Saturday, June 30, 2007
Many young earth creationists object to evolution because evolution destroys the distinction between human and animal. And because the distinction between the higher and the lower, the more godlike and the less godlike is obscured, if not obliterated in evolution, evolution therefore demeans and insults humanity. Evolution is an insult. [See South Park, Season 10, episode #12, Go God Go, in particular Ms. Garrison's rant against Dawkins. Or for a "serious" example see: Tool-Using Animals on the Creation Moments website. ]
What is the necessary but unexamined premise? Christianity teaches that value is relative: humanity's value rests on it being "better" than something else. A Christian can only imagine the assertion of his self worth as requiring the denigration of some "other." In the case of humanity, this means humanity does not have value in itself, contrary to all protestations of Christians. Humanity's value derives from the fact that something else lacks value, in this case that means the so-called animal world.
Is it possible that this is an anomaly of creationism and evolution? Could I have overstated my conclusions in my other postings? There is another case to consider.
It is one of the peculiarities of Evangelical Christianity that it needs homosexuals, abortionists, and all manner of immoral persons. In making homosexuality, in particular, and opposition to same-sex unions essential to Evangelical Christianity, the question arises: perhaps "being a Christian" means in large measure not-gay.
If there is a challenge that atheists, agnostics, and sundry nonbelievers should pose to Christians it is this: is being a Christian anything other than the negation and opposition to something else? Does Christianity lack actual positive ethical content? If as I have suggested on numerous occasions, Christianity and religion in general is first and foremost a vehicle for inculcating obedience, then Christianity hardly requires any positive non-negating elements.
To return to the question that I posed. Nietzsche had a word for the spiritual framework that I described above: ressentiment. He also came to the conclusion that Christianity is the most subtle flowering of this need for an "evil other" to experience oneself as good.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
First I'm supposed to post the rules:
I lifted this formulation of the rules from Atheist
- We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
- Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
- People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
- At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
- Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
Here are my 8 random facts about myself:
1. I instinctively mistrust anyone, any doctrine, any teaching, and really anything that does not recognize the ubiquity of irony in human life. And this goes for this meme silliness. Sure there can a meme about X, but there is nothing about memes or X, that precludes any given use of that meme. An example, in the 1960's it would have been unthinkable for Corporate American to use protest songs to sell their goods and services. Human beings use language for their own nefarious purposes, consequently, a meme is at best a symbol. And like any symbol it has a history of meanings. During that history it can be used to express purposes and meanings that are at odd with its original purposes.
Memes strike me as just more ahistorical philosophical tomfoolery. Linguistic voodoo. Astrology for linguists.
2. Anyone who has struggled their way through Nietzsche will feel right at home in my blog. Nietzsche played a critical role in my "loss of faith" or alternatively phrased, "discovery of autonomy." I am not an atheist because Christianity is irrational, dogmatic, self-contradictory, etc. Ask my wife, I too am often irrational, self-contradictory, and dogmatic. We all have personality flaws. BUT I am an atheist because of the ethics of blind obedience justified by systematizing and reading irrationality, dogmatism, and self-contradiction into the fabric of existence. Humor and the possibilities of humor need to be taken far more seriously by nonbelievers and believers alike.
3. I am a prolix writer.
4. I have some sort of arthritis in my feet. It's rather painful to walk very far. The pain is chronic and at times rather severe. The dr's and I are working on figuring it out. It may be from micro-fractures from when I was doing karate.
5. I've worked out a deal with my older daughter (almost 5) and I'm trying to get my younger daughter (3 yrs old) to buy into it. When trying a new food, I say to my girls, "Try one bite and I'll leave you alone." Of course, the obligation on me is to mostly offer them things that they will probably like and resist the malicious temptation of jalapeños. The result is that my daughters will try anything at least once and has been pleasantly surprised more than once.
6. I speak fluent Polish and passable German. I used to speak both much, much better. But here in Arkansas there's little opportunity to practice either.
7. I am a firm believer of "never memorize what you can look up." Why? If it's important, you should look it up. Memory can play tricks. If it's not important, then you probably don't need to waste time memorizing something trivial. And more likely than not, you won't know beforehand what will be important and what won't. If you find yourself looking something up over and over, then you'll remember it from the repetition. I learned two foreign languages well this way and part of a third (Russian).
8. Using a pseudonym is fun.
Eight Blogs. Hmmmm. How perverse. There doesn't seem to be anything in the rules against tagging a blogger who's already been tagged. This nicely illustrates that something unspoken remains with a meme as it it had a tail. Can a meme already encode how it's supposed to be used?
1. Mojoey [note to Mojoey: No need for an apology-- ;) ]
2. Neil Cowburn
3. Jeff Pulver
4. David Airey
5. Atheist Hussy
6. Mom to the Left
7. Blessed with Olive Plants
8. Wholly Devoted
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Addendum to Yesterday's Post, or Why Religion-Based Politics must end as a Politics of Exclusion and Hate
Thinking further about yesterday's post, I feel drawn to make the following argument: if A (=true Christian) is indistinguishable from B (=false prophet/Christian), then there is no difference. In order to be different there must be at least one quality or property which A and B do not share. If the difference in their qualities and properties is because what distinguishes A from B is a spiritual quality, or event that is not of this world, but of another, then for all of the purposes and laws of this world, the physical world, A and B are indistinguishable.
Any differences between A and B are without effect in this world. Considered in this light, the belief of some sects in the reality of miracles becomes understandable, even a necessity. Because without miracles, the world to come, the world in which Heaven, Hell, and the Last Judgment are to be found, have no effect on anything in this world. Spiritual matters would be about what would come after death. Religious and spiritual matters would then be subject to the laws, powers, and forces of this world.
The reason that there is no difference between a false Christian and a true Christian for matters concerning this world, is that the difference between the false Christian and the true Christian is located in the other world which is non-physical meaning without physical effect either in action, belief, or language. The difference between a true Christian and a false Christian is otherworldly.
This means that there is no basis for using Christianity as a basis for politics. What Christians would have in common in this world, is simply that they call themselves Christian. Because their putative common ground is a name, anyone who does not share that name is excluded. This means that all attempts to use Christianity for political organizing will end in a politics of exclusion: they need non-Christians.
Why do else Evangelicals make such a fuss about about homosexuality and sexual issues, generally? If they did not have homosexuals to use to remind themselves to maintain a semblance of discipline and identity for themselves, they would disappear. Consequently, even if all the homosexuals disappeared tomorrow, these Christian-political groups would be forced to select another group for exclusion, just to maintain group cohesion. That group could be agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, sufferers of gingervitus (see South Park, Season 9, episode 11), or Methodists. The machinery of hatred will always require new targets for its venom.
Further, in case it is not clear, all politics of exclusion, are politics of hatred. This is true no matter how much talk there may be of a God of Love or of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." This is particularly true when the sinner is loathe to stop sinning, and the believer's knowledge of sin is largely based on knowledge of sin from another world.
To state what should be somewhat obvious: Religious groups organized for Politics are hate groups.
A Likely Objection: The Incarnation.
The Incarnation in most flavors of Christianity is the doctrine of God becoming human. And more specifically, it refers to the doctrine that Jesus was the 2nd person of the Trinity and most importantly for my purposes that he was both fully human and fully God. The significance of the Incarnation then becomes that the other world, the spiritual world, entered into this world. Jesus performed miracles. And conferred on his followers the power to perform miracles.
My argument is not about the truth or falsity of religious doctrine. It is drawn out reflections on the impossibility of distinguishing True Christians from False Christians. If spiritual matters are as important as many Evangelicals teach, then this too is at least as important and serious.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The blog is to be a collection of news stories about the misdeeds of Christians: financial, sexual, and fraud. Those seem to be the three most common categories.
The purpose of the blog as I state over there is to provide empirical proof that belief in God and declarations of one's special relationship to Jesus in no way provide any guarantee of moral behavior or of any kind of transformational or redemptive experience.
A first thought: granting for sake of argument that 1) that Christianity is true [can be any flavor that preaches the transformational and redemptive power of encounters with the Risen Christ] and 2) that True Christians are out there in the world. How is anyone, Christian or heathen, to know whether any given individual is a True Christian?
And lest anyone think false Christians are creatures of overheated atheist brains:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as
there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall
bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. I Peter 2:1-2
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24
These were only the passages that came to mind. There is also the theological conundrum of faith and works. A sinner may be redeemed, but even from the beginning in the Apostle Paul there is an explicit recognition that being a Christian is no guarantee of sanctity or of moral, ethical, or upstanding behavior. Even after redemption, Christians will still sin, sometimes grievously.
I'm sure there are other relevant passages and controversies. The question remains: how is anyone, Christian or otherwise to spot one of these false prophets and wolves among the faithful before their mayhem is found out. Quoting Matthew 7:16 is of little help. Ye shall know them by their fruits? I doubt that anyone needs a Holy Scripture to figure out something is wrong after the fact. How does one tell the difference between a false prophet and True Christian who has slipped up? Given the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh, if were to judge by their fruits, could anybody be saved?
For any religious-minded readers, consider whether you would let your children have contact with a child molester who had found Jesus and otherwise gave good evidence in his life that he had undergone a profound redemptive and transformational experience. The short answer is probably not. And it's perfectly understandable, even to this godless atheist. But why?
Even if Christianity is true, and True Christians are purchased from sin, and all will be well with the True Christians in the life to come, professions of faith or of a special relationship with Jesus as one's Lord and Master, provides no guidance with evaluating and judging the morality and suitability of behavior in this life in this world.
The question I seem to be stumbling towards is what significance for ethical and moral behavior does a profession of submission to Jesus as one's Lord, Savior, and Master have for life in this world? This is not a question of being sure of one's own salvation, but of whether professions of other people of their submission to Jesus as one's Lord, Savior, and Master is any kind of guarantee or indicator of moral, ethical, or upstanding behavior. Whether one is a Christian in the narrowest and strictest sense imaginable, or a godless atheist, the answer to this question has to be the same.
This is not to say that Christianity and Christian organizations, such as churches, do not create special opportunities and even special varieties of immoral acts such as fraud, deception, or my own favorite: simony.
What this means as a practical matter is that one's Redemption is a spiritual event. As a spiritual event it is without effect in the physical world, in this world. The spiritual events of Christianity are without effect in this world. Christian leaders are no more honest, moral, or ethical than anyone else. Consequently, "Christian Politics" is a misnomer.
To claim that belief in God or faith in one's relationship with Jesus the Christ as one's Lord, Savior, and Master results in moral, ethical, or upstanding behavior is to lie. The spiritual claims of Christians, then, provide no guidance in political behavior.
Further, because those claims are lies, this makes membership in any organization that espouses such claims immoral and in Christian-speak, sinful.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Mingle2 - Online Dating
Well, that's disappointing. I guess it's because I don't use words and phrases like fuck, shit, stupid fucking twat, or my personal favorites: "I don't give a flying fuck what you think" and "Jesus fucking Christ." I bet my rating goes up now.
Friday, June 22, 2007
If nothing else, such an understanding of consciousness explains perceptual illusions. It also explains something Dawkins pointed out as the basis of religion: the tendency of human beings to impute agency to non-social physical events. Why? Consciousness was originally to enable ever closer, more effective social cooperation and organization. As prey species, hominids without the specialized advantages of other animals would need to be able to use the very important resource of other members of the troop.
Accordingly, the connections between consciousness and the physical world, i.e., tools and nature, while important, is secondary.
I suggest also that consciousness as simulation explains why there is the counter-factual subjunctive in language.
There is also a philosophical nicety about it: it sidesteps the metaphysical entrapments of posing the duality of a physical world and of a spiritual/psychic world.
[My three-year old had suddenly decided that she has been ignored long enough and I can't finish now.]
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
That thread and another one, Really good stuff (trust me) from P Z Myers, got me to thinking about the arguments that some, but not all, atheists make against religion.
I'll declare my biases up front: I think scrupulousness in matters of truth and religion leads pretty quickly to some form of disbelief: atheism, agnosticism, or something similar. I have hunch that former Christians, in particular, place a great deal of value on Truth and truthfulness. I say hunch because I haven't done or read any studies of why former Christians are no longer Christians. I generalize from my case and from what I've read in various discussion groups, especially over at exchristian.net.
There is a difference between how many atheists, agnostics, and exchristians treat the Truth and how believers of all kinds treat the Truth. For believers Truth is a means to an end. A Christian values Truth for what he believes the Truth will bring him: eternal life, Escape from Hell, etc. Truth has an instrumental value. Eternal Life, Escape From Hell, feelings of blessedness, or feeling the indwelling presence of The Holy Ghost, all these are benefits of seeking and finding the Truth.
The greater the benefits of having the Truth, the greater the value of Truth. However, if Truth in all of its manifestations is a means to God, Eternal Happiness, then one needs to take care that what is declared "Truth" really is Truth. Error leads to damnation and separation from God and Eternal Light.
But with Truth having an instrumental value, consideration of the possibility that there will be occasions when Truth conflict with its putative end of Eternal Happiness. In an age with a robust faith and a more meager experience of philosophy and logic, it is possible to believe honestly and with integrity that honest and rational inquiry will lead to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Or at least at a bare minimum indicate clearly the need for such a deity.
But once it is no longer possible to honor Truth and honor God in the same breath for the same reasons by the same means, God is dead. Or rather, one faces a terrible dilemma: either God, or Truth.
As I said to someone once, "Nietzsche's critique of Christianity is straightforward: he was too honest to be a Christian."
Monday, June 18, 2007
The value of this book is in its breadth, its overview of the history Western Political Theory, and the pointers to further reading. I freely admit that it is often a tertiary source, but it was a mild surprise to read the following:
It was the essence of Thomas's philosophy that it essayed a universal synthesis, an all-embracing system., the keynote of which was harmony and consilience. God and nature are large enough and opulent enough to afford a niche for all the endless diversity that makes up finite existence. The whole of human knowledge forms a single piece. Broadest in extent but least highly are the particular sciences each of which its special subject-matter; above these is philosophy, a rational discipline which seeks to formulate the universal principles of all the sciences; above reason and depending upon divine revelation is Christian theology, the consummation of the whole system. But though revelation is above reason, it is in no way contrary reason; theology completes the system of which science and philosophy form the beginning, but never destroys its continuity. Faith is the fulfillment of reason. Together they build the temple of knowledge but nowhere do they conflict or work at cross purposes.
The picture which Thomas drew of nature conformed exactly to his plan of knowledge. The universe forms a hierarchy reaching from God at the its summit down to the lowest being. Every being acts under the internal urge of its own nature, seeking the good or form of perfection natural to its kind, and finding its place in the ascending order according to its degree of perfection. The higher in all cases rules over and makes use of the lower, as God rules over the world or the sou over the body. No matter how lowly it may be no being is wholly lacking in value, for it has its station, its duties and its rights, which it contributes to the perfection of the whole. The essence of the scheme is purpose, subordination to an end. In such a structure human nature has a unique place among created beings, since man possesses not only a bodily nature, but also a rational and spiritual soul by virtue of which he is akin to God. He alone of all beings is at once body and soul, and on this fundamental facts rest the institutions and the laws by which his life is directed.
(emphasis added) [George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, Third Edition, pp. 248-49].
Saturday, June 16, 2007
I rather doubt that there was ever any Christian who ever embodied one or the other of the idealized strains of Christianity that I discussed in that blog entry.
It is essential to note that the particular conception of God which would reconcile those two strains of religious feeling is neither believable nor workable.
It was once believed that once one began asking questions, the answers one found would lead to a knowledge of God and at least of the need for salvation. Once theologians began posing ever more difficult objections to theological doctrines, it was only a matter of time before some clever fellow posed objections to theological doctrine that could not be overcome by unaided human reason.
Consequently, these two strains of Christianity are no longer reconcilable. The strain of Christianity that worshiped God as Reason and Rationality gave up on its Creator-God. As perverse as it might sound to some ears, a good deal of atheism has its roots in religion. One, and by no means the only, example is what I have termed not without irony elsewhere in this blog an "honest Christian." An honest Christian quickly finds that he is too honest to remain a Christian. However, his faith in the value of honesty, reason, and rationality, remain largely unshaken.
Such a one still values truth more highly than error and deception. In that regard someone who is too honest to remain a Christian shares a great deal of common ground with his Christian nemeses: they both place a great value on truth and both claim to despise self-deception. The significant difference between the two lies in differences of belief as to the content of that Truth and as to what constitutes self-deception.
A hard question for atheists, myself included: why should questions of truth and self-deception be so very important? Why does honesty matter? These questions by no means lead automatically to the conclusion: "Therefore, I should lie."
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
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("Midland" is not necessarily the same thing as "Midwest") The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Since it's a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn't mean you're from the Midland.
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At first, I thought it might have been a link to a specific posting someone made about this blog on her forum, but once I followed the link, it was not to be. The link was only to the highest level of the "Letting God of God" forum discussion.
Before my bout of walking pneumonia, I posted regularly to her forum. I've also indicated as much in this blog. I've even (re-)posted some of my more clever remarks there in this blog.
If this anonymous posted wished to inform me of the existence of Julia Sweeney's Forum, then "thanks." If this poster meant something else, an explanation would be greatly appreciated.
Since the comment had no meaningful content other than a link to a site with which the readers of this blog (all ten or twelve of them) would already be familiar, I didn't "clear" it for publication.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Which is more indicative of the overall character of existence: beauty or ugliness? Christianity teaches that pain, humiliation, and ignoble death are characteristic of this world and any pleasures and beauty that may be experienced in this world is fleeting and inconsequential, given the awful infinity of eternity. Redemption, beauty, and joy come afterward. They are obtainable only because of pain, ugliness, and humiliation. One of the vestiges of this christianized way of thinking and judging is to feel (intuitively, of course) that (somehow) discussions of unhappiness, ugliness, and feelings of displeasure come closer to the truth of life and existence.
One of the practical implications of this judgment that ugliness and pain are deeper and more profound; and it borders on the obvious that ugliness and pain are more interesting, more significant, and more important than any account of pleasure, beauty, joy, and happiness.
In a formula: unhappiness is more profound that happiness could ever be.
But really, with The Crucifixion a myth, and God a cautionary tale for rebellious children, is there any reason to suppose that profundity is always on the side of misery and ugliness? Are humiliation and displeasure the only reliable guarantors of certainty?
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Does love come with an obligation to know one's beloved? It is easier to show that the negative is unsatisfactory. If knowledge of the beloved is unnecessary, then whatever I do on behalf of the beloved cannot result from consideration of his needs, wishes, or wants. There is no guarantee that what I do will in any way ameliorate his condition. Consequently, what I do for his sake will arise out of my needs, my wishes, and my wants. Without knowledge of the beloved, the comforts I offer will ease my conscience but will be indifferent to his needs, wants, or wishes.
Love without knowledge and concern for the beloved as a particular individual means exploitation of the beloved for the needs, desires, and enhancement of the one who would love. Love becomes a subtle but brutal power relation. The oppressed feed the consciences of the faithful.
The God of Love stands unmasked as a vampire.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
The epistemological shenanigans of our "Christian" contemporaries look like nothing so much as magical attempts to conjure up apparitions from the past. As long as those beliefs in God and the world of spirit was in its roots an honest belief, then those beliefs created strength, courage, and desire. But when "faith" is rooted in cowardice in the face of reality? When God is praised as a Comforter-God? What then?
The belief in God as a Creator-God gave birth to modern science. The passionate belief and faith in God found in the scientists of the early modern period is not a historical accident. These men believed that in understanding the world around them, they were learning to think the thoughts of God before Creation. One finds a fearlessness in their desire to know and understand.
Today's "Christians," especially the Evangelicals show a fearfulness and a close-mindedness when confronted with the works of their Creator-God. The world around them is deceptive: the truth of history, cosmology, physics, and the other sciences are only to be found in a "correct" reading of their holy books.
I can only explain this apparent contradiction between the Christians of today and the robust Christians of earlier epochs by drawing upon a previous post, The Last Moment of Innocence. Looking back at these earlier Christians, we of today can only describe them as naive, but not consciously or purposefully so. Their naivety is something that can only grasped in hindsight. Their naivety being their belief that world was so constituted so as to be understood by men, and that God wanted them to understand His Works as He Himself understood His Works. But instead of being a blushing bride, Reason turned out to be a whore, just as Luther said.
Consequently, the naive Christian believes because of a faith in the truth of doctrine and he is too honest to remain a Christian: either he believes because Christianity is "true" or he believes because he is told to believe it by his church, his family, his political party, or out of some other personal need.
The end result is if one remains a "Christian," belief becomes a shield, a protection, and a prophylaxis against uncertainty, fear, confusion, rebellion, and God only knows what else. Belief and faith are no longer means to seeing the world as it is.
* * *
NOTE: I would to point out that not all Christians prior to the advent of Modern Science were such heroes of conscience and honesty as I portray them. It is my belief that that prior to the Late 19th and Early 20th Century that there were two competing visions of Christianity. "God" and His various attributes was the guarantor of a vision that the faithful could have it both ways: be excruciatingly honest and truthful AND belief firmly and without reserve in the existence and goodness of the Christian God. Once faith in this unifying vision was lost, these two strains in Western Christianity largely went their separate ways: Modern Science with its empirical-mindedness to the right, and Modern Christianity with its faith in faith to the left.
It is a perversion of modern religious historiography that seeks to tell the story of Christianity as a unity and unified story. Umberto Eco's The Name of The Rose provides a good contrast of these two strains of Christianity.
Instead of quietly agreeing that unswerving, unquestioning belief in one's chosen doctrine(s), numerous questions will arise for anyone who presumes that his Doctrine(s) are better and special because of their truth value.
1. Is truth something that once found, the quest comes to an end? Once the quest is accomplished, one returns home with no further need of arduous labors and difficult journeys. But what if questing is found to be an enjoyable and even pleasurable activity? A famous passage from Lessing captures this ethos perfectly:
If God held all truth in his right hand, and in his left the persistent striving for the truth, and while warning me against eternal error, should say:
Choose! I should humbly bow before his left hand, and say, "Father, give thy gift; the pure truth is for thee alone." [Lessing, Werke, Vol. 2, p. 53.]
2. Is it possible that irony comes into play? For instance, with Christianity could the means of presentation of the Message of Christianity be in conflict with the content of the Message?
Consider the possibility of the Sermon on the Mount being used as a justification for unchristian activities? Even the content and experience of revelation of truth has a history. As the story of the revelation is shared, told, and retold it accretes its own history. I find the image of a snowball rolling down a hill, growing larger and larger, most apt. Is the content of the original revelation recoverable and separable from the meanings, additions, and interpretations that have become attached to the original revelation over time and history?
3. How can human beings be certain that firmness of belief and conviction are any guarantee of truth? Sincerity proves nothing. Evidence is lacking to suppose that believers and followers of other convictions and religions are any less sincere than Christians, Evangelical or otherwise.