In A Way, The Rule Of Law Is “Do Unto Others” With Teeth

The genius of our Constitution for all its failings — and it’s got some serious failings (it gave all the political power to white men and we’re still dealing with slavery ffs) — is its establishment of the Rule Of Law as its organizing principle. The bottom line for law-making isn’t the whim of some Donald-Trump-like king, it’s a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that go to great lengths to spell out what we can — and cannot — do to each other.

Put another way, the Rule Of Law describes what we can and cannot “do unto each other”.

Do something unto your neighbor that you legally shouldn’t (like, say, murder her?) — the Law will do unto you. The Law — striving for fairness (and wanting to give each of us the chance to do the right thing) — doesn’t look to see what’s in our hearts unless we violate the Rule Of Law. And then it wants to know “why?”

In asking “why” we broke the Rule Of Law, the Law wants to prescribe a cure — not just for the crime itself but for the motivation. Did you kill someone deliberately or accidentally? That’s an important distinction. And if you killed someone deliberately, was violating their rights part of your goal — because violating someone else’s rights is as bad as stealing from their house. You took something of theirs that was theirs. In other words — killing someone is one crime and killing them because of who they are — a thing they have the right to be — is another crime.

You didn’t just kill them, you killed their right to be them.

The overwhelming majority of us want the Rule Of Law standing between us. Our problem isn’t with the Rule Of Law after all, it’s with its unequal application. Like integrity, the Rule Of Law is an all or nothing proposition. You can walk around with 99% of your integrity intact, but eventually that 1% will catch up to you. It won’t say 1%. Corruption grows with coronavirus ferocity. Just like a virus, corruption reproduces inside of us; it needs to infect our cells so completely that we spew its darkness, infecting others.

And a lot of that infection goes on undetected. It’s the most dangerous part of the iceberg, lurking under the surface.

The majority of us want others to do unto us as we do unto them. We want to be treated fairly because we want everyone to be treated fairly and we want everyone to be treated fairly because we want to be treated fairly.

As I often say here, devout atheist though I am, I consider myself a big Fan Of Jesus. He is not the church that Paul built out of the idea of Jesus — the idea of Jesus as Messiah as opposed to Jesus as Teacher with a simple but profound message (Do Unto Others). Even a simple atheist like myself can manage to Do Unto Others without hurting ourselves — or compromising ourselves.

The moral outrage we all feel now like our skin was on fire is our “Do Unto Other” way of thinking colliding with hypocrisy. The people clutching onto power have always preached “Do Unto Others” without every practicing it themselves. Actually, they practice their own perverse offshoot — “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

One place where the Rule Of Law differs slightly with Jesus is in its approach to “turning the other cheek”. The Rule Of Law says that if someone violated the Rule Of Law at your expense, you don’t have to turn the other cheek. You don’t get to seek revenge on them but you do get to instruct them — by pointing out in great detail what they did wrong — what that will cost them in time and heartache and financial loss — and how they might get better (so as not to do it again). Being human, we haven’t gotten everything about the Rule Of Law right.

As we know — we still haven’t gotten anywehre close to applying it equally.

But, as Jesus would have us do — we strive to be better. No one — Jesus included — ever said doing unto others was easy.

Dear Rich People: Your Money Will Not Comfort You As You Die

My wife and I finally caught up with HBO’s amazing “Succession”. We’re about to finish season one. The Roy family — mirrored after the Murdoch’s — are an object lesson in what happens when a family substitutes money for love in all its relationships. Spoiler Alert: the relationships always lose.

I’ve never been flat broke. Never been homeless. I’ve always had someone I could throw myself at if I got beyond desperate. I’ve always been lucky that way. But I have lost everything I’ve worked for. I’ve declared bankruptcy and lost my family’s home. That was after being relatively rich. Being in show business — and having succeeded at it — I’ve had many years making very good money. Shame depression robbed me of some very prime years but — that’s Life, ya know?

What coming back from deep, deep depression taught me was very fundamental. Things — possessions — really don’t matter. Only love does. When you get to that final moment — when your sentientness recognizes it’s about to stop being sentient — a taking of stock will occur. You will recognize what you can “take with you” — what will you be remembered for most in a headline-only culture?

If it’s being rich over being loved, that final moment will be even more irksome for you as you realize, holy shit, they were right — you can’t take it with you. The money stays here. It couldn’t give a damn about you. You’re just a warm place where it parked for a while. And now that you’re dead, dead, dead, it will find someplace else to hang out. Meanwhile your “loved ones” become increasingly ironic in name: “loved ones”.

What makes the Roy family in “Succession” soooooo much fun to watch is that they ring so painfully true — the rich love their money far more than they could ever love each other. They honestly do believe that the goal is the biggest pile of money rather than being the most (genuinely) loved.

Ah, but what do we mean by “loved”?

Let me throw down an example — poor guy — never had a dime (or a shekel) to his name. He preached a simple (frankly Judaic) message: above all, love — do unto others as you would have them do unto you; if you have two brain cells, that “unto” is “love”.

I don’t know where the fictionalized Murdochs will end up, but I know where the real ones are heading. It’s all the same place: The rich Father who everyone despises will end up so despised (because he valued money over everything) that the money he so loved will end up in someone else’s hands (someone he hates perhaps) precisely because those who should have loved him didn’t. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t.

The die was cast, turns out, at the beginning. Tragedy is inevitability with scene breaks. The values tied to money over humanity were delivered via mother’s milk. Such is doom.

Again, remember — there’s a big, big difference between how we, here in the outside world, see the Rich (imagining that their money has solved every problem they could possibly have) and how the Rich see the Rich. There, on the inside, they know how loveless it is. They know how no serious relationship can ever happen without legal scrutiny first because, well, THE MONEY.

Sounds like slavery to me.

We’re in a war here. The rich — having gotten richer — want to be richer still. The Republican Party has launched an outright coup d’etat — they’ve busted a cap in the Rule Of Law and tossed the body out into the street as a warning to us. They’re not screwing around. They intend to install permanent minority rule whether we like it or not.

That was the point of election 2016 (the coup d’etat) and now election 2020 (the coup de grace just without the grace).

Ah, but Republicans have one big problem. They’re a minority. When push comes to shove and people REALLY take sides? I bet those willing to “die for Trump” is a far, far smaller circle of crazy than we suspect.

They’re schoolyard bullies relying to their reputation as schoolyard bullies to cow us into submission. Those bullies have a bigger problem than the first one actually. The people standing up to them? Women. Lots and lots of women. And people of color too. Lots and lots and LOTS of them. When we restore the Rule Of Law to its rightful place and begin to live up to the ideals on which this country was founded, we will owe a massive debt of gratitude to African American women.

Despite everything this nation has heaped on them as a group and as individuals, they have remained constant. They saw through this country’s racist awfulness to the ideal we were betraying and held firmly to it. If we do survive this, we will owe a hell of a lot of that to them.

Their faithfulness should be our ideal. Their capacity to love despite the harshness of their circumstances should be a daily lesson about survival, hope and courage.

My group can relate a little. We’ve been kicked around a bit by the Christian world. We still ache to contribute to it regardless. Go figure.

There’s a saying in the Talmud (I mention this as an atheist but a cultural Jew) that resonates with me: “Save one life and you save the world”. I think Jesus had that idea in mind when (if) he preached. He wasn’t about churches and their rules — in fact, Jesus taught that one didn’t need the temple or any of its priests; one could speak directly to God. And God, Jesus taught, would listen.

Jesus also taught how unimportant money was in the greater scheme of things. Those following that teaching — those already doing unto others — get it. When you love other people as much and as best you can, you get a remarkable amount of love flowing back at you. That’s REAL wealth. And when it comes to building actual wealth — it’s a good place to start from.

Will one ever get Roy-Murdoch-Republican wealthy by loving other people instead of money? Of course not. But then, who wants to end one’s days in the poor house like they always do?

Dear Fellow Humans: Can We All PLEASE Admit It — We’re Making It All Up As We Go Along

You know how kids learn not to trust adults because, kids quickly get, adults are lying pretty much most of the time about pretty much everything?

What we all experience as kids is a moment of absolute clarity — about adults and the world adults make for us all: it’s all bullshit. Kids realize that adults don’t actually know what they’re talking about; they’re falling back on “how it is” or “how it’s always been done” instead of really thinking about the questions they’ve been asked.

Take religion, for instance. Most religions frown on kids asking questions about the faith. Kids ask questions because all organized religions (religion and spirituality are not the same thing) rely on nonsense to justify themselves. Instead of simply saying “Hey, want to live a good life? Just do unto others, okay? Ya got that?” Christianity buries that simple directive that anyone can do (atheists included) inside great, massive heaps of fiction. “Doing unto others” quickly becomes irrelevant because the fiction requires so much pretzel logic in order to follow it. Instead, the church wants its followers to worry about heaven and hell and eternal punishments all caused by a fictional woman eating a symbolic piece of fruit offered up by a totally fictional snake.

Ask a Buddhist or a Taoist or an animist or a polytheist how they feel about that. Turns out? Their mythology doesn’t line up — at all.

Hmmmmmmmmm… could somebody be making stuff up here?

Hmmmmmmmmm… could it be EVERYONE?

That’s not a knock on us. Homo sapiens are damned clever. It’s the good news and the bad news about us. Granted, it took us hundreds of thousands of years to graduate from hunter gatherers to whatever the hell we are now, but once we figured out how to dominate our immediate environment — and the planet (so we thought), we became unstoppable. Unfortunately for us.

We’re curious. We want to know how things work — the Universe, for instance. In the absence of hard facts, we’ll imagine what the answers could be. In the absence of hard facts, we tend to get a lot of things wrong. If the men who wrote the OT (and the NT) had had access to the internet, if they’d had microscopes and telescopes and all our modern technology available to them, would they have written their texts — where they tried to imagine how the universe worked — the same way?

Of course not!

Their view of the universe would have been an informed view — and, with that knowledge in hand, they would have written their texts differently.

In other words — they would have made up what they made up differently. And they WOULD HAVE had to have made some things up because — fact — we don’t KNOW with certainty how the universe began. Or why (or if there even is a “why”). Religion fills in the gaps in our knowledge — for those who need it filled in.

The big difference between people of faith and atheists is that people of faith get triggered by uncertainty — of not knowing why we’re here, what it all means and (most important of all) what happens to us when we die. Atheists accept that there are things we don’t know yet. Rather than fill in the blank with an imaginary answer, atheists shrug and say “I accept the fact that we don’t actually KNOW this yet”.

The Rule Of Law is no different. As the Republican Party proves to us every day now, the Rule Of Law doesn’t exist if people don’t willingly follow it. Trump breaks it repeatedly every day. Nothing happens. Republicans like Bill Barr break it every day. Nothing happens. That kind of proves that the Rule Of Law is only as “real” as we make it — because, in truth, it ISN’T “real”. We made it up.

Human rights? Sorry to break everyone’s heart. There’s no such thing. We invented it. No one has any “rights”. We’re born, we live, we die. Life comes with one guarantee — that eventually (if not sooner) it will end. We’ve invented pretty much everything that happens to us while we’re here — religions, governments, neighborhoods.

We need all these things, of course. How would we live with each other without these fictions guiding us?

The point is, they ARE fictions — human inventions as malleable as our own DNA (and, as we keep learning, our DNA is plenty malleable).

We’re only as trapped by circumstances as we think we are. Donald Trump is a bully — but he’s not a bully capable of dominating us. THAT PART’S a total fiction.

At any moment, if just one brave journalist called Trump out for being a liar, a corrupt criminal & a traitor — to his face on live TV? The whole FICTION that is Donald Trump would start to crumble. Because Trump would crumble.

Trump is a fiction surrounded by fiction that’s all fed by fiction — that white people and their money are superior to everyone else.

Mmmmm — is that bullshit I smell?

Sounds like something only a white guy and his money could make up.

The More A Person Loves Their Church, The Less Spiritual They Seem To Be

I bet that lights a few fires.

First, let’s define “church”. We can’t define it the way Jesus would have defined it because Jesus never imagined “churches”. He was born, lived and died a Jew. He knew from temples. And — if you recall — Jesus preached AGAINST the temple and the temple authorities. They were corrupt. And anyway — after “Do Unto Others”, Jesus’s core message was “You don’t need the Priests, don’t need a Temple; speak directly to the Father — talk directly to God”.

Why, Jesus would ask, would anyone need a church to follow him when part of his core message was “Ditch the church”?

I know — logic, right? It has no place in religion. That’s the point. That’s why religion and spirituality are two separate things. Everyone — atheists included — experiences “spirituality”. Look it up. You can bring any god you want to the Spirituality Table. You can bring no god at all. Spirituality is just you and the fact that there’s something bigger than you — how’re you gonna deal with it?

“Religion” happens when people try to quantify spirituality. They try to define it specifically. But whose spirituality are they talking about? Fact: being sentient beings, all with our own particular way of seeing the world, experience existence differently. Ask ten theists what “god” is and you’ll get ten different answers. That’s not God’s fault. He is whatever we need him to be.

Jesus did not invent Christianity. If he were to actually return from the dead (something he never knew he could do) and see what’s been created in his name, his head might never stop exploding. How the hell did we get such a simple message — “Do Unto Others” — so completely and utterly wrong? The bulk of the NT is Paul’s work. It’s his noodling over this evolving concept in his head. The NT is Paul’s letters and epistles to all the far-flung gentile communities he was creating and building. It’s Paul inventing a mythology based on Jewish stories but adapted for a gentile audience who wouldn’t know how far Paul was departing from the source material.

This is in no way to diss the magnificent fiction Paul created. This is a testament to it. Paul turned Jesus into something he never was — a messiah. And he turned belief in that invented messiah into a literal “cure for death”. Believe in (Paul’s version of) Jesus and you, too can live forever!

Want to know why Christianity spread? It was selling a genius product.

There’s always been a huge dichotomy to Christianity. On the one hand you have Jesus — and his simple philosophy (“Do Unto Others”) that even an atheist can agree with and follow. On the other hand you have these massive church organizations. You have the monolithic Catholic church. You have politically active Protestant denominations here in America. You have televangelism and evangelicals who adore Trump — and NONE OF IT — not one bit — has the least relationship whatsoever with Jesus.

From the Church’s point of view, Jesus is the “Guy-On-A-Cross” mascot. He’s Ronald McDiedForOurSins.

Died for our SINS? As in Eve? As in The Garden Of Eden? That is integral to the Jesus story as the Church preaches it, right? If you want to buy in to what pretty much every Church wants to sell you, you have to buy that the Jesus THEY’RE selling you is the cure for what Eve did to Mankind by biting into the apple. What purpose in the Grand Story does Jesus serve if not to die for humanity’s (Eve’s original) sin? That, understand, is the Jesus that Paul (and, over time, the early Church fathers) invented. It’s the “Concocted Jesus” they concocted a church around.

But, again — Eve’s just the underpinning for the “beat death” sales pitch. Believe in Jesus and you can both overcome what that horrible bitch Eve did to us all AND get to live forever as the most idealized version of yourself that you can think of. Want to do all that? Then follow these rules “religiously”.

Or else.

People who love their churches — over their spirituality — they need their churches (with their rules & regs) because they don’t HAVE any spirituality. It must be so — because a person filled with actual spiritual feelings (which are expansive by their nature) would look at an institution built on reining in those feelings (do it OUR way) like they had ten heads.

The one thing of real value a Church could offer — and they do — is community. Ah, but there’s the rub. What is a community built on? A church built on common spiritual goals would be one thing.

Pretty much every Church though is built on self preservation — of the Church and the church. I’ve a dear, dear friend who’s a Presbyterian pastor. At present he doesn’t have a church; his mission — he works for the Southern California Presbytery — is to travel around to all the failing Presbyterian churches all across Southern California and help them as best he can into non-existence.

Every one of those church communities are dying (or have died) because the cost of the church building itself was impossible to bear. Buildings take money to construct and then maintain. The bigger they are, the more they cost. Who’s going to pay for it? God? Good luck with that.

To maintain a church building requires dues-paying members. Lots of them. And they have to be regular dues-payers. Got priests? They need salaries. God won’t pay their bills.

The reason more and more young people are abandoning organized religion is because organized religion does not satisfy their spiritual ache. The community is nice and all but they still walk out the door with their Big Questions unanswered. The reason is their church isn’t in the “Answer Big Questions” biz. It’s in the “Keep Being A Going Concern As A Church” biz. That’s not the same thing.

Churches are where spirituality goes to die — so its body can be sold off as relics.

Republican Jesus Wasn’t “Born” Rotten, He EVOLVED That Way…

People in the media ask a lot these days — how can evangelicals stand with Donald Trump, the most corrupt, most immoral, least Jesus-like person to ever walk the planet?

It’s simple. Evangelicals & Fundamentalists don’t believe in “Jesus The Teacher”, they believe in “Jesus The Mascot”. Jesus the Maestro of Merch.

Doing unto others isn’t even taught in most churches. It’s too left wing. Too working class. But, misbehave yourself in one of a thousand different ways? They’ll “do unto you” so fast your head will spin.

True Fact: No Evangelical would recognize Jesus — even if they stopped mid-way through nailing Jesus to a cross to stop and spit in Jesus’ eye.

The Deep Down Dirty Secret Inside Every Evangelical: They All Think THEY Are “God”

Ask ten people what “God” is, you’ll get ten different answers.  That’s because “God” didn’t invent us, we invented “him”. 

Ask ten Evangelicals what “God” is and they’ll draw you a word picture that, if you stripped it of all the larger-than-life puffery would look exactly like them. 

For reference-sake, let’s remind ourselves that Jesus preached a simple message: Do Unto Others.  It was Paul, selling his version of Jesus and Jesus’ message to the gentiles, who actually invented what we think of as Christianity.  If Paul doesn’t do what he does, there is no Christianity.

Jesus, in fact, taught his followers that they didn’t need a “church”.  He raged against not only the money changers but the Temple Priests, too, who Jesus believed were corrupt.  Speak directly to the father, Jesus preached. Talk to Yahweh (the “god” character’s actual name; “god” is actually his job description) directly, no need for a church or a priest to intercede on your behalf.

Yet lots of American Christians – Evangelicals especially – could ditch Jesus entirely and be completely at peace practicing a religion that couldn’t care less about doing unto others. What matters most to them is maintaining political power and keeping all the money. 

The trick every theist plays on themselves – and anyone they then talk to – is believing that they have a direct line to this Yahweh guy.  When push comes to shove, they can get Yahweh on the phone and get him thinking straight.  The truth, of course, is way more complicated.  Cue the Magical Thinking.

Theists imagine a deity clever enough to create the whole cosmos – and everything in it – but too inept to get human beings right.  In fact, the Yahweh character, as written, is so inept and incompetent that he (only a male would react like this), faced with the mess he’s made with humans (it never says Yahweh is unhappy with any other creature except the talking snake), is willing to destroy ALL LIVING THINGS – non humans included – out of… what, spite?

What kind of tin pot, third-rate deity is this guy?

Then – when he gets the humans he really wants, Yahweh cranks the incest meter up to a thousand.  Think about it.  First there’s Adam & Eve.  They have two sons – Caan & Abel.  It’s written how Caan, after he killed Abel, has a massive family.  Okay, fair enough.  Where’d his wife – and HER family – come from?  Unless she spontaneously sprang into being, she had to be conceived, born and raised.  Well – who conceived her?  Who was the sperm donor?  Whose was the egg?

If other people existed on earth then those people also had to spring from Eve.  If this story is “historical” (good thing it isn’t), then every human on earth is the bi-product of incest.  Theists happily re-play the incest meme hen they get to Noah.  If every other human being is wiped out, every other line of human genetics, then every last human on earth must be related to Noah – and sprang from incestuous origins.  There’s no way around it.

Religionistas all insist that they have insight about Yahweh that no one else has.  They know what Yahweh means across however many translations from the Aramaic to the Greek to the English.  Religionistas all claim to know what lurks in a fictional creature’s fictional heart. What could possibly go wrong? History is littered with the victims of religious people who spoke for god using violent means.  Religionistas destroyed whole cultures because “God” wanted it.  That would be their “god”.  Their white man’s “god”.  Them.

Why Is It So Much Easier To Sell People Bullshit Than It Is To Give Them The Truth?

Cut to the end of the chase: even the smartest people you know have a taste for bullshit – their own. 

We all believe things that – if we actually had to back them up – we’d realize how silly we were for saying such things out loud (never mind actually believing them). We might even realize our problem’s much worse: bullshit has taken over most of our lives.

That ain’t bullshit.

I was watching the football club I follow – Tottenham Hotspur – play horribly again this morning.  With ten minutes to go, they were down 3-0 to a team they should have thumped.  Spurs lost earlier this week 7-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League.  With ten minutes to go – and defeat a dead certainty (in a week we’d been outscored 10-2 FFS!), I still experienced a moment where I thought “Hey, we’re Spurs, we can still do this!”

No, we couldn’t – and we didn’t.  We couldn’t get the ball past midfield.  We’re in a mental freefall as a team.  That’s the Truth.  It’s bullshit to think Spurs can win anything right now.

But, for a moment, I tried to convince myself that they could.  I tried to bullshit myself and I succeeded.

Bullshit is Hope’s evil twin.  Just as Hope is aspirationally positive, Bullshit is aspirationally negative.  It’s a lie easily thrown together, easily tossed off and easily forgotten – especially when new bullshit is created to replace the old.  It’s the sausage factory from the seventh ring of hell.

And yet, damned if Bullshit Brand Sausage doesn’t sell. 

For a lot of us, the addiction to bullshit starts early – with our “religious education”. That’s a non sequitur.  You can learn about religion, but to be educated IN a religion is to be fed a diet of pure, unadulterated bullshit. Religion, mind you, is entirely different from spirituality.

Spirituality is the ineffable essence of the awe any human feels as they gaze up at the cosmos and tries to see how they fit with it.  With the pure fact of “being”.

Religion is rules & regs.  It’s crowd control.  It’s the perverse corporatization of spirituality: an institution invents a “way” to spirituality – through them, through following their rules.  Followers may flirt with spiritual experience but it’s always within the context of the religion’s rules.  Any spiritual experience outside those rules?  It’s heresy.  You’re allowed the church’s definition of “spiritual” and not your own.

Funny irony?  Jesus himself preached AGAINST having a church.  He taught his followers to speak directly to god.  No need for the Temple, its authorities or priests. 

And no need to tithe any church either.  Just “Do Unto Others”.  It’s that simple.

How many American Christians “do unto others”?  Not many (relatively speaking).  Most are “church-goers”.  They’re not followers of Jesus.  They’re in it for the “exclusivity”, the clubiness. They like the mythology, too.  They like the magic behind it because the magic says they’ll never die.

Magic is sparkly bullshit. It’s no more real just because it glitters a little. 

The Truth is we’re all going to die.  There’s no escaping it. There’s no proof of any afterlife.  None. To insist that one might exist is simply magic forcing itself upon you. 

It’s me thinking Spurs could come back from three-nothing with minutes left when all the evidence said they were already in the locker room, their heads hung low.