Thursday, January 31, 2019

False Equivalence

The Left thrives on false equivalencies. More accurately, they depend on them.

Racism is, oddly enough, one of the biggest hot buttons in 2019 in the United States. What is racism?

The topic is so volatile that no definition can even be agreed upon by all. An individual venturing to define racism these days must be first passed through the skin color filter - an act of racism itself.

Who is qualified to define racism? Apparently not the usual sources, such as the dictionary. To be 'allowed' to comment on racism, you must be of the particular skin color or colors that the listener deems qualified for the subject.

Subcultures come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. Urban subculture, suburban subculture, gay subculture, straight subculture, gaming subculture, sports subculture, left-brain subculture, right-brain subculture, religious subculture, atheist subculture, etc. The list is quite exhaustive upon reflection.

What if a person is ambivalent about a particular subculture? Is this equivalent to hatred of the subculture, or does it simply indicate a disinterest in adding it to one's life experience, such as declining to sky dive or eat caviar?

Racism is only one of many controversial topics that starkly polarize everyone in the room. Why is it that the greatest percentage (by far) of what streams over mainstream media is fraught with these agitating issues?

The Left needs you to get angry about something. Anything. The Left will only relent when they think they've achieved their Utopian dream of socialist hand holding. The timeless strategy of Divide and Conquer is alive and well, and currently being practiced by those who would tear down our country to allegedly rebuild it with another ideology.

Recorded human history speaks volumes about the 100% failure rate of socialist governments. Unfortunately, the 'evolved' thinkers of the 21st century believe they are smarter than their predecessors who paid for their mistakes with the blood of countless others under their authority.

Ambivalence is not equal to racism, it just means you're not interested. And that's perfectly okay in a world where people are still free to pursue their own happiness within whatever subcultures they naturally gravitate toward.

The Considerable Power of Fantasy Land

One of the more popular objections to believing in the existence of God or heaven is the accusation that they are simply fantasies that frightened people cling to because the finality of death is too much for them to handle.

God and heaven as fantasies can be argued, but can't be refuted in a lab, so to speak. It is true, given the parameters associated with the issue, that you can't actually prove that God or heaven exist. On the flip side, you can't prove that God and heaven do not exist, because in general you can't prove a negative. That of course doesn't logically prove the opposite.

True or not, belief in God is a strong motivator that shows no signs of disappearing anytime in our world.

In the same way, the Left's fantasy about human nature is just as powerful and present: things would be better if the whole world would just give in to their true natures and hold hands while singing Kumbaya.

Are these two 'fantasies' analogous? Let's take a look.

In the case of God and heaven, the argument becomes an exercise of speculation without any means of physical experience or scrutiny.

In the case of human nature, there is a minor controversy about how many years of peace the human race has experienced in the last 3,400 years. Some experts say just under 300 years, some say zero years (no years without war somewhere). The point being that human nature is demonstrably incorrigible when it comes to hatred and violence.

So the two fantasies aren't quite equivalent.

In the interest of potential edification, let's look at another angle.

With the God fantasy, in particular with Judao-Christians, what are the positive and negative results, in general?

Positive: charitable contributions that amounted to $114.68 billion dollars in 2014 alone (32% of total reported), programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, outreach programs, lunch programs, recreational programs, missions, missionaries, and a personal call to a life that consists of more altruistic goals than self gratification.

Negative: The Crusades, The Salem witch trials, rare individuals suffering from mental delusions that find momentary infamy via news media.

With the human-is-basically-good fantasy, what are the positive and negative?

Positive: an expectation that humans, when left to their own devices without negative environmental factors, will always do the right thing.

Negative: the frustrating disappointment of human beings making the wrong decisions regarding others on a depressingly predictable basis.

Quoting the staggering death counts from secular wars, even from just the 20th century, is now so familiar it isn't worth repeating here.

What's the point of this essay?

The wall that Trump and his constituents want to finish is a layer of security against the malevolent forces in the world that defy the Left's fantasy of a world group hug.

The historical data supporting some form of non-violent border defense is neither hidden nor disputed. To reject it out of principle is an effective indicator that the Left's Fantasy Land is far more dangerous than any "God Delusion."

Imaginary Boogiemen Laughed At By Polar Vortex

The late, great Richard P. Feynman said:

"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

Apparently, a large portion of the scientific community does not agree with Feynman on this point, as witnessed by several popular theories that continue to hold sway in the public's imagination, such as macroevolution and the multiverse.

An elegant theory is wonderful, but if you can't test it, then it belongs in the philosophy section of the bookstore, not in school textbooks.

At my place of employment, we used to use paper and plastic bags. Recently the bag-shamers accomplished one of their pious goals and our store no longer provides plastic bags.

This development has generated two responses: some bark that "it's about time," while others are patiently shaking their heads because they used the plastic bags for their smaller trash cans around the house. It apparently never occurred to the bag-shamer bullies that people are simply going to purchase the unreasonably maligned plastic bags at a department store, as no one wants to place garbage in paper bags for obvious reasons. So in effect, the bag-shamers accomplished nothing but additional virtue signalling to their fellow eco-warriors.

A lot of people are also genuinely paranoid about, and losing sleep over, global warming (I'm deliberately not using the more PR savvy name produced when the annual temperatures did not rise as quickly as we were warned they would). While past climate trends are indisputable by simply looking at the data from NOAA or NASA, it's already been clearly demonstrated that long term climate prediction models are useless, and they are only alarming when the data are 'massaged' by custom operands placed in convenient locations within predictive algorithms.

Add to that the fact global temperature trends for four thousand years have illustrated that unusually high temperature periods are always followed by unusually low temperature periods.

I often have tried to calm some of my more ecologically paranoid customers by referencing Feynman's speech "Plenty of Room at the Bottom."

The gist of Feynman's brilliant 1959 lecture is considered the holy grail of nanotechnology: the ability to convert any matter into any other matter at the atomic level. While in 2019, this seems like just more science fiction, we've all witnessed in our own lifetimes how the master gardener known as Time eventually gets around to harvesting unrealized technologies out of the soil of imagination and placing them on our plates.

How could Feynman's lecture possibly soothe a person having an ecological panic attack?

Because once the ability to convert matter is realized, it will usher in an end to all toxic waste, pollution and a few other sustainability problems.

Does this mean then, with this knowledge of our future, we should just swagger forth and be irresponsible regarding the planet? Of course not, let's not be silly.

People who scoff at anti-plastic-straw legislation or climate prediction models that have us living in boats in 30 years, are not automatically apathetic about the environment. They are just not ready to follow each new righteous fad based on the negative prognostications of those who enjoy vilifying the 'animal' known as Man.

I know of no global warming critics who think we should abandon recycling or allow industries to pollute our environment without legal consequences. Those who think they are saving "Mother Earth" need to try some honesty and just admit they are afraid that they will not be able to assure their own futures on a planet that can get along quite well without us.

Alan Weisman's 2007 book "The World Without Us" explains in extensive detail how the world would eventually return to a paradise-like natural state and eliminate virtually all traces of us if we were all missing from the planet. And it wouldn't take millions of years, or hundreds of thousands. Try tens of thousands.

My point? We should be responsible about the planet, but honest at the same time. The Earth itself is not as fragile as Hollywood script writers would have you believe.

Mankind, on the other hand, hangs by a thread each and every day, and the responsibility for that predicament rests on all of us. This may sound dismissive, but reducing carbon dioxide emissions is one of the least of our problems. Murder, rape, sex slave trade and drug culture are much more urgent concerns than living on a planet that's a few degrees warmer and a few more feet underwater.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Kingdom of Heaven

The discussion regarding the kingdom of heaven often doesn't even begin, because the currently sterilized way to view the world is that there is no life after death. If one is inclined to mention a belief in an afterlife, many around them may not say as much, but what they're often thinking is that the speaker is ignorant.

The layman, after decades of pummeling from academia and popular culture, is much more prone to doubt not only the existence of heaven, but even the existence of God himself.

Peer pressure does not end when you graduate high school. It continues unabated throughout life, and if you are iconoclastic regarding public opinion, you already know how it feels to be marginalized and ridiculed, or how to wisely remain silent.

The cliche of a "god-fearing" individual is so ubiquitous in 2019, one would certainly only be feigning ignorance to claim they don't recognize it. In movies, music and literature of the last 35 years, the depiction of faithful believers as ignorant, stupid, idiotic, fanatical, sexually repressed, sexually predatory, mentally ill, violent, even evil, is without question a common theme.

There have been and always will be those believers who are mentally ill, or simply lying to others and themselves about their salvation. But the statistical truth is that they are not proportionately represented if compared to non-believers suffering from the same delusions. For clarity, this is to say that the percentage of mentally ill who are faithful followers of God are minuscule compared to the percentage of mentally ill who are not.

But statistics are only as good as the person using them to manipulate perception, and most people tend to trust their favorite cable news or social media feed, instead of simply paying attention to the tiny portion of the world that they themselves experience.

How many people do you know who are both mentally ill and worshipers of God? Then ask yourself, how many known believers are you familiar with who are trying to live out their lives the way Christ commanded, to the best of their abilities?

Jesus said many things about the kingdom of heaven. The one thing he did not say about it is that it's just a fantasy. He said it's very real, that he dwells there with the Father, and that he has gone to prepare a place for you as well.

Some will scoff and say that Christians are only being good so they can suck up to God and get a reward for it. I can see the cynical logic in that accusation, but it comes from a bitter, resentful heart that just doesn't want to obey God.

If God created the universe, and everything in it, and if he created you and me and everyone else directly or indirectly via the miracle of life and biology, it only stands to reason in our comparatively feeble minds that the laws of physics are only the ground floor of the rules we can't avoid.

We don't know a lot about the kingdom of heaven, but we do know quite a bit about those who will not be allowed in. To this, many have found solace in defiantly declaring that they don't want to be in a place where God would prevent some from entering. They feel that the honest way to approach the matter is to judge the One who made every atom in the universe and dictated its behavior, placement and structural formation, a feat so incredible that we can't even fathom it.

How many times do we have to be faced with the humbling reality of finding out we incorrectly judged someone else in our lives? How many times have we rushed to judgment about someone else we have deemed unworthy of respect for whatever reason we thought was appropriate?

What is the common denominator in our consistently faulty skills of character discernment?A lack of all the facts. This always becomes crystal clear upon retrospect.

Why are there Ten Commandments? Why are they impossible to maintain in our own lives, no matter how hard all of us try? If there is an afterlife, why is this life necessary? If God loved us, why did he allow an agent of chaos to introduce a seemingly irresistible factor called rebellion (sin)? Why is there suffering in the world if God is benevolent? Why do we grow old and die? Why do children develop terminal illness? Why do tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, viruses, droughts and starvation ravage so many on Earth?

There are answers to these questions, but those who would sincerely seek answers must leave their anger, resentment, pride and arrogance at the door.

Jesus said:

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: the Left's Trump

I came across this enlightening nugget today about AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez):
Read the article here:  Big Ideas for Taxes and Medicare

"...2.4 million followers on Twitter alone..."

If AOC is the future of our country, our future is bleak. If her fans think unreasonable tax rates will end at the "tippy tops," they are sadly mistaken.

AOC's financial system would be run like No Child Left Behind: bringing every taxpayer down to the lowest common denominator, that being the unemployed person who does not wish to change his or her status.

The folklore of Robin Hood always leaves out the part where the 'wicked' wealthy that Robin was robbing finally got the message and left the country, leaving the poor to starve on their own. I mean, let's get real. If I were a "tippy top," I'd immediately say screw this and jump ship to ply my trade elsewhere.

I try to avoid balling all millennials into the same lazy, ignorant, entitled group. But if AOC is eventually able to actually give her constituents what they think they want, the greatest democratic civilization in history will ironically become just one more cautionary tale regarding socialism.

Here's a quote that some science fiction fans may recognize:

"Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader--the barbarians enter Rome."  ---Robert A. Heinlein from "To Sail Beyond the Sunset"

In the vernacular of the post-modern 'realist,' Ocasio-Cortez is hot. Unfortunately, hot only stops a barbarian spear in a Netflix original movie; in real life people actually bleed to death for antiquated ideas like the freedom to keep what they earn.

Heinlein's passage reflects the now-famous quote people can't seem to agree upon, in terms of who originally wrote it, but nevertheless stands as a testimony to historical truth:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

"Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency to bondage."

Be honest. Which stage do you think we are in now?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Burden of Responsibility

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, it is certain that there have been many who would prefer to not shoulder responsibility for all of their actions. As a matter of fact, it isn't a stretch of the imagination that everyone reading this essay and everyone not reading it, and the person who wrote it, have all tried to hide or run from their own sin at some time or another. It's the human condition, like it or not, and whether or not you think it started in the Garden of Eden is irrelevant.

I was recently treated to a video featuring Bart Ehrman, and he was presented to me as a person who is quite well versed in the Bible, and yet no longer a card carrying believer. While Ehrman's anti-suffering apologetic runs on just shy of an hour in the video, I can much more quickly address the errors in his approach.

"How the Bible Explains Suffering with Bart Ehrman."

Ehrman's objections are much older than Ehrman, and greater minds than his have addressed the "problem" with far more "satisfying" results.

Ehrman even mentions "twelve line emails" he's received that explain the problem of suffering, but conveniently leaves them out of his talk as his preferred approach is to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the God in the Bible by pointing at starving mothers and babies and saying, "See here? This is a problem!"

Ehrman starts with the the question of theodicy, and the tired logical problem of 1) God is all powerful, 2) God is all loving 3) There is suffering, therefore there has to exist contradiction in there somewhere.

Ehrman proceeds to politely dismiss the reasonable and learned explanations from other self-proclaimed experts via his all-purpose filter of how "satisfying" (or not satisfying) a solution is.

"These traditions were taken quite seriously by many people in ancient Israel..."

Ehrman refers to Biblical texts as "traditions" as opposed to merely referencing them. For example the historical activities that manifested as 400 years of slavery, the birth of a savior Moses, the performing of ten miracles by Moses, the drowning of the pursuing Egyptian soldiers, the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai and the reward of the Promised Land... this is referred to as an "Exodus Tradition," thus already casting it as storytelling instead of history.

"The Prophetic Answer"

Ehrman points out an example of the prophets' explanation of suffering in the book of Amos. The level of sarcasm while Ehrman reads the verses is palpable. This is a man who is clearly bitter and resentful of something he finds "unsatisfying."

The idea that a loving God would not hurt anyone is a very attractive idea, especially in the 21st century, where developed nations are full of individuals who just want to do their own thing, and would rather not be made to feel like they are lacking an acceptable moral compass. People tend to avoid anything that contradicts the ethos of the modern: "If it feels good and doesn't hurt anyone, what's wrong with it?"

The problem with that approach is it makes many assumptions about life that the Bible sharply contradicts, and this creates conflict in the minds of those who think they want what's best for humanity and the Earth, but upon closer scrutiny, they just seek freedom from responsibility to the God that gave them life.

Like it or not, right there at 20:22 in the video, Ehrman recites the Biblical answer to suffering: "Why is it that Israel is suffering? Because God wants them to turn back to Him, they refuse, and so the punishment continues."

Ehrman disdains the so-called Prophetic Answer with several minutes of dismissive enumeration, including a deliberately controversial anecdote of a mother who believed her 12 year old daughter died of a brain tumor because the mother promised God she would quit smoking and hadn't followed through.

His examples to demonstrate his objection are delivered with vehemence that underscores his agenda, and are: Adam and Eve are told not to eat the fruit, they eat the fruit, they get punished; the whole world becomes wicked, and God destroys everyone but Noah and his family. Sin, punish, sin, punish, sin, punish.

Ehrman continues:

"One might ask whether this is acceptable at all as an understanding of why people suffer. In our own context, for example. Is it really true that suffering comes because God is punishing people?"

When Ehrman utters the phrase "in our own context," he commits the same mistake that all those who scoff at "Bronze Age Sheep Herders" make: that somehow humanity then and humanity now are fundamentally different. I'll save you some time...they're not.

"Is this really true? Is it true that every five seconds a child dies of starvation because God's trying to punish somebody? Or that every minute twenty five people die from drinking unclean drinking water?"

"Every hour in our world, seven hundred people die of malaria. Is this because God's punishing people? Is this why tsunamis hit the Indian Ocean and kill three hundred thousand people overnight? Or why a holocaust happens that kills six million Jews? Or a purging in Cambodia that kills two million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge?"

With the possible exception of the tsunami, all Ehrman's examples are of human evil, which falls under the column of personal responsibility to our fellow human beings. Therefore questioning why they happen is pointless in a world where we make it however we want it to be. Perhaps the tsunami and other devastating natural disasters are a reaction to widespread inhumanity? Oh no! That's just too big of a pink elephant in the room for most of us to consider.

In a universe with a God and an afterlife, death can be more merciful than life when the evil of human beings exceeds an acceptable degree. Ultimately we are clay, dust. That we have an ability to think and be self-aware is a gift most people take for granted. It does not follow that we automatically qualify to judge our Creator by virtue of our self-awareness.

Ehrman, in his academic, secular and humanist buttressed empowerment, clearly has decided that God does not punish humanity for its widespread and ubiquitous sin. What he should make clear at the beginning of his presentations is that he doesn't believe God exists, therefore anything that doesn't sound good to Ehrman's Benjamin Spock ideology must be primitive, ignorant and wrong.

"The Apocalyptic Response"

Erhman lists the Book of Daniel as the only canonized book in the Old Testament that provides this answer. The other two sources overlap, as he cites the Jewish Apocrypha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Ehrman neglects to mention contained portions of that Apocrypha, thereby making the reference redundant.

In apocalyptic view, sin isn't entirely the responsibility of the sinner, but is instigated by the influence of evil cosmic forces.

Ehrman says the Apocalyptic answer "takes evil seriously." He cites a few examples to make his point, which oddly contradict his earlier assertion that personal responsibility to God doesn't take evil seriously by contrast. His first example illustrates my point: he mentions how, through the lens of the Apocalyptic answer, the Holocaust becomes bigger than the individuals who made it happen, thus suffering is caused by something greater than individual sin.

The only problem with that statement is that the same assertion can be made via the Prophetic answer, because God's behavior in terms of punishing human beings could be easily explained by observing that the sin problem itself has much further reaching effects in the universe God created than just the actions of one person on his or her neighbor. Ehrman apparently prefers to view the Prophetic answer as God running around and slapping individuals upside the head for every misstep.

Ehrman suggests that the Apocalyptic answer engenders complacency regarding evil. Basically, the assumption is: if things are going to just get worse, and there's nothing we can do about it, why do anything to fight evil? This is a typical objection not of a person "well-versed" in the Bible, but of an atheist who feeds himself or herself on the myriad spiritual dreck available for anyone seeking to avoid a God who expects more than they are willing to give.

The truth is that fighting the good fight is the least any of us can do. Some are called to do more. If one actually reads the Bible, one finds that both the Prophetic and Apocalyptic answers are supported.

Ehrman makes two strong statements with nothing more than his own opinion for support:

"What's the point of working for justice? Why worry about homelessness and poverty? Why worry about hunger? Why worry about countries that are falling apart and destabilizing? Why worry about any of that, if in fact it's only going to become better when God intervenes. This Apocalyptic view *can* and *has* led to moral complacency, and I think that's a problem."

That's erroneous opinion number one.

Here's erroneous opinion number two, which follows immediately after:

"The other problem is, I think, sort of the obvious problem, is that this view is based on a belief, a false belief, in the imminent end of all things."

The sole example Ehrman gives to back up that second opinion is the false predictions of a charlatan trying to sell doomsday books in 1988 and 1989. Not exactly the most solid guarantee that the world does not have an imminent end, but apparently it's enough for Ehrman.

Ehrman prefers the Ecclesiastical approach, and yet feels the need to sarcastically enlighten everyone that "King Solomon, the 'wisest' man on Earth" was not actually the writer of Ecclesiastes, but a nameless dude a couple of hundred years later. A dude who allegedly found some sort of glory in giving the credit for his clearly exceptional wisdom to a king he never knew.

Ehrman touts Ecclesiastes as a book that encourages us to live life to the fullest, and get whatever we can out of it. He conveniently and completely leaves out the numerous admonitions from Solomon regarding being circumspect with our choices while enjoying our lives. For Ehrman, those warnings are not as important as his embrace of the Y.O.L.O. philosophy.

At the 44:34 mark, Ehrman comes clean and admits he has no answer, thereby making the video up to this point a waste of the viewers time, except perhaps for Ehrman's family members.

He then proceeds to list the many things we could do to make sure the entire world can enjoy life as Solomon suggested, and what he says in the remainder of the video is no different from a Christian call to good works for one's fellow human beings.

The Q and A immediately following Ehrman's presentation, in fact the very first question, exposes the premise from which Ehrman's entire argument is built from: atheism.

Other than the amusing irony of an atheist (who refers to himself as an agnostic to cover unpleasant contingencies) that teaches Biblical history at a University, Ehrman stands as just another example of someone who lost his way and has convinced himself that his eternal destination is not underscored by his guilt, but instead he is released from responsibility to a God he disagrees with by his own declaration that there is no God.

The power of subjectivity cuts both ways.