Demanding Perfection

Posted by Jim Newman on November 10th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in religion, Sexism

perfectionI am taking my daughters to the Concert for Valor in DC. Concerts are so expensive and our budget is so tight that our children have not been to concerts other than at small local venues. Seeing live music has become so expensive it has become out of reach for many. This concert is free but for gas and metro which is still a decent hit to our budget. I worked the weekend to take the day off. I suppose the concert is controversial because why support troops? Well because they die for a job and a cause many, even they, don’t believe. A recent interview of a returned soldier on NPR noted that most of his fellow soldiers don’t believe in the war they are fighting, but rather each other. The friendships soldiers form are often lifelong. When a fellow soldier dies it can be as devastating as losing a close friend or relative back home. The trauma remains for years and often life.

During the Vietnam war it was popular to shun soldiers, and burn draft cards, while wearing flags and military jackets. That was more a FU than a sympathy. Soldiers were supposed to go AWOL and recruits leave for Canada, as my wife at the time said I must do if my name came up. I find this troubling. Yet, protesting a war can be a way of wanting to save people from death and harm in fighting. Yet, it is near impossible to watch others die in political predating and not wish to help. I see ISIS and I want war. I see death and I wish our soldiers could stay home. I see immigrants crossing the border and I want to give them shelter. Another side of me wants to turn them around, give them an AK-7, and send them back to change their country. Of course, it’s never so easy.

A troubling aspect of growing political didacticism and partisanship is the demand for perfection. It is very much like the feminism with which I grew up. The importance of relationships and political purity almost demanded a predatorial like-mindedness. So and so isn’t really a feminist. We won’t associate with her or them anymore. I saw the same later in environmentalism where if you didn’t recycle you were some sort of bad person because it’s just so easy to recycle. Never mind that that person might have donated 10% of their income to an environmental organization, or just might be over the top in the world, barely able to make food after work.This movable line in the sand has grown deeper and wider over time.

Now, if someone screws up they should lose their job, lose their family, and be punished for life. Meanwhile they talk about love, tolerance, and restorative justice. I don’t see how incapacitating a person’s income or social potential for life is in any way helpful. Nor do I see how ostracism, excommunication, and social shunning are any different than the high school clique wars that so many complained harmed them–it would seem they learned and joined the dark side, just a different group shunning. How on Earth can there be rehabilitation if we have marked people for life and put them in a permanent class beneath us?

Tristan Madden notes this inconsistency in religion.

For a long time, I struggled over the question of capital punishment. It didn’t seem right to end a person’s life, but it was often for that very reason these people were condemned to die. Being raised Catholic, I had grown up in a culture of moral absolutism. There was no gray area, because God clearly dictated what was good and what was bad. And while I was taught to separate the sin from the man, I would have been ill-advised to express any kind of pity for a serial rapist, for example, outside the context of Mass or Sunday school.

I noticed that in Mass, people would nod eagerly when the priest spoke of redemption and forgiveness, but when it came to murderers, rapists and similar offenders, these people who had so vigorously nodded their heads in Mass often refused to extend forgiveness. And I was the same way.

I believed people should be given a second chance, but I felt there were some people who were beyond redemption. I believed all humans should have a chance to repent, but the kind of people who were being executed, I reasoned, were something other than human. They were monsters who had sacrificed their humanity when they committed their heinous crime.

As another popular example now. I hate rape. I don’t even understand it psychologically. Yet, the current move to expel rapists from their occupations, schools, and families ensures the continuation of the condemnation for life as an underclass, never to be worthy of any kind of respect again. No amount of prison or restitution matters. It’s just not possible. This is social justice? How they hell can anyone change in isolation? A victim can only recover if they know their oppressor has a scarlet letter emblazoned on their chest and better if they are sent to the streets never to be seen again in polite company. This isn’t closure. It’s revenge and vengance. Perfectionism creates an atmosphere of crippling fear.

It is a steroidal version of debates about atheist leaders like Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris and others where on various levels they have been found wanting and should no longer be followed or supported because they apparently have nothing to say to anyone any more of any value. The same with women who have ambiguous stories like Lena Dunham who many call a sexual predator and should now be excommunicated because everything she says or does must be poisoned. Let’s just impoverish her and make her homeless. We don’t even really know the facts of the case and yet we judge fatally with the rapidity of a tweet.

Maybe we should just shoot these people as studies have long shown than ostracism, shunning, and excommunication often feel, are, worse than death, and usually do lead to a kind of living death. Just as solitary confinement ruins people in prison for life and creates permanent criminals, psychologically screwed for life. One reason why shame-based cultures are even more powerful than guilt-based cultures.

The only thing that can come of this are lies, subterfuge, and the creation of private worlds that few know but all fear because we just don’t trust anyone anymore. it reminds me of a police ranger friend of mine who said everyone is a criminal. When called on it he said everyone has the potential to be a criminal. Isn’t the potential the point. Isn’t the ability to get over it why we don’t just shoot them?

My mother who helped form university-based child care and was an activist in women’s groups used to say the last perfect man died 2,000 years ago. She saw her friends getting swallowed in shame and guilt. I don’t think she really believed in Jesus at that point in her life but she got that demanding perfection of others harms all of us. At some point that gaze will come your way and no one can withstand it.

Jim Newman, www.froniersofreason.com

Is Religion Disappearing?

Posted by Jim Newman on November 7th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Uncategorized

religion disappearingLawrence Krauss says religion will disappear in a generation. A decade or so Daniel Dennett said religion would be pretty well gone by now. Others say a critical mass will cascade into rejection. Even the best minds are not able to analyze large numbers well, and fall prey to optimism bias. It is easy to compress tremendous amounts of information into neat stories and small numbers–the logic is quick and the implementation is slow. These stories in our heads sound so good we fall prey to them. Oprah implied a similar thing saying that we would just have to survive some racists. Many victims of racism hold onto their history not only as a fetish but as motivation to continue change in a better but not best world.

What we need to do is present comparative religion as a bunch of interesting historical anecdotes, and show the silly reasons why they did what they did,” Krauss said at an Aug. 29 dinner presentation on cosmology and education at the Victorian Skeptics Cafe in Melbourne, Australia, in response to a question about religion being taught in schools. The video of his response was uploaded on Monday to YouTube.

Dennett also famously said comparative religion should be taught in schools. Cynics have noted that how comparative religion classes would be taught makes all the difference. In a less threatening example consider the desire to teach English. Previous to Common Core, the school standard was to teach a canon of literature with critical analysis. Now the intent is to teach more nonfiction with critical analysis. Just how do we control how the education unfolds?

Quality education is difficult. Having been in technical education publications for a couple of decades I can attest to how difficult it is to teach even basics to everyone equally. Even something simple. Yesterday, my daughter asked me what all the symbols on her digital camera meant. It has programmed settings, custom settings, and a fully automatic setting, for essentially two variables, aperture and shutter speed (ISO or sensitivity is also in there but I left that out for now). Yet these two variables affect depth of focus, ability to capture speed of movement, darkness of final image, and more. When I finished she said she understood it and noted that a relative, a Phd educator and psychologist, hadn’t succeeded before. I asked whether it was the iteration–maybe the second time just took. No, it was the explanation she said.

My high school daughter brings home these huge history texts and shows me her tests which I suspect most adults would fail. Years ago while living on a boat I tried to teach my spouse electricity. The difference between voltage, amperage, and resistance never ever clicked. Yet, I agree that anyone can learn math, music, physics, or pretty much whatever. What kills the process is the focus of instruction, the motivation of the student, and the variable of time needed to learn.

How many adults would completely fail most of their Junior High School courses if given tests now? I often see posts on how the majority of Americans couldn’t pass a US Naturalization test. How often do we read of people who don’t even know the three branches of their government? The joke of not understanding how to attach a DVD player? Educators often discuss the exercise of education as being more helpful than the content. You don’t have to remember the details but if you know how to analyze or lean you can apply that elsewhere–as opposed to the banking system of education where you learn facts that can be useful later.

For these reasons many prefer stories and tactile education to get the point across. The issue here is stories are just that stories–whether it’s the Big Band or the hand of creation. Whether they are true or not is irrelevant. Whether you say different religions are all sacred or just social anecdotes is unimportant. They are just stories. It is essentially this bias that caused many people to consider ideas as separate from reality or to say there is no reality and all is idea, in the head. Whatever we think or learn comes across as a story and its relation to the world is tenuous at best. Jacobsen, in the article cited above, concurs (but places this fact in respect to religion alone).

“It’s not about believing dumb things that are false,” he says, “It’s about a quest for human meaning and purpose. A lot of times that quest is expressed in the form of stories.”

Of course those stories could be of reason, science and logic.

Nassim Taleb writes that the issues in the Levant have near nothing to do with religion and all to do with culture and culture clash. The religious discussion is just a means of talking about modernity, European secularism, and social autonomy. For example, many men don’t go to war because they want virgins or some such, they go because they want something vital and important in their lives. They maybe even talk about the virgins or some such but it’s really about vitality, self worth, and identity.

This is reinforced by recent reports of Westerners of all ilk leaving their countries to join ISIS. I have met many young US men that want to go to war or even become mercenaries simply because they want to increase a sense of self value and social value–to do something that seems valuable and vital. As well as many of them saying they want to fight. Some love combat. One young man who worked for me tested at the top of the ability tests but chose infantry so he could fight. He loved fighting and not harming people vitiated the honesty of competition in his mind–why learn martial arts if they aren’t martial? The military itself discusses the value of war to test themselves and weapons which cannot be met in simulation.

I don’t fully agree with Taleb just as I don’t fully agree that overpopulation or economics causes the immediate motivations of people but it is clear that neither  survival or education are going to be effective as we wish. It’s just the only way without resorting to full on oppression.

Look at how some say honesty is a value beyond compare but others say we all live lies by necessity and it’s counterproductive to insist on honesty. An example of how we use history is the  big lie many use to justify removing slavery because it wasn’t effective. Slaves were slow, dumb, and died early because abuse kills ability. The truth is beating the crap out of someone actually does make them work a lot harder than promising them labor wages. The abuse must continue for it to work. It’s a psychological truth that people run from fear faster than they run to reward. Yet, we went to remove any justification for slavery for fear of its return even if in a historical narrative as anecdote. Relate that to modern economic structures where people work not really for love but because you can’t live in this world without being employed. The lie is to think if you work at something you love that justifies that you have to work is benevolent.

The lie, or story, has to fail in practice and the development of relationships are the most effective means of creating change.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Atheism as Religion in Law, Cicero Lives

Posted by Jim Newman on November 5th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Church and State, religion

religionThis is the time of year where my get and go has done got up and went. Demotivation from work stress, increasing cold, and short days makes it difficult for me to even know about, much less achieve, the many things to be done. This spirals into depression where self-criticism rules and it becomes difficult not to see fault in near everything, and to feel how near everything really needs to change to make the world and me better.

That this midterm election was perhaps the most important one since Eisenhower didn’t help. The growing trend towards conservatism makes it worse in my case, since I have few leanings towards it anymore. That Obama has spent less money than any president since Eisenhower, as reported by Forbes, doesn’t help. One reason is it’s a bald-faced lie to say Obama has been the biggest spender in history and another is the recovery would have occurred faster and better if Obama could have injected money into the work force and created incentives for businesses to relieve their hoarding. Not to mention less tax relief for the uberwealthy.

Cicero’s brother wrote a little book “How to Win an Electiontelling Cicero to basically promise anything, appeal to the privileged, flatter all,  surround yourself with support, be a chameleon, and accuse opponents of sex scandals. This perhaps apocryphal book almost seems like a parody right down to it being written by a scoundrel brother to a politician that promoted honesty, virtue, and restraint. Yet, Cicero, in his later works speaks of ambition, ruthlessness, and temptation as constant motivations in his life. Note that Karl Rove recommended this book on the cover of Freeman’s edition but Garry Wills blasted the book for being disingenuous to real politics. What do you think? It seems the practice of honesty is a virtue only if you’re surrounded by like minded people…

Much like including atheist displays on public property as equal time with religious displays, a Federal District court allowed an atheist prison inmate to form a a humanist group.

In a decision issued Thursday, Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty ruled that prison officials violated inmate Jason Holden’s constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments, and moved to recognize secular humanism as a religion for “Establishment Clause purposes.”

This seems like a victory, a big victory. Especially since prisons use religions so strongly that there are virtually no atheists in prison. Which doesn’t necessarily mean there are no atheists in prison but you aren’t allowed to be one.

The case, co-filed by the American Humanist Association, marks a victory for secular groups seeking access to the same legal rights afforded to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims — all of whom are permitted to organize under the current federal prison system.

Making humanism, secularism and atheism religions does disservice to their definitions but it also supports the idea that specific social justice issues, or morality, are part and parcel of these groups–far beyond revealed or not. It also means the government lists approved religions for personal rights.

In siding with the plaintiffs, Haggerty cited a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Torcaso v. Watkins, which referred to “Secular Humanism” as a religion in its landmark decision to prohibit state and federal governments from passing any laws that impose religious requirements on holding public office.

“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” Haggerty, a Bill Clinton appointee, concluded on Thursday. “Allowing followers of other faiths to join religious group meetings while denying Holden the same privilege is discrimination on the basis of religion.”

The only way to defend against the insistence of religious-oriented support legally is to call them religions. There are no phrases like philosophy, world-view or social moral code in this kind of law. Everyone is a group, much like zero is an amount or baldness is a hairstyle. All of which are true in some ways. It sidesteps the real misuse that government shouldn’t be in the religion business.

I suppose it is a wedge which allows the presence and acknowledgement of secular interests, but it only fuels fire to the idea that atheism is competing with religion in morality, when many atheists don’t want any specific morality included in the package–they just don’t want to be preached to or do theological therapy.

For now this is how it must be as a political tactic but I find it troubling and wonder if it won’t cause problems in the long run. It takes away from the point of a secular public space that allows religious tolerance. It gives credibility that atheism and theism are just two peas in the same pod.

It will be interesting to see secular groups spawn and form their own groups much like local, regional, and national churches. I wonder how the system will handle them when they want their own brand of support?

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

Posted by Phil Ferguson on October 30th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Investing Skeptically

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing education series. This information is for educational purposes only. This information does not constitute investment advice. Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action. For planning advice contact Polaris Financial Planning.

What are Socially Responsible Mutual Funds?  (also known as Socially Responsible Investing – SRI)

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds often invest in companies that pay attention to things like….

Ethics

EthicsHuman Rights

Environment

Product Safety

Or, they avoid companies that invest in….

Gambling

Tobacco

Alcohol

Weapons

 

I have been telling people for years that Socially Responsible Mutual Funds are a bad choice but, as a good skeptic, I have to double check.  I have to make sure I just don’t look for evidence that confirms my view I have to look for evidence that confronts my position and evaluate it.  I begin with a Google search and found a very positive story about Socially Responsible mutual funds from Kiplinger.

The author tells us that it is a growing business.

In 1995, there were only 55 mutual funds that engaged in SRI, with $12 billion in assets. Now there are 493, with assets of $569 billion.

That is amazing growth but, is it an appeal to popularity.  Maybe it is just the result of good marketing.  I need to know more about how these funds work.

Unfortunately, There is also a serious problem in defining what can be bought in Socially Responsible mutual funds.  Each fund is different and has different rules.  Some say you can’t buy stock in Apple because in uses kids in low income countries others say you should by Apple because it helps people in low income countries.  I found this in the Kiplinger story….

Lately, some of the largest SRI funds have been straying from their dogma and injecting more subjective judgment into their decision-making. Or maybe they’re just hedging their bets. For instance, the Web site of Domini Social Equity (DSEFX), founded in 1991, contains this disclaimer:  “Domini may determine that a security is eligible for investment even if a corporation’s profile reflects a mixture of positive and negative social and environmental characteristics.”

Huh?  So, they can invest in anything?  What is the point.  You may find another fund that invests in what you wanc but, they can change later – after they have your money.  You cannot control what they buy.

The Kiplinger’s story featured a few of the best Socially Responsible Mutual Funds (and ETFs) and looked at their results.  Unfortunately, they used different time periods (sometimes 5 years sometimes 15 years)  when looking at the different options and I did not like that they kept comparing results to the S&P 500 index.  The S&P 500 is only large companies and for the last 10 years it has slightly lagged the whole market.  I think a better comparison is the Wilshire 5000 index.

Some of the funds Kiplinger mentioned have loads (an extra fee you pay to buy) of around 5% and one required an initial investment of $1,000,000.  (note: Kiplinger did not reduce returns to account for the load.)

Let’s look at their first example….

Consider iShares MSCI USA ESG Select Index (symbol KLD), an exchange-traded fund that tracks an index of companies that it says follow high “environmental, social and governance” standards. Over the past five years, the fund returned an annualized 2.3%, compared with 1.7% for Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

I realized that this story was published in May of 2012 (2.5 years ago) and those 5 years included the horrible year of 2008.  I was curious, how did this investment do since then?  From June 1, 2012 to Oct 29, 2014 KLD returned 44.43% and the S&P 500 Index returned 52.64% (NOTE the Wilshire 5000 was up 53.03%).  KLD under performed by more than 8% – ouch.  Remember what they always say, “Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results”.

I decided to take a bigger look and found a good basket of Socially Responsible mutual funds.  I used the site Socialfunds.com to help me find some of these funds.  I only wanted to look at funds that had a 10 year track record (ending June 30, 2014) and invested just in the US stock market.  Here is what I found….

Fund Name                                                10 Year Average

TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund 7.90
Calvert Social Index 6.41
Domini Social Equity 6.63
Walden Equity 7.08
Ariel Funds 7.18
Dreyfus Third Century C 6.38
Green Century Equity 6.19
Legg – Mason Social Aware C 4.79
Parnassus Fund 9.78
Sentinal Sustainable Core A 6.89
Vanguard FTSE Social Index 6.46
Walden Social Equity Fund 7.08

The overall performance of these funds was 6.90% per year.  The Wilshire 5000 was 8.50% per year.  The under performance is about 1.6% per year.  This is about the same result for mutual funds as a whole.  This is one of the many reasons I recommend Index Funds.  You may have noticed that one fund (Parnassus) did better than the market.  1 out of 12!  There is no reason to think this is anything but chance.

Why do these funds do so poorly?  An important factor is costs….(via Investopedia)
Socially responsible mutual funds tend to have higher fees than regular funds. These higher fees can be attributed to the additional ethical research that mutual fund managers must undertake. In addition, socially responsible funds tend to be managed by smaller mutual fund companies and the assets under management are relatively small.
The final problem with Socially Responsible Mutual Funds is that you are not actually helping.
Let me explain….
When you (or the mutual fund) buy a stock, you buy it from someone that already owns the stock.  NO money goes to the company.  This does not apply to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings).  With an IPO the money goes directly to the company but, the IPO price is set in advance and any increase in demand does not directly benefit the company (unless the company can’t sell all of the shares).  You could argue that the increased demand in a specific (socially responsible) stock could increase the price and provide a benefit to the CEO or other big investors.  This is also unlikely because there are other investors that will sell shares if they think the stock’s price has gone up beyond the perceived value of the company.
In summary we have these problems…
1)  You can’t know for sure if the funds do (or will do) what you want.
2)  You will likely under perform the market by 1.6%
3)  You are not actually doing any good.
The solution….
Invest in index funds and take 1.6% out each year and give it to the charity of your choice!  You will have control over the money and you will know that you are making a difference.  Everybody wins!

Fall Wood, Plato, Choosing, Priority

Posted by Jim Newman on October 29th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Personal Stories, Uncategorized

oak treeFall is overwhelming me. With two fields being mowed, chisel plowed, disked, disked, disked, disked, cultipacked, seeded, and rolled by our contract farmer, the fields have never looked so clean. I can’t keep up with the fire wood, garden conversion from field to greenhouse, outside-income work, and general farm chores. I wonder about the choosing of priorities in work and politics.

A farm of more than a few acres is best as a community entity. Though isolated and short term the various big chores benefit from many hands and minds. Rotating seasonal work around farm lines creates a community of shared types and desires based on how and what is farmed. The large contract farmer takes on several farms.

Communities that extend to others, particularly, past geologic and geographic boundaries have different interests. When they get together they want to talk about different things. Perhaps even a hurt or sick relative is all they can think of.

Choosing politics here seems like choosing the next task I should do on my list. What’s going to affect me soonest, worst, longest? Perhaps whatever task holds my attention can’t be interrupted? Perhaps some past issue causes me to remain moot? Perhaps sheer anger at having to do the task silences conversation. Many ways. I seem to do poorly at resolving these priorities but for reason or I would’t need to think about them.

Reason includes providing information and evidence. Yet, the reasoning is about what to do. You can’t begin to do what you don’t know about. What it is and what to do are intertwined in a braid so tight it can only be cut. Further, you see value in both as attraction, or beauty; even the ugly serves as guide to what is beautiful; you are disgusted about what is not true or right to do or beautiful. Restraint, amidst exploration, follows. Art as well. All to choose what to do next.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Michael Sherlock’s Atheist Atrocities

Posted by Jim Newman on October 24th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in religion

gottMitUnsMichael Sherlock writes a rebuttal against the popular misconception that Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot were atheists and had they been real Christian their atrocities wouldn’t have happened. If they were Christians, they weren’t good Christians.

Atheism is exploding into sects, branches, and social syncretes of the tautologous but facile idea that atheism just means no gods. Yet atheists want to say they are more moral than the religious or at least as moral to show social and political acceptability. Social justice types go further and say that atheism must include some definitions of morality, or that atheist groups must pay attention to other issues, often member oriented, besides the constant screaming of there is no god.

The easy thing is to pick through history, find the tyrants-conquerers, and then discern whether they were really religious or not. The difficulty of this is that those who follow a religion rarely follow all of it; they prefer to follow certain parts of their faith and reinterpret others. The easy ploy, like “it’s all faith,” is kin to claiming “that’s not my religion.” In conquest the balance of using local religions versus imposing another is difficult. A new religion is like having a common ally against others–the alien theory of social cohesion where everyone bands to gather to fight or endorse yet another party. Or conquer lightly and infiltrate over time.

We have to look over the manifold expressions of a religion to discuss the dogma, or ideology, of the religion. If there is immorality there, then it has to be excised or others can at any time refer to the ideology as support, even, or especially, when many don’t follow that particular part. The difficult part is the response to Hitch, that atheists can’t be moral because they do not make a covenant with god. That’s why religion is systemically poisonous–its premise is no matter how you behave, unless you do it for Jesus you’re immoral–natural morality can be followed with praise but you will not be saved.

Want to make a difference? Take a small part of a religion and elevate it to high status. Old followers see commonality and comfort in familiarity and radicals see the newness and progress towards what they value. All of the time insisting that these truths are absolute and revelation or divinely inspired intuition has motivated the epistemic change.

Hitler is a fine example of a conflicted religious follower. It is unlikely that he was a devout Christian, in the common sense, (does avoiding communion mean you’re not Catholic?) though he does claim such, he does work with the papacy, and he does claim to follow god in his wars to elevate true Christians to world dominance. He mimics Luther’s hatred of Jews in a long history of Christians hating Jews. They were the Christ killers, and they were a competing religion that was having too much success yet were insular, conversion not allowed.

“Besides that, I believe one thing: there is a Lord God! And this Lord God creates the peoples.” [1] ~Adolf Hitler

“We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations; we have stamped it out” [2] ~Adolf Hitler

It would be impossible to deny that John was antisemitic.

From all of the evidence available in the volumes of historical works, both Christian and non-Christian, it is clear that there is an unbroken chain of hatred, intolerance, and racism toward the Jews, which began with “John’s” Gospel (see also the Synoptic gospels) and continued all the way down into the twentieth century, ending with Hitler’s bloody campaign against the Church’s most despised enemies. [7]

More than a few bible scholars have made mention of the virulent anti-Semitism of John’s gospel. This anonymous and falsely named piece of work goes beyond its synoptic counterparts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) to directly accuse the Jewish people of being the “sons of Satan” (John 8:44), thereby demonizing the Jewish people and opening the door to a millennia of Jewish suffering at the hands of credulous Christian maniacs.

But we can better blame Luther for having created World War II against semitism. It goes back through all of the wars before.

“If we wish to find a scapegoat on whose shoulders we may lay the miseries which Germany has brought on the world, I am more and more convinced that the worst evil genius of that country, is not Hitler or Bismarck or Frederick the Great, but Martin Luther.” [24]

Hitler was the logical conclusion of a particular kind of German destiny. In a sense he was a perfect pawn. You can be sure the US didn’t join the war for Jews though. They joined because the Germans and fascists were including Americans as part, a haven, of Jewish culture.

If Christians don’t believe it could be true that a people would consider themselves world leaders or the bearer of good news to all, let them look to their own motivations to have everyone saved, or that only through Jesus can one be saved. “With god you can do anything.” Is this really helpful? Psychs say a sky daddy gives strength. Yes, including world domination. “With democracy you can do anything.” “With kindness you can do anything.” “With economic support you can do anything.” The structure becomes meaningless–all that is heard is “you” and “anything” until reflection and then it is the subjective god.

Indeed, the heavy castigation of atheists being so militant is that atheists show the totalitarian and fascist aspects of the religious. Even though atheists are hardly represented in politics even the hint that the religious aren’t the world’s most saved and blessed people is too much to bear. It’s still a huge competition for world domination by religious factions. To disarm the very premise of this causes the religious to ban together. At least some religiosity continues the competition–the only thing worse than losing is being told the competition is invalid.

A big reason atheists hate to claim an inherent morality is many do not want an absolutist morality other than vague abstractions like reason, evidence, and science. One of the reasons many older atheists are *difficult* is that they rebelled against authority and religion long before it was popular and they never cared for any particular moral climate that was impressed upon them. They don’t want to create yet another authoritarian morality. Let atheists be democrats or republicans they say. Yet, politics is the point and always has been. Knowledge without according action is empty. Atheism must show some sort of way to action or it is utterly meaningless like “how many angels on a pin.” Reason has to show itself to morality or why use it?

Sherlock provides a good summary that so called atheists dictators were religious either self avowedly or for reasons of conquest. An ideology of conversion, good news, and idiosyncratic salvation, helps subdue people.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com