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May 21st, 2015

Cheating Is When You Lie To Get What You Want

Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to someone’s trust anyway.  This came across my Facebook stream just  now…

bush_arrogance

 

“And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”

Never mind that the science regarding global warming is about as solid as it gets, here’s the thing about that. Jacob Bronowski in his magnificent book and BBC series on the history of science, The Ascent of Man, devoted an entire episode to the difference between truth and dogma, titled Knowledge or Certainty. He begins with the face of his friend, Stephan Borgrajewicz who, like himself, was born in Poland. And he asks us, how well, how precisely, can we describe this man’s face? He asks a painter to render it, and says…

“We are aware the these pictures do not fix the face so much as explore it; that the artist is tracing the detail almost as if by touch; and that each line that is added strengthens picture but never makes it final. We accept that as the method of the artist. But what physics has now done is to show that that is the only method to knowledge. There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.”

Science, says Bronowski, “…is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. ”

The arrogance that Bush is accusing those of us to believe the science of isn’t about the measured, careful judgements of the evidence of global warming. The arrogance we’re being accused of is to even think that science can tell us things about our world, about our universe, that the dogmas of the mob he represents cannot. There are two sides to this argument and it is not over the science, It is an argument about the nature of knowledge. One side believes that knowledge is something that is received. The other, that knowledge is something that is discovered, and which can always be challenged and discarded as new facts emerge. Whether it is religious dogma or political dogma, the practice of science rejects wholly the belief that any knowledge is certain, absolute, and can never be questioned.

That is the arrogance Bush means: that we think we can question for ourselves what the pulpit, the party leadership, the corporate interests tell us is true, and reject it if the evidence does not support it. That is not arrogance though it may seem like it to the authoritarians. It is humility. It is understanding and accepting the human status, that the god’s eye view is not ours, not anyone’s, not humanity’s to have, that every prophet who says thou shalt not question is a false prophet, that our lot in life is we must always ask ourselves what do we know, and how do we know it.

Prove to us that our understanding of global warming is incorrect. And if you can’t then tell us what authority you would have us follow, who says the fate of the human race and planet earth is of less importance than our blind obedience.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cheating Is When You Lie To Get What You Want
May 13th, 2015

For Some Reason You’re Acting Like It Hurt…

florist

“One of my favorites was Rob Ingersoll. Ingersoll came in often and we’d talk. Like me, he had an artistic eye. I’d try to create really special arrangements for him. I knew he was gay, but it didn’t matter — I enjoyed his company and his creativity…”

Yes, yes…It didn’t matter, until it did. Which is to say it always mattered, just not until that moment in a way that she was willing to be honest with him about.

And now she’s surprised that one of her favorite customers reacted with a lawsuit. That’s more telling then that she refused her services. Favorite Ingersoll may have been, but clearly not as human as herself, Otherwise She Wouldn’t Have Been Surprised. It’s how Anyone would react to having their joy of getting married, of finding in this poor lonely angry world that special someone, that wholeness of heart and body and soul, having it suddenly treated like it was a dishonorable thing. Being told your feelings toward the one you love more than anything, the one that completes you, the one you would walk through fire for, are immoral, disgusting, offensive to God. But in a nice way. Ever so politely. I took his hands and said, “I’m sorry…” It cuts you deep. Especially since, if she’s to be believed, he had understood himself to be a favorite customer of hers.

But homosexuals don’t have feelings like the rest of us and so she’s surprised. She “felt terrible” when she should have felt deeply ashamed of herself. A flower shop isn’t a church and arranging flowers isn’t a religion. If Ingersoll was just a stranger who walked in off the street wanting flowers for his wedding her behavior would have been bad enough. But see how she does not seem to grasp that boasting about how friendly she’d become with him, Despite The Fact That He Was Gay, makes the heartlessness of it worse, not better. She had been given an opportunity to see a Person not A Homosexual and she couldn’t.

This is the part so many people miss about the anger of that reaction to getting slapped in the face by prejudice. Bad enough when it comes at you from strangers. He, if she is to be believed, opened up to her in a way gay people are Still highly uncomfortable with. He trusted her. Never mind she discriminated against a customer and a fellow American. This man trusted her enough to be open about himself. He trusted her enough to share his joy with her. She betrayed a friend.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on For Some Reason You’re Acting Like It Hurt…
April 29th, 2015

How About Not Throwing So Many Of Those Fathers In Jail Then?

This came across my Facebook stream just now. It’s the kind of thing that just sets me off and I start seeing red. No…first I see a face. My Mom’s face.  Then I see red…

danger_moron_at_work

 

I was raised by a single divorced mother you drooling brick-brained ideologue and her son’s police record is a hell of a lot cleaner than your’s is.

But… But…

I had good public schools to go to…which you want to take away from America’s kids.

Even in a time when women made less than 60 cents on the dollar than a male co-worker for doing Exactly the same job my mom could still afford to raise a child back in the 50s and 60s. And that was because we had an economy that benefitted middle class and service workers like my mom. …something else you want to kill so your rich benefactors can buy more yachts. All those high paying union jobs gave paychecks to people who actually bought goods and services with them instead of gambling at the Wall Street casino. But your kind hates unions.

Mom was able to afford health care for me when it was desperately needed, after I came down with Scarlet Fever when I was 6 and then was laid up in bed for months with complications. Once upon a time working people and even a poor working single mother could afford health care for their kids. And you are trying to kill off the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Mom could afford to feed me, even on her meager salary back then. It wasn’t a fabulous diet I had back then but I never went to bed hungry. And it was reasonably healthy You want to take food stamps away from poor kids and let the food industry feed everyone else junk.

And even on that meager salary she could buy me books to read.

Face it Paul…you don’t give a good goddamn about those inner city kids. Broken homes is it you’re worried about? What ruins more marriages than money problems? You are making home life for everyone but the rich worse and worse so they can have more and more and more and you’re bellyaching that kids don’t have fathers? I’m laughing in your face. It isn’t lack of fathers that drove those kids into the streets, its lack of any concern whatsoever for the rest of America you can’t see from inside your nicely furnished cocoon. They’re just little people. If you and your kind were really concerned about them not having fathers, maybe so many of them wouldn’t be in jail right now for piddly sh*t that very few white men ever face arrest for, let alone jail time. Maybe the life those kids are looking wouldn’t be a school-to-jailhouse pipeline.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How About Not Throwing So Many Of Those Fathers In Jail Then?
March 12th, 2015

The End Of The Natural Law Excuse

This New York Times article came across my Facebook stream this morning. It’s well worth reading…

Unraveling the Church Ban on Gay Sex

Last month, Salvatore Cordileone, the archbishop of San Francisco, made controversial changes to a handbook for Catholic high school teachers in his jurisdiction. The changes included morals clauses, one of which forbids those teachers from publicly endorsing homosexual behavior. There are plausible legal and educational objections to this move. But there is a deeper issue, one that raises fundamental questions about Catholic teachings on homosexuality and other sexual matters.

Those fundamental teachings being the notion that the Catholic hierarchy can justify its dogmas about morality not merely with an appeal to supernatural authority but so-called Natural Law reasoning. The deep thinkers of this Natural Law tradition assert that morality flows…naturally…from that which makes us human and that homosexual acts can be rightly condemned simply on the basis of careful reasoning about what behavior nurtures our humanity and what behavior degrades it.

But can you can see the problem here? An understanding of what it is that makes us human is at best a work in progress. But it can also be a dandy rhetorical sleight of hand for presenting one’s bar stool opinions about human nature as settled fact when they are anything but.  And that is how it usually works with the deep thinkers of Natural Law, such as NOM co-founder Robert George, who use it as an excuse to cull gay people out of the human family. Homosexual acts are contrary to Natural Law, so the deep thinking goes, because they run counter to what makes us human, and that makes them morally objectionable and also not coincidentally a grave sin.  See? Religious dogma and science properly understood agree!

The problem as the article points out, is that a good faith search for understanding of what makes us human would seem to support not object to homosexual behavior.  But good faith is hard to come by in the Natural Law crowd, and their objections to homosexual relationships have two fatal flaws.  Gay folk if not always straight people usually see the first problem with it right away in the relentless focus on homosexual Acts.  As the article points out…

The courageous uncloseting of many homosexuals has revealed them as people like most everyone else, searching for and sometimes achieving a fulfilling human life through rich and complex relationships.

It’s our visibility that’s moved our struggle for equality forward. I’ve said this repeatedly: proving that we do not choose our sexual orientation, while it addresses many issues, does not get to the heart of it. Which is…the heart. Homophobia’s central immovable dogma is Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex. You see it running throughout the so-called Natural Law rhetoric this article discusses.  It’s always the Acts.  The heart is never considered.  It was easy once upon a time, before Stonewall, when the persecution of gay people was so relentless most gay folk stayed tightly inside the closet, to reduce our lives to the sex we have. But those days are over. The closet door has opened. And as we live our lives out in the open we are seen as every bit as human in our desires and needs as our heterosexual neighbors. That alone does the Natural Law Excuse irreparable damage.

“The natural-law argument might make some sense to those who see homosexuals as dominated by an obsessive desire for pleasure, to which they subordinate any notion of fidelity or integrity.” That is its only recourse, against which the argument that same sex sex is fundamentally sterile because it cannot lead to reproduction, but which excuses opposite sex couples who cannot naturally bear their own children is seen as hypocrisy.  There is the second fatal problem.  As the article notes, “Just trying to formulate the argument shows how strained it is.” Well…yes.  It’s strained just like every hypocritically dishonest excuse for hurting your neighbor is strained.

The fact that heterosexual couples can still love and desire each other wholeheartedly and live lives together deeply devoted to one another, absent an ability to bear children, proves the power of love over biology, which pulls the rug out from under the Natural Law dogma. And it Is dogma, because the central premise about what it is that makes us human are ultimately and irreducibly matters of religious dogma.  And the transparently bogus attempt to rationalize discrimination against same-sex couples but not sterile opposite sex ones anyway proves the intent here is not some sort of search for truth, but an excuse to hate: a little bowl of water to wash, wash, wash their hands before the multitudes of the harm they’ve done to innocent people in love. We were only doing what we thought was moral and right. No.  No you weren’t.

This is Exactly why bigots like Salvatore Cordileone and his kinfolk in the anti-gay industrial complex want so badly to shove gay people back into the closet, and silence our heterosexual friends and family. The lie that sex between same sex couples is innately selfish and sterile, that Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex, dies the instant people can see our lives and our humanity for themselves. It becomes obvious we share the same human heart the rest of humanity does.

And then the question becomes, what kind of person wants to persecute someone for being in love…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The End Of The Natural Law Excuse
March 7th, 2015

Your Evidence Does Not Reach The Conclusion You Think It Does

You know that feeling when you start reading something and your almost instantaneous reaction just a sentence or two in is, Er…no…?  Yeah.  That.  Just now.

Before I get into it let me say once again and for the record that my own atheism isn’t a reaction to the idea of religion or to any one particular religion or my experiences being raised as a Baptist or the crappy way fundamentalist Christianity treats gay people like me. I was raised in a Baptist household by a mother who loved me very much, and there is still much about the faith of my childhood I consider valuable and worthwhile and that I still hold dear…particularly that stuff about Soul Competency or Soul Liberty, which as I still understand it means we’re all capable of answering the Big Questions for ourselves, that is our right, it is our responsibility and also our obligation to Let The Other Person Do That For Themselves Too.  But I am an atheist now.  I became that when I finally admitted to myself that belief had stopped making sense to me. That’s really all there is to it.

I’m open to having my mind changed about it. I’m open to the possibility that I might one day find myself walking down Newton’s beach and finding one of those prettier than ordinary sea shells he spoke of, picking it up and finding God inside (oh there you were…). But honestly I doubt that’s going to happen. I need a reason to think there might be a greater intelligence behind the entire universe as we see it, and what is more, a reason to think that intelligence is the origin of the universe and all of creation, and that it always existed. Otherwise it’s Gods all the way down, and while I can appreciate a sublime mystery as much as the next person, basing my entire worldview on one makes the left side of my brain cranky.

I appreciate the sincerity of this man’s attempt to convince me.  However, it isn’t working.

4 Responses a Non-Scientist Christian Can Give to Science-Based Atheism

Mmmm…?

Here are four simple responses to those who say that science has either disproved God or has made belief in God unnecessary…

Er…no.  Just…right out of the gate, no. Science can demonstrate that a lot of what is written down in the Bible isn’t factual, but those are testable things like The Great Flood or the evolution of humankind. Researchers can compare biblical accounts to other historical artifacts and written accounts from those same periods. Those are testable things, which are the sort of things science preoccupies itself with. But it is not the job of science to prove Odin, Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster don’t exist either.  Make a testable claim concerning any of them and we’ll see.

As far as necessary goes, it simply isn’t necessary to believe the biblical account of creation. Belief in God isn’t necessary to cure cancer, though a lot of folks suffering it take great comfort in that belief all the same and I would not challenge that for the world, unless it was to deny someone, particularly a child (there’s a reason why Baptists don’t baptise the very young) factual science based medical care in favor of faith healing. Philosophers and theologians still argue fiercely as to whether belief in God is morally necessary. In his book Science and Human Values Jacob Bronowski makes an excellent case for the moral values the practice of science teaches…

Theory and experiment alike become meaningless unless the scientist brings to them, and his fellows can assume in him, the respect of a lucid honesty with himself. The mathematician and philosopher W. K. Clifford said this forcibly at the end of his short life, nearly a hundred years ago.

If I steal money from any person, there may be no harm done by the mere transfer of possession; he may not feel the loss, or it may even prevent him from using the money badly. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself dishonest. What hurts society is not that it should loose it’s property, but that it should become a den of thieves; for then it must cease to be a society. This is why we ought not to do evil that good may come; for at any rate this great evil has come, that we have done evil and are made wicked thereby.

This is the scientist’s moral: that there is no distinction between ends and means. Clifford goes on to put this in terms of the scientist’s practice:

In like manner, if I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous.

And the passion in Clifford’s tone shows that to him the word credulous had the same emotional force as ‘a den of thieves’

The fulcrum of Clifford’s ethic here, and mine, is the phrase ‘it may be true after all.’ Others may allow this to justify their conduct; the practice of science wholly rejects it. It does not admit the word ‘true’ can have this meaning. The test of truth is the known factual evidence, and no glib expediency nor reason of state can justify the smallest self-deception in that. Our work is of a piece, in the large and in the detail; so that if we silence one scruple about our means, we infect ourselves and our ends together.

-Jacob Bronowski “Science and Human Values” 1956

But this is different from the knowledge science reveals. Science may render dying from certain diseases unnecessary (get your shots), but to render belief in God unnecessary you need to explain what made it necessary in the first place.  If you’re telling me that belief in God is necessary to prevent rabies I would question that. If you’re saying belief in God is necessary for moral behavior I would question that but we might never reach a mutual understanding let alone agreement because first we have to agree on what moral behavior is. Some arguments are like that. If you’re telling me belief in God is necessary for a job at Baylor University well then I would have to agree with you.

So… (if you’re still bearing with me…): Four simple responses…

1) We cannot know from science if science itself is the best source of knowledge. 

The only way to definitively prove that science explains everything would be to have exhaustive knowledge of all reality, and then be able to explain (using only scientific data) what all reality is and what it means. Such a feat is impossible.

I think there’s another way of putting this: If medicine can’t cure every disease then faith healing is better.  The mistake here, and you see it a lot, is that science doesn’t actually claim to know anything. What science claims to have is a way to discover what can be known. Richard Feynman said of science simply that it is a way of not fooling ourselves. But the mistake here goes further.

In the twentieth century science developed what is now called the Principle of Uncertainty. Speaking on that, in the chapter titled Knowledge or Certainty in his series The Ascent of Man, Bronowski pummels the concept of science as being a dry storehouse of knowledge gathered in the pursuit of absolute truths. That desire for absolute truth Bronowski insists, is outright poison to the human spirit, giving rise to endless examples of human atrocities. Science is not another secular kind of dogma, science and dogma are exact opposites. And where you see that clearly is in this one brief passage:

The symbol of the University [in Göttingen] is the iron statue outside the Rathskeller of a barefoot goosegirl that every student kisses at graduation. The University is a Mecca to which students come with something less than perfect faith. It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known but to question it.

I am unaware of any religious institution where questioning the revealed knowledge therein is tolerated, or tolerated for very long. In the end, authority must prevail. But in science it is nature, by way of experiment and test, that is the authority.  Always it is nature which speaks for itself. Science is not a book of revelations about nature. It is a way of asking the questions and not fooling ourselves about the answers. That is why its answers are conditional: There may be facts we haven’t uncovered. There may be understanding we missed because we are human and we make mistakes. Think of how the proposition of continental drift was discarded because no one could see how it was possible that continents could move. It seemed absurd on its face.  And then the deep ocean was more precisely mapped and the mid ocean ridges were discovered, and the realization came about that no, the continents did not move, but the plates they were sitting on did. When we make new discoveries our understanding changes. That is not a flaw in science, it is its profound and beautiful strength.

2) Scientific consensus can and frequently does change. This limits its epistemological authority. 

This is the My Country Right Or Wrong model of authority, and the best retort to it was G. K. Chesterton’s that it was like saying My Mother Drunk Or Sober. Authority needs to be…well…authoritative. So when I was a kid the encyclopedia was the authority I consulted for my school projects. The yearly updates never made me question that authority…if anything they helped reinforce it by showing me it was a living growing thing not a dead Easter Island statue, correcting its mistakes, added fresh new things for me to learn as they became evident.  But there’s something else going on here besides the idea of authority. Epistemological is it?  Ah…you mean…Meaning.  If knowledge changes how can we hope to glean and hold on to meaning from it?

And yet meaning and knowledge aren’t so separate from one another that the falsehood of one conveys nothing to the other. Ask the children of Marx and Lenin what happens to a society that broadly accepts a model of the human identity that is false. Ask the Germans who survived the war. Ask the tombstones in Gettysburg. The intellectual authority of science is right here:

“The state of mind, the state of society, is of a piece.   When we discard the test of fact in what a star is, we discard in it what a man is.” -Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values

Which refers again to that quote from Clifford about society become credulous. It is precisely the case that the consensus of scientists change when new facts or new understandings become apparent that give the practice of science its authority over dogma that never changes and cannot be questioned.  Or as the economist John Maynard Keynes once said: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”  Lots of people just close their eyes.  There is meaning in that, but not one suitable for human societies to do anything except spiral into darkness. To survive and prosper, humanity must always ask itself What do we know, and how do we know it?  There is meaning in the honest asking of those questions. There is meaning in the bravery with which we face the answers nature reveals to us. There is meaning in our willingness to acknowledge our mistakes, and move forward. There is meaning in our willingness to not fool ourselves. Meaning is not a stone you can carve into a face that never changes, never sees what its stone eyes behold.

3) Only supernatural theism provides a rational justification of scientific work. 

I quote this one thing from his explanation of that because I think it’s the nugget…

There is little survival value in knowing, for example, the complicated workings of time–space theory, or the genus of certain insects, or the distance of Jupiter from Mars. All of these facts are pursued by scientists as being intrinsically valuable, yet they offer very little information that can help guarantee a species’ continued existence on the planet.

He offers this as a way of explaining that scientists pursue their lines of inquiry out of a supernaturally built-in innate desire to pursue truth, which he says cannot be justified on scientific principles alone. But simple human curiosity needs no supernatural explanations…we are evolved from predatory meat eating east African plains apes and the survival value of predator curiosity is not hard to understand. And if scientists know anything it’s that simple questions can have profound and unexpected ramifications when the answers come back. Science-Fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote this parable once concerning support for space exploration, but it could easily apply to any human endeavor that aspires to science…

The analogy I often use is this: if you had intelligent fish arguing about why they should go out on dry land, some bright young fish might have thought of many things but they would never have thought of fire…

To say that there is little survival value in knowing the workings of time and space or the genus of certain insects is basically to say there is little survival value in human curiosity. And it is true there are many authorities, both secular and religious, that like nothing more than stifling that most basic human of urges. Particularly when it comes to questioning Their authority, and all the dogmas it is built upon.  The search for truth begins with a question, whereas a set of received answers serves only to suffocate it.

4) Only supernatural theism gives us assurance that real scientific knowledge is possible.

Here he reaches for a “philosopher” for some help (yes the scare quotes are deliberate)…

If human beings are a more evolved species of primate, then our cognitive faculties (ie, the parts of our body and mind that allow us to be rational creatures) have evolved out of lesser cognitive faculties. But, Plantinga says, if God does not exist, then the only factors that affected human evolution are time and chance. Based on time and chance alone, why should we be confident that our rational minds–which are merely the sum of lesser evolved minds plus time and chance–are actually rational at all?

Well speaking as a Cold War baby you could certainly argue that Mutually Assured Destruction makes a pretty strong case against humanity being more highly evolved and rational than the lesser evolved brains of howling tree monkeys. How rational is it to destroy nearly all life on earth as an act of self defense? On the other hand, howling tree monkeys don’t produce nuclear weapons either.

Yes there is as the “philosopher” he quotes says, “a tension” inherent in our evolutionary nature. And you not only see that tension in the headlines of your daily newspaper every day of the year, but also in the thousands of years of recorded human history that came before. Which would also include the Bible. Witch stonings anyone? But this is exactly what evolution would predict. Evolution doesn’t erase the old and replace it with the new, it builds the new right on top of the old. The lesser evolved is within us also.  We bear within us every day of our lives, the living history of millions of years of life on Earth.  It can lift the cities high. It can also burn them to the ground. Murderous religious extremists calling themselves ISIS are currently on a rampage destroying priceless ancient artifacts because the very existence of those ancient works of art and human culture challenges and offends them. There’s the lizard brain at work. But it was the more evolved human brain that made those artifacts in the first place. Along with the AK-47s the men of ISIS have slung over their shoulders.

Tension?  Oh yes. But if the darkness was all there was to us, there wouldn’t Be civilization. We are not fallen angels, we are risen apes. There is hope for us. But only to the extent we keep asking that question so central to the practice of science, What do we know, and how do we know it, and by the courage with which we face the answers we discover.

He finishes by referring to Nagel, that “It makes no sense to assume that humans can really make sense of their world on a conceptual level if human consciousness arose out of the very world it responds to.” But that is what makes perfect sense. A being that evolved in an entirely different different universe with a different physical nature might find this one close to impossible to grasp. Think of that classic thought experiment of the two dimensional being trying to make sense of a three dimensional world. The fact that we’re capable of understanding this universe well enough to create the civilization we have is itself evidence that our evolutionary lineage is firmly rooted here not elsewhere.

You can wave your hands and say, but a supernatural force could have done that too, and I’d have to agree. But the simpler explanation is we were born here, we grew up here, and that’s why we fit in here.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Your Evidence Does Not Reach The Conclusion You Think It Does
February 13th, 2015

Christianity’s Identity Crisis: Older Than You Think

This came across my Facebook Stream this morning…

What Many Christians Can’t See About The Culture War

On any given day you can find endless social media chatter among Evangelical Christians debating “culture”, and the “culture wars”, and lots and lots of talk of us, “fighting the culture”. There’s recently been a great deal of similar discussion surrounding the promotional push for a new book by popular pastor David Platt, whose forthcomingCounter Culture, seeks to once again position Christianity (as represented by The Church) as the sole solution to our numerous societal ills. I’ve really enjoyed Platt’s past books, and have found inspiration and wisdom in them.

The premise of Platt’s latest is a fine one, and it echoes the ministry and message of so many of those sharing his overall theological perspective; that Jesus was always counter-cultural, and so the Christian Church is called to be that as well.

So many American evangelicals have existed for so long in a materialistic, affluent, largely white, male-dominated religious bubble, that they mistakenly believe they are by default, living out the radical, upside-down mission of Jesus…

It’s a good read, and for me especially when he writes this:

When Rome commandeered Christianity, it affixed to the faith something it was never meant to be marked by: Power.

I think this may actually be the first time I’ve ever seen anyone mark the beginning of the decline of Christianity as being when the Roman Emperor Constantine made it the official imperial religion (in exchange naturally, for helping him win a war). I’ve been thinking this for years now. But it was inevitable. What Ta-Nehisi Coates said a week or so ago about how “The interest in power is almost always accompanied by the need to sanctify that power” is obvious yet it keeps needing repeating. Christianity could never keep speaking truth to power without power eventually co opting it. Power is always attracted to power, for the sake of power. The more powerful Christianity’s message became among the common folk, the more attractive it would inevitably become to The Establishment of any age. So Constantine overthrew the old gods, and not so coincidentally rivals to the throne who followed them, and Christianity became the very thing its founder hated most of all, a religion of the establishment. The Pharisees put down their Torahs and picked up their Bibles, spoke in Latin to the masses, and served the new boss, same as the old boss…

The political sway, the financial storehouses, the abuses of power, the gender disparities, the gentrification, and the bullying dominance of the marginalized, which so often characterize the Church today; these all embody a huge part of the culture that Jesus was running counter to.

You can argue that the religion of Jesus of Nazareth never died, but is reborn in every person who takes his teachings to heart and walks his walk. Yes. Just so. But that is not the religion of the Establishment and the high priests of that Christianity take no prisoners. Ask them in South and Central America what happened when Christianity threatened to actually become the champion of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast. It had to happen. The surprising thing is to finally see with clarity how long ago it was that it happened. The risk in speaking truth to power isn’t you are led to the gallows, but to the throne. The king is anointed by God, and it’s good to be God.

megachurch

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Christianity’s Identity Crisis: Older Than You Think
January 20th, 2015

I Don’t Like Displays Of Heterosexuality Either. Especially When Homosexuals Are Doing It Too.

The other day Billy Crystal, whose stereotypical gay character on Soap was supposed to represent some sort of big gay TV breakthrough, was seen bellyaching that now there’s Too Much gay visibility on TV

“I did it in front of a live audience,” recalls Billy of Soap, “and there were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], ‘Bob, “I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, ‘What is your problem?’ Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then. And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face — well, that sounds terrible — to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing.”

But of course making it feel like an everyday kind of thing is exactly what gay people in the audience back then, who had to listen to that laughter in their own lives if they were lucky, and outright hostility and violence when they weren’t, would have loved to see happen.  And now that it is, some people who we may have thought were with us on that, are showing us once again that it’s one thing to talk the talk and another to actually mean it.

And he’s shocked, shocked, to find himself getting static for it now

After facing quite a bit of backlash on social media, Crystal doubled down, claiming he doesn’t understand “why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either visually…now, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don’t want to see that either. But when I feel it’s a cause, when I feel it’s ‘You’re going to like my lifestyle,’ no matter what it is, I’m going to have a problem.”

No matter what it is…  No matter what it is…  No matter what it is…  What it is would be gay Billy.  That’s what it is.  And we don’t have a lifestyle, we have lives.

How often have I heard this standard excuse whenever someone bellyaching about the visibility of gay sexuality gets called out for being prejudiced. Oh no…I am against heterosexual public displays too. Yeah, right, so why didn’t anyone hear you complaining about that before now? Why was it only when the TV starting singing a few gay stanzas of the same fucking song it’s been singing about heterosexuality for decades did you decide to start yapping about it?

Let me hazard a guess…because sexuality on the TV screen didn’t bother you until the gays started acting like they had something to be proud of in that department too.

No matter what it is.

Never mind.  There is a bigger issue here and thankfully that Think Progress article touches on it.  The essential homophobia of the big Hollywood studios needs open acknowledgement and discussion, and not just in retrospect, because that is why gay visibility is next to nil in a Hollywood product and even when it happens, even when they toss us a scrap off the table, is cheap, stereotyped, and nearly always sexually emasculated.  This really needs emphasising: the studio heads would rather not offend the heartland bigots, not because they are afraid for their ratings and profits, but because they share the cheapshit prejudices of those heartland bigots.

Let’s talk about shoving sexuality in faces Crystal…Hollywood has been shoving a vision of a world without gays in the faces of gay people for generations without any shred of concern for the effect it has had on us, on our families or or the communities we live and work in.  Oh yes, there have been the usual homosexual psychopaths and pathetic limp wristed faggots, but as Vito Russo famously said, “There have never been lesbians or gay men in Hollywood. Only homosexuals.” And even today Hollywood Still tip-toes around our very existence, giving us castrated gay-vague characters at best, cheapshit toss away stereotypes at worst, and they think they’re brave for doing even that much. This is long after other entertainment media have acknowledged and embraced us as a part of the audience.

You want to see three-dimensional, fully realized human gay characters, pick up a book, a comic book, go see a live performance of a play, or listen to some pop music. In Hollywood John Wayne is still rolling in his grave and retrograde attitudes like Crystal’s are just the part that gets said in public, and in private what Truman Capote once said is still true today: a faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room.

Let me add a personal note, because February and Valentine’s Day are coming soon and this is absolutely the worst time of the year for me, Bruce Garrett, one lonely sixty-one year old gay man whose love life looks in retrospect as though it was doomed the moment I hit puberty.  I’ll get around to my annual Valentine’s Day venting about that later, or if you feel like taking a stroll through an empty wasteland you can go read some of the posts I’ve written about trying to find a boyfriend in a world that wants people like me to not exist.

Some days you find yourself getting really angry at something and you know that most other people probably think you’re taking it too much to heart. Hey, come On, it’s just some guy who was on Hollywood Squares once…  But entire generations of gay people had their love lives throttled because of homophobia and the enforced invisibility that came with it. The closet was a place you both put yourself into, and were put into.  And in there your heart slowly withered and died, tastefully out of sight, so that others didn’t have to see the sewer they made of their own souls for doing that to their neighbors. What should have been one of life’s most perfect joys was taken from some of us and turned it into ashes.  And even today, even now, for so many of us but especially those of us who were just coming of age when Stonewall happened, that’s all there is now. Ashes. And the knowledge that it didn’t have to be, that there was never anything wrong with us, only adds to the grief…and the anger.

Don’t like it when gay sexuality is shoved in your face Crystal?  Hahahahahaha…  Live for a few hours with the empty place inside of me where there should have been love and joy and peace and contentment Crystal, and then with the tens of thousands of others like me who had to grow up with your ignorant bar stool prejudices suffocating our hopes and dreams.  So you played gay on TV did you?  Ever wonder why your fellow actors who are gay are Still scared to death to touch those rolls?  Ever wonder why gay kids are Still killing themselves?  Ever wonder why the parents of gay kids are Still forcing them into ex-gay therapy?  Try a mirror. Then look at your name, along with all the others in the industry you spent your life working in, written on the bottomless misery that taught audiences to cheer and applaud when a man kills another man and be shocked and offended when a man loves another man.

[Edited a tad for clarity…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Don’t Like Displays Of Heterosexuality Either. Especially When Homosexuals Are Doing It Too.
December 10th, 2014

Staring Into The Pit…

I link to Andrew Sullivan reluctantly, Very reluctantly, but I have to give credit where it’s due too. This livestreaming he did on the torture report is very good, the outrage in it genuine and worth sharing. You should feel that outrage too.

Darkness Visible: Live-Blogging The Torture Report

“The barbarism was the very opposite from a few bad apples at the bottom of the pile, as they tried to persuade us at Abu Ghraib. The bad apples were at the very top of the chain of command, rotting this country’s reputation and honor from the top down. And those begin with Bush and Cheney and Tenet. They are now wanted men. And they will go abroad again – at their legal peril. And so America becomes a legal sanctuary for war criminals. As long as they are our war criminals.”

Like a lot of Americans, I believe in that liberty and justice for all stuff, and government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I want so much to be proud of the way my country embodies those principles. Civilization stands or falls on them. But it is not always so. Just ask the native Americans, just ask the sons and daughters of the slaves, just ask the peaceful protestors of any decade who felt the club and the boot. Mary Renault, at the end of her novel about the poet Simonides, wrote “In all men evil is sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.” That sense we often feel among us, of American exceptionalism, ought rightly to impart a sense of obligation, as something every generation is called to live up to, because we are human after all, and with the potential for great good comes the potential for great evil. But too often powerful evil people manage to turn that sense of ourselves and our purpose into cheap bar stool nationalism, an excuse to congratulate ourselves as we look the other way at the evil done in our name, in the name of our country. They need to be held accountable. Or history will hold us accountable, and laugh at all the times we waved our flag as if it stood for anything more than a place on a map.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Staring Into The Pit…
October 29th, 2014

Come, Let Us Reason Together. No…Not You…

The Southern Baptists are still trying to figure out what to do about The Homosexual Menace

ERLIC Conference On Homosexuality

The Christian Post is reporting that there has been plenty of healthy and outspoken debate on the issue of “the homosexual lifestyle” at a conference hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Commission in Nashville. Much of the debate has taken place on Twitter (#ERLC2014).

The conference is live streaming.

The Christian Post describes it as a conference to address “…how Christians should react to the ongoing battle between those framing the homosexual lifestyle debate as a civil rights issue and those supporting what they believe to be biblical moral values, including traditional marriage…” Oh…is that what it’s all about is it?  Guess who was invited…

And guess who wasn’t…

As the Christian Post would have you see it, the conference attracted “plenty of fireworks” mostly on “social media”.  But Theocrat In Chief  and Baptist Pope in Waiting Richard Land stood firm…

“The gay community is never going to find the Evangelical response satisfactory because we’re not going to accept their behavior.”

Their behavior.  Their behavior.  Their behavior. Still can’t see the people for the homosexuals can you Richard.  And you never will.  But is that “the Evangelical response” or is it simply the knee jerk dance of the irredeemable bigot? You lost this fight decades ago Richard. Those voices outside the doors Richard…do you hear the people sing…?

Back before there was a commercially open Internet…back in the stone knives and bear skins days of DOS PCs, 800 baud Modems and dial up BBS systems, I saw the world change right before my eyes. Before home computers had powerful multi-tasking operating systems, back when 640k of system ram was considered more than most people would ever need or use, little computer bulletin board systems sprang up everywhere. At first, they just connected the people in their local dialing area. Then in the mid 1980s some of them banded together into an amateur computer network called FidoNet.  Back in those days I was on a local BBS system that had a gay Fidonet echomail board called Gaylink. It had participating BBS systems on it all over the world. I had an uncle back then who was a HAM radio operator. He kept trying to interest me in taking up the hobby, telling me about all the people all over the world he was able to communicate with via shortwave radio.  And I kept trying to tell him about all the people all over the world I was communicating with via FidoNet. The world was changing before my eyes.  Still, as a young gay man, I knew there were things that would never change.  And then they did.

Gaylink was mostly a social forum. We chatted about this and that…a little politics, a little dishing. It never really got very serious. One day a message from a BBS in the Netherlands appeared. It was short and to the point:

I’m 14 years old. I think I might be gay but I’m not sure. How did you know about yourself? What was it like?

And from literally all over the world this kid began getting coming out stories. Not the one where you come out to family and friends. The one where you come out to yourself.

Some of them were painful to read. Some were hopeful. Some were amazingly nonchalant. There were folks whose parents disowned them. There were others whose parents completely accepted them. Some people struggled for years with it. Others seemed to have always known and accepted it. There was romance. There was heartbreak. I sat down and for the first time ever, really thought about my own experience coming to terms with my sexual orientation and wrote it down for this kid and the whole world to see. And I could sense that something…wonderful…was happening.

It went on for two weeks. We never heard a peep from the kid throughout that entire time. And the stories, from all over the world, from people in all walks of life, just kept coming and coming. We all began talking to each other, seeing common threads in our lives that we all had, which set us apart from the heterosexual majority. Seeing those things that made each of us unique and at the same time those things we all seemed to share, no matter where we lived, no matter what culture we were raised in. Then the kid spoke up one last time:

Thank you. You’ve all given me a lot to think about.

That was it. We never heard another word from him. Maybe we gave him what he needed to accept himself. Maybe he was just confused about his own awakening sexuality, and what it meant to be homosexual. At that age, who knows? Maybe he wasn’t what he represented himself to be. That was as easy then as it is now. But as I watched that event unfold I realized that there had to also be hundreds of others, maybe even thousands, all over the world, generation upon generation, watching that conversation, hungry for those same answers to that kid’s question.  And I saw it then, what this new technology could do for us as a people. We no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes.

Now look at this again…

But they have their voices now.  And they will use them. We will speak our truths to the world, and we will be heard. Weep for the old days Richard Land, when you could tell us lies about ourselves from the pulpit you were thumping and we believed them because yours was the only voice we could hear. They are gone. You kept gay voices out of your conference, but you couldn’t silence them outside of it. And that is the reality bigots like you have had to deal with for decades now, since all there was for an online social space were the first primitive personal computers and some modems. Your song and dance took place, fittingly, at the Opryland Hotel. An actual conference was held in the virtual street outside. You can keep gay voices out of your church. You can keep them out of your theology. But you can’t keep them in the closet. Not anymore.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Come, Let Us Reason Together. No…Not You…
October 20th, 2014

Useful Idiots

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

the difference

This.

IMO the constitution does confer a right to individual citizens to own their own firearms. IMO the right to own your own firearms is an eminently democratic right. I own a few myself, though I’m not an NRA member (have you Seen the people they endorse for public office??).   And every time I hear someone babbling that private gun ownership is a check on government power, that it was intended by the founders to prevent tyranny, I just want to scream.

The ballot box is our check on government power! Without that America is a lost dream of liberty and justice for all and it won’t matter how many guns you own.  How can anyone seriously think a disorganized armed rebellion can possibly succeed against a government that has, never mind the shear force it can bring to bear on a situation, the vast array of intelligence gathering technology it can put to use. They weren’t shooting everyone right and left in East Germany during the cold war.  They didn’t need to.  They just watched…everyone.

It is pure absolute genius how the tyrannical right manipulates this issue so they can keep chipping away at access to the ballot box. Do you approve? Do you think they won’t come after your vote too? Do you think that when Those Awful Other People can’t vote anymore you’ll finally get your country back? Lenin had a way of describing people like you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Useful Idiots
October 13th, 2014

Disease Vector

Ebola Vaccine Would Likely Have Been Found By Now If Not For Budget Cuts: NIH Director

Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
-Grover Norquist

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disease Vector
August 13th, 2014

The Gutter Speaks…

“He had it all, but he had nothing. He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside. I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has. Talk about low expectations and general happiness and so forth…”  – Rush Limbaugh on the death of Robin Williams.

I would rather suffer the burden Robin Williams had and let it beat me down like it did him, than endure that empty void Limbaugh has where a conscience ought to be and let it put a smile on my face while it tells me I’m so much better than all those bleeding hearts.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Gutter Speaks…
July 31st, 2014

There Was Never A Cure Because There Never Was A Sickness

Two years ago in a post here I wrote

There is nothing wrong with homosexuals.  That is a simple statement of fact.  Not opinion.  Fact.  Well researched, well established, scientific fact. And it has been well established fact for quite a very long time.  If you were born in the 1960s or later, then this fact is older then you are.

The science that shows there is nothing psychologically wrong with gay people has a pedigree going back at least half a century now. But it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from their catalogue of mental illnesses.  In that same year, the very first ex-gay ministry, Love In Action, was founded in San Francisco.  And soon after that, the first ex-gay suicide.  Jack McIntyre wrote the following just before he killed himself…

To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.

So to keep himself right with God he killed himself. Others simply retreated into a living death of the soul.  They went deep into the closet, married against their nature, lived lives of quiet desperation. Or they embraced the lie and threw themselves into the sexual gutter. Human filth they believed they were, they consigned their sex lives to the public toilets and back alleys. There are many ways to put the knife into your own heart because you can’t bear its pain, but then tomorrow comes anyway and you have to do it all over again.

We were taught to hate ourselves. And the more we hated ourselves, the more painful our lives became which we were constantly told was proof that homosexuality was a sickness and to be homosexual was to be broken. But there was nothing wrong with us.  There was never anything wrong with us.  Science proved it decades ago.  Perhaps science could have better served us all by discovering what it is that makes a person a bigot rather than what it is that makes someone homosexual.  But now at least, the grotesque dance of hate is coming to an end…

Exclusive: 9 Former Ex-Gay Leaders Join Movement To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

Nine former ex-gay leaders, from organizations like Exodus International and ministries like Love in Action, have signed onto a letter in partnership with the National Center for Lesbian Rights calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy and saying that LGBT people should be celebrated and embraced for who they are.

“At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these ‘ex-gay’ programs, we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters,” they said in the letter. “Together we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy. We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBT youth.”

You can read their full letter at the link above.  These are among those who inflicted the wounds and now ask forgiveness and I can appreciate that forgiveness for some may be impossible. This is why I can’t stand people that like to yap about how Christianity has made their lives so much Easier.  Christianity is goddamn hard and I am no Christian. But I know this: it isn’t faith the size of a mustard seed that redeems, it’s love.  That’s all you need. When the roll call of the dead and wounded is read, remember kindly, if it is in you to, the ones who could not at long last silence their heart’s voice, because the ones who can say “enough” despite their own guilt are civilization’s final hope. Keep them apart in your thoughts from the ones who kept on doggedly with it to the bitter end, because there was no heart to silence within them, just that empty void which is the end of the world.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on There Was Never A Cure Because There Never Was A Sickness
June 6th, 2014

The Degeneration Of The Republican Party

In 2004 they swift boated a presidential candidate. In 2014 they’re swift boating a POW.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Degeneration Of The Republican Party
May 21st, 2014

A Wee Question…

I’ve said this before, much to the distress of some liberal/progressive friends, but here it is again: I have no problem with private gun ownership, I see it as an eminently democratic right, IMO the second amendment does confer a right to individual Americans to own guns, and yes as a matter of fact I own a few myself. And I take responsibility for owning them seriously as I do my automobile. I obey the laws. I concern myself with safety. And I have nothing but contempt for people who use them recklessly, even if they’re not actually breaking the law. That goes for guns, automobiles…anything people use that can do harm to other people.

I’m an American liberal. I believe that public spaces convey public obligations. From respect for the environment to seemingly mundane day-to-day things like traffic safety, the common public spaces we share together are a mutual responsibility…and at minimum that means they are safe to use.   Or to put it another way, the common ground that is too dangerous to occupy is more properly called a Battlefield.  The last time the shared common spaces of Americans became battlefields we called it a Civil War and it killed more Americans than all our other wars put together.

As a liberal I go even further and insist that even the private workplaces must be at minimum safe to occupy too, since we all need to work to earn a living. I grant that some occupations are very dangerous but also very necessary for the good of all.  That said, working in a fast food restaurant, let alone eating in one, does not strike me as one of those occupations.

So I hear Chipotle wants customers to not bring their guns inside their restaurants. So while I’m shrugging my shoulders and and thinking to myself, so much so reasonable, and moving on apparently other people are bursting veins and threatening boycotts.

What the hell is wrong with you? Just…what the hell is wrong with you? No…Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?

If Chipotle said they wanted gays to stay out of their restaurants because Jesus! you’d be dog piling on it like you did Chick-fil-A. You’re bellyaching that same-sex marriage is going to destroy civilization….

…Does This Fucking Look Like Civilization To You!

They say guns don’t kill people, people do. And that’s true. It’s always the person. The idol is always false. We give meaning to our material objects, they don’t give meaning to us. A weapon, any weapon, finely, skillfully, beautifully made, by a master craftsman, is a noble thing. Until the moment a runt gets their hands on it. Because runts don’t build civilizations, they tear them down so they don’t have to know what runts they are.  But let it be said that, unlike those two, not all runts look like they’ve spent their entire lives in mom’s basement.  These guys for instance, bear a heavy responsibility for the decay of American society…

All these voices on the right bellyaching about Morals and Traditional Values, and Social Decay and really they don’t give a good goddamn about any of it. None of it at all. They get up on their stages in their suits and ties and slicked down hair and they wave the flag and talk about law and order and it’s all bullshit.  Behold the new minutemen at the battle of Chipotle!  I have a question…

Thank you NRA for turning a pastime that brought pleasure and even taught a few values to thousands of Americans into an idol for anti-government troglodytes. Thank you for turning the basic democratic right to own your own gun into a totem for ignorance and hate…the very things that kill democracy. You don’t love this country. You don’t even love guns. What you love is power. You loath the peace and prosperity and brighter future Americans have always sought, if it means everyone can have a share of it too. You’d rather it all came crashing down into anarchy and chaos if it means everyone can dream the American dream too, not just powerful white men.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Question…
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