Krauss Hypocrisy

One of the criticisms mounted by atheists against religion is the hypocrisy of religious authorities.

This is not a new attack: the Donatists were an early Christian sect that claimed that sacraments offered by fallen priests were void, implicitly undermining the authority of the Roman Catholic Church that was filled with such men. Prior to his entry into the priesthood, St. Augustine himself wrote “Lord, cure me of my desire for women – but just not yet.” It was from his pen that the Donatists were rebuked: the Church is an instrument of mercy, commissioned by Christ to bring grace to the fallen through the fallen. The grace of the sacraments rests not with the priest, but with Christ.

Many atheists arise from the hard sciences – physics, chemistry and mathematics – people whose world view conceives of reality as a machine. They answer to no one but each other, and historically they have been as much a men’s club as the priesthood. Just scan the faces of Nobel prize winners – it’s all the evidence you need.

So how well do they do at policing each other?

When I attended a conference run by atheists, I was disturbed by the answer. The event was dominated by white male faces, but a significant sub-population were what you might call “intellectual groupies” – beautiful thirty-something women. I won’t delve deeply into pop psychology – obviously they had some motivation to seek the company of older men.

Lawrence Krauss was among the most aggressive of their pursuers. I went looking for him after his presentation on the future of particle physics, and found him in a dark back corner of the auditorium where he had cornered a beautiful young lady, her eyes darting furtively for escape. I pointed out to Krauss that I was disturbed by the tendency of presentations such as his to characterize speculative theories as proven fact, and asked him where he thought that led. As the young lady slipped past me, his eyes followed regretfully as he admitted “Well, eventually you lose your funding.”

The hollowing out of scientific imagination and integrity is not what brought Krauss down, but rather the testimony of the women that he pursued. The sudden righteousness of his peers is astonishing – they associated with Krauss because of his eagerness to carry their propaganda to the public. They tolerated his aggressiveness because the opportunity to have sex with beautiful women was part of his motivation. Their lack of sympathy for his victims is a telling statement that should cause one to question their professional integrity.

Just to be clear: it was Christian sympathy that motivated me to frustrate Krauss in his pursuit. I am still waiting for the atheists to bring forward an authority of stature equal to Jesus of Nazareth. Until they do, there will be no brake on the moral decline of those such as Krauss who claim the authority of truth as they have their way with those whose minds are weaker than theirs.

Tyranny Vanquished by Love

Listening to “Once and For All” this morning, I was moved to reconsider this post. It seems particularly meaningful at this time, as Donald Trump collapses under the pressures of the justice marshaled by Robert Mueller and others.

everdeepening

As an advocate of the healing manifested in the world through divine love – that is to say, as an apologist – the most painful apology is that offered by those that justify violence in the defense of received truth.

In modern America, those justifications are flavored with desperation. For many years, Christian culture was synonymous with the dominant Caucasian culture. The twenty-first century promises an end to that dominance, but that eventuality was clearly forecast in the last century. The misguided hope that change and accommodation can be avoided breeds irrationality, manifested in the religious extremism that spawned death-threats against doctors that prescribe chemical abortions or that drives parents to resist education in evolutionary biology. Fundamentalism bred in the military, where “Warriors for Christ” sometimes coerce religious conduct in their subordinates, and issue death threats against leaders in organizations (such as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation) that oppose that…

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ROFLMAO – The Bible?!?

With pictures brought over from the original video.

Love Returns

Considering the challenges that God has in loving unconditionally, and interpreting the universe as a tool for that expression

So today, if you don’t mind, I’m going to talk about the Bible.

I know – the Bible has a bad reputation. It’s certainly not an easy read – even without pictures, it’s 1000 pages in tiny printing, and nearly 2000 pages in a print that I can read. I shouldn’t complain, though. It starts at the beginning of everything and runs through to the very end. Maybe 2000 pages isn’t enough.

If that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, nobody ever stepped in to make sure that the writing holds together. In part, that’s because the stories and ideas come from many ancient cultures – a creation story from Sumer, fire-god teaching from Persia, Hebrew oral history and Greek philosophy. Writing was just being invented, and dictionaries didn’t exist.

From those ancient languages…

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See Something? Don’t Say Anything.

Interesting exercise in thought control: in an essay on citizen solidarity against the state, the “authorities” (blog administrators) choose to silence my participation in dialog because I drew attention to the shallowness inherent in the framing of the debate.

Oh, well, time to stop following this “100 Best Philosophy Blogs” site.

In the context of the essay, the critical point is that the “state” is not a faceless entity – it is composed of leaders that perceive their authority as tantamount to the legitimacy of the state. Oppression takes root when citizens question the authority of leaders – in fact, to stimulate those questions is the worst form of treason against the state. This is why Vladimir Putin goes to such extremes to ensure that those that rally resistance against his authority are annihilated – either violently in public spaces, or through horrific poisoning in exile. Both methods of execution strike at the trust so essential to the peace of mind that underpins civil society.

Comparing Putin’s antics to the toothless controls of the blog administrator may seem overblown, but it illustrates just how tempting it is to silence dissent – even among those that claim to safeguard intellectual and ethical integrity.

The Electric Agora

by Daniel Tippens

The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations. The family had become in effect an extension of the Thought Police. It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded night and day by informers who knew him intimately.

–George Orwell, 1984

George Orwell’s 1984 is, in large part, a discussion about the importance of solidarity between citizens. This becomes clear once one notices that much of what the ruling Party does is designed to engender distrust between its citizens. Ingsoc has placed televisions equipped with cameras in people’s homes, and cameras are hidden in the streets. It has passed laws requiring people to report on their neighbors, whether they are attempting to lead an uprising or simply having a thought that isn’t in line with the party’s ideology. If anyone…

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Serendipity

I spent the afternoon out at Pine Trails Park here in Parkland. After checking in at the Resiliency Center, I wandered around the grounds, finally making my way out past the recreation center to discover the memorial for the fallen students and teachers.

I spent the next three hours holding space and giving back to the service animals that have been doing heavy duty over the last two weeks. On the whole, it was quiet. A few students showed, apparently to make sure the displays were holding up, but for the most part it was people from out of town, and at most twenty at a time.

So I had time to notice the unusual diversity of the butterflies. I saw individuals from four species.

I kept moving around, attempting to stay in the shade and out of the way, and noticed a mother and son – he about three or four – putting up a butterfly kite. Twenty minutes later, I saw him running up to the edge of the amphitheater, looking alarmed. Glancing up, I discovered that the kite was hovering over the stage. Thinking that the string must have unraveled too fast, I walked over to offer assistance, but his mother grabbed his hand and hurried him off.

Taking a closer look, I realized why. Magically, the string and handle had become wrapped around one of the stays on the shade screen.

I eventually chased down a park attendant, who told me that the mother had come by to apologize for the accident. He rolled up to the stage ten minutes later, and asked whether I thought people would find it offensive. I laughed in surprise, and tried to convey to him that I found it delightful. My word choice – serendipitous – was probably unfortunate.

I tried to submit an item to the Sun Sentinel with a photo, but I don’t think it got through. That was the low point in my day. That child should be told what a wonderful gift he left for his fallen brothers and sisters.

Pouring Love into an Ocean of Sorrow

I’m flying out to Parkland, Florida on Thursday. The courageous and articulate witnesses of the atrocity deserve an extravagant demonstration of support.

And it is time for me to demonstrate my strength to those that seek to trivialize them. I know how hard it is to maintain composure in the face of indifference to sorrow, and I am going to try to cast a net of compassion over them.

Ultimately, I believe that we have a right that completely supersedes the Second Amendment: to live in a world of peace, in which any celebration of the instruments and methods of death is recognized as a perverse cult. There is no reason why those of us desiring to live harmoniously should suffer as doormats for those that don’t.

Civil War III

America’s first Civil War was formally declared and fought using traditional means. It was the deadliest war in our history, a fact that resonates with the fierceness of the passions it aroused. It’s deadliness had a more prosaic cause, however: the invention of smokeless gunpowder allowed defenders to mow down the massed assault formations that were effective in prior wars. Confronted with that deadliness, the North (principally under Sherman) recognized that to win it had to destroy the productive capacity of the South. So the first Civil War was our first exercise in industrialized warfare.

But the victors struggled for a cause that we could recognize as noble: preservation of democracy against the forces of division, and liberation of an enslaved population.

The second Civil War was not formally declared, but it ran through the first half of the twentieth century. Though the issues in the conflict were the cause of many revolutions throughout history, in the American case the war was fought principally in political circles. The conflict centered around the rights of inherited wealth, which tempts its holders to impoverish the public so that it can acquire tangible property.

The first stages of this war were violent: coal mine and port operators responded to strikes by sending in security forces to gun down striking workers. It was this violence that pushed the early labor unions into the arms of organized crime. Public revulsion led to legalization of trade unionism with declared rights for workers and procedures for management of workplace grievances.

That effort was only a pre-amble, however. The real action came during the Great Depression. The owner class sat on its hands in the aftermath of the financial collapse, refusing to invest in production because there were no buyers. Those that did have money were able to buy at cut-rate prices. The deflationary pressure caused the real value of their dollar deposits to increase with every factory closure. They had no interest in priming the pump to restart the economy.

There were two courses forward for the public: the first was international communism, the second was to set up the federal government as the employer and purchaser of last resort. It was fear of violent Communist rebellion that stimulated Roosevelt to accept Keynes’ theory of deficit spending and establish a federal bureaucracy that could secure the well-being of the middle class against the rapacious profit-seekers that had destroyed the financial system.

The third America Civil War has been running since 1980. It has united the racism of the defeated South to the greed of the financial class. It has been funded and organized by large multi-national businesses that are no longer checked by federal power.

The primary methods of the assault on middle-class security have been these:

Deregulation of industries that protect the middle-class

This began under Reagan with deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry, an action continued under Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve, who refused to step in to control predatory real estate lenders in the first decade of this century. The first disaster cost America $500 billion dollars. While the second disaster is normally described as having a similar cost, in fact it is far larger: to cover for its incompetence the Federal Reserve has accumulated $3,000 billion dollars in assets, a position that was acquired by issuing debt to itself.

(In effect, through the Federal Resrve the federal government is no longer the employer of last resort. It is the purchaser of last resort, thereby guaranteeing asset prices for the rich at the expense of the rest of the public.)

But it didn’t stop with the financial system. Environmental Protection, Food and Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health, and the Internal Revenue Service have all been systematically assaulted by conservative politicians that are beholden to the rich.

Federal Indebtedness

These attacks have been rationalized by the huge federal debt, a debt generated by Republican resistance to revenue increases. The latest tax bill is a perfect case in point: after accounting for price increases in essential services such as health care, the bill will benefit only the most wealthy of all Americans. It is a con, pure and simple.

Federal indebtedness is now going to be used to justify elimination of Social Security and Medicare, two programs financed by the middle class through wage garnishing and taxation. According to policy declared by Paul Ryan, those programs are going to be handed over to private investment firms, where (if the precedent established with the Savings and Loan industry holds) they will be gutted.

Anti-Government Blame-Shifting

When he came into office, Barack Obama reached out to American business leaders for ideas on how to get the economy rolling again. What he found was that the prescriptions offered were not linked to concrete industrial commitments. Rather, the prescriptions reflected a culture of blame-avoidance whereby which industrialists shifted responsibility for their ineffectuality to the federal government.

These attitudes reflect the decoupling of executive compensation from value generation. Direct compensation for executives is already in the tens of millions of dollars a year, but it is supplemented by stock bonuses that can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Bonuses are direct transfers of wealth from shareholders to executives. There is no way to justify these kinds of compensation levels, because what makes a company successful are the motivation and creative capacity of its workers. Executive compensation practices outrages and demoralizes those workers.

Paradoxically, when a company is in trouble, executive compensation negotiations become more and more unbalanced. A new executive with a fat compensation package rolls in, promising great change, and confronts a workforce hostile to their presence.

What is true is that when the company fails, the executives are left with huge pots of money that they can use to paper over their failure, and that money has been invested in think-tanks and politicians that blame governmental regulation for the failures of American business.

In fact, the forces that hobble American business are overwhelming global economic trends. Executives need to be honest and humble regarding their failures and worth.

Disenfranchisement of the Politically Sophisticated

To cement their privileges, the monied classes have financed the political polarization of the American Heartland. The federal legislature and electoral college are both tilted to small states, where each voter has three times as much weight as voters in large states. Small states have urban centers with politically sophisticated populations, but even there gerrymandering of districts has given weight to rural populations that survive principally through exploitation of natural resources.

The rhetoric of this polarization is astonishing. ObamaCare was “health care for black people.” The National Rifle Association protects the public by ensuring that we have the firepower to fight back against a tyrannical government. Illegal immigrants are not an exploited industrial sub-class, but stealers of blue-collar jobs.

The purveyors of these positions do not feel the need to provide factual substantiation. They simply lie. They are catering to a sub-population that has been conditioned by fear to seek powerful protectors, and so are susceptible to promises offered by the wealthy.

The end-game is visible in Kansas and Oklahoma and other states that followed the “less is more” rhetoric of government. Essential public services are collapsing. Opioid addiction is driving down life expectancy nationally. It is the Hunger Games brought to life.

Transfer of Executive Power to the Speaker of the House

When Franklin Roosevelt, architecture of the federal system that protects middle-class rights, died during his fourth term, the Constitution was amended to limit presidents to two terms in office.

While this is sound public policy, it has not addressed the dangers of life-time office holders in Congress. This has allowed Paul Ryan, occupant of a safe seat in Minnesota, to build a political empire that has given him control of the federal government. That control is effectuated behind the scenes, out of the public limelight. With control of the judiciary, taxation and budgeting, Caucus leaders such as Ryan and McConnell now have the ability to act unilaterally and arbitrarily to remake the federal government.

It is clear that their prescription is to return as much of the country’s wealth to the upper class as they can. That class includes the class of lifetime holders of political office such as themselves.

Next: Prognosis for the Future…