Posts tagged ‘God’

If There Were a God, I Would Think He is Trying to Tell Us Something

Devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Houston, and now massively destructive fires in California.  So when’s the big quake? I don’t want to point this out, but the pain and suffering is spread around between both partisan sides of the political spectrum.  The only constant through all of this is the President of the United States, who a minority of the people elected and then shit happened.  Could this be a sign?

Of course all of this could look benign compared to what could happen if the Dotard In Charge (DIC) starts a war on the Korean Peninsula, withdraws from the Iran agreement, hastening their nuclear program, kills Obamacare so millions are once again left without healthcare (oh, they have access, they just can’t afford that access), while his EPA Chief allows the raping of the environment again, all, of course, in the name of reducing regulations and letting the market place work.  There is nature’s fury, and then there is man made damage caused by the DIC put in place by ignorant and ill informed voters, and enabled by power hungry Republicans. If I believed in God, maybe a sacrifice, say the DIC himself, would appease him.

Speaking of God, the other day I was sitting in my truck in the grocery store parking lot waiting for she who must not be mentioned here to get her coffee (we were on our way to the big city to get my Lupron shot for my prostate cancer, maybe another sign), when a nice young lady tapped on my window and asked my about my decal on my truck (a fish sign with legs and the words Darwin written across it).  She said in these troubled times (no shit) she was using her religion to try to comfort people.  She asked directly if I was an atheist, which I said yes, and she asked why.  You try to answer that in 10 words or less.  She asked if something had happened to me to reject God.  I thought about saying I think he has rejected us, but I did not.

I did try to explain to her that being an atheist does not mean, even in these times, that I do not have both spirituality and hope.  Isn’t life a gift enough without a fairy godfather?  But I also explained to her that I respected her faith and would never try to change that.  Atheism is not a religion, and I do not need converts, it is just my personal observation.  I know that faith and religion greatly helps some people and who the hell am I to try to take that away.  The nice thing about this encounter was that she was not trying to proselyze me, but to offer encouragement to someone who she thought may need it.  Her way was through her religious beliefs and some of the wisdoms she found in her Bible.

I bring all this up because when shit happens, people mostly seem to come together and try to help each other whether they are gay, transsexual, immigrant, conservative, liberal, black, white, atheist, Christian, Muslim, well, you get the gist.  God is not a player in that we want to help each other because it is innate in the human condition.  One person who was standing in the dust and ash of what was left of everything they owned, said, you can either stand here and grieve or help others.  What we should learn from these disasters is that either God doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t give a shit.  Either way we are left to our own devices and what I have seen is that those devices in most people are something to be proud of.

In this world we live in, a lot of us define ourselves by our possessions so when we have a devastating loss, well, we are devastated.  And then we seem to be able to rise above it.  And the lesson in a world created right now by the DIC and Republicans is, they have it wrong, we are all in this together and shit happens.  It has nothing to do with how hard we work, or what or who we believe in,  We live in a world where chaos is becoming more prevalent because of man’s selfish actions.  Time to maybe understand we really are our brother’s keeper.  And that my friends, from an atheist.

One other thing as I watch disaster, man-made in action.  A Republican was being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell about what is coming out about the DIC, the meeting where he wanted to know why we weren’t expanding our nuclear stockpile, the shock of those around him, the fucking moron comment by Rex Tillerson, and the tweet storm.  This guy tried to normalize it as well this happens in all administrations and needs to be kept behind closed doors.  No it doesn’t you Little Dotard (LD).  This is not normal.

In the same vein, on CNN they were discussing NBC’s reporting of the above and the DICs tweet this morning:

Some pundit when asked about the DIC’s threat to revoke the license on NBC because he does not like the story, said he was probably joking, to which the host, who had a clue, said president don’t joke about attacking the fundamental value to our democracy of the free press, and the pundit replied, well this is the new normal.  NO IT IS NOT YOU MORON! This is absolutely abnormal and it is how we lose democracy if you start defining it as normal.  We have to understand that our democracy is under attack from the Oval Office and we had better start coming together to fight it because the Republicans are normalizing it.

The Perfect Job Where Nobody Ever Holds You Accountable

I am watching the Texas flooding and listening to total nonsense,  “Thank you God for saving my family”, but who is holding him accountable for the family killed when their house was sweeped off its moorings and took a whole family and killed them.  I have a cousin who is from down there and she was thanking him on Facebook for all this wonderful water after their years of drought.  I guess the deaths are acceptable colateral damage, unless of course it’s you.

NBC ended their news tonight with the “wonderful” story showing a marine and his bride praying before their wedding, but looking away from each other to maintain the tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding. He prayed for God to bless their marriage and take care of them.  Why is this even on the news?  This isn’t touching. It just pushes the nonsense of religion down the throats of the rest of us.  Oh and why should God watch out for them as he prayed, when God wantonly kills others?  Are you the chosen people?  Why is it NBC’s job to propagandize for religion?

Then there was the sister of the mother of the family who was lost in the house that was sweep away being happy that the Mother is in heaven with her two girls.  Wouldn’t you be a little angry that God decided to take away these wonderful people and these innocent little girls.  The ignorance and mindlessness of religion is mind boggling.  I guess whatever gives her some comfort, but mindless belief in some God nobody ever holds responsible is what is dumbing down the nation.

God had nothing to do with it.  There is no God.  We are living in more and more extreme weather events because we can’t quite grapple with the cause and effects of science and global warming.  So we have faith in God who is never held responsible, except for the “good” things and those good things are in the eye of the beholder.  Oh, and in that world in Texas where we are brain adled with faith-based logic and failure of critical thinking, I guess those Texans who are worried about an invasion by Federal government won’t take all the aid when we bail them out again.  

So if you want a really good job, apply for God.  Everyone gives you credit for all good things, and the bad things have nothing to do with you.  Or in God’s case you can be MIA for eternity and they will never know.  They mindless give you credit for good things and ignore the bad stuff. It is the insanity we are living in today.  I guess we can tolerate this nonsense until it keeps us from taking rational action to look at our world and deal with it.  But wait, global warming doesn’t exist and God has a plan for us.  I happen to think that plan could kill us all.

Movie Wednesday

Here is what I have seen so far prior to the Oscars:

  1. Wild
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. Birdman
  4. Selma
  5. Unbroken

I have Brotherhood recorded to watch this weekend (hopefully during the rain). I saw Unbroken yesterday and I am not sure why it is in the best movie category. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good movie about a heroic story of survival, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I didn’t leave the theater wanting to run a mile, lose weight, or improve my character. I am also reading the book but have not finished it yet. But before we get into the movie, let’s not forget coming attractions.

Oh my, spring is not a time for movies for people with brains who use them. There was one I thought might be interesting and that was Kingsman, a spy thriller, except you pluck this wise ass kid out of the streets and make him a spy, and let the special effects take over the movie. It is really amazing how quickly one acquires super human fighting skills and narrative becomes cliches.

Then there is one about a robot who is “cute” who may have self-awareness thinking skills. Near as I could tell he/she had talking skills that Sirri could help him/her with. Next, you know about Christian Music, now we have Christian movie making where we follow the lives of different people who got God and were saved. I think I want to throw up. The rest are just unmentionable. So far, I haven’t seen a preview that will get me into the theater, but then I am certainly not the target audience.

Okay, Unbroken. I come at this movie with some prejudices about POWs as I was closely involved in repatriating a POW from Vietnam. Nobody is unbroken. That was the real lesson of survival. But just how broken you get is the real measure of your resistance. As the Aussie said to Louie, if you want to get even, don’t die, survive. Victor Frankel, the famous psychiatrist, made a similar point about Death Camp survivors. To survive was to be a living memorial for the death and depravity of the camps. It gave meaning to those who didn’t make it.

I had a hard time relating to Louie. He was a troubled youth, but through his brother and running, gained a measure of self-respect. He obviously had a great gift for running and if the movie’s message was that you can do anything you set your mind to if you are tough enough, I beg to differ. There has to be some natural ability which you can build on. Louie’s actions both in the bomber he flew as bombardier (Something else I also know something about) and in the raft were noble. His ability to withstand inhuman conditions and repeated beatings were a measure of his will to live. But what gave him that courage other than he was resilient, I have no clue.

That is what I thought was missing in the movie. Throughout my life I have met people who when things get tough, they just roll over and give up. Others, it is just not in their DNA. Louie it would seem was one of those in the later category. But I failed make the connection to how his life related to mine or why his struggle had meaning to my life. That is just me maybe. We all wonder if we will have his fortitude and courage if we were in the same circumstances. But I got nothing from the movie that gave me any insight into Louie that I could take away from the movie. I think that is the main failing of the movie for me. It was a noble story of guts and survival, but I did not get any deeper meaning of what that meant.

While the movie doesn’t spend any time with Louie after the war, he had a tough adjustment, got God, straightened out his life, went back to meet and forgive his captors. Now that in and of itself is a marvelous achievement since the key to moving on is not to hold that anger, but to let it go (Something else I know something about). But I might remind those that there are two sides to this God path. The Japanese thought their emperor was chosen by God and they were destined by God to be superior to all other races, hence the ability to torture and kill ruthlessly as they did throughout Asia (let’s not forget the Rape of Nanking). In the same vein was Hitler’s belief in the master race.

I found similar feelings among some of the POWs I dealt with from Vietnam. In order to survive through torture and mistreatment when you have lost all hope, a belief in God got many of these men through. It certainly turned Louie’s life around and probably helped him with survivor’s guilt. You grab on to what you had to to stay afloat. For those of us that are atheists, it doesn’t mean he exists, but he certainly can be a useful construct.

So I still like the Grand Budapest Hotel the best although as I noted earlier in another blog, it won’t win.

Notes: There were some interesting tidbits in the book. It listed 52,173 Army Air Force personnel killed in combat (air crew members). A study by the AAF Surgeon general list 70% of this as not a result of enemy action. The planes crashed either by pilot error, mechanical failure, or weather. The majority of planes in the Pacific Theater ditched in the ocean to be never found. As the book notes your chances of being found were small and that more people died in the search for them, than finding them. That and the poor survival equipment at the time would have made understanding Louie’s predicament in the life raft clear.

So Why do They do That

One of my favorite enigmas is why conservatives and about half of our population ignore data that provide answers to most of our problems. I have always been curious about why people do things, maybe to understand my own behavior and those around me better. So through the years I have taken courses and studied the human psyche, but I certainly am no expert. I think that is why I did so much reading on economics. That is psychology in action.

At any rate, one of the things that I find fascinating is our inability to recognize the obvious. The Pope was in the Philippines and one of the more touching photo ops was when a young abandoned girl about 8 years old broke into tears asking,

“Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.” … “Visibly moved, the Pope said: “She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears.”

Now there is a very simple answer here, just one not allowed in a religious world. There is no God. Now this is not an argument for or against God, I am just making the point that ideology closes our minds to many possible answers.

Paul Krugman has struggled with this as he finds the economic data about what we should be doing overwhelming, but troubled by the denial of that data by conservatives. He, like me, is trying to find what is driving this focused blindness and he offers this as a plausible explaination:

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?

…Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. … And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.

I only think this is a piece of the puzzle. While this is true, there are more basic things in play like fear and lack of empathy. The real question is how to overcome this to do what needs to be done. Paul is not sanguine:

Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.

I think we have to be face down in the gutter before we say, let’s change. Those that have the money and the power have the least incentive to change and the most incentive to convince us we are not face down in the gutter to keep things just they way they are. How else do you explain why we are destroying our ecosystem and looking the other way?

Science and Religion

Last week I commented on David P. Barash’s op-ed piece, God, Darwin, and my College Biology Class as pointing out the obvious (See Interesting Connections or I am Just Weird), that the basic belief that God is a benevolent controlling creator is not at all what evolution shows us. But that is easy for me as I have no vested interest in a God delusion. I am an atheist. But what I found so insightful were the letters in the New York Times this morning responding to his line of logic. Most did not attempt to address his basic point about a benevolent controlling creator, or more directly casting aside faith based logic in science, but to say, counter to his argument, you can have it both ways. Here is an example:

In essence, science cannot say where we came from, where we are going or even where we are, and certainly not why we are. Those kinds of questions are the business of religion. Science and religion do not compete. They are separate animals that can and should work together to discover what and who we are.

Okay, God caused the big bang and then stood back? Then who caused God? And of course this ignores the whole argument about the belief in benevolent controlling creator. The other arguments fell into these general categories:

  • Science cannot give meaning to life, only religion can. So as an atheist, my life has no meaning? Are we confusing religion with philosophy?
  • The amoral nature of evolution does not imply the lack of a benevolent controlling creator, we just don’t get it. This is the same logic that takes you to 2 plus 2 is 5 because God is all powerful and we as little beasties should not question it
  • Here is one of my favorites: “In other words, he argues (very reasonably) that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. However, in religious logic, this absence only indicates that the creator is withholding the evidence — perhaps to test your faith.” In other words, faith doesn’t require logic. See the Republican Party on climate change or flow down. Professor Bashar wasn’t arguing that at all. He was arguing that faith based logic and their conclusions have no place in science

The rest of it is jiujitsu to try to keep a God concept consistent with the findings of science. I think they all missed the point of Professor Barash’s paper. The two ways of thinking, one about science and the one about religion are not compatible. He is not arguing to give up your beliefs, but when you enter science, you have to give up your faith based logic. The facts will lead you where they will, not where your faith wants you to go.

I think what all this demonstrates, at least to me, is how ingrained religion is into our psyche. Maybe even part of our genetic make up. So we argue irrationally to a rational argument that science is rational, and religion is not. Believe what you want, but don’t let those faith based beliefs enter into the field of science or you will be lost. You are not doing science anymore.

Personally I have no problem with a religious belief that says there is some guiding force (May the Force be With You?). I don’t think Professor Bashar does either. But if that belief then blinds you to the results of testing reality (science), then it becomes a problem. Reality is what it is and and as we know it better, it may challenge religious dogma. So be it. The problem is that religion is based upon faith. Faith can blind us to what reality tells us. It has no place in science.

My own concern with faith based thinking is that it bleeds into our every day logical processes. I need to believe something, therefore it must be true and I reject other data that tells me I am wrong. We have a whole political party, the Republicans, who have taken that way of thinking and applied it to our political processes to a whole new level. But reality won’t go away, and ensuring our ignorance by denying reality will only lead to bigger problems.

Lastly, let me say this. Science cannot disprove whether there is a God. But it can disprove a great deal of the dogma surrounding religion. There are a multitude of religions. Which one is right? Which one is the word of God? Does it matter or is the underlying philosophy what is really important?  As science points out that many beliefs of most religions are just flat wrong, it says nothing about the basic philosophy that the religion is based upon. But most adherents to a religious faith take it as such and deny those findings as though that is what religion is based upon. History is full such examples. In that denial, they weaken and destroy the very fabric of their religion. Instead of evolving their philosophical underpinnings, they devolve them.

I find the world a wondrous place. I marvel at the universe and get some perspective when I stare at the stars in the sky. The immensity of it doesn’t demean my existence. I don’t need it to revolve around me. It makes me feel full of life and feeling so very lucky to be alive to be able to wonder at it. If that is a feeling of God, so be it. But it doesn’t put limits on what I can learn about it. It challenges me to grow.

The Meaning of Life and Religion

I thought I would do something lighthearted and trivial today so I am focusing on the meaning of life. Now you might say, wait a minute, this is a question that has teased the human mind since pre-historic times.  But I have been watching Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey and I have become aware of how small we are in the scheme of things.  Dr. Tyson presented a 12-month calendar scaled to the age of the universe and our existence on that 12 month calendar is measured in the last 14 seconds on December 31st.  In other words in the scope of space and time, we are the newbies.  We may be a speck in what may be a multiverse, unlimited universes.  Wow.

Okay, but back to the subject and I got hooked by Rebbeca Goldstein’s blog I wrote about yesterday. Now I am reading her book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away.  In the introduction she poses the question differently.  She is talking about how the Greeks and their tragedies looked at life (mattering) and what made us matter:

Those audiences didn’t shrink from confronting the possibility that human life, tragically, is not worth living.  Perhaps we don’t matter and nothing can be done to make us matter.  Or, only slightly less tragic, perhaps there is something that must be done in order to achieve a life worth living, something that will redeem that life by singling it out as extraordinary, and only then will it matter.  It is only the ordinary life –  with nothing to distinguish it from the great masses of other anonymous lives that have come before us and will come after us –  that doesn’t matter.

In her blog she posited that from history there were three main themes about existence, two secular, and one theist.  The first, reflected above, is kleos, and as she opined, reflected in our self-promotion society of today.  The second was what Plato wrote of:

It is our exertions in reason that make us matter – make us, to the extent that we can be, godlike.  And if such exertions don’t win the acclaim of the masses, so much the worse for the masses.  The kind of extraordinary that matters is likely to go undetected by them –  so, in a certain sense, though not in all senses, they really don’t matter.  

The theist approach came from the Hebrews or as she describes:

Across the Mediterranean was the still-obscure tribe called the Ivrim, the Hebrews …There they worked out their notion of a convental reationship with a tribal god whom they eventually elevated to the position of the one and only God, The Master of the Universe who provides the foundation for both the physical world without and the moral world within.  To live according to his commandments was to live a life worth living.

Now if we do live in a multiverse, is The Master of the Universe just one of many gods of each universe and the early Greek and Romans with a multi-theist approach have it right, or if you need a god to make all this work because someone had to create it all, then who created him?  But I digress.  Ms. Goldstein opines in her blog that we all matter, that is a great step forward, and making that a reality gives meaning to our lives.  At least that is how I interpreted her words.  Now, as you can probably guess, I have a little different approach.

Certainly I agree with Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living.  And clearly if you were a mud pit slave stomping straw into mud to make blocks for the pyramids, you might agree that life is not worth living.  But as Dr. Tyson pointed out, our life is intricately related to all living mater on this planet.  Now what separates us from the animals and plants is that we are sentient beings that can ask the question, is life worth living.  Life strives to live and that is in our DNA, but we are conscious of our life and can question it.  That is the reason, the “exertions”, that makes us matter according to Plato (as I understand him).

But when I go back to what Dr. Tyson is presenting in Cosmos, the unlimited milti-universes (multiverse), the wonder of it, time on a scale so large that it is hard to imagine, and our short existence in all of this, is it not worth living just to be aware of all this?  That in all of this tumultuous creation, destruction, expansion, change, and immensity, we are aware of it.  We can in some form, grasp the immensity of existence across the spectrum of the Cosmos.  That is the face of god, not some fairy godfather necessary to quell our fears and give us meaning.  The very fact that we exist and are aware of our existence gives life meaning.  The fact that we keep expanding our understanding of life and the Cosmos gives us meaning.  It is all really amazing.

I feel sad for those who try to limit that meaning by defining ourselves in some image of a god limited by truths that can’t evolve with our reason and understanding.  In other words, just to be part of this, and to be aware of it, makes life worth living.  What an adventure. Well maybe not if you were a mud pit slave, but somebody had to do it.

Breaking News: God Wrote the Constitution!

Tom Delay declares that the Constitution was written by God. That just furthers my thesis that evangelical Christians are the problem. I guess he missed that whole Constitutional Convention thing where they spent all summer fighting over the wording, or the next few years adding the first Ten Amendments and ratifying the document. Oh, and let’s not forget that most of the Founders were Deists, who believed that if there was a god, he didn’t dabble in human affairs. Delay and his brethren give us Atheists a good name.

I hate to break it to most people, but God didn’t write the Bible either. A bunch of guys wrote it hundreds of years after the fact and it is full of contradictions. Maybe some good literature there and a few good ideas, but it is the work of man, just as God is.

Chris & God

Well, we know he is in real trouble because he gave a speech today about working with the other side and all of us being God’s children.  I wanted to throw up.  When they start bringing in God, I am waiting for the flag waving and apple pie.  Does anybody ever look at where he really stands on issues?  That ought to be the nail in his coffin.

Oh, and we really need more atheists in government so we don’t have to see how bad ideas  and self-righteousness are justified by the will of God or believing you are a chosen person.  Give me somebody who believes shit happens and it is government’s role to minimize that shit, not some morality play.

The Hunger Games

Last Friday night I watched the Hunger Games and I am still thinking about it. The movie is a real downer. If you are looking for something uplifting, don’t go there. But the reason I am still thinking about it is because it touched a nerve. It pointed out something in all of us that is not part of the “noble soul”. The movie is ostensibly about the world being divided into Districts to control the population and have them serve the few who benefit from their labors while they live in abject poverty.

The Hunger Games is a contest to the death where each of the Districts nominates two candidates (drawn out of a jar) who are eligible when they reach the age of 12. Then they are celebrated, brought to the rich city, and then out they go to fight to the death in a survival game where winner takes all, controlled for the entertainment of the privileged in the city. The games serve three purposes. First they reinforce the control the few have over the Districts. Second they provide the Districts with a source of pride and hope if they win.  A little hope keeps them serving the few, because if you have no hope you might rebel because you have nothing to lose.  Third, it entertains the city dwellers and allows them to dehumanize the District dwellers so they can justify their living off of them and their suffering. Start to understand why this movie makes one pause?

Preposterous you say? This is fiction you say? We would never let our young be slaughtered like that? I wonder. The first thing one thinks about as one is watching this movie is how could anyone become so brutal and self-serving that we could allow such brutality and basic unfairness. Of course we wouldn’t do that, but we do. That is what is so disturbing.  Start with the simple and mundane, football. We have raised it to a national obsession and those who are the stars are, well, stars. But there is a dark side in the violence of the collisions and that is long term injury and brain damage. But so far we look the other way and root for our favorite high school or college team. Let’s face it, pro football is the gladiators and sadly more of our young athletes are copying their grandstanding over their violence. We ignore the dire consequences for some because it distracts us and entertains us. Besides, they are well paid. But the few are and how many got left on the side of the road? Boxing come to mind? Letting a few fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while we just keep on shopping people?

Remember the Republican Debates where the question was asked that if a young man had no health insurance (ostensibly because he chose not to by it, but in reality probably because he couldn’t afford it) and you found him crashed and hurt on the side of the road, would you deny him health care? Remember the shouts, let him die? It is the Hunger Games. They deserve their fate because they made bad choices or were lazy. They are less than human and we can ignore reality so we don’t have to be concerned about their suffering. It allows us to justify our favored status and wealth, suspend our empathy and not question it in the face of others misery.

Here is one that ought to either enrage you or disturb you. The other day I saw a post on Facebook from a God person, thanking God for the beautiful sunset. Now pray tell Steve, what does this have to do with the Hunger Games? The answer to that is quite simple when you think about it. If we thank God for the good stuff, why don’t we hold him responsible for the bad stuff? If you want to thank God for your healthy child or that he gave you strength to get through another day, why don’t you hold him responsible for all of the suffering in the world (more suffering than you can imagine)? How come you deserve the good grace and others don’t?

The answer is that in order for you to believe in him and the good stuff you are getting, you have to believe that all that other stuff that happens to people is because they deserve it. You have to debase the “other” to be comfortable in your grace. Otherwise you have to start questioning your faith. How can a good and just and all powerful God allow such injustice? Or in terms of the Hunger Games, how come I deserve to be fat and rich while so many suffer to keep me that way? Well God selected me and I am special. Really or is that your equivocation for not questioning?

At the most basic level, the Hunger Games is about our ability to ignore reality and debase our fellow man to justify our own position in life. It is about our ability to suspend our empathy.  We all do it to some extent. We have to because we can’t cure all the ills of the world and we have a lot of the bounty of the world we don’t share. We can’t afford to stop and help every poor person because it would exhaust our resources and after all didn’t we work hard to deserve what we have? But in that equivocation, is the essence of the Hunger Games. It is the essence of empathy or the lack thereof. It is about how easy it is to ignore empathy for our fellow man to suit our own needs. And when it gets out of hand…well see the Republican Party and their belief that we all get our just desserts.

Worse or better, it raises the whole question of are we in this together or is it one for all.  In the games themselves, that was the essential question.  Do we work together to survive or do we go it alone, every man for himself.  The games were designed to divide and conquer.  Working together could be a dangerous thing for those who are monopolizing the wealth and don’t want to share.  Having the two District 12 gamers work together and survive set a very dangerous precedent.  And today we have two parties with the same argument.

No the Hunger Games leaves me uncomfortable. It points out how we humans are basically selfish and how we use our self interest to justify ignoring the great inequities of life and turning off our empathy. It may be a necessary survival mechanism, certainly it was in the games, but it is not our best quality when it gets out of hand. The Hunger Games just took it to its logical conclusion. I don’t think I want to see the second installment.

Fuzy Logic and Religious Intolerance on Up with Chris Hayes

I was watching Up w/Chris Hayes this last Sunday morning and I think I saw all that is wrong with American logic these days.  First they discussed an op-ed by a middle class white guy saying basically that poor blacks could choose a different path and the power was within them to make that choice (blame the victim).  They arrived at the solution in that these decisions about choosing the right path have everything to do with the environment in which they are made and these environments are not equal.  After some reactive responses to what does this white boy know about being in a black skin, they agreed the basic premise was true, they could choose, but in an environment that was working against this choice and that the dream of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a fading reality in America.   There was some anger that a middle class white boy was pontificating about something he knew little about.  We will come back to this one to show how in other areas they emulated the pontificating white boy when we get to the religious discussion.

Since it is the end of the Iraq war, last troops left this weekend, there was a discussion about how we made the logical mistakes to get into the war.  Sadly, none of them had seen Bill Moyer’s definitive piece, Buying the War, how the mainstream press got it so wrong (they now being part of it).  The argument tended toward how we were mislead by our leaders (which they trusted) and one guest (John McWhorter) indicated that he thought that was the great lesson of Vietnam (to question our leaders) and that we had learned our lesson so we trusted them.  They really missed it here.  There were two lessons from the Vietnam war.  One was that you must never trust power and continually question it since it has its own agenda.  They lie all the time.

The other lesson is the critical one that they totally missed in this discussion.  They talked about how the war could have been better managed or that information could be processed better as though it were some kind of neat lesson in Management 101 instead of questioning the basic assumption that we can win a war for someone else.  In other words they never considered that we had no true understanding of the political, religious, social conditions in Iraq, that could only be sorted out by Iraqis.  Sadly, we will see that play out in the future in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Is the world better without Saddam Hussein?  Sure.  Is it better without the 100,000 to 500,000 Iraqis and almost 5000 Americans lost to this war?  And what did we really achieve to further Iraq’s march to a modern society without sectarian strife?

But the part of the show that will probably get the most reaction was when they ventured into religion.   They were discussing the passing of Christopher Hitchens and the conversation strayed to his “militant” atheist views.  Here is where it got interesting.  The Group was discussing that the approach of the big four of atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, may be too militant and this is where it got interesting:

John McWhorter (Columbia University professor):  The tone that all four of those writers tend to write in which basically will make any religious reader feel ignorant and put upon is not constructive…

One might comment here that anytime you are shown the fallacy of your logic, you might feel put upon and ignorant, but with religion, that is just not tolerated. Heresy anyone?

Karen Hunter (former Daily News Editor and MSNBC contributor):  Last time I got a billion and one emails from atheists around the world because I told them they should shut up.

I don’t want an atheist to tell me I am stupid because I believe in God, which I do fiercely believe in God and I don’t think it is anti-intellectual to believe that there is a higher power as I look around, you are having a baby, anybody who has ever seen miracles in their lives, that we get up every day, you have to know that there is a god so I am going to proselytize about him

Okay, lets stop right here.  She is in our face about being stupid because we don’t see God as she does.  It is throwing down the gauntlet that there is no discussion, you are stupid if you believe any way but the way I do. The absolute example of the tyranny of the majority in religious thought and exactly what she accuses Hitch and company of.   Chris Hayes responded with the obvious:

The new school of militant atheism is a reaction to a certain kind of feeling people have of an overbearing religiosity in America right?  That our civic life is so intensely suffocating imbued with religion.

She is oblivious to the suffocating intolerance of any belief except one that accepts God.  She is oblivious to how infused it is in our political and personal life from God Bless America to questions about a politician’s faith.  In her mind atheists must not speak up or challenge her, and as proof they did not on the show while she babbled on.  It is the intolerance of perspective she so criticized with the white boy writing about black experience. Then she made the following totally irrational nonsensical argument:

Karen Hunter:  We are confusing human beings who may misconstrue scripture from the actual belief in God and having faith.  If we have people who bomb things in the name of Allah or blow up abortion clinics in the name of God, they are not operating in the document they say the believe so there are difference between religious zealots and people who have faith.  And I think we ought to draw that distinction And there are people so vigilant to make people believe there is nothing but us?  Come on.

See, you just need to read scripture like I do and you are a true believer.  This argument has been put to rest by Harris, Hitchens, et al.  There are correct interpretations and their are incorrect interpretations and a true person of faith has my interpretation. But who is the “my”.   Sadly she cannot see that this is the very argument that those who want to blow things up make.  She is so blinded by her belief in her faith that she fails to see the logical problem with her argument.  What I believe is correct, what others believe is in error, and I don’t need to examine my beliefs because they are an article of faith.  Yikes.  Hitch is rolling over in his grave.  But it gets better:

Anne Marie Slaughter, professor Princeton University:  I think this kind of atheism is another kind of religion.  It is an article of faith that god doesn’t exist. Just as it is an article of faith that God does exist, we can’t know, there is no way we to know.  I believe in faith.  I believe in believing in the impossible.

Here exemplified on this panel is the fundamental problem with religious thinking in our public lives.  Here is the very reason that Hitch et al are so militant.  There is a basic and fundamental logical difference between knowing God exists and thinking he does not.  One is an act faith, the other is an act of logic.  Gravity exists and it does not exist because I have faith.  It exists because I can test it.  I can model it and test that model.  Does the anyon exist (postulated fundamental particle)?  Don’t know but our system of logic will allow us to test for it and then test our model to see if it is correct.  Suppose that would be allowed in our free society if the subject were God?

Does God exist.  Not by any rational measure or test.  Not by any outcome we can see in the world that stands the test of rational (oh should I say it, scientific) thought.  Here is the fundamental problem.  Religious thought exempts itself from rational discourse at its basic level. It exempts itself from compromise.   Take Professor Slaughter’s approach and you too can believe in flow down, job creators, WMD in Iraq, market place will solve all problems, ignore global warming, and on and on. Logic and evidence be damned.   No Anne Marie, atheism is not another religion.  Show me proof of God and I will accept him, with some very hard questions for him if he is to be considered a superior being.  Meanwhile Hitch, Harris, and others continue to show you proof that your beliefs are not supported in the real world and you disregard it.  That is the fundamental difference.

The arguments against everything that was said during the show to justify their religious beliefs have been made and it was clear that most of these people had not read or really digested them.  Their intolerance to atheism and their ignorance of the cogent arguments against their “faith” show just how infused and intolerant religious belief is in our society.  It is almost scarey that Hitch’s essay on the founders, Gods of Our Fathers:  The United States of Enlightenment (Aruguably:  Essays by Christopher Hitchens), has probably not been read by them.  If they had, they would have been embarrassed to make their muddled and illogical arguments that demonstrates with such clarity the problem of religion in our civic/public lives.  My guess is that they are totally oblivious to the fact that they just made Hitch’s arguments ring so true.