Dear Christians: Stop Listening To Paul; Listen to JESUS Instead

It sucks that an atheist has to explain Christianity to Christians. But — the fact is — atheists have a perspective on Christianity that Christians intrinsically lack (and can never get). THIS atheist — having perspective — sees a distinct difference between Jesus (the supposed “inventor” of Christianity and “Christianity” (his supposed “invention”).

Oy. Where to begin…

Back in the 1985, Robert Funk (an American bible scholar) created The Jesus Seminar. Funk wanted to promote “biblical literacy” via a “historical-critical” approach that viewed Christian orthodoxy with extreme doubt. Funk wanted the Seminar (composed of about 50 critical-thinking biblical scholars and 100 lay people) to identify (if they could) and draw out a “historical Jesus” from the texts — a man apart from any mythos. While the Seminar was most active in the 1980’s and 1990’s, its work has continued up to today.

The Jesus Seminar concluded that (this is taken from Wikipedia’s page on the Seminar) —

The seminar also concluded that at best we can put a dozen to a dozen-and-a-half sayings into Jesus’ mouth — as things Jesus might have said (vs the self-referential things he almost certainly did not say because it would never have occurred to him).

That means that, effectively, most of what we think of as Christianity had nothing to do with Jesus — and everything to do with Paul who was the one person hard at work creating far-flung churches (among the goyim) made up of goyim. The overwhelming majority of the NT is Paul communicating with and building his church communities. And he’s mythologizing Jesus as he goes — converting “Historical Jesus” into Christian Church Jesus.

Real Jesus despised the “church” (in his world – the Temple authorities). Jesus’ whole message was “You don’t NEED a church to have a relationship with god”. Since that’s the case (according to the Jesus Seminar), then why on earth would Jesus advocate for the creation of a “church” to speak for him? It’s ludicrous on its surface.

Jesus preached a simple message — that’s why it’s endured. Simple & doable. Why, even a humble atheist can “do unto others” without contradicting themselves.

For “Christ’s sake” — following Jesus is incredibly simple (and rewarding). I bet following a church can’t hold a candle to it.

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Sunday Sermon: The Inexplicable Power Of OOGA-BOOGA

I consider myself an aficionado of bullshit. I don’t “like” bullshit — but I do see how pervasive bullshit is. I see (having fallen for it myself to the point of nearly offing myself because of it) — how seductive bullshit is; I see how easily every last one of us can fall under its sway — and become its slaves.

Bullshit captures us and holds us because it appeals to the lazy, irrational, can’t-be-bothered-with-the-Truth lizard brain that epitomizes conservative mind-think. It sees a mystery — and, where the “gaps” are in its knowledge, it puts ooga-booga instead of a simple “I don’t know the answer to that yet”. It assumes magic must be the answer to what it doesn’t know. Ironically — if it waited five minutes (while someone curious went at the answer), they’d LEARN — it isn’t ooga-booga, it’s biology or chemistry or physics or some other natural explanation that simply needed to be stumbled over.

There’s a reason the religions of the world love to educate children — they can break a child’s capacity to think at the get-go and replace analytical thought with acceptance of mythology and ooga-booga. Did Life-As-We-Know-It begin in a singularity — or in the mind of a physically powerful but emotionally fragile deity?

If you don’t have microscopes or telescopes or celestial navigation or calculus or any of the other human innovations that gave us the TOOLS with which to replace ooga-booga explanations with REAL ones — you’ll give in to the ooga-booga because you don’t know any better. “KNOW” is the operative word here.

On this subject — quick side note here — I recommend this remarkable lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Among other things he touches on naming rights (why do so many stars have Arabic names?)

The point of “naming rights” is that it reflects “discovery”. Being the “inventors” of celestial navigation — a human innovation that put a big chunk of ooga-booga to bed — Arabs (having no competition to consider) named the stars they identified — and fixed in the heavens & their mind — in the language they spoke: Arabic. It’s a great lecture — absolutely worth the time to watch. He touches on ooga-booga, too.

As Tyson articulately explains — even the greatest minds in science have given in to that old, (apparently) hard-wired-into-us urge to give in and fill in the gaps in our knowledge with ooga-booga and its bedmate Magical Thinking.

Those of us NOT beholden to ooga-booga must call out the ooga-booga for what it is whenever we see it. Maybe we should use the term “OOGA-BOOGA” to describe it — instead of “bullshit”.

Even calling it “bullshit” gives “ooga-booga” way too much credence.

Our Dirty Secret: We Now Accept A Shitload Of Corruption As “Normal”. Spoiler Alert – BLAME THE MEDIA

Spoiler Alert Redux: BLAME THE MEDIA. They betrayed our trust in them. I bet money had something to do with it…

Yeah, yeah — it’s not entirely the media’s fault. We aren’t sheep out here, beyond the media bubble. But most people don’t have all day to sift through or triangulate all the information pouring on us to feel clarity about what is true and what isn’t. We identify a voice or two that we trust. When that voice speaks, we’ll feel secure that THEY, at least, aren’t bullshitting us.

This doesn’t apply of course to Fox News viewers.

The Press is the only job mentioned in the Constitution. They’re the only profession enumerated there (in the First Amendment) and given a mission: to be the Peoples’ last check on Power. That means they have to have a ZERO TOLERANCE for corruption since even the tiniest bit can grow (quickly) and bring down the whole system itself. Because self-government is based on TRUST. We have to TRUST that We The People aren’t trying to screw each other over. There’s simply no room for corruption in that equation.

The moment our Press accepts one tiny bit of corruption — or, should I say, the moment our Press ACCEPTED corruption — they helped set us on this very road we’re on. They’re not completely to blame, of course, there’s the corruption the Press didn’t report on. Who are they? And WHY did our Press fail to warn us about them?

During the Bush years, there was a New York Times reporter named Judith Miller. Judith traded a big chunk of her integrity to have access to Dick Cheney. That gave her an inside track to Cheney’s story. He wasn’t telling her the whole truth however. And there was Judith in the end — with a bullshit story under her byline and her integrity in tatters.

Our Press helped sell us the False Narrative we’re living inside of now — that Donald Trump is a legitimate president who “won” in 2016. “But he won the election” has been the mantra for two years to explain the screaming incongruities of Trump’s actions and the electorate’s disgust. “But he won the election” they say — as if everything surrounding the election (you know, RUSSIA) had nothing to do with that incongruity. Never mind every animal instinct inside of us screaming “That’s Bullshit!” — “But he won the election”.

For The Record: It was reported back in real time — 10 days before the election, Paul Manafort (having been forced to LEAVE the Trump campaign because of his ties to Russia) RETURNED to the campaign with this directive: “FOCUS ON PENNSYLVANIA, WISCONSIN & MICHIGAN”. Trump won those three states by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes. No one has ever done any official forensics on the machines (that’s not to say that people haven’t looked at the results — and seen some very real mathematical anomalies including similar vote totals across multiple counties). No one, to date, has asked Paul Manafort (though I’m sure Team Mueller has) — “What’d ya mean by that, Paulie?”

Remember — Even Team Trump expected to lose. There are stories of true shock in the Trump camp. There were stories of Melania especially — raging at Donald because he had assured her he would lose; the whole “deal” they had was he would lose.

Quick Digression — I’m quire convinced that Euro Trash FLOTUS is as much a part of Putin’s active measures against us as was Mariia Butina. Melania isn’t nearly as trained (I don’t think) — but we’ve got so much to learn still…

These stories WERE reported at the time. For some reason — despite their strangeness — they didn’t catch much heat. Shame. We might have gotten to the bottom of this sooner. But, back then, we were living large on lies. We had feasted more than we realized on bullshit — and had been calling it prime rib. More fool us. But then, remember — BLAME THE MEDIA.

As the story of what REALLY happened behind the scenes of our election began to find sunlight, one story caught the Media’s attention: The Steele Dossier. It was so sexy sounding. Its origins were even sexier. It all sounded like something out of a John Le Carre novel. On meth. Quick

Quick background: Back when in the early, early days of the 2016 campaign, a conservative news site — The Washington Free Beacon — hired a company called Fusion GPS to do oppo research on Donald Trump —

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/28/560544607/conservative-website-initially-hired-firm-that-later-produced-trump-dossier

The Free Beacon (rightfully) feared Trump. Like everyone else with a pulse, they’d heard rumblings about Donald Trump and various illegal behaviours. Fusion GPS was co-founded in 2011 by Glenn R. Simpson (a former investigative reporter and journalist for Roll Call and The Wall Street Journal), Peter Fritsch, (former Wall Street Journal senior editor), and former Wall Street Journal journalist Thomas Catan — so they had rock solid bona fides. Some more info about Fusion is here —

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_GPS

When the whole Trump-Russia saga began to emerge — and the first obstructions of justice flared, Glenn Simpson was called before Congress to testify (the intention of the Senate Republicans being to tamp Simpson down and discredit him and the Steele Dossier; this occurred at roughly the same time Devin Nunes was making his “Midnight Runs” to the White House). He told some fascinating stories that blew up repeatedly in the faces of the Republicans who’d brought him there. Shame it didn’t get more attention but — c’est lat vie (or our Press).

Among the things Glenn Simpson said under oath was this: When got hired, they did what they always do first — their Due Diligence. Their due diligence consisted of getting ahold of every newspaper article, every magazine article, every video, radio show, anything anywhere in any format — if it was PUBLICLY AVAILABLE, Fusion got its hands on it. They ordered it from Amazon. Found it in book stores. They even took it out of the library if that’s where it was. Due Diligence it’s called.

Simpson testified under oath that what Fusion GPS found IN PUBLICLY AVAILABLE MATERIAL gave them pause. It convinced them that Donald J Trump had (at the very least) been laundering money for the Russian mob forever. And if you’re laundering money for the Russian mob, you’re laundering money for the Russian government — Vladimir Putin in particular. It’s Russia. That’s how it works there.

Fusion wanted to hire the best Russia hand in the business to dig into that. The Free Beacon bailed. They weren’t interested in knowing that much about Trump (who was on the way to becoming the GOP’s nominee). I guess it might have changed how they felt about him SO much they did something. Shame about that.

In April 2016, the law firm Perkins Coie retained Fusion on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC to continue their work. Fusion hired Chris Steele in June 2016. When Perkins Coie ended their contract with Fusion in October 2016, Steele — who’d become so concerned by what HE was uncovering that he continued working gratis because he cared about the Western Democracies. If you want — Simpson’s full August 2017 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee is here (Simpson & Fritsch even wrote an op-ed in the NYTimes demanding their full testimony be released) —
https://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/politics/read-the-full-transcript-of-glenn-simpsons-senate-testimony/2700/

So — The Steele Dossier (a collection of raw, unvetted intel actually) became a kind of bete noir for America’s news media. They glommed onto the first word that, while being true about the dossier, also betrayed a wide beam of editorial ignorance about the espionage trade: “Unverified”. While the claims made in the Dossier may indeed have been “unverified” by them, there were people verifying or quite capable of verifying most everything Steele wrote. In fact, on the subject of the Steele Dosser, the Press got quite belligerent — as if, somehow, Christopher Steele needed to prove his product’s claims to THEM before they could possibly pass muster.

It was bizarre, frankly — these “journalists” who hadn’t done THEIR due diligence about Donald Trump, casting aspersions on someone else’s DUE DILIGENCE. Bizarre? It was PERVERSE.

As we keep learning: Nothing in the Steele Dossier has been “disproven”. Steele’s work product — and remember — Chris Steele ran the MI6’s Russia Desk. He had great contacts. He had integrity. Side note: When the FBI wanted to take down FIFA’s Sepp Bladder for being corrupt — they hired Chris Steele. The man’s work was solid. He had a solid reputation.

But our Press had been compromised already. They were still buying everything Trump or his underlings said at face value (no matter how much it stunk up the joint). Instead of trying to perhaps even verify some of the claims themselves — they shrugged the Dossier off as “UNVERIFIED”. Think about that in retrospect — the great bulk of our Free Press were denying a desperate whistle blower (desperate in part to save THEIR hides, rights & Constitutional purpose) in favor of the CRIMINALS & TRAITORS who were coloring the False Narrative.

The fix was already in though. By then — keep in mind — the Press had already accepted things that could not possibly be “accepted” before. By “accepted” I mean “NORMALIZED”.

Yeah, sure — the press reacted to “Mexicans Are Rapists” & “Pussy Grabbing” with all the proper alarm. For two seconds. Then they turned their focus to fresh outrage — and they stopped asking about these outrages. The effect was immediate: Trump’s bigotry and misogyny were now baked in to The Product that was Trump. And the Press accepted those things as “Part of Him”. Voila — the unspeakable had been normalized.

Taking the bait, our Press yapped about emails instead. Benghazi. Then the Comey Letter (a whole other subject for discussion). The Press’s inability to discern real from bullshit — and their carnival barker mentality could likely have changed the whole course of the election right there. In retrospect, the Press’s relentless harping on the emails (stolen property, don’t forget) will be seen as its blind spot. Its nearly fatal blind spot.

Now we live in a time when it is acknowledged that most everything that spews from the president’s anus-shaped mouth is a lie. Yet most of the press report it as if it could be true. They’re getting better at contextualizing it but — we’re so late in the game and they’re still so loathe to use the word “lie”. “Falsehoods” still abound. So does bullshit.

It wold be awesome if we could go back in a time machine to that moment before our Press ate, digested & pooped out to us as truth Trump’s first lie. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. All we can do is learn from our mistakes. Too bad learning from our mistakes is not a given.

We’ve never been “here” before — to this terrible, treasonous place. We can still save ourselves — what’s our choice? But We The People can’t do it without our Constitutionally mandated partners: The Press.

But we need them to swear off corruption. Cold turkey. Zero Tolerance. The moment they sense it (or even suspect that they sense it), they need to speak up. Loudly and persistently cos we’re not always good at listening. It’s hard to listen sometimes when so much bullshit is being thrown at you.

I Grew Up A Child Of The Holocaust

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated. 

You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it. We went completely in the opposite direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

Dear MSM: You Screwed Up Reporting Trump-Russia. OWN IT!

A very real day of reckoning is coming for America’s Main Stream News Media: They helped perpetuate the False Narrative that nearly destroyed our Democracy. How many kazillion times has a TV News Talking Heads round table collectively nodded, “Yeah – THAT’S why!” when one of them explained away Trump by saying “Well, the American People voted for him…”?

It’s BULLSHIT. We didn’t. The MAJORITY of Americans (who were allowed to vote and whose votes were counted) voted AGAINST Donald Trump & everything Republican. The only reason Trump is POTUS is because he ‘won’ the EC. Let’s put aside the fact that the Electoral College is a vestige of slavery appeasement. Let’s put aside that the Electoral College is an example of indirect representation.

Let’s put aside the fact that 10 days before the election, Paul Manafort returned to the campaign from banishment (after his Russia ties were revealed) and told them all to focus everything on PENNSYLVANIA, WISCONSIN & MICHIGAN. As of this writing, no one has asked Manafort on the record (as far as we know — Team Mueller surely already has) what exactly he meant by that. Considering that those three states came in for Trump with less than 80,000 votes COMBINED — and their machines were never officially given a forensics exam (where you open up the machine and gaze at its code) — and considering where we are in our knowledge of what all Donald Trump, the republican party and Russia did together — to blithely believe that Trump’s EC win reflects “winning” is absurd.

Yet, all those arguments ended there with the rest of the talking heads nodding “Yeah — weird — whattaya gonna do about it?”

Thus was the False Narrative born and regularly strengthened. As crazy as it all seemed — as disconnected from what Americans really seemed to want (Trump’s base are not America — they may be 30% of us but the other 70% want nothing to do with them!) all that illogic could get shrugged off cos “That’s what America voted for”.

What, I wonder, will all those pundits with all those “Well, America voted for him!” replies on their resumes say when, it turns out, they were flat out wrong. Trump didn’t win the EC either. He was never the legitimate POTUS. He lost, in fact, and Hillary Clinton won. If HRC won, you understand, it screws up the whole narrative that she lost — and lost because she was a bad candidate. If in fact Hillary Clinton DIDN’T lose — and, in fact, won — then she WASN’T a bad candidate.

Our whole False Narrative just got caught out nekkid.

Oops! Now what will the pundits say? Actually — if we were doing this right, we wouldn’t care what those pundits said cos they’d be gone. They’ve all got exactly ten seconds to explain themselves and their lack of journalistic skepticism. Even if they didn’t quit and find other employment, those of us who watch the news would have to watch them knowing this about them: they suck at their jobs.

False Narrative’s bunk mate is “Both Sides Do It”. Don’t get me started on that SOB…

American News Media’s Biggest Fail: They SUCK As Storytellers…

There’s an art to telling a story. It isn’t just knowing how to line up the beginning, middle and end in the right way so the story makes sense…

Anyone who’s ever listened to someone massacre a joke knows what I mean. A joke, after all, is just a story — sketched out in a handful of words. But it works by the same storytelling principle. A set up and a punchline are the beginning, middle & end of a story.

To correctly and successfully tell a joke or a story, you have to know all the pieces of the story — or suspect enough about where they’re going to at least tap dance through the ending. I just finished a book (looking for a publisher now — “How To Live Bullshit Free (and other Showbiz Tales)” — which basically tells my own story; I knew going in what the story was — but, even so, the ending took me by surprise — and I was the guy writing it. Stories can take on a life of their own.

But, in order to go where the story takes you, you have to be fully invested in it. More than that, you have to be the story’s teller — and not the person to whom the story is being told. There’s a huge difference. A huge philosophical difference.

In order to tell you a story, I have to gain your confidence — that is, I have to convince you to suspend your belief if only for a moment. If I tell you that a dog walks into a bar — and you stop me: “Wait — dogs can’t walk into bars!” — then I’ve failed at the start. You haven’t suspended your belief enough to allow the fantastical element at the heart of my story to take wing. But, if instead, you said: “Cool — so, a dog walks into a bar — tell me more!” then I’ve succeeded — at the start. You will let me take you wherever I want — so long as the story stays interesting and doesn’t violate its own rules.

To put a finer point on that — you become the passive listener while I become the active storyteller.

That’s how storytelling works. OUR problem is our Main Stream News Media doesn’t get that. Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth and lies — and the News Media repeats the lie as if it could be true — they stop being storytellers and start being the guy the story was told to instead — who’s simply repeating what he heard. That is not storytelling.

Yes, yes — part of storytelling is listening to others — so you can tell their stories — but storytellers are tasked with finding deeper Truths inside other peoples’ stories — and then telling them. That’s where storytelling ‘art’ kicks in.

It’s not a hard problem to fix. Actually, it’s shockingly easy. All any journalist ever has to do is remind themselves on which side of the storytelling equation they’re supposed to sit. And if they can’t remember themselves, it’s incumbent on US to remind them — as loudly and persistently as we must.

After all — journalists aren’t merely storytellers — they’re the only job mentioned by name in the Constitution. THEIR stories are the last check on power. If they “tell them wrong”, we’re screwed.

What NBC’s Savannah Guthrie did – interviewing young Nick Sandmann — was the exact opposite of storytelling. She became the person to whom Nick Sandmann told his story — as in SHE suspended all belief in order to accept what he said as truth. That she walked away — having allowed a clearly faulty version of the story to stand shouts at us: Nick Sandmann became the styoryteller & an American news outlet became the passive listener to that story.

Fail.

Fail, fail, fail, FAIL.

From one storyteller to another, NBC News – You SUCK at your job. Find other work more suitable to your skills such as they are.

Perhaps Walmart is looking for greeters. Give em a call. Please.


This Is A Moment In Time Where Magical Thinking Could Kill Us…

…that is if we follow Magical Thinkers and their bottomless capacity to believe utter nonsense is real. I draw a very clear distinction between ‘spirituality’ and ‘religious faith’ because there IS one. Even a humble atheist can feel a sense of awe as he or she gazes out at the cosmos — feels its vastness and mystery yet his or her own tiny existence as part of it, too. That’s ‘spiritual’. It’s dogma free. It’s the feelings without the bullshit explanation for them.

Religious faith demands a suspension of disbelief from the ground up. Religious faith is an attempt to explain that awe everyone feels (even the atheists) with a story — pulled, let’s be honest, from some person’s ass. Okay — from their imagination. Same difference really. I say that as someone pulling something from my ‘ass’ right here, right now. What I am doing here is no different in its ‘inspiration’ from whatever those scribes felt thousands of years ago when they first began to scribble their thoughts onto parchment.

I’m not entirely sure why Christianity still co-brands with Jesus. The institutional Christian churches long, long ago dispensed with Jesus’ core message: ‘Do Unto Others’. Instead they’ve all taken up variations on a theme — justifications for their own existence & continuation. Jesus didn’t ‘invent’ Christianity. If such an actual human ever existed, he was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. What he preached was Judaism and nothing but. A counter-institutional brand of Judaism — but Judaism (it so happens most Judaism welcomes those who question).

Paul invented Christianity. Most of the New Testament is Paul setting up the ‘Church’ — its larger community — and its fundamental concepts. Those concepts did not include ‘Do Unto Others’. They included the mythology to justify Jesus (a character more than a person in their minds) as the messiah character described in the Jewish texts – themselves nothing but mythology, the product of human imagination. In the context of stone cold reality — things that actually happened vs things that actually didn’t and never could — Paul was building a sand castle atop a sand castle.

We stand at a moment in History where our ability — as a society and a culture — to discern what is from what isn’t — will determine whether we pull ourselves out of this death spiral or simply fly into the ground — and lose our Democracy and every last bit of ones freedoms. That’s not hyperbole.

As of last night, we became ‘aware’ that the FBI was hip to Donald Trump’s treason when he fired James Comey. They’d had inklings but refused to listen to those inklings. A failure of imagination. And a failure because of Magical Thinking — that it just couldn’t ‘be’. That the FACTS ON THE GROUND couldn’t be ‘facts’. That what WASN’T was ‘truer’ than what WAS.

When Comey was fired — and Trump repeatedly acted in ways that screamed how guilty he was — that, finally, was enough for reality to overcome the ‘walls’ that had been put up around The Truth by Magical Thinking. I hope we all agree that this cannot be our process going forward. We need to see Magical Thinking for what it is: prettified BULLSHIT.

If America is going to pull itself out of this — correct it’s course — and restore itself to its core — enlightened — ideals, we need to do it with our eyes wide open. We need to take the spiritual messages from religion — ‘Do Unto Others’ — and remind ourselves that all the other stuff was written by clever, imaginative men (it was probably all men) who didn’t know anything about the world they lived in beyond what they could see with their naked eyes.

If the men who wrote the foundational texts of any religion had the knowledge (that’s knowledge as opposed to bullshit) available via the internet today, they would have written their foundational texts WITH that knowledge. The core message would have still gotten through, one hopes, but wrapped up in a better-informed knowledge-base of how The World actually operates — and why.