Winning and Losing

I am uncertain what believers are referring to when they refer to winning and losing in religion vs atheism – for lack of a better word – debates; recognizing that online forum discussions between non-professional debaters, are more accurately, pissing contests and name calling fests.

I wonder how much is really owing to the anonymity vs the animosity of the participants. Not that I want to assert that atheists are blameless in rudeness, name calling and even malicious behaviors – but the percentage of atheists who thusly engage is anecdotally lower than the percentage of religious believers who often start out the gate with threats of hell and eternal damnation.

I’ve tends towards a live and let live attitude, but that become difficult when dealing with people who are not content to let you live in kind. The idea that beliefs are private and should be respected falls apart on many fronts; not the least of which is many beliefs require the believers to spread them by the word or the sword:

An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”

“Then why,” asked the Inuit earnestly, “did you tell me?”

~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 The simple answer is that the priest aka believer is unwilling to share heaven with those whom they deem have not earned it by believing and the idea that people who hadn’t heard the word would be forgiven by the omnipotent god who was unable to effectively market and promote the word on his own is just illogical apologetics to make the religion seem less harsh than it actually is and to make their alleged omnipotent god forgiving, when it categorically is not at all forgiving given that the punishment for minor offences and major offences is the same being cast into eternal damnation without parole or time off for good behaviour.

Worse, that the believer cannot even imagine enjoying heaven unless there’s people who are cast into hell. Which also explains the insistence that only their god is preventing people from being serial murderer and rapists, rather than that these are self evidently anti-social behaviours that no person able to make moral distinctions could justify engaging in, without need to resort to punishment disincentives. The act of murder or rape, in and of themselves, are not enticing to a person capable of moral conduct. So punishment as a disincentive is only a deterrent to those people who are not moral to begin with and who need these matters clearly spelled out for them, in which case, by refraining, they are merely avoiding punishment in their own self interest rather than acting morally and for any social good.

Religious Belief is then a guideline for behaviour that the believer is not capable of working out on their own or spelling out that which should be self-evident. Except that the number of religious leaders and hierarchy members who have engaged in a variety of criminal, anti-social and immoral behaviors and conduct – from actually immoral or illegal actions such as molesting children, adultery, embezzlement, fraud, bigamy and bigotry to actions that are violations of the rules of the given religion such as non-marital sex, gay sex, sex generally, lying, stealing, coveting – it is clear that religious belief is not a sufficient system of behavioral codes and punishments to force believers to act within the apparent rules of the religion or within secular law or social moral norms.

But when you consider that religion isn’t that keen on humans being good are actually predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy and crapulent to start with and must repent, worship and sacrifice in order to redeem themselves to their chosen god’s good graces and esteem –  you have to kind of wonder, why, when we have an understanding about battered wives standing by their abusive partners, can we not recognize this same malfunctioning relationship pattern exists between humans and their deities?

Humans abase and genuflect, but the deities never call, never respond positivity or clearly to prayers or need for assistance. This absence of impact is excused by apologists with “Sometimes the answer is no”, “god’s will or purpose is unknowable, but we have to believe that there’s a plan or grand design.”

If god’s answer to prayers is no and no is indistinguishable with no god to hear the prayers, then what good is the god or the effort of worship?

Worse, some unknowable grand design is cold comfort to those who are suffering without apparent purpose – and if this grand design is so unknowable, then why do so many people claim to know what their god thinks about anything, while cherry picking their sacred texts to support their pet bigotry and causing much suffering in the world?

The plethora of religions in terms of both unique versions and the high number of sects within each version shows that religion isn’t winning by any meaningful measure- as it only splinters and not unites people; driving so much intolerance and violence, that religions are a death march towards our extinction in which everyone actually loses; but which religionists can claim victory by calling it the rapture – self fulfilling prophesy as it will be. In terms of the destruction of humans with few if anyone left to say or hear the inevitable “I told you so.”

There is something in the religious conservative mindset that makes self-destruction preferable to compromise or social change. Or maybe it’s something that makes them wanting so badly to be right, that they are willing to self-destruct in order to achieve it – which, I think we can put down to the belief in the afterlife. Maybe it’s just delusional self-righteousness and outright denial of consequences – after all, the rapture is supposed to restore the earth to the factory garden of Eden original settings. So, what need do we have of environmental protection laws with a god-backed warrantee?

For non-Abrahamic religions, what need is there for the same environmental protections or human rights when we are clearly working out our own bad karma and are deserving of all the badness and suffering – so should not interfere with this suffering so we can move onto to the next experience or cycle of learning.

If a person considers this life a dress rehearsal for the eternal or repeated cycles of experience, then it becomes easy to understand the willingness to die for ideas. There’s a certain romance of dying in a cause, strong enough to override our individual and even collective survival instincts. It’s not really dying if you expect an eternal afterlife, it’s just…. exit, stage right.

What meaning has meaning?

Is meaning inherent?

Meaning of a thing appears more to do with an assessment of it’s impact or outcome than any meaning inherent in the thing alone or of it’s own sake.

A meaningful gesture is a symbolic recognition of mutual understanding, so the gesture in and of itself is merely a pointer to meaning, rather than a mechanism of creating meaning. Worse, a misunderstood or improperly executed or decoded gesture can erode meaning and instead cause confusion and detract from any meaningful engagement or interaction.

Any object is meaningful only when it’s purpose and utility – or decoration/adornment –  is understood, rather than arising from the fact of its physical being. An ancient pottery has utility as a storage container and can convey cultural meaning dependent on the ability to understand the symbols and adornment – or lack thereof – on the pottery.

Meaning is understood when it is coded and decoded in a manner that is mutually understood by two or more parties, so meaning appears to not be inherent, but rather implied and inferred. If one cannot directly address or deduce meaning, is there any meaning at all? Is everything merely an interpretation, dependent on expectations, experience, wishful thinking and interpretation?

In which case, meaning is intentional and manipulated into being, with forethought and thus is imposed or read into and then interpreted – a meaning fulfillment. Is understanding meaning then merely confirmation bias?

Harmonious when there are few or no stakes involved in agreeing to meaning and disharmonies when two or more parties have a stake or interest in a particular meaning; and conflict when the parties interest in meaning are at odds with each other.

Conflict then becomes the prioritizing mechanism by which meaning is determined or understood in hierarchy.

Conflict then is the interaction with another person and determining the balance between their meaning and your own – thus all meaning is symbolic and undetermined until conflict is resolved and determines the relative meaning of the individual meanings.

Thus, life has no inherent meaning other than being the conflict by which meaning is measured and determined.

Bliss

ignorance is bliss

But that requires a below average IQ, as it means you can’t comprehend the world around you and the implications. It’s why the smarter you are, the less happy you can be.

Perhaps this is the heart of the battle between godbots and everyone else.

Few people will admit to being ignorant, so have to convince themselves that they have special knowledge (usually referred to as “revealed knowledge” – because they aren’t putting effort into actually learning and educating themselves, they have to claim knowledge from somewhere)

So, as possessors of revealed knowledge, they then insist that everyone who doesn’t share that “revealed” knowledge are the ignorant ones.

And ignore that if the knowledge that was revealed, would then be known by everyone. So the comeback is that you must accept Jesus and a whole store of “knowledge” will magically download into your brain

The response to this then is that free will isn’t possible despite the godbots insisting that we have it – of course, only so long as we don’t use it to not believe in the skydaddy.

So, in a way we’re being treated equal – godbots embrace revealed knowledge and consider that an expression of free will, but those of us who use our free will to embrace actual knowledge

Somehow have it wrong, because we reject the revealed knowledge that we could have if we gave up our free will.

Which shows that free will, like a free lunch, isn’t free

Giving up your free will costs your brain and using your free will costs your “soul”

On the balance, I’d rather have a brain in my head than two souls on a cloud.

Atheism is not a religion

Atheism is not a religion, it is the absence of religion; as light is the absence of dark.

Being without faith is not a faith unto itself and it does not require any faith to not have faith. It takes faith to accept a claim for a deity, and to accept the so called sacred texts that detail the deity’s works and interactions with the world and to accept the leadership of a leader or elite class of people who facilitate between the deity or deities and the masses – it is faith, not evidence, logic or reason, that a person relies on to accept that the deity is real and to give authority to the elite class of intermediaries to explain god to the masses and to bring the masses to god’s fold.

Faith is belief, absent of evidence, logic and reason as well as reality.

In earlier times, people looked to religion to explain why crops failed, why natural disasters happened, how things came to be and why they unfold as they do. But as humans began living in larger and larger communities and we altered our environment, rechanneled rivers, built massive public works, building complexes, cities with running water, shipping and trade routes to other lands – when we bumped up culturally against each other and exchanged knowledge and technologies as well as the inevitable cultural exchanges, eventually, the understanding that science and technology is developed on the same principals and that science observations of the natural world, end up being the same everywhere, but what varies is deities, in some places and some people, began to piece together that deities are the invention of humans, a cultural product that creates group identity, and the manner of religious worship has no bearing on crop failures, the passing of comets, volcanoes and hurricanes and other natural phenomena and disasters.

Religion serves a social function of codifying and enforcing behavioral norms by including those who conform and expelling those who do not. Religion’s authority for determining behavioral norms is apparently divine aka a deity or deities who reward or punish individuals based on their conformity to the deity’s preferred behaviors or serves a supernatural purpose, such as karma and the form of your reincarnation, it impacts the journey you take to achieve nirvana or oblivion. But in fact, it the authority of a religion is down to the individual and number of followers who are willing to grant the religion authority over them – which is why it is extremely important to keep religion and secular state authorities entirely separate.

The state has legal authority over its citizens, because we have been born to or chosen to be citizens of our respective countries – and part of the social contract is that state/secular law treats all members equally under the law and grants equal access to the law. Where this has fallen short of the mark, is when religious and social attitudes corrupts the secular law and creates a variety of classes, such as only white, heterosexual and male landowners get to vote and everyone else is lesser than. Then women get to vote and slavery is abolished. Ethnic minorities are permitted to vote and it’s no longer legal to discriminate against gays/lesbians in basic matters such as employment and houses – the law was already in place for everyone to vote, to be free from discrimination, equal under the law, including being able to marry, it was the religious/social bias of the language the laws are expressed in that prevented it – gender neutral language is all that is need for laws to be barrier free to all people of a nation.

The reason that religion has not been made wholly obsolete is the same reason, we do not all become neutral towards the diversity of humans (aka socially liberally enlightened) at the same time, there will always be a curve with some leading the way and some lagging behind, with most in the middle, muddling through, letting go of a bias here and a bias there. Part of the reluctance is that belonging to a religion – and all religions claim to be the one true path, means to belong to an elite and special group – which, when society says that all are equal, it undermines the special status of the group and diminishes the individual members. This is the motivation for insisting that marriage is for straight people, silly faggots.

Gay marriage does not in law or fact diminish straight marriage, but it does diminish and erode away the perception of religious people that marriage is a state of grace between them, their spouse and their god. It’s because to them, marriage is between a man, a woman and god – and gays do not include god (to the straight believer) nor opposite genders. Theirs is an emotional and not at all an intellectual or logical assertion, and this is why those that oppose a same gender couple from being married has no opposition to polygamy, or an infertile straight couple, or an atheist straight couple – but often cannot comprehend a straight couple that is childless by choice.

Religious believers do not believe that atheists are really without belief, so are tolerant towards civil marriage, but less so of interracial or inter-faith marriages. That their theory of marriage is so contradictory further demonstrates the emotional basis of their position, that there is no logic or rationality underlying their marriage beliefs.

But, the matter returns to the same point – marriage is for any member of the society, as marriage is regulated by secular law; marriage is contract law and confers government benefits and responsibilities and is a matter of public interest and is a social stabilizer. Marriage is also a religious ceremony and meaningful within religious communities, however, this is a private aspect of marriage that does not impact secular marriage. Lesser legal status, such as civil unions, do not confer the kinship and other legal responsibilities and benefits that marriage does, and it also means that the law is not treating everyone equally, nor is equal access to the laws being granted.

Americans have positioned marriage as a zero-sum game, and it needn’t be – there is no limit to how many people can be married and there are a myriad of ways that people can access marriage – so the Canadian solution of gays being able to marry but the churches who so not wish to perform the ceremonies, means that the unwilling churches are protected from lawsuits, the churches who are willing to perform ceremonies may do so, and gays can access the secular marriage services as can any non-religious Canadians. The only thing that is preventing the equality that the American constitution and bill of rights purports to guarantee to all citizens, is religious bias that has no place being asserted in or over the secular law.

Religion does confer benefits to a group by providing a framework for a sense of community, interconnectedness and a sense of individual purpose and inclusion in something bigger than the sum of the parts; something that people also get from the larger society when they are able to economically participate, gain group affiliation from their place of employment, hobby groups and subcultures (i.e. science fiction fandom) – what makes people in secular democracies in wealth nations less religious than their counterparts in poorer nations is the wealth and leisure time to become members of non-religious groups – the need to belong and connection to a greater than self is met then by inclusion in sub-cultures and secular activities – religious sentiment is reduced by accumulation of wealth and the advent of leisure time.

The drawbacks of religion, is that there are also alleged sacred texts which are filtered and interpreted for the masses by an elite hierarchy, and this status draws wealth, power and influence and inevitably results in abuses of vulnerable members of the religion (usually children), vulnerable members of the mainstream community (extremist fringe groups) and given time, the acquisition and maintaining wealth, power and influence become the focus of the hierarchy rather than any incidental goodness or benefits that the religion may have originally offered. This influence takes the form of a religion insinuating and asserting its narrow beliefs into secular government policy, as the recent funding cuts to Planned Parenthood across the USA demonstrates or the historic exclusion from equality that gays, ethnic minorities, differently abled and women have experienced in various decades.

Which, brings us back to atheism not being a religion – with the freedom to chose a religion, comes the freedom to not chose a religion – and with freed of religion, there is also the lesser understood, freedom from religion. In order to ensure non-believers are treated equally under the law and protected from discrimination by religious believers, a legal fiction is needed and the fiction is to treat atheism as a religion, under the law.

The legal fiction needed to uphold non-discrimination does not reflect any reality of atheism.

Religion is a framework to explain the natural world as being caused and influenced by a supernatural being or supernatural plane of existence. Religions have sacred texts to explain the natural and supernatural world interactions, an elite hierarchy of people who act as interpreters of the supernatural world and who act as advocates for the masses to intercede or request favours of the supernatural world, and the masses have to abide by a religious code of ethics and morals, and perform worship, which entails observances of ritual, meetings and prayers, special clothing – usually special head coverings and body coverings denoting modesty and often rigid gender roles.

Atheism shares none of these characteristics. Atheism is the rejection of all of these activities and behaviours, with no replacement or alternative. Atheism is not a framework, it is merely a non-acceptance of the religious framework and everything that is dependent on it.

That atheists tend to be more educated, less criminal and within the range of charitable and happy natures as believers, demonstrates that one does not need to be religious to be good, kind or happy. Atheists are capable of making moral and social determinations for their behavioral conduct, and have established a group validation through work or hobbies or subcultures. With the advent of the internet, atheists are beginning to form atheist communities. Like any group where individuals have historically been isolated, the internet is the great social leveler – allowing people of like mindedness to connect and form groups across the globe in a way that has never before been possible.

Much like when a person first comes out as a lesbian or gay man, they tend towards the more extreme exuberance of being out and demonstrate their differences by dramatic behaviours, clothes and so forth, so too have atheists, no longer individuals or small local groups, but a wave, a virtual legion, so are the so called “New Atheists” appearing as if from out of nowhere, loud, proud and not ashamed to speak forcefully and actively against the dominant religious mainstream.

And the religious mainstream, is apparently unable to learn from the past, and they repeat the same pattern when other minority groups became organized, vocal and demanding equality – the mainstream religions opposed the end of slavery, women and minorities voting, blacks, women and gays serving in the military, interracial, interfaith and same gender marriage – social process is the process by which tradition, usually religious tradition, is pushed out of the mainstream and to the fringes; so that all members of a society can participate and benefit equally.

To be for social process is to be against tradition – some religions have demonstrated adaptive capacity and are inclusive of women and gays being included in the elite hierarchy of church leadership, are willing to perform interracial marriages, or have watered down the religious core to become a big tent open arms inclusive, a feel good religion lite, where the sacred texts are viewed as stories, not histories, as fables and cautionary tales, to be viewed as metaphor, but really, only the nicer stories, new testament only or better yet, all religions are just different practice for the same deity. Where is the sense of community, rather than the religion, that is the purpose of the gathering, which then begs the question of why gather around a vague all gods are equal and anyone can be a member so membership isn’t special and no one is better or worse than any other one or else.

These seem more a place where people are becoming unchurched, and finding community and group inclusion/validation through other means – work, hobbies, family – people who go out of habit or just on holidays, but do not make daily observances, who are good on their own merits and reject much of what the churches stand for as archaic or impractical in the modern world

Science, which is the study of nature, explains to us why crops fail, why and where weather disasters will occur, so that we can prepare for and mitigate disasters – religion doesn’t. Science has demonstrated that our solar system isn’t the only one with planets and has brought us images of other galaxies as well as allowed us to build technology to make our lives easier, longer and more comfortable.

If you look at any secular nation vs. a theocratic one, the difference in where the poverty line falls and the quality of life indicators and average life span, the difference is startling.

Religion is a social mechanism that keeps the poor, poor and elevates a small elite hierarchy to having all the wealth and power – it is telling to me that Osama Bin Laden, one of the world’s wealthiest men and a religious fanatic, did not use his wealth to create equality, he did not use his wealth and influence to redistribute that wealth throughout the ranks of Islamic society to raise his people out of poverty, instead, he used his influence and wealth to attack the USA and symbolically the world, as all industrial nations had corporations and people in the World Trade Centre – 9/11 was after all, an attack on world trade – to attack those nations who did not require their populations to remain impoverished and under the heel of the wealthy elite religious ruling class.

Religion is spread by the word or the sword and 9/11 was a major sword thrust, Crusade 2.0, and after blowing his influence and failing to make the world tremble before his religious might, the world instead rallied, and over the last decade, and especially Muslim Spring – it is the Islamic chokehold that is being released from the throat of the masses – and they are demanding participation in their governments and society in a way that theocracies and dictatorships do not allow.

Which is why it is more critical than ever that America not fall to Christian fanaticism and steps up once again to the promise of the bold social experiment that the US was founded to do – each person, equal under the law, with self evident rights and freedom for all.

We are one planet, made of many nations, and attempting to assert any of the conflicting supernatural frameworks, which are unsound, discriminatory, elitist and at the expense of the many to benefit the few; can only lead to more division, violence, inequality and suffering; religion truly is the intellectual parasite that infects the host and destroys everything in opposition to its spread will surely lead to our collective doom, but not in the armageddon/left behind same get saved while the rest suffer, we will all suffer and die – but this one planet that can sustain us all, if we work together, across our differences and with respect for diversity, and that will require a naturalist framework to understand the world and our place, our impact, our sustainability and our future continued existence; if we chose to coexist with each other, and with the balance of everything in nature in balance.