Saturday, March 18, 2017

Looking back at Heinlein's Future History - coming true before our eyes.

This one is so pertinent and important, I tried to find a more public venue for it. But one of the tragic consequences of the Trump Era is the decay of op-ed journalism -- everyone recycling the same whines. I'll speak more of this, at the end. But now -- this just can't be put off, any longer.  Prepare to go wide-eyed!

== A chilling forecast: accurate down to the last detail ==

You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. – Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100

Robert A. Heinlein’s 1953 "Future History" collection, Revolt in 2100, vividly portrays citizens rising up against an authoritarian theocracy which has taken root in America. A succession of fundamentalist despots have ruled for nearly a century, dating back to the First Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder. John Lyle, a graduate of West Point and now a member of the Prophet's elite guard "Angels of the Lord," joins an underground revolt when he finally begins to question the society under which he always lived: 

"I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything -- you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him." (If This Goes On-- Chapter 6)

Does that sound familiar? Oh, but you ain't seen nothing, yet. Prepare to be amazed.

Sure, Heinlein's voice is different than mine. But he largely raised me, and I deeply resent it when some folks lazily dismiss RAH as a "right winger" or even "fascist." Sure, there are ways in which he reads rather retro, today. And he yelled "get off my lawn!" at hippies who came to pay homage, after Stranger in a Strange Land.

But he truly saw himself as a champion of equal rights and equal opportunity, even if his characters can seem cringeworthy, through modern eyes. His libertarianism is of another, Jeffersonian-Adam Smithian variety, and he despised Ayn Rand.


Of course, our chief overlap is seen in that extract, above. Heinlein and I both portray light as the cleanser and liberator. We must all see as much as we can handle, and then more. It is a citizen's duty to look! And yes, to re-examine things we had been comfortable believing.  Transparency is key to reciprocal accountability, which we use to be both free and smart. It is the miracle tool that enables us to question the lies of monsters.


== Amazing prophecy! ==


Is it ironic that the author of a novel about false prophets nailed the future so well? Oh, but it gets much better. Especially the paragraph in bold, below.


Here, I’d like to quote extensively from Revolt in 2100's afterword, “Concerning Stories Never Written,” in which Robert Heinlein takes an incisive look at a possible dark future for our country:

As for ... the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past. 

"It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.

“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

“Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country – Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, and a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

“Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not – but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. 

"Throw in a Depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

Jiminy!  Heinlein wrote that in the early 1950s! Is there anything he did not hit right on the head? Heck, he even nailed the dominionist "Prosperity Gospel" so popular among Ted Cruz types, promising fervid followers that their "material heaven here on earth" will come by righteously seizing the property of unbelievers. (Late note: a prosperity gospel preacher keynotes Donald Trump's inauguration.)


Seriously, read his last paragraph (above) again.  Then recall that Heinlein portrayed Nehemiah Scudder taking the White House against the will of a majority, in 2012.  (He also spoke of America sinking into "The Crazy Years.") 


As for you blithe judgers who dismissed Heinlein as a 'fascist'? Shame on you.  He was fighting the good fight before you were born, far more persuasively and effectively than you'll ever be.

Oh, but back to his essay. It gets even more amazing:


“I imagined Nehemiah Scudder as a backwoods evangelist who combined some of the features of John Calvin, Savonarola, Judge Rutherford and Huey Long. His influence was not national until after the death of Mrs. Rachel Biggs…. who left Brother Scudder several millions of dollars with which to establish a television station. Shortly thereafter he teamed up with an ex-Senator from his home state; they placed their affairs in the hands of a major advertising agency and were on their way to fame and fortune. Presently they needed stormtroopers; they revived the Ku Klux Klan in everything but the name – sheets, passwords, grips, and all. It was a “good gimmick” once and still served. Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held.

“Impossible? Remember the Klan in the ‘Twenties – and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. Remember Karl Marx and note how close that unscientific piece of nonsense called Das Kapital has come to smothering out all freedom of thought on half a planet, without – mind you – the emotional advantage of calling it a religion. The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

Give Heinlein's Revolt in 2100 a read (available for Kindle.)  

Are the parallels with our present situation perfect? Well, no. For one thing, there is the spectacular hypocrisy of U.S. fundamentalist Christians gushing their fervid support for a man who is - in every conceivable measure of action or character - the diametric opposite of Jesus. Even Heinlein could not have written that.  


No, this has to be a clarion call. Members of the American center and moderate-left must get past their clichés... like the insipid stupidity of calling old-fashioned Jeffersonian libertarians like Heinlein "right-wingers." For one thing, anyone who loves science, nowadays is, by definition, no member of that cult.


We must be welcoming of fellow citizens who flee the rising, confederate madness. Soon, these will include waves of 'retiring' U.S. military and intelligence officers, potential allies of stunning value in our task of saving civilization! So do not listen to fools on the far-left, who would spit in the faces of such refugees. The far-left can be as crazy as the entire-right has become. Especially if they would reflexively spurn powerful allies, just because they have good posture and sport crewcuts.


Or powerful inspirations, like the science fiction author and American, Robert A. Heinlein.


Honor the legacy of Heinlein and Pay It Forward! Support the efforts of the Heinlein Society -- which promotes education, blood drives and provides books to veterans.

== Addenda ==


Oh, you don't believe that there is a nationwide cabal of fundamentalists who aim for precisely the scenario that worried Heinlein? Read this. An escapee from the "christofascist" network describes how a million or so children at any time are not only being homeschooled, but indoctrinated to think of themselves as holy warriors, battling a satanic republic. And this is the central goal of Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education.


And yes, central to their belief system are not the words of Jesus, but the diametrically opposite and hate-drenched Book of Revelation.  With hand-rubbing delight, they anticipate the torture and death of you and your loved ones and our nation, followed by eternal torment and damnation, plus an end to all democracy, science, ambition, curiosity, questioning, exploration and every other thing that makes us human. And... oh yes, a violent end to the United States of America. And I did not exaggerate a single word. Every single one of those outcomes is directly and explicitly what they pray for, daily.

Finally... A Scottish newspaper listed coverage of the Trump Inauguration as a Twilight Zone reboot: "The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have often dabbled with alternative history stories... It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible..."

== The meta problem, here ==

I had saved up this posting, offering it to every venue I could find (or shortened versions, eliminating my personal voice.) It is interesting, effective and different. But there is the rub.

Look, there's one more factor at work now. Fear. When that emotion reigns, even the side that believes in openness and originality shuts down psychologically. At the very moment when we need a wide stance and originality, mass media have circled the wagons, allocating op-ed soapboxes to pals who re-word the same whines, over and over.

Like the latest wave of ill-considered reactions, screaming about the Trumps' increase in military spending, as liberals fall for a baited trap, reflexively shouting hate at the Military Officer Corps, spurning another set of victims, another fact-centered profession. This is the stupidest thing we could possibly do, right now.

It's not that they are wrong in opposing this tsunami of Confederate madness! Their mistake is a belief that the Union can win this phase of civil war with "resistance" alone, pushing back with grunting sumo.  Again and again I cry - as Heinlein did - that this is a time for agility.  For judo.



356 comments:

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Twominds said...

Forgot this bit: a nice confirmation of the effects of ending gerrymandering on the politics of even the sitting politicians. Dr. Brin repeatedly gives examples from California, this one is from Florida.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/03/fixing_gerrymandering_affects_who_is_sent_to_office_and_how_they_govern.html

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I'm okay with the Hamilton references - it has been a nice change from your usual aardvark commentary (not that I don't find that interesting, but after being here for a number of years, it does get a bit repetitive).

Catfish,

I'm not 100% sure that factional competition is a disease of humanity so much as a disease of civilization. What I have read about the smallest-scale human groups (the "band" level, by Elman Service's old taxonomy), factionalism is uncommon, situational rather than permanent, and very fluid. This level represents the majority of human existence, but there are so few of them left today, what we are all familiar with is civilization, which is far more crowded and especially far more rigid (to the point of rigor mortis, usually).

Agreed on Duckworths. We can use a whole lot more of them. There has always been a subset of Democrats who have a deep-seated distrust of the military, but they are usually the youngest, who are far more likely to complain loudly than to actually go to the polls and vote.

Raito,

I disagree about both parties being equally reprehensible. They are reprehensible to be sure, but not equally. Let's start with the assumption many people have that all politicians are liars. Starting from this premise, look at the lies they tell. The Democrats claim to want to help everyone and make life in the US healthy and productive for all. The Republican lie is the lie of meritocracy - that the best and brightest rise to the top of society and everyone who isn't rich and powerful is stupid, lazy and deserves to be exploited by the rich and powerful. This is the Spencer version (deliberate lie) of Darwin: exemplified by phrases like "every man for himself" and "kill or be killed."

Now lies are lies, of course, but they are also propaganda, part of the cultural superstructure that helps to form the beliefs of ordinary citizens. Which sounds healthier to you? Even though I know both parties have their scandals and their corrupt ways and members, I'll take the Democrat superstructure over the Republican superstructure every time. yes, people often need a financial incentive to achieve, but there have been a lot of studies in recent decades that show that financial success actually has little to do with how happy people are with their lives. As a mammal who cares, I'll go with a belief system that promotes kindness, caring and sustainable happiness over brutality, arrogance and indifference to the plight of your fellow hominids.

I share your distrust of parties, and I doubt I have any good ideas for how to eliminate them without blowing the human species back to the Stone Age, but I vote for the lesser evil (which leaves any of H.P. Lovecraft's buddies out of the equation). It's better than not voting at all.

David Craig,

Yes, parliamentary systems operate in ways that seem to subvert voter intentionality. I would argue, though, that in one sense this is better than the American two-party system. How often is there a supermajority of votes on any given party, candidate or subject? 328 million people can't be expected to all agree on any one course of action. The wheeling and dealing that goes on in a parliamentary system is far from perfect, but it makes for far better compromise between factions than what we get here. Compromise, of course, is the language of the Devil, or so I was told as a larva growing up in a very religious, hate-filled town. But if it is the language of the Devil, and refusal to compromise is the language of the angels, where does that leave mere mortals?

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I was going to answer your latest, but I'm afraid I will have to save that for later. My doctor gave me a new medication for sleeping, which got me 7 hours last night - the best I have had since last summer, but I woke up with a splitting headache and I have been so dizzy I've been stumbling around all morning. I have to go out and drive, soon, too, so I'm hoping I'll manage. I'm not ignoring you. Maybe by the end of the evening I'll be able to answer more cogently than I am managing right now.

Later!

David L. Craig said...

"All I ask is for ways to prevent tiny factions from achieving outsize power"

Catfish N. Cod, that's a tall order, I think. It's important to remember that at least those voters do not feel completely disenfranchised and unrepresented. Taken to the extreme such can produce desperation associated with a belief of nothing more to lose--a very dangerous situation. And who defines too much clout, anyway? If they can persuade the majority to accommodate it, it cannot be suicidal, hopefully.

A big trick of government is convincing selfish people (that would be everyone) to sometimes be unselfish for the good of society.

Robert said...

Concerning the military being Republican-leaning...

If 3,000 veterans run for Republican offices and force out the existing Republicans, then I would not have a single problem with that. In fact, I think a lot of people would not have a problem with that. You would have a disciplined group of people who know what it is like to fight for liberty and also know what they were fighting for. You would have people who know what it is like to fight in wars that were pointless and would want to avoid such problems. You would have a Republican Party that is no longer in the pockets of the Religious and Ignorant.

That is the Republican Party I want to see. So yes. Let us have 3,000 veterans run for every Republican Seat in State legislatures and for the Federal House and Senate. And then in two years let's see more veterans run to eliminate even more Republican Senators. And in four years let's see yet more veterans run and get rid of the last of the leeches and bastards. Let's retake the Republican Party and see it become a party of responsibility and sanity once more.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

BTW, absent impeachment, there are now exactly 1400 days until inauguration day 2021.

That's one day for every minute in a day.

So the opposite-of-doomsday clock begins ticking down, from one "midnight" to the next.

LarryHart said...

...well, actually, there are 1440 minutes in a day.

So the opposite-of-doomsday clock already stands at 12:40 AM, counting down to the next midnight.

Carry on.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

that's the point in Israel--it doesn't work that way. After the election and the dust has settled, those party leaders that gain the most votes begin the horse-trading with all the other parties that results in one majority coalition that gets established as the new government. Inter-party politics determines the makeup of the new government, a process somewhat independent of voter involvement.


My point was that the US Constitution doesn't allow that sort of post-election coalition building. The one who gets more votes than any other individual is the winner (and typically declares some sort of "mandate from the people" to do whatever he wants).

So barring an amendment or a new Constitutional Convention, we're stuck with what we've got.

An amendment that effectively limits Republican power when Republicans control most Senate seats and state governments is unlikely.

We're dangerously close to enough Republican states to actually call for a Constitutional Convention, but I doubt the result would be something more to our liking.

David L. Craig said...

"My point was that the US Constitution doesn't allow that sort of post-election coalition building.


LarryHart, yes, I understand that. My point is, given the recent result of the Constitutional system, it seems responsible to investigate if the system needs tweaking again, as is appropriate as times change.

David Brin said...

Not important, but if you want to vote in that Post_Apocalypse Novel ranking, "The Postman" is up again, in a bracket against "The Iron Heel," a classic of the anti-capitalist sub-genre. If the Postman wins this round, he'll be crushed by the grand-daddy of dystopias in a few days... and honored to be invited.

https://www.greghickeywrites.com/dystopia-march-madness

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

A big trick of government is convincing selfish people (that would be everyone) to sometimes be unselfish for the good of society.


Maybe more to the point...convincing selfish people that maximizing selfishness at every particular instance does not maximize self-interest over all.

David Brin said...

Robert, the idea is to run those 3000 retired colonels AS DEMOCRATS, invading every red assembly district and torching all the rabid-undead were-elephants. If it works, and the GOP runs retired colonels of their own, yeah, well some of those will be Michael Flynn or Jack T. Ripper types, but even those would be an improvement because they'll not envision Fact itself as an enemy.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"The Postman" is up again, in a bracket against "The Iron Heel," a classic of the anti-capitalist sub-genre


I'm just at this very moment beginning "The Iron Heel", thanks to recommendations on this list. No way I'll have it finished today, so how am I supposed to know which is the "better" book? Well, aside from Brin partisanship, I have to think that (all specific exceptions duly noted), the craft of novel-writing as an art form improved from the 1900s to the 1980s. As I would expect Star Wars to be a "better movie" than The Great Train Robbery.

So I don't feel bad about voting for your book. :)

David L. Craig said...

"Concerning the military being Republican-leaning..."

Robert, may it be so speedily.

LarryHart said...

https://www.greghickeywrites.com/dystopia-march-madness

At least I can see that The Postman is winning.

The width of some other titles like "A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick" pushes the vote totals off of the visible page. Or is that just my browser? Can anyone else see how Animal Farm is doing against "Scanner"?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

it has been a nice change from your usual aardvark commentary (not that I don't find that interesting, but after being here for a number of years, it does get a bit repetitive


I try not to use too many Cerebus references here where no one but you knows the source.

But locumranch just makes it too inviting. Between his "I'm the only one who understands this" anti-feminist rants to his Canadian spelling, the resemblance is just too close.

As to my recent link to the "Tangent" essays, I thought some new readers might actually find them interesting, if only in a "This is what's out there" kind of way.

Alfred Differ said...

The US system also has coalition building; it’s just that we do it before the elections. Sit in among party operatives and you’ll see them managing the factions and their divisions. Even in the smaller ‘third’ parties, there are factions that manage a truce long enough to operate under one label. For example, the Libertarians have their Rand zealots focused upon ideological purity, but there are a number of special interest groups that care little for them. Guns. Marijuana. Peace. In the aggregate, it can be quite a mess and confusing to someone on the outside. Upon joining I was asked to sign a non-aggression statement (the peace utopia faction is big on this), but in a later meeting, we were educated on CA gun laws and the speaker was obviously a bit more interested in his property rights than he was in the lives of people he might encounter on his property. The groups tolerate each other, but I better option from the major parties might easily split them.

A community with no factions isn’t stable in the face of winner-takes-all decisions to be made. Politics is a kind of market, so influence is going to be traded. It’s not a disease on any level. It is just a market.

David L. Craig said...

"Politics is a kind of market, so influence is going to be traded. It’s not a disease on any level. It is just a market."

Alfred Differ, yes, and as I believe Hugh Farnham pontificated, it's also barely less important than your own heartbeat.

Alfred Differ said...

Mmm. Yes. Our markets are what make us what we are. I'm of the opinion that they describe us as humans apart from the other apes better than any physiological distinction. Xenophobia is maladaptive in our markets, so factions WILL form.

I prefer the US system (I admit my bias) where we determine our factional alliances before our elections. That makes it easier for me as a voter to know what I'm possibly going to get for my vote. I do like that many others use parliamentary systems, though. Diversity is useful in the market of markets.

Jonathan Sills said...

Democrat, Republican, Bull Moose - I don't really care what party the Old Colonels profess, so long as they remember the oaths they took in the service. Hell, have them run as Republicans, and maybe they can reclaim the Grand Old Party from the lunatics who have taken over the asylum!

The problem with Godwin's Law, as applied to the current situation, is that no one seems to remember what Godwin's Law is. The forumulation is, "As a discussion on the internet proceeds, the chance of one side comparing the other to Nazis approaches unity." Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean the side doing so has automatically lost the argument - particularly when said opponents are Nazis.

Alfred Differ said...

There is a neat little piece of US history I started learning as a kid when I was a budding coin collector. Look at US coinage from the 19th century and you won’t find portrayals of our Presidents. You’ll find Liberty and shields and Indians and other icons, but no particular people let alone Presidents… until Lincoln’s appearance on the penny in 1909. Yah. There was a commemorative coin in 1900 with Washington on it, but the Lincoln penny was the first circulating one.

Why the change? Nowadays, most of our coinage has a President on the observe side. Lincoln’s 100th birthday was in 1909, so the penny change can be viewed as a commemoration too, but the change was permanent. Something else happened around the same time, though. Our motto ‘In God We Trust’ became required on the coins by a Congressional act in 1908. Before that, the motto appeared on some as designs were changed, but never appears before the Civil War. Something happened around the time of the Civil War that also changed our coinage. Something else happened right near the beginning of the 20th century to change it again. Traditions died and got replaced. Twice. Why?

Coins make for an interesting path for a kid who is supposed to learn his nation’s history. Such a kid could learn that we revered Washington, but didn’t place his portrait on a coin. That might lead to the kid asking why. He might be told Washington himself probably would have objected. That would lead to many more questions and the child’s education would be well underway. Why Lincoln first? Because he held the nation together during the war. Why Washington if he would have objected? Enough time has passed. Why any Presidents at all? Well… Why the motto? Congress said so. Why did they then and not earlier? Well…

Dig a bit into our history and you’ll find out just how much the Abolitionists held the North together during the early years of the Civil War. The war cost a fortune every single day and someone funded it. Follow the money and persuasion efforts in the North and you’ll find what we today would call fundamentalists. You don’t have to dig far into history to find them opposing the plantation lords before the war. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize those lords recognized them as an existential threat to their way of life. They were and they proved it during the war by keeping the North in the fight in the early years. What did they want for this effort though? Did it stop at the emancipation proclamation? No. After the war they wanted a Constitutional Amendment along with the others being rolled out. They wanted it made obvious the US was a Christian nation. They didn’t get it, though. Instead, they got a Secretary of the Treasury agreeing to put the motto on the coins. THAT he could do for them.

That religious segment of our nation still exists. It still sees the US as a Christian nation even if our Constitution does not say so. It still gets Congress critters elected. No matter what it does today, we must not forget its role in the past in keeping us together. Brother Scudder would know these people. What do they want today? Do they perform a useful service today? I suspect they are both useful and dangerous. I also suspect we won’t buy them off this time with changes to the coinage. We will have to buy them off, though. They’ve been around a long time and are a fundamental part of this nation’s social fabric.

David L. Craig said...

Jonathan Sills, and if, as has been alleged here, said opponents are Nazis, we can efficiently bypass all the verbiage and get straight to the conclusion of the matter.

David L. Craig said...

"They’ve been around a long time and are a fundamental part of this nation’s social fabric."

Alfred Differ, these days that is called into question and I believe it is widely not taught in public schools. If this continues, Moses holding the tablets at the pinnacle of the Supreme Court probably is not long for this world. The excerpts of Lincoln's speeches engraved inside his monument will be sandblasted to oblivion--they contain more Bible verses than most preacher's use in their Sunday messages these days. Perhaps one day the First Amendment itself will be replaced by the Authorized Worldview of the United States of America, or maybe they'll keep up the façade of no state religion. I hope I'm wrong. Time will tell.

David Brin said...

Alfred and David - re fetishistic symbolism, not on coins but naval ships. David Craig probably hasn't seen this: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-politics-of-naming-aircraft.html

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Raito

I was thinking of a pension and ban on other earnings long enough to make a politician immune to "bribery" -
Maybe 10 years for the "other earnings"?
The pension - make it for life
But part of that would have to be that their financial records would become public documents

In fact I like the Norwegian idea that everybody's tax records are public documents

Nobody manage to help me with how to search for Dr Brin's old articles??

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin, I had not seen it. Applause, but it didn't seem like a rant to me--very civilized and measured. Again, applause, Sir.

Alfred Differ said...

@David Brin| Yah. I never thought about the ship naming thing until you posted about it a while back. When I read that post, I remembered a time travel movie that had the USS Nimitz travel back to WWII and change history. I can't remember the movie title (didn't think much of it so that's why), but I do remember one downtime character being upset at the idea of naming a ship after someone, let alone someone who was still alive. It was a cutesy line in the movie, but your post made me re-think it.

The best answer I could find for why we killed the tradition of symbols on the money in favor of Presidents is that the turn of the 20th century is about when we began to think of ourselves as a world spanning empire intending to compete with the British even in the financial markets for who got to be the reserve currency. Visions of empire existed long before, but the early ones were of an isolated empire avoiding European counterparts. That changed and apparently empires idolize their leaders on the coins. As a result, my highest appreciation for any coin design is usually for the coin's reverse. My favorite has always been the Ike dollars because they put the Moon on them. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan| Never had much luck searching the archives here. Google is your friend, but it often isn't enough. I'd help if I knew a better way. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

After the war they wanted a Constitutional Amendment along with the others being rolled out. They wanted it made obvious the US was a Christian nation. They didn’t get it,


What it did they want, though? What would their Constitutional Amendment have said exactly? That the United States was founded as a Christian nation? That it has always been a Christian nation? You could pass an amendment with such verbiage, but that doesn't make it so. You might as well pass amendments that say the sky is green, or that pi equals three.

So would an amendment say that the United States is henceforth a Christian nation? That a new condition is being imposed upon the country? Ok, but it's going to have to define what "Christian nation" actually means. That non-Christians lose their citizenship and have to move elsewhere? Probably not, although I'd guess there are some who want just that. That the nation is dedicated to upholding the principles espoused by Jesus Christ? That's what I'd say the words should mean, but I doubt it's what the evangelicals who adopted Trump have in mind. That a requirement for full citizenship (and all attendant rights and responsibilities) is that one be certified by some authority as being a bona fide Christian, and that non-Christians are some sort of "guest workers", allowed to remain here but not to vote or own property or use the court systems? That's probably what they want, but I'd be interested in how such an amendment would be worded.


LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Alfred Differ, these days that is called into question and I believe it is widely not taught in public schools. If this continues, Moses holding the tablets at the pinnacle of the Supreme Court probably is not long for this world. The excerpts of Lincoln's speeches engraved inside his monument will be sandblasted to oblivion--they contain more Bible verses than most preacher's use in their Sunday messages these days. Perhaps one day the First Amendment itself will be replaced by the Authorized Worldview of the United States of America, or maybe they'll keep up the façade of no state religion.


And you don't understand why someone might think you're a Republican apologist?

You sincerely feel that religion is under seige in this country and is in imminent peril of vanishing from sight? I feel that just the opposite is the case. As evidence, I offer that anyone running for political office anywhere has to at least make a show of how important religious faith is to them, even leftists like Bernie Sanders, let alone liberals like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Me personally, I'm not bothered by appeals to Bible verses in speeches like Abraham Lincoln's. Allusions are shorthand that get right to a visceral meaning without requiring paragraphs of explanation. But that's a different thing from public policy being dictated by religion.

Lynx said...

@Alfred Differ - The Final Countdown was the movie with the Nimitz, evidently

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Final_Countdown_(film)

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

"Most of the list has tired of my Hamilton references."
Aaaand it's going to get worse. The quarterback for Les RougeetNoir is retiring now that he has a Grey Cup, which means the Tiger Cats have a serious shot at this year's CFL championship.


I gather you know that I have to make a wild guess as to what you're talking about.

But my favorite comics writer/artist hails from Kitchner, ON, which I therefore know is a twin with a city called Hamilton. So is that where these Tiger Cats of which you speak are from?

Robert said...

The "Christian Nation" warriors want it that the United States is a Christian Nation and if you are not a Christian according to what the United States sees as a Christian you have absolutely no rights, cannot vote, must follow the laws completely, can lose your belongings on a whim by any True Christian, and have no right to recourse and of course cannot own a gun because only True Christians can own guns.

Ten years down the line, Mormons will find they are not True Christians and the Baptists will be fighting it out with other Protestant faiths on what is a True Christian so they can control the government further.

Rob H. who has a very low opinion on the Religious Reich

David Brin said...

I couldn't care less if we keep ripping off the world by importing their best and brightest to become Americans. Yes, our average skin tone will change. BFD. So long as they become Americans in rambunctious spirit and culture... and yes, I want my own kids to prosper and have lots of kids... then we... win. All of human posterity wins. Possibly the whole galaxy wins.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Coins are just as bad. Back in 1995, the Newt Congress, in a badly misplaced burst of triumphalism, proposed that Reagan be enshrined on...the dime. The proposal infuriated Democrats, and is probably why Reagan isn't on any of the money to this day. Newt, by trying to exorcise FDR, made Reagan radioactive.

And sorry, but I regard the Ike dollar to be the ugliest, most stupid coin the US ever devised. Ike looks like Charlie Brown, and the reverse features a desperate eagle flapping in the vacuum of the moon.

US money designs usually are spoiled by the fetishism.

Canadian fetishism usually limits itself to a maple leaf somewhere and the queen on the obverse. The RCM is a lot more adventurous than the US Mint, but a lot of the stuff they come up with is utterly absurd. When they DO come up with a beautiful coin, though such as the loonie or the dime, they hit it out of the park. This year's commemorative twoonie and the quarter are things of beauty.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart: Well, of course! I was being deliberately off-tangent and obscure for comedic purposes! (I wonder if anyone googled to see what the hell I was talking about...you obviously do.)

LarryHart said...

I've heard that one reason the paper dollar bill hasn't gone away is that George Washington would then no longer be on any paper money. And that the reason the penny (actually the one cent coin--"penny" is a Britishism) hasn't gone away is that congresspeople from Illinois block any such legislation which would remove Lincoln from coinage.

I kinda liked the line from a very old Simpsons episode where Homer is pretending he has a ten-thousand dollar bill, and Barney asks which president is on it. Homer replies: "All of them. They're having a party. Jimmy Carter is passed out on the couch."


LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

(I wonder if anyone googled to see what the hell I was talking about...you obviously do.)


Well, I knew where Hamilton, ON was. That it was connected to Tiger Cats was just an educated guess.

A few weeks back when a tiff arose between #SoCalledPresident and the cast of "Hamilton", the usual gang of idiots went online to issue death threats to the Hamilton Theater there in Hamilton, ON, neither knowing nor caring that it had no connection whatsoever to Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical.

Zepp Jamieson said...

OK, here's where I pull out my magic wand and solve the currency problems through sheer fiat.
Dump the penny and put Lincoln on a new silver $20 coin. Put said coin in circulation: perfect birthday gift for kids.
Dump the nickel (which now costs 6.5 cents to mint) and give Jefferson a $250 note.
Dump the one and the five dollar notes and have coins. Lincoln goes on a new $500 bill, and Washington on the $1000. Forget the silly nonsense about how banning large denominations stops drug trafficking and money laundering. Hint: it didn't work. Note: large denomination coins work well, too.

Next week: I fix major league baseball.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp Jamieson| It was my discovery of a Canadian nickel buried in the sandbox at elementary school that got me into the hobby. I’d never seen a coin with a beaver on it. 8)

Regarding that desperate eagle, I liked it, but I liked the bicentennial reverse more. Ike was just a guy from history to me back then. Nowadays I find it very interesting that we put him on the dollar and Reagan hasn’t made it yet. Going after FDR was just plain dumb.

And as for your magic wand, just change the name from ‘dollar’ to ‘new dollar’. It will have about the same impact in the financial markets if you knock a couple of zeroes off our denominations. One zero isn’t enough to get us back to making the penny useful again, but two zeroes would do it. Two is too many to cover what inflation has done, but I imagine we will grow into it during this century. 8)

Baseball is too much fun to argue about with co-workers. Please point your magic at fusion research funding instead.

Alfred Differ said...

@Lynx | Heh. Yah. Sounds right. Some movies after watching them I want to scrub them from my brain. That one wasn’t quite that bad, but I do recall wishing I had the time back and smiling because it was a time travel story.

I intend to scrub the film’s name from memory now. I’m also going to suggest we simply number all our ships. Oh? We do? Heh.

http://www.nvr.navy.mil/

LCS 10 = GABRIELLE GIFFORDS
Brand spankin’ new.

(Yah. I know. It’s not an aircraft carrier.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred Differ wrote: "It was my discovery of a Canadian nickel buried in the sandbox at elementary school that got me into the hobby. I’d never seen a coin with a beaver on it."

I first got interested in coins in London, where you could often find pennies with Queen Victoria on the back, and sometimes a Scottish or even a Manx coin. But Canadian nickles got me into formal coin collecting. There were tombac nickles, made from a brass alloy of some sort (nickel was needed for the war effort) and "V for victory" coins. I was fascinated by the notion of commemorative coins.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | They wanted the US Constitution to reflect the descriptor in the present tense. I don’t know if they would have gone as far as Rob H describes, but there is little doubt they wanted (as locumranch might say) to connect Divine Law to Human Law as a legitimizing authority. Slavery wouldn’t be allowed because… God said so. I’m not sure how they would have made that argument since slavery is well documented through their Scripture, but the desire to do so was obvious from their support of the North during the war.

With the connection/foundation, one might eventually move to a nation similar to the one Rob H describes. If that ever happens, I’d be deprived of voting rights so I suppose I’d have to shoot someone before it gets that far. Ah well. Good thing I know a bunch of libertarians. They won’t like Scudder much. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

I found it most strange that the Canadian coins reacted to a magnet. Weird for a US kid.

My grandfather packed away a lot of the pre-decimalization British and empire coinage for us. I've got piles of pennies including ones from the African colonies. Coins with holes in them (not created with bullets or drills) were pretty strange too. I got to use them to try to understand the differences between commonwealth nations, colonies, parts of the UK, and so on.

I always thought the monarchs were on the front, though. 8)

LarryHart said...

Not specific to coins, but in a similar vein, I recently re-watched the James Cagney musical "Yankee Doodle Dandy" covering the life of George M. Cohan. As the action progressed from the 1870s to the present (1942), the passage of time was depicted by different numbers of stars on the American flag.

That's been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it in the 1970s. At the end, when Cohan is called into the Oval Office to have a chat with President Roosevelt (on the eve of WWII), a tear always comes to my eye, but this time it was especially poignant. It was more than just the usual pride as Cohan watches the US Army marche off to save the world to the tune of one of his own songs. This time, I was also weeping for the America and the Washington that used to be, but is no more.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

but I do recall wishing I had the time back and smiling because it was a time travel story.


Speaking of having time back, my teenage daughter and her friend were having a philosophical discussion about what they'd to if they woke up to discover that they were re-living an earlier part of their life. It was cute how they worked out the constraints of the thought experiment, such as it was their same life they were reliving, not drastically altered circumstances.

But the point of pride was overhearing my daughter saying she'd be careful not to change the course of her life too much, because "It's been pretty sweet so far." I haven't felt so proud since the time she said, "Nerd parents. I'm living the dream."

Duncan Cairncross said...

When it comes to naming ships the
USS Ponce - just finishes the whole thing for me!
I hear a runour that it's schedule has to be arranged so that it is never in the same port as a RN vessel
A "ponce" is like a pimp but for "rent boys"

I just had a thought - the USS Trump! nearly worse

David L. Craig said...

"You sincerely feel that religion is under seige in this country and is in imminent peril of vanishing from sight?"

LarryHart, it is not a feeling, it is an experience of a process that has been ongoing for decades. Perhaps you do not remember this country when RAH was writing at his best. I do not think it is in imminent danger of vanishing, unless things dramatically escalate. That it is still many decades away. The intolerance will simply continue to increase. Already the First Amendment is being interpreted to ensure freedom from religion (pardon the verb) trumping traditional freedom of religious expression. Surely you've noticed the decline of a simple "Merry Christmas!" in this land of the free and home of the brave, just as one simple example of profound cultural shift? I cannot believe the advent this particular government marks a turning point; rather, it is probably going to generate an even greater backlash response and possibly accelerate the process.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I see that David L Craig has the old fashioned definition of "religious persecution"

In that his religion is being "persecuted" because it is being prevented from persecuting people who don't share it

David Brin said...

David L. Craig you are a lively one and welcome here! I haven’t calibrated but you seem multi dimensional and your conveyance of the “war on Christmas” meme really surprised me! (I like that!)

Still, expect argument here. Religion is already spectacularly favores. Churches and pastors pay no tax of any kind to support our roads and schools and defense. Colorado narrowly voted down a change to that. Next time, I think the bill should offer a Floor, below which churches are tax free. The first two square meters of floor space per parishioner and the first $20,000 of pastor income. That should ensure churches from “taxation is the ability to destroy. From there on up? Pay like the rest of us!

As for the war on Christmas? Its more the war on us BY Christmas! It’s already almost destroyed the best and purest and least commercial American holiday — Thanksgiving — and now it’s encroaching on Halloween! Leave us be!

Come on man. Any institutionalization of religion means the Koran and hindu sutras will be in schools too. Best leave all of that to our individual and family conscience.

Anyway, I’ll be less prickly when I see fundamentalism going back to Jimmy Carter style emphasis on the “red-letter” preachings of Jesus, instead for the bloody and horrific Book of Revelation. So long as THAT is the locus of focus, we’re gonna have a problem here.

David Brin said...

Zepp, Jefferson already is on a paper note. Yes to the dollar coin. We should hunt down the idiot who made it roughly the same size and weight as a quarter.

Every other nation calls in its currency for replacement. If we did it, Every drug lord and crook in the world would have to waste time hiring every poor person for miles around to swap bills for him - probably at 20% — which could be the biggest cash gift to the poor ever seen.

LarryHart how old is your daughter. Seems YOU are living the dream.

UCC Clinton, was proposed as a brothel barge and USS Trump as a casino. Me? I’d go up for one and down to garbage scow for the other… but I didn’t say which. And wasn’t the Quark a garbage scow?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred Differ:
Yeah, I've see got some colonial Hong Kong coins, along with tokens that served as currency in the colonies of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Canada has a holed commemorative coin right now: a $20 coin celebrating the Chinese Year of the Chicken with a square hole in it.
My father in law has a great collection of colonial flags and ensigns. An amazing display of history.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@ Larry Hart -- Heinlein did a good job of capturing the spirit and attitudes of America-that-was. I wonder what he would have made of Trump, the Patriot Act, all that.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Brin said: "Zepp, Jefferson already is on a paper note"

Yup, the $2 bill. I've got about 150 of them, uncirculated, in sequence that a clinic chose to pay me with once. Couldn't bear to take them to the bank. They are beautiful notes.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I could just see the UK papers now: "The USS Trump blew into port today..."

Tony Fisk said...

"Yuge SS Trump" (a 'pinnace';-)

LarryHart said...

This looks like a political posting, but is also sci-fi related. Sort of.

For some reason, this bit from today's www.electoral-vote.com ...


For months now, it is has been hypothesized that there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, particularly when it came to leaks damaging to Hillary Clinton. And for weeks (at least), it has been suspected that the FBI was looking into this question. Late Wednesday night, the next shoe fell: CNN is reporting that the FBI has actual evidence of such coordination, and is actively looking into its veracity.


...reminds me of the line from James Blish's "Cities in Flight" collection which states that (paraphrasing) "Gravity was discovered in 2018, having previously been postulated for millennia."

Howard Brazee said...

While I agree "Well, no. For one thing, there is the spectacular hypocrisy of U.S. fundamentalist Christians gushing their fervid support for a man who is - in every conceivable measure of action or character - the diametric opposite of Jesus.", I will note that this doesn't just apply to Trump.

It certainly applies as well to Pat Robertson.

Jesus Christ was critical and angry with the moneychangers in the temple. Jesus Christ warned about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ healed the sick and fed the hungry (for free).

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

LarryHart, it is not a feeling, it is an experience of a process that has been ongoing for decades. Perhaps you do not remember this country when RAH was writing at his best. I do not think it is in imminent danger of vanishing, unless things dramatically escalate. That it is still many decades away. The intolerance will simply continue to increase. Already the First Amendment is being interpreted to ensure freedom from religion (pardon the verb) trumping traditional freedom of religious expression. Surely you've noticed the decline of a simple "Merry Christmas!" in this land of the free and home of the brave, just as one simple example of profound cultural shift?


Okay, two different things.

One--despite what FOX News insists every year (and again, understand why you sound like a Republican apologist here, even if you aren't one), there is no government mandate that private businesses and individuals must refrain from saying "Merry Christmas". The reason businesses have gone toward generic holiday greetings is because they have discovered that millions of potential customers are not Christians, and they want those people to shop too. They don't want to project the image of "No Jews need apply" at their stores. It's an inclusive move rather than an exclusive one.

The Christians or "Christians" who are offended by "Happy Holidays" seem (to me) to be upset that outsiders are being allowed to intrude on what they perceive as their personal season. They want the right to make non-Christians feel excluded. To the extent that they have a point, their beef is with business, not with government.

Two--I believe you are mistaking a shift away from the presumption that the country is (specifically) Christian in character with a shift away from the country being (generally) religious in character. The spirit of the First Amendment is correct in saying that one should not be excluded from government service or from (receiving) government services on the grounds that one is of a minority religion (or no religion). If we've moved toward that position away from a former nod-wink violation thereof, that's a good thing.

But inclusion of diversity among religions is a different thing ("in fact the opposite thing"--quoting "1984") from exclusion of religion in general. You and (comics writer/author) Dave Sim (and probably fellow-poster locumranch) like to portray an atheist-dominated country in which religious people are shamed into the closet. As if someone can get elected dog-catcher in this country without proclaiming the importance of religious faith in their decision-making. If anything, the social progression has been in the opposite direction--religion, like politics or the details of how much you paid for stuff, used to be something that wasn't discussed in polite company.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

In reference to your daughter you said, "I haven't felt so proud since the time she said, "Nerd parents. I'm living the dream.""
- Major improvement over when we were growing up, when being called a nerd foretold a knuckle sandwich or having your face rubbed in the playground gravel. Times are changing, and it isn't all bad. In my family only one of the parents counts as a nerd, which my daughter is quite happy with (though she sometimes complains that I am too 'male'). The other parent is a religious fanatic, which she just rolls her eyes at and resists.

Speaking of religion, a point for David Craig: there is no war against Christianity, war on Christmas or whatever. The reality is simply that more and more people are becoming disgusted with Christianity and abandoning it. In other words, the culture is changing. People are less willing to obey blindly. Many have seen where that leads. And no, abandoning Christianity does not mean abandoning all morality. Contra what every religion teaches, morality is built into humans on a genetic level (though social conditions can modify this, and anything that is genetic is likely to have multiple variations or continuous variation). But Christians sense that they are losing their iron grip on society, and responding by whining about it. Their minds have been so formed by their church communities that they simply can't fathom why so many people would reject that community.

When I was growing up in an extremely religious town during the "AIDS Crisis" as it was billed back then, local churches would literally send out death squads with baseball bats hunting for "faggots." The culture was so virulently against homosexuality that "faggot" was hurled around as an accusation constantly. I even remember walking down the sidewalk and having cars drive by and complete strangers shouting that word at me from the safety of their vehicles. I remember when a young lady was ambushed as she pulled her car into her driveway. When the police found that she was gay (or maybe just accused of it, the newspaper did not make that clear) they stopped investigating the murder. Christian churches taught hate, and while they aren't all as monstrous as the Westboro Baptist, a whole lot of them around the country still preach hate. Today it's focused more on Islam than homosexuality, but hate is hate, regardless of who the targets are.

Paul SB said...

con.t

Not long after I moved to California, my car broke down in front of a library. While waiting for the tow truck, in true nerd form I popped into the library to pass the time doing something more interesting than getting annoyed in the driver's seat. I found a book that discussed how religiosity changes over time. It was a fascinating read, but I didn't have anything to write on, so I've forgotten the name of the book. It discussed a group of atheist working for the NSF who hypothesized that as people become more educated, more would leave their churches. Being good scientists, they did not just assume they were right (as most people do) they decided to test their hypothesis. The NSF sends out questionnaires to its members every year, and the questionnaires include basic demographic data, including religion. They examined the data starting in 1906, and found only 6% of scientists in the NSF - a very educated subset of society. In those days the NSF sent out their questionnaires only every 5 years, so they had to wait until 1911 to see change happening. The percent of atheists among professional scientists rose to 8%. These guys thought they were right, but they continued to check, and found something very different. The percent of atheists continued to rise into the 1920s, though the percent never rose above 20 (these were professional scientists being surveyed, the number of whom checked one religion or another never dropped below 80%, even though every church I have ever been to loudly proclaimed that all scientists are atheists, and most of them are faggots, too. But the percent started going down as the Great Depression set in. They continued to monitor the NSF surveys, and found that education has little to do with religiosity. Rather it seemed to be the economy driving these changes. When the economy was good, the percent of atheists rose, and when the economy was bad, the percent of atheists fell.

Change happens, and it happens for reasons. Maybe there are other factors besides the economy that we don't know yet, but the "War on Christianity" isn't one of them. The 'war' terminology is a sophistry meant to defend the egos of people who simply cannot comprehend why other people would choose to leave their religious communities. Propaganda indoctrinated into older Christians is a powerful thing, one that has shaped their incomprehension of younger people who are largely disgusted by their hypocrisy. So yeah, times are changing. I doubt Christianity will go away any time soon, but religions of the ancient past have disappeared except in history books. There is no reason to assume this particular subset is so special that it won't go the way of all things as well.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart how old is your daughter. Seems YOU are living the dream.


Freshman in high school, and yes.

I used to think that people with kids only pretended that it was a wonderful experience in order to trick the rest of us into having kids. As a liberal, I am not uncomfortable admitting I was wrong.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

I see that David L Craig has the old fashioned definition of "religious persecution"

In that his religion is being "persecuted" because it is being prevented from persecuting people who don't share it


That's not old-fashioned. It's what the Republican Party and the US Supreme Court currently mean whenever they use the phrase "religious liberty."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

As for the war on Christmas? Its more the war on us BY Christmas!


The War On Christmas rhetoric is similar to the Class Warfare rhetoric and much else, which boils down to "We (the wealthy and powerful) have inflicted harm upon you (everyone else) to the extent that we've made you angry, so now you are a threat to us, and we are justified in escalating the harm we inflict in order to protect ourselves from retaliation."

It's "Stand Your Ground" at the social macro level.

David L. Craig said...

Howard Brazee, irrefutedably. I couldn't agree with you more. Far too many self-identifying "Christians" believe unbiblical teachings and are unknowingly in peril of Jesus telling them, "I never knew you." That is nothing new, it's been going on for more than a millennium, and serves as an easy excuse to throw out the baby in the bath water. Those He does know get tarred and feathered by association. 'Tis true you can't choose all your relatives.

Dr. Brin, my point is it ain't like it used to be. You cite Thanksgiving as a commendable holiday but remember its origin. The Massachusetts Puritans survived a God-awful winter followed by a bountiful summer and declared a feast expressing their deepest gratitude to Divine Providence modeled on the Biblical Feast of Succot (Tabernacles) and included their extremely helpful native supporters. Darn straight it's commendable! Are you pegging Jesus' disciples as the perpetrators of your War By Christmas? It strikes me as a war by retailers (who are getting more desperate every season).

I'm waiting for the fact checkers to chime in. Do, widely speaking, public school children learn this history? Is the Koran in their curriculum? Is the Bible? It seems you are going to be even more surprised by how things have changed. Religion is a huge component of history--why should the public schools ignore it? Oh, right, separation of Church and State (but that's not what the First Amendment addresses nor was it an issue during this country's first two centuries). Then why is the Koran in the curriculum?

Darrell E said...

The "War On Christmas" is a fabrication. I have not noticed any decline in people offering others the salutation "Merry Christmas" during the holiday season. Additionally, other holiday season salutations like "Happy Holidays" have been positively common in the US my entire life. Christmas is my favorite holiday, but for me it has always been completely secular. It is a winter holiday that is all about having good times with family & friends. I am fully aware of the religious aspects but, being an atheist, have no use for them. Christians will just have to deal with the secularization of Christmas along with The War On Christmas.

Personally, I think people becoming offended by someone else not responding in kind to a "Merry Christmas!," and also people becoming offended by someone else offering them a "Merry Christmas!" are not entitled to have anyone else give a shit about them being offended.

When Christians get all their shit out of my laws, government and public institutions and have become a small minority rather than an overwhelming majority, then maybe I'll shed a tear over their "Merry Christmas" persecution claims. And please, don't bother responding with the bogus "our values, ethics and morality are based on Christian values" nonsense. Pure crap. To the extent that any do derive from Christianity and are actually original to it, we will all be better off when we have expunged them. Even most Christians understand that at some level as there are virtually none in current times that live by the ethics commanded in their bible.

David L. Craig said...

"In that his religion is being "persecuted" because it is being prevented from persecuting people who don't share it"

Duncan Cairncross and LarryHart, of what acts of persecution do you accuse me personally? If none, I ask you retract the accusation. If any, I desire to make restitution--please provide the particulars. Either way, I apologize to all for all such acts perpetrated throughout history by those calling themselves disciples of Jesus (but who far too often are not) to the extent I am empowered to make such apology.

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of John Scalzi, you might find interesting a little piece that Pharyngula linked to, on Vox Day (aka Teddy Beale)--one of the guys of Rabid Puppy's fame--apparently trying to siphon off sales from John's latest book by printing one that looks almost exactly the same.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/amazon-pulls-castalia-house-book-for-ripping-off-john-s-1793533638

Zepp Jamieson said...

@ Paul SB: The latest Pew religious landscape poll shows 22.8% of Americans in general have no religious affiliation, 5.9% are members of a non-Christian faith, 20.8 are Catholic, 14.7 are mainline Protestant, and 25.4% are evangelical. While a sizeable percentage of evangelicals do not celebrate Christmas, that's probably cancelled out by the number of unaffiliateds who practices some independent form of Christianity. So it's probably safe to say that 1 in 4 shoppers are not Christmas celebrants, and of course there's another undetermined number who celebrate Christmas but hate the phony cheer of corporate commercialisation. They don't much care what the Christians do in their homes and churches, but they are sick to death of Santa and Rudolph.

So conservatively, one in three shoppers are put off by "Merry Christmas". Seems a sensible approach to avoid annoying 33% of your potential buyers.

Pew does measure religiosity in America on a 7 year basis (the latest was 2014) and about 15 months ago had one on perceptions of conflict between science and religion. Some of the results were unexpected.

http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/22/science-and-religion/

David L. Craig said...

"David L. Craig:

[...]
Surely you've noticed the decline of a simple "Merry Christmas!" in this land of the free and home of the brave, just as one simple example of profound cultural shift?

LarryHart:

Okay, two different things.
[...]"

I offered that as a quick example of profound cultural shift. I really should have thought longer for an appropriate example. Government policy follows cultural shift but to my knowledge it has yet to enshrine political correctness in law, executive order, or decision, and it may never. Here in the quagmire I'd say about half of the strangers I encounter are antagonistic to the greeting, not to mention holding a door for a woman anytime (not a lady by Jubal Harshaw's and Anne's cloaked definition). The international contingent tends to be more gracious. I'm not certain how many contain their revulsion, of course, but I consider that set to be quite small. I'll let you know if that changes this season as a rough gauge on the effects of the new administration on such.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Are you pegging Jesus' disciples as the perpetrators of your War By Christmas? It strikes me as a war by retailers (who are getting more desperate every season).


It's retailers masquerading as religious warriors, sure. Still, it's hypocritical for the business-and-Christianity-friendly Republicans to blame both the commercialization of Christmas and the resistance to commercialization of Christmas on liberals.

Do, widely speaking, public school children learn this history? Is the Koran in their curriculum? Is the Bible? It seems you are going to be even more surprised by how things have changed. Religion is a huge component of history--why should the public schools ignore it? Oh, right, separation of Church and State (but that's not what the First Amendment addresses nor was it an issue during this country's first two centuries). Then why is the Koran in the curriculum?


There's more of a genuine conflict when religion is conflated with public schools at which attendance is compulsory. I'm not saying you're entirely off base--just that this is a different situation from businesses expressing secular holiday greetings. Kids should be taught about religion as a social force in history without being indoctrinated or subordinated to the majority religion. I'm not just speaking hypothetically either. I personally am acquainted with a mixed-religion family from Oklahoma whose Jewish daughters were required to swear allegiance to Jesus Christ in order to participate in school activities. Yes, that's a single anecdote, but my point is just that such things are not part of the long-distant past.

As to what kids are not taught in school these days, there are worse deficiencies than religion. Civics and government would be nice.


Zepp Jamieson said...

David Craig wrote: " I'm not certain how many contain their revulsion, of course, but I consider that set to be quite small."

That begs the question, "If you think they may be revulsed by it, then why do it? If that is your intent, it seems rather passive-aggressive.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Duncan Cairncross and LarryHart, of what acts of persecution do you accuse me personally? If none, I ask you retract the accusation.


Dude, I'm not challenging you to a duel.

I said that you were presenting an argument that Christianity is being persecuted and backing that up with evidence that Christians are finding it harder to be mean to non-Christians. Not that you were behaving in any particular bad way yourself.

raito said...

Paul SB,

The term 'nerd' as used today postdates my childhood. We were called 'eggheads'. And did not result in much of anything. But I was the odd man out. Played sports, but was on the math team.

As for Christianity, I'm pretty sure it more the case that people are becoming disgusted with people who claim to be Christian, who want you to believe that it's something very different that what it mostly is. The minority is mucking up with word for the majority.

And you make my point why 'names can never hurt me' is one of the most vicious lies ever taught to a child.

David L. Craig,

My high school, even back then offered an English course on various religious texts as literature.

Darrell E,

Yes, it's bogus nonsense, but only partially so. Many religions' ideals (regardless of practice) align pretty well, so the problem to me is to attribute those to any religion in particular. I'm generally in agreement with those that are espoused in several religions' ideals. A person's religion (or lack of one) can make them a better person, a worse person, or affect them not at all. I've seen all three results.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Here in the quagmire I'd say about half of the strangers I encounter are antagonistic to the greeting,


I'm guessing that it's because the "Merry Christmas" greeting has become weaponized.

As a non-Christian, I have no problem with someone offering a sincere "Merry Christmas," and don't hesitate to offer it myself. But when it's offered as an insult, as in "I know you're not Christian, but this is our country so I don't have to care about your feelings, but you have to care about mine!", then it's going to be taken as an insult.


not to mention holding a door for a woman anytime (not a lady by Jubal Harshaw's and Anne's cloaked definition). The international contingent tends to be more gracious.


I don't believe I know where you live, but I suggest moving to Chicago. To quote Adam West as Batman, "Your problem is you hang around with the wrong crowd."

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart:

"[...]it's hypocritical for the business-and-Christianity-friendly Republicans to blame both the commercialization of Christmas and the resistance to commercialization of Christmas on liberals."

No argument there.

"As to what kids are not taught in school these days, there are worse deficiencies than religion. Civics and government would be nice.

Economics as well. But, hey, I'd be happy if they just learned mathematics. They'd likely be better voters and more capable of competing in the workforce with such knowledge. Say, you don't think that could be a concern anywhere, do you? Nah, that can't be. Never mind. Nobody would stoop so low. Forget I mentioned it. But seriously, I just don't get parents who do not motivate their children to learn all they can and make sure they're learning what they need to. I doubt I'm alone about that in these parts.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart:

" To quote Adam West as Batman, 'Your problem is you hang around with the wrong crowd.'"

Not quite right, the wrong crowd hangs around me. With the Trump administration moving in, I suspect it's actually getting worse, not better. I have never weaponized the greeting and I do not know how anyone could intuit my religious persuasions merely from my appearance and manner of greeting. I have never witnessed such a weaponized greeting myself, thankfully, but maybe that's in my future here in the DC Metro area.

Dirtnapninja said...

Amusing.

On side A we have wall street, silicon valley, Hollywood, Madison Avenue,The mainstream media oligopoly, The ivy league, the civil service, the intelligence community and an alphabet soup of powerful foundations, NGOs and committees.

On side b we have duly elected politicians, some internet trolls and a cartoon frog.

And somehow side A sees itself as the resistance. You cant fight the power, when you are the power.

Robert said...

For a constitutional government to work, you don't just need a good constitution, but a sound political culture to go with it. Specifically, in the US system, almost no one in either party would dream of shutting down the government or undermining the nation's credit. Filibusters would be rare, and always real. There would be a lot of socializing between parties, and more than half of the bills not originating with the Administration of the day would be sponsored by members of both parties. The cabinet would contain at least some members of the opposition party. The list goes on. Divided government would be bearable, maybe even the best situation (in my own opinion, in the days when the Republicans were sane, it was).

As for the War By Christmas, the older denominations have a secret weapon against it called Advent, which is actually my favorite church season. We also think the best way to celebrate Christmas is to, you know, go to church. Traditional denominations in Atlanta had a field day the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday. Many Baptist and Pentecostal churches closed so their families could "celebrate Christmas" at home. I'm afraid the mainstream Protestants and the Catholics suffered a lapse in Christian charity when that happened - it was just too good..

Also, Neil Gorsuch has already been attacked from the right for belonging to my church (Episcopal). He's also a friend of Merrick Garland's and was not happy with the treatment he received - something the Democrats should keep in mind.


Bob Pfeiffer.

Jim Baca said...

Thanks for this post, and could you write a short story on the many ways a producer of fake news on social sites could die by the hand of a truth seeker avenger. I'll buy itl

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

"As to what kids are not taught in school these days, there are worse deficiencies than religion. Civics and government would be nice.

Economics as well. But, hey, I'd be happy if they just learned mathematics. They'd likely be better voters and more capable of competing in the workforce with such knowledge. Say, you don't think that could be a concern anywhere, do you? Nah, that can't be. Never mind. Nobody would stoop so low.


I say again, move to Chicago, or at least to the wealthier suburbs thereof. My daughter learned algebra in 7th grade, and she's bordering on calculus as a freshman. Could it be because our politics are dominated by Democrats? Nah, that can't be. :)

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

I have never witnessed such a weaponized greeting myself, thankfully, but maybe that's in my future here in the DC Metro area.


Maybe everything is more politicized in DC. But the point I was getting at is that Bill O'Reilly and company have poisoned the well, so that an emphatic "Merry Christmas!" might sound like an insult. The same way I have a default negative perception of anyone who says "I'm a Christian", even though I have nothing against actual Christians.

Robert said...

Excuse me while I roll my eyes on the War on Christmas.

Yes, there is a war being waged, but it's by Christmas on other holidays. Thanksgiving already is being overwhelmed and the Christmas Fanatics are striving to take out Halloween as a Pagan Holiday and possibly shift the Start of Christmas to Labor Day.

It's not even the birth date of Christ. If Christians examined the Bible and the description of the period when Christ was born and did some basic research they would discover it was likely Christ (if this individual even existed and was not in fact a propaganda tool of the Roman Empire that ended up going out of their control) would have been born in the springtime.

Christmas was chosen by the Catholic Church because other pagan faiths used that time to celebrate their own divinities' birth or rebirth. It literally was a means of encouraging pagans to become Christian as well, and then eventually get rid of the pagan aspect and be pure Christian.

And I seriously doubt purchasing expensive gifts on credit cards was at all what Christ would have wanted him to be remembered for. The character as depicted seems more likely to have wanted his followers to work in food kitchens to help the needy to celebrate his birth. And to accept immigrants and love them as neighbors and family. That is not how his birth is remembered in this day and age.

So feel free to cry about the War on Christmas. If there is a war, your side started it. And Christmas as it exists now is not about Christ. It hasn't been for a very long time.

Rob H.

Zepp Jamieson said...

If kids really did learn civics, government, economics and math in school, the GOP would be extinct within ten years.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

In a rational world, "It helps one party politically if citizens are ignorant and ill informed," reflects negatively on that party. In our world, apparently, the same truism means that education and informed citizenry is a purely partisan issue. "Well, of course you want educated, informed citizens, because that helps you. We have just as much right to strive for an uneducated, ill informed citizenry, because that helps us."


LarryHart said...

On the dystopia poll site...

It looks as if The Postman soundly beat The Iron Heel, which is great. But no offense to Jack London's book which I am 50 pages into right now. It seems like an extraordinary work for its time, and I detect precursors to both 1984 and Atlas Shrugged, with the book's protagonist as a less-annoying John Galt, or maybe a less-annoying Francisco D'Anconia.

Still, as I said when I cast my vote, The Postman has so much more depth of narrative. Not to blow our host's head up too large--the mere crafts of novel writing and sci-fi had evolved so much more in the intervening 70 to 80 years. It's not a fair contest.

David L. Craig said...

"If kids really did learn civics, government, economics and math in school, the GOP would be extinct within ten years."

Zepp Jamieson, now you've got me wondering if public educators really are as liberal blue as I have surmised from anecdotal second-hand information. That could explain why we still suffer from the red peril. Nonetheless, what you said should be true regarding the current makeup of that entity, but a transition to one of the earlier, responsible versions might obtain therefrom. Still, its the parental authority center that dominates young folks' desire to learn and achieve. Any studies of academic progress by parental political affiliation about? Hmmm...

Dang, this week is not going as I had planned. Time to replan...

A.F. Rey said...

It's not even the birth date of Christ. If Christians examined the Bible and the description of the period when Christ was born and did some basic research they would discover it was likely Christ (if this individual even existed and was not in fact a propaganda tool of the Roman Empire that ended up going out of their control) would have been born in the springtime.

Hmm. I always heard it was in the fall (taxation in an agrarian culture being best done right after the harvest). But certainly not in December. Those poor shepherds would've been freezing their tushies off when the angel came to talk to them in the field. Not to mention their sheep-sicles...

Zepp Jamieson said...

There's also the fact that the Romans had no records indicating that they ever held a census that required people to travel to their birthplaces to be counted. It would have been the least effective census in history.

Zepp Jamieson said...

@Larry Hart
I run into a mentality that, while a human frailty, seems more evident in the United States. That is a pride of ignorance. "Oh, I don't know anything about that" people will chuckle, dismissing politics, art, science, literature, fill-in-the-blank because they are too ethereal or sensitive or "street smart" to bother with such things. And there's a stronger social reinforcement to hate school and larnin' than you see in other countries. I've never been able to figure it out. I sometimes thing the egalitarian notion that one man's opinion is as good as another's (false on the face of it) translates to "one man's knowledge and expertise is as good as another's.

David Brin said...

The whole purpose of the "census" story was to establish that Jesus was of the House of David and hence that (via Joseph) he hearkened from the southern enclave of the tribe of Judah (around Bethlehem). If not, then the prediction of Isaiah could not apply to a Nazarene from Galilee. Of course, Joseph's not his real dad, anyway. But the census tale implies that Jesus would then inherit House of David by adoption or proxy.

But yes, there are no records of such a census happening in Roman occupied Judea, nor anything like it ever happening in any Roman occupied land. Inconvenient.

David Brin said...

Zepp GOP pols routinely shrug off climate change questions with "I'm not a scientist." And I have yet to see a single journalist ask: "But shouldn't scientific facts affect policy? And can you name for us your science advisors?"

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Do they shrug off questions about crime with "I'm not a criminal"? Or even "I'm not a policeman"?

LarryHart said...

A F Rey:

Those poor shepherds would've been freezing their tushies off when the angel came to talk to them in the field. Not to mention their sheep-sicles...


I'm not as familiar as I should be with Middle Eastern climate patterns. I always picture Palestine as being hot and dry. Is weather even a thing there? Serious question.

LarryHart said...

dirtnapninja:

On side A we have wall street, silicon valley, Hollywood, Madison Avenue,The mainstream media oligopoly, The ivy league, the civil service, the intelligence community and an alphabet soup of powerful foundations, NGOs and committees.

On side b we have duly elected politicians, some internet trolls and a cartoon frog.


Yeah, "duly elected politicians" who control the federal government and thirty some states. And FOX News and every radio market in the country, whereas progressives have WCPT and 3 hours on MSNBC, and that's it.

And what makes you think Wall Street is on the side of progressive Democrats?

The intelligence committees are their own thing, not really on either side in toto.

"Powerful foundations" are on the progressive side? I'm sure some are, but compared to the Kochs and such, that's really a stretch. Liberal foundations may support good causes, but right-wing ones outright buy politicians.

Nice try, though. You had me hopeful we had won for a few milliseconds there.

Catfish N. Cod said...

You know, there really is a drawback to not having Europeans be the dominant source of our immigrants anymore. But it has nothing to do with race, or with "Western Civilization" per se.

The problem is that we have fewer people walking around with living memories of why the First Amendment was written the way it was. People who grew up surrounded by the evidence, and the memories, and the cultural context programmed by people who spent centuries pounding the lesson into each other that -- for all the unifying power and cohesion and homogenity and strengthening of values that it brings -- basing your government and your sense of identity on religion Just. Is. Not. Worth. The. Cost.

And there were strains of religious fundamentalism, starting even with the Puritans, who escaped Europe not having learned The Lesson, and had to learn it themselves; the which is why New England has such small states. At the Founding there were again those who didn't get it, and appealed to the newly constructed White House, begging for their sect's prejudices to be enforced by Law and Force. The Civil War's armies, on both sides, marched with the Word of God on their lips -- and learned better thereafter. So many of the immigrants of the XIXth and XXth centuries fled religious persecution, along with the ethnic persecution we are now more familiar with.

But for all of living memory, now, our immigration has been primarily of Catholic Christians, or of religions that have had little strife with Christianity; and our primary foes have been atheists, or "pagan", or now Islamic. And so the temptation to define ourselves by religion arises again. Putin seeks that, at least in propaganda terms -- a Holy Alliance, a newly redefined Christendom, with Trumpian America champions of the Western sects and the Kremlin champions of the Orthodox.

Horsepucky, of course. The primary feature of Putin's Russia is mafiocracy, an attitude Trump would like to install here in America. But that matters little to those who crave an ecumene bound by spiritual communion, who want to construct a totality around our entire society just to reinforce their memeplexes.

And even though I agree with the majority of those memes -- I cannot accede to that. No faith or philosophy should ever have that degree of control over our lives. The only totalities I can agree to are those that hold all other totalities at bay.

raito said...

David L. Craig,

Blue educators? Depends on who you listen to. Naturally, the teachers must be blue, because they belong to unions that must be crushed (see my sarcasm in action). But teachers don't set the curriculum, nor the standards. It appears to be the state, rather than the local school districts, that does that.

This is why I consider no one but myself (OK, my wife, too) to be the primary teacher of my children.

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin noted:

"Joseph's not his real dad, anyway."

True, which is why his mother's ancestry in the Davidic line is thought by some scholars to be recorded in the genealogy in Luke (and some think it is the differing genealogy in Matthew 1 that is maternal). The bottom line is at this time it is uncertain--perhaps archeological discoveries will provide clarification. Wikipedia has a reasonable article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus with a link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_7:14 regarding the virgin birth viewpoints. The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_7:14#Gospel_of_Matthew section discusses the virgin birth rationale but the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint link provides no help in understanding why the 70 Jewish scholars who translated the Tenach into Greek before the birth of Jesus chose to translate the Hebrew noun in the prophecy as the Greek word for "virgin" vis-à-vis the Greek word for young maiden. So it's all rather contentious.

A.F. Rey said...

I'm not as familiar as I should be with Middle Eastern climate patterns. I always picture Palestine as being hot and dry. Is weather even a thing there? Serious question.

I'm not too familiar, either, but it being basically desertish, that implies hot summers and cold winters. (As a friend used to say, the "double-edged sword of the desert.") :)

A quick Google search gives an average low temperature of around 7C in December. Another site says it's also rainy in the area. And AccuWeather says the average temperature on Dec. 25 is 38/22. (Don't know if it's F or C; I assume F.)

David L. Craig said...

Re: Israel's climate two millennia back, this article quotes Josephus: http://blog.adw.org/2014/07/what-was-the-climate-and-weather-of-israel-like-at-the-time-of-jesus/

David L. Craig said...

ralto stated:

"But teachers don't set the curriculum, nor the standards. It appears to be the state, rather than the local school districts, that does that."

I submit that makes them educators, too.

matthew said...

Here's an interesting take on what the minority in Congress should do:

https://psmag.com/the-case-for-democratic-recklessness-ef029b7fce61#.61ocj1vu2

Zepp Jamieson said...

Daniel Craig said: " That could explain why we still suffer from the red peril."

Um, what red peril is that? Oh, the Russians managed to install a brainless puppet in the White House, but they aren't commies any more, so that's ok.

Paul SB said...

Raito,

You are very fortunate that your egghead experience did not result in much. I still think of myself as an egghead, but being tarred with that label, or geek or nerd, was an invitation to years and years of constant bullying.

I appreciate the comment about “names can never hurt me.” Being a neuroscience nerd, I think of it in terms of chemistry and anatomy. The neurotransmitter that makes us feel pain when we smash our fingers with a hammer (Substance P) is the same one that makes us feel emotional pain. When you grow up in a household, or more broadly a community, in which people hurl invective and shame at each other constantly, the frequent release of Substance P sets off cascades of stress responses. One of the ironic consequences is that the fear center of the brain (amygdala) becomes hypertrophic, meaning larger and more sensitive to stimulation. This turns into a vicious circle, since amygdala hypertrophy makes people more fearful, therefore more reactionary to apparent threats (to include emotional threats), which causes them to release more stress hormones, which increases the hypertrophy of the amygdala. Such fun! I’ve never had my head shoved into an MRI, but I suspect my amygdala would show up as abnormally large. Another effect of excessive stress is that it shrink the memory center (hippocampus), making it harder for people to remember and be able to focus their minds on good times, so they are more likely to focus on troubles. More fun with feedback loops!

I can see how adults might think that telling children that names can never hurt them would think they are doing them a favor. Children can be quite horrible to each other, and the bulk of that is verbal. But trying to get children to “toughen up” and pretend they are not hurt results in psychological damage that can haunt their lives forever. Fully 20% of Americans will experience a major depressive episode at least once in their lives, and most relapse multiple times. We are a very mentally unhealthy society.

You commented to Darrell E., “A person's religion (or lack of one) can make them a better person, a worse person, or affect them not at all. I've seen all three results.”
- An important to ask is not just whether you have seen all three results (I have as well), but in what proportion? In my experience there was far more of the second option, but I may have been raised in an outlier community.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin said: "Zepp GOP pols routinely shrug off climate change questions with 'I'm not a scientist.'"

I always want to say to that: "Look, you weren't elected to be a scientist. But you were elected to listen carefully to scientists and other knowledgeably people so they could help you govern. Now do your job!"

David L. Craig said...

Zepp Jamieson asked:

"Um, what red peril is that?"

Glad you picked up on the double entendre. I was primarily referring to the stateside party of the color (I wonder if Sen. McCarthy was consulted about that choice).

Paul SB said...

Raito and David Craig,

I have a little professional expertise related to how teaching works, since I am a teacher. Ratio is correct that curriculum is set by state departments of education, not by teachers. What happens in most states is that government officials who rarely have any experience in education whatsoever create the state's education standards (so no, those fools are not educators except by default - like having insurance adjustors performing surgery). One part of the picture that few outside of education are aware of is that what goes into those standards is often deeply influenced by textbook publishing companies, which are simply trying to corner their share of the market for their business.

Are most teachers Blue? In my own experience there are more who are Blue than Red, but it's not a huge majority. Nearly every history teacher I have known has been conservative, and a substantial smattering in other subjects. I suspect you would find more blues at the elementary level.

The Bible and the Qu'ran in the curriculum? Both, in history curricula. You can hardly understand the history of major world regions without understanding the religious tenets that acted as motivating forces. Legally public schools cannot teach any one religion as the "correct" religion, but I have seen a whole lot of teachers who do exactly that, and no one says anything about it. The Constitution is one thing. The culture is another.

Let me know if I forgot anything. I have a pretty bad case of hippocampal trophy.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

Thanks for the link. I read the thing over, though I did not find much in it that was dramatically unexpected. You might have been referring to the finding that people who attend church regularly are actually less likely to see a conflict between religion and science. Thinking about it, I can see how regular attendance at some churches would tend to inoculate people against that sort of either/or thinking. Not all, but a lot of people who do not regularly attend church are people who consider themselves religious, but lack the habits of mind - self-discipline, specifically - to think very deeply about the different roles of religion and science. The former is about ,orality and social relationships, the latter being about how things physically work. There generally is no conflict between the two because they do two very different things. Confusion comes from the fact that religions often explain their moral principles through moral tales (fables) which are meant to be true in moral terms, though not necessarily true in historical terms. But more to the point, those who lack the habits of mind to learn religion in any more depth than some vague notions they got from their social groups do not see this distinction. They are trapped into either/or thinking by their own ignorance.

donzelion said...

David S: re Vista - ah, so the good ole boys are in for trouble!

I'd do some research on Anaheim's experience (and the efforts to rollback that victory).

While Dr. Brin (and many hear) bemoan gerrymandering, the type of 'at large' election you're describing is even more important for many Americans: since 10% of people vote in off-election years or local elections, and perhaps 5% of them know who they're voting for in any way - typically, race dominates the proceedings. This is how cities like Anaheim could be governed be a small group of 'white men in one neighborhood' - who could regularly get 40% of the votes cast each time (since so few people vote). City councils only determine how utilities, livelihoods, roads, etc. get divvied up, which permits and zoning ordinances get changed - it's worthy of you to pay attention and get involved!

David L. Craig said...

Paul SB stated:

"Legally public schools cannot teach any one religion as the "correct" religion, but I have seen a whole lot of teachers who do exactly that, and no one says anything about it. The Constitution is one thing. The culture is another."

Thank you for the view from the trenches! Are you suggesting there are significant variations between states, counties/school districts, schools, and individual teachers? I remember many of my public school teachers ~1960 would deviate from the curriculum and clearly state when and why they were doing so in one of the country's best public school systems. Some were less forthcoming. Some didn't last the school year.

donzelion said...

"I'm not as familiar as I should be with Middle Eastern climate patterns. I always picture Palestine as being hot and dry. Is weather even a thing there? Serious question."

Hmmm, Israel/Palestine at its widest point is about 70 miles. Were you to go 70 miles due east from Long Beach, you'd be in the middle of a pretty impressive desert on the way to Palm Springs. The climates are quite comparable, since most people call SoCal a "Mediterranean" climate - and the deserts in large swathes of the region are not at all unlike California's basic geography either (LOTS of desert...everyone forgets about how big it is, except for poor folks trying to cross it - Death Valley is not as deep as the Dead Sea).

It snows in Jerusalem about as often as it does in the low highlands east of Los Angeles (Rancho Cucamonga, etc.) - about 1 in 10 years. I'd say maybe 5 degrees F cooler, all told. Have spent a few summers and winters there, seldom springs though.

Paul SB said...

David Craig,

Yes, there are some pretty substantial differences between different states, different districts and different teachers. There is an extent to which the major textbook publishers keep things similar across the nation, but some states favor different publishers than others. Also, politics has come to play a huge role in the decisions of departments of education. A great example of this is the attempt the Texas DOE a few years ago to remove Thomas Jefferson form the American history curriculum. Churches have a lot of power in that state, and Jefferson was the architect of separation of church and state. I'm fortunate that California takes science seriously and doesn't allow religious zealots to monkey with the science standards, but there are a lot of states where that happens. Education has become far more politicized than it was in the 60s (or 70s, when I was trapped in the public school system). Variations between counties and school districts mostly relate to the taxable income available to fund local schools. Poor districts tend to remain in poverty because of poor education, reducing the money-making potential for people who grew up in them. Poor schools are eligible for Title 9 money from the federal government (though I wouldn't bet on that remaining with President Grope's strange bedfellows).

As far as individual teachers go, it doesn't seem like competence has a lot to do with who remains employed and who does not. Bad teachers who get fired from one district can usually find work in another. Poor school districts are often so desperate to get anyone in the classroom that as long as a teacher isn't so bad that they lose their license, they should be able to remain gainfully employed, though to the detriment of their students. However, schools that are that desperate for employees are usually such miserable places to work that even bad teachers will sometimes give up and leave the profession. On top of that, many teachers get fired from less desperate districts for reasons unrelated to their competence or performance. Since these qualities are judged by school administrators, administrators who have agenda can often dismiss teachers for bad reasons but make the official paperwork make it look like they were incompetent. I found this one out through personal experience.

Someone mentioned American anti-intellectualism and how many parents abstain from teaching their kids, though I don't remember who it was. There are a lot of factors here, a major one being what anthropologists call "structural inferiority." People who are at the bottom of the social ladder and feel they are not valued and left out tend to develop negative identities, where everything that is deemed important by mainstream society is considered ludicrous or even detrimental to themselves. Thus a lot of people who are in the lowest quartile of income tend to disdain education in general. There are other cultural factors, being an ethnic minority can reinforce this thought pattern. I have worked with a whole lot of Latin American immigrants, and in most of their home countries they consider education to be entirely the business of the schools. This sets up a huge problem for teachers, because school administrators don't want to deal with discipline (they are terrified of being sued by parents), so they pressure teachers to spend a lot of time calling the parents of bad kids on the assumption that the parents will handle discipline. But since many Latin American people see education as the job of the schools, they also see discipline as the job of the schools.

Alfred Differ said...

@David L Craig | Let me offer an atheist’s point of view to you regarding ‘freedom from religion’ and the first amendment. Technically speaking, I have no belief system that I would qualify as a religion, so I pay little attention to the first amendment’s protection of my rights. The government can’t really infringe them by directing me to go against them. They simply aren’t there. What they CAN do is try to trap me in a situation where I have to pretend to have them in order to be an upstanding member of the community. That would be a violation of my rights, so I PRETEND atheism is a kind of religion and demand they not infringe upon my belief system. The Court accepted this argument long ago as a way to protect us. From our perspective, of course, we are being protected FROM religion.

As our numbers grow, the old court-accepted argument is going to look more and more like a misinterpretation of the first amendment. Try to fix that and people like me will come down on you. It isn’t that we want to take away your belief system, though. It’s that we demand we not be trapped by yours. If I had a belief system more commonly accepted as a religion, I would already be covered by the original intent of the amendment. I don’t, but I accept the protection anyway with that one small fiction to cover me.

Your system is not being threatened by the government when they make an effort not to infringe upon my null system. Two generations ago when RAH was writing his best, my null system really WASN’T tolerated. We kept our heads down much like the homosexuals did. It was pretty easy to hide most of the time, but we lied to the rest of you for good reasons. I’m tired of doing that, though. I’m also old enough and confident enough to flip the birdie at people who can’t cope with me being an I-don’t-care-ian when it comes to religious beliefs. I already know I share many of the common parts of American beliefs, so I get pissy when people act in ways that might trap me into lying about believing them all. Having such a ‘tude is easily avoided, though. Just recognize that ‘freedom of’and ‘freedom from’ are the same things for guys like me.

I’ll still wish you a Merry Christmas, though. I love the Christmas season and will say whatever is best for provoking a good cheer. Tis the season.

Jumper said...

Is anyone storing research into articles by David Brin? Yes.
http://www.davidbrinfans.org/2016/05/29/the-works-of-david-brin/

Here is the search query I used to find it and some others:

index articles by david brin

Duncan Cairncross said...

Thanks Jumper that was exactly what i wanted

LarryHart said...

David L Craig:

I was primarily referring to the stateside party of the color (I wonder if Sen. McCarthy was consulted about that choice).


I've heard that when the commentators began standardizing colors for the political parties on the map (using colors from Red, White, and Blue) decided against making red the color for the Democrats precisely because it would look too much like calling them communists. Thus it became Red for Republicans and Blue for Democrats.

It has been suggested here on this list--and I like the suggestion--that the Republicans would be more accurately represented as White States. :)

LarryHart said...

..."Blue States" is also appropriate as the phrase evokes the Blue vs Grey of the Civil War.

Jon S. said...

I heard that "aw, shucks" line, "Well, I don't really know about that, but..." one too many times the other day.

I interrupted (not my usual method, but I claim aggravation by the individual), "You've got a smartphone, yeah? That means that in your pocket you carry a computer, capable of accessing the sum total of human knowledge through the nearest wifi signal. You don't know about that? Learn about it! In the age of the internet, ignorance is a choice!"

(He kind of shut down and edged away - but I felt better, having wanted to say that for so loooong...)

David L. Craig said...

David Craig wrote: "I'm not certain how many contain their revulsion, of course, but I consider that set to be quite small."

Zepp Jamieson asked: "That begs the question, 'If you think they may be revulsed by it, then why do it?['] If that is your intent, it seems rather passive-aggressive.

I have so greeted people so for decades as have most and about half are not offended by it (and some set of them could be offended if not so greeted). But I expect the decent thing is becoming to drop it all together. It's not like it's as merry as it used to be anyway. Joy to the world. Meh. Nice planet you've got there. Not.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Most of the "Merry Christmas" greetings I get are that--happy, friendly greetings, and I respond in kind. Often as not, I'll came back with "Happy Yuletide!" or "...and Happy New Year."
Every once in a while -- fairly rarely, I'm happy to saw -- I'll get such where the tone and posture make it clear this is not a greeting, this is a challenge. A Faux News Christian. It's obvious I'm supposed to be offended. My response then is the same I give my closest friends: "Happy Solstice!" Most just look a bit confused and let the matter drop. Maybe they've decided that I'm a satanist and don't want to risk their immortal souls conversing with me. One guy actually snapped at me, "That's not a real holiday" and I started explaining how nearly all the accoutrements of Xmas--the tree, the lights, even the date--are all Solstice celebrations that early Christians adopted. He actually listened, and I think he decided I had a valid point. Sometimes there is hope. Never lose hope.

Paul SB said...

David Craig,

I'm in agreement where you wrote, " It's not like it's as merry as it used to be anyway. Joy to the world. Meh. Nice planet you've got there. Not."

However, I would like you to ask yourself a couple questions.
1. Does feeling this way do anything to make you feel good?
2. Does feeling this way help protect you from any serious threat?

If the answer to both of these is 'no' as I suspect, then you would do well to let it go. Negative feelings like this poison the soul and contribute to human misery. Just a suggestion.

Lens Universe said...

RAH was good friends with EE Doc Smith. In my mind this makes him more than the "Dean of Science Fiction" It makes him a mensch

Jumper said...

Good grief. The War on Christmas comes earlier every year!

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

It's not like it's as merry as it used to be anyway. Joy to the world. Meh. Nice planet you've got there. Not.


May I ask how old you are? For reciprocity's sake, I'm in my late 50s, leaking into crotchety old man territory. And for much of my pre-married life, I was a complete misanthrope. And as a suburban white male boomer, I'm supposed to be firmly in the demographic who wants to burn it all down by electing #SoCalledPresident.

I say all that to say that even I don't have as negative an attitude toward my local communities as you seem to. And especially around Christmastime, people seem to make an effort to be pleasant company. I hate winter, and I'm not a Christian, but the Christmas season does much to make December bearable.

It seems to me that either something about the political climate in DC or something about the people you find yourself around is particularly poisonous. It's not like that everywhere.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart observed:

"It seems to me that either something about the political climate in DC or something about the people you find yourself around is particularly poisonous. It's not like that everywhere."

Sigh. I thought it was discernible from my previous commentary that I was not expressing my feelings but rather suggesting one possibility for the culturally correct mindset that can come of this trend. I'm still learning the need to be more wordy and I'm halfway through my 67th year. I hope you realize DC is also the capitol of political correctness, which may go on a hiatus for a brief period but would most likely reassert itself in short order if it did. We'll see.

David L. Craig said...

P.S. I see I was redundant there--not the more wordy desired. Must drink first cup more quickly and proofread less (quickly).

David L. Craig said...

P.P.S. 68th year. Mathematics is coming online. More coffee!

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

The mathematics of age can be confusing. Same with what decade or what century it is.

The spring before I was about to turn 50, I gave my mother a "Happy 50th Mother's Day" card. My wife--who is also a math nerd and who actually coined my nickname "calendar boy"--thought and still thinks I was wrong about that. She insists that Mom's 50th Mother's Day would be the Mother's Day after I turned 50. Even after I explained that since Mom's 1st Mother's Day would have followed my birth and preceded my first birthday, then it follows mathematically that her 51st Mother's Day would precede my 51st birthday, and therefore, her nth Mother's Day precedes my nth birthday (including n = 50), the best I could do was "agree to disagree".

Robert said...

Larry - Good to see a good Red/Blue state explanation - the networks didn't want to suggest that the Dems were Commies. Makes sense. But, of course, everyone knows that Blue is Conservative and Red is Labour. Now that Bannon, a self-described 'Leninist', operates the President, the colors seem really appropriate. Though Brown would be dead-on for the same reason; Godwin? What Godwin? Come to think of it, McCarthy himself would have made a fine Soviet prosecutor.

Bob Pfeiffer

Paul SB said...

Donzellion,

I went back and read over the last couple posts you addressed to me, and though I don’t remember what I originally intended to respond with, there was still a lot of food for thought I can comment on (contribute to?). So here goes:

“Growing up navy, I attended about 7 different K-8 schools (2 private schools, one for 2nd and one for 3rd grade), and one high school by the time my Dad finally settled in San Diego.”
I started growing up Air Force, nut my dad passed away when I was young. The furthest back I remember is second grade, which I spent in Indiana, but I spent the rest of elementary school in the same place (Lincoln Elementary in Colorado Springs) and, in spite of moving a couple times, the same junior high (North). Opposite to you, it was my high school years where I lost stability, going to three different ones (the last in Sacramento). Most of those changes had more to do with the instability of my mother’s income or the instability of her boyfriends.

“(my Mom earned about $10k as a part time teacher at the time, but couldn't pass the CBEST test - she's a mathophobe)”

I’m pretty terrible at math, too, but still managed to pass the CBEST, then 3 specialty tests (biology, earth science and chemistry, but I just barely squeeked by on chem.) I’m probably just good at taking tests, even with the mathophobia. It’s handy to test well, but then it’s much more handy to be able to use the knowledge you can test on. This is one of the yuge problems with Republican meddling in the schools. Their paranoid insistence of “accountability” effectively teaches children to pass tests, but utterly fails to teach children the practical value and uses of the skills they learn. The testing cycle results in kids who, under test pressure, forget what the demonstrated on the last test while stressing over the next test. What conservatives think is common sense is actually self-destructive ignorance and distrust of people who actually know what they are talking about. While I consider myself to somewhat fiscally conservative (much more so than most democrats) my disgust with willful ignorance means I can never be Republican.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion con.t,
“How times have changed...(in San Diego, on a Navy salary, you'd never be able to afford that house now...and it was hardly in one of the 'premium' neighborhoods”

Intensification of the real estate market is another one of those failure modes, and probably has as much to do with the accelerated concentration of wealth into just a few hands as Reagan’s tax structures or union-busting legislation and propaganda.

“These days though, blessed with a little more mathematical insight, the general view isn't that 'intense competition' is bad - so much as 'shortsighted competition' (e.g., burn down all the trees to get a few more boats in the water today = no food next year, and no new boats...with variations for environmental context). Law can be a mechanism to rein in that sort of short-sightedness, and in the 20th century, we made big steps to use it as such - often for the first time.”

You are missing something very important here. The difference between intense competition and shortsighted competition is merely academic. Every civilization that has collapsed demonstrates that as populations rise, competition becomes more intense, and that intensified competition inevitably leads to resource depletion. The Maya depleted the fertility of their soils in competitive temple building, leading to a catastrophic collapse. American fishing fleets go further into the ocean to bring back fewer fish every year. And as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases – due to increased population driving more cars and more industry – fish populations are going to drop catastrophically because ocean acidification is disrupting the food chain by killing off the low trophic level shell fish that higher trophic levels depend on for food. I could probably think of more examples of resource depletion we are experiencing that is caused by economic intensification if I were completely awake. I managed to get a full 8 hours of sleep a couple nights ago – the first time in something like 20 years – but not last night.

An interesting religious aside, there is an anthropologist who proposed an interesting explanation for why cattle are sacred in India. The idea is that during a time of drought, families would be very tempted to eat their cow to save a life or two, but I they do that, they have no cow to pull their plow next year, and they all starve. Making the cow sacred ensures that people will not give in to the temptation, saving more lives. One of the jobs religion has always done is to regulate safety and the economy, but today these functions are handled more by law.

Another thing worth considering, though this is hard for most Americans, is that European Socialism is likely preventing or at least delaying collapse of civilization on their continent, while capitalism here is accelerating that collapse. Most Americans damn Socialism as “Communism lite” as a Cold War meme that persists way past its sell by date. Most are not so good at thinking long term. I could be wrong, but Socialism looks like it may be more stable.

Paul SB said...

Donzello con.t again,
Ah, now here’s an example that just came up in conversation with my wife. The superintendant at my school district is supposedly “saving” our district by selling off the schools to charter companies, and no doubt planning to skim some of the profits into his golden parachute and flying away once he has nothing left to sell. Someone researched the guy’s job history and found that he did exactly that at his last job as superintendant in Pennsylvania, and the local people hated him for doing that (charter schools are widely touted by conservatives to be so much better than public schools, but that’s nothing more than Republican “privatize everything” propaganda. All the studies show that about half of charter schools score better than the public school average and half score worse, averaging out to about the same as public schools – but no Republican is going to tell you that while they try to further privatize the public schools through vouchers.)

My wife said that the school board should stop him, but the school board just rubber stamps his every decision, as they did with the previous superintendant who skimmed a huge chunk of the district’s funds for “important construction projects” that all happened to be contracted out to his son’s architecture firm. I pointed out that school boards are largely made of local businessmen with political ambitions. They see being elected to a school board as a first step in a political career. They really couldn’t care less about the schools, it’s just a stepping stone for them. Actual teachers care what happens to the schools and the students, but actual teachers are rarely elected to school boards. In my district e have an 8-member school board but only one has teaching experience, the rest are local business leaders, and one preacher. The only actual educator is invariably voted down when she knows that a particular decision is bad for the schools and the students.

It’s intensification of business, along with their ability to corrupt government by getting themselves elected to office and playing money ball, funneling government contracts to their businesses, that leads to incompetent governance. In a class I took to get my teaching license, the professor was very into the history of education, and brought up the fact that until the 1970s school boards were mostly made up of retired teachers and administrators, as if the voting public understood that relevant expertise matters. But today the voting public tends to go with whoever can sell themselves best, whoever can tell the best lies.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion con.t again again,

“Folks who despise 'government' and mock lawyers often carry romantic attachments to a notion of a 'wild west' where manly men took what they wanted...”

Indeed, most of our attitudes are vestiges of that frontier past that are completely inappropriate when there is no frontier for those with more selfish, capitalistic and violent inclinations to expand into. Intensification is great when you have new territory to conquer, but disastrous when the landscape has been filled with people and there are no new resources to exploit. And much of that attitude comes from a deliberately romantic narrative created by television, movies and novels (you may have seen some of the “Spaghetti Westerns” or read Zane Gray novels). These portrayals emphasize the manly individual, but even in the wild west there was a nascent society growing and none of those manly men were truly alone. The rugged individualist is an unrealistic myth, and the mental consequences of buying into that narrative can be quite severe. I once saw a video in which they interviewed American fans “Rawhide” then Japanese fans. The American fans all saw everything in the show as demonstrating the actions of individual manly competence, while the Japanese fans pointed to the fact that whenever there was trouble, Loren Greene would gather the whole family around to discuss how they were going to deal with the issue. To the Japanese the wild west wasn’t about rugged individualists. Those only exist in American wet dreams. To the Japanese, it was all about family.

Well, I have been babbling for quite awhile. Time to get out of my pajamas, get dressed and get going. I hope this didn’t drag on so long it became a chore to read.

Paul SB said...

Larry wrote,
"...And especially around Christmastime, people seem to make an effort to be pleasant company. I hate winter, and I'm not a Christian, but the Christmas season does much to make December bearable."

- this is exactly why every culture above the Tropic of Cancer has had some kind of holiday in December, right around the winter solstice. It's for mental health reasons. When people are largely confined in their farmhouses, with nothing to but shiver in the cold because it's too cold to raise crops, having a big holiday (or holy day) helps people cope. It's part of being social animals that humans need the company of more humans than just their (immediate or extended) family, and this is especially true when under stress. Unless you live in the tropics, winter = stress. I forget who it was that pointed out that the selection of December 25 for Christ Mass was a smart move on the part of the Catholic Church to help win converts among North Europeans. This is basically true and well established, except for one nitpicky issue. It wasn't the Catholic Church in those years, it was the Christian Church. They took the name Catholic during the Reformation to distinguish themselves from the many other Christian churches that sprang up in protest against their corruption. /Catholic/ actually means all-inclusive. The name was chosen because of a rather silly debate between Catholics and Protestants. Protestants argued that there are only three sacraments that appear in the Bible, but the old Christian Church performed seven. So the Catholic Church is the one that included all the rituals, not just those that are actually described in the Bible.

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart, I try to remember during one's first year breathing, their age equals zero. Have you considered giving your mother standing during the pregnancy? I daresay they all earn it during that period.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Have you considered giving your mother standing during the pregnancy?


I'm old school enough that I consider Mother's Day to apply to mothers of liveborn children. My wife sends Mother's Day cards to her childless aunt and sister, so y'know, different strokes.

But calendar-wise, your way would have made Mom's 50th Mother's Day a year earlier, before my 49th birthday. That's different from what my wife thought--that it would follow my 50th birthday.

raito said...

Paul SB,

Remember, my high school was largely populated by the children of professors. And I only found out in the last couple years that the father of my second grade girlfriend ran the physics department of the local university, and that her best friend's father was a doctor who ran a local hospital.

As far as names go, I'm not talking about emotional damage here. Call someone a communist in the 50's, a queer in the 60's, etc.

As for the proportion of religious outcomes, they seem about equal to me. Even with my fairly horrid Catholic relatives.

And that's a nice analogy with insurance. Better than I probably would have come up with.

I do think that part of the problem is that 20(?) or so years ago, teaching as really pushed as a recession-proof career choice, with the same predictable results as the computer science push of the early 80's and the business push of the late '80's. A lot of people uninterested in the field went into it, and stank at it.

I was probably the one mentioning people not teaching their children. Here is a direct quote:

'The thought had never occurred to me that I should teach my children to read, write, and do basic math because you know that is what school is for.

It made me wonder out loud to the counselor, "When did school become not enough?"'

The shame is that this person also doesn't like the present 'nanny state'. You just can't please some people.

The Indian cow thing also reminds me that the striking thing to me about Jewish (and Muslim) dietary laws is that they (mostly) make a lot of sense in a pre-refrigeration society. I have also wondered if the prohibition against the consumption of blood was in response to certain African societies consuming it.

It would have been odd for Japanese watching Rawhide to bring up Lorne Greene (That was Bonanza). But many of the older western shows were very much about family, or people bound as close as family. Gunsmoke, Bonanze, The Big Valley, The Rifelman, and many others. I guess someone would have to point out how the 'individualists' in episodes of those shows failed more often than not.

LarryHart said...

raito:

And I only found out in the last couple years that the father of my second grade girlfriend ran the physics department of the local university,


You're bringing back bittersweet memories. The totally beautiful girl I wanted to date (but never did) in one of my post-graduate math courses turned out to be the daughter of one of my earlier computer science professors. We could have had a whole "Paper Chase" thing going on, but it was not to be.

And I mean she was hot!

Brother Doug said...

Totally agree with Brin on that point. As an additional point Puritans, Quaker's and many other Christian denominations before and during the founding of the USA refused to celebrate Christmas considering it a pagan abomination. During the revolution the states kicked out all the conservatives and Tory party members. Repealed the laws banning Roman Catholics from practicing their religion, and removed the prohibition of Christmas celebrations in parts of New England. They were in favor of separation of church and state.

Also I don't believe the assumption that abolitionists were equivalent to modern fundamentalists. As implied in a earlier post.
From what I have read They were both extremely religious and 99.9% liberal. They were angry about the federal fugitive slave law and not looking to create a Christian nation. John Brown is the only exception that comes to mind. Even he is problematic relying on direct inspiration from God and ignoring the literal interpretation of both books of the Bible when it did not suit him.

The "in god we trust" slogan was all about fighting the "scientific socialism" of Carl Marx.

Jumper said...

Wikipedia on sacred cattle:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_slaughter_in_India

David Brin said...

David Craig: I got nothing against Thanksgiving hearkening to its basic meaning and saying: “Hey Lord, thanks for the good stuff!” That’s cool and basic and unoppressive and there’s no way that any reasonable and loving deity would need anything more than that! Hey, as a dad, that’s all *I* need.

And it’s inclusive. Even atheists are (all but a few) fine with that. It doesn’t aggressively shove particular doctrines into anyone’s face. Which is why more and more people are resenting the tsunami of cruci-solstice blaring that ought to wait till December 1 to commence blasting away.

To be clear. I am not an atheist. There’s just too many questions I have and I want someone to hector with them!

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin, I've no problem with honest questions (got quite a few of my own--maybe we have some intersection). I don't know of anybody in this realm that knows it all. I am absolutely confident that the highest sentience does not have a problem with honest questions, either. People have problems with honest questions, usually for poor reasons but often out of deep woundings.

I guess those few aggressive atheists gravitate to this area for some reason.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Which is why more and more people are resenting the tsunami of cruci-solstice blaring that ought to wait till December 1 to commence blasting away.


Actually, Christmas has nothing to do with cruci-anything. The fundamentalist preachers on the University of Illinois quad used to rail against people liking Christmas too much because "It doesn't remind you of the crucifixion!"


I guess those few aggressive atheists gravitate to this area for some reason.


Are you talking about this this area? What sort of aggressive atheism are you encountering here? Me personally, I don't consider it aggressively atheist to defend separation of Church and State.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

this is exactly why every culture above the Tropic of Cancer has had some kind of holiday in December, right around the winter solstice. It's for mental health reasons. When people are largely confined in their farmhouses, with nothing to but shiver in the cold because it's too cold to raise crops, having a big holiday (or holy day) helps people cope.


I few years ago, I read about the Roman "Saturnalia", a festival week which didn't actually belong to any month or year,but technically fell between years. I gather that you were allowed to do anything (probably almost anything, but still) during that week and it would not be held against you back in real time. Anything that happens in Saturnalia stays in Saturnalia, as it were.

Darrell E said...

Aggressive atheism is equivalent to an ordinary Christian in the US. Except that Christians are habituated to having their beliefs given an extra-ordinary respect because that has been the norm for a very long time.

Zepp Jamieson said...

David Craig said; "I guess those few aggressive atheists gravitate to this area for some reason."

Well, the topic IS Heinlein, and his views on organized religion were somewhat less than worshipful.

LarryHart said...

@Darrel E,

When I hear "aggressive atheism", I picture someone trying very hard to get other people to agree that there is no God. I used to be like that as a teenager, but I cut it out when I came to realize it was just as bad as religious evangelism. It was antagonistic and ultimately served no good purpose.

It bothers me when people seem to think that atheists defending their own right to live in America without pretending to believe in God is the same thing as "aggressive atheism."

David Brin said...

"It doesn't remind you of the crucifixion!"

Um isn't that what Good Friday is for?

onward

onward

David L. Craig said...

LarryHart wrote:

"When I hear "aggressive atheism", I picture someone trying very hard to get other people to agree that there is no God. I used to be like that as a teenager, but I cut it out when I came to realize it was just as bad as religious evangelism. It was antagonistic and ultimately served no good purpose."

Precisely, Sir! Disrespectful, high-and-mighty, and offensive communications styles don't win many friends or fair hearings. It doesn't matter what you're selling, the ends certainly do not justify such means.

"This area" is not this blog community, of course; rather, it is where I live, the power center of the Free World, LobbyLand.

David L. Craig said...

The confusion about my meanings arose because I did not think it necessary to quote Dr. Brin's comment immediately preceding my own. If you read his immediately before mine, the aggressive atheist concept becomes more apparent. I think he and I both were thinking in terms of aggressive driving. I also failed in assuming the antecedent of "this area" would be clearly understood as the area I have been addressing this entire discussion. I will endeavor to avoid such mistakes again in this forum. Please accept my apologies for the disconcerting impacts due to my oversights.

Paul SB said...

Jumper, from last thread:

That article on cow slaughter was ironic. I knew that went on to feed the minority Muslim population I don't know if Sikhs have a prohibition against any form of meat. Buddhists don't have a firm prohibition - once went to barbecue for my wife's temple, and they had all the typical stuff. It's an expectation, but they accept that different people are in different places in their spiritual growth and try not to make too egregious demands (unlike every other religion I have known).

The real funny part is this line:

"India ranks 5th in the world in beef production, 7th in domestic consumption and 1st in exporting."

Likely the lower ranking for domestic consumption is because Hinduism is the largest religion, but 5th in production and 1st in exports seems hard to fathom unless a much larger fraction of the population is involved. I had an Asian Civ professor who told a story about visiting a Muslim part of Indonesia, where he was hosted by a local history professor. The professor took him to a buffet one night, and started piling slices of ham on his plate. Dr. Donahue said, "Isn't that ...? Aren't you Muslim?" and the host professor responded, "It's thinly-sliced fish." People have an amazing capacity to delude themselves when they want to.

Griefknot said...

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress was my philosophical awakening.

We differ on our views of Trump, but I do not argue he is a good man for the job. He is unqualified. Hillary was very qualified - but would have been close to Scudder in effect, just maybe not in method.

Unfortunately, Trump's opposition fails to see its salvation. Lawful government, bound to the Constitution, can survive lunacy. The right wing was patient through the last administration, and their clamor for Constitutional government is still alive. The left should learn from their enemies and on at least one point, join them.

If you want Trump held in check, the Constitution is the proper tool.

Fix what ails this country not with individual authority, but with Constitutional enforcement, amended as needed, replaced by Constitutional Convention if necessary. Let the anti-Trump left, wrapped in their love of selected civil rights, agree with Trump's supporters on at least this one thing. A government at liberty to set aside or reinterpret its highest law at will is not a lawful government, its leadership based on whim.

If you want to control Trump, do it with the law. Reach out with this one concept, the notion of a government subservient to law. Jefferson has the best answer for both the fawning Trump enthusiast and the alt-left not-my-president rioter.

"In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

It's an interesting thing. The best way to ensure individual civil liberty is with collective authority, applied equally to all, and most firmly applied to government itself. There is nothing more individualistic than a tyrant.

I think Professor de la Paz would agree.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, not sure if this has been mentioned in the 300+ comments above, but I don't think it's quite accurate to write "Robert A. Heinlein’s 1953 "Future History" collection, Revolt in 2100, vividly portrays...".

Revolt in 2100 is merely one part of the "Future History" series, which contains over a dozen (maybe two?) stories written/published over a span of many years.

Fully agree with the larger point that RAH/Revolt in 2100 was prescient though.

Roy said...

I'm the anonymous author of the above ("Anonymous") post, #354.

Reading through the comments, I've learned that D. Brin prefers the use of pseudonyms, yet graciously allows posts without even that much of an identifier.

I often post anonymously as I share RAH's dislike of societies "complex enough to require IDs" (I too was practically "raised" by him), yet am happy to comply with this reasonable request. Also wanted to dispel any thoughts that my post was just anonymous trolling. So as Bruce Willis' character in the first "Die Hard" said, "call me... 'Roy'"

bigsteve said...

I read almost every book Heinlein wrote in childhood. He influence me more in my thinking than any other author. And yes I have notice too that much that he wrote about (the crazy years) seems to be happing today.

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