The Logical And Ethical Limits To Any Belief

A huge number of people take great comfort in the ideas of religion. These ideas help them deal with the death of love ones, illness and many other uncomfortable aspects of life. The power of being able to share a bond with others through cultural and emotional experiences that don’t directly require conscious consideration of the material world is helpful for the mind. And many people learn a lot of ethical lessons through their religious organizations often through the telling and analysis of ancient stories.

Many people band together under the umbrella of their shared cultural grouping / religious organization to do good things to help those with less or in need.

But there are very clear limits that need to be observed.

When any religion teaches that it’s absolutely right and every other way is wrong the line has been crossed. And every single religion teaches this.

No religion or group should be exempt from the law, including paying taxes.

No religion has the right to “force” their views on anyone, ever!

Religions lost their right to be the arbiters of ethics the first time a priest abused a child and was not punished. The first time a Hasidic Jew stoned a car on a Saturday. The first time a Muslim denied the holocaust and was not punished. The first time a TV evangelist collected money for a new swimming pool for his house or car. The first time the inquisition used pain as tool. The first time a religious zealot was not held to account.

That horse bolted out of the stable thousands of years ago and there is absolutely no way back. Religion can only be decent with humility and with no ability to impose its ideas, ever!

If anyone wants to be part of a religious group they are free to do so, of course, but we all have an absolute responsibility to ensure that every religion and every religious person is peaceful and keeps their ideas inside their own group.

If your religion teaches that people who don’t follow your rules will be punished in the next life, leave that punishment to the next life. If you don’t like how people act, then don’t let them join your religion! That is the absolute extent of any religious groups power.

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I really hate a monotonous ringing bell

I seem to remember a time where the Salvation Army used to stand around in the winter playing Christmas carols with a band. The band was always made up of strange looking people who you would never think would want to play any sort of instrument, let alone in public. Generally a mix of generations with a couple of really old people sitting down and a few middle aged people showing the effects of too much eating and not enough exercise, and always some skinny bloke in his early twenties with a haircut that showed he lived alone and cut his own hair in the mirror.

Their abilities were always a little suspect, but the pure effort they had obviously gone to made it something quite special. It was like we were seeing the people who were the stereotypes for dad’s army (a British (now cult) comedy about the people who helped protect the home front during World War II). Yes they sounded terrible. Often it seemed that they were all playing slightly different versions of the same music, some with different tempos, and most trying really hard to make at least a quarter of the notes either flat or in an entirely different octave.
But the result was good enough, festive enough and sweet enough that you felt obliged to throw a few coins in the bucket.

That world has sadly now gone! And has been replaced by a single person ringing a bell continuously. I think some people must have thought long and hard about the type of bell to use and the frequency of ringing. Because there is no way that purely by accident could they have worked out the most annoying tone and level of repetition?

Terrible does not even start to portray the sound that these people now make. I LONG for the days of the sally army quartets. In retrospect these were relatively beautiful.

I’m sure there collections have gone down, as the only donations that are now getting are from shop keepers trying to bribe them to move somewhere else.

I feel like going around to the sally army offices and just pressing their doorbell continuously, just to see how they like it.

Bah Humbug

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A scientific explanation of religion

A question often asked is “can you prove the existence of non-existence of a deity or deities” and this question is often asked in the context of religion or belief.

While it’s hard to prove the non-existence of anything when we have knowledge of an infinite universe, the existence of religion can clearly be separated and considered.

Religion can be proven to be a useful mechanism for the creation of society, even in the absence of any deity.
Consider this scenario (which is in line with facts that can be seen from the human historical record).
Many thousands of years ago men were purely hunters and gathers, finding food in the same way as most other animal species on Earth. Over time in some places it became viable for Man to stay in one place and grow plants.

Over hundreds or even thousands of generations some of these Men worked out good processes and timing to maximize their food production. These processes (worked out through trial and error) worked out the right time to plant seeds, so that their leaves would just appear when the frost of the spring was receding and the sun’s energy was able to be consumed by photosynthesis. And they worked out the most effective time to harvest the crops before the seasons changed, allowing the plants to have absorbed as much energy as possible without decaying as would have happened if they would have been left in the ground or on the tree too long.

Even small improvements to this timing would have had a positive effect on the population, making them healthier than others around them.
Learning how to predict this timing was critical. As we know today the Earth rotates around the sun with a pretty precise period. And the earth wobbles on in axis over a cycle of several decades. And the Earth’s rotation around the Sun is not circular but elliptical meaning that the amount of energy the Earth receives in terms of sunlight varies on a rather complex but predicable cycle.

Early Man didn’t know the reasons why, but through careful observation he could predict much of the required data.

Making these predications would have taken many people working together a lot of time and effort, and required careful recording of the information in such a way that it could be considered over hundreds of years to work out the complete cycle.

These people performing this work would not have had the time to perform this function and feed themselves at the same time. So they needed to have a mechanism for barter, so they could sell the knowledge for food.

Also they would have needed to encode the information is such a way so that others could not have just taken if from them by force. And of course they would need to have a way of protecting themselves from others just taking this valuable information through torture.
So you can easily imagine the social, political and security requirements needed to have a society based on knowledge to function. And we can see these societies and how they formed through the archeological record.

The people collecting the critical information would be seen as elite, with a mystical ability to tell the future.

These people were considered special, and spend their lives learning and teaching, and they became powerful and wealthy.

Telling stories as a way of sharing information is core to all teaching, and it can be seen in the historical archeological records that that’s exactly what happened.

When you look at the observable records of stone circle development in Europe, the pyramid based cultures of north Africa and the tribal cultures of south America, it can be seen how critical information about the position of the earth and sun over time was collected from astronomical observations, and in each of these cases strong social infrastructures developed to secure and foster the core knowledge gathering and dissemination processes.

The human brain has a need to apply information to a situation to allow it to be stored. We learn by comparing what we observe to what we already know, this is how we learn. This is how from our very first moment we learn. We compare warm and dark to cold and light, quite to noise.
Information gets communicated through stories. If you want people to grow better crops you can tell them everything you know and then they will grow better crops, but they are less likely to come back to you next year and pay you for the information again. So you tell them a story about how the Sun god told you the information about what day to plant the seed in exchange for three chickens and your cute daughter. It’s not the priest who wants the chickens of course it’s the sun, and if you kill the priest the sun won’t tell you what you need to know.

In fact it would be best of all if you bow to the sun god when giving him your chickens and daughters and hope that that’s all that he wants, and in exchange he will grant you a good crop and the rest of your family won’t starve.

Of course farming is not the only attribute of society that can be improved by careful observation, record keeping and analysis. Everything from human health, engineering, architecture, military technology, social strategy and more benefit from having the time to think, consider, plan and control the distribution of effort. Society stems from a group of people who are able to stand back, look at facts and analyze them.

Religions at their very basis use the scientific method, but there is a need to keep control of a population and it’s easy to make up a bunch of mystical stories to push people down a specific path.

Knowledge is power. Every group throughout time has used mysticism to protect the keepers of knowledge, and the most successful of these became religions. And the most powerful religions taught conversion, and absolute adherence to their words.

The linkage between deities and religion is only in the words of the religion. There exists no observable proof outside of the dominance of the words onto the minds of the religions followers.

This doesn’t mean there is no deity, but it does mean that the observable impact of any deity is trending in that direction, in the same way that any number divided by infinity is tending towards zero.

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It’s possible to make anything sound reasonable.

When you consider any outrageous point of view, there is always a way of stating at least one element of the message and making it sound reasonable, and then slowly add other elements to the message so that each sound reasonable in the context of the previous point. In this way you can lead people down a path that allows them to agree with even the most ridiculous position.

Of course doing this means you must keep your target person focused on just your point of view, and not let them think freely. Because the moment they think for themselves the whole craziness of the argument becomes apparent.

If you can get enough people to follow you down this journey the overall power of mob-think can take over and can ensure that the crazy idea you are proposing becomes self-perpetuating. The pressure from others stops each person thinking for themselves.

The power of this is immense.

It’s the basis of religion, sexism, racism, communism, political parties, sport, armies and pretty much everything that society has built.

Is it always bad? NO.

Can it be used for bad? absolutely!

And there is a simple remedy. THINK FOR YOURSELF. If the idea being proposed has merit, it’s okay to do it. But if the idea is clearly stupid, walk away from it, even if people you think are nice and following it.

Don’t let the stupidity of others perpetuated by a group become an idea you believe in, just because others tell you to, think for yourself.

Please feel free to think about this idea for yourself, and if you think I’m being stupid, then ignore me. It’s your choice.

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The world we live in is not fair, there are have’s and there are have-nots.

It takes generations for a family to gain wealth. When people learn something of value that knowledge helps their children and their children’s children each do better. Over many generations of careful learning and teaching, knowledge allows amazing things to happen. People whose parents are educated have a much easier time than those whose parents are not educated.

If your grandparents went to university, it’s very likely your parents would also have gone to university and hence it’s more likely that you would have gone to university. It seems obvious that some of the reason for this may be genetic, but probably, of even more importance is the environment that educated families create for their children, with all the skills to empower their children to learn and think.

This is not to say that people who come from families who do not create a scholarly environment cannot succeed, just that it’s much harder for them.

Some cultures seem to dissuade free thinking, treating (for example) women as lesser people, and actively stopping all forms of thought and action that is different from the thoughts they were taught to have. There are large religious groups who punish non-conformance with their personal religious ideas.

Often these religious ideas teach that anyone unlike them is inferior.

And these same religious groups teach that following their specific ideas will lead to a place after-life where things are perfect. And many of these religious groups encourage horrible things to be done in this life as a way of achieving this perfect place in the next life. Of course they offer no proof of this after-life, just punishment for questioning the idea. These concepts are not limited to any one religion but pretty much span every form of religion.

They all forget the simple logic though, that for them to be right, everyone else much be absolutely wrong. And the only proof they have that their specific version of this magic story is true is their absolute personal faith in their version of the magic story. And the only way to show that they are right is to show that their blind adherence to their specific story is blinder, and more absolute than the next religions’.

When you add together ignorance-enhanced-poverty with blind adherence to an unprovable-belief-system that’s only value comes from not-believing anyone else’s unprovable-belief system you have a simple recipe for disaster. You have people who do not value life, either their own or anyone elses.

At a very basic subconscious level, even the most fervent followers of the most irrational religious ideas must know that they are wasting their lives. And this deeply subconscious UN-voiced knowledge must make them really, really frustrated or angry.

When you then hurt or kill one of the relatives or acquaintances of these religious zealots, you give meaning to their meaningless existence. All of a sudden they have an outlet for the unvoiced illogical emptiness that they are part of. They now can get angry and kill everyone else.

When a catholic killed a Protestant (or vice verse) in Ireland it encouraged a hundred Protestants (or Catholics) to go and kill Catholics (or Protestants). It took an amazing effort of will for the fighting to stop. The people who worked for decades to stop the killing were castigated from all sides, but they eventually found a path to peace. Even in Ireland the pain, hurt and anger are still in many people, but they have found a way to keep themselves from blowing each other up (at least very often) for quite some time now.

Now look at the fighting in the Middle East, where a huge number of different groups all practicing subtly different versions of the same religion are on a daily basis blowing up, shooting, chopping off bits ,bombing and killing each other. Each one that dies create hundreds more angry crazies. While they have immense wealth in terms of natural resources, a huge amount of time and effort is spent on stopping any learning and killing everything that moves, rather than making existence better for all.

If doesn’t matter how good or bad your argument is, the moment you lob a bomb at someone’s child, parent, sister, brother or friend, the opportunity to solve any problem dies.

Saying that you want to kill everyone is never a great way to start a discussion either. And acting upon it makes the discussion even harder.

I’ve had the chance to visit many places in the Middle East over the years. Israel is an amazing place with incredible universities and a wonderful open culture. I believe that given the chance the well-educated people of Israel would be able to look beyond the pain and the fighting of the past and truly embrace peace (obviously this is only possible when the fighting is in the past). But there is absolutely no way to embrace peace while bombs are falling and tunnels are being built with the purpose of waging war, and religious zealots believe that they will be rewarded in heaven for blowing themselves and other up.

Most people are not religious loons, but as soon as you blow up anyones relatives all good sense leaves and all you have is anger and hate.

Educated people can stop, breath and calm down, it takes some time and a huge effort, but logic can beat pure animal-istic hate.

And the time to start to stop is now.

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What the hell is going on! oh right the same as always.

What the hell is going on!

Like most kids around the world, when I was at school I learnt of the history of the Brits who travelled to America to find solace free from religious and social tyranny.

It was held up as the pinnacle of freedom. A country driven to see all people as equal and to allow each individual the freedom to live their lives as they wished.

Of course the next chapter in that children’s history book did explain that all wasn’t perfect, with oppression of native people, rampant slavery, racism and sexism issues and a history of political corruption and political cowardice that pretty much matched the rest of the world. I know now that this chapter is taught very differently in America.

It seems that maybe teaching the issues of the past more completely may have been a great way to help people to learn to stop repeating them.

The issues of today, seem to be all too familiar from that children’s history book.

Yes I’m looking at you corrupt Supreme Court, and you, paid for politicians, and you business owners who think you have rights greater than other individuals, and you irresponsible gun rights advocates, and you manufacturers who ship jobs oversees to save a buck irrespective of the long term social costs, and you climate change deniers who put your short term profits ahead of long term health and social need, and you union leaders who limit growth of your members to line your personal power bases, and you war profiteers, and you bigots who subvert the meaning of religious texts to support your bigotry…. Hmm it’s a long list when you think about it….

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Seven Freedoms that are not in any way freedoms.

1. Freedom to tell others how to live their lives.

2. Freedom to discriminate based on skin color, sexual preference or accent.

3. Freedom to shoot people based on the clothes they wear.

4. Freedom to force others to believe in my version of religion.

5. Freedom to buy or sell political favor.

6. Freedom to promote violence against others.

7. Freedom to act like a bigoted asshole.

alg-tea-party-express

Rather than freedoms, I see these things for what they truly are; ancient ignorance’s that have no place in the modern world.

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The love of being wrong

There is an incredible number of opinions out there, so many that they become white noise. Some people decide to believe things because they were given an idea so early in their lives that they were never questioned. Others choose to believe things because the people who are making those claims are attractive or their views further personal goals.

I choose to only believe things which are quantifiably provable.

I suspect that many things I believe will on further examination prove to be wrong. I’m open to being proved wrong. In fact I relish being proved wrong.

Finding out you are wrong, and correcting your knowledge is the purest pleasure.

I live to learn and I abhor those who do not.

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A rational list of policies that the nicest places in the world are working towards

world

Japan, Australia, Scandinavia, France, UK, Canada and many other countries are embracing a wide range of cultural new normals for the 21st century. Some will work, some will miss, but they are aspiring to be the best they can be.

Here are some of the beautiful ideas that they are moving towards, that I find to be wonderful aspirations.

Pro safe sex and sex education.

Pro abortion – it’s the absolute choice of the mother who can choose to listen or ignore anyone as they decide.

family

Pro contraception for health and economic equality.

Anti-gun and anti-bullets – keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and crazies absolutely.

Anti-organized-religion – feel free to worship anything or everything, but keep it private.

Pro union rights as and when workers choose – individuals or groups have the absolute right to negotiate as and when they see fit.

Pro regulation to ensure a level playing field – healthy capitalism demands rules

Pro legalize drugs to destroy organized crime – tax and control.

drugs

Pro gay rights because everyone has the same rights – let everyone live the life they need and want to live – happiness doesn’t have a single definition.

Anti racism in all it’s guises – we’re all designed to find people unlike ourselves scary, deal with it.

Pro freedom for all – freedom to enjoy life without hurting others.

Pro fiscal-conservatism – balanced budgets lead to long term security and national growth.

Anti social-conservatism – no one has the right one answer.

Pro society – everyone gets the same rights.

Pro rehabilitation as opposed to punishment.

Respect for the rule of law and the people who enforce those laws.

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