Friday, December 31, 2010

Predictions for 2011

All right, time to give some forecasts for 2011. No, I'm not a seer, or an astrologer. However, I do keep track of many global trends using my software program Mathcad 14, as well as stay tuned to issues around the world.

These forecasts are primarily given in chronological order:

- President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, will decline to list any Social Security alterations or cuts (such as proposed by his Deficit Commission). He will understand that going forward this would not be a savvy political move given he needs his base aboard for an election year in 2012.

- The Tea Party Brigade will attempt to have Obama charged with specious "articles of impeachment" - including lack of a proper birth certificate. They will lose.

- 'Inception' will win 'Best Picture' at the Academy Awards, and Leonard DiCaprio will get his first Oscar for 'Best Actor'.

- In March, a government shutdown (because of failure to increase the debt limit) will narrowly be averted. Obama stands his ground this time and refuses to blink.

- The southwest and midwest will see the highest frequency of major tornadoes in history, including one F5. These twisters will usher in yet another momentous year of climate change calamities.

- The Chinese will force a serious crisis over Taiwan, egging the U.S. to do anything - especially while still tied down to committments in Afghanistan.

- A terror attack will occur somewhere in Europe before June.

- This summer will see four major and prolonged heat waves around the world, with temperatures reaching over 105F and persisting for weeks, barely going down at night.

- Torrential rains will hit India causing massive flooding in Mumbai as millions flee to higher ground.

- A major cyclone will strike southeast Asia in late August, even as a category five hurricane bears down on south Florida.

- A tsunami will strike Hawaii as a result of a 9.5 earthquake off the S.E. coast of Alaska.

- An NFL shutdown will narrowly be averted by last minute negotiations on behalf of the players and team owners.

- The New York Yankees will win the World Series 4 games to 3, narrowly beating out the S.F. Giants.

- The North Koreans will carry out war games and threaten S. Korea with "total annihilation" in October.

- Going into 2012 Barack Obama will see his highest approval ratings ever, after refusing to back down to Republican spending cut threats (aimed at the middle class) in November.

- Pastor Mikey will continue his crusade against: Catholics, atheists, Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Eckists, and anyone who doesn't imbibe his baloney 100% without question.

Again, can Mikey even read properly?

The "rugrat" and me, ca. 1957.

One has to ask this once more, since Pastor Perplex is at it again, asserting I "ignored" one of his "arguments" when I certainly didn't. This is in connection with him saying:

"if the atheist believes that suffering is bad or ought not to be , then he's making moral judgments that are possible ONLY if God exists !"

Absolutely not, and I noted this in the earlier blog:


"So no, we need to hear or see the arguments from the believers as to why God didn't come to the rescue of innocents like the Petit girls and instead do nothing! (NOTE HERE: Mikey is seriously mistaken if he believes it requires a "moral judgment" to recognize or acknowledge another's suffering, and hence one must indirectly accept a God - who can "only make moral judgments". NO! Any imbecile who has the brain capacity to google the two Petit girls' names will instantly bring up the court documents, including the scenes of their burned beds, etc. One can process their suffering merely via having basic human empathy! One does not need to acknowledge a moral judgment or God to see the extent to which they suffered. Again, we see he lacks the basic wherewithal to even argue coherently!)"

So, Mikey is essentially saying that -in order to ascertain that the two Petit girls (Michaela and Hayley)- ought not to have been tortured, raped and burned beyond recognition, one cannot rely on mere human empathy but must posit a deity to make their suffering understandable. In other words, he grants not even the most minuscule or minimum human feeling or empathy in ANYONE unless they have a god crutch - like him. It means (if we take him literally) that even seeing the horrific crime scene in Cheshire, Connecticut, would elicit not one ounce of feeling or sympathy from him, or appreciation of what they endured - unless he had his god belief in place.

He is, then, acknowledging he is NOT human! No, he can't be! How can he, if he depends on an external, invisible agency to appreciate the suffering of others? He's also saying that without his fairy tale being, since he'd lack the capacity for moral judgment, he'd have NO morals himself. That he'd then - lacking moral judgment - be just as likely to do any damned thing he wants, whether robbing, raping, torturing or murdering - if his god wasn't there to provide a moral "anchor" to prevent him from doing so. YES, this is effectively what he's admitting! That, minus his god we can't trust him to walk three steps out of his door on his own without committing some horrific crime. After all, no god = no moral compass(judgment), so one will then do anything!

But give him time, he will need to slowly process all this in order to painstakingly make the logical inferences from his words to his own putative actions (if those words are accepted at face value, as literally true).

He then squawks, in relation to my sister and myself:

"They're seeking inner peace , and since they are like the quintessential "spoiled brat" who has had a lifetime of parental indulgence all their lives from one or both parents ( whom , I'm sad to say , Phil and my sis Jo have had ) ,

What does seeking inner peace have to do with the rest? And btw, isn't inner peace worthy of being sought, however one chooses to do it? Besides, this rubbish is a laugh and a half, because I was the one that usually got saddled taking care of this bed-wetting little brat when my parents went out to this or that obligation. I had to cook up his soft oatmeal, spoon feed it to him, and then his Gerber's baby food and even change his nappies! And I was barely ten! Far from "indulgence", I was the one that had to indulge him while he was a rug rat - and this is how the slimey, bombastic little ingrate repays me!

He rants on:

"they simply cannot acquiesce to a "higher power" ( i.e., GOD ! )"

Errr...that's because I've seen NO evidence for such, MORON! And you - while you bloviate nonstop about "evidence", have never provided it. Like a coward, you also run from accounting for where this God (I'm supposed to "acquiesce" to) was, while those two Petit girls were being tortured and raped, then burned! What good did their acquiescing to a higher power do them? Huh? Come on and answer you mouthy, blustering bozo! Do it or have all of us (atheists) regard you as nothing but a clown.

Well, let's not hold our collective breaths for Mikey's answers, he'll dodge them as usual, including dodging how he accepts the Catholic 4 principles for legit scriptures - which renders his own KJV unacceptable.

Happy New Year to you too, Mikey Mouse!

Beware of Governments Pushing 'Happiness Indices'

With 2011 about to arrive, the global population confronts a fearsome mix of problems not the least of which are: further raids by the bond market pirates demanding "austerity and sacrifice" to reduce national deficits, an accelerated pace of climate change (which we're now getting a preview of with mammoth storms rampaging from the California coast all the way to the eastern U.S.) that will usher in new climatic horrors this spring and summer, and a spiking commodities market that may include $5 a gallon gasoline alone in the U.S. by late next year - thanks to the widening mismatch of resources vs. demand from increasing population.

In the U.S., meanwhile, the new year will be beset with calls to pare back Medicare - and instead make people use limited "annual vouchers" , as 10,000 baby boomers per day hit the magic 6-5 starting next month, and which will likely (if we believe the deficit hawks like Peter G. Peterson) "bankrupt" it by 2017. And, of course, there are the continued manic calls to cut Social Security - starting with eliminating or adjusting its COLA (cost of living allowance) and then making other cuts down the road.

And in the midst of such a parlous confluence of forces, what do we find? Well, according to a recent Financial Times article ('A Measure of Cheer', December 28), many Western leaders and their governments working on a "happiness index" based on the belief that a nation's well being must be gauged on more than GDP. Well, in a way I definitely agree- concurring with Eco-economist Herman Daly who first developed the "Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare".

For example:

We see the "unemployment rate" declining, but forget that this may well be due to more unemployed dropped from the BLS stats after 6 months.

We look at utility bills, but don't recognize that unlisted in them is the damage to our water, forests, air etc. Those externalities again. How much of a cost to put on forests (which absorb CO2), or clean air? Who knows, but some guestimate is needed.

We look at nursing homes and the number there, and those paid to care for them. But we blithely ignore the more than 12 million people that are cared for by their own families, without remuneration!

We behold productivity increasing but don't realize that has nada to do with work, or labor - but rather corporations reducing their costs (increasing "efficiency") by moving jobs to cheaper places offshore, like Bangalore.

We focus on tax cuts at the "growth end" but forget that there has never been any proof that tax cuts cause job growth. And even if they did, the degenerate effects are ignored - e.g. continued collapse of the infrastructure because no tax dollars are going to maintain it.

When all our water mains have burst, along with the sewer lines, and bridges -roads collapse, will the public works effort finally get onto the GDP radar? Doubtful!

All of these factors can skew the GDP to artificially higher values, once ignored. Daly noted that the concept of the GDP was developed to help steer the US economy out of the Great Depression, and through World War Two. It was for another time and place, and is no longer relevant to this time and place. It needs to be dunned and ditched in favor of the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare.

Why do this? Frankly, because I don't trust any one or any government that pushes an "index of happiness" or "index of life satisfaction". It reeks of hooey and BS, apart from being suspiciously redolent of PR, and we know that PR think tanks and their ancillary networks were created (originally by Edward Bernays who wrote 'Crytallizing Public Opinion') to manipulate the mass mind. Recall it was Bernays in his definitive work 'Propaganda' who wrote:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country"

So, pardon me if I prefer to be a "cognitive outlaw" (the name for those who don't easily accept PR) and opt to be my own person, thinker and not one of the sheep.

But we are veering away from the issue at hand. In the FT piece, mention is made of a number of high profile Western leaders - from Barack Obama, to Nicholas Sarkozy to the UK's David Cameron, whose "mission to make gross national happiness" has made the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan a trendsetter.

The FT notes Cameron is the latest to take up the cause, saying Britain "needed to look for alternative measures that would show national progress and 'not just by how our economy is growing'".

Well, I guess so! Especially after Cameron and his nitwit austerity henchmen and collaborators have just seen mass riots in London (in one case getting close enough to terrorize Prince Charles and Camilla) because he torpedoed the nominally free education that had applied to the UK's universities - and now demands prospective students pay nearly $14,000 a YEAR! A plan that effectively denies the mass of capable secondary students there a college education. Oh, and we won't even go into how his austerity plan is gauged to cut Britain's National Health Service and pensions!

In this expected economic cut throat landscape, he can afford to pump and hype the benefits of national gross happiness. My question is this: How much free "soma" is he prepared to distribute to all the austerity-afflicted UK's citizens to ensure they're so numb (and dumb) that they aren't aware of what they've been deprived of?

The FT at least notes that "some analysts believe each politician has his own motives" which is generous. So I will offer mine: because like the bunch of Neoliberal skunks that they are (all hostage to big business and the pseudo-free market), they want a dubious option to excuse them from the REAL responsibility of protecting their citizen's economic welfare. A vacuous "happiness index" or some equivalent, thereby provides them with a cheap fig leaf : basically a cost-free way to substitute actual economic support.....with hot air and Pollyannish pap pushed by a coterie of amoral pseudo -scientists pursuing the elusive "science of happiness"(sic).

A graphic from the FT (shown) is instructive here. It is claimed it depicts relative national measures of life satisfaction vs. GDP, using two different axes for the latter (GDP per person on a linear scale (left) and GDP per person on a logarithmic scale (right).) The GDP values are given in increments of thousands ('000) of dollars. If we casually inspect the two graphs we see that in each case Denmark comes out on top (and this isn't surprising because they have a generous secular welfare state which uses the tax commons to ensure no one does without), and indeed 64% in a recent survey (ibid.) describe themselves as "very satisfied" compared to only 16% in France. (Probably taken right after Sarkozy pushed through the increase in France's retirement age - now making Frenchies work two years longer for basic benefits).

The U.S., interestingly, is almost on a par with "middle income" nations such as the UK and Brazil and this brings up the famous "Easterlin Paradox" - postulated by Richard Easterlin in 1974, which says that within any society richer people declare higher satisfaction with their lives, but as an aggregate, richer societies seem no more satisfied than middle income ones.

Well, truth be told this isn't a real paradox at all! Obviously the wealthiest in a nation will have many more choices - which is really what life satisfaction is about. They have the choice, for example, to eat highly nutritious meals prepared by their servants, as opposed to grabbing burgers & fries from Mickey D's, or to buy the best possible vehicle for their needs, while an unemployed ordinary plebe in the U.S. may have to settle for a junker. They can afford the best health care, including having personalized physicians at their beck and call - while an older ordinary retiree must rely on Medicare and hope to hell congress doesn't cut physicians' payments by 23% - as almost happened this past year.

Anyway, given the wealthiest 2% control some 65% of the wealth-income in a rich nation like the U.S., and the remaining 35% of income has to be split amongst the remaining 98%, of course the satisfaction index will level out. In middle income nations, instead, the taxation is progressive enough to provide the means to live in some quality for all. People will not earn whopping remuneration, but no one will have to eat out of dumpsters either.

In an inset box in the FT article, a much more sane alternative is mentioned, proposed by Prof. Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi. What they want is a measure similar to Daly's for Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare but with more emphasis on net national income, which includes the deterioration of buildings, plant and other infrastructure.

This is totally rational since, believe me, when your water mains rupture and sewers overflow from lack of maintenance, getting dysentery or typhoid does not an addition to happiness make! It makes sense then, to assert that if the total market value for a given DOW high mark is say, $4 trillion - then the cost of repairing the infrastructure (say $2 trillion) be subtracted from it. This way, people don't let wealth images go to their head. They can't have an absolute wealth - no matter how high the DOW, unless they take into account how much they also have to pay to repair broken infrastructure that supports that wealth (e.g. if most highways fall into disrepair because of pot holes and other problems, transporting food and goods will become much more costly. Share values will plummet for those goods as people choose cheaper alternatives, and in particularly more locally grown commodities).

Like Daly, Stiglitz et al also want to ditch economy-wide measures (like GDP) in favor of the distribution of consumption and income - while noting that the consumption of finite natural wealth today (like trees, water, minerals) leaves less for the future. In this sense, their measure is very analogous to Daly's ISEW. They also want to add the amount of leisure time, since that would shed light on the extent to which people enjoy the fruits of their labors. Americans chronically don't do well in this department, since many top earners barely garner even 10 days a year vacation time, while in Denmark and many other industrial nations, it's at least 1 month.

The bottom line here is simple: NO subjective vaporous or vacuous psychological smiley index ought to replace actual physical inputs and variables which do show the latitude for citizens' choices in a world made increasingly brutish by scarcity and ever higher demand(because human numbers are outstripping the ability of the planet to support them - especially with potable water). This, despite the fact that many psychologists are now so bankrupt of mission and substantive research topics (having made their Diagnostic and Statistics Manual almost useless from overkill via manufactured "aberrations") that they now purport to have a "science of happiness". I don't think so! Not if you can't measure it in any empirical way. Even the UK's Cameron at least got this much right when he was quoted in the FT:

"You cannot capture happiness on a spread sheet any more than you can bottle it".

So true. So, in the coming year let's just all be aware (using our highly-tuned BS-meters)how, where and if politicians are trying to pull one over on us, by offering some airy fairy blandishment or "index" to substitute for our hard-earned Medicare, Social Security .....and healthy ecological support (as opposed to gas wells in our backyard).

More Errors on the Gnostics – and More Contradictions!

It seems Mikey’s meager brain capacity is again having difficulty processing the nuances of differing belief systems, as well as more abstract concepts – such as that an atheist can write ABOUT a particular belief system, or religion or religious sect without investing any credence in it. So it seems that all that money he’s plowing into his online Bible school education isn’t gaining him much traction when it comes to actual understanding.

We see this when he writes:

Brothers and Sisters ; is it any wonder Satan has set an emotionally charged mental block in the atheists in their rejection of God - especially when many ( atheists ) like my bro' Phil embraces the cult of Catholicism - at least in part ( though , that's like being a "little bit" pregnant - either you are or you AIN'T ! ) ."

But of course, as an atheist I “embrace no cult” or any religion, including Catholicism. Obviously, from declared Catholic doctrine, one cannot even be a nominal Catholic if one rejects: the virgin birth, Immaculate conception, Trinity, and Ascension not to mention the claimed "divinity" of Yeshua. Mikey needs to spend more time reading up on Comparative Religions! Note: Mikey still has this earliest, original CHRISTIAN religion confused with a “cult” despite the fact he invokes its own principles for scriptural validity to attack Gnosticism! Cognitive dissonance anyone?

Now again, let me note that writing about a religion doesn’t mean one subscribes to it, just as Mikey blathering on about atheism doesn’t mean he’s an atheist. Nor would I ever be so daft to assert he embraces atheism- because he so often writes about it (and in modern clinical psychology a condition known as reactive affectation is sometimes used to describe a mentality that appears to reject a thing but actually is enamored of it).

Merely because I write about Gnosticism doesn’t mean that I accept it. Rather, one has a duty – when confronted with a bible -puncher passing himself off as a religious expert expounding on other religions - to hold him or her to account. Thus, because Mikey has obviously never studied Comparative Religions – as I did at Loyola-thus it makes sense he discloses so much ignorance about them (whether Islam, Buddhism or Gnosticism). My point is that I can’t allow that display of ignorance to be passed off as some smug knowledge. Hence, when he bloviates at length about Gnosticism with nearly all of it suspect, he must be pulled up on it.

It's also important to hold Mikey to account for his own contradictions. It seems he just can’t mentally process that IF he holds or uses the Catholic Church’s own four principles for legitimate scripture as the basis for rejecting the Gnostics (see previous blog), then he can’t also claim his King James version (which Catholic scholars reject as flouting ALL those principles) is (his words):

“THE one source of Truth , the inspired, inerrant Word of the living God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice

It doesn’t work so, Mikey! Now, I know I may have been moving too fast for you so I will deliberately try to slow this down in order that you can process the details!

In your previous blog you informed us of FOUR principles used by “early Church councils” to assess whether text was acceptable or not. You wrote:

"The early church councils followed something similar to the following principles to determine whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the Body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit?”

Now, as I noted, these were ALL principles applied by the CATHOLIC Church since IT was the basis for these “early church councils” – there being NO other Christian Churches around at the time, since the Protestant Reformation with Martin Luther would not arrive until the 16th century. There is no way dear bro, to alter that fact, to change the timeline of history, or to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

THUS, LOGICALLY – by accepting these four principles YOU accept the CATHOLIC Church’s basis for accepting or rejecting the authenticity of scripture. In other words, bro, you are hoist on your own petard. If you attack then the Gnostic texts using those four principles, you are also obliged to attack your own KJV based on the same principles.

We know (‘The Concise History of the Catholic Church’ by Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter) that the KJV failed three of those criteria, including: ii) Since its version, based on an approved work by a King (Henry VIII) who founded a Church (Anglican) that broke away from Rome was no longer regarded as “the Body of Christ” (that reserved only for the Church with its successional line traced to Peter)[1], and iii) failed on the basis of diverging from the orthodox teaching of the same Apostolic successional Church – since Erasmus version was never accepted – based as it was on a corrupted ms. from the Latin Vulgate, as noted by scholar Bart D. Ehrman) and finally iv) since by breaking off from Rome, the Anglican church was no longer viewed as a repository of the Holy Spirit. (Since that Spirit is responsible for infusing infallibility and one cannot have two infallible heads or Churches!)

Mikey therefore is left with only one way out: he is obliged to reject the four (Catholic- authored) principles to determine legitimate scripture. If he does that, then he salvages the benediction for his KJV (since it is no longer rejected by those CATHOLIC CRITERIA) but he also is forced to drop his attacks on the Gnostic Gospels. (Since he invokes the four Catholic principles to attack their credibility).

Well, how does it feel to be between a rock and a hard place, Mikey? Seems to be that YOU are the actual covert Catholic here, and no - like you said- one can't be part Catholic just as one can't be part pregnant. The difference between you and me is I not only reject all the primary Church doctrines, but also their "tests for scriptural legitimacy". You may reject all their doctrines, but you accept their scriptural tests - hence you are at least a Catholic in terms of validating scriptures.

Before leaving this there are a couple more places I wish to pull him up for his theological and scriptural ignorance, as when he scribbles:

The Person of Jesus Christ is another area where Christianity and Gnosticism drastically differ. The Gnostics believe that Jesus’ physical body was not real, but only “seemed” to be physical, and that His spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, but left Him just before His crucifixion. Such views destroy not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement, for Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (and physically real) man "

But this doesn't wash if one examines the matter in the NT quadriforms which are certainly not unanimous on the post-death crucifixion nature of Yeshua. One actually beholds that 1 or 2 NT accounts lend themselves to a literal interpretaton of the resurrection, but others aren't so clear. Not by any means.

For example BOTH Luke (16:12) and Mark (24: 13-32 ) relate that Jesus appeared in ANOTHER FORM, e.g. not an Earthly or fleshly form - to two disciples as they walked on the road to Emmaus. John also (before his 'doubting Thomas' account) relates how Mary Magdalene beholds a man she first believes is a gardener, but later recognizes as Jesus (when he speaks her name). However, he explicitly orders her NOT to touch him, which would certainly not be the case if he was a "truly human and physically real man" as Mikey alludes. Clearly, any "truly physically real man" can tolerate a touch! However, an unreal man or merely a hallucination of her own mind, would not!

Thus, when we examine issues more closely we see the Gnostics in their beliefs on the resurrection weren't so far off from interpretations portrayed in Mark, Luke and John (which again, contradict other accounts in the gospels that the resurrection was literal).

Mikey also makes much ado over the Gnostics' perceptual dichotomy between flesh and spirit. However, this was common in many mystery religions, as well as accepted by many early Church Fathers. (For example, Origen was known to have cut off his sexual organs because he believed them inhabited by evil entities, since he was unable to control erections).

Also, it isn't difficult to understand if one grasps the context. Thus, the inherent Gnostic dichotomy embodies an instinctive distrust of the world as an agent that corrupts and prevents aspirations to a higher spiritual ground. In this sense, the Gnostics distrust of material and fleshly instincts and powers is exactly similar to the sentiments expressed in Ephesians 6:12:

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places"

Of course, while fundies ascribe "demonic" nature to these powers and principalities, the Gnostics didn't. They named them as entities called "archons" which spiralled out from the Demiurgos that actually created the universe and which was the entity actually claimed as "God" in the Old Testament: e.g. the bloodthirsty butcher and mass-murdering Psycho that commits genocide on fantastic scales, allows little kids to be cut to pieces by She bears, and sons to be stoned to death for mere insolence to parents. According to Richard Smoley (Inner Christianity, p. 18):

"The Gnostics believed the world is irremediably evil, created not by the true, good God but by a second-rate deity known as the Demiurge. Gnosis is a way of fleeing from this jerry-rigged universe and Jesus was sent as a messenger by the true God to help us escape."

This makes eminent sense when one examines carefully the actions of the maniac "God" in the OT, which carries out savage mass executions with the flimsiest justifications at the drop of a hat. And then there are the minor "crimes" for which people are ordered to be killed. Again, to refresh memory:

2 Kings 2, 23:24 allows children to be slain by wild animals if they insult their elders (in this case a "prophet").

By Deut. 22:22 both John Edwards and his former girlfriend (Riele Hunter) would have to be stoned to death.

By Deut. 21: 18-21 any insolent son would have to be taken to the outskirts of a city by his parents who'd let the elders stone him to death.

This too is nuts, and no Gnostic in his right mind would accept it. Hence, these accounts cannot possibly describe the actions of a REAL and good God but a pretender: the Demiurge. THIS is why its manifestations as flesh can't be trusted, because it is in league with evil itself! (Again Mikey, do try and pay attention here! I am not "defending" the Gnostics or "embracing" them - but trying to explain to your menial intellect why their dichotomy makes sense in context).

This view is totally reinforced by author Lloyd Graham in the last chapter of his book, ‘Deceptions and Myths of the Bible’, 1979. For example, as Graham observes (p. 315):

Satan is matter and its energies and the (Temptation of Jesus in the desert) story is but a mythologist’s way of telling us…that in the inanimate world matter and energy dominate….The only consciousness here is the epigenetic and this is – as yet- wholly incapable of controlling violent forces. This explains why our imaginary God of love and mercy allows these forces to destroy us”.

Again, this "imaginary God" is the Demiurge, or Demiurgos. A fraud. A creep and pretender, masquerading as the real McCoy - but the Gnostics (thanks to their secret wisdom) aren't buying it while all the other twits - like Mikey - are slavering all over themselves to quote its every murderous and duplicitous action verbatim.

Graham’s depiction of the material and epigenetic god (demiurgos) is one embedded in carnal lusts, revenge and avarice – so how can humanity be any different? (This is why the Gnostics didn't trust it, or the flesh it allowed to be incepted).

As Graham earlier notes (p. 272):

Man owes God nothing, not even thanks. Whatever is, exists because of necessity and not divine sufferance. And whatever exists suffers because of nondivine Causation. Our world is full of suffering, tragedy, disease, disaster, pain; we demand a better reason than religion has to offer.”

Perhaps for this reason, Graham insists that it is the de facto “creations” – humankind- who are the genuine authors of workable morality (“dynamic justness” not moral justice) not the claimed “Maker”. Here, of course, is precisely where the atheist would concur.

Mikey, before he responds again, must resolve several issues: 1) Why does he ally himself with Catholic principles on the legitimacy of scriptures if those same principles would find his own KJV unacceptable?, 2) Why does he admit the scriptural accuracy (effectively) of those early Catholic scriptures (by invoking their principles) if later on he rejects them?, 3) Why does he insist on worshipping a false god - the brutal, insane caricature in the OT which the Gnostics (at least) had the good sense and perception to realize couldn't be real? (Even if one rejects most of the basis of Gnosticism, one must at least award credit here for good sense!)

We have no idea what his nonsensical, irrational response will be forthcoming, but we can see already that when binds one's mind to an absolutist stance- it is bound to yield confusion and much contradiction in the aftermath!

[1] In 1539,Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired Myles Coverdale at the bequest of King Henry VIII to publish the "Great Bible". It became the first English Bible authorized for public use. Henry VIII acted essentially as the Anglican’s “Pope”. His first act was to further defy the wishes of Rome by funding the printing of the KJV in English… the first legal English Bible… just for spite. This is the basis Mikey holds up as the “one and only true and inerrant word of God” HORSE POCKEY!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So Pastor Mikey Accepts the Catholic Scriptures after all!

Pastor Mike, or would-be Pastor Mike, is a paradox of confused, often contradictory beliefs, delusions and drives to be sure. For example, he usually deals with the issue of biblical contradictions brought to his attention, e.g.

How did Simon Peter find out that Jesus was the Christ?

(a) By a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17)

(b) His brother Andrew told him (John 1:41)

by speciously arguing either that these are “minor differences but not contradictions". Or he asserts the clashing quotes are “inconsistencies” which are not contradictions. (Though an “inconsistency” is defined in my Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, is given as: Lacking in agreement, as two or more things in relation to each other. A Contradiction”) In either case, he insists the differing citations must be "read in context" and "bearing in mind the language". Then, at the same time - he claims the bible must be read LITERALLY! Obviously, he neither processes nor groks that if one reads something "in context" and makes adjustments for the language or idioms used, then he isn't reading it literally!

Now in this dust up concerning the Gnostics, it seems abundantly evident that the Catholic scriptures he'd earlier criticized voraciously, he now accepts.

Let us use logic to show how and why this is so. Given that:

1) In the early centuries after Yeshua's death (40- 400 A.D.) there were NO evangelicals and only the Roman Catholic Church reigned,


2) Paul dictated which proper theological themes and beliefs were to be subsumed for the Pauline Catholic variant of the Church,


3) Only Greek Gnostic texts were the other alternative (later rendered into Coptic translations which became the Nag Hammadi scrolls)


4) No copyist-translator named Erasmus yet existed who would use the Latin Vulgate to create-invent the King James version,


5) One could only accept one of two scriptural variants: a) the Pauline Catholic (orthodox) Christian version OR the Greek Gnostic version which reflected the Gnostic interpretation of spirituality.

Now, since Mikey makes it clear he rejects the Gnostic version, viz., his words from his latest blog:

"I had mentioned that I received the book The Gnostic Gospels from my atheist bro', Phil. Well , it seems that I was mistaken . The book he actually sent me was '“The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels” by "scholar" Marvin Meyer . No matter - as both books ( The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels and '“The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels” by Meyer ) are still the same "dog," but with different "fleas."You see , BOTH books are utterly nonsense ( not to mention unscriptural ) , which I'll get into in a minute . My point here is that the title of the books are really irrelevant . I mean , hey, if I mistake a rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus ) with a speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii ) and kill the rock rattlesnake by mistake , BIG DEAL !! They're both still poisonous - and need to be eradicated from the earth !!"

THEN it follows there is only ONE other logical choice he's able to make: the Pauline Catholic orthodox version of texts. In other words, when all is said and done, he admits that given the choice between the Pauline Catholic scriptures and the Gnostic scriptures - he is choosing the FORMER! Again, bear in mind, no KJV yet existed, and wouldn't for over 1,000 years!

Let us further examine his reason for rejection: in his rant (above) he claims: "both books are still the same 'dog' but with different fleas".

However, had he actually chosen to open Meyer's book (which is actually his translation of the Coptic texts) then he'd see how pitifully in error he is. Because while Meyer's book presents FOUR actual Gnostic Gospels ('The Secret Book of James', 'The Gospel of Thomas', 'The Book of Thomas' and 'The Secret Book of John'), Pagels' book entitled 'The Gnostic Gospels' has not ONE single Gnostic Gospel in any of its 182 pages! It is rather a treatise about the Gnostics and the spiritual teachings underlying their gospels! So, here again, his claim of "the same dog" breaks down, because he can't even recognize the different content basis for the respective books. (One book actually has 4 Gnostic gospels, the other has none - hence rational criticism for one, simply can't transfer to the other!)

If he can't even do this, how can we trust him to recognize any other differences in signficant content- say in the actual Pauline-based Quadriforms, or anywhere else? Well, we can't!

Let's go at this from an even deeper level, using Meyer's own insights and arguments from his Introduction. Of interest is the tradition designated as "Q" or "Quelle" (the German for "source"). Textual analysis recognizes Q as a collection of Yeshua's sayings which doesn't exist independently (e.g. as a specific text) but rather can be parsed from the separate gospels, such as Mark.

Germane to this Q tradition, is how when one applies textual analysis to the books, gospels, one can unearth the process whereby the early Church (again, only Catholic - since that's the only one that existed at the time) worked and reworked the sayings to fit them into one gospel milieu or another. One can also derive a plausible timeline: for example, The Gospel of Mark appears to have committed the sayings to paper about 40 years after the inspiring events, then Matthew and Luke composed their versions some 15-20 years after Mark. Finally, as noted in the earlier blog on this - John was actually an original GNOSTIC gospel that was reworked to conform to the Catholic Orthodoxy and added some 50-75 years after Matthew and Luke. (Again, if one knows Greek, one can easily spot the multiple edits in John that transmute its content from a Gnostic view to an orthodox Catholic one).

The contradictory idiocy of little Pastor Perplex is again at work when he writes:

"The early church councils followed something similar to the following principles to determine whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the Body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit?"

But again, let's be very clear about the historical context here! We have to do this because we can't allow this slippery little twit to get away with anything! We have to hold him to account, because we know he employs those "arguments" most expeditious to his agenda at any given time - though they often contradict his claims at other times!

Now what EARLY CHURCH COUNCILS is he referring to? It is none other than CATHOLIC EARL CHURCH COUNCILS since that was the ONLY EARLY CHURCH that existed! In other words, dear little bro is upending the Gnostics because they dared to diverge with the principles or coda demanded by the CATHOLIC, PAULINE ORTHODOXY. Thus, he is validating the Catholic process for separating wheat from chaff in terms of which books, texts were acceptable and which weren't. If Mikey weren't a self-proclaimed non-Catholic already I'd have believed 100% his previous remarks and his recitation of the four principles was coming from the pen of a Jesuit!

This is validated when we see the words of Bishop Irenaeus (cited in Pagels' book, page 24) on verifiying the same coda that Mikey lists (1-4) as testifying to what can legitimately be recognized as a faithful scriptural text. He writes (ibid.) these coda are approved and accepted, since:

"by indicating that tradition, derived from the apostles of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...and by indicating the faith...which came down to our time by means of the succession of bishops"

The bold highlight, of course, shows in no uncertain terms this can only be the CATHOLIC Church. The same Church (and its Pope - who is one of those same succession of Bishops) that Mikey other times disavows as "Satanic".

Well, sorry Mikey! You can't on the one hand condemn this Church (e.g. as "Satanic" or a "cult"), then at another time (when it suits your convenience) bellow their principles for accepting legitimate textual passages! It's either reject the whole Church as "Satanic" or shut up!

Now that we've effectively established that Mikey is validating the Catholic textual coda as guidance for legitimate scriptures, let's proceed further, returning to the issues surrounding the Q. Given the temporal divergences of the contributory sayings from Mark, Luke, Matthew and John - and the fact they were added at widely different times (with John actually originating from a GNOSTIC text), the assorted biblical contradictions we find now make sense. Since there was no temporal continuity in the passages, it makes sense the references to the events also diverged. (As in the earlier contradiction I posed, with one gospel claiming Simon Peter learned about the Christ by a revelation from heaven (Matthew 16:17), while the other (John 1:41) insisted ) His brother Andrew told him. Well, if John was in fact the latest addition, and originally a Gnostic text, this makes sense since the Gnostics also interpreted events differently!

What is most amusing to behold is when Mikey rails:

"The gospel of Thomas fails all of these tests"

Totally unaware (or maybe he is aware, but doesn't want us to process it) that the "tests" were posited by the CATHOLIC CHURCH hierarchy. (Or is Mikey going to claim an evangelical went back 1,800 years or more in a time machine and actually wrote the Catholic gospels as well as the principles for accepting orthodox texts?)

In fact, as Meyer points out (page xviiii, Introduction), The Secret Book of James, The Gospel of Thomas, and the Book of Thomas, consist of material that was "collected of the early Church's process of working and reworking the sayings of Jesus". In other words, those selfsame texts were contributory inputs to the final designation of the Q tradition. Meyer again(ibid.)

"If Q represented Jesus as a proclaimer of wise sayings, then the Gospel of Thomas is a document similar to Q in form and style. Like Q, the Gospel of Thomas is a substantial collection of Jesus' sayings with one saying immediately following the other."

Some scholars even concede that the Gospel of Thomas was securely within the Q tradition and hence, as much entitled to legitimacy as any of the four quadriforms. (e.g. the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his monograph ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, page 16- 17). Meyers himself notes that "the Gospel of Thomas has been edited and revised by early Christians with gnosticizing interests." Thus, it is evident that the rejection of the Gospel of Thomas as "failing all these tests" is not anywhere as clear cut as claimed. What if, indeed, the original Gospel of Thomas passed every one of the four coda criteria, but then - after editing - failed them? What does one conclude? Does he conclude the original version passed the coda criteria and only failed on the revisions?

Indeed, when one examines the specific content of Thomas in conjunction with the other quadriforms, it's very evident that issues are not so manifestly obvious as Pastor Bro and his (unlikely) Catholic, anti-Gnostic cohort (like Tertullian, Irenaeus, and even the current Pope - Benedict) would maintain.

We can get more insight by reference to biblical scholar F.F. Bruce in his work, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, who notes:

"The Gospel of Thomas says, Jesus said 'Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not realize that he who made the inside is the same as he who made the outside?'

Luke says, 'And the Lord said unto him, 'Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within and see everything will be clean for you'.

Matthew is different again, with, ' Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may also become clean!"

Now, as Bernard Simon notes, (The Essence of the Gnostics, p. 134) in the end we may never know which is the "right" version (taken to be the original, authentic words actually uttered by Yeshua - as opposed to words put into his mouth by later copyists, translators). But as he puts it: "Is it really an issue in a biblical world full of metaphor and allegory".

Well, probably not! Especially as current Catholic orthodoxy sees the issue as about faith and not fact. Indeed, it was also the Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his same monograph (‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’,page 17), who observed:

The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus. They were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or God.”

So in the end it doesn't matter WHICH orthodox view one adopts, or even whether a questionable text (like the Gospel of Thomas, or the Secret Book of James) passes muster with the 4 Church "text acceptability" principles. In the end, we are talking about mostly allegorical references anyway. And so, we don't take literally that Yeshua actually walked on water, any more than that a man named Jonah was kept inside a whale's belly for three days and emerged intact - despite all that hydrochloric acid!

However, and this is important, from the comparison of quotes above, we do see the Gnostics had a radically different interpretation from the orthodox. This comports with the findings that their teachings were based on a "secret wisdom" (cf. Meyers, ibid.) most likely traced to the sect known as the Essenes - from which Yeshua emerged. Thus, the Gospel of Thomas rendition is more accurate and trustworthy in terms of the secret wisdom teachings: to wit that any discrimination between the inside and outside of a thing is egregious given it exists manifestly as one whole, a continuuum - which can't be so casually divided.

The other renditions from Luke and Matthew obviously hail from an orthodox point of view, which also reflects Yeshua's public pronouncements - because he knew that he couldn't deliver the same messages of "secret wisdom" to an untutored public.

BUT this is exactly what pissed off the early Church Fathers - like Tertullian, just as they now piss off Mikey. Neither one could abide that some "secret wisdom" could manifest to which they are denied. Tertullian was so pissed that he once wrote (Pagels, p. 23):

"every one of them modifies traditions as it suits his own temperament."

But what tee'd off the Church authorities more than anything, was the de-localization of christhood which followed directly from Gnostic secret wisdom teachings.

Why? Because if the ('Institutionalized') Church accepted this, they would have to surrender their coveted power wielded via intermediaries (priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.). Paul knew this full well, which is why he had to fight against the Gnostics' egalitarian Christhood with all his might.

Again, to summarize the concept (which I'll also explore in further depth in a later blog on Gnostic spirituality), the Gnostics- from their ancient wisdom teachings - believed all men could become christs. In this way, Christhood was a general state of being, like "Buddahood" for Buddhists. Salvation then, was contingent on attaining Christhood, not on accepting one individual as "the Christ" and hitch one's salvation to that! The Gnostics, indeed, believed that Paul's identification of Yeshua as "God" and hence becoming a "God-man", was the most outrageous blasphemy. (Which, of course, is why Paul ferociously persecuted the Gnostics!)

Pagels observes (ibid., p.134):

"Whoever achieves gnosis becomes no longer a Christian, but a Christ."

In effect, in the Gnostic teachings, anyone has the capacity to become 'a Christ'. Pauline Catholicism, meanwhile, rigorously held there could be only one, on which all others had to depend for 'salvation'. This was the nexus for power and control over the masses. So long as they were conditioned to accept and believe they were worms of the Earth who needed an outside "Savior" or "salvation" they'd be in the power of the Church and its hierarchy.

Evangelicals in their latter- day amendments and alterations have only improved on this sad situation somewhat: by removing the need for a hierarchy and just demanding people follow John 3:14 and "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ", not realizing that the Gnostic version of John (which was edited by the Pauline Catholics) doesn't say that at all - rather it was : "Believe on yourself as the Christ and Ye are saved!"

In the end, the true irony is not so much Mikey's passionate love for the Pauline Catholic scriptures and their 4 criteria for determining scriptural "legitimacy" (which he professes to embrace to attack the basis for the Gnostic gospels) but the fact he and his ilk (in their "salvation" agenda) invoke a quote from a gospel that was originally of GNOSTIC origin - but altered to suit the agenda of the orthodox (Pauline) Church.

Will wonders never cease? Maybe Mikey needs to shake hands with "da Popey" as he refers to him, given how much they both have in common - including regarding Gnostics as "heretics" and "Satanic". The two would certainly agree with Mikey's idiotic remark that: "Nowhere in Scripture is God's Word given “in secret" (totally oblivious that those of the Pauline Church who manufactured "God's word" -to promote their own control agenda, as they saw it, had to ensure that very fact! Hence, they diligently removed all the secret scriptures - then when they re-emerged in the Nag Hammadi scrolls- they denounced all as "unbiblical" or "heretical". Control the literature and you control people's minds!)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Good Reason Not to Borrow more $ from the Chinese

BELOW: The Chinese Dongfeng 21D missile (carried atop a transport vehicle) which will upset the balance of power in the Southwest Pacific. Likely it was paid for using just the interest from money borrowed by the U.S. the past 10 years for two massive tax cuts and two undeclared wars.

The news in this morning's Financial Times was not heartening or encouraging, but rather downright frightening. The article on the FT's front page described a "new Chinese anti-ship missile (see photo) which will significantly alter the balance of power in the Pacific". The worst news is that this missile, the Dongfeng 21D, is now operational.

U.S. Commander in the Pacific, Adm. Robert Willard, said this Chinese ballistic missile is designed to threaten U.S. aircraft carriers, and it confers on the Chinese the ability to project military power in Asia much sooner than expected. This has alerted the U.S. as well as other Pacific nations in Asia to an emerging Chinese naval power and formidable threat.

According to Andrew Erickson, a Chinese military expert at the U.S. Naval War College:

"So now we know...china's anti-ship ballistic missile is no longer aspirational"

Meaning it's no longer on the Chinese "wish list" but rather it'll only be a matter of months before its mounted and ready to offset the balance of power, maybe even if a crisis in Taiwan occurs. Other defense analysts have referred to the Dongfeng 21 D as a "game changer" since it has the capacity to discourage any entry of U.S. aircraft carriers into waters they may be needed.

So, IF there is a palpable threat to Taiwan by invading or intimidating Chinese forces, what then? Clearly, unless the U.S. comes up with an answer to the DF-21D (short of initiating a nuclear exchange with China) it will have to stand down.

The FT article notes the land-based DF-21D is designed to target aircraft carrier groups with the help of satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and over the horizon radar. In September, Defense Secretary Robert Gates actually said this missile would force the U.S. to rethink the way its carriers are deployed.

The FT article goes on to note that most observers believe that China commenced production of the missile last year and meanwhile it is preparing a nuclear missile base in the southern city of Shaoguan for their deployment.

Conscious and concerned Americans may want to ask themselves where China is getting the moola for all this development and construction of advanced missile systems - including nuclear - that put the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage. Well, they need look no further than the juvenile mindset that dominates most of the U.S. population and rules congress, which asserts people can have their cake and eat it too. They can have benefits such as Social Security and Medicare and keep general taxes low at the same time!

That the U.S. can maintain a workable government, have a viable infrastructure yet sustain a tax rate that is the LOWEST in 60 years as a percentage of GDP.

And then they can look at the recent tax cuts package - which extends the Bush 'Zombie" tax cuts (which should have died on Jan. 1) another two years - at a cost of over $858 billion, nearly $500 billion of which will have to come via borrowing from the Chinese.

And just where or how, fellow Americans, do you think that paid- back money (with interest) will be spent? Well, on more weapons development! Merely considering the original $1 trillion borrowed (which the Chinese invested in T-bonds at 4%), e.g. to fund the Iraq and Afghan adventures. That interest yields $40 billion, or more than ample to fund the DF-21D development.

There are consequences to garnering tax cuts when you have to borrow the money from outside, foreign sources - and that is one. Another is that the infrastructure of our own nation will continue to crumble, all the while we track the rising DOW numbers like a pack of drooling idiots.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More bible-based Idiocy - Or is it Uniquely Mikey?

Seems little Mikey is in a fit of consternation at having to vigorously defend and argue for the existence of his deity in respect of its do-nothing attitude to evil, or suffering. But we all know and can agree, when you buy into a whole load of horse pockey, it carries a formidable burden when you must defend it to all comers! Thus, in addition to tossing my gift book into his dumpster, little pastor perplex is also incensed about his own impotence and incapacity in respect of credibly addressing the issues of dukkha (personal suffering) raised in my blog on the Buddha (the documentary film from PBS). Let's look at his reams of nonsense and try to help him sort them out.

He writes:

"I, for one , am convinced that for most atheists the suffering in the world is really an EMOTIONAL problem , not an intellectual , problem . Their unbelief is born not out of refutation , but out of rejection . They simply want nothing to do with a God who would allow them or others to suffer terribly ."

And, of course, this is the basest codswallop. For we (atheists) have no "emotional problems" - since we've pinned this miscreant and cretin down umpteen times on this issue- but as we can see, he possesses the memory of a sand mite. Let's try to refresh his beleaguered brain cells: we focus on the suffering of the innocents as a result of others' violence. For example, the two Petit girls (Michaela, 11 and Hayley, 17 years old) from Cheshire, Connecticut. In the summer of 2007 these two girls (along with their mom) were set upon in their own home by two vicious, vile beasts- who tied them down to their beds, then tortured and raped them for hours before setting them ablaze using an accelerator (according to court testimony).

WHERE was the great God in all this? WHERE? If God refuses to act in the case of an innocent and on her behalf, or is incapable of action then for all practical purposes He does not exist. It is therefore a useless exercise to introduce a deity at all. One could as well toughen his mind, admit there's nothing out there, and we're all on our own in a totally purposeless, amoral cosmos devoid of remorse or empathy for us. In fact, one major Torino 10 asteroid could obliterate us one time and nobody would be the wiser.

Thus, his argument that we "want nothing to do with God" is mere question begging since HE has not provided the logical basis (by way of any arguments) for us to see any condition to warrant god belief. His exercise of splitting "emotional" and "intellectual" problems is then merely a neat trick which exposes that he had to do so because he lacks the intellectual arguments to defend his position vis-a-vis the inherent intellectual problem for the inaction of a putatively all-good and powerful being. So, he must create the strawman of "emotional" problems!

He blathers on:

"But in order to support my claim that suffering poses mainly an emotional problem , we need to examine in detail the intellectual problem to show that it fails as a proof of atheism . Now in discussing the intellectual problem of suffering , it's important that we keep in mind who has the burden of proof here . In past debates we were considering the arguments for God , and so it was the believer who had to bear the burden of proof . But NOW it's the atheist's turn . We're considering arguments FOR atheism . We want to hear from the atheist some arguments against God . "

Again, more question begging. The argument doesn't rest with the atheist, because he sees reality as godless, which explains perfectly why two innocents like Michaela and Hayley Petit could be so brutally set upon with no help from "above". Despite their pleas, prayers and entreaties- they received nothing! Thus, the onus is on the BELIEVER to account for this absence of action - even despite being prayed to for deliverance. The burden is clearly not on the atheist, because he makes no claim whatever that anything or anyone is out there to deliver anyone from evil.

It is the CHRISTIAN believer who makes this claim! He is the one who maintains that if one prays fervently then one can be delivered or saved.

So no, we need to hear or see the arguments from the believers as to why God didn't come to the rescue of innocents like the Petit girls and instead do nothing! (NOTE HERE: Mikey is seriously mistaken if he believes it requires a "moral judgment" to recognize or acknowledge another's suffering, and hence one must indirectly accept a God - who can "only make moral judgments". NO! Any imbecile who has the brain capacity to google the two Petit girls' names will instantly bring up the court documents, including the scenes of their burned beds, etc. One can process their suffering merely via having basic human empathy! One does not need to acknowledge a moral judgment or God to see the extent to which they suffered. Again, we see he lacks the basic wherewithal to even argue coherently!)

It is therefore the BELIEVERS' duty to explain this absence of action, for their God - or are they tacitly admitting they can't? It appears their question begging is precisely because they can't offer convincing explanations for their God's inaction!

More balderdash:

"So now it's the atheist who must shoulder the burden of proof . It's up to him to give us an argument leading to the conclusion "Therefore , God does not exist." Too often believers will allow atheists to shift the burden of proof to the believer's shoulder's . "

Again, idiocy! The burden of proof is on the claimant - the one who would add TO reality, not the conservative naturalist who sees no need to! It would be like a flying saucer- believer insisting it's the duty of the saucer denier to prove they don't exist, as opposed to saucer believers proving they do - or at least providing reasonable evidence. Or it would be like me demanding Mikey disprove (NO Bibles allowed!) advanced ETs exist with a flourishing civilization on the third planet of Zeta Reticuli, as opposed to me having to prove it to him.

It turns the entire evidentiary edifice on its head! Were we to allow the believer side to get away with this, what next? Bigfoot believers demanding we show proof it doesn't exist? Abominable Snowman believers doing the same? Fairy and leprechaun believers demanding we offer disproof of 4" high humans flying or bounding about the assorted gardens? Give me a break!

More hogwash from a guy at Densan IQ level:

"Give me some good explanation for why God permits suffering," the atheist will demand , and then sits back and plays the skeptic about all the believer's attempted explanations . The atheist winds up having to prove nothing . This may be clever debating strategy on the atheist's part , but it's philosophically illegitimate and intellectually dishonest . "

No, it's totally legitimate because the atheist CLAIMS nothing! The atheist makes no claim as to some ultimate purposeful cosmos bearing an all -powerful being (who yet can't come to the aid of its children when they need it) as does the believer. The latter insists we accept that there's really REALLY an ALL POWERFUL, ALL GOOD force out there- watching over everything - yet he punks out and refuses to explain why it won't consistently act for innocents! The atheist simply asks: IF it is out there, and IS all Good and ALL powerful, why does it choose not to act on behalf of innocents? Thus, the philosophical and intellectual burden is clearly on the one who makes the claim an all -Good and all -powerful entity exists! For if indeed it does, the least attribute we must expect is efficacy: the capacity to act when called upon. This is the minimum standard to expect- that of a loving, caring human parent - who would surely not leave her kids screaming in a burning house without at least trying to effect a rescue.

Again, the believer has the burden of explanation, not the atheist. It is tragic believers are in this "unfair" position, but HEY - THEY are the ones claiming the benediction and existence of an Almighty! So why does it not act on behalf of innocents? Like the two Petit girls, or the 6 million Jews butchered in Nazi gas chambers? Or the 800,000 Tutsi Rwandans butchered by the Hutu tribe in Rwanda in 1994?

Atheists don't have the obligation to explain the inaction of the Christian deity - since they don't accept its existence. Rather its sponsors (believers and apologists) DO! If they choose to run from this duty then it shows us they stand on no true beliefs at all, and indeed, are incapable of arguing for their deity's existence when it most counts. It tells us their faith is built on quicksand! Worse, they are punks and cowards because instead of committing to the task at hand they cower, run and hide behind strawmen, red herrings and assorted other excuses to fob off what THEY need to do, onto atheists.
Again, let's be absolutely clear on this: the atheist need prove nothing because he claims nothing! That's the way it works! The burden is always upon the CLAIMANT not the skeptic! You have to undertake the job of proving when you make an extraordinary claim, like saying an infinitely powerful, all loving Being exists yet can't or won't act when it's most needed. If you don't like those odds, or that deal, then it's simple: RETRACT YOUR CLAIM!!!

And finally:

"So , my friends , don't allow the atheist to shirk his intellectual responsibilities . Remember , he's the one who claims the coexistence of God and suffering is impossible or improbable . So it's up to him to give us his argument and to support his premises . It's the Christian's turn to play the skeptic and question whether the atheist has shown that God cannot have or does not have a good reason for permitting suffering "

The problem, my dense bro, is that the Christian can't have it both ways: both skeptic and believer.

IF you believe in this all powerful and all good force (infinite besides) you cannot shirk your duty in the next breath and disown YOUR responsibility to account for its inaction on behalf of innocents who are suffering. It is NOT OUR JOB to do YOURS for you! (E.g. explaining why God would have any reason to permit suffering to occur when we don't even accept a God exists!) We know it's hard and we sympathize with your plight- but that's the wicket YOU chose to defend, not us! Maybe next time choose your beliefs (or at least the attributes of your God) more judiciously, eh bro? Maybe do like my friend John Phillips and scale back your deity to the Socinian God - who is limited in time and space and never knows more than the most advanced sentient life form (in this case, humans- if Mikey's gospel that there are no aliens is to be believed). Thus, it is NOT all -knowing, infinite, or all-powerful! That is your only way out, short of disbelieving entirely! DEAL WITH IT, PORK CHOP!

Maybe - just maybe- if defending your entity is so damned hard that you have to try to worm your way out with verbal subterfuge and tricks, you need to reconsider seriously its existence - just as former fundie Bart D. Ehrman did!

Should Certain People Be Prohibited from being Pastors?

How Mikey portrays the book I sent to him (as Elaine Pagels' Gnostic Gospels)

You know the type- those who can’t READ, far less THINK! Those who are so ignorant and steeped in their petty hubris they can’t see beyond their own nose – or in this case their rigid, hyper anal demands for “biblical truth” (all other truth being dismissed as irrelevant).

Anyway, my wannabe Pastor Bro in his recent blog insists I sent him a “Satanic” gift which he depicts as shown in the lower image (copied from his recent blog). He claims it was Elaine Pagels ‘The Gnostic Gospels” but in fact it was not. It was “The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels” by scholar Marvin Meyer.

Accepting him at his word, not only could he not discriminate the book’s title or author from what was actually sent, but he also took it as “garbage” and (according to him) asked his son Dylan to take it out to the trash. Well, hopefully Dylan is smart and savvy enough to have ignored his pompous, blowhard bully of an old man – so kept the book for himself to explore another side of Christianity (from that presumably forced down his throat by his wannabe pastor pop). Tossing away or burning books is never a very civilized act- ask the Nazis who took great pride in it!

If Dylan did choose to ignore his "pastor" pop’s orders, he will profit mightily. Unlike pop, who I certainly underestimated in terms of even reading other expressions of the Christian message.

According to Mikey’s screwed up beliefs:

The Gnostic gospels are writings by early "Christian" Gnostics. After the first century of Christianity, two primary divisions developed - the orthodox and the Gnostics. The orthodox Christians held to books we now have in the Bible and to what is today considered orthodox theology. The Gnostic "Christians," held a distinctly different view of the Bible, of Jesus Christ, of salvation, and of virtually every other major Christian doctrine. However, they did not have any writings by the Apostles to give legitimacy to their beliefs.”

Of course this is bogus palaver. The truth is that no one knew or had a single clue WHO wrote what, exactly! In the first instance, more than 40 years elapsed between the purported events in Galilee and environs and the preparation of the first scrolls. That’s a lot of time for memory to fade. All that time memory was fading for the “Orthodox”, however, the Gnostics at Nag Hammadi (Egypt) were documenting their beliefs about Yeshua and his teachings as THEY perceived them. Based on esoteric traditions, these teachings were that one didn't depend on an external Christ for salvation, rather one became a Christ in his own right. In this way, the Gnostics exhibited a remarkable resonance of beliefs with Buddhism -which teaches (previous blog) that Buddha-hood is accessible to all, not merely a select one or two.

Little known at the time is that they were massively persecuted and oppressed by the likes of Paul and some of his fellow orthodox cohorts. Some scholars believe many of the Gnostics were put to death by these bigots, so their own little fairy stories could prevail. And in fact that’s pretty well what happened. Unlike the primary fundie fairy tale that the Bible just magically appeared in its entirety one fine day in the Judean desert, the truth is a bit more brutal. It is actually a collection of 66 books assembled over a thousand years! Most of this assembly didn’t even occur until one or other council or synod or gathering had approved which books were to be accepted and which rejected (those rejected were generally termed “apocrypha”- meaning that according to the arbiters they didn’t possess a “seal of authenticity”)

Indeed, the meaning is not that simple – just as the origin of the Bible. Apocryphal then has various meanings, including "hidden", "esoteric", "spurious", "of questionable authenticity", and "Christian texts that are not canonical".

The general term is usually applied to the books that Protestant Christians considered useful but not divinely inspired. As such, it’s misleading to refer to the Gnostic writings as apocryphal, for example, because they’d not have been classified in the same category by orthodox believers. (Indeed they didn’t even EXIST when the determinations of divine inspiration were made- since they were only found at Nag Hammadi in the last century(1945)) It is amazing therefore, that for all the money Mikey is spending on his pastor education ($165 per credit hour) he wasn’t appraised of this. Bad teachers?
Meanwhile, Non-canonical books refers to traditional and extant texts (all of which far preceded the Nag Hammadi scrolls) of uncertain authenticity, or writings where the work was seriously questioned. Given that different denominations have different beliefs about what constitutes canonical scripture, there are several versions of the apocrypha, but I don’t want to get into that because it isn’t relevant here. What’s relevant is that NO one, not even Mikey, has the basis to reject the Gnostic gospels as “apocryphal”.

Mikey again, as clueless and uneducated as ever.

The Gnostics fraudulently attached the names of famous Christians to their writings, such as the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Philip, the gospel of Mary, etc. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in northern Egypt in 1945 represented a major discovery of Gnostic gospels. These Gnostic gospels are often pointed to as supposed "lost books of the Bible."

Well, here again he demonstrates his lack of insight – which he’d have actually obtained had he even taken the trouble to read Marvin Mayer’s Introductory Notes. Note that his use of the term “fraudulently” implies the Gnostics deliberately set out to hoodwink people by attaching names to the works that didn’t comport with the actual writers. However, research on all the 13 codices recovered discloses this wasn’t the case at all. And though the names may not represent the names of the actual authors – any more than the names attached to the Quadriforms do (most scholars see them as pseudonymous), it is the content that is most important.

Mikey is probably not even aware that the Gospel of John was actually an original Gnostic gospel (as Meyer notes). It was adopted by orthodoxy and then edited to fit its political/theological agenda. Anyone able to read Greek can see that heavy editing took place in the text of John. (A fact also pointed out by Yale Professor Dale B. Martin in his online course: Introduction to New Testament History and Literature.

Of particular import is his lecture: The Historical Jesus

Which clearly shows the editing in John to make it conform to orthodoxy.

Now, let’s think clearly here: If a group or person takes an original work and edits, remakes it into something that fits THEIR agenda, then that act is surely fraudulent! Hence, if anyone is being fraudulent here it is the early Church orthodoxy led by Paul, who sought to deform a Gnostic text in order to give credence to its God-Man agenda and beliefs.

Two other Yale lectures that are sure to help Mikey (way more than his costly bible college) are: Lecture 2 - From Stories to Canon:

And: The Gospel Of Thomas

Finally, my lame and clueless brother seems to have no clue that the Gnostic writings are based on much earlier teachings traced to a sect known as The Essenes- believed by many scholars to have been the primary source for nearly all Yeshua’s insights and esoteric teachings. (For those who don’t know, Yeshua taught secret or hidden truths, as well as more public ones – the latter usually given as easier-to -understand “parables” for the masses.)

The Gnostics themselves, as Meyer points out (p. xvii- Intro.) emphasized a quest for understanding, and because they placed more import on fostering spiritual lifestyles - as opposed to paying homage to the received wisdom of the authorities of the day, they were regarded as dissidents and outcasts. But let us remember, dear readers, this is exactly what Yeshua was regarded as! An outcast and a dangerous dissident! (As Oxford scholar Geza Vermes has noted, Yeshua was definitely regarded as a subversive by the Romans, and his assorted sermons often interpreted as appeals to insurrection- much like today's terrorists over the Net, appealing to all and sundry for "Jihad". It was this condemnation for subversive activity against Rome that ultimately cost him his life from crucifixion).

It's a pity that Mikey, whether he ever becomes a pastor or not, seems to have consigned to his dumpster the very work that might have rendered him more credible as a teacher, or preacher. But hey, maybe it’s just easier being a blowhard and officious windbag. Or a dishonest, dissembling cretin. Because it's clear he can read, so one can only conclude his deliberate misrepresentation of the book I sent to him, was for his own hateful purposes. (Most likely 'cause it suited his purpose to castigate as "Satan's own" a book with the title of 'The Gnostic Gospels' - as opposed to 'The Secret Teachings of Jesus'). So maybe we can conclude from this that poor little Pastor Perplex doesn't really want to listen or read what Jesus taught after all. Why should he? He proclaims in his blogs he's bringing "Christian love" to me and my Catholic sister and mom, but at the same time deigns to place our images -faces into his cartoon "Hell". What kind of "love" is that? Looks more like hate to me. (Especially when he adds that you know a gift or book is "tarnished if it comes from an atheist").

But at least Dylan (if he has more sense than his pop- as I believe he does) maybe hid the book away for future reference, and can read it at his leisure once he's able to escape Mike’s iron fist rule and mental slavery. One can at least hope.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Buddha: A Compelling Documentary On a Spiritual Giant

Having just watched "The Buddha" :

I can vouch for it being one of the finest documentaries ever on a great spiritual leader, one who predated Christ by nearly 500 years. This fantastic film by David Grubin makes one realize just how amazing Siddhartha Buddha was and the enormity of the insights (true insights, not poppycock) he shared with mankind.

“Pay attention! This life and this moment are it…they're all there is! THIS IS NIRVANA!”

SO said the Buddha after his meditations under the Boddhi Tree, as brought out in the excellent PBS documentary. The problem is that most humans are trapped in the illusion of suffering and separation. They believe that some “Savior” is destined to come and make everything right, or save them from themselves or their "sins". The most extremist of this lot picture the world as a stage of perpetual warfare- of "good vs. evil." But the Buddha showed this is illusion since everything is connected, inseparable and there is no ‘other’ – than in the mind. Thus, it is the mind itself which imposes "demons", suffering and all the other woes we've inherited. Control the mind and the "demons of desire" and you have a chance at Buddhahood. (Indeed, even an atheist can aspire to Buddhahood, since no religious beliefs or associations are needed).

The Buddha’s teachings were embodied in the dharma, the fundamental laws of how things operate in the world. Buddhism is –unlike many other religions – not about being special but being ordinary. When one lives intently and consciously in this moment, he effectively become a Buddha. He could be driving to work, teaching, writing or just meditating. The point is to be in the moment- fully attending to what one is doing- and not distracted.

When one lives on autopilot or according to the will of others (imposed by ancient books or special authorities) then one experiences dukkha or suffering. In addition, this suffering is driven by desire.

In ‘the wheel of the dharma’ – Buddha’s message was brought into the world for the first time. It was not based on dogma but his own experiences in the world. In “the Middle way’ he taught everything is to be balanced – as between asceticism and sensuality, or happiness and melancholy. He used the example of the Indian instrument known as the sitar: if the string is too slack there is no music, if too tight, the music is off- the notes not right. Only the Middle way works.

Buddhism’s interest lay in the problem of human suffering and the solution to it. The 4 noble truths are:

1) There is suffering (dukkha) in the world
2) The mind causes it
3) The central problem in the mind is desire- how to control it toward constructive ends
4) Cultivation of mindfulness is the best path toward peace of mind and Buddhahood

The three poisons are: Greed, anger and ignorance

However, these poisons can be trasnmutated into their opposites or virtues: when the poisons are neutralized and inverted. Then we get:

Generosity (instead of greed)

Compassion (instead of anger)

Wisdom (instead of ignorance)

As an example, the compassionate person extends and enhances life for all. He is incapable of hateful or destructive thoughts or beliefs toward others. On the other hand, the angry person entertains hate and vicious beliefs, including that his beliefs are superior to all others and indeed, that if others don't cooperate with them they will suffer grievous future harm - perhaps in a "next life". To the Buddha, this sort of thinking exemplified the epitome of desire turned inward toward spiritual arrogance and pride. By contrast, a person with Buddha nature comforts others and encourages them in whatever spiritual direction they pursue - provided it is for the constructive benefit of others.

Burning is a prevalent theme in Buddhism: Everyone is burning all the time with desire fueled by the ‘three poisons’. Again, the way to deal with this fire is to dilute and control the poisons, as noted above. Meditation is one excellent way to do this because it brings self-conscious reflection to the point of action and personal initiative. This is important and the Buddha natured person soon learns the first principle of existence: the violence in the exterior world can never be controlled until one first controls it within himself. So long as he harbors vicious and violent thoughts and punishments, the world outside will reflect them.

An important aspect brought out in the film is that The Buddha encouraged people to challenge his teachings not just accept them without question. He wanted disciples to investigate based on reason. To accept without question was to perpetuate ignorance, one of the 3 poisons.
The Buddha constantly reminded his followers that the great field of knowledge is as tiny to the whole as the Earth is to the whole universe. Thus, to believe or accept one thing is next to nothing. There is much more we don’t know than what we do, so to grasp at any one tiny subset as the truth is to instill ignorance in one’s mind.

Buddhism is also a practical religion in that it doesn’t argue with or try to remake reality: It fully recognizes the constant potential for incredible positives or negatives. One has the chance, by choice, to make the world of Nirvana nature (full of Buddhas) or to make it a hell, if Buddha nature is suppressed by way of authoritarian ignorance.

A story told in the film was of Buddha's inability to perform a miracle to save his friends who suffered as collateral damage from a war. (Unlike the made up "miracle" stories in the Christian New Testament.) But, we are like the Buddha because we're limited beings and we tend to fail too. The point is to keep trying to reduce the total amount of dukkha in the world via self-knowledge, as opposed to anger and greed.

Just before the Buddha died at the age of 80 (of spoiled food offered to him, which he knew he could not refuse) his disciples mourned and asked “What are we to do”?

The Buddha looked up from his bed and regarded his followers, saying in a low whisper:
I am not your authority, be your OWN light!”

The Buddha thus had no hang ups about his authority or trying to pass it on, nor did his disciples find the need to turn him into a demigod or God-man. In that sense, their tradition was more mature than that of the West - replete with god-Men, from Horus to Mithra to Christ. The Buddhist disciples, meanwhile, realized that for a religion to be vibrant it had to live in reality not a world of delusional nonsense.

For this reason, as a Buddhist friend in Barbados often told me, Buddhism is the religion closest to atheism – because no specific belief is mandated. As he pointed out to me:

We’ve turned this world into a painful place but does not have to be such. If we pursue our Buddha nature and enlightenment we can make this a Buddha world engendering compassion, wisdom and generosity instead of anger, ignorance and greed

Very true, and I encourage readers to watch the documentary to see how Buddha developed into the spiritual being he eventually became. The point is, we can all attain the same Buddha nature.

Robert Samuelson: Mouthpiece for the Neoliberal Elites

Well, we know the Neoliberal elites have to have someone to bloviate their nonsense for them. You know: the deficits are too high, we have to cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare recipients NOW - or our grandkids will end up on the streets without a bone to call their own. Blah blah blah.

As usual, Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson has to toss in his two cents to further feed and fuel the deficit cutting frenzy due to arrive in January with the Tea Bagger Brigade. (We know they are intent on not approving an increase in the debt ceiling, unless massive spending cuts upwards of $100 billion are made). But hey, that train already left the station - with full finality once the Obama-Repub tax cut package was passed at a cost of $858 billion added to the big D- showing that they really don't matter in the scheme of things. They're merely a convenient political football for one side or the other to use against the spenders - whether war and defense spenders, or social benefits spenders.

Anyway, in his recent WaPo column, Samuelson informs us he just received his Medicare card

"recognizing my 65th birthday - and making me one of America's biggest problems. By this I mean the burden the baby boom generation will impose on its children and the nation's future".

Well, not in the case of Samuelson! See, with an income in the vicinity of $290k a year, he has the luxury to accept that Medicare card and use it, or not! He has the means (as he wrote me in one e-mail a year or so ago, in reply to my criticism of his 'baby boomers are bad for the economy' bilge) and investments that he doesn't need it - he can afford to pay for his own private care. But most of us can't. Without the insurance Medicare provides, we'd have nothing - nor would most insurance companies take many of us - even if we could afford it. In other words, minus Medicare our lives would end up being shorter, nasty and brutish - as they were for many of the elderly in the 1930s, 40s.

But in his column, Samuelson makes no distinctions -though granted he does make a passing reference to "means-testing" for the more well to do (which combined with any reduction in the FICA taxes - renders both Medicare and Social Security expendable welfare programs which can be subject to the budget axe).

As he goes on, referencing the enormous deficits created and the need to reduce them, he scribbles:

"The trouble is that hardly anyone admits accomplishing these goals will include making cuts in Social Security and Medicare. If we don't we'll be condemned to some combination of inferior policies. We can raise taxes sharply to cover expanding old age subsidies and existing government programs. Or we can accept permanently huge budget deficits."

Let's take his first big "if" and consequences. In fact taxes don't need to be increased sharply - this is a common myth. A simple extension of the FICA threshold to cover the first $500,000 of income would be more than adequate to cover Social Security through 2075 with full benefits, and Medicare through 2033. Extending the limits to $1m would improve those dates of diminishing returns by 20 and 15 years, respectively. So, it is a matter of political will- also not doing anything stupid like reducing the FICA payroll taxes which help pay for those programs - or raising the monies from Social Security for general revenue spending. Such as funding the continued farce in Afghanistan.

In terms of the second, about accepting permanently high deficits - maybe this isn't the buzz saw killer the Neolibs make it out to be. After all, wasn't it Cheney who said "Deficits don't matter!". And with the passage of this mammoth tax cut extension to all parties, maybe they don't!

Another aspect seldom considered in all this is that national governments-nations don't strictly operate like family households. Specifically, the former runs surpluses or deficits as part of natural business cycles and as one way to moderate such cycles. For example, as in the case of the recent credit meltdown triggering the 2007-09 recession - the demand side of the economy basically dried up and no one in the private sector could or would help. That left Keynesian government -originated stimulus spending as the last resort. Without that, we'd have gone into a Depression with almost 99% probability. No one thinks of that when they start screaming about Obama's "stimulus spending"!

More importantly, according to analyses by the Economic Policy Institute, debt does not constrain future growth. Indeed, even before the recession the U.S. productivity was the highest in the industrial world - and is now higher than ever with many fewer employees left to do more! Technically, even if U.S. debt were to rise to 70% or 80% of GDP in 2020 (which it likely will if we remain in Afghanistan til 2014, and the Dems and Obama punt again on the Bush tax cut extensions in 2012 - and either make them permanent or extend them 2-3 yrs) it will remain relatively moderate compared to many rich nations including Japan - which last year had a debt equal to 160% of GDP.

Bottom line here: The Neolibs are using this deficit harping and hysteria to try to fuel a frenzy to cut "entitlements".

In his column, Samuelson has the audacity to claim "little has changed" since he's been writing his columns (at least 20 years now) and adds: "Medicare premiums have increased modestly affecting about 5% of recipients"

But this is egregious. Medicare premiums have increased so much for those seniors within incomes from $40,000- 50,000 (not exactly "rich" by any standards in this country) that financial advisors are now telling those thinking of retirement (at 65) not to even remotely do it unless they have at least $245,000 set aside to cover the additional expenses not covered under any part of Medicare.

Think about THAT! Almost a quarter of a million dollars merely to cover medical expenses Medicare won't!

How many people have that kind of money saved? I warrant not one in 100. (We'd be looking at a total necessary savings of at least a half million, minimum). And now Samuelson and his Neolib pals want to exact more cuts?

In this sense, he's correct that it's "unfair" to introduce this because many might already have made financial plans for their retirement based on existing benefits and getting the money to cover those cuts. If then future cuts are made and the out of pocket costs soar to $350,000, what then? Beg, borrow or whatnot from in-laws? He says it's either do that or saddle our grandkids with endless debt and hardship.

Well, would he rather the grandkids take care of Grand dad and Grammy the rest of their days? Or would he prefer (in his Neoliberal, free market -ruled world) they just be tossed into the first convenient ditch as outliving their usefulness?

He states "we must be unfair to someone" and "to admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving the baby boomers alone."

Well, personally, I believe it demolishes the "moral case" for leaving the wealthiest alone, including awarding them with an extra $140 billion in tax cuts the next two years to blow on designer drugs, yachts, blood diamonds and Ferrari collections.

Deal with that, Mr. S., and I might take you more seriously! Else, put a sock in it and that computer of yours too!