Hurricane Of Lies

“And I leave behind this hurricane of fucking lies,”

Green Day – Jesus Of Suburbia

I gave it a good two and a half decades, but I finally left my religious life behind. I moved beyond what had become painful cognitive dissonance. I yearned for reality, scorning the lying map by which my Christianity obscured it. Delusion, once recognized, became instantly tiresome.

Ten years after I shed these self-deluding lies, I fear my country is drowning in them. They’re only slightly different in form from those in which I had trapped myself. But they have the same paralyzing effects: science is rejected, fellow citizens are shunned, and the refuges of calm logic and rational reasoning are abandoned, distrusted.

Americans are seeing how damaging cult-like delusion can be, as it now takes on powers it never should have been given: the political power in a party consumed by greed, corrupted by selfishly horded wealth, inciting the worst behavior of its faithful. The Republican Party has morphed into a cult. It now behaves like a malevolent, selfish dragon. Republicans who support Donald Trump and his mouthpieces throughout our political, religious, economic, and media institutions are not able to see reality, because in the misguided false patriotism of True Believers, they must remain willfully ignorant of it. Otherwise the cognitive dissonance tears apart sanity.

What emerges from such willful ignorance is what we are now calling “Trump’s base.” Witness their unquestioning obedience to his every reckless, paranoid whim. He’s their cult-leader, and unfortunately for the Republic, and its democratic institutions, he also happens to be the President of the United States of America.

He is facing a stark choice in his immediate future: get re-elected and continue to enjoy temporary immunity from prosecution, delaying his inevitable fall into shame and disrepute; or lose the election, and discover how many of his lies came with criminal penalties. As a psychopath, he won’t be able to stop himself from unleashing the worst kinds of behavior in himself and thus his base on the rest of us, in order to delay his fate.

Stay strong, friends. If we weather this hurricane of lies, we will be able to rebuild, and hopefully learn from our mistakes.

Moral Superiority

Recently I visited De Leon Springs State Park, in Central Florida. The part of that excursion that sticks with me is the historical information supplied in the surprisingly non-traditional visitor’s center. It documents a sad tale of the different peoples who lived on the land surrounding it: native peoples and African slaves. But then it departs from the normal sleepy park museum presentation to become a frank exposure of the hypocrisy of a State not willing to come to grips with the damage its industries have done to its water supply. 

The original natives’ way of life preserved the resources of the land which in turn preserved their lives for generations. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the indigenous original dwellers there were the most morally worthy of occupying the land. Their values put living in respectful harmony with their environment at the top of their moral compass. If they could be described as practicing religion in comparison to those who came later, it would include worship of the plants and animals that coexisted with them.

The Christian explorers eventually found the land and claimed it for themselves. They valued life above all, just not everyone’s life. So, the natives had to go, since the whites valued their morals as inherently superior to those they mistakenly called “Indians.” This is the start of the familiar sad part of the tale.

Eventually, the white usurper got tired of the Indians’ attempts to retake their ancestral lands and had them forced out of the State. The hapless outgunned indigenous peoples were doomed to live out their remaining generations in the hostile wasteland of the Oklahoma Reservation system. Their cultures are dying out, victims of the all-too-common fate of indigenous people: being disappeared and forgotten. 

Later, enterprising Christian freeloaders got wealthy on the backs of slave labor. Eventually, the Civil War relieved them of that boondoggle, although the framework of racism and racial superiority remained baked into the systems which replaced that economy. The nation elected a black President in Barack Obama but followed up that triumph of progress by electing an openly racist Donald Trump, who legitimized the grievances and ignorance of white supremacists openly, and constantly.

Then modern industry made phosphate mining a top priority for this part of Florida. (Wikipedia article) This highly profitable, highly polluting industry wreaked havoc on Florida’s fresh-water playground, drying up or poisoning several of its famous hot springs tourist destinations. (Official Florida government source

Their goal was the same as all good capitalists in this Christian nation: extract the wealth God gave us in this land because we deserve it; we are morally superior to those who didn’t get to the windfall first. This doctrine of American Exceptionalism goes hand in hand with an older fantasy known as Manifest Destiny. Combined and maintained by right-leaning politics in the US to this day, these ideas motivate our wealthiest and most powerful citizens to think of themselves as economic gods. It makes them feel entitled to privileges denied the common wage earner, such as being above the law, inherently more worthy of fame and attention and leadership positions, and, of course, superior morally. 

The biggest issue I have with this is that with each generation following Ponce De Leon’s, the criterion for moral superiority has been downgraded further. Now in hands of Trump and his version of the Republican party, the political leaders of this generation have finally done away with the idea of moral justification entirely. Now, winning is the only value. Winners win because they’re not losers. Winners can, and should, win at all costs, and never admit to losing. Bullying and lying are encouraged, dirty tricks and crimes, too. And no longer do they bother to hide their lies and cheating; Twitter and their media echo chambers offer global platforms for boasting and instant absolution for all their crimes.

Is it possible for our so-called Christian nation to bounce back from this morally indefensible position? Not without bravery on the part of all who want to restore morality to its leadership. Good luck, fellow Americans.

Reddit is My Happy Place

I’m always confused when people shit-post about Reddit, since I’ve had the most positive interactions with other Internet users there than any other social media site. Based on my seven years on it, I’m pretty sure there are more serious, intelligent, and helpful people hanging out on Reddit than on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Where else can you find actual scientists or engineers or IT professionals or artists or authors or whatever your interest area is, ask them a question, and get a serious answer? Why don’t you check it out today?

Here’s how Reddit looks to me; this is my feed of subreddit subscriptions. A subreddit is sort of equivalent to a Twitter hashtag or Facebook group or Instagram following.

(I received nothing in exchange for this endorsement, and neither does Reddit.)

Social Justice War On Speech

​Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have found the enemy, and it is freedom of speech! On university campuses, on their podcasts, blogs, and social media, and in their advocacy and movements, this branch of the political spectrum is ostensibly fighting for the victims of abuse and bigotry and systemic injustice. But in so doing, they have armed themselves with weapons to fight against the free exchange of ideas.

Threatdown, Human Species Edition: Climate Change vs Religion

Blue Marble
The only home we have ever had, and in our lifetimes, will ever have.

I’ve wavered between two opinions for the past few years. It has to do with the delicate place in which the human species finds itself. We perch, as it seems, on the razor’s edge of extinction by climate change phenomena we are causing. I am very much a fan of humanity and would like to see us thrive, prosper, and one day leap across the divide to other planets and colonize the galaxy. (I dream big; blame Isaac Asimov).

The first opinion I hold is that climate change itself is the greatest threat to our existence. Given the alarms being sounded by the planet’s scientists observing and measuring our global climate, this is not a particularly original or controversial opinion. Lucky for us humans, it is an imminently (though not easily, as it turns out) preventable disaster, a slow-motion train wreck with time still to stop it before impact.

We Need A God

Religion poisons everything.
Religion poisons everything.

The terrible behavior of the god-believers is a convincing evidence of the non-existence of a morally influential God. Believers loudly legislate each others’ behavior, imposing their made-up gods’ made-up codes on each other (and the rest of us). And believers in gods constantly embarrass the hell out of each other.

It’s a shame there isn’t a real god behind all of the shouting, the offense-taking, the in-the-name-of-killings, whippings, wars, and blasphemy laws, sitting up above it all, shaking his divine head in disgust. The way the world is going, we could really use a god.

Moderates Become Extremists

Mutually exclusive dogmas cannot coexist.

When I was a religious extremist, I embraced every teaching of the Bible as if it could be none other than directly from the mind of a loving God to his lost children. One year of college, then one year of missionary service, only made me more extreme. Meeting and marrying my wife, having our first child, returning to the mission field, and then returning to college to complete my teaching degree were all life events which eroded away my extremism. By the time I was a seasoned teacher, I was religiously and politically liberal. I had become a moderate.

My definition of a religious moderate is one who ignores the bad ideas in their scriptures; extremists embrace the bad ideas. Some extremists move away from the bad ideas, and toward moderation like I did. This phenomenon is healthy for open discussion across political and religious boundaries and results in progress for international and ecumenical relations.

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