Sunday, February 26, 2012

Atheists "Need Religion" for Community? Horse Manure!

In a nation already pretty well mind-gutted on account of the virus of "public relations" it stands to reason that deformed memes will huckster in on the back of PR, and soon evolve to become new implants. People tethered to their i-pods, i-pads or cell phones will then barely notice once the degenerate memes occupy mind space and what's left of civic space. We call this a memetic foothold, or mind virus foothold. We have seen it with ever increasing frequency over the past few years - from the efforts to insist or claim "happiness" is part of GDP, to Charles Murray's (in 'Coming Apart')notion that the white lower class or working class needs more religion to be redeemed of its moral defects including: too many children out of wedlock, refusal to marry, and males' refusal to work or work hard.

SO no surprise a new meme has cropped up: that atheists and secularists could see their lives prosper by incorporating some religious attributes, or even ally with a religion to prosper in life, and enhance one's morality. Puh-leeze! The grossest error of humankind was to ever believe or become convinced that any religion offered any self-consistent prescription for ethics or morality!

And where is all this offal to be found? Why in the book entitled: 'Religion for Atheists- A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion', by Alain de Botton. Now, I must confess I lacked enough barf bags to be able to read this dreck, but did read the extended review of it in the WSJ ('Religion for Everyone', Feb 18-19, p. C1) which believe me was bad enough.

In fact as I've repeatedly said, there is one and only one use for religion: to incorporate into a Museum of Human Anachronisms, as testaments to the period when human brains, wills, critical thinking and autonomy were essentially under the domination of beliefs in fictional beings, fantasy places and corrupt authoritarians. The latter using the vehicles of sanctimony, faith and other hogwash to gain control of their respective flocks' mind, gonads, money .....or all three.

Leaving all the pfolderol out, the central argument (of both Botton and the WSJ reviewer) appears to be that secularists have no real options to counter the evident "eroded sense of community" that permeates our society and world. We are then, as driftwood cast off into stormy seas, each tossing about with little connection or control of our lives. As the WSJ reviewer puts it (I presume with tongue in cheek, or maybe not):

"Religion serves two central needs that secular society has not been able to meet with any particular skill: first, the need to live together in harmonious communities despite our deeply rooted and selfish impulses, second, the need to cope with the pain that arises from professional failure, troubled relationships, the deaths of loved ones and our own decay and demise".

My problem here is that both Botton and the reviewer offer a specious solution to a real problem: that of communities rent asunder and the tragic loss of civic space.

But in at least a dozen past blogs - see e.g. 'The Shredding of the Social Contract'

I noted exactly where the answers inhere. I also noted that they have nada to do with religion replacing secularism but with beating back a vicious, predatory economic system based on the parable of wolves getting to eat "sheep". (The Pareto distribution and optimality of Vilfredo Pareto).

It is THIS bestial system that has destroyed common cause, cooperation, common investment in fairness and economic justice and replaced it with a predatory jungle landscape where the social Darwinian's "Survivel of the fittest" precedes all other considerations. So, how could we not have an atomized society?

Moreover, since religions themselves are often part and parcel of this vicious economic network (check out the money changers and others doing business at the Vatican Bank, or better yet, look into its past) why expect they would offer any ways to change the situation. Hell, THEY are part of the problem!

And ask yourself WHY has civic space been steadily eroded? WHY? Why is it that the Occupy Wall Street movement has been driven from every city space its attempted to occupy? Well, because what they occupied was no longer civic space but corporate space! Civic space occupies - or had occupied- the mid ground between government and the rapacious private sector. In terms of set theoretics, imagine circles for ‘government’ and ‘private sector’ respectively – with large intersection of commonality between them. Civic space or the ‘set of civic society’ lies apart from the influence of these two.

It was where people in the past met and discussed common issues, or conducted protests or simply speechified.

No longer.

The tragedy of the 20th (and now 21st ) century is the tragedy of the civic commons. The gradual erosion of civil society and civic space (including as actual property) is largely eclipsed by corporate and market interests. Either in pursuit of state (or corporate) power, profits or both. Thus, political influence is purchased via the power of the purse (for example in lobbying) and laws enacted to favor these special interests. Laws which include usurpation of once common ground, common institutions for sharing ideas, or conducting political campaigns minus the corruption of money.

Now the confluence of government –market/corporate interests has forced those wishing to live within non-coercive spheres of influence to make a Hobson’s choice: Either to side with state power and ‘commandeering of individual rights’ or private power, and its extirpation of what remains of government and its advocacy for the non-elite segment of the populace (i.e. those unable to purchase political influence).

One can choose to be passively serviced (and servile) by a massive bureaucratic state wherein the word citizen has little or no resonance (until it’s election time) or submit to the selfishness and barbaric, radical individualism of the private sector – which extols the Social Darwinist refrain of ‘survival of the fittest’.

HOW has this come about or when did it commence? Look no further than the 1886 Santa Clara Supreme Court Decision which made all corporations "persons" under the 14 th amendment. Look to the 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that solidified it, and effectively made corporations super-citizens by the power of their money-purses. For what single ordinary, flesh and blood citizen can compete with monsters that own whole networks and airwaves.

Getting up to screech on a park bench? Right!

The sense of community has been decimated all right, but there is no religion in the world that can repair that fracture or fill the social vacuum. By which I mean, real community - not the egregious temporary confection that surfaces once a week on Sundays when Catholics shake each others' hands or whatever it is they do now. And then every other day of the week do whatever they can to stab their neighbors in the back to get ahead in the rapacious "wolf eats sheep" economic system that plagues us all and forces us (via a stacked deck) to be the "sheep".

As for secular communities - they have more than ample options and that will occupy the content of a future blog!

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