Saturday, October 17, 2009

Religious in the National Debate

  • "Every white man for himself; women, children and minorities be damned!"
  • "It's all the fault of the government spending all the money on those illegal aliens."
  • "We couldn't educate the poor or allow them to have health care, they don't deserve it because of their laziness and besides it might take some of mine."
  • "The gays caused my divorce."

Bishop Rickel's Blog has a new posting on "Prosperity, A sermon based on Mark 10:17-31". The passage from Mark is the story of Jesus with the Rich Young Man. I commented there, but felt that my comment fit in my blog here too.

The supposed religious are sure a closed-minded selfish bunch, in spite of the readings such as the one that Bishop Rickel's good sermon is based on. They keep yelling that it is a zero-sum game. Anything that "they" get means that I get less. "We have to stop those Muslims, homosexuals and aliens from getting anything from us."

But what if cooperation actually leads to everyone being better off. In economics it's called "gains from trade". Everyone is better off if we all work together with our specialties and trade.

Now let's look at the big picture. We can all be better off if everyone can do their best. If anyone is under-educated or is excluded from health care, they are not only worse off because of their misfortune, but we are all worse off because they can not participate in the cooperative efforts benefiting everyone

We are currently watching our supposed leaders fight out the healthcare reform. It seems that there is a lot of zero-sum-game arguing going on. It also looks like the religious are mostly on the wrong side of the argument. I think back to the history of Europe and the wars of religion and don't see much hope for our nation. I'm not sure how God helps. He seems to be used to limit rational discussion.


Friday, October 02, 2009

"Eternal Bliss in Heaven After Death" is an out and out lie!

  • "reward after death"
  • "immortality of the soul"
  • "life of the world to come"
  • "seeing again departed friends"
  • "the Bible as literal Truth"
Historically, but probably mostly recently, there has been much discussion of the significance of the Bible and about what it says about everything. The Wikipedia provides a quick summary of details of religion that were practically unavailable when I was an adolescent and started questioning my parents religion. One had to organize the information in thousands of books to even start tracking what any subject on religion was or you had to accept one author's viewpoint as you chose his work to read. It was impractical to figure out what was believable from the massive amount written about religion. When I attempted to research the topic for this post I realized the massive summarization and footnoting of information about religion that the Wikipedia represents. I'm not going to bother giving the research reference for this article as any reader that actually gets the point can now easily find it themselves, if they want to. (I'm going to be over generalizing anyway.)

"Eternal Bliss in Heaven After Death" is not mentioned in the Bible. Dis-embodied souls eternally living in joy isn't biblical! (That's not to say that the pious haven't tried to weasel it in there.)

Now the point about the lie. Many priests and ministers, or whatever the leaders in your religion are called, go to seminary and are given an introduction to what the scholarship in your denomination knows about your own religion. The rest are just plain ignorant charlatans. They are taught biblical content and about modern biblical criticism and know what the Bible actually says about life after death and stuff. Now my mother is getting old and is living a very rough life. She can't wait to die and start enjoying the bliss. This is the view of the person in the pew. So why don't the ministers tell them about what the Bible actually says. No, your religious leaders perpetuate the lie.

It's disgusting. That's an example of religious fraud for power and control.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clergy Sexual Misconduct Study

As reported today by Jacqueline Salmon in the Washington Post article "Many Women Targeted by Faith Leaders, Survey Says":
One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says. . . .
Explain to me again how one could argue that religion is not fraud executed for power and control.

Now I wonder what the list of religious power and control abuse issues actually looks like. Are there studies in the Sociology of Religion that address that, or is it suppressed like other subjects inconvenient to religion?


Monday, September 07, 2009

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

I woke up reciting this to myself and thinking about every word. Well, not the whole thing, but just the first few words initially. What is a modern thoughtful person to make of the meaning of the text?

I participated in Bishop Greg Rickel's Blog discussion this past spring. The discussion was on the book 'The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why' by Phyllis Tickle. I didn't think the book was well written or that Tickle had much to say, and I said so. I mentioned the Creed in one of my comments and got a surprising response from the Bishop.

I gave an example to demonstrate how the dynamics in discussing religion in a modern context works:
Look at what happens when I mention virgin birth and evolution in the context of modern molecular biology. A hundred years ago we might have had an excuse, but now we stand up and even more forcefully parrot the Nicene Creed at every service. There have been reputable modern scholars who have written on the subject, for example Bishop Spong, who we demonize, vilify, and marginalize until we've successfully restored our precious medieval world view.
I was only indirectly challenging the Creed in that discussion. My point was that the blind reciting of the Creed is used as the response religious people use to avoid anything that might show up any of their precious professed beliefs. The content of the Creed wasn't the thrust of the argument. They refuse to even acknowledge that there is an issue.

The Bishop's later direct response to my comment was astounding. The Bishop responded:
There were a few comments about the Creeds. Many seem to point to the need to change them in some way. I want to throw into this discussion the idea that we have just passed through an era where this was the "plan." If only we could get the right word usage, or drop a line here or there, or simply leave it out altogether, we would be better off. In some ways I wonder if this does not show some contempt for those who went before us, a somewhat arrogant belief that we are smarter than they are. I put this up against the reality I am seeing in the newer generations, who do not seem to have the need for the semantic changes to yet continue the conversation. With this, they hardly check their brains at the door either. They seem more willing to honor those that left the tradition and history as they knew it, and to instead look for the Truth our forbears were trying to tell us in the story. Even in these conversations there seem to be insinuations, or outright statements, that Tickle is not very smart, that those that came before us are not very smart, and that it is up to us to "make this all right." I am pushing a bit I realize, but so have some of you! I used to teach a class where I invited the class to rewrite the Creed to "make sense" to them. Of course, if there were 20 individuals in the class, there were 20 different versions of what is "right." Even after putting them together to come up with one, well you see where this is going. I am well aware that this is how we got the Creeds we have, but having some unaltered centering point to come back to, to honor, and to question seems to make sense as well.
It's as if two thousand years of scientific inquiry amount to nothing. I had been developing the subject of fraud in religion before this exchange, and after the Bishop's statement there was no reason to continue the discussion. It was as if his response had completely validated my line of argument. That's what you would expect someone committing fraud to say. We had just had the Bernie Madoff example of massive fraud for context.

Don't get me wrong. I actually like Bishop Rickel, but as you know I've discovered that all religion is fraud used for power and control. I haven't actually proved the 'all' part yet, but have firmly established the 'some' version and believe the 'most' version of the argument to my own satisfaction. It is possible that there is a piece of some religion that is just innocent mistake and not fraud and it is possible that there is religious fraud that is used for some purpose other than power and control. I haven't fully developed the lines of the argument yet to know if either exception holds.

To get back to the Nicene Creed, this is the point of this post. It's always difficult to form arguments on subjects of religion because it's hard to nail them down. The Creed is a specific sequence of words that have their own meaning, so it begs for an actual discussion of what it says and the validity of that. It is given high importance by many Christian demoninations, so the discussion can't be waved off as inappropriate.

"We ..." already requires explanation, and that's before we even get to the "We believe..." part. I can see that the former leads to several discussions about who is talking and what the context for the Creed recitation is. The later requires a huge discussion about what it means to proclaim that one "believes". Is it possible to "believe" something that you know is false or meaningless? I could give up completely, recite the entire Creed and even convince everyone that I'm sincere about it, but does that constitute "belief"?

There is the monotheistic " God..." part that is repudiated immediately and turns out not to really be monotheistic already in the next sentence. All of this has a long history of being written about, the New Athiests discuss a lot of the concepts, so I can already see that my taking the Creed apart is going to take a huge effort and require a book, if not volumes. Placing the language of the Creed into a modern scientific world view after all of the stuff said and written about it for two millennium would be tedious. I don't know if I'm interested in doing that scale of a project yet.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How about a nice game of chess?

We've had the wars of religion, the war between science and religion, demythologizing God, "Honest to God", The Historical Jesus material, biblical studies and criticism, the academic study of religion, the archeology and history of religion, the sociology and psychology of religion, and even the New Atheists. But some how, it's not relevant. How could so many religious people be so stupid?

The elephant in the parlor is religious fraud used for power and control. With 4,200 religions and 30,000 Christian denominations, at least some of them use fraud as a weapon. But notice that any discussion of this topic is taboo. We are all enablers.

It finally occurred to me.

In the 1983 movie WarGames, the supercomputer WOPR is tricked into analyzing tic-tac-toe to alleviate the Global Thermonuclear War game. WOPR observes that "the only winning move is not to play".

The only winning move in religion is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

Gary Young
Proud Individual

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Argument in Religion

(1) {any fantastic claim whatsoever}
(2) God or TheHolySpirit is on my side.
(3) Q.E.D.

So, we've converted the question from one of logic to Sunzi.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Exchange with Daughter

jana wrote:
Good evening, Daddy!

I found the quote I'd been looking for (actually back a ways, but now I have the quote and the computer in proximity). This is the best description I've encountered on what "being a Christian" means.

>From Marcus Borg's "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time", pg 17:

"[T]he Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit. And a Christian is one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition."

Another interesting quote is from Fr. David's Christmas Eve sermon:

"God is not Christian. Jesus was not Christian. We are Christian because we find light and hope in the Gospel and Epistles."

Neither of these makes much in the way of claims about reality or truth. They are both about frameworks within which we act out our lives.

At least that is my interpretation as a Christian insider. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about what these two quotes imply.

Love you always!

I responded:
"[T]he Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit. And a Christian is one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition."
This first quote doesn't seem to say anything. There are over 30,000 incompatible Christian Denominations and 50,000 distinct religions (probably including the 30,000 Denominations I guess), so generalizing to something like that statement doesn't say anything. From a mathematical point of view, the phrase "that to which the Christian tradition points" may be anywhere from zero to 50,000, leaving it without a clear referent. One could try to claim that ethics, morality, and good clean living are only possible within a religious context, but that is demonstratively false. And vice versa, what is the origin of religion, how did it evolve, and why does religion generate so much evil? Lutherans voted for Hitler and the solution to the "Jewish Problem". You might want to look up Luther's anti-semitism and read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Wikipedia has large interesting articles on "Religion", "Christianity", and the "List_of_Christian_denominations". I have a copy of the "The God Who Wasn't There" DVD.

"God is not Christian. Jesus was not Christian. We are Christian because we find light and hope in the Gospel and Epistles."
Jesus was Jewish. God is myth. Of course, nothing was Christian until the early church, mostly Paul, created it a couple of decades after the death of Jesus. It took a number of decades to sort out whether "Christianity" was "Jewish" or not and indeed that was the major point to Paul's writings. The Gospels and other writings came later. They are a mash up of material with differing agendas. There were numerous other major theologies claiming to be Christian too, but Paul's group won out and the other groups were relegated to obscurity. The final established dogma was arrived at in the fourth century. It was re-haggled out during the Reformation. The history is kind of interesting, because it explains a lot. Most discussion of that history is so romanticized that it is next to meaningless. It says more about the "historian" than the history. Most people of religion don't even consider history relevant and defend remaining ignorant. Modern historical methods have been used by Christian scholars from within, but their findings are completely denied and ignored by Christians as a whole. Just mention Bishop Spong at church. Lessons, sermons, services, study groups, and every thing else still carry on as if they were medieval. I was thinking about historical methods during the sermon on 4th Advent at St. Paul's Bellingham on Mary Visits Elizabeth, Luke 1:39-45. The deacon didn't mention anything historical in the sermon. The passage is hogwash from a historical point of view. It obviously is literature and only has meaning in the context of the author's story and agenda.

With chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, the irrationality of people of religion with the threat of modern religious wars is frightening. I've read that estimates are that there is at most a 50% chance that the human species will survive this century. Rational people can no longer stand aside and let people of religion do whatever they want. We can't just hope that things will turn out.

I'm not sure that you really want to carry on this discussion. I'm like the small child in "The Emperor's New Clothes", "but there is no supernatural". I've come to the conclusion that all religion is not just delusion, but fraud. I'm currently reading Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins.