25 December 2008

Greetings of the Season

Joyful greetings of the season are available, but to receive them, it’s first necessary to “get real”. In particular, as a start, there’s need to appreciate the obvious fact that it’s extremely difficult to rid the world of people’s ideas about gods. Root problems include: 1) half the people in the world have below-average intelligence, 2) maybe more than one half are mentally lazy, and 3) almost everyone seems to want something for less than its value – and if possible, for essentially nothing.

Aware of those characteristics of people, the clerics of the world’s monotheistic religions (ever eager to capitalize on the people’s ignorance, gullibility, and greed) concocted and now operate extremely effective scams, whose executions proceed through a number of critical phases. First, the clerics promote a worldview that’s simple enough for a child to understand (“God made the world and everything in it”, “God gave the breath of life to man”, and so on). Second, when something is too complicated to explain with such banality, the clerics terminate inquiry with triteness such as, “That’s just the way God made it”, “God works in mysterious ways”, “Only God knows”, etc. Third, the clerics offer fantastic paybacks for “believers” in their platitudes (eternal happiness in Heaven for Christians, 72 sex-starved virgins in Paradise for sexually frustrated Muslim males, their own godship for believing Mormon males, etc.). And fourth, to top it off, the clerics sell such nonsense for the price of just carrying their useless (and in many cases, worse-than-useless) carcasses.

Somerset Maugham saw the result clearly and summarized it realistically for the case of Christianity:
I couldn’t but surmise that the devil, looking at the cruel wars that Christianity has occasioned, the persecutions, the tortures Christian has inflicted on Christian, the unkindness, the hypocrisy, the intolerance, must consider the balance sheet with complacency. And when he remembers that it [Christianity] has laid upon mankind the bitter burden of the sense of sin that has darkened the beauty of the starry night and cast a baleful shadow on the passing pleasures of a world to be enjoyed, he must chuckle as he murmurs: give the devil his due.
Similar could be said about all the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism…), with in every case, the “devils” of course being the clerics themselves.

Now, certainly it would be great if we could rid the world of all god ideas by throwing all the snake-oil-selling clerics in prison, but it’s highly doubtful that we could gain the people’s permission to do so. Too many people are too dumb, too lazy, or have been too brainwashed when they were children to reject the clerics’ con, and especially when hope for a better life fades (in poor countries, when injustices are perceived, during tough economic times, as population exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment, etc.), people then tend to cling even more tenaciously to the hope of better times in a fictitious “afterlife”.

Besides, we should recognize that religions can have some desirable attributes. One was pointed out by Kurt Vonnegut:
The acceptance of a creed, any creed, entitles the acceptor to membership in the sort of artificial extended family we call a congregation. It is a way to fight loneliness. Any time I see a person fleeing from reason and into religion, I think to myself, “There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore.”
As well, we should remember the assessment by the Greek historian Polybius (c.200–118 BCE):
Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate and reckless of consequence, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death.
That is, religions can be useful for, if not controlling, then at least steering “the rabble”. Of course, such “controlling” and “steering” can be dangerous when in the hands of clueless clerics and power-mongering politicians (e.g., today, in Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia), but if the majority of the people democratically control religion (with constitutional protection of the rights of minorities – specifically, freedom of and FROM religion), then it would seem possible that personal and social benefits of religion could be maximized, while minimizing its undesirable features.

I suggest, therefore, that an optimum case might be realized if we were to concoct a more appropriate new god. [That all gods have been human concoctions is too obvious to belabor; that the current, principal god (Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, or “just plain God”) is undesirable is also too obvious to belabor – although I have done it elsewhere.] As a case in point, the creation of his holiness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is stimulating, but I suspect most people would find him inappropriate, incapable of mustering the desired, worldwide acceptance. I therefore propose that efforts be made to promote, worldwide, as the new, dominant god, none other than good old Santa Claus himself.

Now, before immediately rejecting my proposal as more supernatural silliness, I hope readers will consider some of the advantages of adopting Santa as the world’s principal god:
  • He’s already widely known.
  • People “own” Santa Claus; not priests.
  • Already there is a repertoire of Santa Claus “hymns”.
  • The theme of most such hymns is “so be good for goodness' sake”.
  • Kids enjoy the Santa Claus myth, and people whose intellectual capabilities exceed that of a six-year old easily abandon the myth.
  • Save for violations of a few, minor, aerodynamic constraints during flight (for, after all, he is a god!), Santa doesn’t violate major scientific results in astronomy, archeology, biology, geology, medicine, physics, etc.
  • Santa carries with him no social baggage dealing with sexuality, slavery, women’s rights, governmental policies, “just wars”, etc.
  • Santa’s always happy! He spreads good cheer. He doesn’t have the “attitude problems” of other gods whose names could be mentioned.
  • For many of us in “the developed world”, his weight won’t embarrass us.
In addition, it should be emphasized that Santa’s principal role is to deliver presents, given in love by one person to another. So, since most people agree that it would be desirable to have a god of love, surely Santa is a prime candidate.

Think of it. With Santa as God, then when people say, “God be with you” (or “Good-bye”), then we’d know it meant “Santa be with you.” Similarly, “God bless you”, “In God we trust”, “under God”, and so on, would of course be referring to Santa, to which surely no one would object. Our God (Santa) would have had nothing to do with creating the universe (i.e., he wouldn’t be identified as the first symmetry-breaking fluctuation in the original void), no one would suggest that he was involved in the “intelligent design” of life, and so on. Our God’s sole role would be to spread love, joy, and happiness among all people – and especially to all children – worldwide.

To critics who might complain that we’d just be substituting one delusion for another, I’d agree. But then: 1) obviously many people want (maybe even “need”) their delusions, 2) there are delusions – and then, there are delusions, and 3) think of the improvements in the suggested Santa delusion over currently available options. For example, besides Santa’s potential for spreading good cheer, all “holy books” and “sacred scripture” currently dealing with available god delusions (with all their horrors, including brutality, incest, rape, racism, intolerance, etc., and hideous statements such as “kill the infidels”) could be trashed (where they belong), to be replaced with simple, happy ditties about red-nosed reindeer, admonishments not to “pout”, and a moral code no more complicated than “be good for goodness' sake.” Furthermore, surely those in need of a god delusion would be pleased with the concept that their god (Santa) isn’t “transcendental”, outside space and time, but instead, lives happily with his wife and helpers at the North Pole.

I’d point out, further, that besides being realistic, we should be practical. Let's not forget that creating a popular god isn’t so simple as it might seem. Ezra, Paul, Muhammad, Sidney Rigdon, et al., for example, went to substantial efforts to create their gods out of thin air. Yet, in the case of Santa, we’re almost there: already he’s one the most popular (if not the most popular!) supernatural beings ever concocted. And besides, good old Nick is a likeable old fellow! I’d bet Ezra, Paul, Muhammad, Sidney Rigdon, et al. would give their right arms if their gods possessed Santa’s image!

That’s not to say that some “make over” of Santa’s image wouldn’t be helpful, and if we do so, we should be wary of potentials for developments of “sectarian divisions”. But I expect that movie and TV studios of the world could accomplish the make-over tasks fairly easily, and in truth, I’m not overly concerned about any sectarian divisions that might develop. What I’m thinking about, for example, is that some new movie about Santa (maybe created by former members of Judaism) might emphasize that humanity’s role is to help Santa in this life, whereas a movie about Santa produced by former Christians, Muslims, or Mormons might emphasize that our goal is to be “good little Santa’s helpers” in this life, in order to continue to be Santa’s helpers (spreading love and good cheer) for eternity. But I’d have the reader consider the possibility that such sectarian divisions wouldn’t lead to sectarian strife – provided that fanciful rewards aren't conditional upon belief in them (as is currently the case in all the damnable Abrahamic religions).

Nonetheless, I admit that some precautions seem appropriate and some regulations may be necessary. For example, 1) All governments of the world would need to adhere to a strict policy of separation of Santa and State (at least insofar as dictating any official, governmental position on Santa’s necromancy), 2) The establishment of a Santa priesthood should be strongly discouraged (e.g., with tax rates in excess of 99%), and 3) Any suggestions of “eternal punishment” for those who fail to spread Santa’s love and cheerfulness would need to be strongly discouraged (e.g., via propaganda campaigns); instead, emphasis should be on the suggestion that the only punishment for not spreading Santa’s love and cheerfulness would be less cheer and less love for the violator. In that regard, Somerset Maugham’s statement could be an effective slogan: “The important thing [is] to love rather than be loved.”

And for those skeptics, nay sayers, and “bah humbuggers” who might complain that having only one “Santa’s day” per year for spreading love and good cheer would be too restrictive, I’d encourage them to “think bigger”. Sure, we could continue to emphasize one day per year (there’s more historical justification for identifying December 25 as the birthday for Kris Kringle than there is for Horus, Mithra, or Jesus), but I see no reason why “the spirit of Santa” couldn’t be extended, in a huge variety of ways, to include every day of the year: happy Santa Day – every day!

As for a slogan for the overall Santa campaign, I’d suggest:
Happy Santa Claus day everyone! May Santa’s spirit be with you all year: mingle and tingle with the spirit of Kris Kringle!


06 December 2008

Barbarians Within & Without

With the Mumbai murders added to the atrocities committed by Muslim terrorists during the past decade (in Bali, Lisbon, London, New York, Tel Aviv…), questions are again raised about how to eliminate terrorism “inspired” by religion.

Such barbarism is as old as religion. Even ignoring the religiously inspired barbarism of the Ancient Akkadians, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Hebrews, Christians terrorizing Jews continued for the worst part of 2,000 years, Muslims terrorizing Jews has continued for almost 1400 years, it was centuries before the terrors of the Christian Inquisition subsided, and today, Islamic terrorists continue to murder Christian, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and of course, the horrible “atheists” (or better, “scientific humanists”).

It could be stopped. It would be relatively easy to strike sufficient terror into the terrorists for them to abandon their barbarism. Unfortunately, though, the barbarians are both within and without the gates to enlightenment.

My rough estimate is that, if the people of the world (e.g., through their representatives at the UN) would permit us, then we scientific humanists could eliminate all Islamic terrorism within a decade at a cost of less than 10 million dollars per year ($10 million, not $10 billion, per year) – without using any military hardware, without destroying any property, and without any deaths. Unfortunately, however, the people are unlikely to grant their permission, especially since the clerics of the world (the herders of sheep) would rise up (for a change, united) in opposition to the means used to achieve the end of Islamic terrorism.

Theoretically, it would be easy to terrorize the Muslim terrorists, to stop their Islamic madness. Their Achilles heel is exactly the same as the source of their madness, which has continued for more than a thousand years. The source of their madness is their claim to love death.

Such madness of Muslim maniacs became apparent in the Battle of Qadisiyya in 663, when the commander of the invading Muslims sent the following message to the defending Persians:
You… should convert to Islam, and then you will be safe, for if you don’t, you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life.
Similar idiocy continues today. For example, the “will” one of the Madrid bombers contains the message:
Many people take life as a path to death. I have chosen death as a path to life.
The same claim that they love death has been made by Chechen terrorists, Hezbollah leaders, and members of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.

Humans can’t reason with such beasts, but we can terrorize them, because within the DNA of every living being is the desire to survive; those life forms that didn’t have the “programming” to seek their own survival are extinct. The minds of the terrorists have been warped by their clerics to “think” that they can live forever – even, live forever in paradise – if they’re killed as jihadis. But beneath their clerical indoctrination resides (not totally dormant) the jihadis’ fear that their indoctrination may be a lie; that their death will be their end.

To terrorize the terrorists, therefore, we need to hit their Achilles heels with arrows of truth. Thus, to get the Muslim terrorists to smarten up, we should (with a ~$10 million per year campaign) flood the air and airwaves of Islamic countries with "slogans of truth", such as the following, with the content of each message and the total number of messages sufficient so that at least one arrow will hit each target.
• There are no gods and there never were.

• More certain than the knowledge that we exist is the knowledge that no god exists or has ever existed.

• Smarten up, people: God is just make believe.

• Like all gods, Allah is a figment of overactive imaginations.

• Your religious leaders are just using you, to benefit themselves.

• If you think that you’ll live forever, then you’ve been duped by religious con artists.

• Your parents told you that Allah exists, but they, too, were duped by their parents and by religious con artists.

• Come on, people, get real: all the talk about God or Allah is just that – just talk. In reality, there are no gods and there never were.

• All religions are just make believe.

• When you die, you’re dead – and that’s the end of you.

• In logic, believing that something is true because the belief brings pleasure is called “The Proof by Pleasure Fallacy”; in religion, the same fallacy is called ‘faith’.

• Don’t “believe” anything; instead, evaluate the evidence and then estimate the probability that it’s true. There is zero evidence that any god exists or has ever existed.

• Believe in yourself! Have faith in the scientific method! People who do so are called “scientific humanists”; people who don’t should be called not “theists” but “unscientific antihumans”.

• The universe seems to have created itself via a symmetry-breaking fluctuation in a total void, leading to the Big Bang and the eventual production of stars, planets, and an autocatalytic, self-replicating molecule, from which humans eventually evolved.

• Think about it: “Religion is considered by fools as true, by scientists as false, by leaders as useful, and by clerics as a meal ticket.”

• Think about it: “Religion is the science of children; science is the religion of adults.”
And so on, sufficient to purge the stupid ideas of god and eternal life from every indoctrinated mind.

But most unfortunately, almost certainly the campaign won’t be conducted, because there are barbarians both within and without the gates to enlightenment. In the US, for example, not only would the military-industrial complex resist the plan (because of the loss of contracts to build more tanks and planes and ships) but also, members of Congress wouldn’t approve of a campaign against God; they’d consider it (rightly so) as political suicide. Further, imagine the reaction of clerics throughout the world to any campaign that would discredit their con games. And of course the majority of people throughout the world wouldn’t approve of such a campaign: half of them obviously have below-average intelligence and more than half would be unwilling to give up their crazy, egotistical hope that they’ll live forever.

So, given that there are barbarians both within and without, what are scientific humanists to do? Sorry to leave the reader with some “downers”, but I don’t see any other realistic alternatives:
• Continue to kill Muslim terrorists (although it’s essentially hopeless, since they’ll just keep on popping up like weeds).

• Terminate Muslim immigration to the West (although it will have limited effect, since those already here are breeding like rabbits and the Islamic terrorists have demonstrated that they can penetrate national boundaries).

• Evict from Western countries not only Muslims who preach or practice hate but also those Muslims who fail to demonstrate allegiance, first, to their adopted countries.

• Financially and in other ways, assist those brave Muslims in Islamic countries who are trying to enlighten people in their own countries.

• Continue with campaigns to eliminate religions in Western countries – for example, support all programs that ridicule organized religions.

• Do whatever you can to stop the funding of Islamic terrorists via Arab petro-dollars – for example, support programs to develop automobiles that run on other than gasoline and support programs to increase electric power generation from nuclear and other, non-Arab fuels.

• To alert Muslim leaders to become aware of potential consequences of terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction, promote a campaign to have the US Congress: 1) withdraw from the portion of the Geneva Convention dealing with destroying “objects of cultural heritage” and 2) instruct the President to request (in the event of another major terrorist attack on the US) Congressional approval to obliterate Mecca.
And another action that individual scientific humanists might want to try, although I admit that, personally, I’ve found it to be frustrating: sign up at any of many internet “religious forums”, both Christian and Islamic (which can be easily found using an internet search engine), and then, when it’s appropriate, add derisive comments about the silly idea of god. You’ll get the expected responses, but when a pebble is thrown into the pond, the ripples expand, and who knows whom you might be able to stimulate to start thinking for themselves.


18 November 2008

On Bailing Out Detroit

There’s wisdom in the familiar line “It’s hard to drain a swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators”, but then, that’s precisely when some leadership is needed.

Currently, there's no doubt that the American economy is swamped with alligators. It’s also clear that essentially all of our so-called leaders in industry, congress, and the administration are up to their asses in economic alligators. Essentially all of these leaders, however, seem most intent on protecting their asses, apparently having forgotten about the need to drain the swamp.

In particular, in the case of the American automotive industry, the swamp is polluted with foreign oil, the cost of which (controlled by the OPEC cartel) is drowning our economy. Meanwhile, because of our sick economic conditions and the sick leadership in our automotive industry, American car manufacturers are begging for financial bailouts. And unfortunately, politicians (most intent on protecting jobs so that they’ll have a better chance of being re-elected) may bail out Detroit, leaving the rest of the country in an oily swamp filled with alligators.

Isn’t there at least one leader among them who would say the obvious and who would start draining the swamp?

Obviously what’s needed is a Manhattan-style project to redefine, redesign, and retool our entire automotive industry, to drain our country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Don’t bail out Detroit; rebuild it.

As a country, let’s set the achievable goal that, in five years, not a single automobile rolling-off American assembly lines will be powered by petroleum products and, instead, will be powered by batteries, natural gas, liquefied coal and oil shale, and even hydrogen. Simultaneously, we’ll need to build an infrastructure to dispense the alternative fuels and a sufficient number of nuclear reactors to supply the additional electricity (to charge the batteries, liquefy the coal and oil shale, and produce hydrogen).

And I’d add that, for those few Americans unwilling to trade-in their gas-guzzlers for vehicles running on alternative fuels, then to show them that there's no hard feelings, we could offer to trade them their Bibles for copies of the Koran.