The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Religion Page 1 of 2

The Revival Of Anti-Semitism By Israel And Its Defenders

Anti-semitism has been over-stated and used as a political weapon for generations now. It became beyond the pale after World War II and has stayed that way in the West and America. This isn’t to say there weren’t anti-semites, but they were powerless and damn near meaningless.

But that is changing, and it is going to keep changing. The problem is the constant use of the charge of anti-semitism itself to ward of criticisms of mass-murder, child killing, and other crimes by Israel in Palestine.

Israel wraps itself in the cloak of “we are Jews” to justify its crimes.

The distinction between Israeli, Zionist and Jewish isn’t being blurred most dangerously by Israel’s enemies, but by Israel itself.

And the intellectual propaganda is making it worse.

Take this article from “Tablet Magizine”, which according to their “About US” is a “Jewish Magazine about the world.”

It’s a long screed saying that the Talmud has a different conception of morality than Christian morality. “So far, so good”, you might think if you weren’t aware of Israel’s recent actions.

Let’s read a large chunk to get a feel for the argument.

Speaking in terms of religious archetypes, a Jew and a Christian can come to vastly different conclusions about what the right thing to do is in a given situation, particularly where something as ugly as war is involved. What would Jesus do if a Hamas fighter held a Gazan Arab child up as a shield while firing? Hard to say for sure, but anyone who argues that a properly humane response is to die rather than to try to shoot around the child has ample basis in Christianity. The image of the Crucifixion may mean many things, but part of what it means is that accepting corporeal defeat in this world can be a path to God-like virtue and spiritual victory in the world of tomorrow. You will not hear Jesus mentioned when Western leaders speak on how important it is that Israel adhere to international laws of war, but the concept of the innocent civilian enshrined in these laws grew practically out of wars fought within Christendom during the last several hundred years.

More importantly, the very idea of the innocent civilian makes sense in an explicitly Christian context: “Render unto Caesar” plus the idea of a universal community of faith that transcends nationality means the conscience of the individual is paramount, and a person cannot so easily be classed as a targetable enemy “just because” of his membership in some nation waging war.

There is no propaganda from Israel’s enemies that is as dangerous to Jews as this is. If you read carefully, it basically says that there are only innocent civilians, even innocent children, if they are of the same faith as the nation fighting the war, especially if Jews feel that their existence as a people is threatened. (Leave aside, of course, that committing mass murder of women and children is likely to make Jews less safe, not more.)

I mean, this is Nazi anti-semitic level propaganda. There is nothing the Nazis said about Judaism that was worse than what this idiot has just said. “It’s OK to kill non-Jewish innocents, en-masse, if we think it protects Jews.”

And further on he spends time saying it’s what Yahweh wants. (Admitted, the God of the old Testament is often a bastard, but do you want to lean in to, embrace and announce to the world that this is what Judaism is?)

There is no world in which there is not going to be a massive upsurge in anti-semitism, because there is no world in which Israel is not using Jewish identity and religion to justify mass murder of children and women.

Further, the US empire is collapsing. It’s clear to everyone that it’s weak. It’s being kicked out of Africa. It can’t keep the sea lanes open against a bunch of Yemenis. The BRICS are creating a new trade currency, countries are using local currency for trade and China is dumping dollars by the container-ship load. Meanwhile NATO proxy forces in Ukraine are being whipped, the Israelis can’t conquer a small city and Europe is losing its industrial base.

Coming down off the high of being the hegemonic power is going to hurt like a multi-decade hangover, and Israel has been flaunting its control of American government (no, don’t waste my time or yours denying it.)

The only people who have done more damage to Jews than Israel and its defenders are the Nazis.

And that’s before we get to to the fact that they’re losing this war.

Like anyone sane, with the least pretense of morality, I abhor real anti-semitism, as opposed to the fake shit used as a political weapon.

But this is being done to Jews, by the country which wraps itself in its Judaism. It’s not Nazis leading charge to ramp up anti-semitism, it’s Jews who support Israel.

And, speaking personally, after the use of anti-semitism charges to take out Jeremy Corbyn and to whitewash a genocide, well, even I will have to assume that any charge of anti-semitism against anyone is prima-facie fake and just a political weapon.

That isn’t on me, it’s on those who have used charges of anti-semitism as a political weapon to justify mass murder and avoid humane welfare policies.

Again, Jews have no greater enemy in the world than Israel.

You get what you support. If you like my writing, please SUBSCRIBE OR DONATE

God As Idea, By Eric Anderson

I woke up last night feeling like I was suffocating, because in my dream I was. It began in a church, or an old university lecture hall. Antique. And everyone in attendance was being asked to say little prayers honoring Jesus. Everyone was reciting little prayers that are common among the devout. But when it was my turn, I stood and exclaimed: Jesus was a philosopher who taught that love is the only thing that really matters, and the rich and powerful executed him for it. Then I sat. The crowd was stunned at first, the headmasters, or priests, physically taken aback. But a small smattering of applause began to ripple through the room in agreement. The ripple turned to a roar echoing through the antique hall.

Suddenly, a giant man cloaked in black moved from the corner of my vision and was standing before me. His robe parted at one point to reveal a cloven foot and a boar’s head as he pulled back his hood.The room went silent. Looking down on me, still seated, he bent toward me and slowly said “What … did you say”? I stood to confront him and was overwhelmed by the stinging scent coming from this giant. I found I couldn’t talk, or breath. I gasped and gasped and ran out the room for a drink of water, angry that I’d been silenced. A drinking fountain hung on the wall outside the door and as soon as the water hit my lips, I woke.

I was gasping and coughing.

Composing myself, I turned out the light and sought sleep again but my mind would not stop trying to interpret what was probably the most powerfully vivid dream of my life. I tossed and turned thereafter and could not go back to sleep. I resolved interpreting the dream as my subconscious telling me evil was trying to take my voice. Knowing I’d still be unable to sleep, I sought to free my voice. So I began to write what became, this:

God is not some nebulous deity sitting a throne in the sky looking down upon us in judgment. God is an idea. An idea that exists within us all, but we’re too scared to confront in open self contemplation. So we content ourselves stories. Abstract stories, that can only loosely define the boundaries of our spirit. The trouble is, stories are open to different interpretations and can be corrupted from the original intent.

Take the story of Jesus. Many christians today like to talk about what christianity tells us we should, and should not do. But they seem loathe to actually talk about Jesus. Jesus scares them. He scares them because he was a revolutionary. A revolutionary whose gospel taught that love, is revolutionary. The idea was so powerful that the rich and powerful executed him for it. He was a threat to their coveted and established order. The real Jesus is a threat to christianity’s coveted and established order. Thus, they fear him much like the romans, and the jews feared him. But instead of physical execution, today, the principle thrust of his ideas are crucified.

God, as taught by Jesus was an idea. That idea was love. The idea was communicated to the masses by means of story, or parable. Stories abstractly behoving us to simply practice love among one another. And that if we could do this, there’d be no more need to obey the powerful, or their rules, taxes, profits, debts, wars, and contempt for the unwashed masses. He used the word God, because ideas are so hard to hold fast in our minds. They are fleeting, and nebulous, like God.

As example, witness the story of Ten Commandments and the lessons therein, as viewed from the language of love. We may not remember every commandment, but we remember the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the tablets. But what about the ideas those tablets contained? From the jewish tradition, we’re taught they were inviolable rules that if transgressed, meant perdition. Too literal. But view them through the lens of love, and everything changes.

  1. You shall have no other God before me.”

If god is an idea, and the idea is love, then the revolutionary idea is that God is love. Thus, the translation becomes “You shall have no other idea before love.”

2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.”

Traditionally translated, this meant don’t do idolatry. But if the idea is love, then it means that the second you try to capture love in an image, you lose it. Love is an action. Love is a verb, that disappears as soon as it’s objectified.

3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain.

In the traditional sense, we take this to mean don’t abuse the name of God. But cast in the active sense, to be vain is to act with vanity. From a gospel of love, to take the idea of love, in vain, is to be totally immersed in self-love. In a word, selfishness. Don’t do it.

4. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” Translated to the language of love means to don’t get so busy in your affairs that you forget the importance of practicing the idea that is love. Take some time and make some space in your life just to focus on the idea, that is love.

5. “Honor thy mother and father.” Translates to the symbolic embodiment of the love a mother and father hold for their children. Honoring that love means acting toward others with the gravity that love holds.

6. “Thou shalt not kill.”

Does this need explanation? Honor love in the forefront of your mind and killing another can never occur.

7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

Outside the love parents feel for their children, is there any greater love than that between husband and wife, wife and husband? Adultery is nothing more than succumbing to lust, when the revolutionary idea tells us to keep love sacrosanct.

8. “Thou shalt not steal.”

Rule? Or idea of love? Love and respect are closely synonymous. Taking from another what what one has no claim, as idea, is the highest form of disrespect.

9. “Thou shall not bear false witness.”

Again, translates closely to not stealing. Disrespect for ones fellow, and more than that disrespect for oneself. We all understand the idea … those that love themselves, and others, have integrity. People with integrity travel in truth. Those without integrity travel in lies.

10. “Don’t covet.” Because, wanting what someone else has is the surest way to hate, not love. The idea is to love one another, not things. Love, again, is an action. To love a thing so much as to put it before the action of love, is self-demeaning.

The traditionally interpreted ten commandments are a prescription unifying power under a set of rules. Translated to the idea of love, they become a prescription for keeping hate from your heart. But, this translation cannot be taken literally. The lessons must be viewed as a symbolic story that points to an idea. That idea is love and love is an action.

But god is more than just love. Indeed, God, in the multitude of forms, is all of the revolutionary ideas that benefit mankind. Those ideas that hold us together, instead of tearing us apart, are in a word, our divine inheritance. Ideas that pull our minds from hate and division and discord and judgment and instead, focus our attention on quality of life among our brethren. Ideas like beauty, truth, charity, tolerance, justice.

I don’t see many of these qualities among the christian right today. I see their interpretation of the Bible as an attempt to create a jail to enclose ideas they are intolerant of. I see them using Jesus as a symbol of hate. Largely, I see them as people who walk in hate, rather than in love of people they might have some moral qualms with. But, that’s not what Jesus taught. He taught the idea of love. He taught us to live our lives in such a manner that our hearts are totally opposed to the idea of hypocrisy.

We’ve all seen this movie before, this preaching of the gospel of hate and intolerance. We’ve seen the movie where laws are passed to marginalize the weak on the basis of hateful interpretations of divine stories. Those movies don’t end well. We collectively call them nightmares, that fortunately, we’ve historically woken from by remembering that love means action. Hate means rigidity accompanying fear. We cannot fear for long before rigor mortis sets into our minds and souls. Evil will only take my voice in my sleep. I won’t let it happen while awake.

Standing With the Good Samaritan Against So Many “Christians”

I was brought up Christian—baptized Anglican and enrolled in Roman Catholic Sunday School. That was my mother’s bargain: dad could chose the baptism, but mum got to choose the Sunday school. Smart woman.

I can’t say I’m Christian anymore, though I still have a ton of respect for Jesus from those early days. Like most schools for beginners, my Roman Catholic Sunday School concentrated on the basics. The basics I received were:

  • God is Love
  • Jesus wants you to take care of those less fortunate than you
  • Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself.
  • Do Unto Others As You Would Others Do Unto You
  • Better to be a Good Samaritan than a Pharisee (i.e., better to not believe and do good deeds, than to believe and not do good deeds)

Now, I’m no theologian, and unlike with some other disciplines I know I haven’t read enough to have a really informed position. But I do know a few things, a few simple things. I know that when Jesus talked about judgment, he said this:

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Whenever I read these words I think that Jesus is a man I could love and respect. And whenever I read these words I am saddened by how few of his followers today are worthy of the word “Christian.”

Marx once said “I am not a Marxist”. I wonder if today, Jesus would say “I am not Christian”.

Oh, certainly there are many good Christians, like the priest who taught me so many years ago, or the priest who regularly visited me when I was in hospital even though I wasn’t one of his flock. Many, many Christians feed the hungry and visit the prisoners and the sick.

But so many seem to suffer from the sickness descended from Calvin, this diseased thinking that to be Christian all you have to do is believe in Christ, that belief and not works matter more. Once “saved”, once “reborn”, well, after that you can do whatever you want: be a Pharisee and still call yourself a Christian.

I stand with the Good Samaritan. I’ll take my chance with God, and Jesus, for that matter, with all my doubts, but at least understanding that it’s my deeds in life that mattered and that what I did to help the least of Jesus’s brothers is what I’ll be judged on, not whether or not I “believed” the correct piece of doctrine about who Jesus was, or what the after life is like, or whether being gay is bad.

Because I’m not a Christian. But I hope I’m a good Samaritan.

And if Jesus is God’s son, I hope he’ll recognize me as such when that time comes when I have to account for the life I lived.

Originally published in 2008, at FDL.


A New Ideology

There is no reality which is not mediated by perception. This is not to say that there is no reality; the famous “I refute you thus,” kicking a rock, applies. It does not mean there are no natural laws, no physics, chemistry, or even truth—or Truth. It means that we decide what reality means through a thick lens of belief. This lens picks out what is important, obscures the unimportant, and distorts everything, and most people are hardly even aware that it exists.

Keynes once wrote that most politicians are slaves of some defunct economist, generally whose name they don’t even know. That we should regulate the world through markets is an idea which would have been absurd to virtually everyone three hundred years ago, even as the divine right of Kings is absurd to us today. That corporations should shield their owners from liability is an idea which was bitterly opposed by most capitalists two hundred years ago. That greed leads to better outcomes was laughable to virtually everyone, including Adam Smith, who thought it worked only in very specific circumstances and lamented that tradespeople were constantly in conspiracy against the public.

That goods, including food, should be primarily divided based on market success is another idea that most of the world, for most of history, has never held.

What is oddest about our modern ideology is the same thing that is odd about virtually all ideologies: It contradicts itself. We do not have either free or competitive markets, and not one in a hundred free market ideologues could define a competitive market, nor would they want one if they could, as an actual competitive market reduces profits to nearly nothing. Free markets cannot exist without government coercion, yet we have come to assume that it is government which makes markets unfree, which is a half truth at best. It’s markets that make governments unfree when they buy government–and the first thing any good capitalist does upon winning a market is try to eliminate the free market, since an actual free market threatens a monopolist or oligopolist.

An ideology tells us what is thinkable and what is unthinkable, what is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. Right or wrong. It either says that 90 percent taxation is right and good when imposed upon great wealth, or an unthinkable burden on “value” creators. It further defines value, for instance, privileging financial innovation which actually destroys genuine good production. It says that food that makes us sick is acceptable and that banning such food is unethical. It says that it is right and proper that men and women meet their needs by working for other people, without any ability to meet their own needs if the market deems them surplus beyond private or public charity. It says that land that lies fallow is not available for anyone to grow food, that pumping poison into water and food and air is acceptable, that rationing health care by who has the most money is the best way to organize health care. Or, it could say that healthcare is too important to allow people to buy their way to the front of the line.

People think that their individual decisions matter, but so much of what happens is dictated by social contexts. A man goes to war, or not, and that has little to do with him personally. A college student has a huge debt and that is because she is a Millennial, not a Baby Boomer. A generation has fantastic success, but that is because they are the GI Generation in America. These circumstances are not the results of individual decisions, even if it feels like it. Born 30 years earlier, the exact same people would have stagnated on farms. A generation raised in affluence undoes all the protections put on the economy by those who experienced the Great Depression, because they think they know better, really, and they never experienced the Great Depression or the Roaring ’20s.

One of the most important books of the past 200 years was a pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto. You should read it. Virtually every demand in the Communist Manifesto has been met by Western Democracies. Conservatives like Otto Van Bismark looked at it and said, “Oh, you want pensions? We can give you that if it means you don’t rebel and cut our heads off.”

A credible opposing ideology, a credible existential threat to the reigning ideology, creates a reaction. That reaction can be, well, reactionary, but it tends to blend towards that ideology. When the main ideological and material competition to Western Capitalist Democracy is a nasty form of Islam and Chinese Totalitarian State-run crony capitalism, that leads nowhere good, not least because they aren’t credible threats (no, Islamism is not going to conquer Europe, Japan, North America, or South America, sorry).

But an ideology organizes things. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Akkadians, the ancient Egyptians, if they wanted to do something, set up a new religion, with a new God. They were quite brazen about creating Gods, really. They ran the banks out of the churches, and indeed, ran some truly terrible usury, with interest rates as high as thirty to forty percent (which is why debt holidays were instituted, it didn’t take long before people owed more grain or silver than existed in the entire universe, with rates like that).

When we want to do something, we fiddle with market design, with little incentives here or there. We make bureaucratic rules, create new laws, set up secret courts and bureaucracies to run them, make small adjustments here or there to make sure things work out as we want. A little tax here or there, a subsidy here or there, a patent or IP law change, a law requiring millions of dollars before one can set up a bank, laws allowing corporations to monetize public research by universities, and all the right people make money and the wrong people don’t, and all is good in the world.

The fundamental idea of our current regime is one that most people have forgotten, because it is associated with Marx, and one must not even talk about the things Marx got right, because the USSR went bad. The fundamental idea to which I refer is that we are wage laborers. We work for other people, we don’t control the means of production. Absent a job, we live in poverty. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they are exceptions. We are impelled, as it were, by Marx’s whip of hunger. It took a lot of work to set up this system, as Polyani notes in his book The Great Transformation, but now that it has happened, it is invisible to us.

A new ideology that leads to prosperity should insist on changing this relation to the means of production. This doesn’t mean a Marxist proletarian “communist” paradise, but it does mean giving ordinary people back real economic power, which means the real ability to say “no” to wage labor, and freedom from needing to take the next job that comes along regardless of what it is. Not only will this lead to a different, much more fair division of goods created by society, it will lead to much better treatment of wage labor workers. The experience of the dotcom boom should be instructive in this regard: When you can walk out because you don’t need this job and it isn’t clear you can be replaced, bosses suddenly start treating you very, very well indeed.

I’ll talk about what that ideology looks like and what that society looks like, at a later date, certainly in my non-fiction book. It will be, not a consumer society, but a producer one, in which most people feel that they can make things, feel that they can provide for much of their own needs. Though many people sneer at the idea that technology matters, in actual fact, technological change makes possible new modes of production, along with new social arrangements. The assembly line and factory imply a type of social arrangement, the heavy plow implies a type of social arrangement, hunter-gatherer implies yet another. Within each of these technological tool kits, however, there are choices: Some hunter-gather bands are the sweetest, most kind, peaceful people you could ever want to meet. Others are high practitioners of torture and head-hunting. Central planning of the Soviet variety and industrial democracy of early to mid-twentieth century America are both within the possibilities of industrialization. Radios were originally used much like the early internet till the government used the excuse of the Titanic sinking to seize the airwaves from the early pioneers and sell them to large companies.

There are, ultimately, two dominant strategies: cooperate or compete. If you want widespread prosperity, the dominant strategy in your ideology must be cooperation, though competition has its place. And ultimately the difference between the right and the left is this: The right thinks you get more out of people by treating them badly, the left thinks you get more out of people by treating them well.

An ideology that believes in treating people well is a lot better to live under. And as a bonus, happy people are a lot more fun to be around. And societies with that ideology, all other things being equal, will tend to out-compete those who believe that fear, misery, and the whip are the best way to motivate people.

Finally, an ideology that succeeds is always universalist. It asserts, for example, that all people have certain rights and does not admit exceptions. This may bother the relativists, but a powerful ideology admits no doubt on core ethical concerns: Democracy is how everyone should rule themselves, no exceptions, or, everyone has a right to a trial and to see the evidence against them, or, anyone who doesn’t worship the True God is going to hell.

A powerful ideology is a scary thing. If your ideology isn’t strong enough, doesn’t create fervent enough belief that people are willing to die for it, then it won’t change the world. But if it does create that level of fervent belief, then it will be misused. The question is simple: Will this do more harm than good?

An ideology which leads to us killing a billion or more people with climate change, allow me to posit, is a bad ideology. At the end of its run, neoliberalism will kill more people than Marxist-Leninism did, and our grandchildren will consider it monstrous. Most of them will be no more able to understand how or why we submitted to it (or even believed in it) than we can understand how Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao came to power. Hyperbole? Not in the least, because the body count is going to be phenomenal.

When faced, then, with a monstrous ideology, our duty is to come up with a better one, an opposing one. Because ideology determines what we do. It is both the lens through which we see the world, and the motor that pushes us forward.

(Originally Published October 22, 2013. Back to the top in 2017 as most current readers won’t have seen it, and it’s foundational. Back up again, October 9, 2021, for the same reason.)

If you enjoyed this article, and want me to write more, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

The Path Of The Great Prophets

A religion is an ideology with supernatural elements.

We consider it OK to criticize Marxists or capitalists or libertarians or monarchists, but we tend to shy  away from saying that a religion has bad elements.

The Hindu caste system is evil. It needs to end, and it needs to end today. If The Laws of Manu sanctify it, they need to go or be reinterpreted, whether they are a holy document or not.

All religions which claim that non-believers automatically are damned need to change that because it leads to things like crusades and jihads and burning people at the stake to save their souls.

God also does not have a chosen people, and claiming it does leads to obvious problems.

Male “leadership” needs to go away as well.

Prophets are great men (there don’t seem to be many women prophets) and most of them did more good than evil.  Codified religion, however, generally winds up missing the point. Muhammad, for example, made the lot of women far better than it was before. He improved it. His followers took the better status he gave them (still less than men’s) and said “OK, this is it” or they backslid, rather than noting the direction of movement: forward.

(It’s my annual fundraiser (and going slower than normal this year.) If you value my writing and can afford to, please consider donating.)

Confucius put human relationships at the center of his teachings, but denigrated women and put only one relationship involving women as important: the husband wife bond. His teachings, resting in the family, also had a tendency to lead to nepotism.

Jesus, poor bastard, had his teachings bastardized more than almost any great prophet I can think of: a Christianity which includes the book of Revelations has lost the plot, and I suspect the Old Testament should be ditched as well, because the God of the Old Testament acts in ways opposite to what Jesus teaches.

Great prophets are not perfect, they don’t get everything right. Their successors are usually their lessers, and get even more wrong.

Senator Carl Schurz once said, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” This is the correct attitude in religion, as well.

Religion is often wrong, and the great prophets were not always right. You take the good and jettison the evil. If a great prophet tells you to do evil: to enslave people, or to murder, or to oppress, it is still evil. To abnegate to them your moral responsibility is not the road to God or good, it is the road to Hell.

Religious followers who fall back on authoritarianism “my prophet/god said so, that’s why” are not due a pass because they have a religion. If what they’re doing is wrong, it’s wrong no matter what authority they claim. A God who is not good and does not want its followers to do good is no God anyone should follow.

What is especially ridiculous is that almost everyone who has a religion was born into it. Converts are actually quite rare. So people follow a set of beliefs they didn’t choose just because of where and who they were born to. (Not that this is unique to religion.)

The person of reason; the moral person, takes these beliefs as arbitrary and inquires as to what parts are good and bad, rather than bowing down before tradition and authority.

This is the path of respect for the great prophets, each of whom came into an imperfect world, was unwilling to accept it, and tried to make it better. Buddha saw suffering and sought a way to end it. Confucius saw rulers savagely mistreating their subjects and sought to bring better rule. Jesus saw people following “the law” and missing the spirit of love and care for fellow humans that was the essence of the love of God. Muhammad’s first followers were mostly women and slaves (as was true of early Christianity) because he offered them a better life than the one they had.

It is that spirit: the spirit of improvement, of movement towards the good, that is the legacy of the great prophets. If you are not doing that, no matter how pious, you are not following their example. By not striving to improve on what they got wrong, left undone, or their successors messed up, you disrespect them more profoundly than anyone who takes their name in vain but tries to do good.


America: A Christian Nation

Scott Warren is charged with helping immigrants who were crossing the Mexican border.

Oh my God.

“He gave them food, he gave them water, he gave them a place to stay…He did a bad thing.” — Anna Wright, in her closing argument that should be convicted.

I wonder if the prosecutor thinks she is a Christian?

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I would also note that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, essentially, for treating visitors badly.

It is fundraising time. I hope to be able to keep writing at a fair pace (an article almost every day.) To justify doing so, I need to see that people care enough to give. If you do, Please Donate.

Feel free to use this thread as an open thread, in addition to discussing the above Christian Nation act.

Remembering Jesus

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. —Gandhi

I am not a MarxistMarx

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets—Matthew 7:12

(Something reminded me of this, so back to the top, even if I did just miss Easter. Originally published April 4, 2010.)

On this Easter Sunday, if you believe in Jesus, I tell you this: Don’t ask yourself what you think Jesus would do, because it’s clear most Christians don’t have the faintest idea. Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What have I done to Jesus?
  2. What have those I support done to Jesus?

35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you: thirsty and gave you drink? 38 Or when did we see you a stranger and took you in? Or naked and covered you? 39 Or when did we see you sick or in prison and came to you? 40 And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. 41 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you took me not in: naked and you covered me not: sick and in prison and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you? 45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen: I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. 46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

Have you tortured Jesus? Have you bombed Jesus? Have you laughed when someone raped Jesus? Have you killed Jesus? Have you said “those animals in jail deserve to be raped and beaten?”

What have you done to Jesus?

What have you done to Jesus!

Jesus didn’t say to kill your enemies, to annihilate them. He didn’t say to beat them. He didn’t say your life was worth more than another person’s life.

What Jesus said is “what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

What Jesus said was

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

I am not Christian.  I do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, except perhaps in the heretical sense that we are all God’s children.

But I do love Jesus. I do respect Jesus. I do think he was a good man, and a good guide.

And it saddens me when those who claim to act in his name do exactly the opposite of what Jesus would want them to do.

If you do evil, if you rape, if you murder, if you bomb, if you kill, so be it.

But do not cloak yourself in the shadow of Jesus’s crucifixion, do not claim that you are his apostles. You, my friends, are the devils who quote scripture, the foulness that uses the words of a good man to cover your evil, that you may continue to rape, murder and torture.

The true church is the heart of any person who actually follows Jesus.

And if Jesus were to return today, he would say “I am not a Christian.”

Clio, the Muse of History

Heaven on Earth: The Kindness Maxim

In the past, I have noted that kindness is generally the best policy and always the best policy default. If you don’t have an ironclad reason not to be kind, be kind.

Let’s run through this.

People who are treated badly, become bad. The abused grow up to abuse. The sick make others sick and cannot contribute to society. Happy people are better to be around. Prosperous people can afford your products and services.

Happy, healthy, loving, and prosperous people are the people we want in our societies.

We evolved in bands. Forty to fifty people running around the Savannah. We would have been friendly to some other bands (those with whom we shared ancestors) and we were hostile to most other humans, who were our competitors. The level of hostility varied with carrying capacity; if resources were short because of too many humans, quite hostile, otherwise not very.

We did not evolve to take into consideration the needs of large groups of people. In order to do so, we evolved cultural methods: fictive kinship, culture, story, myth, and religion. These things created fictional identities which went beyond people we knew of or saw every day.

Theses are all hacks for a fundamental evolutionary problem: We’ve evolved to be pretty good to those we see all the time, and not to care much about people we don’t.

This was fine when were just a particularly clever animal. Even when we got to the point of making wholesale changes to the environment (usually through agriculture), the worst we could do is ruin a local ecosystem–we couldn’t mess up the world.

But, today, for good or ill, we live in that “interconnected world” and the “global society” everyone talks about. What happens to someone in Nigeria, Brazil, or China matters to me. Their happiness, their health, their prosperity affects mine.

And how they affect the environment affects me, too. How I, a first-worlder with a huge carbon footprint, affect the environment, affects them.

Their well-being affects mine. It is in my interest for them to be better off.

This isn’t what you’ve been told. Economics treats the world as a zero-sum game, a matter of managing scarcity.

The world has scarcities: resources, dumps for pollution like carbon, etc. But civilization isn’t, usually, a zero sum game. Instead, it’s usually negative sum or positive sum, or both. For some time for Westerners, and a few other developed nations, it has been positive sum, and there have been many other periods of positive-sum games.

My win is everyone else’s win.

Creating a good society requires both managing actual scarcities and understanding that actual scarcities are scarce, and that most things people want to do are positive sum. It requires turning most of what we do into positive-sum games. A good society is one in which “your win is my win” is made true far more often than not.

“We win together” is a prescriptive statement which must be made into a descriptive statement. (It is also a descriptive statement in general, because if my win isn’t your win more often than not, we don’t live in a good world.)

So humans must see beyond their identities, their tribes, and their nations, to treat all humans as people whom we want to be healthy, happy, prosperous, and loving. For their sakes and for our sakes.

But there is an additional step required to create a good society, a good world, a good civilization.

We must care for non-human life.

The mass-death of trees and plankton affects you, it affects me. The mass death of fish affects you, it affects me. The destruction of marshlands causes floods and reduces water quality; it affects you, and it affects me. Ecosystem collapse—well, you get it.

The problem here is that I’ve given you the rational argument.

Rationality is marginal. It’s not that humans can’t be rational, it’s that rationality is the lesser part of why we do things or how we make decisions. We make decisions based on emotions, and those emotions are based on our ideologies and identities.

Rationality, or “reason,” allows us to weasel out of doing the right thing too often. It is a tool for our emotions; emotions which right now scream: “My interests, my ideology, my identity, my people matter MOST!”

For a good world to exist, we must feel that other humans should be treated kindly simply because it is the right thing to do. We should be revolted by anyone going hungry, anyone being tortured, anyone being raped. The moment we think “They had it coming,” we’re on the wrong track. (Punishment is not the point, removing the ability of bad actors to continue to act badly is.)

And this principle needs to be extended to non-human life. We need to feel bad when animals are dying in large numbers and going extinct–bad enough to do something about it. We need to instinctively, by default, move to protect them. We should be as revolted by images of dolphins being slaughtered as we are by humans being slaughtered. If we kill for meat (and I eat meat), we should insist it be done humanely.

This must be based on values, principles, and identity, of feeling that humans and animals and even plants are all alive–and because they are alive, they must be treated with respect.

There are sound, pragmatic reasons for doing so; there are also sound moral reasons for doing so (read the Hidden Life of Trees). Anyone who doesn’t think most animals don’t feel pain, or don’t suffer, is on a profoundly unethical, immoral track.

This is the right thing to do, morally and pragmatically, and if we don’t figure out how to do it, we’re little better than bacteria that grow until they destroy their own environment and experience a great die-off.

Be kind. It creates the world you want to live in, and it may well save your life and the lives of those you claim to care about. By granting life the love you reserve only for a few, you give those few (and yourself, as it happens) their best chance at long life and prosperity–and grant it to your descendants as well.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén