Part of me wonders how the Church and Christianity would have evolved and grown if the Biblical canon had decided to toss out the Book of Revelations entirely. It definitely would be a healthier religion today if we didn't have people praying for the End Times.

Rob H.

locumranch said...


Perhaps those religious fundamentalists who believe in the BoR are credulous dolts, yet they are no more doltish & credulous than those who believe in other frauds like Mohammed, Fairness, Mercy, Progress & Adam Smith.

For what do BoR faithful believe that others do not?

They believe in Human Mortality & Fallibility; they believe in Divine Rule & Natural Law; they believe that Rule Obedience will be rewarded; and, they believe that Cheaters will be punished.

To see that even the most scientific are subject to such BoR style posturing, look no further than the Climate Change Cult:

"Biblical Retribution is at hand," they say, "Repent of your Fossil-Fueled Sins; or else Our World Entire will be consumed by Fire, Flood & Famine; Extreme Weather events will overwhelm us; the Ice Caps will melt & drown the Wicked; and the Very Seas will turn to Acid & consume our Fetid Flesh".

There is a reason, fellows, why CC & AGW was once termed the 'Green-House Effect':

I, for one, look forward to a man-made Halcyon Summer of Temperate Weather & Riotous Plant Growth; and, although the Apocalypse comes, I will fear it not because it's name is Death & it comes for everyone.


Best

Robert said...

I for one want to live forever (be it in the flesh or with my mind uploaded to a computer system in the future). How else will I get to see the stars if I just let death take me? So if that means treating the Earth better and trying to rein in global warming? I'm for it.

Anonymous said...

Religion is strong in America; in particular, the religion of progress (onwards, stargasm soldiers) that daily slaughters the biosphere, or those unfortunate enough to be caught walking (oh! the shame!) or bicycling (war on cars) in cities maldesigned (in the name of progress) to fling cars about just as quickly as possible. How high does the stack of bodies need to be before a road diet can be put in? Or will it be the usual Business As Usual because _________ (tech solution that will solve all the problems this time for sures no reallies) is coming, someday? There's your religion.

Robert said...

Oh shut the fuck up. Seriously, you show up here and hide behind the shield of anonymity to spout bullshit rather than risk people knowing who you are?

Right. Why don't you come back when you have something constructive to add, and dare use your own name instead of hiding.

Rob H.

Robert said...

The real literal interpretation of the Revelation is "John had a vision. Here it is." Period.

I can't get too angry at poor John, who may have been driven mad - literally - by the Romans. (Speaking of sadists). Also, only John's congregation had the decoder ring, and it's lost for good; modern scholars' belief that it applied to the Roman Empire is the most likely interpretation, and the crisis of the Third Century (with 1000 AUC right in the middle - how's that for a millenium) fulfills the prophecy quite neatly. Not sure if the later partial recovery (a complete one in the East), followed by a fall after conversion to Christianity fits that well.

Thinking about it, probably the best interpreter of Revelation was Charles Fort.


Bob Pfeiffer.

Robert said...

Thank you for mentioning Jonah - Retro Hugo for Best Novelette 600 BC! More seriously, your point was dead on.

Jumper said...

I can't see how the biblical literalists swallow the sheep with seven horns and eyes, much less the rest of it.

Robert said...

At that point, even the literalists start talking about the Seven Hills. But Fritz Lang's Metropolis had a really cool Beast in the night club scene, ridden by the Evil Robot Maria. Now there was someone who knew how to interpret the Bible!

Bob Pfeiffer.

Deuxglass said...

I grew up as a Methodist but around 15 years old I stopped attending church. I just didn’t make sense to me and the God of the Old Testament turned me off. He had too many psychopathic tendencies for my taste and I have been an agnostic since then. There may be something out there but apparently He/She/It can’t be bothered to inform us clearly on the situation forcing us to use human go-betweens with doubtful connections to the Whatever. However many of my relations are religious.

After establishing my religious credentials, I would like to talk about some anecdotes from my time long ago when working in some Arabic countries doing development work and I think because of my experiences I can provide a different slant on Evangelists. When I arrived in Morocco in 1979 we were given intensive language and cultural training to keep us from making too much fools of ourselves. We were settled in a house in the Medina of Marrakech for the very intensive training for a few months. We had two teachers who taught us Arabic, the culture and about Islam. They were both very strict fundamentalists. They we so much fundamentalists that they did not even brush their teeth but used toothpicks as stated in the Koran. They knew about Catholicism because of the French presence there but they had never talked to a Protestant before and were eager to learn to learn about them. Two of us were Protestants and so we obliged.

They asked a lot of questions. Who is the head of the Protestants? I explained that that Protestants were very diversified and that there is not one head but many and some have none. I went through the various denominations and even threw in the Mormons for the polygamy side as well as Quakers and those who handle snakes and all that stuff. They were surprised. They then told me of all the variations within Islam and that Muslims, like Protestants, encompassed a wide variation of practices and that they too, had no one head of their religion as opposed to the Catholics. They asked about our pastors. We explained that some go to a special school and some just take up preaching because they feel God in them. They told me it was the same in Islam. A man can become an imam if he feels God in him and if he is recognized as a man of God by his congregation. Do you have to go through a pastor to communicate with God? No we said. A pastor can help guide you but that a person can communicate directly with God and that is the central tenet of Protestantism. Islam holds the same tenet they told me. They said that they had heard that Protestant priests can marry. We said most are married because how else can you counter the temptations of Satan without a wife and children to help you keep on the right path? At this point they were getting blown away because they, and us, were seeing so many similarities between Islam and Protestantism. They told me we were brothers in spirit.

Burt Webb said...

Just an interesting thought. Is Trump the "Mule" from Asimov's Foundation novels?

Deuxglass said...

Continued:

We talked about what a good Muslim is. They said a good Muslim is defined as someone who goes to the mosque and who follows the rites. I asked does that make him a good man? They said it can help him become a good man but if his heart is bad then he is not a good man even if he follows all the rites. That reminded me of those who go to church but nevertheless aren’t good people. They have the same problem.

I could go on and on but I better cut it short. What I want to say is that there are similarities between fundamentalist Protestants and fundamentalist Muslims in many of their basic tenets and in their belief in the direct connection between God and the individual. They both are driven by divine inspiration which in some cases leads both to intolerance and in fanaticism. My impression is that the Wahhabism pushed by Saudi Arabia is an attempt to impose order on a religion that is as diverse as is Protestantism. You might even say that it wants to be the Catholic Church of Islam but I also think it is fated to fail. There is just too much multiplicity and subtleties within Islam and it mirrors the diversity of the people who practice it and they will push back on having one interpretation imposed on them.

Jumper said...

Actually Deuxglass, I would rather you had not cut it short! Thanks for the story.

Deuxglass said...

Jumper,

I have much more. Dr. Brin's forum has brought back to the surface my memories and experiences and it is a pleasure to find so many fine minds here.

Deuxglass said...

Jumper,

After my tour in the Arabic countries I spent a month back in the States and then left to spend over three years on a tropical island way down in the leeward Islands doing something completely different but that's a different story.

Deuxglass said...

Another connection between the fundamental Evangelists and fundamental Muslims is the Bible and the Koran not so much as what is in the message but in the way it is transmitted to the believers. Evangelists tend to use the King James Version of the Bible and it has a certain poetry to it. The Koran is written in Classical Arabic and most people do not know that it is also poetry and like all good poetry, it can be mesmerizing to the listener. It helps to instill a certain idea of ancient wisdom and knowledge that no longer exists in the modern world and encourages feeling over logic.

bigsteve said...

President Carter was a nuclear engineer before he enter politics. Christianity does not necessarily conflict with Science. As a Christian I find too many people carrying that label are judgmental, harsh and unloving. The opposite of what Jesus taught.

David Brin said...

Thanks bigsteve. The distinction I make is that I could argue with Carter over beers and we'd both come away enlightened, and he'd help me build starships. That is very different than BoR fanatics who want me and mine to suffer agony for eternity.


Deuxglass, first, your tale of development work overseas is way cool and enviable! A fascinating tale. Feel free to tell more. In fact, the Shiite branch of Islam is more mediated by a priesthood than the Sunni branch, though the latter is drifting.

Still, folks tend to call the Old Testament bloody and the New T nice and forgiving and sweet. But that’s the Jesus red-letter parts. When you get into Paul …who took over Christianity when James and the other Jewish Christians were killed defending Jerusalem… that’s when the NT surpasses the OT by far in stunning horror. Simply the doctrine of Original Sin, that every single human who ever lived, who did not pass a certain list of incantatory tests, would be cast into an artificially created torture pit for ritual mutilation, forever?

The OT has no such doctrine, nor even hints at such a monstrous thing. The BoR is simply the most blatant tip of that iceberg.

David Brin said...

Actually, by pointing out DonaldT’s methods, Scott Adams is doing more good than harm. One can hope the dems are recruiting their own geniuses at DT's art, preparing counters.

I try to reward locum when he actually parses sentences in an argument, even when it is flawed and refuted by inconvenient facts. This time, he’s gone back to raving, alack. His anonymous pal is likewise a loony, since it is progressive science that is solving - with clean energy - the side-effects of cars, which had themselves been a miracle giving an earlier generation the mobility that helped them to live middle class lives.

Problems get solutions. Those solutions have side effects that become problems. We apply ourselves and solve those. It’s what sapient humans do. When we don’t sink into cynical torpor and snarling pathetic uselessness. Like those two.

Treebeard said...

I think the BoR is the most interesting part of the bible. It reminds me of an intense drug experience, which isn't always pleasant, but is psychically very potent. Enlightenment cultists could never write something so powerful or with such lasting influence; it taps into parts of the mind and reality that you guys flee in terror from.

The basic Revelation is the one the Progress worshippers fear most: Everything dies, nothing lasts forever, nothing you build can survive the test of time. With or without belief in the BoR, America, democracy, science and everything else you value are in fact doomed. Now is this a declaration of war, or just a statement of truth?

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Sufism is very strong in the Maghreb since the beginning. Sufism is a very mystical branch of Islam and is characterized by strict adherence to Islamic practice and therefore has a bad name in the West but it is much more complicated than that. It has two parts, the outer part which basically can be equated to going to church and doing the rites and so forth but the most important part is the inner struggle to eliminate evil from your mind, heart and spirit and therefore become a truly good man. They do it not to get into Paradise but because it is right thing to do. This takes years and the very very few who achieve this are revered and respected. They become known as “holy men” and on their death people build them often modest, yet beautiful tombs. They dot the countryside. You find them in Mali too and when the Ansar Dine, a militant ISIS type group, took over Timbuktu, they destroyed the tombs of these holy men. After they were driven out the first thing the people did was to build the tombs back up. They saw the Ansar Dine not as more pure Muslims and something to emulate but just as the barbarians that they truly are. The same thing is happening with ISIS. They are seen as just barbarians and nothing more.

Robert said...

Paul is actually all over the place. It's pretty hard to believe that the author of Romans 8:35-39 or I Corinthians 13 could possibly have written some of that other stuff. And to a considerable extent, he didn't. Most of the the sexist stuff is in the inauthentic epistles, though, of course, the fundamentalists don't think there are any inauthentic Pauline epistles. Modern scholars think it's more than half. Paul's actual practice of placing women at the head of many churches supports this.

As for original sin, there is something behind it. Francis Spufford's Unapologetic pins it down almost perfectly, referring to it as the "Human Propensity To F*** Things Up". It's real, it's there, but believing it's there doesn't justify cynicism or despair - only the recognition that building anything of value requires hard work, and keeping it going requires still more.

As for the "hereditary disease developed in the Garden" theory, that goes back to Augustine (5th century), though, admittedly, he found things in Paul (authentic) that let him develop it. And substitutional atonement only goes back to Anselm (11th century, which makes it very strange that any Protestants would take it up). The Rapture - 19th century - John's off the hook for that one, bad as he is in other respects.


Bob Pfeiffer.

Jumper said...

Well, Vegetable, it's probably true that rationalists don't score high in the irrational writing contests. Poets and mystics can do that pretty well. Joseph Heller sticks to the ribs, and so does Annie Dillard. William Kotzwinkle did some good work, and so has Jim Harrison. Just spinning off the top of my head. Castaneda for all his faults wormed his way into the zeitgeist, with at least taking the pose of the rational man. None of that is full of monsters like BOR, and Stephen King isn't likely to be called a master of the ages, (I won't) although he's surely got inside a lot of people's heads.
If anyone tries to mention Lord of the Rings I am going to heave. Warning.

Robert said...

Lord of the Rings?

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: It works as a statement of truth, but many of us come back with "So what?" Everything dies. Sure. Your religion will too. History has many such carcasses left in the dust of time.

Belief in a Transcendent is useful for many. Others of us prefer attention on a transcendent. See the shift? It's okay if things die. Just move on as best you can.

Alfred Differ said...

@raito: I won’t suggest bankers are paragons of virtue. What I will suggest is they are people and the decision makers, so whatever virtues they bring into play are the ones that are in play. Too many people treat social groups as if they were moral agents in their own right and that is a concept with which I do battle. That people in groups behave different from people not in groups is obvious, but these differences are not the moral behaviors of THE group. They are the behaviors of people.

As for the foreclosure racket you describe, I have to wonder if some insurance policy in the background had to pay off when your offer folded. If the price they got plus the insurance pay-off added to more than your offer, prudence would obviously decline your offer. The lies told to cover prudence wouldn’t necessarily be cheating in the legal sense, but they should draw our attention to see if we want to change those laws.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding cults of personality, I’m not convinced that is what is happening behind Trump. I don’t think people are looking that close at him for it to be true. What they seem to see is a Man of Courage who would remasculinize our politics. What he believes matters little if they are drawn to the display of courage.

If this is really about gender (same sex marriage opposition collapsed, anti-LGBT laws are under attack) then the classical move of politicians to the middle in a general election shouldn’t be about fiscal policy. Clinton would move over a bit and try to calm some of the guys who feel their maleness is threatened by her and her supporters. Many DO see a connection between PC speech enforcement and feminization of our behaviors, so a shift to the middle would be intended to disarm some of that.

Cult behavior requires a few steps to fully qualify. One of those involves a multiplication of the things one must do to be in the in-group. For Trump supporters it looks to me like they are reducing the list or simply changing it. That’s why I think this is a battle over the definition of masculinity.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You are flying too high to notice the trees in the forest below you aren’t all the same thing. At your level of abstraction they are all trees, but descend a little and you’ll notice some of them support vibrant portions of the ecosystem. Others tend to poison the ground below them.

Anyone who has walked beneath large Redwoods and inventoried Life below them might notice a stark difference among the insects living there and under other trees. Life under conifers with large forking needles that drop and drape on the flora below is different again. Our large scale belief systems aren’t all that different in their impact. People who follow in Smith’s system produce an environment toxic for the aristocracy, but they are the only ones who have stood upon the Moon.

Jumper said...

I haven't seen a lot of Angry Atheists around here. Well, there's David, but he's not but a piker compared to some you see. Around the internet i think we'd all agree some people get pretty harsh on the religious, even without knowing the amount of nuance they employ. Protestants can (and often do) claim metaphor and symbolism over literalism.

Alfred Differ said...

David isn't exactly an atheist. His belief system is quite apparent in Kiln People. 8)

Getting angry at believers doesn't help. It reminds me of heterosexual men getting angry at homosexual men. It seems they have inner doubts they must defend.

BoR belief can be attacked on grounds of pride as most beliefs can. Where is the humility in a person praying for the end of the world? 8)

David Brin said...

Robert, the doctrine of Original Sin has a very simple and logical basis. Jesus = savior. Yet he accomplished absolutely nothing in the real world, fulfilling none of the prophecies or promises. Therefore, they had to concoct something for him to have accomplished that is MORE important than getting rid of the Roman occupation or bringing a better life on Earth. That leaves the spiritual realm. His human sacrifice (anathema to Jews and clearly in violation of every covenant, but acceptable to Paul’s Greek constituents) was the big thing. Failure becomes success!

Only what did it accomplish? It had to be overcoming something pretty awful, far worse than the terrible 1st century. So how about all humans start out damned to eternal torment in a contrived and wholly artificial endless torture chamber!
Jesus’s sacrifice transforms that sadistic universal doom by offering a narrow, catwalk to escape along, which allows only fervent believers and incantation reciters a narrow path afterwards to avoid that automatic doom.

Might the creator of this horrid arrangement have simply said: "Um... no I won't craft a gallery of torment for all babies and children, just because they are descended from a couple of stupid teenagers who ate an apple that I could easily have fenced off From them or assigned an angel to guard. No I won't insist that the only way out is to perform another act of cruel sacrifice, then allow just a few, who just happen to have been lucky enough to grow up learning JUST the right incantations, to worm past the guards and join a great big party. I won't do that...

"... because it would be really really evil and dumb. Hey, Jesus... I've got a different job for you to do, down there. How about teaching them printing, glass lenses, democracy and the germ theory of disease?"

David Brin said...

It’s hilarious watching a monster try to justify the monstrous. Everything the ent claims to admire in the BoR is vastly more plentiful in an older, wiser, vastly more beautiful work that says “all things end” but that is also one of the earliest inspirations of Enlightenment.

The Book of Ecclesiastes. Also see the Psalms.

Both of them sane, moving, gorgeous and containing none of the BoR’s mad-drooling blood lust. In other words, Treebeard wants to justify his own screeching-nastiness… and we’ll have none of it. The Enlightenment gave us Mozart, Beethoven, Don Quixote, Shakespeare, Galileo, Monet, and Benjamin Franklin. Sure there was also Robspierre. But the balance is favorable. And the thugs who tried to repress enlightenment were named Hitler and Stalin.

Oh, yeah. Everything ends? Do all species go extinct? Sure. Only dig it, wise-ass, many of them give way to descendants… living species that rise higher in capability, the way decent parents want their kids to aim higher, standing on the parents’ shoulders. “All things end” sure. Except not the way they do in BoR… nor the way admired by BoRing ents.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

I mean: enslaved people, colonized people, and/or people on the receiving end of an ethnic cleansing wishing for everything to end so that they'd get a final vengeful catharsis, I can understand: Valar Morghulis and all that; but seeing what's basically a subset of the White Petits Bourgeois crowd throwing an actual cosmically suicidal temper tantrum for the pettiest of reasons?


In general, I find the Republican base to be the sorest winners I have ever heard.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Right. Why don't you come back when you have something constructive to add, and dare use your own name instead of hiding.


I have to admit, I did find the lack of the term "car-sitting" to be a breath of fresh air.

:)

LarryHart said...

raito:

It is always amazing that the same religion can make one person a better person, and another person a worse person.


Not so amazing. It just makes you more like what you always were. Like those people for whom "9/11 changed everything" by confirming even more than before everything they already believed.

If there really is an afterlife, I imagine it to be "heavenly" for people who have made themselves into someone they would enjoy spending eternity as, and "hellish" for those who haven't.

LarryHart said...

Burt Webb:

Just an interesting thought. Is Trump the "Mule" from Asimov's Foundation novels?


Holy goosh! Like any good story, that explains a lot.

Alfred Differ said...

I've yet to meet a politician who wasn't charming face-to-face. The Mule might fit, but if so it fits on a lot of people.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

I just didn’t make sense to me and the God of the Old Testament turned me off. He had too many psychopathic tendencies for my taste and I have been an agnostic since then. There may be something out there but apparently He/She/It can’t be bothered to inform us clearly on the situation forcing us to use human go-betweens with doubtful connections to the Whatever.


Toward the end of Dave Sim's run of "Cerebus" comics, the character Cerebus read the Bible, but from a completely outside perspective, free of all of the pre-existing expectations that you or I would bring to the table. Thus, he noticed things that are right there in the text, but that hardly anyone picks up on, such as the fact that Eve is not expelled from the Garden of Eden--only Adam is.

In any case, one big idea that he comes up with--really that he thinks is obvious--is that YHWH is a separate entity from God. That's not just the character talking, either. The real life author, Dave Sim, believes that YHWH is some sort of earth spirit which only thinks he/she/itself to be God of the universe, and who tries to make commandments and pronouncements as God would, but they don't make any sense.

Thus, Dave reconciles himself with anything in the Bible where God is "out of character" by the admonition "That's YHWH, not God." And in his view, the Bible and the Koran, and the life of the world itself is one long conversation between God and YHWH, with God patiently explaining the inevitable consequences of all of the impetuous things YHWH wants God to do.

I wondered if you were familiar, just because Dave is a fan of the he/she/it construction that you also used.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Simply the doctrine of Original Sin, that every single human who ever lived, who did not pass a certain list of incantatory tests, would be cast into an artificially created torture pit for ritual mutilation, forever?

The OT has no such doctrine, nor even hints at such a monstrous thing.


There's a certain subset of Christianity that seems obsessed with Satan. Everything is about Satan, and Jesus is kind of a minor character whose purpose is to...save you from Satan. They don't seem to understand that Satan hardly appears in the OT. The only mention I remember is in "Job", and there, he's not like God's opposite number, but more like Loki. A gadfly trickster, who imagines himself a lawyer. And no, the snake in Genesis is never said to be Satan--that interpretation is a retcon.

Treebeard said...

I find the Revelations of Science a lot worse than anything in the Bible. Science has shown us what a horrorshow the universe is, how devoid it is of any gods or comprehensible purpose, how totally puny, insignificant, limited and cosmically doomed we are.

So we should stand up and recognize one pure and irrefutable fact about science: spiritually, IT IS WAR.

Robert said...

So what you're saying is you're a child and you need your imaginary father-figure in your make-believe sky to tuck you in and whisper sweet nothings in your ear each night so you feel better about yourself?

Do you know what science has shown me about the universe?

Wonder. Beauty. Vastness. Strangeness. And much more.

I'll take the real world and the universe to your God any day.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@Treebeard
Dave Sim (who you would love, btw) once pointed out that there is no Church of Newton's Laws, where people give thanks that an object in motion stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force ("What exactly would they be giving thanks for?") Sounds like you're doing the equal and opposite of that--declaring WAR upon reality.

WAR in what sense? If you kill everyone who knows how reality works, then that alters reality to your liking?

Alfred Differ said...

Meh. It's war if you think we are trying to deprive you of your Transcendent. Most of us who do science are focused a little closer to home on a transcendent idea. Some think one can displace the former with the later, but they aren't really the same thing.

Erin Schram said...

As a Christian and a scientist (more precisely, a Lutheran and a data-oriented mathematician) I grow upset at the Dominionists and Prosperity Ministry sides of Christianity that hijack the Word of God for greedy purposes instead of building an enlightening relationship with God through worship and scholarship. The Book of Revelation people, in contrast, are so strange I am simply confused.

I have one in my family, my wife's cousin. She belongs to the Remnants, a name I think is based on Revelation 12:17, "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

My wife and her cousin had Facebook arguments about North Carolina's HB2 bathroom law. The cousin declares it is about rape protection, an understandable priority for she was a victim of rape. When my logical 30-year-old daughter chimed in with statistics that no perverts had taken advantage of the law, the cousin labeled her a "victim hater." The argument escalated, accusations from the cousin and questions from my daughter, and then the cousin concluded the online battle with the prayer, "Father God, may you pour out your wrath on this godless nation. May it be swift. May it be permanent. Judge us, Father, with your holy and righteous judgment. Pass us through Your Refiner's Fire. Purge us so we may come back to you in humble repentance and reverence and willingly obey Your decrees. May it come soon, Father. In Jesus' name, amen." My daughter pointed out that the cousin had wanted to protect those people a few minutes ago.

My Sunday School students are familiar with the story of Jonah and the Big Fish, but I follow up with the story of Jonah and the Small Worm (Jonah chapter 4). After Jonah preached to Nineveh, the city repented and God spared them. But Jonah was angry that God was so merciful. He left the city and God made a leafy weed grow up to shade him from the sun. In the night, God sent a worm to wither the weed. Jonah suffered in the sun again and was angry about the death of the weed. God used it as a lesson about caring about others.

Another book of the Bible that is more allegorical than factual is the Book of Job. It might be based on a true story, but it is structured as a play. For example, who in the world witnessed the opening act, the conversation between God and Satan? Only the audience. Nevertheless, it contains the truth about how people react to illness and misfortune in others. My wife's church class in visiting the sick used Job's abusive friends as examples of what not to say.

Treebeard said...

@Larry: War on our sanity. We are living a Lovecraftian universe, but a lot of people seem to be pretending that everything is OK. God may be dead but there's a still a god called Progress who defines good and evil and bends the arm of the universe toward justice. And this Progress god mandates exterminating war on all competitors just as ruthlessly as Yahweh ever did.

LarryHart said...

@Treebeard

Sounds like you've got a guilty conscience? What exactly are these Progress-worshipers doing to exterminate you if you defy them? Looking at you funny?

War on our sanity? So what, if you kill all the Newtonians, then objects at rest will no longer be constrained to stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force? They'll have liberty instead?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jonah isn't the only example of God changing his mind: In Exodus, the well known story of Moses and the tables, it says, "11And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? 12Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. 14And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

At another point, God tells Moses to have his son(s) come up to help him with the tables, and Moses reminds God that he said nobody but Moses was to come up there, and God acknowledges this and changes his mind.

Zepp Jamieson said...

BTW, the apocalyptic interpretation of BoR didn't even exist until the 18th century, when a schizophrenic Scots' girl read it and gave her local pastor her "interpretation" Between her and the lysergic mushrooms of Patmos, we have the foundation of the apocalyptic cult.

David Brin said...

Zepp thank you for that fine excerpt from Exodus which I already had in my expanded treatise on “16 modern theological questions,” soon to be published by the theology department at Newman University.

Here’s a related paragraphfrom Ezekiel 26:14 “Tyre will never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken.” A forecast that might come as a shock to the denizens of prosperous Tyre today. Or consider when the king Hezekiah restored "clean practices" and thus averted punishment. Scripture is filled with examples in which the future is clearly deemed to be a contingent thing subject to revision and adjustment by human will and hands.

David Brin said...

Thank you Erin Schram, for demonstrating how an adult and sane, decent person does Christianity, as opposed to this sicko…

“Science has shown us what a horrorshow the universe is, how devoid it is of any gods or comprehensible purpose, how totally puny, insignificant, limited and cosmically doomed we are.”

What a stunning coward! I mean a quivering, pants-pissing, yellow spined wretch. To glance out from the covers at the vastness that science has revealed to be the true canvas of Creation, and not see GLORY and elegant beauty in the immensity, only terror? Awwwww poor baby. Cling to your kindergarten stories, then. While civilization and folks with guts stand outside at night and explore with awe in their hearts - both atheists and devout deists - the dazzling beauty of creation.

Indeed, devout scientists exist, I know many, as were Newton and Einstein. And their appreciation is not based on shivering fear of a nasty brute’s “original sin.” Their God of Relativity and quantum mysteries and fourteen billion years and a trillion trillion stars could beat Revelation’s sadistic bully of a mere 6000 year mudball with a mere puff of cosmic breath.

But I believe you when you say IT IS WAR. You’ve declared it often and loudly. Your relishing that all of us here, every single one of us will roast in some pervert little demon’s contrived torture chamber. Yeah, we get it. And I am not sorry to say that we find it pathetic and would deem it hilarious... if it weren't just kinda sad.

And if your pre-declared determination to see us all sent to hell weren't mad and dangerous. And spectacularly stooopid.

Zepp Jamieson said...

“Science has shown us what a horrorshow the universe is, how devoid it is of any gods or comprehensible purpose, how totally puny, insignificant, limited and cosmically doomed we are.”

Well, yeah. Universe is a pretty big place. Narcissists doubtlessly derived comfort from the notion that the stars wheeled about the skies in their cosmic dance only to let shepherds know when it was time to bring their flocks down from the hills, but the fact is it is quintrillions of stars and planets in billions of galaxies--and none of it cares about us. The god of the bronze age was fine for a time when the universe was a thousand or so points of light in a sky that was a few miles up, but he's totally inadequate in the face of the scale of the universe.
And this is only the one universe that we know about...

David Brin said...

What's bizarre is that that immense universe was always there. What science haters are doing is covering their ears and stabbing out their eyes and crying "I don't wanna Knooooow!"

Oh but how rich... calling us the would be genocides, when we are the ones stopping such crimes (imperfectly) and tribalists and zealots are the one who always, always to it.

Tony Fisk said...

Fantasy stories are full of craven types like TB ("Master has given me a new hand!" said Pettigrew in wonder.)

If he's got a black shoggoth on his tail, or let Rocco's Basilisk into his life, then all I can suggest that he replenish his lowering sanity level with a read of Dawkins' "The Magic of Reality" (It's OK. Your flesh will not be seared by its touch.)

Jumper said...

Progress in the minds of progressives entails much overlap between traditional Christian values in the ending of hunger and disease, clothing and warming the cold, promoting peace and freedom from tyranny. The imperfections of humanity are recognized by both religion and enlightenment progressives, and arguments about the possibility of perfectability of humankind take place in both spheres.

Treebeard will not remove the beam from his eye.

I have the distinct impression few here have read Young Goodman Brown
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Goodman_Brown
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/512/512-h/512-h.htm#goodman

There Hawthorne points out among other lessons, the eternal practice of monstrous people hiding in religion, pretending to be other than what they are.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "If anyone tries to mention Lord of the Rings I am going to heave. Warning."

Three rents for the Chinese Princes in their Middle Earth
Seven rents for the American Lords in their Towers of Glass
Nine rents for Mortal Europe, fated to always slaughter itself
...
One Capital for the Oligarchs under their Golden Wigs
One Capital to Find Them, One Capital to Bind Them
One Capital for the Plebs to finally be subjugated by Them.

WHAT? They just announced a French-New-Zeland movie adaptation of Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century: I'm offering you the opening narration in advance.

***

* "What he believes matters little if they are drawn to the display of courage."

Trump doesn't displays courage: shouting in public "I'm a fucking badass and I can beat up anyone I take on!" is not courage: it's a child's attempt at looking grown up by imitating his teenaged elder brother.

***

* "I haven't seen a lot of Angry Atheists around here [...] Around the internet i think we'd all agree some people get pretty harsh on the religious, even without knowing the amount of nuance they employ"

What you call "Angry Atheists" aren't angry: they're arrogant douchebags eager to proclaim from the safety of their computer that their lack of theistic faith "proves" that they are sublime geniuses, often unsubtly implying that the religious are moronic rubes who deserve to be subjugated and treated like draft animals and occasional fuck-monkey by their intellectual betters.

Did I ever mention how much I loath the self-proclaimed intellectual übermenschen looking ways to justify their fantasies of domination?

***

* "Jesus = savior. Yet he accomplished absolutely nothing in the real world"

You mean, apart kickstarting the Abrahamic takeover of the Planet.

***

* "The Enlightenment gave us Mozart, Beethoven, Don Quixote, Shakespeare, Galileo, Monet, and Benjamin Franklin. Sure there was also Robspierre."

Robespierre is a special case: he saw the insular, endogamic, nepotistic, parasitic french aristocracy fighting against enlightenment: invoking old traditions to justify its sybaritic lifestyle and stranglehold over political affairs even as their blatant mismanagement put France on the verge of starvation: at one point, he snapped and went "Fuck this: let's just slaughter all the inbred parasites and their lackeys and the World will be a better place".

In fact, one could argue that something similar happened with Mao: at the onset of his career, he was a run of the mill, moderate, and all things being said pretty forgettable young activist. Then he saw corrupt state officials and greedy landowners being lynched: never underestimate the power and appeal of vengeful catharsis.

***

* "Is Trump the "Mule" from Asimov's Foundation novels?"

The Mule was a sterile mutant who couldn't bring himself to alter the mindset of the woman had a crush for. Trump is neither sterile, nor has ever displayed the level of self-restrain Magnifico showed from time to time.

***

* "Science has shown us what a horrorshow the universe is, how devoid it is of any gods or comprehensible purpose, how totally puny, insignificant, limited and cosmically doomed we are"

That's... actually pretty close to the essence of the creationists' creed: "God is Eternal, Infinite, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent! Bute he CAN'T have made an universe larger, older or more complex than what my limited imagination can conceive, that's just not possible."

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I find that cars, while certainly transformative, weren't the engine that created the middle class. Sure, it enabled the sort of white-bread, suburban, Father-knows-best middle class, but I think the industrial revolution was what powered its expansion.

As a slight aside, having been in in AI biz for a while, I think that self-driving cars are not the way to go. What a waste of computing power that could go much further if the number of variables were decreased. Much like today's video games preferring to spend many, many flops on graphics instead of story and internal systems. I'd prefer to spend that power in safety rather than pilotage. I prefer rails, but explaining that would take more time that I currently have.

One of the benefits of my newish job is getting a new idea of just how powerful these computers are. Previously, my mind knew, but my heart still thought in terms of a few megahertz and hundreds of kilobytes. And the systems I was working on did nothing to change that.

As for religion, there's more to my amazement than the idea that it's an amplifier, but again, I'm out of time.

locumranch said...


I still fail to see the difference between Father-in-the-Sky Religion & 'Progress-is-Human-Destiny' Humanisim:

Both are attempts to transmute a 'fair' (as in 'impartial') & uncaring universe into a loving & partial one; both postulate human 'destiny' as a forgone conclusion; both equate failure with Rule Disobedience & Wickedness; and both promise a forgone reward (as in 'Paradise') to the faithful.

The Religion of Progress offers one scant advantage over that of a Heavenly Father:

A Heavenly Father offers paternal protection for all eternity, whereas Progress offers up the possibility of becoming a self-made Father God through human maturation & advancement (which may seem like an advance/improvement over traditional Judeo-Christian tropes, but really reflects a retreat to classical Pagan heroic beliefs).

Although many of your observations are correct (Zepp in regard to Apocrypha being, in part, modern Swedenborgian accretions; Treebreard in regard to an uncaring & perhaps 'Lovecraftian' universe; and Rob_H with his observations about Wonder, Beauty & Vastness), many of you choose to commit the same incredibly primitive category error.

Simply put, the Universe does NOT care about what 'Just So Stories' you choose to belief. It does NOT care about either religious or progressive dogma; it does NOT care about human advancement or extinction; it does NOT care about the pre-eminence of Science; and, in the sense that it does NOT care, it declares itself to impartial, uninterested and (ultimately) FAIR.

It makes me wonder what god the Dodo worshipped.

'Nothing Succeeds like Success,' as the old saying goes, so I'm all for the human attempt to bend the universe over & make it 'Our Bitch', but it's illogical to assume that the Universe cares either way about our extinction, ascension, success or failure because 'People may CARE but things do NOT'.


Best

Robert said...

If TB wants to channel Lovecraft, he should have the decency to be an atheist like Lovecraft, and follow through on the despair. Meanwhile, here's a Chick-style Lovecraftian tract: http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/pages/

I'm also very thankful for Erin's post. We're in a very similar position. I'm an Episcopalian with Lutheran ties, and a software tester with a previous career in physics. For those of us who believe in God and have no trouble with science, science is one of the best forms of worship out there.

David, I have no use for the Fundamentalist form of Original Sin, with its close connection to Hell. However, some form of Original Sin, with the means for overcoming it provided by Jesus in his death, and shown in his resurrection, is present in most forms of Christian belief, including the ones you don't have a problem with. And that definitely is in Paul. As for Augustine, he authorized persecution of heretics by the State, and came up with: "Rome has spoken. The debate is ended." I'll leave him to rot with Falwell and company. I suspect your real problem is with Hell; if so, I agree completely.

The OT is full of God changing his mind, and even negotiating. Lot's haggling over the number of good people required for Sodom to be spared is another example, and is excellent comedy, too.

I'd also like to add Job and Lamentations to the list of beautiful and profound OT books.



Bob Pfeiffer.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Remember, Cthlulhu died for your virtues.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

What's bizarre is that that immense universe was always there. What science haters are doing is covering their ears and stabbing out their eyes and crying "I don't wanna Knooooow!"


That's the part I don't get either. "Science has shown us that there is no God and the universe sucks." Ok, that wasn't a direct quote. So what should we conclude from that? Apparently, to get rid of the scientists and the Enlightenment that follows science. Then, we can have the reality that we wish we had instead of the reality that science forces upon us.

Whoever it was who said (as a put-down) that liberals live in a "reality-based world" and that conservatives "make their own reality" at least in one sense knew what he was talking about.

Robert said...

I don't know. Maybe I'm just too much a cynic... or a student of history.

Right now I've been abstracting various public health articles and came across one on disease control and clean water initiatives. Now, a Libertarian policy would be not to fund these and allow private industry to handle it. But when you think about it, requiring charity or private industry to handle public health will inevitably fall apart.

If you allow charity to handle the processes, then you have a half dozen charities working at odds as there won't be much incentive to coordinate efforts - after all, each charity is a position of Power over that of the assisted people. If these are religious-driven efforts then this could be to encourage people to join that church. In this case, other charities become competition.

Further, you risk insufficient funds for charities. This is already a problem in that there are insufficient funds to aid all of the needy... even if all of those needy belong to the church behind said charity. After all, everyone has expenses. You might not have the ability to afford to give... or feel that you did your share so why give more?

Private industry could very well have a selfish reason not to help with clean water... because if they can't just dump where they want on the sly, then that increases their costs. And if downstream of them is a rival company and its workers, dumping into that water supply would weaken the workers and in turn diminish the productivity of the rival company and allow natural causes to drive competitors under.

I can hear the outcry of Right-Wing Libertarians saying "that won't happen!" and "you're a monster!" but here is the thing. These sorts of things are already happening. We would not have laws against dumping of wastes in drinking water if it hadn't happened in the past. We would not have laws against corporate sabotage if it had not happened in the past. Historically, laws often come about because of past events.

There is something else to consider. Why would rich people want poor people to be educated? If there is a monopoly on education, then only the rich benefit from knowledge and can use it to keep their wealth and gather more. Let the poor serfs till the fields and work in the factories, and on their own time and penny they can uplift themselves. (And thus avoid the majority of competitors from rising up from the ranks.)

Rob H.

Erin Schram said...

locumranch said,
I still fail to see the difference between Father-in-the-Sky Religion & 'Progress-is-Human-Destiny' Humanisim
If by Destiny you mean a mystic force that has planned out a path of Progress and will hand out rewards to humanity for following that path, then yes, there is little difference. But the universe that does not care about our dogmas also does not care that we dig its ores out of the ground, smelt it, craft tools, and use those tools to shape the environment around us. The physical universe does not care, but we have (most of the time) abundant food, comfortable shelter, colorful clothing, decent neighbors, and all the other benefits of civilization. That is Progress, and it does not require divine intervention.

I believe that we have divine intervention regardless, but that is icing on the cake. Our dogmas help us ensure that the flavor of the cake, which we proudly baked ourselves, goes well with the flavor of the icing.

David Brin said (paraphrased to switch to positive),
To glance out from the covers at the vastness that science has revealed to be the true canvas of Creation, and ... see GLORY and elegant beauty in the immensity,
That theme made me the favorite Sunday School teacher in my church. My Sunday School lesson often turned into a history lesson, science lesson, or craft lesson to illustrate the religious message. Melting, coloring, and molding glycerin soap for lessons about washing away sins, biology for Old Testament and New Testament stories of shepherds (How did Jacob bred spotted sheep from white sheep? Ignore the silliness about fresh-cut branches in Genesis 30:37, glance ahead to verse 40, and let me explain genetics), optics with magnifying glasses for metaphors about light, and baking lessons for whenever Jesus mentioned bread (the children liked baking).

Robert said,
There is something else to consider. Why would rich people want poor people to be educated? If there is a monopoly on education, then only the rich benefit from knowledge and can use it to keep their wealth and gather more.
As my Civics teacher Mr. Perry explained to me 35 years ago, because we citizens oversee our representative government, we have to understand how our government runs. The choice for rich people is to educate the poor so that they can make good decisions, or prevent the poor from controlling the government. The second choice leads to revolution.

The novel "1636: The Viennese Waltz" by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff, in the Ring of Fire series about an American city transported back to Europe in 1632, provides further insights. The emperor of Austria-Hungary granted monopolies to various nobles of the new technologies shared by the Americans, but simply having the knowledge and the monopoly did them no good. They had to build a productive economy first, and that required both cooperation and competition. The rich would benefit more from the knowledge if the poor had it, too.

Martha B. Westcott said...

Admin, if not okay please remove!

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Alfred Differ said...

@Laurent Weppe: Heh. It IS courage, though. It is intemperate courage and it sells well in the US. Our cowboys of myth are our early role model for aristocratic courage, but we are an intemperate lot, thus our heroes are too. Where he is failing to stick to the model is his unwillingness to be taciturn. My father did it better, but knew how to balance things. Maybe that’s why I’m immune to Trump’s charm.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

@Rob H.: For a time, when I was in college, I was a dogmatic libertarian. At the same time, I was coming to the conclusion that all forms of dogmatism were mental illnesses.

This was an inner conflict that I could not resolve. Finally, reading some of the works of Jacob Bronowski broke me of my dogmatism. Bronowski always spoke of "monstrous certainty" and said, "Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty."

Dogmatic libertarianism is just as much of a "monstrous certainty" as any other form of dogma. Pragmatic libertarianism, on the other hand, is something entirely different. Pragmatic libertarianism is another unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.

It matters very little whether libertarianism is "right-wing" or "left-wing." What matters is whether libertarianism is the sickness of the mind called dogmatism -- or whether it is a pragmatism that sees the world like it really is, and simply finds individual liberty to be of immense value.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I still fail to see the difference between Father-in-the-Sky Religion & 'Progress-is-Human-Destiny' Humanisim:

Both are attempts to transmute a 'fair' (as in 'impartial') & uncaring universe into a loving & partial one;


You might as well say that the act of engineering a tool (or a weapon) is an attempt to claim the universe bends to your will.

No, it's more accurately an attempt to bend a piece of reality to your will, not to claim reality would have done that anyway.


both postulate human 'destiny' as a forgone conclusion;


Same response. Progressive humanism claims a great destiny as a possibility worth working toward, not as a foregone conclusion.

As I am currently re-reading "Dune", the Fremen have a multi-generational plan to teraform their world. That is not anything like a claim that the teraforming of the world is a foregone conclusion.


both equate failure with Rule Disobedience & Wickedness;


Only to the extent that failure to heed a "High Voltage! Do Not Touch" sign is an example of "rule disobedience." Progressive humanism, or at least progressive science, attempts to discover the rules, not to decree them,


and both promise a forgone reward (as in 'Paradise') to the faithful.


The most obvious difference is that progressive humanism does not promise anything as foregone, and that the eventual reward would devolve onto the faithful and unfaithful alike.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

The Religion of Progress offers one scant advantage over that of a Heavenly Father:

A Heavenly Father offers paternal protection for all eternity, whereas Progress offers up the possibility of becoming a self-made Father God through human maturation & advancement (which may seem like an advance/improvement over traditional Judeo-Christian tropes, but really reflects a retreat to classical Pagan heroic beliefs).


Well, now you're peddling the old "I believe X because X is more pleasant than Y."

A Heavenly Father offers protection only if He really exists. It's not a matter of His offering protection to those who believe He exists and not to those who don't. Are you on board with Treebeard that by "showing there is no God and that the universe sucks", science is actively removing God's protection that we would otherwise enjoy, and that we can regain by killing the scientists and Enlightenment folks?

Alfred Differ said...

Video games with lots of power applied to graphics can be stunningly gorgeous, but they remind me of high power chess programs. Savants are difficult to love.

Robert said...

You are discounting the placebo effect, Larry.

Whether or not God exists, some people feel better about themselves and the world by stating there is in fact a God. It gives them "spiritual" well-being, despite the fact that spirituality is in fact a psychological construct that we biochemical computers have crafted so to better comprehend the universe around us.

The problem is that some other people only feel better when forcing everyone to believe as they do. For that matter, there are some people who get upset when people have fun which is outside of their own narrow mindset - the "stop having fun!" people. And these exist among atheists as well as theists.

The protection a Heavenly Father provides exists... if only in the mind of the worshipper. They can believe all they want. The problem is when faith is forced on those who would gladly be left alone and never bother with religion. ;)

Rob H.

occam's comic said...

I like the ecological interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve. From this perspective the story is about a group of humans transitioning from a hunter gatherer society to a settled horticultural / agricultural society. Eve and Adam were not so much kicked out of the garden of Eden as they slashed, burned and plowed down the garden of Eden. This is the original sin and explains why their decedents have to toil in the fields and are subject to new diseases. We are born into this original sin not because God is an immoral bastard but because we are descended from groups of people who broke out of the old ecological niche for humans.

Now a lot of Christians don’t like this perspective because Jesus definitely did not put an end to this type of original sin. But it does give up hope that if we can collectively find a way to live that is ecologically sustainable society our descendants will not inherit mankind’s original sin

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

You asked me:

“Thus, Dave reconciles himself with anything in the Bible where God is "out of character" by the admonition "That's YHWH, not God." And in his view, the Bible and the Koran, and the life of the world itself is one long conversation between God and YHWH, with God patiently explaining the inevitable consequences of all of the impetuous things YHWH wants God to do. I wondered if you were familiar, just because Dave is a fan of the he/she/it construction that you also used.”
To my knowledge there is no mention of YHWH in the Koran. In fact there is no mention of God’s real name in the Bible either so I can’t comment on a dialogue in which the existence of YHWH never comes up but you have provoked a line of thought in me and I would like to follow up on it.

The first order that God gave to Adam in Genesis was to name all the animals and fowl on the Earth.

Genesis 19”
“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”

God was saying to research everything in order to know it completely and once this knowledge has been acquired, Adam can then give it its true name, one that encompasses its totality. In this sense Adam was the first scientist and therefore scientists in general are doing God’s work. In fact they are doing the first thing that God commanded Mankind to do. Once you know something completely (you know its “name”) then that implies that you have power over it. We already have partial names over for example, certain chemical and physical processes, and thus we have a partial control over them but we don’t have complete control over them. There is a lot of work to be done. Another example would be gravity. We know some of its characteristics but we don’t know what it is. We do not know its “name” but when we will know enough, then we can control it.

Let’s take it out further in a thought experiment. As I said earlier, we do not know God’s true name. In the Bible and the Koran there is only speculation therefore we cannot know God’s true nature because we don’t know what God really is. We do not know His nature yet He has commanded us to find out and name all in the Universe. That is our primary function and that means we are commanded to discover what God himself is and to discover his true nature.
Once you discover the “true” name of something, then you gain control over it. That implies that God wants us to discover the very meaning of existence and gave a road map on how to do it and wants us to ultimately have control over Him.

Why would He do this? Does He want us to supplant Him then? Maybe that is His wish. Maybe he wants us to supplant Him and then create a Universe that is more perfect than the one He had created. Perhaps He wants us to become better than Him. This could be a cycle of each Universe becoming better than the last. Maybe it has been going on a long, long time.
I wrote this after a couple of Rum punches so perhaps you should take with a big grain of salt.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect it is Science that follows the Enlightenment and not the other way around. 8)

@Rob H: Now, a Libertarian policy would be not to fund these and allow private industry to handle it.

I don’t see it that way. The Libertarian policy would be to avoid forced funding of it through taxation. Ideally, people would choose to band together and contribute to your abstracting effort because they benefit from it, but they would not be forced to contribute.

As for competing charities and risks of insufficient funds, the responsibility would be squarely on the shoulders of the people choosing to contribute.

Where people screw up in their understanding of libertarian policy is in their failure to realize that charities are part of the market too. I’ve helped run a 501(c)3 before and they aren’t all that different from regular corporations. They have shareholders, boards, executives, employees, mission statements, and all that stuff. What they lack is a profit motive in service to their shareholders. A policy of small government does not mean handing over charity work to companies that don’t give a damn. It means getting government out of the way of those who would willingly do the work without being part of the State.

Will that fix everything? No. Of course not. Some of my fellow libertarians will be annoyed, but there is a role for a regulator in dealing with the cheats. That doesn’t mean we have to turn a regulator into a service provider, though.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Now, a Libertarian policy would be not to fund these and allow private industry to handle it [public health initiatives].


The Randian view is that there is no "public" anything. People should pay for their own medical care, fire protection, whatever, and possibly (when Rand was in the mood) give charitably to the needs of others when the giver truly cares.

A private entrepreneur or corporation might do the legwork to handle community issues if it is profitable to do so. If not, then the thing is not worth doing in the first place.

This overlooks the fact that there is a community and a commons which requires management. It's not in my interest to have my neighbors spreading (while dying of) diseases like smallpox or measles or the plague. It is not in my interest to have my neighbor's house burn uncontrollably (because he didn't pay for private fire protection) when his house is two feet away from my wall. It's also not right for my entire neighborhood to free-ride on the insurance that I'll be expected to pay on their behalf for my own protection.

Robert said...

The problem (and question) is this: what do we do about those who fall through the cracks?

Under a pure Libertarian system, there isn't really anything you CAN do. If parents choose not to send their kids to school? They can. It is their right. Government cannot compel anything.

If a school chooses not to include any sciences because it is not within their belief structure? That school can do so. After all, "parents can just send their kids to another school" unless of course there is no school within a convenient distance for those parents. And those parents may very well not be able to afford to send their children to another school because they can't afford it.

----------

As a brief aside, it appears the dental and health industry has come up with a new way to screw customers. Insurance companies are now requiring dentist and doctors to submit for payment for a medical or dental procedure before they will let the dentist or doctor know if they will cover the procedure. They no longer pre-approve if they will cover a procedure.

So if I need, for instance, a gingival graft to treat gingival recession? I have to undergo the procedure before finding out if the insurance company will cover it, and if they choose not to, I have to pay the whole bill myself.

I have to suspect this would be perfectly legal under a pure Libertarian system because government shouldn't be regulating any industries at all.

Rob H., who is very much the Social Libertarian - get the government the [censored] out of my private life, but definitely allow government to regulate industry and factors that impact multiple people.

Robert said...

Zepp, I'd feel a lot better if Cthulhu would finish dying. That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even death may die. Meanwhile, if you book an Antarctic cruise, be careful about where it's actually going.

Yours with eldritch laughter,

Bob Pfeiffer.

LarryHart said...

occam's comic:

I like the ecological interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve. From this perspective the story is about a group of humans transitioning from a hunter gatherer society to a settled horticultural / agricultural society.


I've come to think of that story as an allegory for growing up and moving out of your parents' basement.

Treebeard said...

Well beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I don't consider most of what I've seen from the universe to be particularly beautiful – mostly just rocks, gases and empty space. Closer to home, examining any patch of dirt reveals a pretty horrific spectacle of predation, death, disease and decay. But if you find that beautiful, good for you. Quantum mechanics is weird, but beautiful? Not to me. Go ahead and study the material world if it floats your boat, but don't expect me to worship it. I would hope that religions are right when they say this place is all some kind of awful illusion. I'm not claiming it is, but the very fact that I can have thoughts like these suggest that there may be something else going on.

As for roasting in torture chambers, LOL, I'm not a Christian, you're projecting.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

“Thus, Dave reconciles himself with anything in the Bible where God is "out of character" by the admonition "That's YHWH, not God." And in his view, the Bible and the Koran, and the life of the world itself is one long conversation between God and YHWH, with God patiently explaining the inevitable consequences of all of the impetuous things YHWH wants God to do. I wondered if you were familiar, just because Dave is a fan of the he/she/it construction that you also used.”

To my knowledge there is no mention of YHWH in the Koran.


I'm not familiar with the Koran myself, but according to Dave, God speaks as "We", and Dave interprets that as "God and YHWH".

Flypusher said...

Laurent Wepps:

"What you call "Angry Atheists" aren't angry: they're arrogant douchebags eager to proclaim from the safety of their computer that their lack of theistic faith "proves" that they are sublime geniuses, often unsubtly implying that the religious are moronic rubes who deserve to be subjugated and treated like draft animals and occasional fuck-monkey by their intellectual betters."


I find the snarky atheists to be just as bad as the fundie types, the former think that they are intellectually superior by virtue of their non-belief, and the latter consider themselves morally superior because they believe. But both are tiresome and close minded. As one of those intellectual types, I'm sure that I have very little in common with a religious fundie, wouldn't enjoy their company, and the feeling is no doubt mutual. But if they refrain from attacking science and demanding that others of different beliefs like by their dogmas, I'm fine with live and let live.

David Brin said...

Occam… “We are born into this original sin not because God is an immoral bastard but because we are descended from groups of people who broke out of the old ecological niche for humans.”

We see this also in God’s rejection of the agricultural offerings of Cain in favor of the hunted meats of Abel. The farmer is killed and the huner marked forever.

Good stuff Deuxglass. Much of your exegesis I duplicate here: http://tinyurl.com/3lbyybv The theology that best explains His behavior and scripture while allowing that He exists is that we are being left alone to “figure it out for yourselves” and to be apprentice creators.

Bob P. I never said I have no problems with milder forms of Paulianism (Christianity). Even when softened by JimmyCarterian goodness and tolerance and even with the BoR tossed aside as “mere metaphor,” the core nastiness of Original Sin as a doctrine is woven throughout. Without it, the human sacrifice of Jesus becomes something small… a brave act of devotion to God, but no greater a deed than any other saint.

LarryHart, science has not excluded all possible permutations of God. But it has carved away vast tracts of possibility space, including the spite-propelled master of a 6000 year mudball. In fact, my theological treatise explores some of the remaining possibility space. What it does NOT contain is a personal mafia don bent on slaying and torturing people I just happen to dislike.

“I still fail to see the difference between Father-in-the-Sky Religion & 'Progress-is-Human-Destiny' Humanisim: “

Yes, we can see that you fail to see. A bizarre syndrome, especially given that the Enlightenment Experiment that you loathe has accomplished orders of magnitude more, in every conceivable category (especially positive ones) than ALL other societies combined. You never even try to deny that.

Erin S get the latest Ring of Fire IV anthology in the 1632 series! I have the lead story and the cover and I expand the whole universe!

LarryHart: “The Randian view is that there is no "public" anything.” Well, she allowed the state to monopolize force through courthouses that mediate and judge on contracts.

Oh, and the ent. I am not projecting and I did not call you a Christian. I called you a coward. Moreover since you proudly avow to see no beauty in nature, nor the tsunami of gorgeous art unleashed by the Enlightenment, nor in the vastly increased fraction of children who now lead clean and happy lives in freedom, then - at minimum - a Philistine. Proudly declaring his color blindness, tone deafness and myopia to be... virtues. “People with senses, esthetics, compassion and brains all suck!”

What a doctrine.

David Brin said...

Oops I meant the hunter is killed and the farmer marked forever.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

Closer to home, examining any patch of dirt reveals a pretty horrific spectacle of predation, death, disease and decay. But if you find that beautiful, good for you


But it is exactly how you want humanity to live. It's like your Holnist paradise.

donzelion said...

@Robert - an interesting angle not followed here -
"Private industry could very well have a selfish reason not to help with clean water..."
Private industry might 'help' with the water: yet whomsoever controls it, controls life. The "tragedy of the commons" is a smaller problem; the greater one is not the risk of free riders, or competition, but of domination by those who monopolized water (or food, or whatever other essential exists).

One original purpose of religion is to rein in despots: a wicked king (or pharaoh, or caesar), who denies necessities to the people, will draw the wrath of some thing greater still than even that king. Don't want to let the Israelites migrate through your lands, o Amalek? Guess what "God" will do to every man, woman, and child of you! Want to feed Christians to lions, Caesar? Guess what God has in store for you...this is an appropriate purpose for political religion, and one of the reasons so many religions emerged from slaves and subject peoples (who ultimately came to dominate their oppressors, based on their promise to refrain from the most egregious of abuses).

Today though, it is cults, rather than cultures, at play. A culture requires a series of exchanges and interactions, the cumulative effect of which mediates oppression. A cult (e.g., Murdoch/Falwell et. al. - and most recently, Trump) empowers an individual to translate (transmute) non-oppressive behaviors into psychological oppression -"you looked at me funny, and thus want to feed me to a lion" - "you said 'Happy Holidays,' and thus want to eradicate Christmas!" - "Darwin is persecuting me by not making me feel like a beloved creation!" - "You're impeding my price-gouging on water - how dare you persecute me!").

In our (American) politics of religion, the struggle is over who has the power to make us feel good (without the use of opiates) - Obama does not make right-wing white men feel happy, and therefore, he persecutes them. In a desert manifestation (e.g., Saudi, and many other Arab Muslim countries), the politics of religion involves who has the power to distribute water. A very different struggle, and one in which religious meanings have much more powerful resonance.

David Brin said...

donzel I believe religion has far more often served to justify and augment despots. But the other way has happened.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - agreed, but it's less the fact that religion serves the needs of despots, than despots, to be despots, must have power to convert things that are needed to their own purposes - and that this power must be greater than the power of others to use those same things for their own purposes.

This is my take on why so many "revolutionaries" who tried to use religion for 'liberation' really wanted space to establish their own tyrannical enterprises (e.g., the 'pilgrims' didn't flee religious persecution, but they sought the opportunity to express their own persecution their own way on their own land). And why followers of Cruz will eventually fall into line behind followers of Trump - none of them are really interested in 'freedom' per se, so much as the opportunity to oppress on their own terms. And why each time a group sought to overthrow a series of oligarchs, rather than displacing oligarchy itself, they tended to replace it with a new set of oligarchs, changing the names of property owners but perpetuating the cycle.

Jumper said...

What do the libertarians say about septic tanks and fouling the local groundwater?
-------
What DO Treebeards find beautiful?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin, Donzelion

Turchin's book - Ultrasociety talks about religion in several separate stages,

We start with the "God Kings" - with religion backing up their rule

The initial "God Kings" celebrated their frightfulness,
Then there was a transition from the mighty slayer to the "Just Ruler" - religion had some part of this

Then religion was used to hold larger units together - a state with 50 million people did not need to worry about states with 1 million people

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

The "tragedy of the commons" is a smaller problem; the greater one is not the risk of free riders, or competition, but of domination by those who monopolized water (or food, or whatever other essential exists).


Taking a page from Karl Marx, I like to use the phrase "the means of survival".

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

(e.g., the 'pilgrims' didn't flee religious persecution, but they sought the opportunity to express their own persecution their own way on their own land). And why followers of Cruz will eventually fall into line behind followers of Trump - none of them are really interested in 'freedom' per se, so much as the opportunity to oppress on their own terms.

That's exactly what the term "religious liberty" has come to mean. Not freedom to participate in the religion you believe in without persecution by the authorities, but the freedom of the authorities to persecute in the manner their religion dictates.

As Orwell's "1984" said of "collective solipsism", "That's a different thing. In fact, it's the opposite thing."


And why each time a group sought to overthrow a series of oligarchs, rather than displacing oligarchy itself, they tended to replace it with a new set of oligarchs, changing the names of property owners but perpetuating the cycle.


For the same reason, many abused children become child abusers. If you are conditioned to believe the world is rightfully made up of the powerful and their victims, then in order to not be victimized, you have to become a bully.

Fortunately, some do manage to break the cycle.

Jonathan Sills said...

"Just an interesting thought. Is Trump the "Mule" from Asimov's Foundation novels?"
See Jon Silverberg's Scenes From a Multiverse, Third Foundation, Secret Sector 538, Dark Zones:

http://amultiverse.com/comic/2016/03/07/nate-seldom-and-the-foundation-of-doom/

Jonathan Sills said...

As for the ent, I'm baffled by anyone who can gaze into the wonders of the Universe and see nothing but "empty space, dust, and gas". That's a bit like gazing on Michelangelo's Pieta and seeing naught but a hunk of chipped marble, or reading Earth and comprehending it only as a series of ink marks on paper.

Anonymous said...

As someone who hasn't read this blog before tonight, I must say that the strong feeling I come away from it with is -- wow, Brin is really an asshole.

Wayne Borean said...

LOL. The problem David, is that the Fundagelicals are terrified. And they are damned right to be terrified.

Church attendance has been dropping for years. The Catholics and other large groups have handled this by merging congregations. But if you are the only Fundagelical church in easy driving distance, and may not agree with other Fundagelical churches on theology, this is a big problem.

Youth in particular are leaving. The same youth who grew up with 24/7 Internet access, as well as 24/7 Cable news. I've said in the past that Americans are under-educated. That is true of the older generations, but many Millenials have used full time Internet access to educate themselves. All too often education undoes indoctrination.

If you've ever watched the Duggars and other Fundagelicals (a couple of other families have had shows on TLC as well), you'll notice that:

1) Children are encouraged NOT to attend higher education. This includes online courses.
2) Interent access is strictly monitored, to avoid children going to sites they might learn from.
3) It seems like they come up with a new Moral Panic every year. The current one is Trans-Gender bathroom access. These panics serve the purpose of scaring the children into avoiding those EVIL Trans-Gender people, which means they'll never know the other side of the story and horror of horrors compare them!
4) Everyone watches everyone else for moral failings. Because people are sooooo weak that they couldn't possibly live without doing horrible things. Which ignores the ability of the rest of us, who consistently manage to avoid doing horrible things even though we aren't being watched.

Education is dangerous to them. Educated members leave faster.

Every year their numbers drop, even though they are trying to out breed us. As I said, they are terrified. Less bums in the pews mean less money on the collection plate, which means the utilities might not get paid, or horror of horrors, they might not be able to pay the pastor!

What can they do? What they have done is to double down. They've gotten more shrill, which hasn't won them converts (see abortion clinic protests). They've mostly taken over one political party, and passed laws which they think favour them. This hasn't won them converts. Every thing they attempt blows up in their faces. Like the attempt to keep Same-Sex marriage banned. One of the big name pastors (can't remember his name) thundered from the pulpit that God would never allow the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize Same-Sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court legalized Same-Sex marriage. His next move was to declare that God would punish the U.S. Because of that ruling. We are still waiting for that punishment to happen.

As they get more desperate, they make more and more foolish mistakes. And every four years, more and more of the older, more solid of their pew sitters pass on of old age, reducing what power they had.

It is sad as you said, that to many people these are the face of Christianity, instead of Jimmy Carter.

Paul SB said...

Naturally when the subject of religion is broached you are going to hear a lot of opinions. As a science teacher I sometimes remind my students (if you'll pardon the vulgarity) that opinions are a little like buttholes - everybody has one, and they all smell about the same. The whole point of science is to inform opinions with something more than just wishful thinking and personal preference. In other words, science is opinion freshener.

Now if you think that the view of science is somehow Lovecraftian, your comprehension of science is pretty surficial. One thing should be obvious from examining the source. When was H.P. around? Is his interpretation exactly what the international scientific community sees today? The name of his most famous alien - the Great Cthulhu - is a bit of a giveaway. He was more influenced by James Frazier's "The Golden Bough" with its chthonic old gods and rather fanciful Victorian thinking.

Supernovae spew deadly gamma rays through the Universe, which itself is a mind-bogglingly enormous place, and really, really chilly place. Easy to get lost, and easy to dream of some comforting all-powerful daddy who got your back and will clean up the mess you make of your life. Too bad there's no proof, which makes that comforting feeling just another opinion. Of course you could say that seeing beauty in all that space is just an opinion, too. I like nebulae - they're pretty.

But there is more to science than just a vast and mostly empty Universe, and there is more to science than the deadly competition and predation of biology. Sure, humans are exceptional animals, and they have many of the same instincts as the rest of the animal kingdom, but it should be pretty obvious that humans have been able to dominate this one little rock in large part because they have learned to put the brakes on bloodthirsty competition, creating a social environment and lives for themselves that are hardly "nasty, brutish and short." It's also obvious that this is trajectory, not finished project. Several months back I linked to an article about how osteological markers of testosterone in fossil hominids started trending downward big time right around the "great transition" around 40-50 kya.

So the sapling's view is a little dated, and missing some important information. As far as his religious convictions go, he has claimed to to be a pagan before, but none of what emanates from his keyboard sounds like any pagans I have known. They sound much more like what an American conservative Christian would call a pagan. But it's debatable how true the neopagans of today are to the traditions they purport to have resurrected from the graveyard of history.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I still remember the incredible sense of awe I felt when I saw the first image from Hubble after it got its eyesight corrected: "The Pillars of Creation". Yes, it is "space, dust, and gas". What it is not is "empty." It is filled with beauty and majesty.

Paul SB said...

Pretty flowers! Pretty sunset! Pretty nebula!

Sorry, Zepp, that was a joke for Larry!

Nature abounds with beauty. Even before Hubble I marveled at the Veil Nebula, the Triffid, the Great Orion, the Sombrero and Pinwheel galaxies, and then there are the beauties to be found right here on this little ball of rock. I grew up in the Rockies, so I'm partial to majestic alpine landscapes, with their great edifices garmented in pine and aspen, dotted with luscious mountain lakes. But there is plenty of beauty here, if a person's eyes aren't too cynical to see, ears too cynical to hear, nasal passages too cynical to smell, etc.

Since I've raised the specter of Larry, I'll comment on one of his favorite subjects: Dave Sim. His interpretation of the OT divinity as actually 2 separate people is unconventional and even somewhat clever, but it is solipsism designed to maintain the moral integrity of both the god and the book. There are much more plausible explanations. The point he made about Eve not having been thrown out of Eden, for instance, only really shows how lowly women were regarded by the writers of the OT. They were, for all intents and purposes, property, not really human beings with souls (and I have been to churches in which the pastors still argued that women have no souls, though that was 30 years ago). You can get mad at a son and cast him out of your home, but you don't get made at a piece of furniture and cast it (her) out.

It isn't too hard to see that the various books of the OT were written by different hands at different times, likely responding to different needs and circumstances of their communities. And no doubt for the same reasons sections of the OT were edited or entirely rewritten to suit the political needs of the Levites at different times. But a "true believer" needs to assume that it was truly written by the Hand of God. His interpretation is basically the same as Anabelle's response to this thread - essentially the No True Scotsman fallacy. It's one I have heard so often I instinctively roll my eyes when I hear it.

Every religion - every tribe of any kind, in fact - paints itself in the best possible light, and all others as either lesser allies or evil scumbags. If one of their own is caught commit some despicable act, the usual response is to claim that the miscreant is not a true (fill in the blank), because a TRUE (fill in the blank) would never do a thing like that. Even if it's a widespread practice within the community, it is still very typically denied in order to preserve the collective ego. It is as fundamental to any religion to proclaim moral superiority as any other doctrine.

Saying this is in no way belittling to those believers who truly find human decency in their local dogmas. That tendency toward tribalism is an instinct which evolved in hominids owing to the fact that they are nothing like the "rugged individualists" of myth. Humans are social animals who cannot survive long in the wild without their social group. But tribalism carries with it a lot of prosocial instincts as well, instincts necessary to keep tribes together (I am using the term /tribe/ loosely and not in its formal sense), preventing their members from killing one another. I see the dogmas themselves as sort of useless, since it is the instinct (either social or anti-social) that drive so much of actual behavior. Any sufficiently venerated holy text is long and complex enough that those who look for excuses to be decent human beings will find them there, while those who desire excuses to be selfish, hate-mongering bastards can find that, too.

Whatever circles Anabelle claims to swim in, it is hard to believe a person who has access to modern communications has not seen the hate speech hired all over by those who claim to be God's people. It isn't just Westboro Baptist Church - there's a very, very long tradition at play here.

LarryHart said...

Wayne Borean:

Every year their numbers drop, even though they are trying to out breed us.


That's the flaw in the argument that we (white westerners) are losing the reproductive arms race to Latinos/Muslims/whoever, and that our only hope is to crank out more babies than they do. The underlying assumptions are that the babies stay within the fold.

Of course, if this model held true, then gay people would be no threat at all, since tautologically, heterosexuals are going to outbreed homosexuals. But no, in that one case, they recognize the insidious nature of the "other" to lure "our" children into their alien lifestyle. It never occurs to them that the same sort of thing happens when Muslim teenagers start desiring I-Phones and blue jeans.

LarryHart said...

Wayne Borean:

One of the big name pastors (can't remember his name) thundered from the pulpit that God would never allow the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize Same-Sex marriage.


He must have really freaked out when God saved us from Antonin Scalia instead.


The U.S. Supreme Court legalized Same-Sex marriage. His next move was to declare that God would punish the U.S. Because of that ruling. We are still waiting for that punishment to happen.


Well, maybe he thinks that God punished us by taking Antonin Scalia from us? Or punished Scalia for not succeeding in blocking that ruling? After all, these are the same people who picket military funerals because the army doesn't discriminate hard enough against homosexuals.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Pretty flowers! Pretty sunset! Pretty nebula!


Paul is referencing an issue of the comic book Cerebus. For a hint of what he's talking about, follow this link and then click on the cover image of Cerebus #279. The scene is funnier on the inside of the book, though.

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?q=Cerebus+279&pubid=&PubRng=


Of course you could say that seeing beauty in all that space is just an opinion, too. I like nebulae - they're pretty.


Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Dave Sim can look at a beautiful sunset and literally perceive Hell. I'm not trying to convince anyone of the objective beauty or ugliness of reality. But I'm kind of amazed (in a bad way) that people can perform the doublethink necessary to say that if science tells us something that they don't like, the solution is to kill the messenger.

Paul SB said...

Robert, try not to sprain your tongue summoning the Unpronounceable Evil.

Duncan, I haven't read Turchin, but it sounds fairly conventional in terms of scholarship on the historical roles of religion. From what you write, he seems to be talking about the origins of religion in the old God Kings, then the transition to the "Axial Age." in which the supernatural powers began to look after the needs of the common people and soften some of their former brutality, which was an obvious tool to support the power of the kings. The typical contention regarding the Bible is that the OT is a product of the older God-King mode while the NT was an expression of the Axial Age. It doesn't seem that straightforward to me, given some of the bipolar aspects of both. (I loved how Dave Sim referred to YHWH as "Yoowoo") If you are interested in this sort of thing, I recommend Brian Morris "Anthropological Studies of Religion." It does a good job of examining the history and structure of modern interpretations of the social roles of religion. It's kind of old now, and he has a more recent book called "Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction" but I haven't read it so I can't vouch for it.

http://www.amazon.com/Anthropological-Studies-Religion-Introductory-Text/dp/052133991X?ie=UTF8&keywords=brian%20morris&qid=1463233457&ref_=sr_1_6&s=books&sr=1-6

Believe it or not, this wasn't required reading in some class I took, I picked it up on another person's recommendation. Though it is a bit textbooky, I found it quite fascinating.

Larry, as far as that modern twist where freedom of religion means freedom to persecute others, isn't it kind of built in to religion to persecute others? When they hold sacred lines like Exodus 22:18 and Psalm 137 (thou shalt not suffer a witch to live..., and happy shall he be who taketh and dasheth thy children upon the stones...). It is a central irony of that quality of the Enlightenment and the U.S. Constitution that they enshrine tolerance for doctrines which are themselves deeply intolerant, expressions of much more primitive tribalism. Slowly the culture is evolving away from that tribalism, and probably the religious violence and hate-mongering we see today is an expression of that irony. I doubt it will ever completely go away, unless we discover cures for things like OCD and schizotypal personalities. Trying to cure gullibility hasn't worked.

Donzelion & Dr. Brin,
I often have to remind my students that the supposed conflict between religion and science we take as a given today is only a recent distortion. Through most of Western history most scientists were priests and monks, who saw it as their religious duty to discover and constantly expand their understanding of God's Creation. I even had Jesuit monks sitting next to me if biology classes in college, a statement that tends to floor them. On a hopeful note, over the last few years it has felt like the quality of students where I work has been improving. I observed a long time ago when teaching the evolution unit that there were two types of kids who had a problem with it. One was the rebellious troublemakers who just didn't want to believe anything their teachers taught them, the other was the straight A Sunday school type that was great up until that particular unit came up in the curriculum, then they started hanging with the bad kids. I haven't seen one of the later for a few years, now, and the number of the former is going way down. Hopeful, though it is probably only a local trend in one neighborhood. Still, it gives me some hope that the next generation will shrug off a lot of the stupidities of the last several.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

As far as his religious convictions go, he has claimed to to be a pagan before, but none of what emanates from his keyboard sounds like any pagans I have known. They sound much more like what an American conservative Christian would call a pagan.


If someone says he doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, I take him at his word. However, the current incarnation of Republican Christianity (or hypoChristianity) is not about Jesus Christ. It's about white supremacy, bullying outsiders, and authoritarianism. Again, I'd use Orwell's "But that's a different thing. In fact, it's the opposite thing." And on that score, TB fits right in.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"But I'm kind of amazed (in a bad way) that people can perform the doublethink necessary to say that if science tells us something that they don't like, the solution is to kill the messenger."

A combination of tribalism and compartmentalization. I have seen people rage about the evils of social media on Facebook, completely oblivious to the irony. At least when I do it, I make reference to the irony...

To get the "pretty flowers, pretty sunset" joke you probably need to build in a bit of backstory. It basically boils down to the central character snapping when his inadequacies are rubbed in his face by someone he had admired. It's funny that even a flaming lunatic can come up with some good observation of human nature like that. Perhaps the story was autobiographical, in a sense representing his own snap.

Robert said...

I might need to find a way to change my blogger name to "Tangent" - there's far too many Roberts in here these days! I blend in! ^^;;

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Larry,
"I take him at his word. However, the current incarnation of Republican Christianity (or hypoChristianity) is not about Jesus Christ. It's about white supremacy, bullying outsiders, and authoritarianism. Again, I'd use Orwell's "But that's a different thing. In fact, it's the opposite thing." And on that score, TB fits right in."

Agreed, though I can't say I know the sapling well enough to psychoanalyze. His rants sound very familiar to me from a childhood surrounded by the religious right, but some of it sounds like those somewhat more marginal extremists who took the tribal playbook from church but rejected the more "Axial" aspects. Young troglodytes who saw themselves as so much cooler, tougher and ultimately "winners" than their church-regular parents - and very reminiscent of some of the testimony coming from Hitler's people at the Nuremberg trials. That's the thing about old traditions and holy books - there is so much to them that the beholder can find whatever they want in them. The religion itself with all its fine points of doctrine handed down for millennia is virtually irrelevant. The same old conflicts between our prosocial and antisocial instincts get played out in their contexts. Human decency is not defined simplistically by group membership, it's defined by how any specific individual interacts with the groups they are embedded in.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB wrote:
"Pretty flowers! Pretty sunset! Pretty nebula!

Sorry, Zepp, that was a joke for Larry!"

Sounds like something the late Godwin Parke might have written. (He did the very funny and extremely subversive "Waiting for the Galactic Bus").

Yes, my response to the Universe is subjective, but I don't think it's really possible to have an objective response to something like that. ("Unemotional" doesn't mean "objective"). I don't have the capability to react to the universe as it is. All I can honestly discuss is how I feel about it.

Paul SB said...

Tangent Rob,

The problem with a blogger pseudonym is that it kind of smacks of the same cowardice as the folks who hurl witless insults from under their bridges under the guise of Anonymous. At least if you have a consistent and unique pseudonym, though, it still identifies you as a unique voice in the crowd. I use my initials to distinguish my voice from Paul451. Would Tangent Rob work for you? :) :| :( ?

Paul SB said...

Zepp, I don't think it's really possible for a member of the human race to have an objective response to anything. That's not to say that what is called scientific objectivity is a farce, only that it is naïve to postulate that we can be PERFECTLY objective about anything. All we can do is try our best to accept the facts and not go overboard on implications.

I'll have to add the Galactic Bus to my list... No relationship to similarly-titled "Night on the Galactic Railroad" I would assume.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB asked, "No relationship to similarly-titled "Night on the Galactic Railroad" I would assume."

No. It's somewhere on a scale between Douglas Adams and some of Brin's humourous work, such as "Practice Effect". The tone is definitely based on absurdity, with a fair old bit of satire mixed in. There's a sequel, as well: "The Snake Oil Wars". Now that I think about it, there's a character in the first novel, Roy Stride, who may remind present-day readers quite a bit of Donald Trump.

One recurring theme is that of nihilism as a coping mechanism.

Paul SB said...

Zepp, Nihilism as a coping mechanism sounds all too familiar! I won't name any names here...

Flypusher (odd handle),

"I find the snarky atheists to be just as bad as the fundie types, the former think that they are intellectually superior by virtue of their non-belief, and the latter consider themselves morally superior because they believe. But both are tiresome and close minded. As one of those intellectual types, I'm sure that I have very little in common with a religious fundie, wouldn't enjoy their company, and the feeling is no doubt mutual. But if they refrain from attacking science and demanding that others of different beliefs like by their dogmas, I'm fine with live and let live."

I agree, though I would make this little point. Religious zealots have a long history of pogroms, burning people at the stake, boiling people in oil, waging war against the Infidel, etc. I saw a bit of church-inspired brutality when I was young, enough to make it impossible for me to believe the old Sunday school lie that the definition of human decency is affiliation with church. Atheists, on the other hand, can be pushy and rude. Some few might be guilty of brutality or even genocide, but not motivated by their religious beliefs, any more than religion prevents that sort of thing in believers. All the polls show atheists are the most hated of all social groups in the U.S., so probably their snark is a result of how they are treated. Not nihilism as a coping mechanism in this case, but the inflated ego response.

David Brin said...

Zepp the thing that amazed me about Hubble’s “pillars of creation” photo was not just the gorgeous glory of it all, but the incredible three-dimensionality of the brightly-lit scene. We were so used to space being sparse specks and having to mentally interpolate the 3rd dimension. But those newborn solar systems are vivid and “touchable” in a certain way, despite their immensity.

PaulSB the misogyny is not just in the OT. Paul is harsh on women and the Book of Revelation appears to exclude them from salvation.

Anon says: “wow, Brin is really an asshole.” Har! on several har-levels, starting with the hypocrisy of an anon-troll calling anyone names. In fact, this comments section is one of the oldest, with one of the lowest trollery scores, anywhere on the web. I remain astonished, given that we engage in thick-skinned argument over many contentious issues - and how provocative I can be - at how little trollery we get. Probably because most trolls cannot read complex sentences.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin said:
"Zepp the thing that amazed me about Hubble’s “pillars of creation” photo was not just the gorgeous glory of it all, but the incredible three-dimensionality of the brightly-lit scene."
In one. We knew the vast clouds of gas and dust were out there, and we knew they had bits of colour to them. But we were unprepared for them to have the presence (through Hubble) of a thunderhead looming over a prairie horizon. The universe, it turned out, was more than a few hundred specks of white light...

Flypusher said...

HI Paul,

"Flypusher" is biologists' slang. I've done a bit of research with that very wonderful model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, and a common practice is to knock them out and literally push them around with little paint brushes when scoring phenotyoes, selecting for crosses, etc.

I agree that atheists have taken a whole lot of grief and suffering and even death from religious types. A common counter argument is "oh yeah, what about Stalin, Mao, Hiltet, etc. killing believers." I find that flawed because it really wasn't that they killed million of religious people in the name of atheism, but rather that they were bad people who happened to be atheists, and killed anyone (regardless of any belief for non belief) in their way in the name of grabbing/ consolidating/ expanding their own personal political power. Thing is, the answer to this problem is present in the major religions- that wonderful bit of wisdom called the Golden Rule. Your neighbor doesn't believe what you believe? Doesn't matter. You're still supposed to treat them with decency.

locumranch said...


Representing the Universal Organizing Principle (Order) personified, God is ALLEGORY with problems originating from literal interpretation & perspective bias, meaning that conflict also becomes inevitable & universal depending on your choice of gods, insomuch as a god suitable for cats would be demonic in the eyes of mice.

Assuming that Chaos is antithetical to Order, then, it follows that Treebeard's argument regarding a Lovecraftian Universe makes perfect sense because (1) Fecundity springs from Chaos, (2) Sterility results from Order and (3) All Things Creative & Vital arise from the Interplay & Conflict between the two.

Yet, the Cult of Progress forgets this all-too-important lesson, ever avoidant of Conflict & ever insistent on 'forward motion' towards sterilizing Order and, by doing so, has doomed itself to Failure & Impotence, even though we have been down this very same 'braid braid road' before (in living memory) wherein the center cannot hold & what rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

Finally, I take exception to Paul_SB's mealy-mouthed condemnation of "Religious zealots (for having) a long history of pogroms, burning people at the stake, boiling people in oil, waging war against the Infidel" (etc) because those blood-thirsty Atheists have the religious zealots beaten hands-down as far as numerical body-count is concerned, especially when we include Stalin, Mao & Pol Pot into that murderous stew.


Best

Paul SB said...

Dr.Brin, I'm quite aware of my namesake's misogyny. Not that I'm offended - this is an evil that has been with us since we gave up deriving the vast majority of our calories from the hands of women gatherers, and it is far from banished today. For some corners of the world that form of hate is subsiding slowly, glacially from the perspective of its victims. That's one of the key problems with religion: their claims to universality mean a tenacious tendency to cling to outdated customs that have no place in a world that is slowly shedding those ancient atrocities.

Flypusher,
Part of the Hitler/Stalin etc. counter made by zealots is the assumption that these people were able to commit genocide because they lacked the "moral teaching" of religion. It's a silly argument, because in each of those cases they were brought up in religious families and were taught the very religions that should have taught them the ultimate Thou Shalt Not. Yet they did clearly did not absorb those messages particularly well the most famous of those certainly grasped onto a lot of the weird, cult superstitions common to so many churches). But once again, holy books tend to be very long and convoluted, and human logic capable of twisting such things to just about any purpose. Yes, the Golden Rule is there, and some people actually take it to heart. But so is the conquest of the Holy Land, that genocide against Sodom & Gomorrah, even violence as petty as sending bears to kill children who made fun of a bald guy.

Ironic that our little loci knee-jerked precisely that same argument you countered 10 minutes later (like SJ Gould countering "The Bell Curve" 12 years before it was written - they all take their ideas from the same playbook), though I know from experience typing on the blog that he was most likely typing his rant before your comment appeared, putting yours on the list before his, but he likely didn't see it (and won't until he checks back again). I would give him the benefit of the doubt here, but I'm would not hold my breath waiting for an admission from him. It's pretty easy to knock holes in his Frazier-era thinking, but I gave up that sisyphian task a long time ago. I've given the guy 'outs' before and he wasn't even smart enough to see them, so I washed my hands of his antics.

Jumper said...

locum posits "(1) Fecundity springs from Chaos" which is so wrong it seems a mental retard said it. Anyone who's had pregnant women around knows that actual fecundity outcomes benefit from reliable peace and dependable normalcy, and (2)"Sterility results from Order" which is untrue for the same reasons; a regularly fed man or woman is much more vital than someone starving in a time of trouble, for which anecdotes about power failures don't apply because of the normal life preceding them, and and (3)"All Things Creative & Vital arise from the Interplay & Conflict" which results in death as opposed to vitality. As well as suggesting peace is bad.
In other words, just spewing vomit. Pretty vile stuff, too.

Treebeard said...

For me there's about 4 interesting non-theistic philosophies:

Cosmism: Clarke, Sagan, Tsiolkovsky, etc. The cosmos itself is god, or men can become its gods.
Cosmicism: Lovecraft. The universe is alien and indifferent and we are utterly puny. Good and evil are 'pure Victorian fictions'.
Acosmism: Philip K. Dick, Buddhism. The world is an illusion to be transcended.
Anticosmism: The universe is horrible and should be destroyed.

In general, I'd say without gods human civilization is in uncharted waters. So far, the results don't look too encouraging (see Communism). Those who make triumphal claims about religion's inevitable demise might not like where that would take us. I think Western civilization is still free-riding to a large degree on its Judeo-Christian foundations, and as Nietzsche predicted, when those are more fully destroyed, things will get rather crazy. I sometimes think of this as the Wile E. Coyote civilization: it has jumped off a cliff and hangs over an abyss, and thinks it's all upward to the stars from here.

David Brin said...

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were no less fanatically religious than any other dogmatic zealotry. Their priesthood of commissars was a little different in its transcendentalist rationalizations and incantations, is all. They were as opposed to the pragmatic enlightenment as Galileo’s persecutors were. They count as opponents, not enlightenment examples. Duh.

As for the necessity of chaos and challenges to make humanity keep rising? Well, locum is drifting toward admission he is Nietzchean! And that’s okay I guess. Except that Iain Banks’s Culture Series and many others show how you can have a gentle and kindly INNER civilization while maintaining lots and lots of invigorating challenges at the periphery.

Those challenges will always be there! And if not, the wisest agencies will invent them! Hell, people in today’s gentle progressive society are inventing them!

Notice how Locum flees whenever I mention the proof of our non-decadence and non-softness… the vast number of challenging hobbies, adventures, avocations, restored ancient arts, and thrilling X-games that modern people seek out. Utter, utter disproof of the zero sum absurdity, that we must have destructive cruelty in order to invigorate with new mountains to conquer.

David Brin said...

onward


to politics!

onwar

Survival Acres said...

Christians would do well to read the research and conclusions of ancient historians, linguistic experts and biblical researchers. The "Bible" as it is called today, is not accurate or literal and has nothing to do with anything today, according to their studies. Many of the major figures (Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus) are not literal figures either, they're literary creations by sects that passed through time to become alleged real persons. There are no historical or contemporary records supporting the existence of any of these figures. Much of the bible has been redacted, interpolated or is outright fabricated with entire chapters and sections in various books being added in later years.

As a one-time evangelist / minister, I had great trouble reconciling obvious contradictions in the scriptures (over 30,000 are now known) and decades of reading the research of the world's best experts finally convinced me that what is still widely considered "inerrant" and the "Word of God" simply isn't. The bible is a creation, a fabrication of myth, story and allegory with a tiny bit of actual history supported by archeological evidence.

Revelation has been grossly distorted to mean whatever believers want it to mean down through the centuries. But it is obvious that none of the bible predictions or prophesies and certainly none of the so-called "End Time" events are accurate. A careful analysis of both the claims and the actual facts reveals that the bible is in fact, a fraudulent set of documents that has gained world-wide acclaim and attention without merit.

No credible researcher consider the bible a factual or accurate book. None believe Christ actually existed or that the capricious God of the bible does either. Those that do have been discredited by other experts, who have carefully dismantled their claims for the many assumptions and conjecture they contain.

Humans created religion to control one another and to give rise to those who would rule with fear and superstitions. This is true for all religion. The reality of the world refutes such nonsense but this has done little to dissuade the 'converted' into believing in fairy tales.

Anonymous said...

locumranch - Are you really THAT stupid? Not only is your ridiculous claims 100% wrong, it's a straw argument screed.

You may not agree with climate change facts, but you are not a climate scientist and your claims are baseless, incaccurate and wrong. Climate SCIENCE is not a religion, does not require disciples, does not build churches, pastors or servants, does not enshrine a doctrine or belief, does not believe in the mythical, magical or fairy tales of which religion is well known for, etc.

Climate SCIENCE is verifiable, provable, demonstrable and fact, relying upon peer-reviewed science and studies from around the world.

You sir, are a blither babbling idiot.

i_/0 said...

Regarding your question, “You actively pray for that to happen to us?"

We could and should ask the same question (over larger distances) of the massive industry devoted to war and the capability to wage war. Can anyone offer a realistic quantity for the combined workforce who must, out of necessity almost literally 'pray for war' in order to continue to exist in their current lifestyle?

And is there no way to be more usefully maintain preparedness, which does not also lead to the kind of stupidity of the scale described at the link?

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36037-the-us-navy-s-mass-destruction-of-marine-life