Darwin Still Disputed

When I read that one third of Americans don’t believe in evolution my cynical self branded them as Republican rightwing nuts. Reading further I found that “43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”  It took Christians 100 years to accept the science that the earth was not the center of the universe. Evolution is taking a bit longer. On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was published in 1859.

Enjoy this Pew report:

http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/

God Given Mind

Those who believe in a god believe God gave them a mind which is why, in debates with those who label themselves Christian, I frequently follow their “it’s just a leap of faith” with “Use your God-given mind.”
Galileo, on trial for heresy because he was supporting Copernicus’ findings 100 years earlier that the earth was not the center of the universe, said “…I neither intend nor pretend to gain from it (his book on the universe) any fruit that is not pious and Catholic.” He added, however, “I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

I love Galileo!

Dialogue with JC

THOMAS: Hi JC, You talked a lot about love—love your neighbor, love your enemies, judge not,—but you never define it or tell us how to do it.

JC: Sure I do. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of loving your enemies.

THOMAS: That’s really a story of compassion. I get that compassion is an example of a loving act and that it can be done as a conscious act but it is sympathy or pity for someone’s misery or suffering. What about loving enemies who aren’t miserable or suffering?

JC Name one.

THOMAS Are you saying that everyone is miserable? Now you sound like L. Ron Hubbard.

JC (laughing) That’s a good one! No, you are right, everyone is not miserable.
But there are so many people who are miserable you can always find someone to feel compassion for.

THOMAS But you made loving neighbors and enemies sound so much more wonderful than just feeling compassion or pity. I even have this notion of heaven as a place much like earth with the significant difference that everyone loves everyone. Trouble is, I don’t know what that love would be, you know, how to do it.

JC Of course I can’t tell you what heaven is like or even if there is a life after death but that is a nice image. Why do you even have thoughts about life after death? As I look at it you are having a pretty nice life. Why think about something more?

THOMAS Yeah. I guess my thoughts along those lines are for the purpose of living this life better.

JC You want this life to be better?

THOMAS No. Not really. It’s like playing golf. I don’t want the course to change, to get better. I just want to get better at my game because the better I play, the more enjoyable the game is.

JC What if you became perfect at the game and shot eagles and holes in one every time?

THOMAS I’d probably quit like I quit playing video games when they stop being a challenge.

JC So if you perfect living, you’ll kill yourself?

THOMAS My turn to laugh. Perfect living? No matter how many times I rewrite our dialogue, it will never be perfect. I have lived some amazingly wonderful days but I doubt that any could be counted “perfect”. I often tell people that if I ever perfect gardening, I’ll quite because it is the challenge I love most. I love solving problems.

JC You asked me how to love. You must know the answer since you just said you love solving problems.

THOMAS Loving something I do is not the same as loving a person.

JC But what did you mean when you used the word?

THOMAS I meant I enjoy it; I enjoy challenges and solving problems. I sure don’t feel compassion for the problems, I can tell you that.

JC Before you got married did you want to love somebody and would you consider that a challenge?

THOMAS I wanted to get laid and I loved the challenge and solving the problem. Frankly, I don’t recall considering finding a wife or soul mate a challenge or problem. Did I want to love someone? Actually it was more of a challenge to make it clear that I did not want to commit to anyone so I was always careful not to use the word love.

JC But now you have been married for 40 years.

THOMAS Yes.

JC To the same woman.

THOMAS Yes.

JC Do you love her?

THOMAS Yes. Without hesitation, yes. More now than when we were married.

JC You sound like an expert on love.

THOMAS If there were such a thing, I’d take out papers. Yeah, I think I know a lot about…no, I take that back. I know how to make love. I know how to get along with my wife…most of the time. When I wish newly weds well I tell them if they want it to last, they will have to work at it, that the wedding is not the end but just the beginning and when I talk to couples who have been married for a long time they nod in agreement when I compliment them on all the work they have put in to stay married all those years. But I’m still not sure I know what love is.

JC What is the work that keeps a marriage going?

THOMAS Oh, gosh. It’s a lot of little things. Early on it is trying to keep out of trouble. (laughs) OK here’s one—Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday—food, friends, family—what could be better. We have hosted it for nearly forty years. It took me several years to figure out how to get through this wonderful time without pissing my wife off. First, the house needs to be cleaned for company. Then there is the stress of cooking a big meal involving a big bird. I say it took several years. To be honest it was probably 25 or 30 before I was able to keep her happy through the ordeal. First, it was don’t watch football, then don’t even sit down. Some of this seemed unfair to me until I got a better idea of what was going on with her. She was very busy, albeit doing things she likes to do, and seeing me sitting around rankled. Then I figured out that life got a lot better if I asked her if there was anything I could do to help. Sometimes there was, at which point I jumped right to it because putting it off pissed her off. When the job was done I’d report back for the next assignment. There seldom was a second assignment in which case I was allowed to sit down and read or whatever but then I wasn’t a bump on a log but a servant in waiting.

JC So you were able see her position—you empathized with her.

THOMAS Yeah, I guess that’s it. Oh, and I also found that random acts of kindness like doing the dishes without being asked gains points. There are certain times when I do the dishes and we both understand it is my job like Thanksgiving and certain nights of the week but I get extra points for just doing them when not expected to.

JC Empathy again.

THOMAS If empathy is so important, why didn’t you say so? Why didn’t you say “Empathize with thy neighbor” instead of “love thy neighbor?”

JC I did.

THOMAS Not that I read.

JC Keep in mind that none of my words as you read them was written by me. They were written by good men who thought I spoke wisdom and they wanted to spread the wisdom to everyone. In the process they added some things and left out some things and then those words were transcribed by hand many times over and translated into other languages. Let me ask you; is there anything about your wife that you wish were different?

THOMAS Sure.

JC More than one thing.

THOMAS Two pop to mind. If I think about, I can probably come up with more.

JC Do you wish she would change certain things?

THOMAS Not going to happen.

JC You tried?

THOMAS Yeah, always a big mistake.

JC So you just accept her as she is?

THOMAS Yes, I don’t think I have a choice.

JC I tried to teach acceptance.

THOMAS (excited) Of our enemies, our neighbors, our friends and family, of everyone! Why doesn’t it say that in the Bible?

JC I think it comes through best in my parables. I think they came through best because they were stories that were easier to remember and to translate.

THOMAS “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

JC Yes. I love that one because it turns judgment inward where it belongs and it employs empathy and acceptance not only of the woman who was going to be stoned but to those who were going to stone her.

THOMAS We are allowed to empathize with ourselves?

JC No one better. If you can’t get inside your own mind, you’ve got little chance to get into another’s. Remember “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Unless you know yourself, empathize with yourself, accept yourself; how can what you do to others be right?

THOMAS I’m not sure I understand.

JC Love yourself first if you want to love others.

THOMAS May I ask another question, this is kind of personal?

JC Shoot.

THOMAS Why did you say “I am the way”?

JC Why do you ask?

THOMAS It just doesn’t seem very loving. How can I love everyone and at the same time say if you don’t believe the way I do, you are going to rot in hell?

JC You are right. That statement is contrary to my teaching of love. I never said that.

THOMAS But it’s in the Bible.

JC Written several years after I died by men who wanted to spread my teachings and thought that the addition of that sentiment would help them get people’s attention; same as walking on water, rising from the dead and that my mother was a virgin.

THOMAS They lied?

JC No reason to be so harsh. They were good men who fervently wanted to deliver the word so people would have good lives. Those embellishments were just to get people to pay attention.

THOMAS Today there are people who say it is more important to be your disciple than to follow your teachings—more important to go to church and to say your name a lot than to be loving.

JC Well, there’s not much I can do about that, is there?

THOMAS How about coming back like they think you will.

JC They would crucify me. Been there, done that.

Ignoramus

Anyone who believes the last book in The Bible, Revelation, predicts or portends or has any relationship to life today is…I don’t want to be too harsh; what is the proper word? Idiot; “someone lacking the mental capacity to develop beyond the level of a four year old?” No. No, that’s not the best word. Fool; “a silly or stupid person?” That’s too pejorative. Ah! I’ve got it! Ignoramus! Yes, that’s the right word, “an ignorant person”. To be ignorant is “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.” Thus if you tell me “Staggering events will soon shock the whole world! Great prophecies in the book of Revelation show how and when these catastrophic events will occur”(http://rcg.org/books/real.html) I can call you an ignoramus. I don’t mean that pejoratively but rather as an invitation to gain knowledge or information on the book of Revelation.
The ignoramus I quoted is David C. Pack, Pastor General of The Restored Church of God. The likelihood he will seek knowledge or information beyond his silly interpretation might lead one to wonder about his mental capacity but we must keep in mind that religious leaders who promote fear and apocalyptic outcomes are doing so out of their own self-interest. “Don’t squishy doctrines of transformation through personal illumination always get marginalized in mass movements? …the open-minded, non-authoritarian side of Buddhism, too, quickly succumbed to its theocratic side, gasping under the weight of those heavy statues. The histories of faiths are all essentially the same: a vague and ambiguous millennial doctrine preached by a charismatic founder, Marx or Jesus; mystical variants held by the first generations of followers; and a militant consensus put firmly in place by the power-achieving generation.” (Adam Gopnik, “The Big Reveal” The New Yorker magazine March 5, 2012) Those who wish to gain knowledge and understanding of the Book of Revelation might want to read “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), by Elaine Pagels or they could start with the review of the book in the March 2012 New Yorker.

Some Need a Heaven and a Hell

Abe Lincoln was a great man, a great thinker. He learned to use his god-given mind, his conscience, to guide him. It may well be that many people were not given a mind capable of finding within themselves a good feeling associated with doing good and a bad feeling with “doing bad”.
Those who can’t understand how someone who doesn’t believe as they do could possibly be restrained from doing bad apparently need a religion to keep them from doing bad things. Perhaps we should be thankful there is belief in Hell to keep those folks from committing evil deeds.
PS I use the term “god-given mind” for those who believe in a God. They should be able to relate to the term and it is my wish that those who believe in God use their mind; it would be a leap forward for humankind.
An interesting article on Satan:

http://news.yahoo.com/psychological-power-satan-125000557.html

Who Wrote the Bible?

Who wrote the Bible? Young men who thought the earth was the center of the universe and that it was flat. I say young because relative to the average life expectance of today they were very young. It was more than 1,500 years after the writing of the Bible that some great thinkers discovered the world was neither flat nor the center of the universe. That knowledge was suppressed by the Catholic Church for another 100 years. If you are looking for answers relevant to modern times, you might find Google a better source than the church.
A believer might say, “Christ knew the earth was round and not the center of the Universe because he was the son of God and he knew everything.” Just because there is no indication that he knew any science is any reason to challenge that statement. Jesus’ focus was on psychology. However, the question was: who wrote the Bible. Jesus didn’t write a single word of the Bible. It was written by itinerant preachers after his death.
If you want a more learned answer, I recommend Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman.
“The New Testament as we actually have it, I knew, was the product of human hands, the hands of the scribes who transmitted it. Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holey Spirit….Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.” (Page 211 HarperSanFrancisco 2005)

What I believe

There is a type of question on tests in which we are given several samples and we are to choose which one doesn’t belong. For example, which of the following doesn’t belong: horse, mouse, man, mosquito, whale? The answer is mosquito because the rest are mammals. Here is another. Which of the following doesn’t belong: Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian? Five of these hold a belief about the existence of God. It could be said that an agnostic has a belief but the belief is not in the existence of God but rather that no one knows whether or not God exists. Atheists believe there is no God while the others believe there is a God.
It bothers me that the term agnostic is frequently used similarly to the other terms in the list, usually lumped together with atheists as being nonbelievers (in a god). There can be agnostic Christians, agnostic Sikhs, agnostic Muslims, agnostic Jews and agnostic atheists. That is to say that, linguistically at least; one can hold any belief about a god while acknowledging that what they believe is just that, their belief.
But when someone says their God is the only true God, that their God is the only way to the Promised Land, and that they know this, they are telling everyone who doesn’t hold the same belief that they are wrong. Most of us do not react too well to being told we are wrong. How much better it would be if that someone said something like: “I believe in this wonderful God and through Him I will find my way to the Promised Land. What do you believe?” Then I could respond, “I believe in 24 Gods, two for each sign of the zodiac and they are all trying to sing in harmony and when they do they will hit a note that will transport all of us to the Promised Land.”
Well, hey, there’s a cool belief.
What I truly believe is that the world would be a much better place if we accepted each other’s beliefs as being no less valid than our own.

Reflections of a GOP operative who left the cult

Isn’t it fun that the religious right Bible thumpers also love Ayn Rand somehow ignoring the fact that she was a vocal atheist? For humor, you can’t beat the Republican right-wingnuts.
The following is from:

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/3079:goodbye-to-all-that-reflections-of-a-gop-operative-who-left-the-cult

It is a fairly long essay on the politics we are dealing with today but well-worth the time:
It is my view that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism (which is a subset of the decline of rational problem solving in America) may have been the key ingredient of the takeover of the Republican Party. For politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes – at least in the minds of followers – all three of the GOP’s main tenets.
Televangelists have long espoused the health-and-wealth/name-it-and-claim it gospel. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! But don’t forget to tithe in any case. This rationale may explain why some economically downscale whites defend the prerogatives of billionaires.
The GOP’s fascination with war is also connected with the fundamentalist mindset. The Old Testament abounds in tales of slaughter – God ordering the killing of the Midianite male infants and enslavement of the balance of the population, the divinely-inspired genocide of the Canaanites, the slaying of various miscreants with the jawbone of an ass – and since American religious fundamentalist seem to prefer the Old Testament to the New (particularly that portion of the New Testament known as the Sermon on the Mount), it is but a short step to approving war as a divinely inspired mission. This sort of thinking has led, inexorably, to such phenomena as Jerry Falwell once writing that God is Pro-War.

Religious People Less Intelligent

“Religious people branded as less intelligent than atheists…That’s the provocative conclusion of a new review of 63 studies of intelligence and religion that span the past century. The meta-analysis showed that in 53 of the studies, conducted between 1928 to 2012, there was an inverse relation between religiosity — having religious beliefs, or performing religious rituals — and intelligence. That is, on average, non-believers scored higher than religious people on intelligence tests.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/religious-people-less-intelligent-atheists_n_3750096.html

If you are an atheist, you probably already knew this, being intelligent an all (and you were probably aware of at least one of the previous studies). If you are a religious person, you will reject the findings. For me, I’m not quite either, I would add a reason religious people are less intelligent than atheists (and other non-religious people) to those given in the Huffington Post article by the scientists; many religious leaders tell their flock not to question. Questioning engages the brain whereas acceptance without thought just numbs it.
The following was a post here over three years ago (back before the site was taken down by a spammer)

Liberals and atheists are more intelligent than conservatives and the faithful. The theory put forward by Staoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, is that anyone can go along with the usual but; the ability to think and reason has helped our species recognize and understand unusual situations and deal with them. This is from a study published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly.
The following three paragraphs are quoted from Science Daily.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224132655.htm?sms_ss=email

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.
Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid,” says Kanazawa. This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers. “So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”
Young adults who identify themselves as “not at all religious” have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as “very religious” have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

If you are an atheist or a liberal or a liberal atheist, you are probably feeling pretty good about yourself about now. I’d suggest that you might consider going even farther than atheism. Atheists have been around a long time even dominating several cultures. Those of us who have minds should continue using them especially as regards beliefs that so dominate the destructive actions of our species.
If you doubt the studies cited consider Republican Bradley Byrne. Poor Bradley knows that the Bible is not literally true but to run for governor of Alabama he has to say that it is. Why does he have to lie and say something really stupid? Because nearly eight out of 10 Republicans in Alabama identify themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians.

Religious less intelligent than atheists

“Religious people branded as less intelligent than atheists…That’s the provocative conclusion of a new review of 63 studies of intelligence and religion that span the past century. The meta-analysis showed that in 53 of the studies, conducted between 1928 to 2012, there was an inverse relation between religiosity — having religious beliefs, or performing religious rituals — and intelligence. That is, on average, non-believers scored higher than religious people on intelligence tests.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/religious-people-less-intelligent-atheists_n_3750096.html

If you are an atheist, you probably already knew this, being intelligent an all (and you were probably aware of at least one of the previous studies). If you are a religious person, you will reject the findings. For me, I’m not quite either, I would add a reason religious people are less intelligent than atheists (and other non-religious people) to those given in the Huffington Post article by the scientists; many religious leaders tell their flock not to question. Questioning engages the brain whereas acceptance without thought just numbs it.