23 December 2010

All Clerics are Terrorists

I’ve been aware for a long time that all clerics are terrorists; this month, I saw it again.

A decade-or-so ago, I saw that my then daughter-in-law had been terrorized – by her parents, under the direction of their clerics.  Ever since she was a baby, she had been thoroughly indoctrinated in Mormonism (as have my grandchildren), but otherwise, she was (and probably still is) a wonderful woman and mother.

My wife and I were attempting to convince her not to proceed with divorcing our son, if for no other reason than for the sake of our grandchildren.  After being entrapped in Mormonism for more than a decade, our son had finally broken free, apparently after realizing that the Mormon’s Book of Abraham is a complete fake (and therefore, so is the Book of Mormon).

Addressing our son’s rejection of Mormonism, my wife said to our then daughter-in-law (something close to) “it doesn’t really matter”, to which she responded (something close to):  “It matters for the fate of our immortal souls!”  In particular, with respect to her own “immortal soul”, we later learned that her mother had told her that our son “was no longer of any use” to her, because no longer being a Mormon, he’d be unable to “whisper her secret name to her” (i.e., the password that she’d need to enter heaven).

Of course, I then tried to convince her that all talk about gods, devils, immortal souls, heaven, hell, etc. was nonsense, but you can imagine how far I got with that.  The final communication relayed to me was:  “She hates you.”  Well, I certainly don’t hate her.  I am, however, extremely sorry for her (and for our grandchildren) that she’s been terrorized.

Similar is apparently true for the majority of Americans.  A 2007 survey of 35,000 Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 74% of the surveyed Americans believe in heaven [84% of all Protestants, 82% of all Catholics, 95% of all Mormons, and 85% of all (American) Muslims – but probably close to 100% of all Muslims living in Islamic countries].  The survey also found that 59% of all Americans believe in hell [73% of Protestants, 60% of all Catholics, 59% of all Mormons, and 80% of all (American) Muslims, although again, probably close to 100% of all Muslims living in Islamic countries].  And though one should question the accuracy of the survey results (because the report also states that 12% of all atheists believe in heaven and 10% of them believe in hell!), yet the survey does suggest the horrible extent to which clerics have mentally corrupted – and terrorized – so many Americans.

Anyway, polls and ancient personal history aside, this month I encountered another example of clerical terrorism.  At an Islamic Forum (a different forum from the one mentioned in the previous post), I was reading posts in a thread entitled “Atheism – A Religion which Denies Being a Religion”.  In this thread, a tirade by a Muslim writing under the name “Orthodox” reminded me of what Robert Ingersoll wrote:
Only the very ignorant are perfectly satisfied that they know.  To the common man the great problems are easy.  He has no trouble in accounting for the universe.  He can tell you the origin and destiny of man and the why and wherefore of things.  As a rule, he is a believer in special providence, and is egotistic enough to suppose that everything that happens in the universe happens in reference to him… 
After “Orthodox” had finished (with copious quotes from Islamic “sacred literature”, apparently thinking that they bolstered her arguments), a seemingly more knowledgeable Muslim posting under the name “Rahimi” made some errors, so I decided to try to correct him as follows (post #54):
Rahimi, I noticed two of your fundamental statements in Post #44 that are at least misleading.  Your statement that goes beyond ‘misleading’ to ‘incorrect’, is:
…we don’t find systems, laws, precision, order etc arise from chaos and disorder.
To see that your claim (that order can’t be derived from chaos) is incorrect, I suggest that you read Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine’s book “Order out of Chaos” or his book “From Being to Becoming”.  The essence is that entropy of a particular system can decrease if the system can “feed” on some gradient (e.g., in chemical or gravitational potential).  Such is almost certainly how life began on Earth.
Your statement that’s misleading was stated in conjunction with your claim that our universe couldn’t have come from nothing:
It is an established scientific fact that something cannot arise from nothing.
In contrast to your claim, there are two major reasons to assume that our universe did, in fact, come from nothing.
One reason is because, consistent with Coulomb’s first principle of electrostatics, Newton’s principle of momentum (modified by Einstein), and the first principle of thermodynamics, the total electrical charge, momentum, and energy now in our universe sum to exactly zero.  That is, what appears to have happened is that the pre-Big Bang “nothingness” split into positive and negative “somethings” (e.g., the positive energy that congealed into mass and its motion is exactly balanced by the negative energy that fills what we call “space” or “the vacuum”).  Stated mathematically, it’s easy to get Something (S) from Nothing ( N = 0 ):
 N = 0 = S + ( – S) . 
And the second reason that we can conclude that our universe came from separating “nothing” into positive and negative “somethings” is that the concept is also consistent with available data, as reviewed by Lawrence Krauss in his video that you can find on YouTube entitled “A Universe from Nothing”…
Well, as the interested reader can verify and as even I expected, my post caused Rahimi quite a few problems.  In particular, though, in direct response to my comment,
…if you can follow everything [Lawrence] Krauss says, then immediately you’ll say goodbye to Zarathustra’s model of the universe and all the silly religions that have followed from it…
he responded (Post #66), with the following comment, containing ideas completely unrelated to the discussion, but nonetheless, very revealing:
And of course there are murderers and killers who try to justify their crimes by subscribing to falsehood such as ‘the survival of the fittest’, ‘war on terror’ and other craps.  These are the people who wronged themselves and their final abode and destination is the fire of jahanam (Hell)..
Amazing!  Up to this point in the thread, the focus was on science.  All of sudden, he jumped to morality and “the final adobe… Hell.”  Startled, I responded (Post #69):
Ah, maybe now I understand:  the real terrorists got to you – those who capture people’s imaginations with the horrors of a fictitious hell.  They control people with fear, and not just fear of dying (which is instinctive) but with fear of eternal torture.  Succumbing to such fears, people can no longer think for themselves.  They become mental slaves.
That is, just when it appeared that Rahimi might be understanding at-least-a-little of what scientific investigations are suggesting about the origin of the universe (I assume he at least started to look at Krauss’ video “A Universe from Nothing”), he retreated back into his shell, apparently “shell shocked” by his religion’s warnings about hell – which then led me to this post.

As I already mentioned, I’ve known about clerical terrorism for a long time, but it impresses (and saddens) me when I encounter it again.  Further, as “Catherine” said in the comments section of the New York Times report of the debate between Rabbi David Wolpe and Christopher Hitchens, I’ve learned through sad experiences:
It’s hopeless to argue against religion because the religious don’t have to stick to reason which should rule a civil debate.  They can always defer to blind, senseless faith.  It’s like trying to play Chess against someone who insists on playing Dungeons and Dragons.
In fact, it’s even worse:  religious people are trapped in those mental dungeons – and they truly fear those imaginary dragons!

Maybe to see better what moved me to write this post, suppose the leader of a street gang said to you:
Look:  my two big brothers used to be in the Mafia.  My friends are their friends; my enemies are their enemies.
You treat me right, you do what I say, and you’ll be okay.  One of my brothers is like God:  I got money; he’ll make sure you get money.  I got things; you’ll get things.  I got friends; you’ll get friends.
Otherwise – well, let me put it this way.  My other brother is a real devil:  he gets a kick out of digging people’s eyes out with his knife.  I dunno why.  Maybe he likes to hear people beg to be killed.
So anyway, there you go.  It’s your choice.  You got free will.  Choose.
Or suppose a member of an organized crime syndicate said to you (as owner of a small business):
Nice little business you got here, but what you need is insurance, so nobody will come in and rob the place, smash the joint, rough-up your customers, and maybe even kill somebody.  Lucky for you, me and my boys are in the insurance business.  You just give us 10% of your take, and we’ll make sure that you and your business come to no harm.  Otherwise, well, ya never can tell what might happen.  But it’s your choice.  You got free will.  Choose.  
If such happened to you or to someone you cared about, then in free countries, you should inform the police and expect the perpetrators to be prosecuted under laws such as the U.S.’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which includes fines and punishments for “extortion, blackmail, and terrorism.”

In the same way, I suggest that, in a sane world, all clerics of all the Abrahamic religions should be similarly charged with extortion, blackmail, and terrorism.  As Joseph Lewis said:
Let me tell you that religion is the cruelest fraud ever perpetrated upon the human race.  It is the last of the great scheme of thievery that man must legally prohibit so as to protect himself from the charlatans who prey upon the ignorance and fears of the people.  The penalty for this type of extortion should be as severe as it is of other forms of dishonesty.
But it’s unlikely that we can make much progress in such an approach (e.g., using the RICO Act), because with their extortion and blackmail, the damnable clerics have terrorized people, police, prosecutors, and politicians so badly that they can’t think straight.  Examples include “Rahimi”, “Orthodox”, “Yahya” (mentioned in the previous post), and my former daughter-in-law.  And the damndest thing is that clerics (with the help of previously indoctrinated parents) don’t stimulate people’s fear and greed using real threats and bribes (as do leaders of street gangs, protection rackets, and other organized crime syndicates):  they terrorize people using only imaginary bribes and threats!  What a racket.

Look at it still another way.  After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President G.W. Bush declared a “War on Terror”.  Of course he “miss-spoke” again:  war can’t be waged against terrorism; terrorism is a tactic.  What he meant to declare (I assume) was a war against terrorists.  Much more significantly, however, is that he misidentified the terrorists.

The terrorists aren’t the would-be bin Ladens of the world:  they’re the terrorized.  Terrorized by thoughts of eternal torture in hell, they greedily grab empty promises of eternal paradise in heaven, provided they become martyrs in some jihad.  Thereby, the bin Ladens of the world are just automatons and drones that the real terrorists use to wage war.

The real terrorists are the clerics of the world.  Their terrorist manuals are ridiculously called “holy books” and “sacred literature”.  They terrorize people with data-less, idiotic ideas about gods, devils, immortal souls, heaven, hell, and so on.  The worst (especially now in Islam) is their concoction and promotion of the terrors of hell.  As Ingersoll wrote more than a century ago:
If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant.  I make my choice now.  I despise that doctrine.  It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears.  It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men.  It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child.  It has filled the good with horror and with fear; but it has had no effect upon the infamous and base.  It has wrung the hearts of the tender; it has furrowed the cheeks of the good.  This doctrine never should be preached again.  What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear?  I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you.  If you did, you could not sleep one moment.  Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane.  A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena…
To stop such terrorism, to help people break free from clerical enslavement of their thoughts, to help them think for themselves and, therefore, to hold beliefs only as strongly as evidence warrants, education is key.

Each of us must do what we can to educate people – especially children – about how knowledge of the world is gained (not by “revelation” but by the scientific method) and about at least some of the knowledge already so gained.  Once people learn that the most certain knowledge that humans have been able to gain, even more certain than the knowledge that we exist (for we may all be just simulations in a humongous computer game) is that there are no gods or devils (and never were any), then the extortion, blackmail, and terrorism of all clerical con games will be obvious to everyone – and the damn clerics of the world can be prosecuted for being the despicable parasites that they are.


24 November 2010

Some Experiences at the Islamic Board Forum

Preface:  I wrote most of the following two or three years ago, intending to post it at my other blog.  [To be more precise, the date on the final save of the document (labeled here as “1. Potential Post”) was 2008/01/02.]  Subsequently, however and for reasons mentioned in the text, I decided not to post it.

This week, I had additional experiences at the same Islamic Board Forum (see “2. Update”, near the end of this post), which some readers might find entertaining – and maybe even educational.  Therefore, I decided to put the two pieces together and post them here.

1.  Potential Post
As readers can partially confirm by going to the Islamic Board Forum and searching for all posts by “zoro”, I have been posting at this particular Muslim forum for about a year.  I wrote that you could “partially confirm” that statement, because I submitted approximately twice as many as the ~100 posts revealed in the search.  The others were deleted (I assume by various “moderators” at the forum) – and all were deleted (save one post) without any explanation provided!

If you do conduct such a search, you can confirm that my current status is “Account Disabled”.  [Update:  that was two years ago; I was banned for some (forgotten) number of months.]  “Account Disabled” is the Board’s way of publicly advertising that I’ve received a personal notice that I’ve been “Banned”.  Again, I was given no reason for my expulsion; in fact, the notice that appears when I try to login [two years ago] explicitly states:  “Banned.  Reason:  No Reason Given.”  Perhaps some readers might be interested in explanations – maybe out of curiosity, maybe to learn, and maybe to save yourselves fruitless effort.

In general, my interactions at the forum were “interesting”.  I interacted with some people whom it would be easy to call friends, including the Muslim “Woodrow” [see, however, “2. Update”], “Trumble” (a very impressive Buddhist), “Grace Seeker” (a friendly Christian), and others, as well as several intelligent and well informed secular humanists.  The Muslim “Purest Ambrosia”, however, was something else.  If you should be inclined to join this forum, watch out for her:  it’s not ambrosia she’s peddling; it’s pure poison.  [See “2. Update”:  she’s now changed her moniker to “The vale’s lily”.]  In addition, there were (unfortunately) many Muslims with whom I interacted who are so ill informed that they left me stunned:  it was like trying to communicate with children in the midst of their “terrible twos”.

But preliminaries aside, let me show you a few examples of my posts that were deleted – and I wrote it that way, because typically the post would appear for a short duration (I’m not sure how long), but then, when I checked back at the forum (typically within a day), they were gone.  From these examples, you can gain some appreciation for what to expect Muslims won’t tolerate – at least the Muslims in charge of this forum, which Google reports to be one of the two most popular, English-language, Muslim internet forums.

If you’re interested in posting at the “Comparative Religion Section" at the forum, make sure that you never criticize Islam, the Qur’an, or Muhammad, and don’t proselytize for any other religion; then, your proposed posts will normally not be deleted.  But I’ve had some posts deleted even in the Comparative Religion Section [Also, see “2. Update”], one with the astounding criticism:  “We don’t need discussions of other philosophies here.” With that attitude, the Muslim world will never emerge from its clerically imposed Dark Ages.

Where I started getting into major troubles with what I call Muslim clerics was in the “Learn About Islam” Section of the forum.  For most of the year that I was posting on the forum, I ignored that section.  One day, however, I had a look at a thread started by “madeenahsh” entitled “The 3 Required Characteristics for Seeking Knowledge”.  If you look at the Original Post (OP) of the thread, you’ll see that “madeenahsh” quoted some Islamic article that describes a ludicrous way for youngsters to gain “knowledge” – by which Muslim typically mean (and “madeenahsh” and the original author of the article definitely meant) knowledge about Islam.  So, I responded to such nonsense with the following (subsequently-deleted) post, in which the quotations are from the article posted by “madeenahsh”.
I think that the article that you quote is inadequate, because (to begin) it inadequately addresses two fundamental questions, namely, 1) What knowledge is sought? and 2) What is meant by ‘knowledge’?
With respect to the first question, consider some examples.  Is ‘knowledge’ sought about:  How to start a fire without a match?  How to get a wheel to turn on an axle?  How to irrigate crops?  How to breed cattle?  How to read and write?  How to build an airplane?  How to build a computer?  How to…
In particular, if anyone seeks knowledge about how to write an article about “The 3 Required Characteristics for Seeking Knowledge”, then that person would be well advised to learn that the first step is to clearly describe the purpose of acquiring such knowledge – followed closely by what the author also failed to do, namely, define what’s meant by ‘knowledge’.
What’s commonly meant by ‘knowledge’ is that one possesses a succinct hypothesis about some process that summarizes a substantial quantity of reliable information, that has predictive capability and whose predictions have been validated in a substantial number of experimental tests, and that normally doesn’t conflict with other well-established hypotheses (or “principles”).  Such is the knowledge about how to start a fire without a match, how to get a wheel to turn on an axle, how to irrigate crops, and so on. 
If the author had addressed those first two questions (what knowledge is sought and what is knowledge), then many “required characteristics for seeking knowledge” would follow – and not necessarily those that the author listed:
1) In some cases the student should “adhere to the method of education that those people of knowledge before us adhered to” (insofar as they used the scientific method), but the variety of ways that people have made great discoveries (from Galileo in a church being so bored with a sermon that he started timing a swinging chandelier using his pulse rate, to Newton’s lying on the grass and seeing an apple fall, and from Schrödinger’s panic about what to present in a lecture, to Feynman’s playing his bongo drums) suggests that the student could be well advised to “follow her own fancy!”
2)  The suggestion that “he should be prepared to sacrifice all of his time to seeking knowledge” is extremely ill advised.  As the Seven Sages said:  “Moderation in all things.”  Thus, experience has shown that it’s much more productive if a student takes time for rest and relaxation – to let her right brain (synthesis capability) make sense of what her left-brain has analyzed.
As for “the correct way for seeking knowledge”, I disagree with the first two of the “characteristics” listed.  Instead, they should be replaced by:
1.  Make sure you know what problem it is that you’re trying to solve.
2.  Proceed to try to solve the problem at a rate that’s right for you.
I would agree, however, with the third point listed:
3.  Be persistent.
I doubt that many people in the free world would take offense to my post (above) – or even pay much attention to it, since it’s so obvious.  The Muslim moderator, however, quickly deleted it.

I then moved on to a second thread started by “madeenahsh”, this one entitled “About Knowledge – Beneficial Read!”  In this thread I posted the following – and it, too, was rather quickly deleted:
I’m disappointed that, in your post, you use so many words without defining them, including ‘knowledge’, ‘good’, ‘comprehension’, ‘religion’, ‘virtue’, ‘understanding’, ‘righteous’, ‘validity’, ‘learning’, ‘sciences’, ‘faith’, ‘certainty’, ‘evidence’, ‘wisdom’, ‘believe’, and ‘truth’.
Furthermore (and more significantly), the meanings that you appear to attribute to such words are inconsistent with their modern meanings.  Instead, they are meanings that were commonly used by theologians and “scholastics” of a thousand-and-more years ago, whose ideas have long since been thrown into the trashcan of human mistakes.
Almost 2500 years ago, Socrates said:  “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”  Agreeing with him (although I’d prefer if he had said “There is only one good, willingness to learn, and one evil, refusal”), I would suggest that you are potentially promoting much evil by ignoring (or refusing to learn) at least a little of the vast increase in knowledge that has developed during the past thousand-or-so years, ever since Muslims further developed the scientific method, beyond what Hippocrates outlined.
As Hippocrates (one of Socrates’ contemporaries) said:  “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former beget knowledge; the latter, ignorance.”
What you have posted displays just opinions.
I admit that the above post of mine was a bit more “testy”, but as you can check, the OP was sooooo stupid!

Next, I moved on to the thread started by “Al Habeshi” entitled “Students of Knowledge… Sites and Time Tables”.  You’ll need to look at the proposed “Sites and Time Tables” to get an appreciation for just how dumb they are.  But details aside, my now deleted post was the following:
Al Habeshi:
Your recommendations for gaining knowledge blatantly conflict with the recommendations of the Arab Human Development Report entitled “Building a Knowledge Society”, which was co-sponsored by the Regional Bureau for Arab States, the UN Development Program, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and which was prepared by 40 distinguished Arab scholars, along with 30 advisers and peer reviewers. 
In case you haven’t read the report, its English version is at 
and its Arabic version is at
http://www.palestineremembered.com/download/UNDP/ArabicVersion/Ar-Human-Dev-2003-ArabicVersion.pdf .
If you’ve already read the report, then I think that it’s incumbent upon you to explain why you are proposing to continue methods that have caused and continue to cause so much harm to the mental development of Muslim children.
2. Update
I’m not sure, now, why I didn’t finish the above and then post it on my other blog, but perhaps it was because I became too angry:  so many of my posts were deleted, and not only was I getting madder and madder at having wasted so much time (only to have the posts deleted at the forum), I then found that I was wasting even more of my time creating the post for my blog!

In any case, this week I decided to see what was going on at the Islamic Board Forum.  I saw that “Woodrow” was still there, as a moderator, but he seems to have become less friendly (see below).  Perhaps the cause was that, a year-or-so ago, I had seen how members of the Richard Dawkins (RD) Forum had raked him over the coals.  There, he had initiated a thread that basically stated:  “I don’t believe atheists exist”.  The rather amazing result of that encounter was that, even after his idea was thoroughly ridiculed, he wasn’t humiliated.  He was like a little child sassing back:  “I can believe whatever I want!”  (Which is correct, of course – at least in the free world – but people should expect to be ridiculed for holding ridiculous beliefs.)  Incidentally, after his ideas were ridiculed, he seemed to have withdrawn from the RD Forum.

Anyway, at the Islamic Board’s Forum a few days ago, I posted some comments in the thread Pascal’s Wager.  A seemingly intelligent Muslim by the name of Yahya Sulaiman had posted the following:
Pascal’s Wager is every bit as intellectually dishonest as people on the other side of the argument saying that they don’t believe in religion because of how it “inhibits your freedom” or exists for some sort of purported purpose, etc. – and for the very same reason:  the only consideration that should ever go into any decision whether or not to believe something is whether or not that something strikes you as true.  Period.  Truth trumps.  (That’s my motto, actually.)
To that post, I made the following comment:
Well, Yahya, I expect that most people maintain a similar motto, but for it to be valuable, an answer (or answers) is needed to the challenging question:  How do you determine if some claimed “truth” is true?  If you are interested in my (long) response to that challenging question, I’ve posted it (written as letters to my oldest grandchild) at http://zenofzero.net/docs/T1_Truth_&_Knowledge.pdf and at http://zenofzero.net/docs/T2_Truth_&_Understanding.pdf .
To my question “How do you determine if some claimed ‘truth’ is true?”, Yahya responded:
As best you can as a fallible creature, using your rational (and maybe your intuitive) faculties to your utmost.  Really, any way would be preferable to whether or not you think believing in something to be advantageous.  That’s just hideous.
To which I replied:
Oh, I agree: the proof-by-pleasure logical fallacy can lead to hideous consequences.  Yet, as I describe in detail in the references already given, it’s profitable to examine details about how to “[use] your rational (and maybe your intuitive) faculties to your utmost.”  One finds, for example, that it’s only in “closed systems” (such as games, mathematics, etc.) that “truth” can be determined; in “open systems”, in contrast (e.g., in reality), the most that can be determined (using the scientific method and Bayes’ theorem) is the probability that some claim is true.
Then came two posts by “the vale’s lily” (formerly “Purest Ambrosia”), the more complete of which is the following.   [And it might be interesting to notice that it’s her post number 7,034.  Can you imagine it:  over 7,000 posts in ~4.5 years, which means an average of more than 4 posts per day, every single day?!]
Please if I may give you a brief introduction – Zoro has in the past tried to indoctrinate folks here into his new cult appropriately entitled ‘Zen of Zero’ and I think outside of himself and his oldest daughter that is exactly how many cult members he has..  It is a sort of poetic ‘physics’ and I use the term physics loosely.  Once he starts indoctrinating err ‘‘challenging’’ you and per above with his religious pamphlet I believe he has already enclosed it for your perusal and you decide not to succumb to the powers of his miltonic mind he’ll unleash a barrage of his followers on you, since his granddaughter isn’t here, that will leave only his person – of course for which he was banned before..  I understand that by now you’d want to offer me one of your famous chill pills but I think I owe it at least to the new comers to what lies ahead..
A lovely lady – to whom, of course, I didn’t respond.  But I did continue to try to communicate with Yahya, who wrote:
What does any of it have to do with whether anything is an open or closed system??
My response was:
It’s an important distinction emphasized by Karl Popper.
For closed systems (such as all games), truth can be ascertained.  For example, in the game of baseball, it’s “true” that “three strikes and you’re out” (according to the rules of the game).  Similarly, in pure mathematics (according to the rules of the game), it’s “true” that 1 + 1 = 2.
For open systems, however (e.g., the human body, legal systems, and all natural systems), we can never be certain that we possess “the truth”; at best, we can determine only the probability that some claim is true (or, similarly, false).
Einstein made the distinction referring to mathematics as follows:
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Thus, for example, if 1 molecule (or mole) of carbon dioxide (CO2) reacts with 1 molecule (or mole) of water (H2O), the result is one molecule (or mole) of carbonic acid (H2CO3), i.e., 1 + 1 = 1.  Similarly, if two pieces of putty or two black holes merge, then 1 + 1 = 1.
The philosophical consequences of such ideas to religion are significant:  insofar as they are closed systems (defined by their scriptures), then religious “truths” can be ascertained, but insofar as they are open systems, at best only the probability of the truths of their claims can be determined.  For example, if Christianity is treated as a closed system, then the “truth” that Jesus is the son of God can be determined from the New Testament.  But in reality, the best that we can do is examine the evidence and, from the evidence, estimate the probability that such a claim is true.
Similarly for the “truth claims” of all religions - thus returning to my original question:  How do you determine if some claimed “truth” is true?
After which, the moderator (Woodrow) quickly added:
I believe the topic has been covered the best it can be here.  THREAD CLOSED.
Well, with “thread closed” (but not “case closed”!), a day-or-so later I moved on to another thread; this one entitled “To Atheists”.  As interested readers can determine, the thread led to some intelligent comments from “titus”, “gator”, “lynx” and others (particularly about whether Allah was playing a game by testing us), plus some belligerent, ignorant comments by (the same) Yahya Sulaiman (and others).  So, silly me, I thought I’d enter the fray with a little fun, posting the following:
Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
Maybe better:  I have what some people will consider to be good news, but which others will consider to be bad news.
The good news (at least for some people) is this:  I can confirm that God exists!  Also, I’m able to confirm that God IS testing people:  God isn’t just playing games!  For some people, however – in fact, for literally billions of people – the bad news is that God’s test is not what they think it is.
The other day, God let me in on the skinny:
She said that it’s not all fun and games running the universe.  She asked if I had any idea how hard it was to keep all the physical constants in the universe sufficiently “fine tuned” to permit life to continue, to ensure that pesky old dark energy didn’t blow the universe apart, to ensure that Black Holes didn’t gobble up every galaxy and then merge, returning the universe to its original state of total nothingness, and so on.
I admitted that I didn’t fully appreciate the difficulties.
She said that She wanted some help, especially since the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing and dark energy is getting even darker.  So, She’s testing people.
She said She’s looking for a few diligent and intelligent people who hold beliefs only as strongly as relevant evidence warrants.  To that end, She sent down a bunch of confusing messages in various “holy books”.  The test is:  those who believe what’s in such books, basing their beliefs on their own wishful thinking, on what other people say, etc. (rather than basing their beliefs on evidence) fail the test.
That’s her way to winnow the wheat from the chaff.  The chaff, She discards (the elementary particles of which they were made, however, She reuses).  Those who pass the test become candidates to help Her.
By the way, She specifically warned me not to tell anyone about the details of Her test, but shucks, who’s afraid of
Then what?  My post appeared, but by the time I took a break for breakfast, it was gone – along with Woodrow’s:
This has gone a step to [sic] far.  THREAD CLOSED.
I also received a message from Woodrow “explaining” the reason for deleting my post:  “Not funny and very offensive to theists.”

What a sorry excuse for a forum moderator!  Moderators at other forums are normally assigned the tasks of keeping the discussion on topic and not too heated (e.g., prohibiting direct and explicit insults to other posters).  But in this case (in a thread entitled “To Atheists”, no less!), my post was claimed to be “offensive to theists”.  It seems not only that in a thread “To Atheists” are atheists not permitted to express opinions but also that it’s offensive for theists to think that atheists might be right – or offensive even for theists to think!

Meanwhile, it must be perplexing to all other posters in the thread to have the moderator state, “This has gone a step to [sic] far”, since now, there’s no indication of what was “to [sic] far” (i.e., my post).  Simultaneously, it’s hilarious and ridiculous!

Actually, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more to the whole affair – and it’s not so humorous.  Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if moderators on this Islamic forum are charged with forbidding any ideas that might shake any Muslims’ (blind) faith in Allah, Muhammad, and the Qur’an.  And I expect that, if the moderators don’t adequately censor “offensive ideas”, then the sponsors (hosting the website), who are probably clerics in Saudi Arabia well funded with petro-dollars, will shut them down.

For me, the moral of this post is not to waste any more of my time trying to communicate with Muslims at the Islamic Board’s Forum.  I’ll leave it to readers to identify other possible morals, e.g., dealing with censorship, the thin skins of so many Muslims, their fear of new ideas, the evils of holding beliefs more strongly than is justified by relevant evidence, and so on.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, this Thanksgiving (tomorrow) I plan to give sincere thanks to those to whom we are indebted for our freedoms.  In that respect, I invite you to again read what Robert Ingersoll wrote (which I’ve quoted many times, but never enough):
When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths – there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.  The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust.  I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave.  There was for me no master in all the wide world – not even in infinite space.
I was free:  free to think, to express my thoughts – free to live to my own ideal – free to live for myself and those I loved – free to use all my faculties, all my senses – free to spread imagination’s wings – free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope – free to judge and determine for myself – free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past – free from popes and priests – free from all the “called” and “set apart” – free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies – free from the fear of eternal pain – free from the winged monsters of night – free from devils, ghosts, and gods.
For the first time I was free.  There were no prohibited places in all the realms of my thought – no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings – no chains for my limbs – no lashes for my back – no fires for my flesh – no master’s frown or threat – no following another’s steps – no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words.
I was free.  I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.  And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain, for the freedom of labor and thought – to those who fell on the fierce fields of war – to those who died in dungeons bound with chains – to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs – to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn – to those by fire consumed – to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.  And I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.

31 October 2010

Stop Clerical Graft!


Refuse to Pay

A wise man once said, a long time ago,
“All people by nature desire to know”;
Yet, more should be said, for progress to grow:
All claims to be knowledge – what tests say it’s so?

What truth in the claims of creationists
At odds with ideas from top scientists?
What rule proves the “truth” that God even exists?
Did unstable “nothing” yield all that persists?

And what of the claims about heaven and hell?
They seem to be stories that children would tell.
The stories of Gabriel, Emmanuel…
All play on emotions – like detrital smell!

Emotions are certainly helpful to use,
But who doesn’t know how emotions abuse?
A feeling can be a confusing sad ruse
And yet be adopted as trustworthy news!

Emotions can’t answer:  2 added to 2?
But logic can frequently show us what’s true;
Yet, logic is under some huge constraints too,
For logic can’t find information that’s new.

With logic you test what you might just assume;
But logic can’t even begin to illume
The premisses hidden in nothing but fume –
From which any “truth” can be forced to exhume!

Emotion and logic possess their own blight.
There’s only way to get truth in the light.
The method (by which science earned all its might):
Guess, test, and assess if predictions are right!

Please try it yourself:  you say there’s a god?
Predict what would happen.  I dare you.  I prod!
You’ll find as I did, something really quite odd:
That truth in such tests is ridden roughshod!

All clerical "truths" are nothing but lies:
The “proofs” that they claim are what logic denies;
They choose only “truths” that emotionalize;
In turn, each “truth’s” source is what fools fantasize.

No evidence backs any clerical claims,
But lots of it shows all clerics’ true aims:
Exactly reverse from what each one proclaims,
They run the world’s oldest and richest con games!

They tell you:  “Your role is only to serve
A powerful god who will always observe;
At death, he’ll pass judgment on what you deserve;
So, do what we say – and your soul we’ll preserve!”

Far better, know nothing, as Josh Billings said,
Than know what ain’t so.  But people so dread
The con artists’ claims about after they’re dead,
They give up their life and seek death now instead.

Enough with the clerics and games that they play;
We’ll never make progress by going that way.
The “truths” clerics claim just lead people astray;
Stop clerical graft by refusing to pay!


19 September 2010

On Where to Build the Ground-Zero, Multifaith Center

In his 7 September 2010 op-ed article in The New York Times, the Islamic cleric who seeks to build a “community center in Lower Manhattan” (originally called the Cordoba House and commonly called “the Ground-Zero Mosque”), Feisal Abdul Rauf, states:
My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.
His description of the new “bridge” he proposes includes:
Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years…  Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.

Our broader mission – to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology – lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims.  It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.
In an 8 September 2010 interview with Soledad O’Brien, Rauf added:
You must remember, Soledad, and Americans must remember, that what we do is watched all over the world… If you don’t do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world.  If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world.
So, thereby, Rauf threatens us with Muslim madness:  if we in the West don’t behave “correctly”, if Muslims don’t get what they want, then once again, psychologically immature Muslim maniacs will throw temper tantrums.

Well, Mr. Bridge Builder, I have a suggestion for you:
•  Whereas, in general, Western tolerance is already exemplary;

•  Whereas we in the West (who have freedoms of speech and of the press) are already able to learn as much about other cultures as we desire;

•  Whereas we in the West are beginning to understand, quite well, thank you very much, some of the errors and evils of Islam, including its blatant intolerance of unbelievers in Islamic balderdash (e.g., the Koran’s injunction for Muslims to “kill the infidels”);

•  Whereas you claim that your goal is to “cultivate understanding” in a “multifaith, multinational effort”, “to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds”; and

•  Whereas the King of Saudi Arabia, the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques”, has been promoting “interfaith dialogue” and surely would provide you with financial support to build your “multifaith center” ($100 million being mere pocket-change for him);
Therefore, I strongly recommend that you don’t try to build your “interfaith center” anywhere near where Muslim maniacs murdered thousands of innocent civilians – including anywhere in New York City, in America, or in the West – but instead, build it where it’s obviously so sorely needed:  at the Ground Zero of Intolerance, Mecca.

Stated differently, if you truly want to “promote tolerance” and “counter radical ideology”, then I recommend that you stop “skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims”, and instead, put all your efforts into trying to show Muslims how civilized people live.


16 September 2010

September 11th: Discard a “holy book” Day

In the U.S., we have ten legal Federal holidays (from New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day).  We call them ‘holidays’ (a word derived from Old English hāligdæg meaning “holy day”, in turn from Dutch and German heilig, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’), but the religious connotation for such days is generally gone – except insofar as the word ‘holy’ is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘separated’, and on such days, most of us separate ourselves from work!  Also, both officially and unofficially, we generally recognize many other special days – and even weeks and months (e.g., Groundhog Day, Children’s Book Week, and Native Heritage Month).

The purpose of this post is to recommend that September 11th (or 9/11) be adopted as Discard a “holy book” Day.  Here, by ‘discard’, I don’t necessarily mean burn, bury, or do similar to your “holy book”.  For example, you may want to recycle it or trade it in for a better book.  Yet, if you own a “holy book” and there’s no concern about air pollution, then if you’re so inclined, burning it would be good.

I should also admit that I’m generally opposed to destroying things.  In some cases, however, e.g., in the case of bedbugs, black-widow spiders, and bacteria causing diseases from botulism to bubonic plague, destruction seems desirable – and without doubt, the world is certainly plagued with “holy books”, witness:
•  Estimates are available that there are approximately 7.5 billion Bibles in the world.  Since 1908, the Gideons alone, have distributed “close to 1.5 billion” Bibles.  Last year, the Gideons distributed 26,000 Bibles in Chattanooga, TN, alone (population of ~ 500,000).

•  Approximately 800 million copies of the Koran have been sold; I couldn’t find an estimate for how many copies of the Koran have been given away, but last year, “about 18,000 to 20,000 copies” of the Koran were hung on doorknobs in Dearborn, MI, alone (population ~90,000), and “from July 2007 to May 2008, 70,000 [copies of the Koran]… were distributed in Chicago and 30,000 in Houston.”

•  Even the relatively minor Mormon cult (membership claimed to be about 10 million) has printed more than 100 million copies of their Book of Mormon and distributed them around the world.
Thus, even without inquiring of Google how many other “holy books” have been printed, it seems obvious that the world is infected with “holy books.”

Meanwhile, of course it’s silly to call any book ‘holy’ – in my dictionary’s sense of “dedicated or consecrated to God”, because the most certain knowledge that humans have been able to gain (even more certain than the knowledge that we exist!) is that no god exists or has ever existed.  More realistically, “holy books” are “dedicated and consecrated” to the clerics who peddle them in their con games for their own profit, in lieu of working for a living.

Further, the reasoning of one of the most influential founders of the American government, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), in his 1794 book The Age of Reason should have put the silliness to rest, once-and-for-all, that “holy books” are “revelations” from God.  An illustration of Paine’s reasoning is given in the following quotation – for which I’ve taken the liberty to update some of its punctuation and spelling and I’ve added a few consistent changes and comments in brackets [such as these].
Every… [organized, revealed] religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals:  the Jews have their Moses; the Christians [have] their Jesus Christ… the [Muslims] have their Muhammad [and, after Paine wrote this, the Mormons had the Rigdon-Smith conspiracy]…  Each of those [religions rely on]… certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God:  the Jews say that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the [Muslims] say that their word of God was brought by an angel from Heaven [just as the Mormons claim, for their Book of Mormon].  Each of those [religions] accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word ‘revelation’.  Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.  No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if He pleases [if he were to exist!].  But admitting, for the sake of [argument], that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that [first] person only.  When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons.  It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing.  Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication – after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the Commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some “historian” telling me so.  The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.  [Paine adds the footnote:  “It is, however, necessary to except the declaration which says that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children; it is contrary to every principle of moral justice.”]

When I am told that the Quran was written in Heaven and brought to Muhammad by an angel, the account comes too near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second-hand authority as the former [and similarly for the Book of Mormon].  I did not see the angel myself, and, therefore, I have a right not to believe it.

When also I am told that a woman called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not.  Such a circumstance requires much stronger evidence than their bare word for it.  But we have not even this – for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves; it is only reported by others that they said so.  It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not choose to rest my belief upon such evidence…

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.  It has been the most destructive to the peace of man since man began to exist.  Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses, who gave an order to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers and then rape the daughters.  One of the most horrible atrocities found in the literature of any nation.  I would not dishonor my Creator’s name by attaching it to this filthy book…

The study of theology… is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion…  All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit…

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.
In reality, it’s been well known for more than a century that the “revelations” recorded in all “holy books” are just records of ignorant speculations by primitive people.  Some examples of such assessments are the following:
All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the “elect” have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it.  I brought away a copy from Salt Lake.  The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so “slow”, so sleepy, such an insipid mess of inspiration.  It is chloroform in print. [Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain; 1835–1910)]

I studied the Koran a great deal ... I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad. [Alexis De Tocqueville (1805–59)]

Having thus given a cursory view of the Qur’an I lay it before the sensible persons, with the purpose that they should know what kind of book the Qur’an is.  If they ask me, I have no hesitation to say that it cannot be work either of God or of a learned man, nor can it be a book of knowledge.  The Qur’an is the result of ignorance, the source of animalization of humans… a fruitful cause of destroying peace, an incentive to war, a propagator of hostility amongst men and a promoter of suffering in society. [Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83)]

A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell – mouths mercy, and invented hell – mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him! [Mark Twain (1835–1910)]

This Bible bears every evidence of being a book like every other book, conceived by man, written by man, altered by man, translated by man, printed by man, but – and this is where it differs from every other book – the Bible is swallowed by man.  And it has disagreed with him; [but] man has not digested it properly through lack of sufficient dissection of its parts.  It has been taken with a spiritual sauce that has disguised its real flavor.  Anything in the Bible, no matter how raw, is taken as God’s food.  It is used to demonstrate problems of diet which do not provide a balanced ration; it is accepted by the gullible though contradicted by the revelations of Geology, Astronomy, Anthropology, Zoology, and Biology.  Taken as prescribed by the doctors of divinity, the Bible is a poisonous book. [William Floyd, 1871–1943]

The longer we live the more are we convinced that no adult person would accept the Bible as a divine work if he had not been taught the dogma of the Bible’s divinity when a child.  Let the matured mind come to the perusal of the Bible without the religious prejudice in favor of its divine character, and it would reject the book as unworthy the consideration of the intelligent, educated mind.  Let the refined sense, which all education in art, manners and social morals seeks to cultivate, begin to read the Bible, without the religious prejudice in favor of its sacred character, and before a dozen pages had been read, it would close the volume with disgust and hide it out of sight, or burn it as soon as possible.

The Bible’s divinity rests upon the mental and moral corruption of the young.  Were children not taught that this book was sacred, men and women would look upon it as unholy.  Do people realize what harm they are doing to the mind of the child when they teach it to accept the Bible as God’s word?  They are telling the child that falsehood is sacred; that ignorance is holy; that foul stories are pure; that vile words are clean, in the mouth of God.  Fathers and mothers would not tell their children what they, and what priests and ministers, tell them God wrote or inspired man to write.

What is needed today is to tell the truth about the Bible.  Tell men and women that ignorant, uncultured, unrefined men wrote it hundreds of years ago, and that it is unfit in its present shape to put into the hands of a child that a mother wishes to grow up honest, true and pure.  Liberals should not allow their children to touch the Bible.  They should keep it from them until they are old enough to know that no book was ever written by a god, and then, if they read the Bible, they would see its true character.  We must guard the minds of our children from Christian influences.  We pity the child that is taught that the Bible is the word of God, but we despise the man that teaches this falsehood.  [Lemuel K. Washburn (1846–1927)]

If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal.  If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane…

The real oppressor, enslaver, and corrupter of the people is the Bible.  That book is the chain that binds, the dungeon that holds the clergy.  That book spreads the pall of superstition over the colleges and schools.  That book puts out the eyes of science, and makes honest investigation a crime.  That book fills the world with bigotry, hypocrisy and fear.

The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious.  This is the book to be read in schools in order to make our children loving, kind and gentle!  This is the book they wish to be recognized in our Constitution as the source of all authority and justice!

How long, O how long will mankind worship a book?  How long will they grovel in the dust before the ignorant legends of the barbaric past?  How long, O how long will they pursue phantoms in a darkness deeper than death? [Robert G. Ingersoll (1833–1899)]
In the subsequent century and more, even more damning assessments have been made of all “holy books”, but I’ll leave it to readers to explore such assessments on their own.  For reasons detailed elsewhere, my own summaries are:  as bad as the Bible is (and similarly, the Book of Mormon), the Koran is that much worse.

Here, I’ll end this post just with the serious recommendation that it would be good if everyone in the world would commemorate one of the innumerable hideous consequences of permitting “holy books” to pollute the world by denoting 9/11 as Discard a “holy book” Day – and do so!

Although, come to think of it, if you would prefer not to restrict yourself to discarding “holy books” only on September 11th, then I certainly wouldn’t try to deter you.  In my view, the more “holy books” trashed, the better.


05 August 2010

A Monument to Folly

Yesterday, an ignorant and therefore dangerous editorial about the proposed “Ground-Zero Mosque” was published in The New York Times.  Below, I’ve reproduced the first part of the editorial, with comments inserted.
August 4, 2010
A Monument to Tolerance

It has been disturbing to hear and read the vitriol and outright bigotry surrounding the building of a mosque two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  So it was inspiring when New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 on Tuesday to reaffirm one of the basic tenets of democracy: religious tolerance.
What a horrible paragraph!  First, it’s flat-out wrong to claim that the Commission’s vote dealt with “religious tolerance”; in reality, it voted on the only measure that it could, i.e., the proposal to identify the current building as a “landmark site”.  Thereby, claiming that such a vote was for “religious tolerance” is a red herring.  And as for describing opposition to the Mosque as “vitriol and outright bigotry”, such as statement is, itself, nothing but “vitriol and outright bigotry”.
Instead of caving in to the angry voices – many but not all of them self-promoting Republican politicians – commissioners paved the way for construction of the mosque and Islamic center.  It was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.
What astoundingly biased writing!  Instead of writing “Instead of caving in to the angry voices”, how about writing:  “Instead of being responsive to the majority of New Yorkers”?  As for “self-promoting Republican politicians”, are we to expect that they would promote Democrats?  Don’t politicians generally promote themselves and their party?  And as for “it was the only thing to do”, No!  Just as the original American patriots did, the commissioners could have violated the law to defend our freedoms.  That would have been “inspiring”.
The attacks of Sept. 11 were not a religious event.  They were mass murder.  The American response, as President Obama and President George W. Bush before him have said many times, was not a war against Islam.
For a change, the editorial's writer got something correct – but what’s stated is correct for multiple, incorrect reasons!  First, it’s correct to say that “the attacks of Sept. 11 were not a religious event”, but not because Islamists didn’t consider the attacks a religious event.  Instead, “the attacks… were not a religious event”, because Islam is not a religion:  Islam uses the trappings of religion to promote the political goal of world domination – just as the Nazis did (recall, “Gott mit uns”).  Second, yes, it’s correct to say that the attacks were “mass murder”, but by associating the second sentence with the first, the writer misleads the reader:  if the writer were knowledgeable and honest, the two sentences would have led the reader to conclude, correctly, that just as the Nazis did, Islamists engage in “mass murder” in pursuit of their supremacist goal.  And yes, the third sentence in the above paragraph does describe “the American response”, but the writer fails to mention how seriously in error the American response has been:  Americans have failed to recognize that the threat of Islam is essentially the same as were the threats from Nazism and Communism.
It was not surprising that Republican ideologues like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin came out against the mosque. A Congressional candidate in North Carolina has found it to be a good way to get attention and, yes, stoke prejudice against Muslims. We expect this sort of behavior from these kinds of Republicans. They have been shamelessly playing the politics of fear since 9/11.
Talk about shameless!  I’m not a Republican, but I don’t consider attempts to alert the public to the dangers of Islam to be “playing the politics of fear”; instead, I consider ignoring the dangers of Islam to be playing the politics of burying one’s head in the sand while wearing rose-colored glasses.  Has the writer read the Koran?  If not, here’s a brief summary:  similar to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the Koran describes Muhammad’s plan for how his henchmen can rule the world.
Some of the families of the victims of the attacks, who deserve our respect and sympathy, are uneasy about the mosque. But it would be a greater disservice to the memories of their loved ones to give into the very fear that the terrorists wanted to create and, thus, to abandon the principles of freedom and tolerance.
But it would be not nearly so great a “disservice” (to both the victims and their families) as for the ignorant journalist who wrote the editorial to suggest that opposing another Islamic mosque abandons “the principles of freedom”!  Instead, banning all Mosques in America (just as meeting places for Nazis and Communists were banned) would be a beachhead in defense of freedom, because if Muslims succeed in their plans, then American freedoms will vanish as fast as the Islamists can scream “Allah Akbar”.

The rest of the editorial is just twaddle, suggesting that neither the authors of a statement by the Anti-Defamation League (a statement criticized in the editorial) nor Mayor Bloomberg (with his statement that the proposed mosque is “as important a test of separation of church and state as any we may see in our lifetime”) understand Islam.  When are such ignorant people going to learn something about what they’re apparently so eager to talk about and defend?  For example, in Islam there’s no such thing as separation of religion and state.  Again, Islam is not a religion:  it’s a political ideology that uses the trappings of religion to further its political agenda – and fool the ignorant.

In summary, the proposed mosque wouldn’t be (as stated in the editorial’s heading) “a monument to [American] tolerance”.  Instead, it would be a monument to American folly and to Islamic deceit (i.e., taqiyya).


28 June 2010

An Open Letter to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett

Gentlemen: Thank you for your philanthropy and for your recent initiative to stimulate other billionaires to pledge support for what they consider to be worthy causes. In this letter, I hope to convey some ideas about the term “worthy causes” and to provide some examples for your further consideration – examples for which (I hasten to add, in an attempt to keep your attention) I have zero financial and only philanthropic interest.

That the meaning of “worthy causes” deserves further consideration can be illustrated with the banner and frequently repeated slogan at the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “All Lives Have Equal Value”. Of course it’s common to try to summarize any organization’s mission in a short, memorable slogan, but surely the Foundation’s choice is not optimal: it’s not generally accepted as correct (e.g., the majority of people would probably maintain that a murderer’s life has less value than the life of the murderer’s victim) and it’s ambiguous (e.g., one can immediately ask, “Value for what?”).

I expect that the idea contained in the Foundation’s Guiding Principle #14 is closer to the intended meaning of the Foundation’s goal, namely, “To increase opportunity and equity for those most in need.” This statement too, however, seems deficient, since as Communism demonstrated, ‘need’ is a nebulous term: are those “in need” most in need of food, health, education, money, intelligence, ambition, determination, perseverance, a sound morality, “street smarts”, or what?

The first point I would therefore suggest for your consideration is that, whereas words such as ‘worthy’, ‘value’ and ‘need’ have meaning only relative to some objective, then before rationally engaging in any philanthropic activity (literally meaning “[activity showing] love of humanity”), the critical first step is to establish objectives. Once objectives are defined, than any activity’s value or worthiness can be judged relative to the chosen objectives.

Now, granted that some people may respond that any act showing love of humanity is philanthropic; love is valuable; therefore, all philanthropic activities are of value. Such an opinion demonstrates some logic, but it suffers from three major inadequacies: 1) It neglects to address the question “why is love valuable?”, 2) It provides no practical guidance for how to show “love of humanity” (one could, for example, publish a poem that conveys one’s love for humanity), and 3) For philanthropic people or foundations with finite budgets, it provides no practical guidance for determining what philanthropy contains the most value for the investment?

The guests at your first dinner meeting obviously had already attempted to address such problems for themselves, and the report of the resulting discussion describes the expected philanthropic topics: “education, again and again; culture; hospitals and health; the environment; public policy; the poor generally.” Listing such topics, however, does little to gain traction answering questions about how to proceed.

To gain some traction, a first step is to assign a meaning to ‘value’ relative to a more concrete and practical objective. One possible objective can be derived by modifying the Gates’ Foundation Guiding Principle #14. For example, perhaps Guiding Principle #14 should be changed from “to increase opportunity and equity for those most in need” to the shorter statement: “to increase human opportunities.” Such a statement, however, admittedly seems too general, especially when funds are limited.

I therefore suggest that, to gain substantially more traction, it’s necessary to start from some fundamentals. Consequently, I request your additional forbearance while I first review some fundamentals. After doing so, I’ll apply the results to suggest solutions to the problem at hand.

The basic question is: What’s the purpose? The more general and fundamental question is: What’s the purpose of life? Fortunately, a simple and obviously correct (even if somewhat tautological) answer is: the purpose of life is to live.

More complicated is to identify the prime purpose of humans, where by “prime purpose” is meant (as in systems theory) the goal (or set of goals) for which all other (then, lower-priority) goals would be sacrificed to achieve the prime goal (or goals). Identifying our prime goals may seem to be complicated, but in the end (as I’ve analyzed elsewhere), the result is rather simple and obvious. Thus, all humans pursue an interdependent trio of survival (or “thrival”) goals: of themselves, their families (whatever they recognize as the extent of their “families”), and their values.

As might be expected and as I’ve also analyzed still elsewhere, defining, understanding, and identifying the origins of the values held by a particular person or group of people can be fairly complicated. For rational agnostic or secular or scientific humanists such as yourselves, however, it’s a relatively easy task and the results are rather obvious. For example, recognizing all humans to be members of the same “human family”, we value that which (in the more general version of the Foundation’s Guiding Principle #14) “increases human opportunities.”

Other summaries with similar meaning, however, can be more transparent. For example, as Robert Ingersoll said in his last public address (in 1899):
Man has a little intelligence, and he should use it. Intelligence is the only lever capable of raising mankind.
Thus, consistent with Ingersoll’s assessment and with the principle “to increase human opportunities”, other statements of the goal could be “to help solve human problems more intelligently”, “to help intelligence go on”, and similar, where ‘intelligence’ can be displayed in the full range of human accomplishments, from poetry to physics, from cooking to computing, from dancing to diplomacy, and so on.

With such statements of the overall goal in mind, one can now rationally address the question: What projects would be most worthwhile (relative to the adopted goal) and be most efficaciously undertaken by philanthropic individuals or foundations with large (but finite) financial resources? In addressing that question, it’s essential (of course) to account for other ongoing philanthropic and governmental activities, since duplication of effort certainly isn’t efficacious. It’s also important to realize that most governments are constrained from undertaking many worthwhile activities.

As a result of such considerations, one set of philanthropic activities commonly pursued deals with human health. Thus, just as health is fundamental for individuals and their families to thrive, it’s common for philanthropic organizations to consider ways to help more humans live more healthful lives – or even to help them to just survive. Whether or not such activities are efficacious, however, leads to many questions, such as the following:

• In view of the enormous ongoing investments in improving human health (by other NGOs, industries, and governmental organizations, including the WHO), what new philanthropic activity would be efficaciously undertaken?

• What are root causes of specific hindrances to human health; in particular, is the root cause of the poor health of so many of the world’s poor simply that there are too many people straining limited natural resources?

• In such cases and in the long run, would short-term amelioration of a specific hindrance to human health actually lead to even greater human misery, e.g., resulting from even more population pressures on limited natural resources?

Such questions then commonly lead to considerations of ways that philanthropic organizations might assist humanity to engage in sustainable development, which as you know, is a huge subject area. In this letter, therefore, I’ll necessarily treat the subject superficially.

The basic difficulty inhibiting sustainable development is, of course, too many people consuming too much of the world’s finite resources. In theory, a solution is for people to voluntarily restrict consumption, but indications are that, instead, many more people (e.g., in China, India, and “the Muslim world”) understandably seek to emulate “the good life” of people in the West. In the relatively near future, therefore, stresses on the world’s ecosystems are more likely to dramatically increase than decrease. Consequently, most researchers who have studied existing and future problems dealing with sustainable development have concluded that, if the problems can be solved (which is by no means certain), then during this century, it’s urgent that the world’s human population be reduced by approximately an order of magnitude and then stabilize.

An obvious need therefore exists for efficacious activities to promote birth control. As you undoubtedly know, however, many obstacles inhibit developing sound family-planning policies. Given the irrational but powerful influences of religious groups (especially Catholic and most Muslim clerics), most governments are unable to undertake the needed actions. In addition, few philanthropic organizations seem willing to endure the passions with which such policies are attacked (by clerics, their followers, and others). Nonetheless, I urge you to consider ways to stimulate humane methods for decreasing the world’s population, e.g., with worldwide distribution of free birth-control devices and methods. The cost of a successful program would probably be tens of billions of dollars; the consequences will almost certainly be worth hundreds of trillions of dollars.

In addition, though, because of objections that will be raised against promoting and assisting birth control, there is an associated critical need to undertake appropriate educational activities. To outline this educational need, perhaps it would be useful to broach the subject more broadly.

Thus, if the goal of helping intelligence expand is to be advanced, then no doubt you agree that people’s minds must be capable of critical thought and, therefore, free of dogma. At present, however, dogma (particularly religious dogma) is rampant, especially in countries contaminated by the Catholic Church and by Islam. Therefore, a most important undertaking by enlightened philanthropic organizations is to help “the masses” in such countries to (in the words of Antisthenes) “unlearn the evil”. Their own governments of course refuse to do so (or refuse even to recognize the problem), and the U.S. government, for example, apparently finds it too “politically sensitive” to meaningfully try.

The best way to bring the ideas of the Enlightenment to “the masses” is, of course, to use the mass media. Elsewhere (e.g., here and here) I’ve provided a few ideas about how to do so; Hugh Fitzgerald has provided some ideas about how to try to enlighten Muslims still shrouded in Islam’s version of the Dark Ages; many more ideas should be explored – and the best of them implemented. The hardware costs of, for example, creating a resulting worldwide television network devoted to “enlightening the masses” would probably be only a few billion, but the operating costs (for producing quality programs and broadcasting them in local languages) would probably be additional billions per year.

I hope you’ll consider adopting as top priorities the above-outlined, coupled activities. In my view they sum to a “virtuous circle of philanthropy”, consisting of improved human health from sustainable development via family planning and using mass media for enlightening education. In addition, though, and with ‘value’ continuing to be measured with respect to the goal of helping intelligence to go on and to expand (or some statement with similar meaning), then many other activities would benefit from philanthropic support. Below, I’ll mention a few.

For example, it’s understandably difficult for even the most intelligent humans to obtain financial support to study, in Donald Rumsfeld’s words, “unknown unknowns”, especially those unknowns that have the potential to terminate life on Earth. Western governments are investing in studies to eliminate the possibilities of an asteroid devastating life on Earth and of humans being eliminated by a “super bug” (both being “somewhat-known unknowns”), but imaginative studies associated with the Fermi paradox (i.e., the question: if life is common in the universe, then why has no other life form contacted us?) deserve more financial support, as do studies that attempt to identify other “unknown unknowns”.

One partially-known unknown (which requires substantial study and is related to both the Fermi paradox and to current social conditions) is related to the possibility of a future technological catastrophe. History has shown that every technological advance (from farming to industrial manufacturing) has led to social upheavals, including revolutions, but many more and more penetrating social and psychological studies are needed that attempt to extrapolate to consequences of widespread use of advanced artificial intelligence, artificial organs, genetic manipulation, nanotechnology, etc.

Special studies are needed, also, to examine the consequences of deterioration of the gene pool (e.g., via medical “advances”) and of the reality that workers with the least appreciation of leisure time are usually the ones who acquire most leisure from technological advances. To illustrate, I’d guess that, currently in the U.S., there are somewhere around 10 million unemployed who “don’t know what to do with themselves”, whereas I wonder if, during the past decade, you’ve had a single day when you felt you had nothing to do.

If intelligent life is to continue and to expand, formal education is certainly critical, but whereas essentially all governments invest in such education, philanthropic activities should be targeted precisely. In the West, for example, and particularly in the U.S. (in contrast, for example, with the case of India and Pakistan), it’s questionable if any philanthropic organization should attempt to improve the quality of formal education. In general in the West, education tools and methods are adequate; in contrast, what’s seriously deficient (in an atrociously many students) is eagerness to learn.

Psychological and sociological studies of the nature and cause of the lack of interest and ambition in western school children might usefully be funded by philanthropic organizations. Elsewhere (e.g., start here) I’ve suggested some governmental actions that might someday be possible, e.g., redefining educational funding to base it on student achievement. But from personal experiences, I found that the backbreaking job of picking crops in the searing summer heat was a powerful incentive to study harder.

In the U.S., therefore, perhaps no solution will be found until competition from other nations results in still further (and significant) deterioration in the quality of life of the majority of Americans. Yet, it would be at least interesting to determine results from a philanthropic organization’s funding the arrangement, implementation, and evaluation of summer-work programs even for elementary school children (e.g., renovating blighted urban areas), to determine if physical labor might teach youngsters some of the advantages of more eagerly pursuing their education.

Potentially of more value would be targeted philanthropic educational activities in other countries (particularly in Central and South America, Africa, some Asian countries, and most Muslim nations). If every child in such countries could read English and had Internet access, literally thousands of future Einsteins, Gandhis, and Shakespeares would probably emerge. The costs would again be tens of billions of dollars, but again the consequences could be worth trillions. Again, however, it would be necessary to overcome entrenched religious ideas and associated power structures; therefore, the above-outlined activities to “enlighten the masses” may need to precede attempts to provide every child in the world with knowledgeable access to Internet resources. And I would add even the obvious remark that it’s especially important to improve (or in some cases, to initiate) the education of girls throughout the world, since they are the primary future bearers and healers of any culture.

Admittedly there are many other projects that I hope would be funded by philanthropic organizations. For example, I would go so far as to say that no organization should portray itself as a lover of humanity that doesn’t devote a meaningful fraction of its resources to the arts, nature, science, mathematics, interpersonal relations, or to whatever its founders consider to be beautiful. But in spite of this letter’s shortcomings, I hope that you find some of the ideas mentioned in it to be useful, and in any case, I convey my best wishes for success in your philanthropic endeavors.

cc. George Soros, Ted Turner

By the way, I notice that, this week, a Pakistan court has ordered the blocking of many Internet sites, including www.islam-exposed.org, www.jihadwatch.org, www.skepticsannotatedbible.com, ww.middle-east-info.org, www.faithfreedom.org, www.thereligionofpeace.com, www.abrahamic-faith.com, www.muhammadlied.com, www.prophetofdoom.net, www.worldthreats.com, www.voiceofbelievers.com, and www.walidshoebat.com. I would hope that some philanthropic foundation (e.g., the Gates Foundation) would relatively quickly fund methods to circumvent and prevent such despicable blocking of paths to enlightenment.


09 May 2010

Jesus said…“if you pray, you will be condemned.”

Twenty-two years ago today, on 9 May 1988, President Reagan signed Public Law 100-307. It states:
The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and mediation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
I don’t think that it’s such a bad law – provided, of course, that the people are discouraged from praying to God on all other days of the year! That is, although prayer is flagrantly immoral and terribly demeaning, I don’t expect that too much harm would be done if – not more than once per year – people demean themselves and behave immorally. It would be like a once-per-year drinking binge, whose hangover might prevent recurrence during the rest of the year.

But Judge Barbara B. Crabb disagrees: last month, she ruled the “National-Day-of-Prayer” law to be unconstitutional. So, apparently in her opinion, even on a single day per year, people shouldn’t “turn to God in prayer…” In her judgment she states:
It bears emphasizing that a conclusion that the establishment clause prohibits the government from endorsing a religious exercise is not a judgment on the value of prayer or the millions of Americans who believe in its power. No one can doubt the important role that prayer plays in the spiritual life of a believer. In the best of times, people may pray as a way of expressing joy and thanks; during times of grief, many find that prayer provides comfort. Others may pray to give praise, seek forgiveness, ask for guidance or find the truth… However, recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic…
Judge Crabb makes many good points in her ruling (which, unfortunately, is being appealed). For example, in the quotation above, she raises the question about “the value of prayer.” Some might think that, in her position as a member of the judiciary, she shouldn’t address such a question, but I disagree: whereas praying attempts to corrupt natural justice, personal justice, and interpersonal justice, it would be highly appropriate for a member of the judiciary to rule on “the value of prayer”.

Elsewhere, I’ve already explored how prayer corrupts natural, personal, and interpersonal justice, as well as how it demeans the supplicant and is immoral. Here, therefore, I’ll present only some summary opinions of others:
Prayer is like a pump in an empty well, it makes lots of noise, but brings no water. [Lemuel Washburn]

Praying is like a rocking chair – it’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere. [Gypsy Rose Lee]

To think that the ruler of the universe will run to my assistance and bend the laws of nature for me is the height of arrogance. [Dan Barker]

Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: “Great God, grant that twice two be not four.” [Ivan Turgenev]

Prayers never bring anything… They may bring solace to the sap, the bigot, the ignorant, the aboriginal, and the lazy – but to the enlightened it is the same as asking Santa Claus to bring you something for Xmas. [W.C. Fields]

Over the years I realized the god I prayed to was the god I invented. When I was talking to him, I was talking to myself. He had no understanding or qualities that I did not have. When I realized god was an extension of my imagination, I stopped praying to him. [Howard Kreisner]

To pray for anything, which we can obtain by the due application of our natural powers, and neglect the means of procuring it, is impertinence and laziness in the abstract… for example, to pray for more wisdom, understanding, grace, or faith; for a more robust constitution, handsomer figure, or more of a gigantic size, would be the same as telling God that we are dissatisfied with our inferiority in the order of being; that neither our souls nor bodies suit us; that he has been too sparing of his beneficence; that we want more wisdom, and organs better fitted for show, agility, and superiority… “Whosoever lacketh wisdom,” instead of “asking it of God,” let him improve what he has… this is all the possible way of gaining in wisdom and knowledge… But it is too common for great faith and little knowledge to unite in the same person; such persons are beyond the reach of argument… The only way to procure food, raiment, or the necessaries or conveniences of life, is by natural means; we do not get them by wishing or praying for, but by actual exertion; and the only way to obtain virtue or morality is to practice and habituate ourselves to it, and not to pray to God for it… This is all the religion which reason knows or can ever approve of. [Ethan Allen]

The first and most forthright count in the accusation against prayer is that it is infinitely degrading to the human ego. As it springs out of the ego’s profound sense of his inferior and dependent status, out of the recognition of his base and helpless nature in relation to the power prayed to, these basic assumptions in the case and the posture and habit of mind bent to conformity with them inevitably tend to strengthen and more deeply ingrain on the subconscious life of the individual so conditioned the dominant obsession of one’s lowness and unworthiness. The “prayer consciousness” thus endlessly renews and sharpens the self-infliction of a most injurious psychological trauma upon the human psyche. In the simplest form of statement prayer thus constantly beats down the human spirit. It throws over it a heavy pall of depression, of negative cast of consciousness, of self-accusation, and self-depreciation…

The deleterious influence of prayer reaches perhaps its climactic point of disservice in its disastrous inhibition of man’s impulse to overt action in all contingencies in which resolute action is crucial. It strikes at man’s truest interests when it persuades him to pray instead of acting. When prayer steps in to paralyze the spirit of resolute self-exertion and causes him to stand as an impotent beggar when prompt action alone will save, it is of all things most damaging… It is the contention here that the prayer habit, leading men to substitute prayer for needed action, is the cause of untold evil, wreckage, defeat, and tragedy in the run of history. Prayer puts a specious value on cowardice, or offers a tempting resort to it. And mankind suffers the consequences of its failure to act. [Alvin Kuhn]
The above quotations contain substantial wisdom. Yet, given that there are so many Christians in the U.S. who disagree with Judge Crabb’s decision, perhaps it would be more efficacious to call their attention to their Christ’s assessment of prayer as given in the Gospel of Thomas, v.14:
Jesus said… “if you pray, you will be condemned…”
His statement might have been closer to the truth, however, if he had said: “If you pray, you condemn yourself.”