Dec 26, 2012

"God, Why?" .... Maureen Dowd Ponders. I've Got Some Thoughts on This...

“Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent.        Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent.        Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” 

(David Hume: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; 1779).

Maureen Dowd in her NYT op-ed [link] today, 12/26/12, ponders about God's role, and she demonstrates how reasonable, intelligent persons surrender the tools they use every day--the logical, rational approach to reality--and surrender to ignorance. With God, yes, everything is possible, accept anything, and I mean anything, without evidence or reason!

If we behaved with depraved indifference we wouldn't consider it moral, especially if we had the power to save innocents from harm. Yet, the supreme being gets a pass on this. Ah, maybe He knows something we don't, is often the reply. Really? But we are rendering judgment and praise for him when something goes well. 

Millions of children die every year before the reach the age of five. They're not old enough to understand sin or to do anything that deserves the death penalty. That God knows how they'll turn out in the future precludes free will. If we're made defective by the designer, then we have to prove ourselves to him through free choice, it doesn't make sense why children should die before they actually exercise their free will. Even babies die every day. No need to go farther than the nearest children's hospital to witness little ones dying of cancer and other horrible afflictions. Is this the morality of a God?

Most humans practice religion because they were born into it and it's a way to belong, be part of the community's norms and culture. But, to have faith it means abdication, surrender, ignorance, and fear. Fear has a paralyzing effect and can distort reality. The more fearful a person is the less likely to act calmly and to exercise reason.  Being nice to a bully in hopes that he won't hurt you. Be in terror and do it often, you may end up loving him! He beats me, but he loves me, that's why I stick around....

What's even more incredible is that societies have organized themselves on unproven, incredible stories, and they have gone to great lengths to enforce conformity by uncountable violent ways. It's Xmas as I'm writing this. By the way, the "X" is from the original Greek and it's not another attack on Xmas as some super-sensitive ignoramuses suggest. [link]   I enjoy the holidays and I don't need religion to do so. Actually, the celebrations around the winter solstice go back before Christianity, while Xmas wasn't really celebrated by the Church until it decided to co-opt this holiday from the pagans! Obviously, Jesus was not born on December 25th.

Speaking of Jesus--the light, as in the first light of the solstice--how do you explain the triadic notion? That the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost are all manifestation of the same God. Well, then God sacrificed himself [in a very gruesome way, and whose death device we hang around our necks] to himself to save humans from the sin a couple defectively-designed humans (Adam & Eve) committed long time ago! In other words, we're told that we're born with original sin, a curse really, and we have to pay for the sins of others; so in order for this curse to be lifted we have to accept God Jesus as our Savior.  Sounds like a scam to me.

Humans have been reacting to the darkness, the harsh life, the threats to the species' survival by making up stories, that there's a force who protects us, and if we pay the high price of servility, there are heavenly rewards! Any rudimentary application of logic destroys these stories but most people refuse to do it. Smart, educated, affluent people that have excelled in many endeavors choose willful ignorance when it comes to the question of God. It's fear that prevents them.  

It's fear of punishment, it's fear of missing on the afterlife, it's fear that the "designer" put in us. Yet, like when Prometheus stole the fire from the Gods, some of us have discovered another seed in us: to ask questions, to use logic, to seek the truth even if it's sometimes painful. Maybe God put in us the seed of his own destruction! 

I do not need to prove that I exist, because this would require evidence and thus will destroy faith. Without faith, I'm nothing!   God (allegedly)

Dec 16, 2012

Obama: "This Must End!" But, he Speaks More Like a Preacher than a Secular Leader Who Must Pass Federal Laws on Gun Ownership

Yes, it's time to politicize the Newtown massacre and change our politics and gun laws

I don't know if the president has a plan other than to reassert his Xtian credentials, because he sounded more like a preacher tonight than a leader who has to change the gun laws of this country as the public by overwhelming majority now demands. Will he, or will he ..lead from the rear as in many other issues (immigration, DOMA, DADT, etc)?

I reserve my judgment until I see what he does in the next few days regarding federal legislation to ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines, require strict controls on handguns, etc. Maybe it's his strategy to grieve his the families and through the emotional path try to bring the necessary change.

Obama: "God called those children home."
Sadly, perpetuating stupidity and superstition still the norm in the US!

However, enough with superstition and ignorance. What the hell is this supposed to mean, "God called back those children"??!!! Really, Mr. president? Then if God wanted to call those children in such horrible way--and you assume you know that--why should we blame the gunman or demand any change? If God is able and willing, he'll do whatever is necessary. Or, he won't... Why should we bother with anything really if this is the motto?

Someone has to speak up against this primitive superstitious and ignorant approach/reaction to tragedies. This should end. I'd like those who have access to megaphones and want a more critical thinking public would not bring out the voodoo dolls during times of crisis. It's the 21st century, we should be mature enough to handle reality, so references to the supernatural is a disservice and an action that further perpetuates wishful thinking, prejudice, servility, and superstition.

Federal laws must be passed as to what kind of firearms are allowed. It's a political choice of a secular regime! No hunter should get guided missiles, bombs, or machine guns to enjoy their sport. No one should get clips that hold dozens of bullets, and of course no assault weapons. The Second Amendment--written by people over 2 centuries ago whose idea of "arms" was much different than ours--has already been modified by reality: "the right to bear arms" doesn't mean today the right to have tanks, F16s, and nukes. Oh, and the argument that we need guns to protect ourselves from the government is so 18th century too. Out duty as engaged and informed citizens is to never reach that point of having to violently resist our own government, because if we do it'll be too late! The government will always have more, bigger, and powerful weapons.

There are more gun shops than grocery stores (or McDonalds, or Walmarts or gas stations) in the US!

It's absolutely ridiculous that in order to get a car you need to be tested for ability, obtain insurance, while the vehicle is registered and inspected, but getting a gun is simple matter of going to a gun show and buy one with no background check! This is totally insane. I'm fed up with going through the same motions of sadness, anger, grieving, promises of "never again", every time such a bloody event happens, but we don't do anything about it!

Children under 14 are 13 time more likely to be killed in the US (in advanced countries). Guns kill 30,000 Americans every year. The murder rate in other advanced countries is in the dozens whereas in the US is in the tens of thousands. Yes, there are complex reasons for having such a violent society--and we should start a national dialogue on this--but we certainly can do something about the means of violence.

Obama has done this kind of consoling after massacres 4 times during his tenure. Has he learned that the mass murderers used legally-obtained assault weapons? But, this is the president who signed 2 gun bills into law. One, to allow firearms into national parks and one to allow them on Amtrak! How's this for a radical president who'd confiscate all guns as the conservative nuts argued in 2008?...

Time is now for serious action and the president to lead. I understand the script, I understand that Obama has to speak a certain language, but no amount of comfort can bring back the innocent dead. However, if we change our attitudes and public policies we can prevent tragedies in the future. We'll all gain from this. We should come together when we face adversity and pain, but we should stop being masochists and fatalists now!

PS>Yes, more readily available guns lead to more violence and homicides. Here's a study among advanced countries. Yes, it's also the culture that plays a role, but even formerly violent countries (Japan, Germany) have changed due to gun control and other sensible laws! The US can too.

Dec 15, 2012

The Senseless Murder of Schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary Reflect on All of Us. It's Time to Seriously Think About Reducing Violence in the US

If this is not a good time to pass serious gun control--after the massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school--I don't know when it'll be a better time. The gun lobby has lots of power, but it can't have more than the outraged people who say enough with gun violence in our country! 

Along with mourning for the 20 schoolchildren and half a dozen adults who got sensibly murdered today, I'm angry that those who perpetrate a culture of violence and make it easy for anyone--yes, anyone--to obtain weapons.

Mike Huc╬║abee reached a new low today when he said, We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be surprised that schools would become places of carnage?” […] “Maybe we ought to let (God) in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call Him up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

In times of crisis, idiots like Huckabee [just watch how many others like him will make similar statements] who point out how bad God must be to allow children to be murdered, because the liberals (who else?) removed the deity from schools! But, this is the kind of thinking that's preventing our country from progressing into a more peaceful, rational, and happier society. 

The NRA is coming out as an equal asshole by blaming gun control advocates for the massacre, arguing that if everybody else had guns there wouldn't be so many victims. We had those days when almost everyone packed heat, but advanced societies decided to change that and gun violence, including gun accidents went down. I work on a university campus and I don't want to see everyone carrying any weapon, because not only it wouldn't be safer for all of us, but it would create a tense atmosphere--not nice!

As our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the little children who experienced this trauma, I hope that Obama indeed politicizes this event. When events unfold while public policy has something to do with them, then political decisions must be examined. We should allow a well-organized and financed minority to dictate bad policies to the rest of us. It's time to seriously restrict access to firearms and control who gets what. It's also time to revisit the 2nd Amendment...

Update 12/15/12
I had an interesting debate last night on the topic of violence and ..creationism. Are we created faulty, say, with a bad seed in us, as conservative philosophers think of human nature? If you assume that God created us in our present form, then the designer should be blamed for a defective unit. Ah, free will, is the retort. But, then, what would that prove that free will results in the suffering of innocents? Take a look at the 20 little children in elementary school who have been murdered. They couldn't be that bad that deserved the death penalty. Therefore, why does God allow for such? Take a look at any cancer ward in a children's hospital also....This doesn't look the work or the care of a loving God, does it?

It's the small-mindedness of humans that results in most of the violence we've inflicted on each other and on our environment. A couple centuries after the Enlightenment, much of humanity is still in the dark in many more ways than lacking electricity....

Dec 7, 2012

The Conservative Disposition Hurts Progress and Helps the Very Wealthy at the Expense of the Rest. Plus, a Word on "Traditional America!"

Traditional America: When women and blacks knew their place, 
homosexuals were locked in the closet, and the Government could ask, 
"do you know, or have you ever known a ...."
By looking at some states you'd think the country is certainly moving in the right direction regarding civil liberties and into a progressive way of life. Yet, there's still polarization and it's growing, though the regressives are losing ground overall. Some states are becoming decisively more liberal/progressive whereas others more conservative. 

Many of the modern conservatives [in the sense of post-American & French revolutions], especially the "economic conservatives" have accepted many of the basic principles of liberalism but they don't seem to get over the pace of social, economic, political change.

Since Edmund Burke, one of the early philosophers who talked about a conservative disposition, conservatives are concerned about the pace of change, human nature (we're all governed by "original sin"), and preservation of traditional culture, morality, and the status quo. This is the ..bargain conservative parties have offered the lower classes in exchange for their support. Maybe there's a conservative disposition in most humans, because the familiar can be more comforting than the unknown, the abstract, the experimental. Most people aren't exactly looking for anything that would challenge their preconceived biases. 

Click on it if you're a woman
In the US, there was rapid change after WW II. Blacks came back from fighting against Hitler's evil (and his notions of racial purity) to a racist country. The civil rights movement gathered steam. Women in the workplace were now common. The middle class was upwardly mobile [sadly, it hasn't since the 70s today], there was Rock & Roll, sexual revolution and women's choice, drugs, Hollywood, wars and political crises. Even the face of immigration changed from white Europeans to Latinos and Asians. All of this was very unnerving to the conservatives as "traditional America" was dissolving.

In the 1970s, there's a reaction and the religious conservatives begin to organize to "take back America"... Restore the moral fitness of the country, it was their aim, they said. Still is. This big pool of activists (not just voters), lobbyists, fundraisers, changed our politics beginning with Reagan's presidency. By 1990s, the transformation of the Republican party had been evident in its very conservative leaders and policies. The tea party of late added to this extremism.

The bargain's basic premises are still being used by the GOP. As Irving Kistol said, the fight shouldn't be about (or between) the haves and have-nots, but about morality and traditional values. Focus on economic growth, not as a class warfare, but as a ..rising tide that lifts all boats, and trickle-down economics. That's why we see the Republicans not wanting to increase taxes on the top rich, and keep saying more affluence at the very top creates jobs. 

Leadership matters. Elections have consequences. Obama does have a mandate so he should use it to bring the US more in line with the advanced liberal-social democracies, where:
  • higher social and economic mobility exists
  • more equitable wealth distribution
  • more educated public
  • more scientific and secular
  • longer life expectancy
  • healthier population
  • more leisure time
  • more productive workers (per hour)
  • less crime and violence
  • less stressed people

In case you're unhappy with his sudden departure and wondering what  Senator Jim DeMint's (R-SC) has been leading the Republicans into for many years, here as some of his ..lowlights:
  • Led the opposition to "Obama care". OK, no surprise. Supported Tom Akin (remember the "legitimate rape"?), even when the GOP distanced itself from this moron for a moment.
  • In 2010, DeMint “said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.”
  •  Pushed a bill outlawing the discussion of abortion over the Internet. Last year, DeMint proposed an amendment to an unrelated bill that would have barred a woman and her doctor from discussing abortion over the internet, even if her health was at risk and tele-conferencing was the most feasible option to receive care.
  • He promised to use his new position at the Heritage Foundation to take back America from the throes of progress and into the Dark Ages. [well, he didn't quite put it this way, but this isn't far from the truth if he dared speak it!]