April 17, 2014

Empathy, and the Long Reach of Reason

Posted in critical thinking, culture, film, history, humanism, justice, literature, philosophy, politics, psychology at 4:17 pm by Jerry


January 25, 2013

Gun Control

Posted in politics at 10:43 am by Jerry

gun control

If someone lookin’ to kill me came at me with a club or a rope (especially a rope), I’d like to think I’d have a fighting chance to protect my life. A knife would be different – unless the attacker was horribly coordinated! I think if the artist put the killer in this picture in a wheelchair (just one example), the availability to kill with a gun would become far more apparent.

And what about mass murder? Compare a scenario where there are six potential victims (at least two of them adults) and one killer with a knife vs. the same scenario except the killer has a gun. The more skilled the gunman is the more distance he (or she) can put between himself and the victims (not to mention the emotional distance). The knifeman doesn’t have that luxury. The chances of all six of the potential victims being killed by the gunman is far greater than if the killer only had a knife.

I say, let’s have fun at a firing range all we want, and then leave the guns there – locked up.

If people want to be soldiers, they can join the army.

January 13, 2011

Piss On Death Penalties

Posted in art, atheism, culture, history, philosophy of religion, politics, Secular Humanism at 8:22 pm by Jerry

Whether they will ever empathize with their victims or not, I’d like criminals to LIVE without some of the key advantages society has to offer.

Not for an eternity. Just long enough for criminals to EARN A SOCIETY’S TRUST and keep societies PROTECTED IN THE MEANTIME.

It’s not perfect justice. If human beings COULD have protected themselves according to the wisdom (discovering what’s good and not-so-good) they’ve attained, I suspect we would have. We just haven’t had the resources to do so.

I think this approach to crime would be THE RESPONSIBLE THING TO DO, for the criminals and their keepers. And atoning for the mistakes of another? That would not be a responsible thing to do!

So here we are.



What Changes For Social Justice Are You Looking Forward To?

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, family, history, politics, religion, Secular Humanism at 7:32 pm by Jerry

Here’s something I’d like to see changed:

May 27, 2010

not so Good but definitely Ol’ Absolute Morality

Posted in atheism, film, history, philosophy, politics, religion, scripture at 10:41 am by Jerry

January 2, 2010

Pop Theodicy Part 2: Self-Imposed Prisons

Posted in art, atheism, church, culture, politics, scripture, theodicy at 10:02 am by Jerry

Self-Limiting Freewill

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’  But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” – says Jesus in Matthew 5:38-41

According to this verse, we are NOT free to put limits on another’s behaviour. And from what I grew up hearing in the church, even God’s expressed will is now touted as merely invitation, seeking permission to intervene. I suppose that’s why it’s also often said by Christians, “I agree with C.S.Lewis when he said in his book, The Problem of Pain, ‘Hell is locked from the inside'”.

Interesting. And yet, I’ve never heard any Christian state they believe it’s quite possible that some of those who will be (or are) in the never-ending hell will manage to make their way out. Of all the various spiritual journeys hell-bound people are on, will none of them find “salvation”? Or is it, in the grand scale of things, these people are destined to stay in hell? Sounds deterministic to me.

Also, if C.S.Lewis says it, is it necessarily biblical? In one of his stories about heaven and hell, Jesus says,

“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” (Luke 16:26).

It looks like God has only made freewill available to us during the years we spend on earth, and the afterlife exists without the highly praised freewill we’ve been talkin’ about.

Christianity For the Abolishment of State Prisons

So what does this earthly-bound freewill look like? Our societies of voting citizens, judges, politicians, lawyers and officers deem it NECESSARY and JUST to limit a citizen’s freewill for the purpose of protecting our societies from greater dangers than restricting the limits of our freewill. For example, though consistent with their theology, is it reasonable for the christian church to expect our society to hand over the keys to dangerous criminals in state prisons, freeing them to be the only ones to lock themselves in jail, if they so choose to?

Obviously, not. It’s absurd. And so is the freewill argument.

Pop Theodicy Part 1: Parenting

Posted in atheism, culture, family, fatherhood, politics, scripture, theodicy at 10:00 am by Jerry

Freewill Among the Naive

Genesis 2:9 – And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… 16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

What kind of father or mother would plant a poisonous tree (literal or metaphorical) in their children’s playground and think a warning makes it okay?

Freewill For The Criminally Insane

Genesis 3:1 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Revelation 12:9– And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [underlining mine]

What kind of Supreme Judge and parent, with knowledge beyond a shadow of a doubt that an individual will cause the most harm to humanity in the near future, leaves this criminally insane individual free to roam into his or her children’s playground?

Conclusion: God isn’t fit to be any type of parent and should have his children taken away from him for Contributory Negligence.

December 30, 2009

A First Century War On Mythmas

Posted in church, culture, fiction, history, mythology, politics, scripture, theology at 6:05 am by Jerry

Under the Caesars, Augustus and Octavian, the mantle of divinity was claimed for the Roman emperor. They claimed the titles Lord, Son of God, Bringer of Peace, and Savior of the World.

First century Christians remembered very well that according to Jesus “You shall love the Lord your God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Jesus was their Lord. They did not have divided loyalties.

The ancient world was full of miraculous birth stories. It was a favorite way for rulers to claim divine rights. It was a literary tool that was waiting for early Christians to use to declare the divine specialness of the one they called Lord.

The birth narratives that were eventually attached to Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, were stories that were created and circulated to counter the claim of the Caesars to be divine and worthy to be called Lord. Every claim of specialness for Caesar was countered by the claim that all his titles belonged to Jesus.

The birth narratives are as much political treatise as theological statement. They cannot be found as a part of the earliest memories of followers of Jesus and make sense only in the context of their Roman oppressors claim for divinity…

Broadly speaking the authors were storytellers. They were not historians. Their work cannot be understood as history.

The birth narratives are properly called myths. A myth by definition is any story or report in which God or a God is the primary actor. Angels, free-moving stars, dreams, and unexplained bright lights are a part of the tools of mythology. Christians and the world at large have not been served well by attempts to read the birth narratives as history.

Just as many children feel deceived when they find out Santa is not real, many Christians feel deceived when they conclude that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that a star did not travel through the sky and come to rest over a particular place in Bethlehem. (bold mine)

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

October 5, 2009

Emma’s Mind and Voice

Posted in culture, family, film, history, philosophy of religion, politics, psychology of religion, scripture at 11:53 am by Jerry

I’m excited about the kind of freedoms Emma will enjoy in her future. She seems to be showing signs of the kind of strengths her mother has, which makes me beam with pride. Emma has a wonderfully intelligent and articulate mother who refuses to except ridiculous cultural restraints.

1 Timothy 2:

11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.

12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

15But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

I’m so happy that Emma lives in an era where a proper recognition of the potential freedoms (spiritual, political, cultural, etc.) and already existing strengths among women has improved so much. There’s still plenty of room for improvement… and yet, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I hear from others in the future that Emma has helped them personally or professionally to embrace strengths they didn’t know they had, and live healthier lives (mind and body) as a result.

I know this is highly probable because I’ve seen examples of this kind of empowering influence demonstrated by her mother.

July 25, 2009

Concrete Morality

Posted in atheism, philosophy, politics, religion, soup at 10:27 am by Jerry

“Do you believe there is absolute morality?”

You gotta love this question, because if you say ‘no’ then it is easily assumed that you believe morality is conditional, flawed, and therefore, you have no solid ground to stand on when deciding what you think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Some may go so far as to assume you lack any true standards.

It’s true that there is little to nothing that I “believe” in. However, there are many things or ideas that I accept. (You know, it’s strange that these words, ‘believe’ and ‘absolute’, can be held onto so tight by many of those who get upset when you assume them to be “Fundamentalists”. Huh!)

For those interested, I don’t believe absolute morality exists but I accept the idea that concrete morality does. The literal definition of ‘concrete’ means “to grow together”. As an adjective it can be used to define things as ‘particular’, ‘real’, ‘actual’, ‘tangible’ rather than abstract. As a noun it can be used metaphorically..

an artificial, stonelike material used for various structural purposes, made by mixing cement and various aggregates, as sand, pebbles, gravel, or shale, with water and allowing the mixture to harden. via

I like ‘artificial’ in the sense that it emphasizes that morality is human made. I like ‘stonelike’ in the sense that morality is capable of providing tangible stability. And I like ‘various aggregates’ in the sense that what’s made is made out of diversity.

Morality, to me, is the result of a collective growing together, whether it be intentional or unintentional. When people cross paths, some sort of relating happens. My wife teaches her students, “We cannot not communicate”.  And this communicative experience will naturally establish itself in some kind of rule-enforcing political form (totalitarian, democratic, etc.), for better or worse. And these rules, if broken, are intended to guarantee negative consequences for those who break them. But if the rules are followed, the collective demonstrates an act of reciprocal altruism, however imperfect it may be. And naturally, within this collective, sub-groups develop of people establishing more of these social contracts although with a lesser legalistic nature.

Some might wonder, by using the word “concrete” do I think at some point in the future the moral standards will harden into an unchanging entity. First of all, and let me make this clear, I don’t accept notions of prophecy or fortune-telling. So I don’t know what the future will be for morality, but if at some point the moral standards are hardened concrete and are in need of having some ingredients added or subtracted in the mixture, there’s always room to revise the recipe, collect the edited list of ingredients, and make a similar but better concrete foundation to replace the one being stood on.

Also, some may ask, “Then the horrors of the past are justified because the morality of that day had yet to evolve?” I say, “No”. Whether they knew it was wrong or not, our human ancestors are responsible for discriminatory actions that we, today, consider to be ‘immoral’. Having the individual freedom to decide which of the many good (acceptable) choices will be our own is a must. And expecting a society to protect all individuals that belong to the society from whatever harmful characteristics it may have is just plain common sense. “Then, where is justice for the victims of the past?” they may ask. I say, “Just like morality, justice too is not absolute …it’s concrete.”

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