Thursday, July 05, 2012

Thoughts on the 4th. (written on the 5th)

The 4th of July always elicits thoughts of country, freedom and how much we have to be grateful for while living in this country.

This year is a bit different, because less than a week before the 4th, the nation's capital city lost power, and not just a little bit, but in a big way.  Literally millions of people (over a million "customers", or accounts) were left living without electricity - but since the cell providers Verizon and AT&T also had major trouble with their networks, many were also left without any communication at all.  Yes, many people have copper land lines which tend to stay on even in a power outage, but the numbers with optical lines are growing, and those lines die with their power supply.

Ergo, my post about living in the 19th century again.

It was suggested by an anonymous commenter that this was an opportunity to be more aware of the uniqueness of living in this country with such privilege.  He/she is right, it is such an opportunity, and one that PEPCO, unfortunately, gives us every few years in the last twenty I've lived here.  So, it isn't a thought process I'm ignorant of.

Obviously, being a senior government employee with a salary which is the result of having worked for the Feds for over 37 years puts me in the top few percentile of the human race worldwide where income is concerned.  I live in a country which has a highly developed economic system where the basics of life are, with that salary, easy to obtain.  Also, that salary makes it easy for me to make those basics even nicer, by adding on more expensive and luxurious add-ons, and even make life more enjoyable with such luxuries as computers, iPads, iPhones, etc.  (Google the term "first world problems" just for fun...)

Yeah, life for the 99%ers of the human race worldwide isn't easy.

That doesn't make me want to join them out of sympathy, needless to say.  What it does do is make me even more determined to fight those who continue to push a religious theocracy on the rest of us.

Why religion?  I can see the eye rolls already.  Why not fight poverty?   Why not fight hunger?  Bigger problems, right?

No, those are symptoms, not causes.

One needs to look at the root causes of hunger, poverty and poor educational opportunities.  In almost every case around the world, that root cause is human based, not the result of natural disasters.  Track it back, and a large part of the reason why there are wide swaths of the world which are poor is because of a feeling in the industrialized world of something called white privilege.

Which is, of course, bullshit.  We were just lucky, that's all.  Lucky to have developed something called democracy, which helped us develop the concept of freedom.  Freedom from the domination of the larger part of the human race by something called the Divine Right of Kings.

This is the principle that kings are somehow ordained to rule by some deity, which obligates the rest of us to obey those kings or we'll have a rough afterlife.  It is a principle which has been spread around the world by the elites, because it keep us rubes in line.  It keeps us in line by keeping us ignorant, poor and uneducated.

All of that came to be threatened when the US developed the US Constitution, which was the first foundational document that, to the dismay of religious fanatics everywhere (today included), denied the principle that kings are granted their power by divine fiat through the claim that the real power to rule comes from the people who are being ruled.

That didn't happen by accident.  Real people fought, died and were wounded and maimed to make that claim stick.  Today, it is still being contested, but no longer by kings.

Those who contest the right of government "of the people, by the people and for the people" are not the same folks we fought the War of Independence against, but their ideals are the same - to rule over us using the same principle that the right to rule is given by divine fiat.  Of course, that fiat is given by their god, not just any old deity.

The feeling of white privilege has allowed us to control the spread of technology, knowledge and education according to our own ideals and benefit, while denying those same benefits to the rest of the world.  Much of that is done through the spread of our religion, which is uniquely designed to "help" the downtrodden to understand that their lot in life is to be endured so one can obtain a reward after one dies.  This tends to keep the poor in line, since if one revolts against those with the divinely inspired right to rule, one jeopardizes one's future spot in heaven!

Fortunately, that really doesn't work well any more, as more and more countries have fallen to movements following the example of the American people.  UNfortunately, not all of them have seen fit to separate their religion from their government, as we see in Egypt right now.  Until they do, we'll continue to see that struggle go on.

Which is sort of my point.  It is the ability to separate religion from the process of governing that has kept the US strong while allowing religion to grow to unprecedented levels of popularity here.  That separation hasn't been perfect, of course, but good enough to provide the larger benefits of denying the divine right to rule from those who would oppress us.

Which is, in this country, the religious right.

So, this year, now that you've got the fireworks displays shot off, the BBQ eaten, the beer hangover dealt with and the relatives sent off back home, sit down and think about that freedom which you celebrated yesterday.  Think about the marriage of the religious right with the rich corporations into the Republican Party and how that has resulted in the Patriot Act and the Citizens United ruling, which are the greatest threats to our modern democracy since Hitler (There!  I've Godwinned this thing, so you don't have to).  The next greatest threat is that of a theocracy, being supported more and more openly by the religious right, under the cover of patriotism itself.

Think about how fragile that freedom is, which is about as fragile as the power grid around Washington DC.  Which is pretty damn bad.

So, if you are concerned with the state of the bulk of the world's people, get rid of religion, because, while under the cover of "helping" them through "charity", the end result is oppression, poverty and hunger.  While we get to live in the 21st century, most of the rest of the human race lives anywhere from the 19th century to the Bronze age.

Fix the religious problem, and we can then concentrate on fixing those symptoms.


Oldfart said...

It being too hot to go outside and it being so dry that most of the local fireworks displays were canceled, we stayed home and watched the Boston Pops fireworks. Which display was ended with, of all things, the Battle Hymn of the Republic. War and religion. Right. I'll never watch the Boston Pops again.

Robert Ahrens said...

Don't blame you. Someday, that kind of stuff will stop. We can only dream at this point...

Anonymous said...

Hitler did really good not liking religion and all...same with Stalin. As much as you dump on religion, it has done more good than you realize. You would have to give up hospitals, law, charity and education if you gave up on religion. In the late 1800s into the 1900s it was a lot of nuns and priests that gave free education to the immigrants in this country. Many of those nuns and priests lived in great poverty to do this...and lets not forget the hospital system, before the "religious" folks got involved most just stayed at home in pain and died lonely. Again it was the nuns and priests that spent the time caring for these poor dying folks, while themselves in desperate need of food and shelter.
And before the inquisition, there was little chance of getting ANY kind of trial...and the Kings and Queens(yes, many of them were at one point or another supported by local clergy, sometimes even the Vatican itself-nothing is ALWAYS perfect!)were the ones that took advantage of the inquisition...most locals would beg for the clergy run trials because they followed stricker rules about who could be used as witnesses. But the basic structure for the courts we use today are based on the courts of the inquisition.
So for all your ranting about religion being the problem(no I am not saying all religion is perfect...most of them aren't even good)but then aren't the millstone of society, drowning the world in sewage. As a matter of fact they have done much good!

Robert Ahrens said...

For your information, Hitler was a Catholic, and a practicing one at that. Stalin was raised as Orthodox. Not that his purposes was religious, but neither were they secular - his purpose was to advance an economic /political movement that brooked no opposition or opposing loyalties. Hitler signed a Concordat with the Vatican, and German belt buckles sported a religious motto! He bragged in his book, Main Kampf, of doing Christ's work, and noted Martin Luther's influence on his opinions about Jews.

Nothing I've said has ever denied that religious people, individually, have done good things. There have even been groups of religious folk, including Catholics, who have organized groups - not officially associated with their primary religious affiliation - that have done tremendous good.

The whole point is that the religions themselves have promoted too much hatred, misogyny, racism, tribalism and downright intolerance for the good to make up for. If all that good stuff could counter, even STOP the intolerance and hatred, then fine, you might have a point.

But it can't - indeed, it cannot by design!

As for your ridiculous assertion about the courts, don't make me laugh. American courts have a basis in English common law, indeed, many of our traditions go back to the Greeks and Romans. Our court system is more complicated than that, too, as there are elements of feudalism mixed in as well. Many States still sport different terms and traditions from feudal practices. Contrary to your assertions, most of those church courts followed feudal practices of one sort or another, depending on where they were being held and by whom. Most of the clergy of high rank were feudal sons of second rank, so were well versed in feudal practices.

As for your last statement, bathing sewage in perfume doesn't erase the sewage, it simply covers up the odor.

Robert Ahrens said...

Dang, need edit on comments.

"Mein Kampf", not "Main".

Anonymous said...

Your assertion that Hilter was a practicing Catholic is down right laughable! You say that Hitler signed a Concordat with the Vatican, and you are right...but you fail to mention that Hitler also had Concordats with Mussolini and the Russians and in all cases he broke those. None of the countries/city states signed these concordats because they were friends but, as most countries do, because they had a vested interest with the country...need I remind you that the Church had hundred of thousands of parishioners/clergy in Germany. The Catholic Church was the first to beg the US to get involved because of the murder that was taking place(and that the whole world tried to deny that this was happening!). As a matter of fact when the local Bishop in the Netherlands spoke out against the Nazi's they came to all the convents and took all Jewish nuns/clergy(converts from the Jewish faith to Catholicism) and had them sent to concentration camps and killed(see St. Edith Stein in Wikipedia). Proof to the Vatican that they couldn't do much out in public to help those under the Nazi occupation. Many times the Nazi's tried to come after the Catholic Church, both on the local level and international level. So, Hilter a practicing Catholic is a laughable statement...wikipedia also touches on this notion of Hilters religious views...
Both Hitler and Satlin used religion to help align the masses to their political/economic schemes. And being non-religious brings your quite close to being religious in and of itself!

Robert Ahrens said...

I don't know where you're getting your information, but Hitler WAS a practicing Catholic. He was photographed numerous times in church, alongside Catholic officials. His book, Mein Kampf, as I noted (and you ignored) documented his religious views - in his own words, citing Martin Luther, and also bragging about doing Christ's works:

Hitler seeking power, wrote in Mein Kampf. "... I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work." Years later, when in power, he quoted those same words in a Reichstag speech in 1938.

Three years later he informed General Gerhart Engel: "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so." He never left the church, and the church never left him. Great literature was banned by his church, but his miserable Mien Kampf never appeared on the Index of Forbidden Books.

His OWN WORDS. Unfounded and uninformed speculation on wikipedia by people who never met him can't trump his own words.

Of course, individual church officials all over Germany were imprisoned or sent to the labor camps - the Concordat forbade them from helping Hitler's enemies, so of course, they were not protected by it.

...and I truly don't understand your assertion about non-religious being close to religious. I think you need to go back and review that statement again...

Robert Ahrens said...

Ok, one more comment, because I've thought about this (watering plants is a wonderful time for thought) and have something else to say.

This meme about "Hitler was an atheist" that denies his religion, and his own words, is an old one, and is thoroughly debunked on numerous websites. I will no longer fight that fight.

What I will say is this:

It really doesn't matter. My remarks about the harm religion does to society, and the bad things people are motivated to do in its name, as well as the bad things religious organizations such as the RCC in their own name stand by themselves, on their own.

You cannot introduce the actions of a third party, whether just as bad or not, and expect to excuse the actions of the religious under discussion. The bad actions of the RCC, its minions and its adherents stand on their own as well, and those people, and the organizations involved, are responsible BY THEMSELVES. The Protestants, during the Thirty Years War in Germany, didn't exactly cover themselves in glory either, rather, in about as much blood as the Catholics did. So, I am not blaming this only on the RCC.

Again, the problem with religion is that it has NO REALITY CHECK. Its claims are in regards to the afterlife and the supernatural. Thus, one cannot take this world - reality - and double check those claims. Nobody has ever returned to this life after having died and brought back proof of heaven or hell. By definition, claims about the supernatural are...supernatural. Beyond reality.

Let's take Communism as an example. It is an economic theory, which makes claims about how people react in an economy and how governments can stage things to bring people to a perfect harmony where money is useless and everybody gets everything they need, while only working according to their abilities.

In other words, it is making claims about the real world, and, thus, we can compare its performance in reality with its claims.

Which it failed. Miserably. Which is why there aren't any more Communist countries left which practice even a shadow of the former socialist principles once so proudly proclaimed. Even Red China is going decidedly capitalist.

See? Reality checks. An economic theory has a reality check.

Religion doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I never claimed that Hilter was an atheist, I claimed "...did really good not liking religion..." and I stand by that claim. Yes, he is quoted as saying that he would never leave the Catholic Church, but as many historians have noted, his many differing quotes have lead to a confusion as to his real belief.(for every quote that he liked "positive Christianity" you can find another 2 that he disliked it"You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?") And being that he had pictures taken, he was the master media man, both in speach and in actions. He was always playing the camera, not unlike many Catholics in politics today. This has no barring on how "Catholic" or "Christian" one really is. He used religion for the good he saw in it, not because he himself really adhered to anything. (though he was known for liking the pomp and circumstance)

As for the RCC, is it the only organization to make it intacked over a 2,000 year history. It is the only organization that will(eventually, sometimes)make reparation and apologize for actions that it and its followers have done. When was the last time you have seen this from a super power/religion?
As for the list of banned books, you are showing you supreme knowledge of all things Catholic, again. The list was never complete, it was fluid and it final edition was in 1948(interesting date?) and was abolished completely by 1966. As a matter of fact there are at least 3 Saints that had originally had writings put on this banned list(later to be taken off over error of personal prejustices-Politics can find its way into anything)!
As for Reality Checks, you are correct in that there is no "evidence" to prove heaven or hell in scientific terms(by the way something that can again be traced back to the RCC, they have done more for science than any other organization in the history of mankind for the positive)but the same can be said for atheism. You have as little proof as the Catholic. You must put faith in your senses, which seeing in your picture(assuming this is you), you have glasses which can hinder your senses. We are all limited as to how much proof we can find. You have as much(if not more)faith as I do, only in something completely different and just as "unproveable".

Robert Ahrens said...

So, why did you even mention Hitler? That is still a blatant attempt to deflect attention away from the problems of religion. It doesn't matter why he did what he did, although you do seem to be admitting he used religious teaching to justify what he did. Which he did.

But again, that doesn't matter.

How long the RCC has survived doesn't matter, either. Neither does any particular apology, which, by the way, tend to come hundreds of years late. And such an apology doesn't get Bruno unburned from that stake.

Which brings me to your laughable statement about the RCC having done more for science. Huh? By what measure? When they have spent the last 1800 years burning scientists, philosophers and other intellectuals at the stake for daring to dispute the bible? Ask Bruno how forgiving the church has been to scientists. Or Copernicus. It has taken science a thousand years to rediscover what the church destroyed in mankind's knowledge about science, engineering and medicine as it dismantled the "pagan" world and rebuilt the Roman empire to its own design.

Unlike religion, which claims to have the answers, science is devoted to finding the answers, to the "process" of doing that. No scientist is afraid to say, "I don't know", because, indeed, that statement simply sets off another round of inquiry and discovery. We don't "put faith" in our senses, but we do use them to explore and discover the universe around us. You say that as if it is a handicap, but it isn't. It is a fantastic journey of wonder and beauty.

What makes you think science can't "prove"anything? Science does that all the time. If you don't see that, you don't know how it works. There is nothing about faith in science. Faith, according to every preacher I've ever heard talk about it, is all about believing something without proof. It is spoken of as if that is the most respectable thing in the world.

Science is all about evidence. Show me the evidence. There is no faith. Faith is anathema to science, it is the opposite of what scientists do. Science is a process, a process of finding, of searching for evidence of how the world works. It has standards for how much evidence is required in order to say something is more than just conjecture.

If you don't understand that, you don't understand science.