Saturday, February 22, 2014

J'accuse: The Cynical Intellectual Laziness of "Leftist" Anti-religious Click Bait

My internet friend RMJ recently noted something that I'd noticed but hadn't articulated to myself before, that a lot of the anti-religious junk on the allegedly leftish blogs is put there because it has a good guarantee of racking up a lot of comments from the neo-atheist haters looking to get their daily does of hate in. That is something that anyone who read Orwell should have recognized, not to mention someone who had been exposed to lots of the more typical manifestation of that media strategy, right-wing hate-talk, call-in radio and TV.   That it was the basis of the right wing domination of broadcast and cabloid media may have blinded me to this pseudo-left practice of exactly the same thing.

The left wing websites consciously and cynically run up their hit-counts, especially those that carry advertising, by posting atheist hate talk.  And they don't care if it has a damaging effect on the real, political left, which depends on people voting for real leftist candidates and causes.

Here's a good example of it, from the often ironically self-named "Truthout."  One of their more productive commentators, "BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT" thought it vitally important to warn people of the serious danger of an impending movie from Roma Downey and her husband,  "Son of God".   You might want to read the post before continuing.

Now, I will yield to no one in my hatred of overtly religious-themed movies, especially Bible-themed movies.  They so often get it wrong, they always vulgarize it, they are so frequently and offensively cloying and as frequently supporting exactly the acts of life now that The Law and the prophets condemned, none any more than Jesus taught against.  I just hate, hate, hate.... hate, Bible themed pop-media and movies are the worst.  If there is one thing I agree with the Muslim fundamentalists about, it is that I am against the depiction of God and the figures from the scriptures, even if I oppose their means of discouraging that.

But, while I saw much in Berkowitz's account to not like, the only thing I saw that was really potentially problematic, the obvious and politically motivated demonization of Barack Obama by making the devil look a lot like him, was corrected in editing.

One of the most controversial scenes from The Bible series, in which an actor with a startling resemblance to US President Barack Obama portrayed Satan, has been removed from Son of God.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Downey said "It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor. This is now a movie about Jesus, the son of God, and the devil gets no more screen time."

What is especially funny about that is, having been a long time reader of both Buzzflash and Truthout, they regularly carry articles and posts and videos asserting that Obama is the personification of evil and a sell-out to the forces of evil.  And they don't leave that on the cutting room floor.

I don't know if the post linked to above will turn into one of the 1000+ fests of atheist hate talk but that is the obvious reason that online magazines from Alternet to those at the end of the alphabet post lots and lots of pointless, useless, counterproductive pieces of atheist hate talk, that is why they feature "journalists" who have no other theme and who repeat the same old stuff, much of it as dishonest as the talking points of Limbaugh and the rest, in a non-stop loop of fast junk-food to feed the hate-talk machine.

Dozens of pieces on allegedly left-wing magazines and blogs could have been chosen to make this point, you can find them posted on any of them just about any week. None of them are productive, all of them will turn off many hundreds of thousands of people who might potentially vote for real progress but who want nothing to do with the dozens of frequent hate-talkers who you also get to know if you participate in the comment threads on those places.  And I think that estimate of how many of those hate-talkers running up the click count is probably well-fluffed with multi-name sock-puppeteers, some of whom, at times, forget to change socks. Another thing they have in common with right-wing hate talkers, who follow exactly the same strategy of dominating discussions or, at least, getting them off track.

An even bigger question for the left is what the entire collection of these
specialists in hate talk and their intended audience have done for the agenda of the real left left that approaches what Gregory Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli have done.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pops Staples Nobodies Fault But Mine

Any three of his guitar notes were worth entire albums of the pale imitation.  His music was the real thing

Update:  I've posted this masterpiece of spiritual art before but it illustrates the point.  Mavis was great, of course, precocious and amazing but the arrangement and guitar are a perfect match for her singing.

NPR Pushing the Keystone Pipeline Along with Science Magazine

As I am writing this Steve Inskeep is shilling for the Keystone pipeline in a big way.  NPR has been pushing it all along but the pushing is getting stronger and I am certain that it's even more obvious in the media that are upfront about being shills. One of the things you learn from NPR over years of turning them on in the morning, it's that they are not really different from the others.  Not when it comes to being shills for industry  and the Republican Party, and that's pretty much what they do these days.  

If there is one thing I'd do if I ran things, it would be cutting off NPR and investigating their use of public funds and the money they fraudulently raise from people they sucker into believing they are, somehow, different from the other media.  NPR has been serving as the FOX farm team for a long time, starting with Jim Angle, their genial White House correspondent who changed NPR's reporting from openly disdaining during the Carter administration to Chamber of Commerce style boosterism during the Reagan adaministration.  

NPR should be cut off and it should have to return the donations it dishonestly got from people who they suckered into supporting people like Inskeep who make way, way more money than they should for what they do.  

And re Marcia McNutt:  see yesterday's post. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Insanity of Letting Scientists Off The Hook

Nearing the end of my toleration for things at a certain blog I used to frequent, I got into a big fight with several of the regulars, disagreeing with one of them when he said that mathematics was divorced from morality.  I think it was in the form of snark, something like what next, they're going to blame mathematics for (insert whatever appropriate moral atrocity you can think of).

I said that since mathematics was done by people and had no other existence that mathematics was as morally characterized by what they did with it as anything else they used in life.  I gave the example of those who did the calculations surrounding the construction of the Nazi death industry, going so far as to calculate the need for coal in incinerating enormous numbers of bodies, counting on the flammable adipose in the bodies, if some of my more soul searing memories serve me.

Well, you'd have thought I'd proposed eating third-world children, the reaction that got.  Or worse, considering the venue, that I'd said the Rolling Stones were untalented white covers who stole every thing they got from black musicians using it to peddle a racist, misogynistic message to white audiences.  I mean, they went on and on, some of them snarking about what I'd said for days.  I'd challenged them to show that mathematics had an independent existence, apart from the human intention that created it and used it for any kind of end, including some of the most depraved calculations of mega-deaths and other things that mathematicians are employed to do.

No, mathematics takes on the moral character of whatever use it is employed for, the teachers who teach it know that it has uses that are criminal and morally atrocious, they know that any class could contain students who will use the knowledge they impart to grease machinery of death and the suicide of the human species, the murder of species and entire biological systems, even all of it.   There is no double magisteria, there is only the one mind that contains both the mathematics and the intentions to which it is consciously put and the knowledge of its potential use. And yet the discussion of the morality of how  it can be used is considered a foul pollution of the pure and pristine vessel of mathematical knowledge.  This, to put it plainly, is insanely delusional thinking.

It is one of the stupidest things about modernism, the alleged enlightenment that has brought us to this hurtling pitch to extinction, that we allow scientists and mathematicians to divorce their extremely potent and effective professional products from the use which they know it will be put to.  It is especially absurd and ridiculous when materialists conveniently pretend that science is some disembodied benevolent god substitute, inevitably good and beyond questioning of the kind that any other human invention and institution should be subjected to.  And, all the while, denying that they have turned science into the equivalent of religion in a theocratic state.   It's is even more absurd than that, because science IS effective, it can produce results, it can magnify human power and potency, it can produce far greater evil than the most malicious of dictators unaided by the products that scientists produce for them.  Stalin without nuclear weapons was an extremely accomplished murderer, made unstoppable by the conventional weapons at his disposal.  Once scientists had given him atomic weapons, it was impossible to get rid of him.  The same thing is true for the North Korean government, perhaps the most evil in history.  Which is why its scientists produced the bomb, to protect the military dictators from the possibility of invasion or attack.

Scientists are the repository of science, it is an internal tool box at their disposal and put to the use they use it for.  It is a producer of tools. Quite often, I'd expect most often, scientists have no higher motive in what they do than they get paid to do it. They have been given permission to divorce the product they produce as effectively as a camp guard did from what he did at work in Poland in 1942.  No one should be made comfortable when they are producing evil, no one should be able to claim that they are merely scientists, impartially pushing forward the quest for knowledge, having no responsibility for the entirely known and intentional results of the science they are producing.   Scientists don't do their work without knowing the potential of it being put to the most evil use, in many cases that use is exactly what they are contracted to enable.

The superstition of the materialists that science is some pure, some chaste, pursuit is entirely more dangerous than people believing that Adam and Eve were the first human beings who got kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge.   It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, something that the human species has obviously gorged itself on, especially the evil part.   The pretense that these atheists have about science is entirely more absurd, that it, somehow, has returned to the state of innocence that they don't even believe in to start with. Well, it hasn't, scientist's haven't, and the evidence disabusing anyone that is is that pure and innocent, Edenic state, is there to look at all around us.  It is the most ubiquitous evidence of depravity that there is today. Absolving scientists from having to at least live with which they choose, for good or evil, is the most absurd superstition among the self-congratulating, conceited, so-called educated class today

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sheila Jordan Owning Willow Weep For Me

What a great singer, what an ageless master of jazz singing.

Answer To An Angry Atheist

Monday the study of the depraved evil that is the North Korean government was being discussed in the news,  listing the horrific details of torture, brutal sadistic murder, mass enslavement - enslavement that is inherited by the next generation, those children born to slaves, those whose mother's aren't forced to murder them minutes after giving birth.  I haven't yet read the report so I don't know if the abduction of young girls to be trained as sex slaves for the hierarchy in the military dictatorship was discussed or if it had to give way to the massive weight of other violations of equal, inherent rights by a government which denies their existence and their moral obligation to respect those. Unlike the pedophile priest scandal, you mention, that is an official if unadmitted practice, not a basic violation of its stated moral stands.   No one is going to be defrocked, as it were, for abducting and raping young adolescents for the use of the North Korean establishment.

The possibility of making its leadership liable to prosecution in the international courts was widely dismissed by pointing out that they would be protected by China using its position as a permanent member in the United Nations to veto that measure.  The same UN which issued a, rightly, scathing report on the handling of the pedophile scandal by the Catholic hierarchy.  That is "The Peoples' Republic" of China, the largest officially atheist, communist government in history, one with its own record of brutal violations of human rights, including oppression of religious people.

You, as always, bring up the Inquisition which is a serious sin of the Catholic hierarchies and officials who conducted it.  The officials who conducted those and similar violations of rights were guilty of serious sins and deserve to be discredited and bring disrepute to the institutions they managed, during the time they were active.   Some of the most active critics of them and their acts have been religious scholars, many of them Catholics, some of them ordained priests and religious.

However, if the murders- estimated between the low and several tens of thousands by various historians - and other violation of rights that the Inquisition committed in its 700 years of existence is a permanent disproof of Jesus whose own words forbade what they were doing or the God by whose authority he forbade them, then the, literally thousands of times more murders under atheist governments must discredit atheism.  The Reign of Terror alone, the first official atheist government, beat that record in a few years.   Modern atheistic regimes are contenders with the right wing fascist regimes for the world records in per annum, per capita murder rates.

As with the atheist framing of rights and moral responsibilities discussed here last week, the atheist discrediting of religion by the sins of the Catholic church would mean that their faith was, as well, discredited.  Even more so because, as we saw last week, there is no atheist authority that issued disqualifying prohibitions on mass murder of the type that Jesus did.   Any one who calls himself a "Christian" but who violates the gospel of Jesus discredits his identity as a Christian, atheists don't have any recourse to such a test for whether or not the mass murderers among them are being bad at being atheists.

I will not revisit these issues.  I have repeatedly pointed these things out and no atheist has yet come up with an adequate refutation of them.  Atheism is a defective ideology that is incompatible with equal rights, the moral obligation to respect those rights and democracy.   It shares every fault associated with religion and has a demonstrated ability to practice depravity at an unprecedented level due to its entire lack of the kind of restraint that has, apparently, at times, prevented religious people from practicing the levels of murder and violations of human rights that are the record of atheists with political control.  For all its faults, some religions, some with large numbers of adherents, are among the greatest voices for those things, sometimes they even live up to the beliefs they aspire to live by.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Johnny Costa, yes, that Johnny Costa 

It Was Just One of Those Things

Then Your Heart Is Full of Love 

The Esquire Post About Fred Rogers

This Esquire story is a small and conclusive case for the sainthood of Fred Rogers.   I always loved Fred Rogers for being exactly who he was, exactly what he intended to be, as unashamedly good as he was and entirely in the interest of other people, especially young children.  How good was Fred Rogers?   Supernaturally good.

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a boy who didn't like himself very much. It was not his fault. He was born with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is something that happens to the brain. It means that you can think but sometimes can't walk, or even talk. This boy had a very bad case of cerebral palsy, and when he was still a little boy, some of the people entrusted to take care of him took advantage of him instead and did things to him that made him think that he was a very bad little boy, because only a bad little boy would have to live with the things he had to live with. In fact, when the little boy grew up to be a teenager, he would get so mad at himself that he would hit himself, hard, with his own fists and tell his mother, on the computer he used for a mouth, that he didn't want to live anymore, for he was sure that God didn't like what was inside him any more than he did. He had always loved Mister Rogers, though, and now, even when he was fourteen years old, he watched the Neighborhood whenever it was on, and the boy's mother sometimes thought that Mister Rogers was keeping her son alive. She and the boy lived together in a city in California, and although she wanted very much for her son to meet Mister Rogers, she knew that he was far too disabled to travel all the way to Pittsburgh, so she figured he would never meet his hero, until one day she learned through a special foundation designed to help children like her son that Mister Rogers was coming to California and that after he visited the gorilla named Koko, he was coming to meet her son.

At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn't leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, "I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?" On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said, "I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?" And now the boy didn't know how to respond. He was thunderstruck. Thunderstruck means that you can't talk, because something has happened that's as sudden and as miraculous and maybe as scary as a bolt of lightning, and all you can do is listen to the rumble. The boy was thunderstruck because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too.

As for Mister Rogers himself…well, he doesn't look at the story in the same way that the boy did or that I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being so smart—for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself—and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me at first with puzzlement and then with surprise. "Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession."

And that's only one of the stories of his astonishingly easy and simple goodness.

I've met two people who knew Fred Rogers, one is my dentist who lived in his neighborhood.  She said he was exactly the same person in real life that he was on TV.  The other was Paul Lally who worked on his show before he came to New Hampshire to work at the public television station there.  He said that Fred Rogers was exactly like he was in real life as he was on TV and that when he talked to you you knew you had his entire attention no matter what else was happening.

Once there was a show about Mr. Rogers on TV, showing footage of one of his early, live shows done in Canada.   A woman was ad libbing about the idea of having a show where they would really build a house.  Right there on TV they'd  build a house and Mr. Rogers, actually it was Daniel Striped Tiger, said "No"  And when the woman innocently asked why,  Daniel Tiger said,  "Because it wouldn't have continuity".    Which might be the funniest line I have ever heard in children's entertainment.    Then there is "Windstorm in Bubbleland" where Daniel's opposite in so many ways, Lady Elane Fairchild gets to do a star turn as Hildegard Humming Bird.   And Mr. Rogers gets to show how dishonest TV news and advertising can be, how deceitful advertisers can be, selling useless products that cause harm are but how heroic people, or hummingbirds, can defeat them.

I love Fred Rogers and expect he has gone where he wanted to be.

Off Minor Bud Powell Trio 1947

Bud Powell playing it, for a change.   Playing it wonderfully.  Along with Max Roach and Curley Russell  

Frankly, I'm with Isaiah

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
    what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

Sort of also adds to the arguments on what the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah were, along with a few other passages of the prophets.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Free Of Them Just Free of Them

Last year was, beyond compare, the worst year of my life.  I lost the two people I was closest to, several other people I was very close to and had serious health problems, leading to loss of work that I couldn't afford to lose.  The several blog brawls I've been engaged in, testing ideas I've had about why the left is a total failure at a time when the world needs a real and effective left, on top of my personal experience has led me to conclude that I've been wasting my time testing the failed ideological cults of the so-called left.

The so-called left, as it has generally been presented in the past century down till today, is as dead as the Marxists and other anti-democratic ideologies that were so foolishly allowed to dominate large parts of it.   It is dead, it has not risen from the dead in the past thirty years, it will not rise from the dead.  It hasn't even with the wild pendulum swing to the right, that old make-believe dialectic hasn't swung back.  There is no dialectic, it was all make-believe.

Those anti-democratic ideologies, all of them materialist ideologies, dominated and wasted the time and meager resources and the sacred honor of the left.   They had no legitimate claim on those, they used the tales of their victimization by J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, etc. to gull the left into destroying itself on their behalf.  I will say in passing that I am really angry with the credibility wasted on such things as the Rosenbergs, sold to and by the left as innocent martyrs in ten-thousand rehashings of their case, only to find out that Julius Rosenberg, certainly and Ethel Rosenberg almost certainly were, indeed, atomic spies for Stalin.  The time and loss of credibility for the left, claiming their total innocence would have been better spent on opposing the death penalty, the only real wrong done to them.

I resent that the left wasted its credibility for people who were supporting and even acting as agents of one of the most brutal dictators of all time, a man in the running for the honor of being greatest mass murderer of all time.  His competition for that title including Mao, another enormous waste of the left's time, resources and credibility.   The leftists who excused the murder of victims of "scientific materialism" deserve to join their murderers on the scrap heap of history just as surely as the fans of Hitler and the supporters of any fascist dictators.   They don't constitute any part of a left that will present a real and credible alternative to the corporate oligarchs or the fascists, their depravity is just of a slightly different flavor.

The time wasted on those anti-liberal ideological cults would have been better spent on the concerns of millions of people who had the legitimate claim to our attention, poor, oppressed people.   We squandered our time on the pipe dreams and lies of academics and people in the scribbling class because it was easier and it was more pleasant to associate with them than with the underclass.  Catholic Worker, Maryknoll and other religious groups have entirely more credibility than the pseudo-left because they actually did the work of the real left instead of holding seminars and conferences.

I'm not bothering with the pseudo-left anymore, I'm not arguing with them, I'm not going to test my ideas against theirs.  The historical results of the alternative to the religious left are in, they are there to evaluate, they present the real results of those ideologies in practice, anyone who expects that anything but the 100% record of bloody, dictatorial government will come from materialism, either the vulgar right wing kind or materialism dressed up in academic drag, is psychotic. They are hoping that repeating it will have different results after some of the most grueling real life trials ever provided by history.   I've been convinced that is a waste of time and worse, counterproductive.  Life is short.

So, where to go from here?   Onward, always onward to the blessed community.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chick Corea Plays Vibes with Gary Burton Armando's Rumba

Wonderful and funny and then more wonderful.

Here's Where I Got Onto This Road

I have tons of work that I had to put off due to the injury to my arm that can't be put off any longer. It's a bright, clear day here so I have to put my crampons on my boots and work outside for the day.

Here is the first piece I ever wrote about the conflict between atheism and religion along with an update I wrote the next year.  Back then I was much more innocent of the sad truth learned in the years since then.  I know now that even the less naive part that I wrote in my update the next year is far too optimistic about the compatibility of atheism with a real leftist agenda, one that will not, inevitably, turn into something resembling the agenda of the materialistic right.   I have come, especially through my study of the real history of Darwinism, to see that what separates the materialistic pseudo-left and the vulgar materialism that is the goal of the right is largely a matter of class identification and empty words.

Today, after observing them for more than a decade of unrestrained expression, of studying the real life results of materialism as a guiding ideology, I would not say that atheism is an essential or even possible part of a real, effective left. Materialism, the guiding ideology of any atheism I've ever encountered can not do anything but destroy the left.

Note,  I'd have to completely revise what I said about Larry Krauss who, in the next few years, jumped on the new-atheist gravy train and sounds exactly like what he was condemning back then.  Perhaps his turning to type is illustrative of the inevitable effects of materialism that none except, perhaps, the most self-critical of atheists will escape.  I don't think it would be responsible to count on that happening, given the cost that the left has suffered from the various species of materialism that have been imposed on it.  The left has a responsibility to those we are supposed to really care about, poor people, oppressed people, animals, the biosphere, everyone, too important to risk our political success on a tiny handful of conceited intellectuals and conceited angry, ignorant neo-atheists on the blogs.

Anyway, here it is:

First Posted Sunday, July 09, 2006; With Further Comment on May 28, 2007

Believers and Non-believers on the Left Must Unite For the Common Good Part One: in which I come clean

It would suit me if this blog didn't have to deal with the divisive, complex and extremely personal topic of religion but the fact is most Americans believe in a God and belief has a profound impact on our politics. Religion can't be ignored or dismissed. The participation of both non-believers and believers is essential for the left to succeed politically in the United States.

I don't think that the left would come out the loser in an honest religious fight. Make that an HONEST fight, not one assuming that the imperial religion the Republican right promotes is the alpha and omega of "faith". It's not even the alpha, they, themselves, don't believe most of it but that's for later. Before going on I'm going to let you know where I'm coming from on the issue.

About religion, nothing can be objectively known. Science deals with the physical world as observable and measurable phenomena. No measurements, no science. Science is plainly the most successful way of knowing about the universe. Religion doesn't deal with what is knowable in an objective way. Religion is belief of something beside what can be physically known. Real religious belief can't be objectively passed on by reason or repeatable observations, it has to be experienced personally. Remember, I'm talking about authentic religious beliefs, not about fundamentalism or organized, dogmatic religion. This isn't an encyclopedic survey of asserted beliefs.

I believe in God. I can't tell you what that means. Again, religious belief is an experience not a logical argument that can be transferred. The experience didn't really happen to me until I'd studied non-theistic Buddhism and saw that not surviving death held no terrors. If you are gone after death then there will be no suffering and all you need to worry about is what happened while you were alive. A single life contains as much of the universe and eternity as you can experience. What is outside that life effectively doesn't exist for you. I felt very comfortable with that idea, it gave me a profound sense of peace. The Buddhist doctrine of the end of pain put me at peace with the fate of all those I knew and loved and I expected that to be the end of the search.

But something unexpected happened on the way to where this would lead. I suddenly believed in God, not the God of my youth but an indefinable though deeply felt experience. I also believed in universal salvation, of continued conscious existence, eventually beyond pain, for every sentient being.

If you want to challenge me to account for this belief I fully admit that I can't prove any of it. Anyone who pretends that they can prove it is lying. You are entirely within your rights to reject it. You are within your rights to suspect that it's a psychological aberration, an odd ball quirk of personality or some weakness. Though I hope that you couldn't find anything in my actions to support those accusations.

I don't think the worse of you if you don't believe and don't think that disbelief is a sign of moral failing. Several of the people I have respected and loved most were complete and aggressive atheists who I refuse to believe are suffering in any way due to their honest disbelief. I don't believe that honest atheists enjoy less divine favor than I do, in fact, I seriously suspect that my belief might indicate that the deity doesn't trust me to be a decent person without it. I fully accept on the basis of observable actions that complete non-believers are sometimes fully as moral or even more moral than some religious believers.

I will, however, object if you are rude or rudely dismissive while you are being skeptical of someone's belief on the bases of discourteousness and impracticality.

The practical implications of religion and the left are the subjects of this uncharted and irregular series. The belief is personal and so prone to being entirely wrong, the actions resulting from the political agenda of the left are real. As the Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki might say, they are real in every sense of the word. Their reality makes them morally imperative in a way that personal belief cannot be. Religion like political philosophy and economic theory should be judged on the actions and results that arise from it, not from the idealized descriptions and assertions of it.

There, that's about all of that and you shouldn't have to put up with much more first person in this series.

Update: May 28, 2007
How naive I was. It is impossible to talk about these things, even with rigorous attempts to avoid becoming the focus of the discussion, even with this kind of pre-emptive explanation and assurance and to avoid people looking for motives beneath what was said. In what was to become the second of this series, posted here to huge controversy before the fall elections, I tried again.

I am bringing this up because I suspect there is an effort to stir up these questions just now. Articles in MSNBC-Newsweek and elsewhere might indicate an attempt to kick up a religious fight before the fall election. My interest in this is entirely in its effect on practical politics, I want the left to win this election, winning is the most important thing for the next two months. We can live with a certain level of atheist-religionist animosity, we cannot win an election with leftists falling for the bait the Republican right puts out for it. Leftists can be counted on to come to the defense of atheists who are targeted for discrimination. If atheists are in danger of life and limb, we must do that. But this all too timely row has nothing to do with life and limb. It is not pressing.

That piece was attacked by a prominent, anti-religious blogger. Her distortion of it at times resonates within the atheist blogosphere today. It has affected my efforts. I still mean everything I wrote in that post and believe that subsequent events, involving some of those who attacked me before the last election, prove some of it to have been accurate.

These issues are important in politics, that is the reason I bring them up. The subsequently dealt with auxiliary issues in the behavioral sciences and scientism are also important because they have an effect “on practical politics”.

There is a mind set in some materialists that reflexively rejects all ideas that could conceivably imply the existence of a God or anything supernatural, leading, sometimes, to quite tortured effects*. The remarkable and at times uncharacteristically emotional content of many of those rejections leads me to believe that it is more a matter of personality than it is of following scientific evidence. There are some things I don’t care if they reject, organized religion among them. There are things they can reject personally in the most derisive and bigoted language which won’t have any negative impact on the world, those also aren’t worth bothering with.

But I have to confess that there are also ideas that, likewise, cause me to become quite emotional, perhaps for personal reasons. I’m not alone in that. On one occasion Barbara Jordan shocked people by saying that she would be willing to “shed blood” to preserve the right of The People to cast a vote. Barbara Jordan didn’t say so without good reason. She wasn’t prone to empty histrionics on important issues. I will do more than just defend the basic assumption of individual rights, inherently possessed by people simply because they are people. The exercise and extension of those rights were bought at too high a price by people throughout history.

I will not ignore an intellectual attack on personal rights, freedom of thought, freedom of belief and absolute equality before the laws. Not even attacks dressed up as science. If science is incompetent to find these freedoms, history and human experience demonstrate them to be there and fully worthy of cultivation and protection. If you doubt that those are valid mechanisms to find the truth you should consider that science is also based in human experience treated in a very specialized manner to establish a specific type of reliability. Science doesn’t answer all questions. Those freedoms, unless they impinge on the freedoms of others, are absolute. They extend from the most rigorous and brilliant thinker with the greatest of hearts to the most humble of us too caught up in the struggle for sustenance to enjoy an education or a life of the mind. Absent actions that harm other peoples’ exercise of their freedoms, those ideas and the expression of them are theirs.

I will not ignore attacks on those freedoms and allow them to go unanswered. I will not follow any fashion that would lead to their endangerment or that might lead to their necessary precursors being hollowed out or undermined. That kind of fashion will get as rigorous a critique as I have it in my abilities to make.

* This excerpt from “The Atheist Ethicist” might be illustrative:

What we are looking at reasons for action that exist for and against a prohibition on pornography. Yesterday, I ruled out reasons for action that do not exist. Intrinsic value and divine rights are reasons for action that some people bring into this debate. However, these reasons for action do not exist. Desires are the only reason for action that exist.

I also ruled out desires that cannot be fulfilled. A “desire that P” (for some proposition P) is a reason for action for bringing about a state of affairs in which P is true. If P can never be true, then the desire that P cannot be fulfilled in any state of affairs, and does not serve as a reason for any action. Even if P can be true in some states of affairs, but action A will not help bring about that state of affairs, the desire that P is not a reason for action A.

I used this to throw out desires to do God’s will and desires to realize something of intrinsic value (since these desires cannot be fulfilled under any real-world states of affairs)..... 

Also illustrative of the wider point.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,” he said.

“The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old,” he said. “The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.” But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being - Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever* - is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,” Dr. Krauss insisted. “We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.”

That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we - all of us, including the secular among us - are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said. 

There are many people who would utterly reject what Krauss, quite reasonably, said if he had been a religious believer but who might not since it says he doesn’t believe. What he said would have not been different, his “personal preference” would be used as proof that the reasoning and honesty of what he said was tainted. They don’t subject the rantings of Dawkins et al to the same rule of evidence.