Archive for religion

4 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by spinoza1111

30 minute workout first thing at 6:00 AM: warmup (100 motions), 250 lowrise steps, walk and 150 very-low-impact dance movements (the old soft shoe) which are getting aerobic but without impact, (note to self, increase the count and recharge the iPod for further advances on the dancing front), 50 supine weight movements. Will probably do 20 minutes physio later today, so that’s two workouts and a total of 50 minutes (five mile equivalent by my old metric in which 10 minutes of most exercises = one mile of running).

A Note on Stupid Errors!

On Facebook, WordPress, and other facilities I am very careful about proofreading for two reasons.

One is that the sheer volume of my postings mathematically increases the probability of stupid, foolish errors in spelling, grammar and even logic. These errors as made by an unknown person like me cause my credibility to drop to a negative range. Computers only seem to make many errors; the rate is low but perceived to be high because computers execute so many operations (for example, in a modern spreadsheet such as used by Harvard researchers to call for austerity in the infamous Rogoff/Reinhardt brouhaha).

Example: I wrote “One is that the sheer volume of my postings mathematically increase” which only sounds right. Logically and syntactically it’s very wrong: do you know why?

It’s an example of thinking that the closest noun to the left of the verb controls the “number” of the verb, and that because the closest noun is “postings” I must use “increase”.

But in fact the controlling noun is “volume” which is not in the scope of the preposition “of” as is “postings”, and “volume” is singular!

Explaining grammar is so much fun and I miss teaching ESL. I could do so on Skype or in my jammies from my Grantham hospital bed. I could be “bound in a nutshell, and count myself king of infinite space”.

But I miss work per se. I love watching the nurses do things right, and I love helping the sweepers sweep up the crap from under my bed. I miss The Great Chinese Fire Drill in which we all hustle to get to work on time and work hard once we get there.

These digressions are pretty obvious as italicized interjections but I also miss the ability one has in Word: to create light grey sidebars with marginalia, for marginalia usually contain your best work, such as “I have discovered a marvelous proof that for n>2, there’s no solution to x**n+y**n = z**n”. This ability may exist in WordPress and I will research WordPress to see if that is so.

One woman complained about my “frequent” spelling errors. She’d found one or two. They stick out, I believe, because of their rarity, as Homeric Nods. At the same time, despite having taught “its” versus “it’s” (neuter possessive versus a contraction of subject and the head of its predicate) I can make, in the heat of writing, that very confusion. When other strangers on the Internet make that error I think of them as rubes, Yahoos, and worse, for I have some really choice things to say when I get in a rage about the general degringolade. When I make it, it’s a case of “even good Homer nods”. Yeah, right.

The problem is, as I learned when I had the services of one of the most notable authors of computer books internationally (Dan Appleman) and subsequently of a less well known but brilliant man at Fawcette Technical Publications, nothing replaces a separate set of eyeballs connected to a giant brain and good heart. Dan is the reason why I had few errata in my computer book and the Fawcette guy helped me with a number of articles when I was living at the YMCA and desperate for cash, mostly to buy donuts and coffee and Bennison’s and Italian Beef at Gigio’s to be sure. I was willing to work all night to get away from Korean noodles in a styrofoam cup, fueled only by the remnants of that morning’s coffee, nursed until four AM.

Well, “name” celebrity bloggers like Paul Krugman (Princeton prof, courageous Keynesian) and Stanley Fish (slowly reforming neo-con, retired English professor, writer on language aspects of the law) have nameless editors such that, when unknown people with good qualifications (formerly tenured professors et al.) make stupid errors in the Comments zone, it makes them look bad…whereas Fish and Krugman (outside of Krugman’s personal blog as far as I can tell) sail on, looking good, lookin’ “fly”, because one doesn’t find stupid spelling, grammar and logic errors (“I have read Socrates’ and Homer’s writings” eewwwww you pompous SOB) in Fish or Krugman at all…their interns eradicate any similar howlers from Fish and Krugman’s own posts. People who recently went to college retain more, such as the use of the apostrophe in the neuter personal pronoun and who was Socrates, dammit. People including college professors retired or not forget what they learned in school. So an intern is nice to have as a proof-reader.

“Fly” – outdated African-American slang as in “you look so FLY in that suit” to mean you look good, eg., like SuperFly or John Shaft. Canya dig it. Not really because it’s really OLD slang.

I will find stupid errors months, even years after posting an entry in my blog, so I often reread old postings and make corrections, documenting them (as I learned to do when correcting software code) in a “Change Record” at the end of the posting.

Dan Appleman repeatedly encouraged me to “read your work aloud” because he didn’t have much spare time as it was yet he was up all hours finding stupid errors in my drafts: likewise some PhD types who tried to clean my essays on computer science up for an ACM conference in 2005 (they never were published because I could not financially attend the conference). It is especially important in writing poetry because poetry, even “free verse” (is there any such thing?) has to sound good, period, no exceptions, because as the brilliant editors of the Norton Anthology of English poetry assure us, poetry is writing meant to be read aloud. Very few exceptions exist to this.

Finally…that “red squiggle” you now see ubiquitously should be taken seriously. Correct red squiggles (sometimes they are a different color). What’s happening? An Open Source code has been developed to do really thorough spelling checks in all cases where you’re entering text. It even highlights unfamiliar given names (as opposed to surnames) which takes some non-trivial syntax analysis. Might as well pay attention to it although it does NOT avoid all errors (spelling checks never do, and never will).

Notes On Having an English Professor in the Family

My sister, an English professor, constantly beats me up, figuratively to be sure, over my careless writing. Makes her look bad once people make the connection.

On Nipping “Budding Writers” in the Bud

People who use the phrase “budding writer” as in “I yam a medical billing specialist and budding writer” are probably great medical billing specialists in a world that needs such specialists, especially when they can advocate for patients, tell us what we have coming under ObamaCare, and teach classes in their profession at community colleges. As a retired computer programmer I think that the sort of skills that are taught in community college build employability and hence self-esteem…not being an unpublished writer, or a writer like me, with a rather disappointing record of sales. That lowers self-esteem.

People who can drive trucks with 17 separate gearshift settings, program in object-oriented C++, and advise sick people about their rights under ObamaCare don’t live with their Mom and Dad after graduation. Their salaries pay the rent. They do not max out their credit. They make extra money by teaching and consulting on the side, becoming later on full-time consultants owning their own business. They get jobs that pay into their Social Security for their retirement.

Their salaries pay the rent and support Mom and Dad.

The people living with Mom would be Princeton PhDs who know why Saul Kripke crashed and burned. This group needs to go to South Korea’s DMZ (that part that will get nuked if a war with North Korea breaks out) and use that Master’s degree that comes with the PhD to teach South Korean kids ESL. They are great kids, much less formal than China’s equally great-in-their-own-way kids, for PJ O’Rorke (the conservative humorist) was right: South Koreans are the Irish of Asia, and Pyongyang is its Belfast. Don’t worry, North Korea probably won’t nuke you, and if it does, it will all be over in a flash.

But the former group, of honest hard working skilled people, should not be writers, both because of the hackneyism “budding writer” which occurs too often in the corpus to be anything but lame (6 million hits on Google) and because “writer” is too abstract: the reader wants to know, about what?

Heck, I am a published writer of one book…a nerd book which is sad and lame when you think about it, and the smallness of my royalties: I try not to, it makes me weep.

30% international tax withholding and 13.00 USD charged by HSBC merely to credit 100.00 USD net to my account. Boo most assuredly hoo.

As a startup, not a budding, writer, you need to decide on your genre: if you love mysteries, crime and noir you need to decide what type you shall write about (Downton Abbey, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett ). Before you set pen to paper or switch electrons on in your computer, be prepared to write about whatchoo wanna write about. Eliminate mention of any other writer. If you write “I want to make millions and be a writer like that woman who wrote Harry Potter, whatsername CK Rowling”…boom, there’s the door, both because you are engaging in “me-too marketing” (“I sell the same product at a discount!”) and because no one will read it.

I mean: I love writing. It should be obvious, one never has seen such a flood of words since Edward Gibbon as one finds here. But I also love proof-reading. I love proofing my own work, it looks so nice (which means I don’t do a very good job on my own work). I also love editing and proofreading others’ work, it’s remarkably easy and avoids the commitments of writing. This love of the nitty gritty of writing helped me get published three years after starting to write (in 1976).

“Nitty gritty”…hackneyed phrase or Nod Homerique? You decide! My rule: if it’s something that would be said in a boring and vicious office, don’t use it. “Nitty gritty.” “We’re going to have to let you go.” “ring a bell?” “Productivity.” Don’t use these words and phrases.


…wandering around my home town (Evanston, Illinois) on the southern side near the lake, a neighborhood of big homes and flat blocks built in a false mediaeval style (with turrets and gargoyles) in the 1920s which have retained their value and are used as investments. I go to the Orthodox church there (in the dream: there is no such actual church), the one with very steep and missing stairs to its main entrance that must be negotiated by worshippers and wedding parties.

I am in my flat next to the library and hotel (Orrington) but the electricity is failing. Some things work, others do not. I had this experience in the waking world in China but never in America. You get confused: what is the ON setting on this thing? How long should I wait after turning the device on or off, that is, how long does this complex computer take to execute power down instructions in firmware?

At the end of the dream I had a whole room of Northwestern students trying to help me, switching various devices on and off.

In darkness, then, I seek the light. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”. I know more Scripture from good old Handel than actually reading the Bible. It is well known that just as Tea Baggers never read the Constitution (its reading level is pitched way above grade school) they cannot name the four Gospels whereas their Protestant ancestors could. But I seldom read the Bible, just listen to works including the Messiah and Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

But here I go spreading religious hatred. I need to stay away from that stick of shitfire with a wick on it, it’s ruined Belfast and Glasgow. I shall leave it here as an example of how religion so often becomes hate, and if I find myself becoming overly compulsively Catholic I will leave the Church again. I just find prayer calming given my situation.


Grand High Re-read of Kant’s Critique: did a long review of PF Strawson’s Bounds of Sense (a reading of the Critique) with academic footnotes “and all”. It’s been bounced, I now realized by an automated scoring tool that measured its size and…the automated tool “was like, WTF”. In addition, an automated tool can detect one or more external Web addresses which might indicate spam and/or promotion. Finally, there may also be “bad language”. Good people, I feel, use bad language in a bad world.

Not really up to revising it, replied (like a silly man) to the automated tool saying back off: need instead to contact a Human Being at Amazon. May say heck with it. It’s published here on my blog. It’s really just part of my Kant study. I’m not even happy with its contents as opposed to its outside references. I never deeply read Strawson who is a great analytic philosopher. Perhaps I need to do a quick re-read and then rewrite the Strawson review.

“ESF Shocker??”

ESF stands for the English Schools Foundation whose charter seems to be “reserve places in good English medium-of-instruction schools for wealthy parents”.

The “shocker” is that the fee merely for applying for your child to an ESF school has gone from 150.00 to two thousand Hong Kong dollars. The fee doesn’t guarantee admission and is not refunded if your kid doesn’t get in. Whereas the parents of the kids that I teach balk at paying much more than one hundred fifty per hour of my teaching.

This unconscionable charge, together with the facts found by the BBC about millionaire “super star” English and test prep tutors, primarily young and sexy Chinese with English names who dress fashionably, alarm me.

See the BBC documentary here.

I have these questions.

Why is such an important social task, the preparation of children for life, such a sordid, almost gangsta affair and what sort of message does it send kids when they and their future are bought and sold…on dat ole cross of gold?

Why does the millionaire star tutor of the BBC documentary get away with merely feeding kids, whose parents pay him thousands, lists of words he thinks will appear on the exam merely because they appear on past papers available on the Internet to his students?

Why does he use Cantonese as his medium of instruction when we know that learning a new language demands that that unfamiliar language, in this case English, be the medium of instruction from day one?

Why does he fail to teach grammar, for all I can tell, and then smirk when the student tracked by the BBC fails the trial examination because he doesn’t know grammar???.

And finally, why is it that I am retiring on US Social Security and an MPF balance where MPF is Hong Komg’s limited retirement savings scheme, also known as Mandatory Provident Fund, whereas this clown Lam, the so-called “tiger tutor” is a millionaire? I hammered the Oxford Reference Grammar cover to cover, I created charts for verb phrase analysis using my knowledge of formal grammars in computing …

I used YouTube movies to get the students’ attention: at several schools I reversed deep alienation by taking the risk of showing kids bored to tears by the pap they were being fed, the film I Not Stupid about the system in Singapore, which is very similar in intensity and cruelty to Hong Kong’s system …

… and, as I have said, I am on Queer Street financially …

… Why? Am I just a wanker, or does the system manufacture wankerdom when you don’t choose to be a shark? When you’re not an American Psycho of any nationality? Just askin’. …

… BTW, “Queer Street” doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality: it is a British English phrase that means “the poor house” …

The rest is silence …

Change Record

7 Sep 2013 Correct “nuked if a war with North Korea”

13 April 2012: a Point Often Missed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 13, 2013 by spinoza1111

Consult with the doctor today revealed a point often missed.

This is that I’m not getting better as far as we know. I won’t get another CT scan until June owing to queueing in the public option and the shrinkage in the surface bump I seem to find may only be subjective.

The doctor said that there is a group of connected tumors, perhaps best thought of as one monster Tumor, reaching from my shoulder to my groin. It is large and highly dangerous. So far, zapping it with hormone treatment and now chemotherapy have only limited its spread.

Which may mean I have not much time left on Earth. “Get well” wishes are in poor taste although I understand and appreciate that the sender means by “well” a medically managed return to the real world. I may given my possibly short time prefer, to the “real world” of work and friends, a lost child’s existence: going to the candy store, going alone to movies, the library and the Eslee book superstore in a lonely circuit of Causeway Bay, spending my money like a lost child. For dunkel ist das Leben! Ist der Todt!.

If I cannot reconnect with forgiveness to my ex but must perforce exchange pleasantries walking on glass because I don’t want to hurt her anymore, and if I cannot see my granddaughters, I reason, like Emily the D, “but what of that” and go to the show. For I find that any other reaction leads to madness in my family.

My parents always believed in hard work. My dad requalified for medical practice in retirement after Mom passed. Of course, my art and writing is work but my family preferred work validated by a paycheck.

The Lost Boy existence is an impasse that would lead eventually to a hotel bar. Fascinating places, hotel bars in Asia, especially for lost souls in the peltering storm flying like Corrigan the wrong way.

It also needs to be noted that I am being given quite a lot of pain-killing Fentanyl, a synthesized morphine substitute with all of morphine’s properties, through a “patch” which extends the delivery over about two days, and that some days I will ask for as many as seven “break thru” doses of a morphine/Fentanyl Jungle Joy Juice when I have break thru pain in spite of the patch.

This is interesting because my pain management at Swedish Covenant and Evanston hospitals was primitive by comparison, and my “break thru” pain was unaddressed save with promises that I’d get the base dosage of Demerol when the time came. The Pain People of the medical profession, doctors and nurses who believed that pain is Good For You, were pushed out of the main event but held a toehold in their belief, that pain that comes in spite of medication that drives the patient crazy because he’s taking dangerous meds and is still in pain.

My higher level of dose may be causing euphoria manifest in a slight increase in my natural verbosity. It may be causing my current lack of fear of death. The creative writing predates the morphine/Fentanyl, however, and I lost my fear of death, for the most part, after Dr. Sue gave me the bad news, because “you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free”.

There’s even a Fentanyl lollipop given to grievously wounded casualties in Afghanistan. Sounds yummy. I like sticking things in my mouth. But Class 1 substance abuse without a prescription is stupid.

Trust the Russian Republic, by the way. In response to Chechen takeover of a Moscow theater, the Russkies may have used a Fentanyl gas to put down the terrorists which of course acted upon the hostages as well.

My doctor said that the Fentanyl dose I get is very high. This is another reason why I shall probably be in the hospital until June if we can use May to reduce the dosage, depending on the results of chemo. But: my thinking is based on the foundational notion, which might be wrong, that I shall return to normalcy; the doctor doesn’t appear to share this view.

As a Catholic I believe perforce in God’s Love and the efficacy of His/Her sacraments including Reconciliation. The rest is silence because writing about and speaking about religion as opposed to spirituality and philosophy gives me the willies because our world has become Angels and Demons as envisioned by S Clay Wilson. Religion encourages hatred and slaughter, therefore my “return” to the faith of my esteemed ancestors should be low-key.

I can, says the helmeted prophet or Angry Bird, do the Harlem Shake because the essence of existence is freedom, as Sartre saw. The prophet dances lonely and cries what sounds like que rico! What rice, cheered they tell me south of the border to encourage the band. Then the wretched of the earth, typically students grinding out their lives to get a university education and mega-debt, realize that “despite all the computation, you can just dance to the rock and roll station“.

Summa contra

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 3, 2012 by spinoza1111

Sorry, but I have to note this down.

I. In the beginning, art and religion were one, connected by the Latin particle “sive”, which means the one or the other it doesn’t matter. Many unities are divided this way.

II. But in conditions of scarcity, crowd control by the elite is Job One from their point of view. They used human sacrifice and slavery. But the Torah bans human sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac, and Christianity ended slavery (but it took 1800 years and William Wilberforce).

III. The elite in Christianity and Islam use Pascal’s wager that it’s best to follow the tenets of organized religion lest you be wrong and suffer infinite damnation. This is of course fallacious since there is > 1 organized religion.

Why didn’t Von Neumann see this? The founder of modern game theory, when diagnosed with pancreatic or bone cancer, probably as a consequence of his exposure to radiation at Bikini Atoll, converted (back) to Catholicism owing to Pascal’s wager but failed to see that where n is the number of religions that preach damnation, n > 1. It is true that the Knight (Ritter) plays chess with Death in The Seventh Seal but it would rather seem blasphemous to play a two person game with God as you understand him. “God is not mocked”.

IV. Religion takes the creation of art out of the hands of ordinary people and so divides itself from art and is usually anti-art, given the numerous religious proscriptions against various art forms (dancing, image-making and so forth) because bottom-up artistic expression, being like religion at the boundaries of the known, is an end in itself rather than a market transaction. If you do something with no economic reason, the “reason” is a ding an sich.

V. All religions are wicked and a form of crowd control. The desperado can only be frightened by something beyond.

VI. However, one must have absolute respect for all forms of religion regarded as expression, because even folk manifestations are coming from the same place as high art and are often more honest. It would be polytheism for a “monotheist” to claim, as many monotheists do, that the person of a different religion worships a different God.

For Malaysians to prohibit Christian Malays to use the Malay word for God because it sounds like “Allah” is itself blasphemy. For American Christians to insult Islam’s God, is blasphemy. Different descriptions, same God. Therefore “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

VII. Sex is about other people. Some people say that all forms of sex are OK if you don’t hurt anybody. The problem is that it’s really easy to hurt people when you get naked, including new guys for whom you are responsible.

VIII. Many world religions close off revelation at a certain point. For example, the Revelations say that anyone who alters the Bible “shall be cast into the lake of fire”. But the Enlightenment was a revelation as was “we believe these truths to be self-evident” and “shall not perish from the earth”. I derive this belief from the idea of God-or-nature: if God is in all, he’s in the room.

“Clarion of Faith?!”: another unpublishable letter to the International Herald Tribune

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by spinoza1111

The fact that this is unpublishable is, in my opinion, the problem.

5 March 2012

To whom it may concern:

In “From ‘Nominal Catholic’ to Clarion of Faith” (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 3 March 2012) the article uncritically narrates Rick Santorum’s “spiritual journey” in a way that your choice of words implies is from “bad to good”.

This is serious bias. This is serious journalistic malpractice.

The notion of a “return” from an out of control Modernism (coexisting in Santorum’s case with religion at room temperature, as your article claims) to dat ole time religion originated almost one hundred years ago as an aesthetic gesture, linked to but distinct from Fascism. TS Eliot claimed to be an Anglo-Catholic and royalist in later life, and CS Lewis narrated a similar reverse journey in “Surprised by Joy”. In painting, Pablo Picasso “returned” to classicism although not to religion in the 1920s. In music, Serge Prokofiev made this gesture at the same time.

The narrative was that the Bright Young Things had found their former lives gay but empty whether they were agnostics, atheists, or in your word “nominal” in their faith. So they return to “faith” and “traditional values” in art and in life.

Dostoevsky’s comment on this is interesting. In The Tale of the Grand Inquisitor, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky writes: “But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, ‘Mystery.’” Dostoevsky may have thought that the return might be hard to impossible, and involve something more than joining a wealthy parish, church or temple, and “adoring the Eucharist” for twenty four hours…such mitzvots, for Dostoevsky and Jesus himself, might be useful but also beside the point.

I realize youse guys got a paper to get out. But note that the very phrase “to clarion of faith” can hardly be parsed, and as your lack of objectivity and journalistic malpractice is beginning to generate nonsense. Is Rick Santorum a “clarion”? What is a clarion? A clarion call? But even if Rick Santorum were not a politician and is instead John the Baptist, he would not be a clarion call, he would be making a clarion call for all of us sinners to repent.

But that is not his message; conservative politicians do not call upon us to repent, thankfully; instead, they tell their constituents that they are a “remnant” fleeing the Pandaemonium brought about by liberalism.

No attempt at suasion is made. In the Founders vision, and American practice until recently, the general idea was that the political candidate would attempt, like Lincoln or Stephen Douglas, to convince voters of the justice and wisdom of their cause.

Modern, poll-driven politics assumes on the other hand that our views are autocthonic, somehow pre-formed somewhere, and the Republican politician’s job is to get us to vote those views, including religious views, by persuading us that he will best represent, not something so crude as our interests, but those views.

The voter is either one of the Elect who doesn’t believe in abortion or contraception, or one of Satan’s herd.

Therefore, Santorum claims that because he’s a conservative Christian, he will be a better President of all the right-thinking people, and the rest can go jump in the lake. There is no Constitutional basis for this claim: quite the opposite. The Republicans have created a religious test for high office.

What’s troubling in the article is your use of the word “faith”. First Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized world-views which dispense with religious faith as forms of “religion” deserving protection alongside orthodox religion. Language such as “politician x considers himself a man of faith” creates a divide and implicitly favor the man of faith, although our best Presidents probably had, in secret, a humanistic world view and little “faith”.

But such is the power of the TS Eliot/CS Lewis narrative as to make it fashionable, among people who can afford to be fashionable, to narrate their lives as being enhanced by a return to church or temple observance.

This is said to “ground” ordinary decency although Santorum’s Catholic church does not teach that “ordinary decency” flows from religious belief: instead, it acknowledges that prior to the Christian message, men have both the capability and duty to follow the natural law.

“Faith” becomes a monstrous combination of Blaise Pascal’s terroristic wager (that even if the Christian revelation is false, it’s too risky of eternal damnation not to have faith) and a reason for being a good person…an excuse, as it were.

We need excuses for being bad. Another drink would be good for my weary bones, and a little bit of adultery would help my marriage, so reasons the scamp.

But it is a strange sort of person who needs an excuse for being good. Indeed, Chinese philosophy takes, not a sky-god, but Benevolence itself as logically prior to everything, an enabler of coherence of life and thus, ordinary decency. This belief in the natural law, the order of things, is why multiconfessional societies are possible.

Santorum, and other self-proclaimed men of faith who in such an unseemly way wear their hearts on their sleeves for daws to peck at, project their constituency’s fear that their own lack of a super-ego, corroded as post-modern super-egos are, being systematically replaced over time with advertising, will cause them to do as they wilt. To lose control.

Lack of “faith” is interpreted as somehow less than “faith”, and your newspaper enables this nonsense.

Edward G. Nilges

On the Founding Fathers and “Religion”: a Response to the Tea Partying Nullifiers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 26, 2011 by spinoza1111

This response is under moderation at the Missouri Tenth site: it answers a post that tries to maintain that the Founders were Bible folk.

The good people at this site (and they are good if at times those boys can be dumber than a box of rocks) continue to permit me to have my say and continue to be more tolerant than Chomsky. But I sense some movement. I think Occupy Wall Street is what they really want but were diverted and deluded by the well-funded Tea Party movement.

Well, I do agree that “end times” thinking prevents Christians from taking care of the future. For example, why pay taxes for public schools OR tuition at charter schools if you believe we live in “end times”? Why make provision for public goods or private goods? So we agree on something.

However, your myriad quotes, which try to show the Founders as Fundamentalist Christians, are copied and pasted without historical insight from Web sites which advance the false idea that we are or should be a Christian and Protestant country.

Note what Adams is really saying, first of all. He is saying that Christianity is essential to the survival of the new Republic: “Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free governments, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society. Science, liberty, and religion are the choicest blessings of humanity: without their joint influence no society can be great, flourishing, or happy.”

This view was derived from Hobbes, who was not an orthodox Christian although a preacher. It is the “utilitarian” view of religion that is espoused today by upper class Anglican believers in Britain. Hobbes believed that the common folk needed religion so they would obey the secular power, and Adams, in the Congregationalist branch of the same tradition, believes the same, with the addition that religion would cause Americans to obey the only political party of the late 18th century in America.

This was the pro-British and anti-French Federalist party, to which opposition formed only after 1795, when President Adams overreached himself. Adams was horrified by events in France.

An understanding of these events is something you need, badly. In France, there were no Protestants to speak of, since at the end of the 17th century, King Louis XIV had “revoked the Edict of Nantes” which had about a hundred years before allowed French “Huguenot” Protestants to practice their faith. As a result, in 1789, France had (like Russia today) a national church: everyone had to belong to it, nominally, and (somewhat like Russia today) actual religious feeling was somewhat spotty and restricted to old women and rural people…when you force people into a religion (perhaps something even so broad as a “Christianity”, advocated by some Tea Party members, that excludes Catholics) many “believers” believe for cynical and secular reasons…to get those well-paid jobs, for example, in those charter schools.

As a result of the identification of religion and nation under France’s *ancien regime* in 1789, the revolutionaries mostly rejected all religion. This (and many other factors include severe shortages of both bread and information, as rural peasants refused to feed revolutionary Paris, and newspapers made up news to support the beliefs of their owners) caused people to feel that there was no foundation for anything, and to act out of fear.

The monarchists triggered a war by other European powers on their own country which enraged the anti-monarchists. Louis XVI was caught in the middle and, as I hope you know, executed in a measure which shocked John Adams.

In Paris, drunkenness, sexual license and violence prevailed during the Terror. Because the Paris mob rejected the only “religion” they knew, Adams decided that events in France proved Hobbes right. While the upper classes could be permissive and “latitudinarian” in their Episcopal or Congregational or Unitarian churches, questioning the Trinity and allowing divorce, the 99% needed a firm and strict form of religion.

For Adams, the *monstrum horrendum* was Tom Paine, who was not religious and went to France (where in fact Robespierre and Ste.-Juste, the Revolution’s most extreme figures, found him too moderate in his views). Although Washington had used Paine, and thrown him away, by disseminating Paine’s writings during the Revolution, Paine, like an Occupy Wall Street happy camper, was a radical democrat who did not believe in one set of rules for the 1% and another for the 99%. And, Paine rejected religion.

It was commonly thought in that time, as it is by some today that IF you rejected religion or even just orthodox religion, THEN you would be a libertine on the order of Casanova and the Marquis de Sade (or some other *monstrum horrendum* who simultaneously shocked and titillated the readers of trashy books).

For example, in the 17th century, Baruch Spinoza, who in fact lived a quiet and decent life as a lens-grinder and philosopher, was thought to be a monster. Today, Princeton philosopher Peter Singer (who does believe that abortion is licit in some cases but also believes that Westerners should more than “tithe” a good part of their income, not to some church in some mall, but to the wretched of the earth) suffers the same fate, with the sort of people whose reading is restricted to Web sites and trashy novels about “monstra horrenda” such as Hannibal Lecter.

But here’s the bottom line. It is not a “religious” view to justify religion, as Adams seems to be doing, and as Hobbes did, by saying that it’s a terrific foundation for a well-ordered secular society.

From the Biblical standpoint, and from the viewpoint of the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised, and in the view of many Protestants, that gets it backwards because it makes religion serve secular ends!

Isaiah 40:

“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”

“And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.”

“All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.”

That is: religion is about eternal salvation and not the survival of society. I realize that this may be close to “end times thinking” but it isn’t quite the same thing. It’s really the answer to why one is religious.

Gibbon accused Christianity itself of destroying Rome: Gibbon was probably wrong, since Rome by the 2nd century AD needed a national religion to survive, and Christianity arguably gave Rome a few extra centuries.

But St Augustine thought man was made for eternal salvation, not to be a good citizen.

As I have said before (and I will repeat myself because that’s what a good teacher does), people are religious or spiritual because they are good, not the other way around. Religion has destroyed societies as well as preserved them.

As I have said before (and I will repeat myself because that’s what a good teacher does), the most fervidly religious areas of the USA today are also the regions with the largest amount of family violence and divorce.

Houston, you have a problem. Dallas, you too. And tremble, Little Rock, for thou talk’st a good game on Sunday but forgettest what it was you did in the parkin’ lot on Saturday night.

In the short term, the Founders wanted Americans to be pious, and, they counted themselves fortunate that purely as a statistical accident, we were a Protestant society.

But in the long term they counted on public education. As I have said before, and I will repeat myself, George Washington wanted to use part of his fortune to fund a national university. And private, but NOT for profit schools flourished in America outside the slave states starting in Adams’ time. These schools paid unmarried women a tiny wage and were supported by the community (that is, by taxes). They were nothing like for-profit schools which in my direct experience as a professor at DeVry do a good job, but only because they are constantly audited by the state; to properly justify grades in my classes I had to develop a data base and work 24/7.

Go and open up the complete Gutenberg text of the Federalist Papers and search case-independent for the word “god”.

It occurs exactly three times.

Two are references to the gods of antiquity because the Founders took the Roman Republic and the Greek city-states as models…despite the fact that none of these societies were Christian.

One is to “nature’s god” which in the 18th century referred either to the god of the Deists or a conception of God shared, along with the natural law, by all good men.

Clearly, then, Adams was talking, in the passage you quote, about a utilitarian religion, a tool, and, from the standpoint of religion, a blasphemy. The nations of the earth are as dust, and nothing, and this includes America. It’s a great place but only because it allows us to have our own religion, or no religion, or the Church of the Subgenius “Bob” if we so choose.

Note that after posting at Missouri Tenth I searched the Gutenberg text of the Federalist papers for “christian” and “religion”, and added this comment:

The only reference to Christianity: “In the early ages of Christianity, Germany was occupied by seven distinct nations, who had no common chief.” Zzzz…

There are seven references to “religion”:

“The controversies on the subject of religion, which in three instances have kindled violent and bloody contests, may be said, in fact, to have severed the league.” Oops…religion can be trouble at times.

“The INFINITE DIVISIBILITY of matter, or, in other words, the INFINITE divisibility of a FINITE thing, extending even to the minutest atom, is a point agreed among geometricians, though not less incomprehensible to common-sense than any of those mysteries in religion, against which the batteries of infidelity have been so industriously leveled.”


“For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword.”

Hmm…maybe this implies that it’s not a good idea to force us all to be Christians, for example by laying off teachers who must apply to charter schools in which their “Christianity” is a qualification for employment.

“With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.”

Lucky us, in other words. We’re all bozos on this bus. Not exactly a ringing defense of religion.

“To the People of the State of New York: QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the UNION then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention. I shall present the public with one or two extracts from it: “An entire and perfect union will be the solid foundation of lasting peace: It will secure your religion, liberty, and property; remove the animosities amongst yourselves, and the jealousies and differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your strength, riches, and trade; and by this union the whole island, being joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of different interest, will be ENABLED TO RESIST ALL ITS ENEMIES.”

Oops, a quote from a fat dyke who happened to be a rather forgettable Queen about the Act of Union of 1707, and in it, the well-ordered state supports religion and not the other way around.

“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.”

Dang. Is religion good or bad?

“The Amphictyons were the guardians of religion, and of the immense riches belonging to the temple of Delphos, where they had the right of jurisdiction in controversies between the inhabitants and those who came to consult the oracle.”

WTF… hmm, perhaps a classical education in the ways of them non-Christian Romans might be necessary to understand the Federalist papers.

OK, enough is enough. Some of the signers of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were Bible folk. But while none of the leading figures were libertines like Danton or the Marquis de Sade, they all were as well-read in classical authors who weren’t Christian as they were in the Bible.

In the Bible alone, they probably could beat some megachurch preacher hands down: many Americans who profess to be Fundamentalist and Christian cannot name the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

And it’s game, set and match as regards Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. These guys believed, more or less, in the Roman gods in some incomprehensible way, and, like Adams and the rest of the Founders, believed strongly that the common folk should believe in Jove and their household lares and penates so as to keep the 99% in line.

But the mere fact that they used pre-Christian models MEANS that nobody can seriously maintain that the Founders wanted to found America on Christian principles.

Stanley Fish on God: expansion of my reply also on NYT site

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 20, 2009 by spinoza1111

Stanley Fish is indeed smarter than Richard Dawkins, but the conflict between religion and science is not so easily resolved. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob interferes in the natural order in too many ways for the modern scientist to accept Him as part of a world view…and I don’t think that Fish means that without God you cannot logically be scientific, or that theism needs to be an axiom for science and scientific philosophy. He means instead that it’s possible for some people to base a coherent life, including engagement with science and technology, only on a religious foundation (while others don’t have this need).

Essentially, the modern believer who also believes scientific results and subscribes to the scientific method has to mentally reserve an opportunity for God to interfere in his own creation: God can never be a constitutional monarch, or, if he can, he has to have reserve powers such as were used by the governor-general of Australia to overthrow the prime minister in the Queen’s name in 1975.

Religious believers, especially those working, today, in scientific or technical fields, seem overinvested in some cases in the “parousia” in that they order their daily lives according to everyday, Godless reason while looking forward to the end of days, “a new heaven and a new earth”.

But if “a new heaven and a new earth” came to pass, how would we know it? To many religious folk it would be accompanied by the mass suffering of reprobates, so it would not be a world without suffering. The traditional believer often believes (cf Aquinas, or the Q’uran), in an infinity of suffering for the reprobate despite the fact that not being themselves gods, individual reprobates cannot sin (no not even Hitler) on a scale that would make an infinite punishment just.

The traditional Christian doctrine of Hell (which the modern Catholic church has in some ways abandoned) preached a one size fits all punishment, of an infinity of suffering, for any mortal sin, out of scale to the sin. This offended human senses of justice, at which point questioners were told it wasn’t there role to question.

The man whom Stan seems to find unmentionable (CS Lewis) made the bravest attempt at the reconciliation of traditional religion and science.

But what, in the final analysis, is religion good for? Is it supposed to give us a reason for being good? Why do we need that?

Does it relieve psychological suffering? Perhaps, but then again it has caused a great deal of unnecessary psychological suffering, from Pascal to James Joyce. Like Falstaff’s “honor” it seems to have little enough practical use.

On balance, however, I am inclined to agree with Fish and not Hitchens or Dawkins. If there’s anything worse than a fundamentalist Christian, it’s a fundamentalist atheist.

Furthermore, a God who no longer has to be thought of as interfering in the natural world is a fitter subject for our love, since He, or She, no longer has to be held responsible for natural disasters, such as the earthquake in 1755 at Lisbon which caused Voltaire to lose his faith, or last year’s Sichuan earthquake. He or She can instead be like Prince Charles, visiting the afflicted and helping them through his Prince’s trust.

Like Queen Elizabeth, He or She can be loved merely for being a monarch, who no longer sends men to the Tower for decapitation. The scientific Christian can also believe that He or She created the world, in the sense of designing the laws discovered by Newton, Einstein, and Darwin: consider how great it is to have created such laws.

And perhaps, the very stuff of space time might have holes through which miracles could occur. But (and this is important), these holes could never be accounted for, or be the subject matter of, science.

In fact, this is all found in Kant. If things “in themselves” are really out these but unknowable then there could be, out there, a just and loving God, or some sort of monster, or thousands of Gods. I prefer to believe that Love is out there, as in Dante.

YE young debaters over the doctrine
Of the soul’s immortality,
I who lie here was the village atheist,
Talkative, contentious, versed in the arguments
Of the infidels.
But through a long sickness
Coughing myself to death
I read the Upanishads and the poetry of Jesus.
And they lighted a torch of hope and intuition
And desire which the Shadow,
Leading me swiftly through the caverns of darkness,
Could not extinguish.
Listen to me, ye who live in the senses
And think through the senses only:
Immortality is not a gift,
Immortality is an achievement;
And only those who strive mightily
Shall possess it.

Edgar Lee Masters