Evil

If evil triumphs when good men do nothing, does that mean that evil men are less important than inactive good men or worse, unnecessary even for the cause of evil? Is evil the inaction of the good rather than any action on the part of evil men?

If evil is the inaction of good men, are there even evil men? Perhaps there are no actually evil men, in so much as  misguided or fanatical good men who are taking action with too narrow a focus or consideration in their pursuit of what they deem good?

Certainly in any person’s own code of good or evil, they are working for what they deem to be good; regardless of how others or history later judges them. Assuming anyone is left to perform a historical assessment.

It’s that “own code” that’s the rub. If there is no absolute external good or evil, then any action cannot be deemed as either until after the dust has settled and the survivors either support or regret the action and it’s outcome.

For there to be an absolute good and evil, these concepts could not be culturally dependent and would be reflected fairly universally in cultures throughout history and in all or most regions. There are no such universal norms or values, because every culture has embodied and codified a range of good and evil concepts, both regionally and historically dependent.

To further complicate the matter, evil or bad actions are often excused or deemed acceptable if they can be argued to have a good outcome. Torturing is as a generality, evil or bad, but when used to obtain information with the possibility of saving lives, becomes normal operating procedure at best or quasi-bad at worst.

Generally, what’s evil or bad is what’s done to the good guys and the evil or bad done by the good guys to the bad guys is justifiable. Even and especially when it’s the same action.

That evil actions can be justified demonstrates that they are not inherently evil actions, and are more dependent on the perception of the person performing them and the outcome in relationship to the person determining what is good or evil. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, after all.

People will often resort to religion as a means of determining good and evil, however, this framework is limited, all religions have the same basis of authority – personal preference – and the same amount of evidence to support their claims – none at all. Religion muddies the good/evil divide further by being the mechanism by which great evils have been justified through history and are often the reason why good men do nothing.

Good and evil become almost childish concepts, unhelpful to base determinations on, given that they are interest based rather than being any means of objective measure.

By following a harm minimization model, which provides a clearer and objective framework to assess any action or outcome of an action, it is possible to determine in real time, whether an action will result in net good or net evil being created.

Harm minimization means that the action is judged by something other than a personal or cultural code of good or evil, and prevents a narrow focus of facts from leading to extreme action – since more interests and needs must be taken into account than narrow, fundamental or fanatical goals allow for.

It takes religion…

When the violence that is done in the name of religion – shooting abortion doctors, suicide bombing, 9/11, crusades, witch trials, Spanish Inquisition, the Satanic Daycare scares, editorial cartoon riots and the like, Believers assert that that if everyone stopped believing in religion that humans would just find another reason to kill each other.

I disagree, at least with respect to war and hate crimes. Murder for profit and sexual kicks will continue on unhampered and tend not to be religiously motivated; but for the killing that has a religious component, for that to be gone, would take something pretty spectacular to replace as a justification.

Sure there’s bigotry and a lot of discriminatory isms – but the dislike and mistrust of a group is largely motivated, encouraged and justified by religious sentiment.

Believers of one faith are often quick to condemn the violence of other faiths, or worse, speak about said violence with a twinge of jealousy, we’re so put upon but we don’t riot like they do.

Religion’s primary fear is contamination as represented by in-breeding, out-breeding, social and attitude changes towards opening up the group to new and different people. The basis of religion is that the members are special, singled out for divine favour above all others who are not, because they have willful rejected the one truth god and faith for lesser or worse, none at all.

The religious are in a difficult situation, they want to be special, which means a smaller group – and the more people denied heaven, the sweeter and better it is to look down at all the immoral elitists who thought they were better and smarter than you and just lookie where that got’em, by golly.

But, being a minority themselves, they have to wonder, what if they picked the wrong god? So they set out to spread the truth by the word or the sword and get sheer numbers on their side, as if the true religion is determined by a first past the post vote by membership numbers.

So what does being a member of the one true god’s bestest flock? Well, heaven, duh. Okay, plus you’re special because you’re in the best group and all other groups are not only less than yours, but doomed besides. Stupid people rejecting the one true god and the group who worships correctly, they should be shown the error of their ways or pay the penalty now.

Makes it easy to force conversion by fear and violence, group by group or one by one, all the same to the true believer, who, luckily, has the one true god on their side who doesn’t like all the right people. Those would be the gay people, the non-believers, the wrong-believers, especially the wrong-believers who’s beliefs are kissing cousins but the believers themselves aren’t anyone you want to be seen with at the pub on Main St. USA town. You know, swarthy types who hate Godfearing Americans.

Aside: I never got how a loving god is a feared god, does god need a selfhelp book? Deities who love too much and worshippers who fear them? Scaring Worshippers for Dummies? Deities are from outside nature and believers are cosmic spittle unworthy of being stepped on?

It takes religion for a person to believe that they are actually better than any other person or groups of people. A person who is merely uncomfortable; up to a certain degree of xenophobia (fear of people who differ, not Xena warrior Princess, well, there’s plenty of reasons to fear Xena, but that’s a different blog) is natural and actually still serves the survival instinct. After xenophobia comes bigotry, where one’s discomfort with people who have different characteristics result in discrimination, perhaps an unwillingness to employ or promote a person or rent them property or do business with certain groups.

As illegal as all that is, it’s a far cry from outright slavery, genocide, internment camps and enshrining discrimination into law. For that degree of escalation, it takes religion to be the underlying motivation, the fuel source for the lesser hatred of mere bigotry – because religion provides a divine justification – it’s not just you who doesn’t like other people, you’re just following orders and going along with god’s dislike of Those People. Those lesser people. Those lesser than you people. Those undeserving, immoral, flaunting and ramming it down society’s faces people who need to be made an example of, and god’s gonna git them, right after you do.

After all, what does it matter that you do terrible things to people you believe are bound for hell anyway? You’re just helping them getting used to it, it’s not immoral to give immoral people their just deserves? God gives brownie points for those kinds of things, just showing them the error of their ways and the chance to call out to god and repent.

It take religion to convince a person that other people don’t matter in this life because they are doomed for eternity anyway, or maybe they are like animals, they just get this one life and there’s no animal afterlife.  Mere bigotry isn’t enough – you might not rent out a house or give a job to a person from a group you don’t like; but it take religion to justify tying them to the bumper of your truck and dragging them miles down a dirt road to their death or to shoot a doctor who performs abortions while they are sitting down to dinner with their family or strapping a bomb to your body and walking into a crowded market full of infidels. Fun times, doing god’s work.

Maybe dogs get a heaven, if they were good dogs.

The Rapture! The Rapture is Coming!

Moderate believers in Christianity seem collectively embarrassed by the so called fringe elements who have declared May 21, 2011 to be the start of the rapture. They seek to make a distinction between themselves and the rapturists, but, if there is a distinction, it’s lost on those of us who do not share belief in the Christian religion.

That anyone believes in the “end times” or a particular day for the “end times” is merely an order of magnitude without significance.  Does it matter that May 21 will pass as any other day in the last 2011 or so years? Does it ever occur to the believers in the faith that their Jesus promised to return during the lifetime of his followers? As in, the ones who allegedly and literally followed him around?

The rapture is about 2000 years late, and I’m thinking that it’s time people stopped putting any stock in the claim that it was going to happen at all.

The faith is predicated on a threat to behave and worship or else suffer the consequences – all other claims are merely details – that there’s been over 200 claims in the last couple of centuries to reveal the beginning of the end times and not a one has come to pass is less significant than that people believe that is an end of time, a reckoning coming, in which the believer good will be rewarded and the unbelieving bad (no matter how good they were in fact) will each get theirs, shows the childishness and the danger of the religion.

There is no god who will clean up the earth and make it into a paradise – we messed it up and we have to fix it – and that starts with growing up and putting away childish things like Santa, the tooth fairy and gods.

What we need to consider is that the only difference between a cult and a religion, is a false perception based on the age and size of the cult – if it began in antiquity and has endured in some form, it’s a religion, but if it’s recently founded as something new or as a breakaway group, it’s a cult.

There is no meaningful difference between a religion and a cult; there is only the matter of how carefully or tightly controlled the membership is by the leadership or hierarchy.

A group that isolates itself from the larger community geographically and in daily life – Jim Jones’ People’s Temple for example – is not that different from one that remains in the larger community geographically, but isolates itself from mainstream participation – consider that most American children who are home schooled are evangelical protestants – are not substantially different.

Each dedicates their daily existence in accordance with the wishes of the belief leadership – and, for many years, Jim Jones was a politicians’ darling in that he could be counted on to deliver instant crowds at rally’s, tens of thousands of near identical letters in boycotts of advertisers or support on a political matter to state legislature.

The same give and take that exists between the tea baggers/evangelical leaders and politicians today. Give me the support and your votes, and I will deliver the power of my office unto you.

The insistence of evangelical and other religious leaders that natural disasters and disease epidemics are a deity’s punishment for immoral behavior should be alarming and unacceptable to any moderate and rational person. To assert divine cause to natural disasters, including epidemics, is to reject not only all earth sciences and germ theory, but the entire body of knowledge that we humans have accumulated.

To praise deities is to reduce and reject humanity into meaninglessness; this is why religion is the goto justification for the horrors that we have inflicted on ourselves and each other. I categorically reject the idea that we’d find another rational, because there is nothing rational about slavery and genocide against groups and classes of people, or about murder, rape and assault of individuals.

If we, each of us, were to truly accept that we are human, that humans are natural and innately valuable, then there is no way we could justify diminishing another person as lesser than ourselves. It takes religion to create in the mind, the self loathing, hatred and violence to be twisted against fellow humans in anger, hate and violence, because they are lesser than us, to our eye. There is no lesser human when there is no religion.

In 1999, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), released a report identifying Doomsday Religious Movements.

The introduction reads:

Often overlooked in the discussion of emerging security intelligence issues is the challenge of contending with religious movements whose defining characteristic is an adherence to non-traditional spiritual belief systems. While only a small fraction of these groups could be considered Doomsday Religious Movements espousing hostile beliefs and having the potential to be violent, the threat they represent is evinced by recent events involving groups such as the American Branch Davidians, as well as Canada’s Order of the Solar Temple. Japan’s infamous Aum Shinrykio is a textbook example, where the coupling of apocalyptic beliefs and a charismatic leader fixated on enemies culminated in a nerve-gas attack intended to cause mass casualties in the hope of precipitating a world war and completing its apocalyptic prophecy. By examining the many characteristics of these movements, this paper intends to discuss which types of groups could be prone to violence and which factors indicate a group’s move to actualize this violence.

The problem of the introduction, is what about the traditional spiritual belief systems that are based in the same apocalyptic beliefs?

To my mind, a small group that eliminates its own membership is a self-solving problem. They don’t threaten non-members, as they are inwardly focused on their own salvation/redemption. The smaller group, as we say, at least has the courage of their conviction, and their actions are consistent with their beliefs.

Aside: I have always maintained there is nothing admirable about having the courage of one’s convictions, as it is merely fanaticism – the value of the courage should be dependent on the conviction, not one’s dedication to said conviction. Admiring the “courage” to stick by one’s conviction is to make a fetish of suffering and creates a class of sainthood/martyrdom which only inspires suicide bombers and abortion doctor assassins.

But, if we are going to assert that small groups are not behaving rationally owing to their belief in a specific doomsday, then why do we assume that larger groups with the same beliefs, but less urgency with respect to an end date are any more rational?

The CSIS report goes on to identify specific social threats that small doomsday cults pose and in particular, that the danger these cults pose is often a function of when and how they come to the attention of authorities.

Because, like a battering, stalking, controlling ex-spouse or romantic partner ends up striking against their victim ex after a restraining order is filed, so too do small personality cults end up in a mass murder/suicide or shoot out with secular authority, once said secular/government authority challenges the cult leader/violent ex-partner’s assumed entitlement to control their cult/ex-partner – the leader/ex becomes violent and usually fatally so.

The psychology of a person who murders their family and pets to save them from the evils in the world, the ex who would rather their beloved (and sometimes their families) be dead than with someone else or at least without them, is pretty much the same as the cult leader who decides that today is the day and takes themselves and their people out with them. Truly, Khadafy has said the same thing: he’d rather take everyone out with him, then leave them behind.

The mainstream, moderate believers would like to distance themselves from the true believers who take the religious texts as literal. They would like non-believers to think that they are not members of a disordered group who must spread by the word or by the sword, and that failing to convert will literally mean there’s hell to pay.

But, the mainstream and moderate believers are not true believers – religion is not rational, it is not a way to be peaceful and co-exist, to assert that there’s one god and one way to god is to deny all others and declare them as false. Interfaith committees who claim there’s one god and many ways to worship are not being true to their faiths, and are apologist appeasers who have discredited their faith and demonstrated that religion is a tool to manage and manipulate the masses – they have arrived at an appeasement balance of power – a no-nuke treaty with each other, if you will.

The danger of mainstream traditional religion is far greater than any personality cult, for it’s the mainstream traditional belief systems that maintain a veneer of participation in mainstream society – but who vote in blocks according to their religious beliefs that they seek to impose on mainstream society and as a consequence, hold back the advancement of human knowledge and easement of human suffering.

Denying funding to medical research such as stem cells, to Planned Parenthood and international aid programs that promote safe sex practices, to disaster relief organizations to prepare and mitigate natural disasters; that push for some foreign aid policies such as refusing Jewish immigration and creating Israel post WWII, the denial of refugee status based in anti-Semitism and the creation of Israel and moving Jewish people who escaped death at the hands of European hostility and delivered them into the midst of Arab hostility, an attempt to make the bible revelation prophesy come true on some level.

Aside: Anyone else remember what a big deal was made in the 1980’s of Ronald Reagan being the anti-Christ and the revelations prophesy about a time after Jews have a homeland?

The matter of rationality and religion/cult, in a secular society in which individual rights are paramount, we have enshrined the freedom of religion. Whether a person chooses a mainstream moderate religious belief or a minority fringe religious belief, is an order of magnitude of no significance whatsoever. Either way, they have chosen to abandon realty as the basis of their worldview, so how much or little realty is included, is of far lesser concern than that reality has been abandoned.

Individuals, and any children they may have and are legally entitled to indoctrinate with the religion of their choice, are free to choose and the social harm that we must be vigilant to is when groups of individuals attempt to force their religious choice and beliefs into secular law from legislation down to regulation, policy, directives and best practices employed in the secular civil service.

To do that, we must stop making meaningless distinctions that one religion is better or any more reasonable than any other. None of them are reasonable and they are all doomsday focused to varying degrees. The premise of religion is that this life that we have is a dress rehearsal or a learning cycle that will determine what happens in an afterlife, whether it’s a heaven/hell or a rest stop between lives.

Aside: Interesting, most religions do not have eternal either or states, but rather a cycle of rest and rebirth, aka reincarnation. This cosmic recycling of energy and gathering towards eventual enlightenment, or being one with everything, seems on the surface, more comforting and credible than the Abrahamic religions life is a short dress rehearsal for your afterlife placement, is a rather unreasonable and ridiculous lot of work to end up at oblivion/nirvana and the contempt towards human life that the Abrahamic religions highlights what a waste corporeal life is in this worldview, given a single life’s shortness compared to eternity.

Since the afterlife is not the mandate of any secular government, the legislation and policies and everything that flows from these foundational principles, must be wholly concerned with the here and now, not the ever after. To that end, as nations, each must stop looking inward to the short term needs of their citizens, and look to the cross border issues, especially with respect to pollution, water sheds/regions, habitat conservation and preservation, resource extractions and regional/energy sustainability.

We need only to collectively say that life matters and life is what is occurring here and now. Only then, will we be able to work together to make life meaningful and sustainable.