David Silverman, Atheist Conservative Outs CPAC

david silvermanIn atheist circles calling yourself conservative may be more risky than any other claim (look at Hitchens and his hawkish and often misogynistic views). In insisting presence at CPAC Silverman makes the point you don’t have to be liberal to be atheist. Many conservatives are closet atheists. Many atheists are closet conservatives. David Silverman is going to let them all out.

Silverman went to CPAC anyway and handed out fliers

“I thought I would enter a room full of hate, but I did not find hate at all,” Silverman said as he completed his rounds at the March 7 conference. “In fact,” he added, “more than once I met people that finished my sentences.”

Silverman is correct there are many libertarians that want to see conservative issues win but don’t want religion regulated. This was the libertarian platform for many years. Silverman wants these folks to reclaim their part in the party.

But Silverman believes that if Republicans overcome these sentiments they will find plenty of common ground with atheists. Many libertarians, a growing force among conservative Republicans and an increasingly powerful electoral bloc, share atheists’ disdain for government-sponsored religion. “There’s a big chunk of atheists that could be interested in the Republican Party but are not doing so because of the influence of the Christian right,” said Silverman, who described himself as a fiscal conservative who votes Democratic because of the Republican views on church and state.

Until awhile ago many of my atheist friends were conservative or is that conservative friends were atheists? Yup. Liberals were doing the wishy-washy thing of calling themselves spiritual or embraced some syncretized hybrid of watered down beliefs whether New Age, Wiccan, Pagan, of the ever popular god is love, god is one.

I worked as an editor for Eaton-Kenway while I was avoiding the university and I will never forget when I outed myself to a document publications manager as an atheist because she asked. My father had been Jewish and my mother mostly nothing but wishy washy Presbyterian but I was an atheist! She responded.

“So what does atheism have to do with being Jewish?”

She nailed me. I had no response for such a question at that time. I liked her with her incessant smoking, her sharp tongue, and makeup that rivaled LizTaylor’s in Cleopatra. She was friend to my demon boss but I saw that as survival too.

Jews have been the most accepting of my being atheist–religion is cultural, heritable, and for many nationalized–embrace the contradictions. Worse. For Jews literal survival often means hiding religious identity–for millennia. The faith required to believe in a god that allows such horrors is near infinite.

I learned the psychology of this with a group of Jewish school kids I was leading as a naturalist. In an evening, after-meal confab with their teachers I  fumbled my way through some odd keenly felt disloyalty (I didn’t usually out myself as an instructor thinking it inappropriate) but they perfectly understood that trauma and other factors might ensure one is an atheist but practicing Jew.

I can’t remember jokes to save my ass but this time I rose to the occasion.

A Jewish man saves money for years so that his
son can make a trip to Israel and discover his
roots. When his son returns, much to the father’s
dismay, he discovers that his son has converted
to Christianity.

Looking for guidance, the father goes to the local
temple and speaks with his Rabbi. “Rabbi! Rabbi!”,
he says, “I sent my son to Israel and he has returned
a Christian! What should I do?”

The Rabbi responds, “It’s funny you should say that.
I also sent my son to Israel many years ago. When he
returned, he had converted to Christianity as well!”

The two men decide to seek guidance together, and
they apprach an older Rabbi. After telling their tale, the older Rabbi responds, “It’s funny you should say that. I also sent my son to Israel many years ago. When he returned, he had converted to Christianity as well! So there is only one thing we can do, we must ask God.”

So the three begin to pray. After telling God their story, God answers in a booming voice from the heavens, “It’s funny you should say that…”

Christians and Jews love to tell this story. Christians because they think it proves them right and Jews because they understand how circumstances create compliance. We had started this talk because one of the students had been traumatized by her family being tortured for her being Jewish resulting in her having some issues. Her trauma and her feeling ugly because of the hate caused her to dress in bright, beautiful and frilly dresses all of the time. To feel beautiful, to look beautiful, and to hope she mattered. Not knowing, I had commented that her dress wasn’t appropriate for hiking and wilderness camping–hence the discussion. Sometimes I wish I could keep my mouth shut but I do learn things.

Silverman’s personal formulation of Jewish identity as something purely religious moved him to see the current state of Jewish identity nationally as a potential boon to his political agenda. Silverman believes there are many Jews who are, in fact, atheists but have yet to acknowledge it.

“I want to de-demonize the word ‘atheism,’” he said, “there are so many Jews out there that are in fact atheists and not Jewish.”

Jews are already overrepresented in the atheist movement, and historically many atheist thinkers came from Jewish backgrounds. Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam, who researches religion in America, said in an email to the Forward that studies show Jews are overwhelmingly more likely to question the existence of God. “That figure is much higher among Jews than any other major religious group in America,” he noted.

One could substitute “Methodist,” “Baptist,” “Pentecostal” and have this atheist but compliant be true. You don’t have to have your parents tortured to reject religiously based nonsense, though it helps.

Silverman has abandoned his cultural duplicity.

In recent years, Silverman abandoned his decades of self-definition as a Jewish atheist. While working on a book he is about to publish, he reached the conclusion that this religious cohabitation was impossible. “I wanted to describe why Jewish atheism makes sense, and I failed,” he said. He rejected the notion that being Jewish could be not only about a religion, but also about being part of a culture or a national ethnic group.

If others get this example they too can be atheist and conservative. While I am beyond almost any notion of what liberal means today I would insist people be able to present their entire, whole selves to the public, regardless of content.

By the way David, thanks for wearing a t-shirt. There are a lot of working conservative atheists that will appreciate this and us ultraliberal types appreciate it as well.

Jim n

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What Does God Look Like?

Tomas_HalikTomas Halik thinks he stumps atheists when he says his god is a mystery and poses the question of what does god look like? I think god looks like Tomas Halik…

That is why I like to begin my dialogues with atheists with the question, “What does this God, in whom you do not believe, look like?” and sometimes, after my partner in dialogue tells me about his image of God – as a heavenly policeman or a big daddy behind the scenes of our world – I say, “Thank God you do not believe in such a God! I don’t believe in such a God either.”

Huh? How in hell would we know what god looks like? Atheists trusting there is no god means we can’t possibly describe a nonexistent thing because existence precedes essence. How can we describe something that has no trace–what qualities does nothing-yet-shown have? This is a transparent rhetorical trap. This is beyond bullshit to sophistry that has nothing to do with examining the topic nor even discussing the god of his, Tomas Halik’s, bible–only a god that looks like Halik.

Ordained a Catholic priest he knows damned well how the bible and his Catholicism describes god. By claiming god is a mystery and unknowable, multilayered, he sets himself apart from the vast majority and becomes a gnostic mystic at best and just plain bullshitter at worst. The Council of Nicea made sure to exclude all of the mystics and gnostics from the bible(s).

He marches in bright compliance to the Templeton Prize ($1.8 million) which he won this year. Which means he is a professional bullshitter. The Temlpeton foundation wishes to get people to believe in religion by diluting it to any kind of goodness or value as spirit.

…affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.

Halik sounds like A New Age wonder boy. Get the crystals and drums.

 He is a great Mystery. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with atheists when they say there is no God, if by that they mean there is not a God who is “a thing among other things.” In this they are correct.

Bullshit. He like other Templeton misfits make absolute claims to things. (Even his idea is a thing. Even his mystery is a thing. Masturbating with words won’t help.)

  • If you’re altruistic there is god.
  • If you have feelings of awe there is god.
  • If you have feelings of humility there is god.
  • If you have a sense that there is more there is god.
  • If you have a sense of authority there is god.
  • If you doubt there is god.
  • If you eat there is god.
  • If you orgasm there is god.
  • If you just believe, make the leap, there is god.
  • God exists… God moves us…God makes us…

And on and on. Hailk speaks that there is a heaven, eternal life, and on and on. Halik in no way believes god is mystery or he would shut up about it and get on with living a moral life. Even if he denied every bit of all Abrahamic documents he would worship the mystery and do good having faith that god wants him to do good, whatever good means–how would you know by your god? Maybe god wants the poor to suffer, die, messaging a lesson–how do you know in any way what god thinks once you abandon your canon. The fact that you do abandon some canon shows you think your church is bullshit.

Why don’t you be honest? Quit the wrong-headed church and just live a moral life as a fellow human? Start a secular organization to which all may attend.

But then, quite often, this partner in dialogue will admit, “But you know, I am not an obtuse materialist either. I also know there is ‘something’ beyond us.” This is why I say that the most influential religion in the Czech Republic today is not atheism, but “something-ism”: People believe that there must besomething, even though they will not call it “God.” And this is a challenge for the theologian, to continue this dialogue and to interpret this “something.”

More legerdemain. Aaaah, atheists really do believe in something. They usually confess. And that something must be Halik’s catholic god. And anything that remotely seems spiritual proves catholicism true! Albeit a nonpope god, silly Vatican boys. If the church is stupid leave it. Start another one that is mystery based and shut up about god’s qualities to the rest of us that can’t possibly comprehend this solipsistic mystery of yours? You don’t need to know any kind of god to be good. Knowing god seems to be getting in your way of being good–you spend so much time denying the qualities of god all of your churches espouse.

The only truth I can find in the entire article about him at Templeton is

Truth happens in the course of dialogue.

And that has nothing to do with his catholicism–even with a small c. Dogma, cannon, hierarchy, testaments, church councils and revelation. He double talks his mystery. I don’t know yet I do…

Halík examines topics including whether evil in the world proves there is no God and whether God is an answer or a question.

Aaah, doubting is proof of god. Whatever you think god is it must be wrong but you have the answer. Fine throw away all of the sacred texts then and make no claims as to what god is, including his existence on any level other than some Schopenhauer sense that if you think something it must in some way be real. I trust there is no god and we’d better start treating the Earth better or go extinct. Tend the poor, help the infirm, save the Earth and shut up about the mystery of which you know no qualities.

But people of mature faith, when they come to this crossroads, are able to move forward. They move forward as believers, in spite of their doubts. Their main trait is the courage to enter into the mystery of God, into unknown territory, and not become exasperated. They can withstand the mystery of the unknown and they can withstand their own uncertainties. In this life, as St. Paul told us, “we see though a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is only in the final eschaton that we shall see God face to face.

Freaky New Age crap. Love is God. I thought god was a mystery? If he is take off that stupid collar that makes you a Catholic priest with all of its baggage that you deny.

Love is not just an emotion – it is a great inner evolution of transcendence, in which we recognize that somebody is more important than ourselves.

We’re all believers and unbelievers? We’re all black and white, we’re all here and there? We’re all up and down? This obfuscation must work for you considering Templeton…but what integrity?

Believers have an unbeliever inside, and the so-called unbelievers have also a believer inside of them.

I believe I’ll have another beer. Sorry dude. When it comes to any Abrahamic god of your worship there isn’t the slightest trust in him, whatever him is. Halik knows me as well as he knows his god. Nada. You would have me buy a god in a sack, a pig in a poke.

What’s hilarious is he credits that atheists are, gasp, more open, more willing to question, more willing to engage in dialog. Ya think.

 I am always intrigued by the fact that I am often able to communicate with someone who proclaims himself to be an atheist more readily than I can communicate with many believers.

The man is a closet atheist that bullshits to inflate his dissonance that he knows it is bullshit. Come out, come out. Leave that cave. See the light.

He ends by pandering to some unbelievers to get them to think they are actually closer to god. Well, if god were truth, beauty, and goodness maybe in at least a Plato kind of way. Oh wait is god a concept? Huh? If ideas were god we’d all be polytheists.

He sallies forth with a final plea that we really wish there were a god. NO, I really wish Halik would start making sense. There are no kinds of gods thatI would wish for. None whatsoever. Halik shows the classic existential negative theology of ontology through accepting bullshit simply because you wish it were true and that if you insist it is true loudly enough it must be so.

There are other people who are not able to accept the existence of God but would like to believe; they have the spiritual desire to believe – they want God to be. I think that this second group of people, even though they may call themselves unbelievers, is actually nearer to God than the first group.

Halik proves once again that religion is nothing more than wishful thinking. And he gets paid for this shit. I want free meals for life!

Jim n

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Klout & Kleos

kleosPopularity has never been more important than now. Social networking is an essential component of anyone’s marketing plan. The paradigm of not paying writers but through ad revenue means numbers matter, click bait rules, and the internet is no longer a free and open market of ideas. Data mining has nothing to do with wisdom but getting people to purchase more under the guise of helping them get what they want.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is having sushi when she learns what Klout now means and sees how it is related to the Greek concept of Kleos.

For starters, the Klout on which my friend prided himself struck me as markedly similar to what the Greeks had called kleos. The word comes from the old Homeric word for “I hear,” and it meant a kind of auditory renown. Vulgarly speaking, it was fame. But it also could mean the glorious deed that merited the fame, as well as the poem that sang of the deed and so produced the fame. The medium, the message, and the impact: all merged into one shining concept.

Fame is vulgar. One need only survive the many articles on celebrities, what they are wearing, and where they are now to get the pornography of popularity–and feel stupid for enjoying them. Everything has to be over the top and recorded in lurid detail. The more so the more clicks, the more revenue, and the stupid and identical ads replicate themselves like bacteria.

Kleos lay very near the core of the Greek value system. Their value system was at least partly motivated, as perhaps all value systems are partly motivated, by the human need to feel as if our lives matter. A little perspective, which the Greeks certainly had, reveals what brief and feeble things our lives are. As the old Jewish joke has it, the food here is terrible — and such small portions! What can we do to give our lives a moreness that will help withstand the eons of time that will soon cover us over, blotting out the fact that we ever existed at all? Really, why did we bother to show up for our existence in the first place? The Greek speakers were as obsessed with this question as we are.

What is art? Art is what’s popular. If you want to eat that is. What is value? Value is what is popular. If you want to eat that is. Really?

And then there was a third approach to the problem of mattering, which also emerged in ancient Greece. It, too, was secular, approaching the problem in strictly mortal terms. I’m speaking about Greek philosophy, which was Greek enough to buy into thekleos-like assumption that none of us are born into mattering but rather have to achieve it (“the unexamined life is not worth living”) and that the achievement does indeed demand outsize ambition and effort, requiring you to make of yourself something extraordinary. But Greek philosophy also represented a departure from its own culture. Mattering wasn’t acquired by gatheringattention of any kind, mortal or immortal. Acquiring mattering was something people had to do for themselves, cultivating such virtuous qualities of character as justice and wisdom. They had to put their own souls in order. This demands hard work, since simply to understand the nature of justice and wisdom, which is the first order of business, taxes our limits, not to speak of then acting on our conclusions. And the effort may not win us any kleos. Socrates got himself a cupful of hemlock. He drank it calmly, unperturbed by his low ratings.

Yes, well the punishment Socrates asked for corrupting the youth of Athens against fame, hubris (pride), and nationalism was free meals.

Plato certainly thought one should do the right thing for its own sake. An easier task if one is full in the belly. If not then a religion with glory in another world suffices. Even if you are full, are you ever full enough, and why not more?

Our need to feel as if our lives matter is, as always, unabating. But the variations on the theistic approach no longer satisfy on the scale they once did, while cultivating justice and wisdom is as difficult as it has always been. Our new technologies have stepped in just when we most need them. Kleos — or Klout — is only a tweet away.

Potlatches are often praised by the ignorant as how  northwestern Native Americans redistributed wealth. The truth is potlatches became a contest of Big Men giving the most, impoverishing themselves to show they were the biggest of men. The movement of potlatches among the Big Men soon meant everyone who could possibly help others was impoverished and the goods were not distributed equally but there were really Big Men now.

Big Man syndrome still exists today from the 1% to the still poor where people will give up their wealth (oil) and future (land resource) for fame.

Africa is cursed with the Big Man syndrome. We elect leaders who end up being the BIG MAN. These are people who will go to any length to buy their way into leadership. First, they make sure that they make us poor by stealing all the property around us. Then the (sic) make sure they are elected to positions of leadership to protect what they have stolen from us.

The incredibly high cost of living in society forces most of us into popularity contests. No longer can we remove ourselves to an unpopulated area and have an honest life on its own terms, a nevertheless difficult task always. Like the Greeks of old we must abandon philosophy for sophistry in order to survive.

How satisfying, in the end, is a culture of social-media obsession? The multireplication so readily available is as short-lived and insubstantial as the many instances of our lives they replicate. If the inadequacies of kleos were what initially precipitated the emergence of philosophy, then maybe it’s time for philosophy to take on Klout. It has the resources. It’s far more developed now than in the day when Socrates wandered the agora trying to prick holes in people’s kleos-inflated attitudes. It can start by demonstrating, just as clearly and forcefully as it knows how, that we all matter.

So, I am looking for someone to be my social media expert so I can have a brand to be able to live as a writer. Must work for free until the ad revenue comes in. Welcome to the Googleplex.

Jim n

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Bribing My Way Through Cosmos

cosmosMy kids refused to to watch the original Cosmos when I bought it on DVD a decade ago. Fearful that I would turn them off science forever I didn’t push the point but played it in the background as I worked rebuilding our house. It seemed to have a similar effect anyway but at least towards Cosmos and not science itself.

This time I suggested a new Cosmos but no still bites. My spouse who bought my first Neil deGrasse Tyson book for me and was the cause of my meeting him in New York was not enthusiastic either, for reasons I will soon state. I also met Ann Druyan that trip and had a wonderful time telling her how reading Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World” had helped nurture me back when I accidentily sawed off my small finger and I was lying in bed on opiates in a pool of self pity.

It took a snow day without school and a growing frustration on my part. The second Cosmos episode came out I hadn’t seen the first. While I appreciated watching the Veronica Mars movie along with watching the entire series in preparation I had nowhere to go to watch Cosmos. The rooms we keep heated are small and few. The bathroom sounded good because it is also heated. A tub and Cosmos sounded great but for the fact we don’t have a very good hot water heater. Shivering my way through Cosmos didn’t seem pleasant nor did just sitting there.

My grandfather used to bribe his students and family when they needed more encouragement then his motivational sayings and stories could muster. I first asked for some time to watch it our small winter living room to a resounding no (it’s our snow day) and my spouse had the kitchen covered with grading (it’s my snow day). I thought to watch it on my phone in bed under the electric blanket but it’s a visual show. Besides… Voile.

“Hey, if I pay you 20 bucks will you watch Cosmos with me.” “Uhh, yeah, sure.”

My spouse was somewhat incensed as money is not plentiful and she now earns most of it. There is also something grating about bribing people to learn. It’s odd how we willingly use force and fear for encouragement but not bribes. My kids don’t get allowances and we live too remotely for them to have jobs and the farm provides very little child income so it seemed to me a fine thing to do even if I overpaid them.

My family does get the utility of rewards as they use trips abroad to get them through the school year. It was the price. The immediacy of yes to $20 made me think I should have offered $10, or maybe cookies. Studies indicate people lower the needed value of their bribe if it’s food.

My grandfather was famous for saying to overpay people.

What would you prefer? Someone who isn’t happy wishing they were elsewhere, looking to get done early or cheat a bit. Or someone who thinks they should give a bit more in return, shows up early, and is happy to be working for you.”

He may have owned a business college but he didn’t have that fuck em mentality of most capitalists. Perhaps it was because he had always wanted to be a lawyer but he had been emotionally blackmailed to take over the college from his father.

$40 more poor (two children) I am happy, happy, happy. What a fun show. None of it new but satisfying like a meal that isn’t exotic but really well made.

I particularly liked the emphasis on evolution and the eye. Too often the eye is made to be too complicated, requiring a designer, and he showed how it had evolved and how the world might look at various stages. I also liked the discussion of artificial selection. I often say we breed animals and that is evolution to get other farmers and creationists to get evolution. Their fallback has been macro versus micro evolution.

I am happy in a public school district that doesn’t really teach evolution to be able to expose my children to it. Even in homeschooling it was tough. When I bought the Nova series Evolution for them to watch and various evolution books I had little support as now because of idiot politics and my religiously oriented extended family discussing evolution is like saying you’re secular. Indeed, I have had family members come to me and say they believe in evolution as if that were some concession–does that mean I should start attending church and not staying silent during prayers (I won’t say amen.) What that means is when I say evolution they hear antifamily-religion.

For those without cable or satellite episodes are available for 60 days after release at Fox TV.

Veronica Mars is worthing viewing as well. Strong female lead, independent attitude, good relationship with father, good friendships, and complicated relationships.

Jim n

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Noah and God’s Loving Genocide

noahs-arkAs a kid raised without much religion, I never got the story of Noah in spite of being well versed in Greek mythology. Getting over the illustrations of cute animals, the smiling Noah, and the funky ship why in hell would god kill everyone? A just god? A righteous god? A friend of god was no friend of mine. Babies, innocents and all of those animals that had absolutely nothing to do with sin in any way whatsoever. As if the mighty god who could flood the entire world couldn’t figure out a way to kill the sinners and save all of the innocents.

Obey me or you all can die! Fear me!

Only the god of Noah could be more genocidal than any human. Global annihilation. A god that would say

I am so angry I will kill everything but two of each. And if you don’t get it right the second time I can start all over again, and again, until you little bastards get it right.

No wonder Jews felt persecuted. Their circumcision wasn’t going to save them this time. How they make cute little picture books of Noah is beyond me. I can’t blame Noah. Build a ship or you die too!

People raised in these vicious religions accepting a genocidal death wish fall all over themselves in loving apology.

Mythology folks like to say the story is reasonable because there was flooding (look at Gilgamesh) and so fear of flooding was normal, normative. Also, that wars, pestilence, and weather did erase many cultures. Odd, the ultimate end of theses mideast empires was from prolonged drought in the face of overpopulation and resource depletion. Seems like they should enshrine as ultimate evil starvation and dehydration.

Sociology folks like to say the story is about inspiring people to do good. We’re all in it together. We thrive as one or we die as one. Kumbaya my friend, kumbaya.

Psychology folks like to say it is about making people behave well or god will do what’s necessary. A battle of multiple selves. It’s all allegorical. It’s allegorical that you can be helped–hmmm, who, all those drowned babies, etc? “Aaah, but they are saved in the next world.”  Hmm, if this world is so unimportant why bother–kill everyone as a baby, all innocents too, and they all will be saved.

Jews, since the story is really Jewish, though Christians bath in it like their baptismal font, say it is about obedience and trust in god. Another version of an equally vicious fable about Abraham and his son. Only in the case of Noah no innocents were saved. No trust or obedience mattered. Not even animals, cute fuzzy, little baby ones.

Bill Maher is spot on with Noah.

Now, other gods of mythology are pretty nasty. That Greek Pantheon would give just about anyone in jail a run for their money. They at least did not claim to be righteous. Any human with an ounce of sense would run from godly association–”Honey, I see Zeus, in the driveway what should I do.” “Hide immediately.”

But Noah’s god? Let’s just kill everyone! No wonder they created atonement and repentance in the hopes that Noah’s god would get the lesson. You can change! God says,

“hmmm, the flooding thing didn’t work, let’s try more guilt, shame, and then snare them with forgiving.”

Is it surprising that religious people don’t care whether global warming is true or not or that whatever they do is true or not?

Yep, by any account of Noah’s God, Jehovah, Yahweh, or peace-be-unto-him Allah, he is the most psychotic, sociopathic, and purely evil entity in the universe. If you see him, arrest him immediately!

Jim n

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Religious German Home Schoolers Gain Asylum

Romeike_FamilySCOTUS declined to hear Romeike v. Holder and demanded the government to respond to their petition for asylum which was granted. For those not in the homeschool universe the Romeike family is a conservative religious family that didn’t want to follow Germany’s mandatory public school requirement because it was too secular.

First, since secularists often consider all homeschoolers to be either religious or the parents of high-need children I must say we home schooled all three of our children more or less for reasons of travel and lifestyle. My oldest son was accepted on scholarship to Beloit and was on the Dean’s List his first year. One daughter received the highest math honor in her middle school (she chose to go to school at 14). The other daughter has had all A’s and has chosen to homeschool a year or two because of bullying and the mindless routine of public schools here.

To be blunt, if your children are smart or stupid schools have declined in their ability to support them. Around here parents of either population shuffle their kids around to various institutions trying to cobble together a decent education. It’s not just Tiger Moms but education-starved children.

I would homeschool my children more if we could afford it. The idiotic routines and mind-numbing activities of underfunded, undersupported, underachieved, and too-religious public schools easily convince me. The middle-school science text in my town does not mention evolution or even change over time. It is an idiotic book that should be thrown out. I also find the moralizing posters and facile motivations in the hallways and class walls horrifying.

Especially now there are many secular homeschool resources available. It helps to remember that homeschooling was originally distance learning for those who couldn’t get to schools. It was hijacked by religious separatists. There are many ways to ensure children meet minimum education standards and if we actually had competent schools we wouldn’t need SAT and ACT tests to prove it long after the fact and long after it can be changed.

I welcome the schools to keep the money they have not had to use to educate my children. They need all of the financial help they can get.

My spouse is now a school teacher and hates it. The authoritarian ego trips and lack of ability to discipline children combined with low parental support means she is little more than a class police woman and she hates it. She is the only teacher with a Phd at her school. I make more money painting houses. This means we are also trying to change the system and not be secular separatists.

With all of these caveats in mind…

Religious separatists have found common ground with libertarians in championing home school. They both want to dismantle the government. The one because the don’t want government and should be more properly called anarchists and the other because it is the wrong government. Religious separatists would be happy under church authority and obedience to their sacred texts and canons. It is a disingenuous or mistaken alliance. While libertarians want the freedom separatists wish to change the goals of the authority and not remove authority.

HSLDA is a hyperconservative  homeschool advocacy business that sells home schoolers insurance again litigation. Yep, for a small fee you can buy some legal insurance in case you have to go to court over homeschooling. They often use scare tactics to convince home schoolers they are going to be litigated and litigated soon if they don’t stand up for parental rights whatever the hell that means. It certainly doesn’t mean they think you can have an abortion, later or early. Nor does it mean they think religion should be out of government or schools. Nor does it mean they think would allow me to teach Buddhism, or in some schools, Yoga, even historically.

The Romeikes could have moved to another country in the EU that is more tolerant of homeschooling. HSLDA was thrilled to ensconce them in their circle of scare tactics and hold them as the poster family of religious freedom. Even the asylum granted is proof to them the US is going to avoid their issue of parental rights where you can do anything you want with your children as long as it follows a christian ideal. Though which denomination seems rather unclear.

This is the so called immutable characteristic that HSLDA wishes to assign to home schoolers. But there is no canon, no constitution, no binding characteristic of home schoolers as a group. If home schoolers could call themselves Amish, or Menonite, or any of a number of formal separatist groups of tradition they could claim asylum as that group but  not because they are home schoolers. You can’t ask for asylum because you are have a changeable characteristic like carpenter, knitter, prostitute. That’s the law part which most don’t care about but that’s why SCOTUS, conservative as they are, wouldn’t touch it.

Germany created the public school mandate in response to its Turkish immigrants who moved in or were born in such large numbers as to outnumber the Germans. Further they balkanized themselves into social and religious ghettos (they are not a homogeneous group either) and do not wish to participate in German society. They want all of the welfare but little of the responsibility.

In Denmark this balkanization with muslims has been such a problem that liberals have given way to conservatives who seem oddly correct that a country does have a character that should be maintained. That certain laws of governance and morality are more universal than the ethnicity of its citizens.

This should be familiar to Americans since that is precisely why we created the public school system here. Too many immigrants who could not speak the language, know the constitution, and participate in society. The US needed workers who would show up, stay at work, and then go home. It is renewed problem as it is not just theocrats in the Carolinas and Texas that would like to secede but parts of California and elsewhere that are in hispanic majority who understanding the US is a democracy would like their own kind of hispanic governance, representation, and if necessary separatism. HSLDA would not approve.

HSLDA falls back on the old libertarian canards of commerce law to squeeze out legitimacy for state’s rights as expanding to parental rights. This tactic fails big. Most citizens don’t know law very well–no lawyer would make more than an “opinion” outside their area of expertise. Most people don’t get that neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states, and other nations have different levels and effects of standing, jurisdiction, and jurisprudence. Most just see themselves in reference to themselves. This kind of myopia is a problem. We should teach much more law in schools.

HSLDA preys on this ignorance by emphasizing that Romeike should be allowed asylum because since the US allows homeschooling so should the entire world. It confuse US law with international law, US rights with other countries’  rights. Indeed if religious separatists wish for that they should not insist that every country have the same laws. It is clear it is not a function of governance but the specific issue itself. While claiming separatism they really wish everyone would follow their law. Again they don’t want tolerance they want rulership across the board. Even if a country votes for mandatory homeschooling they insist that country is wrong.

Unless you wish to expand the UN to a global legal empire that not only enforces all rights but all law countries by long agreement and demand to have their own governance. You can’t criticize Nazi’s in Germany but you can here. Do you wish for Germany to demand  the US change its laws?

Just because you have a right in America does not make it an international right. The right to homeschool is not under any international law. Oddly HSLDA has fought against any US involvement in international law for decades until now. Just as conservatives wished to “Americanize” immigrants for decades, a century or two, they now wish to Americanize the world. It’s not a libertarian issue, it’s a theocratic issue.

If the Roemeikes had been deported the worst that would happen to them is their children would have to go to school or they could  move to another more accessible country. They are not in danger of persecution. SO much so why do we turn away people who are physically abused and tortured but allow this?

The Romeikes can teach their children churchy stuff at home just as I have to teach evolution to my children at home even if I don’t homeschool.

Jim n

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A Cross to Bear, New York and Nationalism

world-trade-center-cross-new-york-mathew-lodgePlato would hate the cross as a monument in New York to celebrate 9/11. First I say celebrate as Americans have fetishized this event so far grandly beyond other far more horrific disasters it has become incomprehensible. Indeed the punitive action taken has been so much greater in misbalance that even reasonable liberals have dreamed up convaluted  conspiracy theories to somehow explain the emotional intensity of our reaction. Leaving that aside there are other issues needing to be discussed.

David Silverman gets grilled by Megyn Kelly on his dyspepsia and headaches from the cross. Any moral person would be dyspeptic and have severe headaches. If you’re religious you can’t stand the promotion of it as secular. If you’re non-cross-oriented religious you know it’s an affront to your religion. If you’re secular you know it makes a travesty of religious tolerance in the public sphere and is disrespectful to the nonchristians involved.

By way of Plato, to continue Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s Plato in the Googleplex where Plato shows up in modern times, Plato would hate the cross.

Christians have themselves enabled this castigation by insisting the cross is not a religious symbol but rather a nationalization of the courage of those there that day, just a symbol of the greatness of Americans and their capacity for courage and compassion. Hmmm. Plato, separated the acclaim of others (kleos) as irrelevant in his concept of virtue (arete). Socrates denied the ability of Athens (nation by any other name) to have any say in whether he was virtuous “the city can do him no harm, even if their disapproval of him is so great they sentence him to death,” remembering that Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth and  being antiAthenian, because Athenians had become too proud of being Athenian and less concerned with being good individuals engaged in dialog.

The same with praise or being distinguished. One lives a moral, ethical, and virtuous life by means or principles that have nothing to do with the state or the approval of others. Though we use others to become less egotistic (reveal biases etc) we do not revere the state simply because it is the state. One does (should do, would hopefully do, would optimally do) what is right because it is right and not because the state will appreciate it, or one will receive fame and recognition.

Socrates was the first to associate virtue with moral character in absence of social approval.  Goldstein explains this as analogous to healthiness.

A person doesn’t have to be recognized as healthy in order to be healthy, and so it is with Plato’s Socrates’ arete… Plato argues that even if a person could get away with all manner of wrongdoing while maintaining a good reputation because of a magic ring that renders him invisible. Still he should not do any of these awful things, since by destroying his arete the man will destroy himself. Arete is entirely independent of social regard.

Either way the cross is not appropriate. Let us not promote empty Nationalism nor let us promote a particular religious symbol as if it were for all of us. If some sort of symbol is necessary why not a peace sign, a dove. Or why have a symbol at all, a visual deepity that mocks the real.

Jim n

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Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Arguing Context and Validity

HansReichenbachRebecca Newberger Goldstein in “Plato at the Googleplex, Why Philosophy won’t Go Away” untangles a frequent confusion, conflation, of contextualization and validation. Crediting Hans Reichenbach she merits the careful separation of historical influences and assessments of validity or “the context of discovery” versus “the context of justification.”

“When you ask why did some particular question occur to a scientist or a philosopher for the first time, or why did this particular approach seem natural, then your questions concern the context of discovery. When you ask whether the argument the philosopher puts forth to answer the question is sound, or whether the evidence justifies the scientific theory proposed, then you’ve entered the context of justification. Considerations of history, sociology, anthropology, and psychology are relevant to the context of discovery but not justification.”

It’s not a wall of separation as there can be relationships between them.

“Sometimes, for example, examining the context of discovery can help flush out unstated premises in an argument, presuppositions that were regarded as so intuitively obvious in the context of the thinker’s mindset, whether for cultural reasons, personal reasons, or the interactions between the cultural and the personal, that they didn’t bear being stated.”

Yet, the two are separate.

“But still the assessment of these intuitions in terms of the argument’s soundness isn’t accomplished by work done in the context of discovery. And conversely one doesn’t diminish a philosopher’s achievement, and doesn’t undermine its soundness, by showing how the particular set of questions on the question, the orientation he brought to bear in his focus, has some casual connections to the circumstances of his life.”

Goldstein writes this in response to readers of her Spinoza book,

“…thinking I was perhaps arguing that Spinoza’s philosophical arguments were groundless because his personal history helped determine which problems he set out to solve…”

Taking this further it becomes more easy to tease apart this drastic braid in discussing the personalities of people versus what they say. I think of the classic outing of gender issues in Richard Dawkins. By contextualizing his background and maybe even heredity we can see how he arrived at such poorly-voiced conclusions (fighting words) in the face of discussing gender-abuse priorities. Eg, American women seem more concerned (whining) about their problems when they should be focusing on the worse abuses in other countries more whole-heartedly. With historical contextualization we can see how Dawkins would arrive at his statements and by validation we can evaluate his statement.

Another more recent example of this is a recent SMOA podcast with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (show includes an excellent basic overview of Islamic issues) about how women are treated so much better in the states that they can’t get the horrors of wearing the veil, especially in light of some Muslim women trying to make the veil fashionable, to own their oppression. Let women dress themselves even if oppressed some say. Further we don’t kill women in the states for how they dress. Americans are so much more advanced in their freedom of appearance. The West has time-warped progress and the East is catching up.

Two things occur if we look deeper. Americans generally don’t kill people, cut their tongues off, or their hands. This may seem generous but it really is the result of economics. We have the wealth to have prisons and to keep hordes of people in them. It has become such an industry that eliminating prisons would be an economic loss. Far, far cheaper to chop off a hand or do a castration or simple beheading. We can hardly execute mass murderers… That we can keep so many in prison shows just how little we need labor as well and yet contradictorily how much we still believe that everyone can and should work–or be the cause of income-producing work. It is just now that prison scientists are admitting that solitary confinement is more abusive than floggings. Islam may be more kind to stone and behead some than we are to imprison them.

The other is modesty. While it seems that Americans are immodest it is absolutely against the law to be in public naked, genitals must be covered. Refusing to cover your genitals will lead to imprisonment and ultimately a plea of insanity. We wouldn’t kill them just drug or imprison them until they reform or die. Public-school teachers cannot use standard texts to teach Indo-Euro-Asian ancient history because of the plentitude of viewable genitals. I’m sure in a country where the temperament is to imprison drug abusers for longer than manslaughter that if being genitally naked became a political issue even worse disincentives would occur. It wasn’t so long ago that the chastity belt was considered a very real option and that virginity was the economic fuel of women. In my lifetime.

“There’s a golden rule to be struck between the extremism of historicism, on the once hand, and the extremism of philosophical insularity on the other, and Reichenbach’s distinction helps to dissolve the false dichotomy.”

The biggest reason this matters to atheists is the wrong-headed argument that we are atheists because we have been damaged by religion and not because religion is philosophically unjustified.  Further that men raised by single-mothers hate men and hate patriarchal religions because of their rearing and not because patriarchy is wrong, or at least no longer useful. The event of abuse may cause the exploration but doesn’t affect the validity of the arguments against religion.

Jim n

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Atheist-Christian Debates, Taking it Personal

arguingIn Phil’s excellent show with Aron Ra one atheist issue intrigued me in particular. When debating, arguing, or discussing atheism with religious people they often take it personal. At worst they may think you wish to exterminate them. Yes, that person, your interlocutor, over there. You may as well have a big knife and be getting ready to stab at them. And yes, they often have that kind of visceral reaction. Before I say why this is and how it can be intellectually resolved, my tactic is therapeutical. (please adopt my high brow tone to the vernacular.)

Intellectuals will see violence in philosophical arguments and words do matter because they can do great harm or benefit. Language may have evolved as a means of resolution to prevent physical fights and many people often conflate the two. The abstraction of argument from the individual is less possible the more you rely on the amygdala–learning the other person’s personality can be beneficial in a rhetorical kind of way. A heartfelt debate is a suspension of physical battle where the outcome is sufficient and necessarily important. A debate can be seen as arguing for one’s life…

Jill BookoSacredText has said

“…you want to exterminate Christians, you want to exterminate me…”

Make an energetic denial and show how her statement is personal.

“Whoa, wait a minute. Time out! We need to have a basic ground rule here to continue this discussion. We are going to disagree strongly with each other. Most likely considering the topic is religion versus atheism we will disagree all the way down to some core fundamentals from which you derive your basic identity and moral behavior, as I do mine. In order that we may understand each other most fully so our arguments are most respected we must both agree that we can speak freely and not fear the other is going to take it personally.”

That should be enough but I suppose one could belabor the point.

“If you say I should be Christian I won’t take it that you want to kill me. If I say you should be an atheist it doesn’t mean you should be dead. It must be clear to both of us there is no desire to personal harm, physical harm, or mental torture.

I understand that our egos are involved in our world view–we are our world view–but that is true for everyone regardless of their view. What we need to discuss is not the integralness, sincerity, or incorporation of a belief but the beliefs themselves.

What some will do here is continue to emphasize they are their religion. It’s true that many religious people become religious through having their desperate, worldly prayers answered and they identify their worldly success with their religiosity. Jill,

“My entire self and covenant with God is one. I cannot separate my religious self from any other self. If you ask me to not be Christian you are asking me to destroy my self, my identity. My very physical existence is  my relationship with God. I would rather be dead then give up my identity with God. I have no life without him, no soul, no body, no infinite. It is less important that you destroy my body than that I give up my soul by allowing you to take it from me.”

This may seem extreme but most devout people see their religion as part of their morphology of identity, their soul is physically in them and inseparable except in death–the body isn’t even important. I would counter here with, and yes it should be a therapeutic statement at this point as we are still establishing ground rules,

“I feel like you insist that your world-view is integral to yourself but that mine isn’t. Understand that I am as deeply and thoughtfully atheistic as you are not. I worry that you now wish to begin with moral high ground by saying your Christian position is unassailable because you are so intensely and sincerely Christian but I cannot say the same  only because you insist that atheism is impossible to hold as dear as theism.”

(I have gotten pointlessly snotty here ande said “don’t speak for me or assume how I think.”)

At this point they often do go out of bounds and start to talk about how their theism is more real and true to them than atheism can be to you. The one is a genuine world view and the other is not. Try to stop this with,

“Wait a minute again. Unless you are willing to allow me the right to be an atheist and I allow you the right to be a theist we can’t go on. This discussion is not a trial with a judge somewhere else where the lawyering must result in the conviction of the other. We both think our position is correct but in the absence of real personal attacks we must agree not to take each other’s arguments personally.”

If that is  still not the end of it I have gone further and let it be an existential argument.

“If you cannot disassociate your personal self from your argument then let us change the nature of the debate entirely. Let us assume there is an audience and they will destroy either all atheists or all theists depending on which of us wins. Would you prefer that? Are you really here to act as mortal judge for all  theists and atheists? By insisting that I am exterminating you, you admit that your argument should exterminate me. Is that what we are here for? Is that the morality you seek? Winner take all, the rest be dead? Is this judgement day?

Knowing myself, I’d probably take it too far a bit now but edginess can have the effect of demonstrating sincerity.

“Not me. I want to have a stimulating discussion and perhaps learn more of what you think while having you learn something of myself. I wish no personal harm. Though indeed my position as an atheist is because I fear you do personal harm as you feel we atheists do harm. We have in common the deep trust that our world-view is less harmful than the others. What travesty it is be to descend to petty assumptions of personal attacks to disabuse any disagreement.”

I try to completely ignore whether identity is action or not and the many philosophical issues that entails but if they do drag that out and say,

“I cannot separate my life as a Christian from myself. If am not doing God’s work then I am nothing, not even alive. If you attack my acts of love then you say my body may as well not exist which is true as my body is  nothing more than a vessel for the soul and God’s love–he moves every  part of me. If I cannot love God then I am dead. I am my actions.”

My last appeal here is then to empathy, unless we are drinking in which case discussions of essentialism ensue.

“Yes,  but that is true for me too. I am a sincere and philosophical person and just as you believe atheism harms I believe theism harms but let us suspend personal attacks and assumptions of personal attacks so we may explore and examine this topic further rather than assume every criticism is a stab in the chest with a knife. If we are unable to discuss these issues openly and freely without fear of physical reprisal then why not change out clothes and wrestle? Is that what you want? Are we not able to discuss ideas without decay into physical violence?”

If none of this gives a glimmer of hope, back out.

“I am sorry we cannot have an equal discussion. As long as you insist you are personally attacked when we disagree on any given point you have made any discussion impossible.”

I would probably add a zinger because by then I would be beside myself.

“You have indeed shown how your theology is a tyranny where no discussion, no give and take, and no compassion is of merit. You claim personal attack but you insist on a personal war of religiosity. I hope some day we can talk. I think you are an interesting g person and I might learn something. But if you cannot allow criticism then it is only by force of some external law that you will change and no words matter. You have marginalized yourself from free society by insisting that all other opinions must remain  mute.”

It may help to reflect that isolation, privacy, and representation are all means of making the personal impersonal. That in any society there are those who would do each other harm justifiably but for social restraint. People can get so angry from words they would destroy you. Be careful out there.

Jim n

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I Was Never Beat Up for Being an Atheist?

Les-mots---Sartre---couvertureI was never beat up for being an atheist. I was beat up for being fat, smart, or walleyed (my right eye was strongly misaligned to the far right, just as Sartre.) I was fat at 10 and in sixth grade I was the slowest and supposedly least fit student in my class. Fitness became a lifelong quest, burden, and assumption. Being smart combined with the inability to keep my mouth shut meant I pissed off a lot of “peers”—what fucking peers, like Abbie Hoffman in the trial of the Chicago Seven, how could I have peers in Middle America?

My eye going to the right meant people didn’t know what I was looking at, thought I was being impertinent, or that I was just crippled–yeah, crippled, no distance focus, no depth focus, no eye-to-eye contact (“what are you looking at oldwoman?”)

Back then I would have Sartre be my avatar and Hemingway my thug. The first because he was ugly like me and the second because of courage. This is a male story but truly women are what saved me and I will not, even in a male story, let this pass in silence. I knew I was finally acceptable when the smartest person in school, period, wanted to date me and yet I couldn’t even do that.

sartreIn Salt Lake City’s East High School, a somnambulant outpost in 70′s activism, I was comforted by well off Mormons and university professor brats. Well, not really. I had nightmare after nightmare of Mormons coming to get me because I wasn’t like them. To them it was clear I wasn’t going to a spiritual place and they were so superior and did not date  nonMormons, gentiles. My  nightmares usually revolved around Mormons coming to our house high up in the avenues and searching for me, with the occassional cross burned in our lawn.

sartre-cheeseIn my nightmares I created elaborate schemes for getting out of the house unawares or building tunnels in our basement or just hiding uner the bed behind a wall of dirty clothes and open books. Thank goodness for the university professor brats since our high school was nearest the U of U. Shit if I had gone to West High I’d a been killed or killed someone. As you might guess I didn’t socialize a lot and this persecution complex is often given as reason for my reclusiveness. Instead I worked at jobs and socialized with adults.

sartres hellAnn Arbor taught me to be street wise and Westerns, yes Westerns, taught me observance and self-defense. Wyatt Earp and Bill Hitchcock always sat with their back against the wall and knew where the nearest exit was–always have a defense and an escape strategy. Salt Lake City taught me how people could have a polite conversation and then rip the crap out of you later. Trust?, my ass.

sartre-victimsI was still stout and fast (hyper) so I never got beat up too bad. This was before it was popular to use weapons and large groups to enable pummeling anyone, any way. I exercised a lot. So though I was terrible at sports and speed I was strong–weight training became my zen. Books saved my life and because of them I even learned to empathize with oppressors, somewhat, nawww.

Fatness, crooked-eyeness, and intelligence can’t be hidden easily but atheism can. For some Mormons being nonMormon was considered a  missionary opportunity–woo hoo, bonus points in their future planet, uhhhh, celestial sphere, uhhh, spiritual ground.

sartre freeIt really wasn’t until I married the second time that atheism became an overt social issue and by then I was too old and strong to beat up. The oddball relative just says I am crazy which from them is a compliment and yet…great harm can come from there.

hemingway1Yet…yet, being fat, intelligent, and ugly are all wrapped up in Abrahamic religions. The quest for perfection. The importance of icons and appearances. The greater emphasis on obedience. The emphasis on social hierarchy. Combine that with the American flair for extravagance and I would have to say that religion was responsible after all.

Jim n

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