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.

Republicans & The Culture Of Ignorance

Republicans didn’t always used to be champions of ignorance. Funny irony? When the Republican Party was founded back in 1854 (Abraham Lincoln was among its founders), their anti-slavery mission statement spoke of their dedication to classical liberalism and real economic opportunity for all Americans not just the moneyed class.

As Heather Cox Richardson points out in her excellent To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party, after 1912, the GOP shifted away from those ideals — and started to metastasize into the hard core racist party driven by white Southern rage that it is today.

These “new-fangled” Republicans pointed squarely at their religious faith as the justification for both their racism and their backwardness — a backwardness they felt compelled to shove down everyone else’s throat. It’s not surprising. Ignorance detests knowledge because knowledge is ignorance’s kryptonite.

By the same token, ignorant people detest information because information destroys their ignorance — and they need their ignorance to justify their politics and their whole belief system. Republicans are all about Magical Thinking. That’s great when you’re a kid and regardless of whether or not Santa Claus is real, the gifts show up under the tree on Christmas morning.

Republicans like Jesse Helms happily took up the name “Know-Nothings”. Originally, the “Know-Nothings” were a group of bigoted anti-Catholic politicians whose strategy — when questioned on the subject — was to insist they “knew nothing”. That’s willful ignorance with a racist, bigoted purpose.

It’s not a coincidence that Republicans describe themselves by and large as more religious than the majority of Americans. That’s “religious” as opposed to “spiritual”. Most Republicans don’t seem to have “spiritual” in their psychological makeup. They like religion for its rules and regulations. And its exclusivity. If you don’t believe what I believe…

And, of course, what they believe is based on Magical Thinking and storytelling. Funny thing? One can be a fan of Jesus — and do unto others every day — without being a member of any church. Why, even a humble atheist can do unto others without contradicting themselves. Doing Unto Others in fact demands that you put DOWN your ignorance.

It’s simple. Republicans are conservative. Conservatives — as their name implies — want to CONSERVE. But conserve what? It ain’t the future — there’s nothing to conserve since it doesn’t exist.

The present? Sure — but only the parts of the present that still hold firmly to the past. That’s what conservatives want to conserve and what Republicans want America to be — what we WERE. For some, it’s a white man’s vision of the 1950’s that only existed in their minds. For the rest, it’s a vision of the 1850’s that’s quite real. That’s what they want to conserve.

To get there, you have to stop taking in any new information. You have to assume that whatever we knew then is still good enough for now. It’s not a coincidence that Republicans by-and-large poo-poo the need for higher education. Hell, a lot of Republicans would be down with letting kids quit school and go to work. They might as well accept their servitude early.

If not for gerrymandering, voter suppression and direct Russian interference, Donald Trump would not be POTUS. The Republicans would not have won all three branches of our govt. Russia had a lot to do with that, too.

The current Republican obstructive tactics are just more of them trying to make ignorance the norm. As the desperation in their arguments makes clear — they know that the more WE know about what they’ve been doing — the worse it will be for them.

Our ignorance is a matter of their survival.

“Conservative Thinking” Is An Oxymoron

What’s in a name? Everything. I’m a Progressive. I prefer the term “Progressive” because it’s more descriptive than “liberal” which (being less descriptive) can be twisted around to mean even its opposite. As a “Progressive”, my political philosophy is all about progress and progressing into the future.

Conservatives, by the same token, want to CONSERVE exactly as their name says. Considering as the future doesn’t exist, you can’t want to “conserve” it. So, what conservatives want to conserve is the present but, really, the past. To most conservatives, the present is already unacceptable.

Whereas progressives set their minds to creatively solving future problems, innovating wherever necessary, conservatives set their minds to taking us backward in time — to a time when white men ruled without fear of being questioned. We’re talking the 50’s — the 1850’s.

You don’t have to think to want to make that happen. If you could think to begin with, you’d see the impossibility of the task. But it’s not about what is, it’s about what “should be” in the conservative’s mind. And, to them, what should be is a world where they rule with total cultural and political hegemony.

It’s hardly a coincidence that, in America, conservative thinking is deeply racist. Conservatives have convinced themselves that THEY are “American Exceptionalism”. Talk about bullshit. The United States was the first country ever to be a product of immigration instead of long-term tribal occupancy. White men may have made up the rule-making class but that wasn’t because others weren’t interested. White men made the rules. White men benefited more than any other group from those rules.

A typical white, Christian conservative answer to immigration is to build a wall on the Southern border. Stone age technology to keep people out. Conservative thinking doesn’t care about the root cause of people leaving where they are to come to America. It only cares that they’re here and, so, devises cruel scare tactics to encourage them to leave.

White, Christian conservative thinking doesn’t concern itself with the violence at home that sent all these refugees fleeing north. It doesn’t care that the drug violence terrorizing them was born on the streets of America — Los Angeles especially. Conservative thinking, most of all, wants to moralize on your ass. They want to tell you how superior they are to you.

They’re simply not capable of “Doing Unto Others”. They’re not capable of caring enough. They’re not capable, frankly, of even thinking it.