The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone

Howard Jackson,

I accept your book challenge. I haven’t received the Letters from a Skeptic from Jenny in Iowa yet

but I am going to read

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better

, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett,, from the reviews, it sounds like it’s brilliant although I acknowledge that there’s some confirmation bias going on.

still, snippets:

Guardian:

There’s an almost pleading quality to some of Wilkinson and Pickett’s assertions, as though they feel they’ve spent their careers banging their heads against a brick wall. It’s impossible to overstate the implications of their thesis: that the societies of Britain and the US have institutionalised economic and social inequality to the extent that, at any one time, a quarter of their respective populations are mentally ill. What kind of “growth” is that, other than a malignant one?

Globe and mail:

A number of factors have been identified as influencing whether social relationships are supportive or toxic. Some researchers highlight the importance of neighbourhoods where people trust, rather than fear, one another. Others focus on the importance of a workplace that fosters a sense of autonomy rather than powerlessness. Yet others emphasize being part of diffuse social networks. Each of these factors has been shown to have important effects on health.

However, Wilkinson and Pickett argue that these different factors are all symptoms of a deeper issue – namely, inequality.

Inequality – consider that gays and lesbians have shorter lifespans, shorter and more intimate relationships, because the social inequality of being gay is an attack on our very lives.

Being treated as lesser than, in a toxic mix of religious condemnation to gay bashing to legal discrimination and an uphill and on going fight for rights, that we fight through entirely legal and non-violent means.

Even though everywhere around the world, there are countries which are honest enough to make being gay a death penalty crime to the countries where there are degrees of tolerance, hard won after decades of hardships as a community and as couples and individuals.

If all members of society are equal and treated that way, the economy would be taken care of because we’d all be in a state to be entrepreneurs, creators, productive members of society, contributing.

it’s the dream that Gene Roddenbury had with Star Trek’s Federation – all war, poverty and inequality gone from human society, so each person could live at their potential, whatever they chose it to be.

It’s not beyond us, we just have to want it badly enough

we just have to want it more than we want what we get from the status quo

Religion is a conspiracy theory

That every culture has come up with their own religion and deities does demonstrate that gods are human inventions, no different than Santa Claus and the boogey man – fictional characters meant to stand as enforcement of behaviour by providing a reward/punishment that is beyond the scope of the parents – who can only reward and punish behaviors that they become aware of; while Santa, boogey man, god and all other supernatural creatures are constantly aware and vigilant.

That all cultures have invented gods and religion, speaks to how effective a means that religion is to control thought and behaviour. Especially evidenced by how believers become active participants in the control mechanism by embracing it and touting it as true – despite the utter lack of evidence.

Religion is the ultimate conspiracy theory, in which the lack of evidence for is claimed as evidence of and the idea is against not only all evidence, but also logic, history and reason.

And like conspiracy theories, facts, evidence and reality to the contrary of the pet theory, does not dissuade believers – it only reinforces their confirmation bias as believing contrary to evidence, is what faith essentially is.

Optimist/Pessimist vs Positive/Negative

Pessimism and optimisms are both frameworks to assess the world and arrive at solutions or conclusions.

Considering the above image, the pessimist would observe that the people are working harder than they have to while the optimist would observe that at least they are working together – both frameworks allow for solutions to make the work easier and more efficient, or at least less onerous, be identified.

Being positive or negative in your outlook is a modifier to the either framework of pessimism or optimism, not merely (or even at all) different words to describe the same thing. Both outlooks are potential inhibitors to solutions when they serve to merely validate either making the best of the situation or accepting the inability to change the situation. Six of one and a half dozen of the other.

To be negative or positive is, depending on the framework employed, a change resistance mechanism, both of which are maladaptive outlooks when employed to obstruct changing a situation and instead serve to reinforce the status quo, and adaptive outlooks when balanced within the apparently opposing framework.

Being a positive pessimist is to recognize the pitfalls and yet expect better outcomes; which is comparable to a negative optimist, which is to hope for the best, but plan for the possibility of less than desirable outcomes. Both of these positions are compatible with each other and both comprise a realist, flexible and resilient outlook based on experience and probability.

However, being a negative pessimist or a positive optimist are both unrealistic, in that each respectively expects and plans for only the extreme poor or successful outcomes, with little contingency planning or resiliency to consider or recover from unexpected outcomes. Neither of these positional frameworks allow for risk assessment based on experience or probability, but rather wishful thinking or self-fulfilling doom soothing.

The Positive Pessimist and the Negative Optimist have balanced their outlook and framework in an adaptive manner that enhances functioning and the Negative Pessimist and Positive Optimist are maladapted and engaged in confirmation bias and unable to adapt to situations that are outside of their incestuous outlook/framework.

Life has a ying yang functionality while purity of any kind gums up the machinery.

Blind Patriotism and Religionism

Religionist Americans, because not all who are Americans are religionists, do not like atheist Americans because the fact of there being atheist Americans is an unequivocally statement that religionists will die and cease to exist, just like everyone else; that being a member of a religion doesn’t make you special, especially not special enough to thwart death. But everything dies in order for other things to live, in no small part owing to that life is sustained by consuming other life, be it plant or animal.

Atheist Americans also clash with the Patriotic American who also tend to be religionist Americans, who like to define “real” Americans as only religionist Americans, need for Americans to be special among all other nationalities. Religion and Patriotism operate in the same manner to define a group and confer specialness on all group members, simply for being part of the group. People who do not conform to the rigid group rules are then sanctioned for exclusion by the no true Scotsman fallacy.

To reject religion is to say we are all equal, regardless of where we are born, live, and die – and when we die, we make way for other people to live, and we live no more, except in memory. But only while there is living memory; unless you do something with your life that makes you uniquely special to be remembered by the masses.

This is why religionists actively engage in confirmation bias and why religionists mischaracterize and demonize naturalism (science) and create sciency justification for their religious beliefs. Confirmation bias is basically intellectual masturbation and it makes one blind to any data or rational that doesn’t serve the biased idea and framework.

Intelligent Design is creationism tarted up in science sounding language, but Intelligent Design isn’t science. It studies nothing, predicts nothing and is not testable or peer reviewable or repeatable. “Goddidit” is the sum total of the idea, but to make it seem sciency, god becomes a vague and ill-defined creator and to make it seem like plausible science, a concession that the creators could be aliens is offered. Because while aliens seeding our planet to bring forth life is more plausible than a deity, it continues to beg the question of where the aliens came from, in the same way that goddidit begs the question of where god came from then.

ID is to science as atheism is to religion – ID has no claims and is rejection of the scientific process and the theory of evolution. Atheism is the rejection of religion, and like ID, uses religion itself as the reason for the reject, and does not have claims of it’s own. Where they differ, is that atheism is rejecting unsound premises that are based on claims that are not internally consistent – whereas, ID is rejecting the scientific method and the internally consistent theory of evolution in favour of the unsound claims, and thus, rejects theory of evolution and science based on mischaraterizations and outright falsehoods, to maintain their religious ideas.

Basically, atheism is a sound rejection of an unsound premise and ID is an unsound rejection of a sound premise. They are both a rejection, but the basis for rejection are the polar opposites.

Science, currently is working to confirm the Big Bang Theory before tackling the question of what existed before the Big Bang and what caused the Big Bang – and this is acceptable, since science is a process by which to ask questions and arrive at answers, not start with answers and then fiddle the data to fit the preferred answer, as religion does.

Aside: I am inclined to think that the big bang was a universal resolution of the cognitive dissonance of existence and non-existence and this is where philosophy carries on where/when physics leaves off.

The reason why religionists demonize naturalists is because the fact of there being naturalists means that people can and do accept that this life is all we get – the moment of resolution for the naturalist is the atheist moment of accepting life on its face because there is no plausible evidence to the contrary, not in the whole of recorded history as there been any proof of anything beyond our existence.

What particularly bothers believers is that non-believers are not non-believers because of lack of exposure or even understanding of religion or a particular religion – more often than not, people reject religion because of their experience within and understanding of religion. We know what we are rejecting, and we are rejecting it because we understand it is wishful and magical thinking driven largely by a terror of dying and a need for conformity and inclusion.

To reject religion, is to reject religious people. This is why religionists – by this I mean true religionists commonly referred to as fundamentalists – react with violence and demonizing anyone who is not a true believer. Moderates, apologists, reformers if they are milder, are actually not true believers, their belief and dedication is less than the fundamentalist believer’s belief and dedication. The only true believer is a fanatical and literalist believer – anyone less has modified belief and gone off cannon, have tempered religious belief and practice with other beliefs and concerns.

This is why American patriotic religionists exclude people who are not blindly religionist and patriotic from being deems “real” Americans. Yet, these so called true Americans are the anti-Americans. America was not founded on religious ideas, let alone Christian ones. America was not founded on blind worship of authority, if America was about blind worship of authority, they would still be a British Colony and they would never have tossed King George’s tea into the harbour.

Okay, that’s too simplified, the reality is, that America was founded on the idea that individuals matter and that they have inalienable rights that are not based in anything as tenuous as a king or specific deity’s whim. But rather, that individual rights exist because individuals exist.

Individuals have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – follow your bliss, not your religious bling.

Live your life – the life that you know you have – to the fullest, most meaningful and most purposeful – as long as you live your life for your afterlife – you aren’t living at all and you are wasting the life that you can know that you have.

If there is anything after, then it’s a natural process and part of existence and it won’t depend on what or who you did or didn’t do with your genitals, or what kind of person you were or weren’t. Better to do good for the sake of good, rather than being good to be rewarded or avoid punishment in the afterlife.

And, when we die, and there is anything that does decide, then a person who was good, rather than one who acted good by complying with rules they had nothing to do with developing or understanding or deciding without any thought to whether those rules actually were good or caused good to result, will surely be the one with the reward in this and any other life.

Be good for goodness sake, and for goodness sake, think about what makes anything good.

Coming Out Atheist

Thanks to oldancestor for this blog idea from this comment.

Coming out atheist and a lesbian.

Life is a process of coming out and defining yourself whenever your identity doesn’t include whatever your family or culture’s assumed norms are.

Coming out is a process by which you acknowledge your difference to yourself, then to the people who matter to you so they can share your life and ultimately to society itself.

Sometimes the coming out is small – a person who chooses a different religion or different way to live than their family – i.e. – not marry and have a child or marry and not have a child – heck, even being a vegetarian would require outing yourself in order to be accommodated by other people.

Which is what the essence of coming out is –  it’s just something you do when you require accommodation and inclusion by others or under the law.

It is the people who cannot be honest with themselves about themselves who tend to turn their self loathing onto others – which explains gay bashers –  as they tend to be deep closet or latent gay and why so many rethuglicans who advocate anti-gay laws get caught cheating on their wives with younger men.

They turn their self loathing onto others by enacting laws that they think will enforce conformity – they follow the rules because they think following rules will save them from themselves, but when you make up rules to enforce your compliance – as the line in Jurassic Park says, “nature finds a way” – and so they arrogantly march to their doom and exposure – which serves the purpose of being the point at which you can now demonstrate your dedication to the impossible religious rules and be submissive, since you are further internalizing the abusive relationship that is religion.

Which is largely why AA is a waste of time and is illegally supported by taxpayers, since it is religion in the same way that Intelligent Design is religion tarted up in science language, so AA is a  religion tarted up in psychological treatment terms, which, because it started in the 1930s and has been around for a long time, has become an accepted conventional treatment – but, it works no better than a person determined to stop their addiction with no support and is at best, a change of addiction from substance to meetings – and it largely doesn’t work, because there is no accepting personal responsibility for actions when you assert you are not what’s in control. Giving away your power for self control to vague higher powers is the essence of religion – and to truly end addictions, you must take back the control and responsibility for same – because addiction is the removal of control to something else and by going to AA, you are just giving your control to something else and that doesn’t fix addiction, it is addiction.

It strikes that the religious mindset is the opposite of sado-masochism/bondage and discipline (SMBD).

In SMBD there’s a top and a bottom and the top can do anything within an agreed scene to the bottom until the bottom says the safe word – so the top appears to have all the control – save the most important one – the power to end the scene.

Whereas, the psychological version of SMBD is religion –  and how it works is that you are abused under the rules until you say the safeword – atheism.

And the abuse of religion is  everything that is natural to you is deemed sinful, just to ensure that you maintain low enough self esteem to not use the safeword to escape. The group thinks that in order  to keep you from using the  safeword they must  characterized athiests  in society as  immoral, deviant, perverts – the same way that all groups whom religions don’t like are characterized – because shunning is how religion keeps people in the fold.

When you are shunned, you are excluded from the social defaults – this is why rethuglicans have to pass laws against their personal natures to ensure that they will be punished when they get caught – so it keeps them in fear of being caught – but they become overwhelmed with knowing they are frauds and so essentially orchestrate being caught so they can either have a self-fulfilling prophesy and make their worst fear come to pass or they are re-affirming their place in the religious group by admitting their sin and being submissive or contrite – and this is the masochist pay off for not using the safe word.

The fundie believers have to use a lot of energy to maintain their beliefs, both as apologists for their beliefs and self torture to justify their beliefs.

Which is no wonder then, why they are so angry and hate-filled towards athiests, gays and lesbians and everyone else who is living opening and honestly within themselves, their families and the larger society.

But, that they are hate-driven is not consistent with their preferred self image and so they come up with ridiculous things like love the sinner and hate the sin – as if anything that defines  identity is at all separate from the person.

But, that is just how disconnected from themselves they are – and in some ways, I could feel pity for them, if they weren’t so hellbent on making me illegal and a target of hate crimes.

Which, if they were really sure that there was a hell, they would not feel the compulsion to make sure that people who are different than their preferred conformity suffered in life now.

I guess it is true that misery loves company, they are suffering extremely and so think everyone else should. But, suffering is optional when you have a safeword.

Which is what makes the line between physical pain and pleasure so delicious and at a certain intensity, have no difference to the central nervous system.

In a way, I guess an orgasm is little more than a psychological epiphany, but, the orgasm is a lot funner when it’s shared and why blogging can be considered intellectual masturbation – it’s sharing the epiphanies.

So, it’s not that confirmation bias is a bad thing, we’re all addicted to that A-ha! moment of release – stroking ourselves is stroking our ego.So there is a certain amount of truth that masturbating will make you go blind, because we literally stop seeing information that is contrary to our beliefs.

I started telling people I was an atheist at 12, so yes it would have been a coming out, but but since people put very little  wieght on what kids say about their future selves, it didn’t feel like coming out – I had initiated going to church sort of – a few years earlier – a southern baptist church opened up near my school and they sent a guy to get the kids to come with offers of prizes to those who brought the most other kids.

I only went because it was southern and I wanted to experience the type of church Elvis would have when he was a lad – and boy was I not disappointed – the preacher used a microphone and he jumped and hollered and wiggled very dramatically all over the place – I was in thrall of the energy – I don’t even remember what was said – but when I showed my mom the little comic book they had given us of the Adam and Eve story, she got upset since it showed them turning into black people after they sinned.

So, she went to all the churches for a few weeks and finally took me and my sister to the Knox Presbyterian church since she thought I was interested.  It was certainly different, quiet, calm, staid – and we went for a while largely because we liked the people and this was the religion that my Mom had been raised in, but there was no holy roller stuff, there was no theatrics, even in performance.

One year, we had a junior choir, the minister’s 2 grandsons and me and my sister – and we’d sing and then onto the next agenda item – only one evening Christmas mass, after we sang, did a visitor start to clap, hesitate and begin to stop clapping, when other regular folks hesitatingly started to clap did it then build to actual applause.

Hmmm, that makes sense why then I have this ethic that there’s no need to comment or compliment on a job well done when it’s expected and routine.

In fact, I tend to mistrust that response as being overly solicitous – which, I suppose is a lot better than the hang-ups people usually get from church.

But while I enjoyed going – because of the people, the sense of community and ritual appealed to me –  the stories  always felt remote and not relevant and once I started learning history, the stories made no sense.

Fortunately for me, the lessons that I learned 5 days a week in school carried more authority, reality and relevance to my mind than the ones I heard once a week in church – and when I asked the Sunday school teacher to reconcile the world history with the bible stories – and she was unable to understand why that should be done never mind begin to do it, made me start to feel that there was less and less truth in what church was telling us.

The final connection was broken after my Dad’s mom died and I remember spending a lot of time pleading with god to not take her away, I even stayed up all night and at 6:10 am the phone rang  – I knew  she was gone and that all my pleading was for nothing and what good was a god who didn’t answer your most heartfelt prayers?

At 12, I was already intellectually done with god and now the emotional connection was damaged, although, it was anger at first, until I realized that you can’t be angry at a thing that doesn’t exist, since things that don’t exist have no power to affect and effect anything.

Death is a part of life, life can’t occur without death and whatever happens to us is entirely natural – which is why if there is anything after death, then it too will be entirely natural and not at all impacted by what we did or didn’t do with our genitals or beliefs or our lives.

And, if there is something after this life, then let’s deal with it then – and not act as if life now is a dress rehearsal, because it’s not – we can either do things in this life or we can prepare for the next, which is only meaningful if there is a next life.

So, enjoy now, have meaning now, be good in the here and now, when we know it can matter. It’s important to choose life, but choose your own life, and leave others to manage their lives.

I let go of god in my early teens and despite all the efforts to be dragged and pulled back into that closet, I never did.

I came out in my early twenties as a lesbian – and sadly after university, which, looking back, really would have been the place to come out, since university was pretty much a veritable buffet of women.

So, no wonder then that religious fundies want to keep women from being educated and limit what and how that education is done.

Exchanging religious opinions with respect

A common lament in believer – non-believer discussions is believers demanding respect for their beliefs or the sincerity of it and sometimes for themselves.

Non-believers, free-thinkers and atheists don’t seem to be as hung up on respect as believers are.  Kinda like believers are way more obsessed with gay sex than gay people.

I think that this demand for respect stems from their authority fetish. The world view that believers tend to have is a rigid framework with a clear hierarchy of authority: god to to their religious leader, down through the priesthood ranks and finally to the laypeople. People who believe in a personal god, I suppose include some sort of hot-line that bypasses the other people between them and their god.

Many of the rules in religions are focused on submitting to various levels of higher authority – often starting with the parents to the religion’s priesthood ranks to god.

In Christianity, about half of the commandments are authority worship. And the purpose of authority worship is controlling people.

So, that makes it curious to me why anyone thinks that this is the basis for a moral code at all -which is a whole other blog – since there’s nothing about evaluating the authority for worthiness and no restrictions on the behaviour of said authority.

So it’s also curious – and a future blog on belief and hypocrisy – that so many of the isolationist and anti-government groups are right wing believers. So, they are failing the commandment idea that they hold most important.

So, when believers demand respect, they are really asking for submission. Unconditional at that.

Respect is earned, not bestowed.

Believers do not earn respect when they sincerely believe the atheist is going to hell, when they outright lie and misconstrue or are plain ill-informed about science concepts.

ID/Creationist Believers also insist on excessive proof – based on their misunderstanding science no less – to accept even basic science terminology and expecting to not have to provide any at all for their religious claims. They also fall into the trap of if science can’t prove something 100%, then all science must be wrong adn religion wins by default.

But that is a false choice and science is never about 100% certainty. It’s best conclusion given the information we have. When new information becomes available, it’s peer reviewed and the conclusion is revised.

So, it’s pretty funny that believers cannot handle ambiguity and change, yet they base their absolutist and certainty on religion, which has no evidence or proof and is entirely based on subjective feelings and personal preference reinforced by confirmation bias.

Believers also like to paint atheists as rude – as if this was the worst thing a person could be and pointing out that being rude is hardly on par with suicide bombers and shooting abortion doctors on the badness scale…. well, they don’t generally have a response for that.

The idea of respect in a conversion in which the believer is misrepresenting  scientific concepts, dismissing religious people caught in controversies as “not real ones”, does not understand logic or debate rules as evidenced by the “You haven’t changed my mind, so I won” attitude and who sincerely believes that the atheist is going to an unpleasant afterlife – and enjoys that “fact”.

How can you respect any of that or the person spouting it?

How can the person spouting that party line of disrespect, who offers no respect for the conversation and the opposing participants, honestly expect to be respected?

I respect the right to opinions and expression of same. But that’s a blanket respect for rights, not people or their particular beliefs.

I also hold myself to the standard of having to earn respect for myself and my beliefs.  If I can’t, by my conduct earn respect for my as a person or by my logic earn it for my belief, then I don’t have your respect.

And that’s okay with me, because my beliefs are not dependent on other people’s respect or acceptance.

We all have the same information or access to information. That we all draw different conclusions from that is what makes the world an interesting place.

Until someone insists that theirs is the only correct conclusion and worse, that it should be self evident to all expect the childish and immoral people like atheists, free thinkers, non-heterosexuals and really, even believers in other faiths or in other versions of their own faith.

And really, who is being the child in that situation?

_____

It’s also funny to me that the expression “With all due respect” is usually used to indicate that no respect is owed or forthcoming.