Archive | February, 2012

Doing “NAWAPA” Right

29 Feb

Doing NAWAPA right:  Environmental Concern should go hand-in-hand with Economic Development:

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Programs like NAWAPA and Arctic Development are impressive and they’d most likely do our world economy quite a bit of good … But at what cost? … At the cost of corporate looting of the environment and its resources in the corresponding private initiatives of the project?  … At the cost of environmental damage?

If the BP oil spill accident is any indication, we can’t trust private, corporate industry to safeguard the global ecosystem and human interests.  When the environment’s at stake and the public good’s at stake, business can always be expected to look out for its own self interest and its profits … ignoring everything else … and thus reaping the consequences of what such an attitude brings about.

Lyndon LaRouche has said British Petroleum ought to have been expropriated and its assets nationalized after the disaster and the botched cleanup.  Why not before?  … Why even tempt fate on such an issue? Power companies and all manner of related business outfits ought to have been public enterprises from the start [if only at the local/regional level if not the Federal] and they still must be!  Or, if it’s felt they must be in private hands for fear of national Government, they should at least be held in public trust while retaining private ownership.  Only by doing that can we ensure environmental safety, human well being, and a thriving economy for us all in society.  By not doing so, we see the results. …

Want a real public service driver of industry and economic development?  Cater it to the environmental requirements of its ecosystems in question instead of just exploiting them like so much cannon fodder or cheap dirt to be stomped under foot.  If you know your activities are going to cause great damage or uproot and destroy plant and animal life in the process, don’t do them.  Find a way to do your program that best utilizes and highlights the unique characteristics of a given ecosystem rather than just chucking those factors out the window in the drive to accomplish your project.

An environmentally-friendly, nature-friendly, nature-intensive policy is the best policy of all.  That’s the real path to economic development.  That’s how to do NAWAPA right.

Fleshing out Natural Christianity …

28 Feb

The Jefferson Bible:  Fleshing out Natural Christianity from the Confusion of Christian Metaphysics

The idea for a natural Christianity is intriguing.  The only trouble is, it stands against two thousand years worth of theistic ideology and praxis in history … a history filled with superstition, religious bigotry, proselytization, and war committed both against believers and non-believers alike by so-called ‘Christian soldiers.’ Christianity, in this case, would do well to re-brand  and remake itself after the manner of Buddhist philosophy and practice (i.e., the Buddhist ‘way of life’) …  and to do this over and above any commitment to religious dogmas it might hold as a faith.

Orthodox Christianity, of course, implicitly understands this fact which is why it emphasizes the centrality of Theosis in its approach to Christian living.  The important thing in life is not adherence to a dogmatic system or to a particular set of religious doctrines or precepts, but in conforming one’s interior life to the divine order of things in the world.  In other words, then, Christianity in the Orthodox view is more about self-transformation and soul-shaping than it is about outright religion or the following of religious rituals. … Ergo, it’s a worthy goal to follow in life minus the divinity part. .. It should be about living-to-reality and to the natural order of the world, and in the process making one’s life a better, more compassionate and moral one. … But is it and can it ever be?  That’s the question we should be asking ourselves as students of religious philosophy …

The point is, theism or god-belief is so engrained in Christianity that it would be an entirely different religion were it to be separated from its current moorings in biblical supernaturalism and the cult of Jehovah.  It would in fact cease to be the faith of christos (the “anointed one”) were it to be de-theologized and its metaphysics removed.

Nevertheless, there’s cause for re-assessing Christianity on such terms. Christianity, at its core, is its moral message and a way of life to follow.  Therefore, there’s justification for pursuing a course of natural Christianity devoid of supernatural metaphysics, without having to sacrifice the foundation of the Christian message.  It can be done.  One exemplar for this is the path set out in the Jefferson Bible. Redacted in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson himself, the Jefferson Bible stands as the penultimate starting point in the development of a natural Christianity.  And, as such, it could be built upon and enhanced as a base for natural religion, to be further modeled and shaped along the lines of Buddhist practice.

In any case, it serves as a beginning … Thank you to Mike Mei at Inspirational Freethought for highlighting the Jefferson Bible vis-a-vis these conversations about secularism and religion.  It really is the essential platform from which any further discussions of natural religion or secular Christianity can be embarked upon. … The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth:  a key piece in the puzzle for developing a true, viable natural religion and secularized form of Christianity.

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http://inspirationalfreethought.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/the-life-and-morals-of-jesus-of-nazareth/

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth

Feb 20 – Posted by Mike

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The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, assembled in 1820, is the title of the Thomas Jefferson’s edited compilation of the stories in the New Testament. Jefferson literally took a razor and cut out all the supernatural, nonsensical aspects of the Gospels and kept all the stories that had moral value.

Affirming Humanity

28 Feb

Secularism and the Affirmation of Humanity

A wonderful quote from Mike at Inspirational Freethought … Robert G. Ingersoll on Secularism and humanistic values.  Not only excellent from the standpoint of ideas about freedom from religion, but also from the angle of affirming human worth and freedom in the face of authoritarian power structures as well.  A perfect statement of principles for the 99%.  Occupy should be getting a hold of this and running with it …

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http://inspirationalfreethought.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/secularism-is-the-religion-of-humanity/

Secularism is the Religion of Humanity

What does it mean to be “secular”? Does it mean that you’re an anti-theist or even an atheist? No it doesn’t. The word “secular” originally meant a preoccupation with worldly, human affairs. It’s not just a denial of religion, but an affirmation of humanity. Robert G. Ingersoll explains:

Secularism is the religion of humanity, for it embraces the affairs of this world. It is interested in everything that touches the welfare of a sentient being. …

Religion? For Atheists? …

24 Feb

Religion?  For Atheists?  Buddhism?:  The Problem of New Age and Religious Buddhism

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Religion?  For atheists?  Buddhism?  The problem here is – what do we mean by “religion?”  What manner of “atheism” are we talking about?  And, where does “Buddhism” … (what kind of ‘Buddhism’ in fact) … fit into all of this? … If we’re talking about concrete measures of living and practice, it’s all well and good … But if we’re talking about the kind of ethereal nonsense that’s been appended to eastern religions in the name of extraneous metaphysical doctrines and imported systems of meaning, then that’s not fine.  New Age Buddhism, Religious Buddhism is a mess … and it’s bound to mess up (i.e. ‘confuse’) anyone or anything associated with it.

Here’s Kevin Solway of Menoftheinfinite discussing the problem on Youtube.  … Tibetan Buddhism poses other problems.

So, in any event, that’s the issue at hand.  Solway, I think, touches in on the issues rather nicely.  Hope you find his material of use.

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http://darwiniana.com/2012/02/22/religion-for-atheists-consider-buddhism/

02.22.12

Religion for atheists? Consider buddhism….

Posted in General at 12:32 pm by nemo

http://darwiniana.com/2012/02/22/the-cult-of-unbelief/

It is almost beyond belief that none of these discussions ever mention Buddhism, or Jainism, prime cases of ‘religions for atheists’.

Are we looking at “prosperity around the corner” again?

23 Feb

Are Things Getting “Better and Better” … or is this all more “prosperity around the corner” again?

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We face a great number of challenges in our world  … the clamor for war in the Middle East, environmental degradation, and an increasing divide between rich and poor all over the globe as evidenced by the current world economic crisis.  Will there be enough material wealth/resources to sustain human development or will we have to learn to curtail human growth in the best interest of the natural environment and ourselves?  … Two questions that are the crux of recent posts on Sam Harris.org and Common Dreams.   If the Harris interview with Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler (re: their book Abundance) is to be believed, the state of the world is in fact improving.  However, if the argument put forward by Phil Rockstroh in Cash of the Titans is correct, we’re about to run up against a wall (i.e., the natural limits of human development and progress, and the end of road for endless expansion beyond which we’ll have to learn to live within limited means).

Who is right?  It’s difficult to say; therefore I leave it up to people reading this article to decide for themselves.  But, if Lyndon LaRouche’s notion of “Energy Flux Density” has any merit to it, then it tilts the balance of this discussion in favor of the power of human progress.  (It’s a fascinating concept to be sure, but I question its validity as an idea … )

So we have a choice:  Will we be like Icarus (who learned the hard way not to fly too near the face of the Sun) or more like Prometheus(who gave fire to man after stealing it from heaven) in the old Greek legends? … The Icarus metaphor, of course, is the analogy Rockstroh’s driving at, while LaRouche uses the Prometheus analogy to explain how humankind overcame its natural limitations to become a creature of “progress” and “development” in history (that is, with ‘fire’ = ‘technology’ )(the very power that was being withheld from it by the so-called divine order of the gods).

Who’s right and which position is right? …  That’s what we must decide as we proceed into the future as a species.

Thanks to Darwiniana.com for pointing out the Common Dreams piece.  As always, I welcome people’s comments on these issues.

Citizens United? … “Divided we Fall!”

23 Feb

Citizens United?“Divided we Fall!”:  The Fallacy of Commodification in Life, Nature, and Human Society

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When corporations are declared to be “people”, there are certain consequences we can expect for society … one being the undue influence of corporate money and power in politics.   Everyone else becomes second class citizens while a kind of primary citizenship is bestowed on corporations and organized power groups who stand above them in the social hierarchy.  … And, this makes individual persons and unorganized masses of people of no more worth than chattel or livestock.

Yet, a case like Citizens United doesn’t appear out of the blue or happen in a vacuum.  It arises out of a certain context of ideas.  “Corporations” can be said to-be-‘people’-too because individual person-hood, that is ‘what it means to be a human being‘, is cheap … and it’s been cheapened in a climate of thought that makes humans nothing more than objects or commodities.

The problem isn’t really “materialism.”  The problem isn’t just “mechanistic” models of life and physics.  The actual problem is the “objectification” of nature, and the idea that people, creatures, and things are only worth anything if they’re made into useful tools for the benefit of the powerful in society or what the Establishment sees as being a useful social function.

As humanists, we have a responsibility and unique opportunity to combat this problem.  First, we’re uniquely positioned to discuss the issue and redefine it. Materialism and mechanism need not be associated with the gross objectification of people and things; the flaw is in the commodification of reality and real things, not in their scientifically-established foundations as material entities.  People and things have been belittled or demeaned, not because they are material or mechanical, but because a value judgment’s been applied to them that says they’ve no greater worth than to be exploited and made-cheap-of.  They’ve no intrinsic worth and therefore can be taken advantage of or cheapened from above.

But if people, creatures, and things are constituted not by extrinsic value but internal endowment, then objectification & commoditization are without justification or basis. They have no warrant but for the cultural vision that created them.  What determines worth here isn’t some value placed on something from the outside, but an internal state invested in it by virtue of evolution.  Things have worth in themselves by virtue of their being separate from the opinions we have about them (as things).

As that’s the case, then, objectification is not a supportable position to hold.  Life, nature, and person-hood (i.e., the outward quality of human life) are not so cheap so as to render them meaningless in the face of utilitarian ideology and the impulse to turn them into commodities.  They have worth … and it’s that internal, priceless worth that puts the lie to the commodification of the world.  The Citizens United Decision is faulty legal policy founded on faulty reason. Corporations aren’t people.

… People ultimately matter because the world itself matters. Argue differently and you open the floodgates to more Citizens United-type cases and policies in society.  Objectify the world, and you harm the world – cutting off the circulation of its vital lifeblood, i.e., the power of its internal worth. In human terms, that worth is measured by our ability to speak-up and speak-out. When we curtail that by allowing corporations to assume person-hood, we stifle our own voices in the process.  We’re silenced in the clamor of the crowd, lost and alone in a sea of shouts.  We become divided when we can’t make our voices heard … and ‘divided we fall.’

Citizens United?“Divided we fall!”

Power to the People …

22 Feb

Power to the People – Real People, Not Corporations

Corporation’s aren’t people. But when they’re legally defined as being so, it makes everyone else in society second class citizens.   Here’s a link to John Bonifaz discussing the political and social implications of the Citizens United case on Alternative Radio.  Hope you find it of use and interest.

To sign a petition protesting the Citizens United ruling, go to http://democracyisforpeople.org. Sign today, and stand up for democracyreal democracy and not corporate money in our democratic system. Power to the people and to real persons … not legal fictions in the guise of real people!

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Fighting Corporate Personhood.  Program #BOJO002. Recorded in Northampton, MA on December 14, 2011.

Democracy, rule of the people, is in the ICU. The pulse, of the system of governance, begun in Athens, is fading. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision declaring corporations are people and money is free speech may be the deathblow. But galvanized citizens are saying, Wait a second. The game is not over yet. Activists trying to reverse Citizens United were greatly encouraged by the December 30, 2011 Montana Supreme Court decision to uphold that state’s century-old ban on corporate money in elections. The Montana ruling said, “With the infusion of unlimited corporate money in support of or opposition to a targeted candidate, the average citizen candidate would be unable to compete against the corporate-sponsored candidate, and Montana citizens, who for over 100 years have made their modest election contributions meaningfully count would be effectively shut out of the process.”

Measures for an Economic Recovery …

18 Feb

Measures for an Economic Recovery:  But will they Work? …

LewRockwell.com ran this video on the history and politics of the Federal Reserve last week.  Very interesting program to be sure, but I question some of its recommendations.  Will returning to a gold standard actually benefit the country economically, and who actually has the most to gain by abolishing the Fed, going back to so-called “sound money” and enacting similar measures?  Will any of this really work to bring about an economic recovery for the U.S.?  … I really wonder about all this.

The LaRouche people propose a different approach to the issue: the imposition of a Hamiltonian Credit System and return to a National Bank.  … Maybe that’s not the answer either, but it could be a step in the right direction. “Money” it seems is what got us into this problem in the first place.  Perhaps “credit” (that is, a new credit for the 21st century) can get us out of it.

Time will tell.

Re-Religionizing Religion

18 Feb

Atheism and the Re-Religionizing of Religion

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http://darwiniana.com/2012/02/17/the-reason-rally-and-the-new-atheist-cultic-farce/

John Landon Writes:

The new atheism … has forced many atheists to change their labels to do something else in the wake of the simplistic, ill-informed, prejudicial, and increasingly intolerant new atheist cult.

In a strange way, the new atheists are feeding a continuation of traditional religions, because what is offered is almost grotesque… Have your rally, and then let’s move on, hoping against hope these nudniks haven’t destroyed the legacy of Reason inherited from the Enlightenment.

The true atheists should rally in private to a new vision of religion beyond the mythologies of god, and the domination of churches, but alive to the depth of universe which science has completely missed.

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This seems like a good idea, secularists re-religionizing religion.  But what does it mean? If its an honest push to redefine religion on naturalist or secular terms that’s fine; religion as such becomes another philosophical approach to human living like classical forms of Buddhism or Taoism.  However, if it’s merely another tack by those in the New Age movement to redefine the domain of science and nature after the manner of Deepak Chopra (i.e., the whole bit about “quantum consciousness”), then it won’t do at all.  All it amounts to is a ‘new age’ con job on atheists and secularism.

What’s needed is a re-naturalization of religion rather than a re-religionizing of faith.  In other words, rather than just looking for a back door through secular values to a new religious creed, atheists should instead be focusing on ways in which religions can be baptized into a new secular vision of the world.

Now, maybe even this is going too far. But it demonstrates nicely the problem with trying to re-cast faith on renewed ideological terms.  What is an atheism that’s remade “religion” into a new kind of “religion” for mankind? It seems a contradiction to even suggest it.  And, yet, that’s exactly what ‘rally[ing] to a new vision of religion’ would entail.  Therefore, rather than trying to re-contextualize religion and remake it into a new form, why not encourage religions to secularize instead and to develop new secular approaches for themselves in their mission and activities.

That’s how to honestly redefine religion for the future.  Anything else merely reshuffles the deck while not addressing the real problem behind religion (i.e., its flawed metaphysics).  Getting rid of god mythologies is fine and so is dispensing with the dominion of the organized religions in society.  But unless you cut to the heart of religious culture, you haven’t changed anything.  All you’ve done is inadvertently given religionists a key to your backdoor, right as you’ve locked and barred the front.

Give religionists (i.e., new agers) the means to define the terms of discourse in this fight over atheism/belief, and you do yourself in. … You spell the death of your secularism.

Where there’s smoke …

16 Feb

Freezing is Hazardous to Your Health:  The Irrationalism of Reason without Sensibility

This is an interesting essay by Sam Harris; just one problem with it.  It points out the ludicrousness of a rationalism that’s devoid of reasonableness.  What do I mean? Mainly this … It’s true smoke (and woodsmoke) is bad for you from a medical and health-related point of view.  But so is freezing to death.  Try to stay warm by our modern amenities when they’re scarce or unavailable and you begin to see the problem with this argument. Anything will do when it comes to saying alive versus freezingeven that dirty, unhealthy wood fire … Oh, and natural gas is not so good for you either.

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http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-fireplace-delusion

The Fireplace Delusion

It seems to me that many nonbelievers have forgotten—or never knew—what it is like to suffer an unhappy collision with scientific rationality. We are open to good evidence and sound argument as a matter of principle, and are generally willing to follow wherever they may lead.

However, I recently stumbled upon an example of secular intransigence that may give readers a sense of how religious people feel when their beliefs are criticized. It’s not a perfect analogy, as you will see, but the rigorous research I’ve conducted at dinner parties suggests that it is worth thinking about. We can call the phenomenon “the fireplace delusion.”