Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Define Religion

I posted this in Amazon forum for God is Not Great under the pseudonym "God". Got good enough response there that I think I'll post it here too.

Religion is a preconceived set of beliefs (such as the Bible), that those who seek them try hard to modify to make them reasonable enough to adopt. This allows us to incorporate them with our other pre-existing beliefs to become part of our greater belief set.
However, religion is inherently opposed to changes of this kind, and it often includes warnings against changes in its adaptation. Also, the purveyors of the religion have already incorporated the religion into their own belief structure, and they want to ensure a new member to the religion does not modify the set in ways that differ from their own. And in the case where the individual decides to forgo incorporating the belief set, it's purveyors will recall the religion's warnings about punishment for those who consciously choose to reject it.
Religion has dogmatism at it's core. Open debate over all of it's proposals is discouraged. This is particularly true when those involved have already made a heavy personal investment in the religion and will defend it even when doing so goes against their own reasoning.
I would repeat that religion is not just something that a particular individual believes. It's a structure that is advanced as a whole from one group of individuals to others. There are people who consider themselves religious but abhor organized religion. To me, all religion is organized. Even if you don't go to the meetings. Because all religious descriptions always appear to include some group membership and a singular source for the religious edicts.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Laws of Man and Laws of Nature

A few points I've noted.

Both of the laws, man's and nature's, appear to have the same feature, that as long as they are not being violated, no special attention is warranted. The act is considered within the normal parameters and therefore from the point of what is at all allowed is a-OK.

However, once you begin to violate them, some tremendous differences appear.

For example: violation of a man's law warrants a punishment. Such behavior can not only ruing your reputation as a noble person, but also result in physical punishment. However, violation of nature's law, while certainly warranting some serious attention, and which virtually always are limited to laboratory conditions, and then the person who actually managed to violate the natural laws, will gain reputation as a genius and possibly receive a Nobel prize. If you happen to fall off a building, violating the nature's law on gravity would have immense and immediate personal reward. But blowing your car through a crowd of people would result in immense, and also likely immediate, personal punishment. Also, the forcement of these different types of laws is quite a bit different. Man's laws require human actor to ensure their enforcement, but nature's laws have been in place and reliably enforced for billions of years.

This brings us to religion. Why? Because religion constantly refers to its laws as 'natural' laws. That whether or not people submit themselves to those laws, they still are subject to them. That there is no escaping the laws and that they will follow you even if you move to a little Caribbean island. However, these laws have hardly been enforced by nature. In fact, most of the religious principles can only be advanced as 'laws' by the same means as man's laws. Not only this, but the reward/punishment system these laws are based on mimic that of man's laws, not nature's.

Clearly religious 'laws' should not be advertised as something which is simply "part of nature". Doing so amounts to dishonesty that I believe, should certainty warrant the questioning of its promoters character, because it is hardly noble.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What is Political Correctness?

According to Neil Cavuto, it is addressing your employees concerns.

In his recent Fox News article (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,260267,00.html) he described the event where Target allowed their Muslim cashiers to either wear gloves or shift them to other positions, so that they wouldn't come in contact with pork.

While such a belief is certainly quite absurd to me, I fail to see how Target's reaction to it was a result or example of Political Correctness. This term is more often used to describe laws and mandates.

Mr Cavuto does attempt to give a non-governmental and a purely business challenge to this "pandering": it will offend customers. How so Mr Cavuto? Why does a customer care who rings up their groceries as long as it is done quickly and accurately? Why would a customer care if they have a Muslim stocking the shelves in apparel rather than handling pork products? The reassignment did not cause Target loss of their "financial goals". I would argue that them "pandering" to the employees will only result in higher retention and less turn-over. Which what Target was struggling with in the first place.

As to his final conclusion that we "live in a multi-cultural world where we attempt to blend, not stand out" gives me images of rows of brown shirts with identical hair cuts and boots. Standing in perfect line waiting for the leader to tell them what direction the world needs to move. In many aspects, I'm certainly not a minority. But in others, I do make sure I stand out. I'd rather be seen as an individual than a bland node in some kind of a cultural collective.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Letter to a "Christian"

With all the apologies to those other "Christians" who also disagree with the person I'm writing to.

Bonni Alba, a self-described "politically incorrect" researcher-writer wrote the following column decrying the placement of "In God We Trust" on the side of the new dollar coin. http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/alba/070301
However, I'm not going to even address the ridiculous assumptions she makes about how this will devastate the country. Rather, I'm going directly to the source of this type of belief: The utter insistence that our survival depends on the acknowledgement of God by the society as a whole.

Below I will present the email I sent to her:

Dear Bonnie,

I would like to address some faulty assumptions that you have expressed in your recent column.

First faulty assumption, would is that God actually exists. This seems to allow the second faulty assumption, which is that God actually somehow has influence over us, or this country. Yes, many founders did believe that there actually was a "god" or that it might actually have some influence over us. But the best learned ones had the biggest doubts of god and its influence. However, what the current right-wing theocrats like you want to do is criminalize the non-believers, or--when secular equal protection still remains for it--cast them to the fringes of society and allow the 'moral majority' to have their way with them in civil discourse, such as employment, housing, and exclusion from organizations such as charities. There are already examples of rational people being excluded simply for not believing.

I will ensure that my son will see your religion for the irrational superstition that it is. I will also provide him with the means to counter any attack, physical or verbal, that you might throw at him when he goes to school or participates in other communal activities. There is no reason why his rationality should force him to be excluded from the community or cause him to silence his objections to clear irrationality. Yes, he will be well equipped to deal with absolutists like yourself who place religious dogma above science.

Since you are politically-incorrect yourself, I'm sure you will not find any of this offensive.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Pledge

You know which one I'm talking about. The big one. The one that not only is the supreme measure of a person's patriotism, but also the one that supposedly requires the least. What? That's the reaction I seem to get also every time I hear an argument about which words it should contain, who should say it, and why it "doesn't matter" if you don't say it. Something smells like rotting fish, and I think it's the presumptuous position that you can be a fascist and love freedom at the same time. That is nothing new. Fascists all the way never considered themselves as opponents of freedom. They thought that their system would provide freedom by simply excluding its enemies. The fascists' enemies that is; not the enemies of freedom.

So I still have couple of years before my son is going to enter the school system. He is still innocent. Meaning he has no religious beliefs yet or an opinion on religion. When he finally enrolls in kindergarten this will of course change. A new rote will be introduced. The Pledging of Allegiance to the Flag. It's bad enough that it is rote patriotism thrown at little children, but considering that it also is the first rote introduction to religious concepts that further causes me trouble. The concept is simple enough: "God". You can find it in the most impersonal deist beliefs. You can find it in historical displays. It's a concept that can exist as a simple empty frame without any implications to it. But this view of the phrase exists nowhere except in poor justifications for existence for those who do not desire the word. The real frame is not empty but full of clauses, intentions, assumptions, negations, justifications, and any other concept a person can come up with. The term in real use is anything but an empty frame, waiting for your to fill it.

As such, most I can do is prepare my son for the first encounter. Before the encounter, a belief in a 'God' is just something someone else happens to have. They might believe it strongly but it is still expressed as only personal belief. It is not until the recitation with a intent for patriotism that the concept is lifted from personal beliefs to societal assumption. Any patriotic person in the society is assumed to have it. This where a rational defender of the phrase expresses that it is only voluntary. While this is written in the law, the law is not followed anymore than your average highway speed limit. While every once and a while a teacher or another authority figure might get ticketed for violating the law, the vast majority of offenses are overlooked. The actions of peers are ignored, as they usually are when we think of teenagers. They are not interfering with our adult world, they are simply playing around by the rules of their childhood realm. This is not where strict laws can be enacted. Children very rarely suffer institutional punishments. The rehabilitation is left for the the parents, for that indeed is their job. But as more adults express their assumptions of the Pledge, and considering they already consider atheism a blasphemous sin worthy of eternal damnation, they will hesitate to raise their hand against their for-once divinely acting child.

As such it is up to me to perform my parental responsibility and teach my son to react to his detractors, who do not believe in the spirit of the law that allows dissent, to act swiftly and strongly for his own behalf whenever questioned for his actions, or lack thereof.

The non-debate over evolution

I recently went onto a site that advertised itself as an 'debate' or critical evaluation of the relationship between evolution and creationism. I was quite disappointed to find out that their opinion on the matter came down to the old canard: "God said it. That settles it."