Keely's Reviews > The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
84023
's review
May 05, 12

bookshelves: uk-and-ireland, religion, novella, fantasy
Read on May 05, 2012

Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Great Divorce.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-39 of 39) (39 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul You seem to return to Lewis's work a lot, despite generally giving his work negative reviews. Is there an academic reason behind this (Lewis being a part of a mo9vement you are studying), or is it because you see potential in Lewis's work that never seems fully captured?


Keely Oh, I have a friend who is fond of him and keeps lending his books to me. I really don't see much potential in Lewis, either as a writer or a thinker, but his works are short and I think it's important to seek out and read things that disagree with you, to prevent yourself from growing complacent.


Christa Do you disregard Lewis' worldview because of an over-arching criticism towards Christianity or because Lewis, specifically, doesn't resonate with you? I would imagine that given the fact that Lewis was an atheist before his conversion and writes with knowledge of both worldviews, you would find his observations about human nature intellectually stimulating. Just a little food for thought... ;-)


Keely Well, it can be hard to say how much bias affects us. I like to think that I'm a reasonable person, and that I can engage in a discussion with someone with different opinions and be civil and open to what they have to say.

There are a lot of problems I have with Lewis' style and with his arguments. I don't find them convincing and a lot of them seem to be hypocritical. I've written a number of reviews about him before, so by the time I got to this book I felt I didn't have anything new to say.

If you're curious to judge my views for yourself, you could have a look at some of my reviews:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
The Screwtape Letters
Mere Christianity

Thanks for the comment. It's always important to look at ourselves critically and examine our own views. I could be wrong about Lewis, but so far, I haven't found anyone who was able to provide a strong alternative reading of his works.


Christa I will take a look at your other reviews. Like yourself, I think that it is important to challenge my own sensibilities and reasonable debate is quite healthy. I think that it further solidifies why we maintain our beliefs. In regard to Lewis, I find that he doesn't adopt the same tone that many Christian writers use. His voice is more critical of the believer and is certainly more analytical. We live in an age where Christians often want the bubble bath experience with God and Lewis reminds us that our own vanity and narcissism can be our greatest downfall. What's interesting is that he was writing in a time when the shape of Christianity wasuch different and yet his ideas are profound several decades later. Nice to have intelligent dialogue with you. ;-)


Christa Sorry, I noticed a typo and I am usually really anal about that sort of thing. Gotta love the auto-correct on the iPhone.


Keely Yeah, it's true that Lewis is more analytical, and he does criticize people a lot for fluffy thinking, but in general I've found he will attack one group for being illogical, but then ignore the same error when it's made by someone on the other side. In those instances, I feel he starts getting into 'bubble bath' territory. I think he's good at tearing down people for their errors, but he doesn't build anything up in place of that, and he's not as good at looking critically at his own assumptions or conclusions.


Christa Hmmm... Where do you find hypocrisy in his reasoning? I am asking honestly because I would like to know where your argument begins. The general message that I got from this novel is that we must constantly be in a mind frame of self-awareness in regard to our actions and their impact on others. It is too easy, unfortunately, to take the "Kingdom of Hell" with us and inflict it on others. Interesting that the teacher in the novel is George MacDonald and that he, apparently, was a pivotal figure in shaping Lewis' worldview. I noticed that you marked "Phantastes" as a to-read. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on that novel. I want to read it, too.


Keely I go into detail more about the conflicts I see in his worldview in my other reviews, if you're curious. The influence of MacDonald is interesting, since he held such unusual theological views, not really fitting in with any church due to his mysticism and sometimes heretical interpretations. Lewis was not quite as unusual, but I know MacDonald's passion was inspirationaal to Lewis and other writers and thinkers.


Christa Yeah, to be honest, I do not know a lot about MacDonald but my curiosity has been aroused. You mention mysticism and that is interesting.... One factor of Protestantism in America today is the removal of the very prevalent elements of mysticism in Christianity. I need to do some more research here because I am fascinated by Protestants that do embrace this facet of the Faith. Are you attracted to mysticism? I will read your other reviews ASAP.


Keely Yeah, I only know a bit about MacDonald, myself, but I do know he had a reputation for complex and unusual religious ideas, some of which he explored in his own fantasies. It's true that Protestantism was a movement away from mystical Christianity, but I think that was true even before the modern American movement.

When you look at Catholocism, there is this long tradition of passionate mystical experiences, with highly ritualized, symbolic, magical traditions, and the use of psychoactive compounds like incense to facilitate alternative mental states. There are even those who used the self-application of pain to achieve an ecstatic high.

These types of powerful, charismatic experiences tend to support a strong, central, authoritative church, since the focus is on intense emotional states and collective crowd experiences instead of discussions of theology or ethics--which is why Luther's revolution took the form of an open discussion of theology, eventually leading to the translation of the Bible into the common tongue, no longer requiring an intermediary between a man and his beliefs.

Luther showed that it was possible, through rational thought and discourse, to 'break the spell' of authority--a trend which would continue through the Enlightenment and Renaissance, naturally leading to more secular, pragmatic thought.

As far as Mysticism goes, I'm not particularly moved by it. I do appreciate Fantasies and magic, but only because they allow the author to explore humanity and the geography of the mind. The definition of 'Surrealism' is not something which is unreal, but something that is more than real, which is how I think of a good fantasy. For example, when Dali painted his famous 'melting clocks', he was relying on mass and texture, so our understanding of his work is based on an extrapolation of our experiences. It was an exploration of what reality could be.

I am less interested in mysticism which is vague or overly emotional or purely personal, because those experiences are so biased. We've all fallen in love with the wrong person, and even if the emotions were real and powerful, that didn't make them correct or healthy. Likewise, I think we can fall in love with the wrong ideas and philosophies if we value the mystic experience more than the actual, physical experience.

I've found it takes a lot of thought and work to shed my own biases and prejudices, and with a mystic's point-of-view, I find it's too easy to enshrine those errors as unimpeachable 'truth'.


Christa Well, you mention Catholicism and I smile because I am one, (not sure if you got the vibe.) I came from a non-denominational background and I am extremely critical of it, more so than I probably should be... I think that the mysticism that you speak of in Catholicism takes root in Judaism. Since Christians are "adopted Jews" the early church, which was largely Jewish, wove some of its customs into the adopted covenant made as a result of Christ's death and resurrection. While Christ established new sacraments, he also partook in sacred Jewish ones himself, the most obvious being Passover and the subsequent Eucharist. The reason that many Protestants do not adhere to the biblical teaching about the Eucharist is because they simply do not understand it. I, however, must accept the role of supernaturalism in my faith if I am going to believe in a resurrected Messiah at all, which is the pinnacle of the faith. I agree that Luther's translating the Bible into common tongue produced independent thinking believers... The problem is that through time, misinterpretation has gotten so out of control that Protestantism is completely shattered and has, quite frankly, lost a lot of its credibility. Now don't get me wrong... There are obvious things in the Catholic Church that I take issue with, but the heart led cultish behavior in the church is found more in Latin American than in the United States. Point well taken, however. There is a lot of fallacy about the Catholic Church that is simply not true. Unfortunately, I think that much of the Evangelical Christian movement's approach to Christianity is at the lowest common denominator. Some of most profound theological thinking that I have come upon has come out of the Catholic Church. Look up Dr. Scott Hahn sometime. He was devoutly anti-Catholic and has since become one of the giants of theology in our country. What do you think of my analysis? I applaud you for thinking critically about your position. I have also been challenged tremendously and am constantly thinking about the positions that I take. I have dated an atheist and a seventh day adventist, which has led to some interesting dialogue. ;-)


Christa I have been thinking about what you are arguing and a few more ideas come to mind. You seem to make the argument that it is unwise to follow the heart because the heart is often faulty and leads us astray. Am I correct in that assessment? I completely agree. There has to be something that guides us apart from our own ideal. This is where Judao-Christian values rooted in the Ten Commandments come into play. I want to hear your reaction before saying anything else about that. Also, a religious movement away from a centralized authority has, over time, evolved into a movement toward central authority in secular government, which I find alarming. Thoughts?


Christa I find secular centralized government alarming partly because of what history has showed us what it produces.


Keely "I think that the mysticism that you speak of in Catholicism takes root in Judaism"

Though it's curious to note that much of the Jewish tradition is about education and rational thought, and tends to shy away from the sort of 'ecstatic experiences' favored by some Catholics and Fundamentalist sects. I would say that this sort of 'charismatic faith' takes more from the Mystery Cults of Dionysis and Mithra than from Judaism--not that there isn't also a strong Judaic mystic tradition

There are also, as you say, many rational Catholic thinkers and philosophers who shy away from an over-reliance on 'faith as emotional attachment', demanding a more rigorous approach to faith. It is always interesting to speak to such rational theologians, since they invariably speak of the bible as a flawed and much-mitigated document (really, series of various documents and conflicting canons).

However, such folks are often the exception, as most people either enjoy losing themselves in the ecstasy of an unconsidered faith or make a strict delineation in their life such that God's and Caesar's things never need come together.

The story you tell of Dr. Hahn reminds me of Bart Ehrman, a leading expert on biblical scholarship who began as a devout Evangelical but who found that, the more he knew about the bible, the less faith he had in it, eventually turning to atheism. I am somewhat troubled that Dr. Hahn's conversion came as a complete rejection of contraception.

"You seem to make the argument that it is unwise to follow the heart because the heart is often faulty and leads us astray. Am I correct in that assessment?"

Yes, that was the point I was hoping to make.

"This is where Judao-Christian values rooted in the Ten Commandments come into play. I want to hear your reaction before saying anything else about that."

I'd say the problem with that is that the ten commandments are not a basis for moral behavior. They do not give any reason why we should behave certain ways, and so there is no moral justification in them. They are merely a set of prohibitions, and do not promote an understanding of why we should behave in those ways.

It's like a list of rules on the kindergarten walls: it causes the children to understand that there is a power structure of authority and punishment policing them, but it does not give them internal moral guidance on how they should behave.

Even something like The Golden Rule, which sounds good, is not a moral basis because it does not give a justification for itself. If we imagine a man who would like to be touched by strangers on the street, he might feel morally justified in touching others because it is what he would enjoy having done to him.

The Ten Commandments are not a starting point for someone to understand and behave morally, they are the arbitrary endpoint of what someone else believed morals to be. Then there's the fact that it is not clear in the bible which set of rules is meant to be 'The Ten Commandments', and that since there are seventeen or more actual tenets, depending on how one counts, each list of commandments compiled by various groups is different.

"I find secular centralized government alarming partly because of what history has showed us what it produces."

I find secular government no more or less threatening than religious government, particularly since the people in power are motivated by wealth and conflict. Whether they use religious or secular arguments to justify their use of power, the result tends to be similar for those they dominate.

Since both secular and religious powers want to dominate me and take my wealth, they are on rather even footing. Yet a religious power might want additionally to kill or torture me for expressing or not expressing certain metaphysical ideals, or for the way that I participate in relationships, something I have less cause to fear from a secular power. So it would be possible for a religious power to have all the profiteering flaws of a secular structure in addition to the sort of frightening, nonsensical madness that some Evangelicals preach.


Christa You raise some interesting points. In regard to the Ten Commandments, we agree that the heart can lead us astray. Since the heart is a very human thing, we must look to something or someone beyond ourselves as a source of inspiration. If we were to remove the religious thrust from these commandments, most people can agree that they set in motion laws and regulations that better our lives. Murder and thievery are wrong and dangerous, idol worship leads to the backwards idolization of the celebrity embraced in our culture, and infidelity is destructive to relationships. In removing these values from society, we are left with a vapid, dangerous and chaotic one instead. I agree with everything that you stated about the Golden Rule. That is a heart-felt sentiment that is open to much interpretation, which can be dangerous. However, the Ten Commandments were given in order to apply law and reason that was and is necessary. I have not read "Mere Christianity" but I have heard that Lewis addresses right and wrong from a secular perspective before a spiritual one. You may be right about pagan mysticism infused with early Christianity. It is true that early believers wove certain tradition into the newly embraced faith, but those traditions have since been modified. For example, Sunday is no longer a day of sun worship but a day to remember Christ's resurrection. The mysticism in regard to Judaism is present... Look at the Last Supper. Christ literally sacrificed himself in order to mediate a relationship between God and his people, replacing the Old Testament costly tradition of animal sacrifice. In partaking of the Eucharist, Christ's real presence reminds us of that sacrifice. I was intrigued by your political statements. I caught a very Libertarian vibe. ;-) My issue with a secular government is that it is accountable to none but itself. The same government that preaches about the evils of cigarettes and cheeseburgers will promote a woman's right to end a life within the womb or fly around in private planes while everyone is supposed to ride bikes. With a religious institution comes a sense of accountability. While the institution may be imperfect, there is a necessity for improval because of accountability. I think that accountability gets to the heart of the matter. Free will and liberty are necessary but responsibility is equally important. To speak briefly about contraception, that's a tough one. I understand why our church upholds its teaching about that. The marriage sacrament includes procreation and the furthering of familial generations. However, I am not personally opposed to it and think that it is responsible to recognize when you may or may not be ready to have a child. I am honestly torn down the middle on that one. There are other Catholics that hold a similar perspective. I don't think that it's a deal breaker in terms of the essentials of our faith. I could be wrong but I am still learning. ;-)


Keely "Murder and thievery are wrong and dangerous, idol worship leads to the backwards idolization of the celebrity embraced in our culture, and infidelity is destructive to relationships. In removing these values from society, we are left with a vapid, dangerous and chaotic one instead."

I guess my impression is that you can't really remove those things from how culture works--they aren't values invented by Christianity, they are universal across cultures and faiths, and even amongst animals. I was reading recently how even a dangerous animal like a tiger, if it meets another tiger in its territory, usually won't fight. Instead they both posture around for a while until one slinks away. Very few of these interactions--even ones involving food--end in injury or death.

Most people don't need police intervention to stop them from killing or stealing, it's just part of how we live together. Sure, there are some people who are 'broken', sociopaths and serial killers and kleptomaniacs, but if you remove social strictures from most people, they don't suddenly turn crazy, they live like they always did.

Of course, there are some situations, like famine and war and that sort of thing where our social structure breaks down, but it's not that removing the laws causes chaos, it's that when things become chaotic, laws and social niceties fall away. So, you could change things by devastating an area with war and poverty, but I don't think if cannibalism became legal tomorrow in America that people would all suddenly do it, because it isn't really the law that's preventing them now, it's their own code of behavior.

"I was intrigued by your political statements. I caught a very Libertarian vibe. ;-)"

Well, it would be Libertarian if I said I thought people in power should rule by domination and force. I don't think that is a good thing, but I do think it is the reality of how the world usually works. I think we should do what we can to equalize the playing field and prevent the powerful from dominating and enslaving the unfortunate.

"The same government that preaches about the evils of cigarettes and cheeseburgers will promote a woman's right to end a life within the womb . . ."

Well, if the goal is to reduce overall medical costs and the burden on the medical care system, then both of those goals are in alignment.

"fly around in private planes while everyone is supposed to ride bikes"

Well, if you're talking about Gore, he actually buys a carbon-offset every time he flies. It should also be noted that most pollution, water use, and carbon emissions are industrial, not personal. For instance, 16 supertanker ships produce as much pollution as all of the cars in the world do. While it's nice to think about buying a Prius, not letting the water run when you brush your teeth, and recycling, none of that makes any difference until we get industries to change.

"With a religious institution comes a sense of accountability. While the institution may be imperfect, there is a necessity for improval because of accountability."

I don't see any more accountability in religious institutions than in secular ones. My best friend's priest was caught sleeping with the wife of one of the people in his congregation, so he was assigned to a new post in the next state. They later discovered it wasn't the first time it had happened. Like any big organization, the church is going to cover up a problem more often than trying to fix it.

"The marriage sacrament includes procreation and the furthering of familial generations. However, I am not personally opposed to it and think that it is responsible to recognize when you may or may not be ready to have a child."

Yeah, one of the big problems is the idea or trying to force people to keep children. If a person doesn't want to be a parent, they aren't going to make a good parent. Unwanted children do not tend to do well in life. Lots of people get pregnant because they are poor, ignorant, and mentally unhealthy. Do we really want to force them to create a new generation based on mistakes and bad planning?

Some people have suggested that the legalization of abortion halted the massive crime wave of the eighties and early nineties, when suddenly, an entire generation of poor, unwanted children who would have become teen criminals just didn't exist to take over. An interesting reminder that moral decisions don't just affect individuals, but can change a whole culture.


Christa Thanks for response. I would like to address your last statement first because it is an important one. Individual moral decisions indeed affect society. This is why I resent a secular government forcing secular values on a largely religious nation. True, there are many non-believers but the majority of our country still claims a religious impulse. From what I have seen in history, the attempt to remove God from the picture has not produced anything fruitful, but rather large scale death and chaos. I do not believe that man, left to his own devices, would choose good over evil. Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a good illustration of that. This is because humanity is not born into goodness but into sin. We have
to be implemented into a code of ethics and morality because it does not come naturally. As infants, our instincts are purely selfish, naturally, and as we mature, we must be taught how not to be selfish. We often allow our hearts dictate our decisions and without a higher law, we cannot function. Moses' laws were not set forth in motion for Christians but for the Israelites, God's chosen people. After Christ's resurrection, Gentiles were adopted into the covenant that God made with Abraham. In regard to abortion, you raise an excellent argument. It has been said that a generation of poor and uneducated people will outweigh the educated because the educated wait longer to have children and have fewer of them. This alarms me tremendously but I do not know what the solution is. However, my creed indicates that God has demanded of us life over death, and I cannot justify the abortion of children because of their parents' circumstances. These children are being robbed of the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There have been countless children brought into the world on unfortunate circumstances that have become tremendous. I do not believe in leveling out a playing field, so to speak, at the expense of personal liberty. In socialistic societies an certainly in communistic ones, there is less incentive for ingenuity and personal integrity because there is less liberty. That is why so many have come to this country, escaping the societies that they were born into in order to come to a country where there is more opportunity for individual accomplishment than anywhere else. With individual accomplishment comes collective accomplishment as more
opportunity becomes available. With a free market comes risk but I would rather take a risk than live a life of mediocre complacency at the hand of the state. On a personal note, I am a professional musician and in the minority who do not support big government and a further tax burden on the rich? Why not? They provide
me with the opportunity to earn a living doing what I love. People are not going to tithe, pay to hear a concert, donate money to an opera company, hire professional carolers, or pay for
music lessons for their children of they have to be burdened with more taxes. I have seen it happen as a working musician in So Cal. My reference about being green was not specifically directed to Gore, but I do believe that if enough people recycled and made more of an attempt to conserve energy, a huge difference could be made. Ed Begley jr. alluded to this when I attended one of his book signings and lectures. I advocate conservation but think that this whole green movement is a trend and when people tire of it, they will move on. Gore isn't saying anything that hasn't been said for a hundred years. Michelle Obama's health movement isn't original either. Look at Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium from the early 20th century. My point is that I am not interested in populist trends. Personal conviction and respect to my creator and his creation motivates me to conserve and be healthy. To quote Eccliastes, "There is nothing new under the sun."


Keely "From what I have seen in history, the attempt to remove God from the picture has not produced anything fruitful, but rather large scale death and chaos."

I don't know, I think the removal of superstition from science and medicine has lead to many fruitful results. I also don't see any less 'large scale death and chaos' when god is in the picture. Religion and religious texts can be used to justify any war, prejudice, or indignity.

It's true that there have been some secular movements (France, Russia) which were related to great violence and upheaval, but in those cases, it's because the church itself was a warmongering ruling power. If the church is part and parcel of the ruling tyranny, then rebellion against tyranny becomes rebellion against that church.

"I do not believe that man, left to his own devices, would choose good over evil. Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a good illustration of that."

I'd say Lord of The Flies fits well into the pattern I mentioned before: that it isn't the removal of laws that causes widespread amorality, but being stuck in extreme situations where people are too scattered and hungry to be able to maintain a community. It is not humans returning to some fundamental state, but being forced into conflict by scarcity.

It's true that we begin as selfish and have to learn how to interact with people, but we're forced to do that every time we talk to someone else, every time we find ourselves in the company of other humans, we have to use social strategies and notions of personal morality to interact. Babies comprehend notions of fairness before they learn to speak.

"These children are being robbed of the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Well, you could say the same thing for the parent--that by having the child, their own liberty and pursuit of happiness is taken away. If I have to choose between the rights of a living person with thoughts, feelings, and a personality and the rights of a half-formed thing which might become a human someday but has no personality or understanding of its own, I'll choose the real person every time.

"In socialistic societies an certainly in communistic ones, there is less incentive for ingenuity and personal integrity because there is less liberty. That is why so many have come to this country . . ."

I wouldn't say that any of the so-called 'communist countries' ever were communistic, because the control and decision making was not communal. The government was controlled by a small, tyrannical faction. People moved to America not because they disagreed with communal ideology, but because they suffered under tyranny and impoverishment.

"With a free market comes risk but I would rather take a risk than live a life of mediocre complacency at the hand of the state."

Well, people live at the behest of the state no matter how free the market is. For all the talk about the 'American Dream', most people born in poverty stay in poverty and most people born rich stay rich. The problem with the 'Free Market' is that we don't all start off on equal footing, so that freedom usually ends up being the freedom of the rich to dominate everyone else. In a Free Market game where one guy starts with a hundred million dollars and the other guy starts with ten dollars, there will be no surprises in the outcome.

"I am a professional musician and in the minority who do not support big government and a further tax burden on the rich?"

I suppose I'd say that those things which have lasted the test of time, the great achievements in art, music, and literature have not always been popular. Being innovative means not doing the popular things, and often means not being discovered until after you are already dead.

If we let popularity and money select our art, then our contribution to the future will be The Kardashians and Justin Bieber. Likewise, the wealthy will tend to support art which represents them ideologically, which means few voices and a lot of propaganda.

The idea of a national art program is to try to fund those projects which are groundbreaking and culturally important, but which might not be easily accessible or popular to the masses. I think about the innovative blues musicians who changed the sound of modern music but who had their songs and profits stolen and died in poverty.

"I do believe that if enough people recycled and made more of an attempt to conserve energy, a huge difference could be made."

Well, as I mentioned before, part of the problem of trying to hold individuals personally responsible for our environmental problems is that most of the damage is done by industry. These industries have a lot of money and influence in Washington, so they tend to support programs that blame the average homeowner while ignoring the industrial role.

If a person recycles and turns lights off, they tend to feel like they are helping out the environment. They feel good about themselves and don't feel a need to do anything else. Yet in terms of power use, potable water use, trash produced, and pollution produced, 90% of it is industrial. So, by getting the average person to focus on the 10% of personal use, industry ensures that they won't spend their time protesting and changing laws to address the real problem.

Add to this the fact that some recycling programs can be more pollutative and resource-intensive than creating a product from scratch and you can end up with a situation where the average American feels like they are 'helping out' even when things are getting worse. So it's true what you say, the 'Green Movement' is often more about trend than about actual effect or change.


Christa With regard to environmentalism, I fully support the efforts of those who are consciously trying to leave a lighter carbon footprint. The problem with getting the federal government involved
is that it becomes like anything else organized by too big an organization. The economy is
negatively impacted and growth is stunted. For instance, if every homeowner is forced to put solar paneling on their homes before they put it on the market, where are they going to get the money to do it? I truly believe that change begins small and works its way outward. Again, one of the biggest advocates of green living, Ed Begley Jr., advocates this. By educating people about the cost-saving benefits of going green, people become encouraged to make changes. When a government enforces these changes, people do not tend to respond as well. You mentioned Luther translating the Bible so that people could read it for themselves; the concept here is the same. When people become educated and make
changes out of free will, the result is better. It is not in the fiber of our nation's being to be ordered into change against our will. Our founding fathers saw what tyranny at the hand of a king and overly powerful parliament could bring and that is why a system was set into place to limit big government and place more at the local level. This is also why the system of Checks and Balances was implemented. In all honesty, most of our taxes should affect our local economies, where we are most directly affected. I can't think of any religion or culture, apart from leftism, that advocates equality. As you pointed out, even communism doesn't produce equality. People have
Immigrated here for centuries because of that thread of hope that they can better themselves. There is no guarantee that this will happen. It is simply not possible, philosophically speaking, to have a totally fair society. If we punish the wealthy to give handouts to the poor, what message are we sending? The poor in this country have far more outlets than in most countries and I absolutely believe that we should help the poor but by giving them handouts, they are not learning how to take care of themselves. I would rather have more programs set in place to teach the poor how to become self-sufficient. I think that the idea of teaching a man to fish instead of giving him a fish, as cliche as it is, is a better idea. By the way, the Catholic Church, despite its obvious faults, is one of the most charitable organizations in the world. On another note, I will advocate for the lives of the unborn, who are not half-breeds. If that were the case, men who murder pregnant women would not be convicted of double-homicide. Our society fully recognizes that fetuses are life forms but women often want to be able to have fun without taking responsibility for the results of their choices, and as a woman myself, I cannot advocate that. There is always a place for unwanted children and its not a dumpster. of course, I am not speaking of instances of rape or health-related problems. The psychological damage of women who get abortions is overwhelming. Why would that be the case if there wasn't a sense of guilt attached? But, I think that you and I are not going to agree on this point. I'm regard to human nature, I still maintain that law is necessary to prevent chaos. Golding's thesis, in my opinion, was that once these very proper English boys were removed from a civilized society and placed into isolation, their innermost savage selves became known. These boys even tried to recreate the world that they left behind but ultimately failed, as there were no real consequences for breaking laws, which did not exist in and of themselves in nature. It is a true testament of human nature. If you look at the Ten Commandments from a purely secular perspective, they are essential so that people will not tear each other to pieces. Every person has the ability to impart good or evil. I believe that we choose good because we are aware of the consequences of choosing evil. Now this is not to say that we do not have compassion but where does that compassion come from? From our own hearts? I maintain that a just God that created us in his image created us with a sense of compassion and justice, as those are qualities that he imparted toward his
Chosen People. Is certainly not nature that provides these qualities. In the animal kingdom, there is a sense of order and justice but compassion is what separates us from the savage beast, so to say. If a mother bear encounters a human and senses that her cub may be in danger, she will kill the human because it is her role in nature to defend her offspring. There is no sense of compassion for the human life on the part of the bear. The qualities that make us human do not come from se evolutionary atom but from an elevated source with the capacity to instill such values.


Keely "The economy is negatively impacted and growth is stunted. For instance, if every homeowner is forced to put solar paneling on their homes before they put it on the market, where are they going to get the money to do it?"

Interesting that you are still focusing on examples of how laws negatively affect individuals when I was focusing on the fact that individuals have much less impact, overall, than industry. A law which makes individuals responsible for putting solar panels on their houses ignores the fact that most of the energy used is industrial, and most industrial power plants are very poullutative.

It's true that laws might be said to 'negatively impact the economy', but profit is not always the bottom line. If a law prevented a company from doing Hydrofracking, it would certainly stop them from profiting economically from the practice, but it would also prevent the mass destruction of groundwater.

As I said before, personal changes made by households and individuals are insignificant compared to the use of resources by industry, so I would suggest the government legislate the industries, not the homeowners.

"Our founding fathers saw what tyranny at the hand of a king and overly powerful parliament could bring and that is why a system was set into place to limit big government and place more at the local level. This is also why the system of Checks and Balances was implemented."

Which is why it's important for the government to establish similar checks and balances over large businesses to prevent them from becoming overly powerful and tyrannical.

"As you pointed out, even communism doesn't produce equality."

Actually, communism would produce equality, it's just that there have been no countries that actually used a communist system of rule. The USSR was a tyranny, not a communist state, and Tyrannies are always opposed to equality.

" People have immigrated here for centuries because of that thread of hope that they can better themselves"

I'd suggest they move here because we have a stronger economy. Almost every person in America is a member of the world elite. There is more food here, more technology here, and more money here. Anyone who moves here will be able to do better because America is better off.

People from all over the world work 12 hour days in factories for a handful of change to support us. they make our goods, they make our food, and we profit off of them. In Victorian England they had personal servants in the house who made their food and washed their clothes. Americans do the same thing, but our servants live half a world away, and make washing machines instead of washing our clothes personally.

Coming to America from a poor country is like the difference between being homeless in Detroit and being homeless in San Francisco. Even if you're still homeless and unemployed, there's more food in trash bins in San Fran, the weather's nicer, and the crime rate's lower. It's not that the person has more 'opportunity', it's the fact that everything around them is just materially better. That's not an ideological difference, it's an economic difference.

"If we punish the wealthy to give handouts to the poor, what message are we sending?"

Well, I'd suggest the message is that there is a limit to how much control and profit we will allow the wealthy to have. For instance, in the recent housing bubble, wealthy investors took advantage of poorer people, speculated with their money, made huge profits, and then ducked out and let the poor people take the fall when the bubble burst.

So, if the government were to go in and tax those huge profits then use the money to create a relief program for all of those homeless middle class families, that would send the message that if a huge corporate screwup destroys the lives of thousands of people, that's not okay, and someone needs to step in and try to fix things.

This is the 'free market' problem I talked about before. All those people who had their homes and pensions taken away really have no recourse. They could try to sue, but against a huge, well-paid firm of corporate lawyers, that's not going to help much.

I think the government should be there to help the bulk of American workers do well, and to help prevent huge multinational companies from taking advantage of them in the name of huge profits.

"I would rather have more programs set in place to teach the poor how to become self-sufficient. I think that the idea of teaching a man to fish instead of giving him a fish, as cliche as it is, is a better idea."

It's true, and I agree. The problem right now is that we have a lot of systems which are set up to prevent people from being self-sufficient. There are under-funded schools which fail to prepare their students for their future lives. There are prisons which, instead of rehabilitating, tend to make the incarcerated more helpless, violent, and mentally damaged.

Then there's the fact that to live a normal life in this society requires a person to give up self-reliance. Want to go to school? Have a car? Dress well enough to be hired? Buy a house? Then you'll have to put yourself into debt for most of your life. At that point you aren't self-reliant, you're reliant on the lenders who you have to pay each month.

So yeah, the idea of education and rehabilitation is great, but it's not how our society works now. The philosopher Hume talks about the 'is vs. ought' problem, which deals with the fact that human beings always talk about the way things are now (the 'is') and the way they think things should be (the 'ought').

The problem with this is that we have to show that it's actually possible to get from the 'is' to the 'ought', because there's a big gap there, and there are a lot of things in the way. Switching from a society that makes people less self-reliant into a society that makes them more self-reliant is a pretty huge gap.

"women often want to be able to have fun without taking responsibility for the results of their choices"

I think in many cases, these are not informed decision being made by women who rationally understand what this responsibility means. I also think that confusion and social pressure have more to do with it than 'fun'. Just because a person knows it is possible to become pregnant does not mean they understand what pregnancy actually involves, or how likely it is. A child might learn that sex is when 'a penis goes into a vagina' but that doesn't mean they understand the social ramifications or responsibilities implied by actually having sex.

"There is always a place for unwanted children and its not a dumpster."

I am just concerned that in the case of an unwanted child, that 'place' might be one of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, starvation, abandonment, ignorance, and mental disorder. There are people in this world who will never become healthy, never become members of society because of the things done to them in their childhood.

"The psychological damage of women who get abortions is overwhelming. Why would that be the case if there wasn't a sense of guilt attached?"

Well, in cases like that, and in child abuse cases, the sense of guilt is often something which is put there by people around you. For instance, in cases of the sexual abuse of a child, the child often does not report having any ill feelings about the encounters until after it has been discovered and people have begun to treat them like a victim.

I'm not suggesting this excuses the abuse or anything, but people often don't feel bad about something until the people around them start acting as if they are supposed to feel bad about it.

I also know women who have had abortions who are not consumed with guilt by that choice. Certainly, it depends on a person's outlook. For centuries, it was common on farms, when a litter of kittens was born, to take them, put them in a bag, and drown them. This was because there were already too many cats, and so the new ones would just starve, be eaten, or become sick and die. It was considered a humane act and people did it without feeling guilt.

Nowadays, with a different perspective, there are probably few people who could do it without feeling guilty, even if the alternative was the cats starving or dying from disease. These are decisions and actions which can be difficult to do, but it can be argued that there are times when they are the right decision, morally.

"These boys even tried to recreate the world that they left behind but ultimately failed"

I would argue they failed primarily because they were in an extreme situation which rendered normal social interaction impossible. There have been quite a few instances of real-life shipwrecks and strandings, and in situations where there is enough food and the environment is not overly hostile, people tend to develop small, relatively peaceful societies based off of the same rules of cooperation we use in everyday life.

"If you look at the Ten Commandments from a purely secular perspective, they are essential so that people will not tear each other to pieces."

It's an argument I often hear, but I don't see how it could be true. If killing and stealing and cannibalism all became legal tomorrow, would you start killing people? Would you steal from them and eat them? If you wouldn't do these things, why do you imagine that everyone else would? Is everyone else so fundamentally different from you?

Sure, there are always some sociopaths and antisocial people, but they don't tend to do that well, overall, because survival is about community. If a person can't function well in a community, they are not going to do very well in life. This is why it would make sense for us to get these qualities from nature: things go better when we work together, and much worse when we're at each other's throats.

Despite what you say, this is also true for animals. As I mentioned before, animals will go out of their way not to fight, not to attack each other. Most encounters between animals, even over food, or involving offspring, are resolved by nonviolent means--by posturing.

It's like in the movie Grizzly Man. The guy worked with thousands of bears over a period of more than a decade. He lived with them, interacted with them, and for thirteen years, all of those interactions were resolved peacefully through social cues. He was eventually attacked and killed by a bear, but that was only a single interaction out of thousands that went wrong. This should show that for bears, as for humans, the vast majority of interactions are peaceful, social, and predictable.

And once again, as with humans and bears, there may be an individual out of those thousands who would kill--because of a mental disorder, or because of reasons of scarcity--but they are by far the exception.

The reason I think the Ten Commandments were laid out was not to make people stop killing or stealing, but to set up a system where the authorities could punish and ostracize people. It's a means of social control. Like most laws, they are not applied universally, they are mostly used against people or groups that threaten the authority.

It's like vagrancy laws: most people can walk around the streets as long as they behave themselves and dress well. The law just serves as an excuse for the law to arrest the 'wrong sort of person', whether that means they are black, or a hippie, or poor.

Likewise, the bible is full of people who kill and steal and who are praised as great, holy men. Numerous wars have been fought by religious people against other religious people, and no one brought out the Ten Commandments as a reason to stop. Killing is only a crime when it's done in a way that isn't helpful to the figures in authority.

But this response is getting rather lengthy. I'll lay off for now.


Keely Oh, one more point I wanted to respond to:

"the Catholic Church, despite its obvious faults, is one of the most charitable organizations in the world."

This is undeniably true, if looked at purely in terms of funds, but I have not seen evidence that the way that money is spent is the most effective or beneficial, in terms of charity. For instance, of the millions of dollars Mother Theresa received, none of it was ever used to build a single church or school. Instead, it went to new monasteries and the refurbishment of the Vatican.

Likewise, though they may have spent huge amounts of money in Africa, during the height of the AIDS epidemic on abstinence programs, these proved completely ineffective in stemming either the growth of the disease or the high birthrate of infected, starving children. I do not consider a charity to be worthwhile merely because it spends a great deal of money, with little to show for it.

Certainly I won't say the church and its members aren't doing good in many parts of the world, but I am not overly impressed with its track record as a charitable organization, considering how large it is.


Christa Hey, lots to discuss here. First of all, I have to correct you on your assessment of
Mother Teresa. She founded Missionaries of Charity, which directly served the poor and those suffering with AIDS and other diseases. The charity has also built schools. To say that all of her money went into the church and not the people is simply unfair. Secondly, there are several active Catholic ministries that directly serve the impoverished, including the St. Vincent de Paul ministry which provides food and goods to the needy as well as organizations that minister to women who have had abortions or are considering them. You have some legitimate concerns with the church but let's be honest about its worthy contributions. I agree that when priests abuse their positions, the church loses credibility. I would like to see the Pope issue an edict that allows priests to marry, which used to be the case. It is unnatural for men to remain chaste and while I believe that there are some who can, many fall victim to natural desires. I also agree with you that it is generally poorer, uneducated women who find themselves in the unfortunate situation of unwanted pregnancies. However, I stills maintain that children born into these circumstances can overcome their obstacles to become healthy, productive members of society. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, had some legitimate concerns about reproduction and back- alley abortions. Her own mother miscarried several times and died from cervical cancer relatively young. She also made strides in civil rights. However, she was also a proponent of eugenics and believed that though the use of birth control and abortion, "less desirable" individuals would be weeded out of American society. Again, not all of her ideas were in error but my creed teaches that God has commanded that we choose life over death, and I cannot support a system which systematically kills without the victim being given an opportunity to choose life. I believe that birth control can be used responsibly but I also believe that we choose our actions and must bear the responsibility of those choices. At the risk of sounding empathetic, I do not advocate a world view that constantly makes
excuses for people's poor choices. You mentioned the housing crisis and you made a good point but only presented one side of the coin. The people who lost their homes often had no business buying homes to begin with. Anyone with common sense would understand what an unfixed interest rate is. People bought homes without taking the time to fully understand what was in the contract that they signed because they, like many, feel entitled to own homes. I am not making an excuse for the banks, but individuals have to be held responsible for their choices, too. Unfortunately, the systems set in place by FDR, which were supposed to be temporary solutions, have spiraled out of control and now people depend on handouts. I am not saying that people that pay into social security should not receive it, but I have personally seen people take advantage of the system. People lose their incentive to be productive when they have a crutch to lean on. There are, of course, individuals who genuinely need assistance, but a lot of people on government assistance are
fully capable of working and choose not to because they are too damn lazy. Our founding fathers did not set into motion a system that would philosophically encourage this. I agree with you that people come to America, they are being adopted into a more economically stable system. I maintain that the reason that our country is stronger economically is because of the enduring philosophy of our founding fathers in regard to our "inalienable rights endowed by our creator." this country has provided more opportunity for prosperity than any other and it is due to the ingenuity of others that we live in the kind of stability that we do. The bottom line is the wealthy provide opportunities for others. Of course they need to pay their fair share of taxes but I do not find value in the "Robin Hood mentality" because it does not teach the poor how to become successful; rather, it keeps them in a vicious cycle of poverty. We need the wealthy to provide jobs, support the arts, etc.... The poor don't keep theaters afloat, the wealthy and middle class do. I forgot to touch on music last time. No arguments here about the crappy musical aesthetic of the general public. I am extremely critical of it. As someone who is starting a professional opera
company, I can tell you that we are dependent on the support of our community. Luckily I live in a community that values the arts but we are getting donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations that are economically stable and willing to donate. We will most likely apply for grants once we gain our non-profit status but in the meantime, we are dependent on the generosity of those that are financially capable and willing to help promote classical music. Lastly, I can speak about education with some authority on the subject because I come from a family of educators. I wholeheartedly agree with you that public educator is in a foul state but it is largely because of the federal government's involvement, which is unconstitutional to begin with. I don't know of a single educator that supports No Child Left Behind. The kind of creative teaching that was practiced when you and I were in school is harder to achieve because of standardized testing. Schools are pressured to meet these arbitrary federal standards, which have been set in place by politicians who have never
been educators or administrators themselves. The standard of education has been lowered and some students graduating from high school are, quite frankly, dumber than dirt. Admission requirements for universities have also been lowered. For example, reading comprehension has decreased dramatically. I used to read Dickens and Shakespeare in middle school; there is more emphasis on graphic novels and short stories now because of kids' lack of attention span and poor critical thinking skills. Three areas in which Europe has us beat to hell is in the areas of education, foreign language, and of course, the accessibility of good quality music. By the way, is your photo actually you? If so, do you still have the mustache? I have to admit that the photo is pretty enviable.


Christa I meant "are" the areas not "is the areas." Funny that I made that error while discussing poor education. Sometimes my brain works faster than my fingers.


Keely "She founded Missionaries of Charity, which directly served the poor"

The Missionaries of Charity is precisely what I was referring to. The 'service' they gave to the sick and poor was not treatment or increase in quality in life. These were not medical facilities and were not staffed by doctors or nurses. Instead, the purpose of the MIC, as defined by Theresa, is to witness the suffering of the poor as a holy act, not to aid them. In Theresa's own words:

"I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

To her, the fact that poor people suffer and die is not something to be combated, but something to be celebrated, since it is like the suffering of Christ. I find this to be a perverse and sadistic position.

" . . . there are several active Catholic ministries . . . which provides food and goods to the needy as well as organizations that minister to women who have had abortions"

Again, I would not consider these to be very effective means for a charity to help people. These are not the 'tech a man to fish' methods you spoke about before. One of the problems in Africa is that there is so much food and so many goods being sent there that no local businesses could possibly compete. No farmer can outsell free food.

Likewise, I worry about the type of abortion counseling being provided, based on the problematic history the church has with its family planning services in Africa (such as opposing condoms during the aids crisis). They have sometimes put their own ideologies above the suffering and death of millions of people.

There is certainly a place for family planning and education, but with the AIDS epidemic and infrastructure problems in Africa, I don't think free food and abortion counseling should be prioritized above the digging of wells or the promotion of every method possible to reduce AIDS. Once those things are stabilized, then we can move on and spend money on less immediate concerns.

Imagine a situation where a doctor comes across two men who have been injured. One of them has a broken arm, the other one is rapidly losing blood from a throat wound. If the doctor sets the arm first, the other man will die. So, he deals with the wound first, knowing he can set the arm afterwards.

This ideas is called 'triage': you prioritize who needs help most and what the most effective way to help will be (the way that will help the most people). I would suggest that it is unethical for the doctor to let one man die while he sets the other man's arm, if he could have saved them.

Likewise, we need to use the idea of triage when we apply charity. We should find the worst, most dangerous problem and work to fix that before we move on to other things. If we ignore the big problem and let people die because we spent that money on donating t-shirts, I'd consider that unethical.

"children born into these circumstances can overcome their obstacles to become healthy, productive members of society."

Definitely true. People have come through amazing hardship and come out as functional members of society. But that isn't what usually happens, and it's important to consider the likely outcome.

We might also say that if a man who commits murder and we set him free, he might become a productive member of society and never do it again. However, it would be naive to think that just because it's possible, we should base our cultural response on that possibility.

We recognize that most people who commit crimes will commit them again in the future, just as we recognize that children raised in poverty and abuse are less likely to become mentally stable and productive. In both cases, we have to find ways to treat them and help them to become productive, to counteract their past.

Yet unwanted children rarely get that kind of aid, and there are few systems set up to repair that damage. If most unwanted children grow up in poverty and abuse and are not likely to receive the aid which would allow them to escape the destructive cycle, then preventing them from being aborted means filling the world with people who will live meaningless lives of suffering and who will be a drain on society, making the world a worse place.

Is it fair to condemn them to that because one in a hundred might be able to escape and live a better life? It's a difficult question. You say God commands you choose between life and death. Whose life? Whose death?

If the birth of a thousand more babies means that increasing scarcity will cause two thousand people to die, do you choose the lives of a thousand babies, or the lives of two thousand people? It doesn't seem responsible to me to just concentrate on one life at a time, when the actions we take affect thousands and millions.

If there were a system in place that protected them, that gave them a place to be, that meant that most of them would end up productive and healthy, that would be one thing, but to counsel against abortion for people when having a child means increasing suffering for themselves, the child, their family, and their community seems reckless to me. What good is preaching bountifulness when it is just more flesh to be consumed by disease?

"The people who lost their homes often had no business buying homes to begin with. Anyone with common sense would understand what an unfixed interest rate is."

I disagree. With the level of education we have now, the average person is not capable of understanding how interest works or even how to balance a checkbook. Something like accumulated interest is complex and unintuitive, and even many middle class people do not understand how it works.

For instance, many people imagine that having a million dollars would solve their financial problems but in truth, most people who win the lottery end up bankrupt within a decade because they cannot understand the complex fluidity of money. In fact, if you are not getting an active investing return on the money, statistically, it won't last fifteen years. If you understand the intricacies of economics, then I suggest you are a member of the privileged class, because it's something very people are able to navigate.

Even within the system itself, many people employed as investors do not understand anything more than the small part of the system they deal with in their job. The single largest reason the Madoff scam wasn't detected in time was that even professionals had trouble looking at the big picture.

I don't think most of the poor people who were sucked into the real estate scam were greedy. House payments are usually less per month than rent on an apartment. They were trying to save money. Are you really telling me that if you went to a bank and asked for a loan for a house, and it was granted with terms that were affordable, you would have been able to go through the paperwork, figure out the APR, and determine whether or not it was a risky investment? Why weren't you warning people about the housing bubble before it collapsed?

Beyond that, many of the mortgages would have looked perfectly fine on paper because it wasn't until the banks over-lent on the mortgages that it became problematic. Do you know how much your bank is lender per dollar on your debts? Your car? your credit card? Most people don't, and it wouldn't exactly be easy to find it out.

Since we're not investment experts, we have to trust in government regulation by people who are experts to prevent banks from cheating us--and unfortunately, those experts don't always do the best job, especially when the banks are spending money lobbying against regulation.

"People lose their incentive to be productive when they have a crutch to lean on . . . a lot of people on government assistance are fully capable of working and choose not to because they are too damn lazy."

I would have to see some support on this. From my understanding of human psychology and statistics, most of these people are not lazy, but have mental and psychological problems that prevent them from working. Most of these problems are caused by living in poverty without a social support structure.

Poor people don't smoke and drink and eat fast food because they are lazy, they do it because they are miserable and have no purpose in life. They never had an opportunity to see the rewards of hard work--in fact, much of the time they are punished for it. If the alarm goes off but they don't go to work in the morning, it's because work is so pointless and dehumanizing and they have never been taught any way of dealing with that.

Dismissing people as lazy is lazy, and it smacks of privilege. If someone accepts handouts from the government to stay at home, that means society has already failed them. They were brought into a world that didn't care, they were abused, they were never educated, and nothing they do has ever made their life any better. That type of long-ingrained mental barrier isn't just something people can snap out of. It takes years of support and therapy to break that kind of cycle. People prefer to be useful, they prefer to be doing something--every poor person you talk to will tell you the sorts of things they wish they could do. But for most of them, there are no real opportunities.

You talk about people having to rely more on handouts now, but one of the main reasons for that is we now work more hours a week for less money while businesses make larger profits. Adjusted for time, people make less money now than they ever have. A single man used to be able to support his entire family, house, and car on his salary. Now the only people who can do that are in the upper class.

the reason that our country is stronger economically is because of the enduring philosophy of our founding fathers in regard to our "inalienable rights endowed by our creator."

We are the largest, most fertile growing zone in the world, and right through that zone is a wide, navigable river. There is no other place in the world which is so set up for economic prosperity. Second place is the Mid-East oil fields, but those lands are much less navigable, which is why no one group has ever been able to establish control.

I'm not going to say the constitution isn't important, but it's hardly the only document of its kind--most countries these days are set up along similar lines, but none of them have the sheer natural resources of the US. Here is a map of the US with the names of the states replaced with the names of countries with a similar GDP. The US is like fifty countries combined into one economy.

Our economic superiority doesn't require any individuality, all it requires is for huge, multinational corporations to take advantage of what's there. That's what's been happening since the oil and steel barons took the country over in the late 19th century.

"the "Robin Hood mentality" . . . does not teach the poor how to become successful; rather, it keeps them in a vicious cycle of poverty.

I would suggest what keeps them in that cycle is poor education and a criminal justice system that does nothing to rehabilitate or educate. The 'Robin Hood' concept isn't ideal, but at least it prevents most poor Americans from homelessness and starvation. Until there's a system in place to improve their lot, ceasing to support them would just mean turning inner cities into third-world warzones.

CONT.


Keely "We need the wealthy to provide jobs"

The wealthy do not create jobs. When a business does well and expands, it requires more people to work there. The business expands because of the diligent work of all the employees. Without them, the CEO has nothing. There is no company without workers, there is no growth, or profits, or salaries.

The money to pay workers comes from the work done by other workers, not out of the pockets of the wealthy. The money that pays the salaries of the wealthy comes from the work of the workers below them.

In fact, the wealthy often destroy jobs by cutting positions to increase profits and 'streamline', or even by liquidating entire companies or departments. In some cases, this pruning is necessary to increase efficiency, but in many companies, layoffs are just ways to shift money around on paper to create phantom 'profits' that disappear the next year when there is no longer a worker bringing in money for the company.

In every company I've ever worked at, I made money for the company and for my bosses--not the other way around. Working at a Law Firm, the hours I worked were billed to the client for $150/hour. I recieved $15 dollars an hour of that money and the rest of the profits went to my wealthy bosses. Of course, if I didn't make money, it wouldn't make economic sense to hire me--that's how businesses work, you hire people to make money. But when they pay me ten percent of what I make and keep ninety percent for themselves, that isn't them doing me a favor.

" . . . public educator is in a foul state but it is largely because of the federal government's involvement, which is unconstitutional to begin with. I don't know of a single educator that supports No Child Left Behind."

No, it's not a good system, but it's not there because it helps the government. The reason it was passed into law is because the huge, highly profitable test-making companies lobbied for it with millions of dollars and got it passed. This is why I think it's important to increase the limitations on what large companies are allowed to do. If they can just pay to have laws voted in, then our problem isn't the government, it's the companies who are trying to turn schools into a system where people have to go into debt for the rest of their lives in order to get a middle-management job.

"Three areas in which Europe has us beat to hell is in the areas of education, foreign language, and of course, the accessibility of good quality music."

What's interesting is that in terms of education, the US isn't doing as badly as people think. The numbers seem bad, but if you take a closer look, there's a more complex story--though as someone with an intrinsic understanding of interest, the numbers shouldn't be too hard for you =P

Most of the countries who have us beat in terms of education have very low poverty rates. In places like Finland and Denmark, where education levels are the highest, the childhood poverty rate is 5%. In the US, it's 22%.

If you look at the middle and upper class schools in America, we're still outperforming everyone else in the world. It's only when you add in all the poverty-level schools at the bottom that we get dragged down.

America does not have an education problem, it has a poverty problem.

". . . is your photo actually you? If so, do you still have the mustache? I have to admit that the photo is pretty enviable."

Haha, actually yes, it is me. I made it as a prop for a play I was in. I was actually only supposed to be the dramaturge and graphic designer for the production, but one of the leads got injured six days before open and so I had to take over his part. After designing the prop, I actually did daguerreotypes of everyone in the play and gave them out at the last show. It was fun.


Christa Wow, I wish that I has been in that production! What exactly is a dramaturge? Are you involved in theater professionally or just for pleasure? Anyways, I actually agree with a lot of what you said about corporate greed. There is certainly a place for checks and balances to make certain that employees are paid fair wages and working under fair conditions. That is not where my beef is. You mentioned something about lobbyists and bribes. If politicians accept bribes, they are equally guilty. There is as much corruption with politicians as with wealthy CEO's. Likewise, people that buy homes without doing research are equally responsible for their foreclosures. It is easy to blame everyone else for someone's failures but individuals have to take responsibility for their actions. When I bought my car last October, I made certain that I understood what the terms of my car loan was. I may not find all of the terms fair but I needed the car and made a choice to accept the loan. I still maintain that the entitlement mentality present in our society is a problem. People should not be able to walk into a new home without a sufficient down payment. I didn't get my car without a down payment! Yes, there is a poverty problem in this country but the poor have more opportunity here than in many places. The access to education, food stamps, and healthcare is readily available. I find it interesting that people living in government subsidized housing drive BMW's and that kids on free and reduced lunch have all of the latest tech gadgets. Who do you think is paying for that? We, the taxpayers, not their parents, some of whom most likely pay very little in income tax and yet receive huge tax returns. This system does not teach people to become independent. You may think that I am a person of privilege and I am not going to say that I have not had a lot of blessings in my life, but my family is middle class and as an adult, I have made sacrifices to pursue music. I just don't accept the idea that the federal government needs to provide every amenity for me. I also agree that we have an excellent education system, but it is rapidly declining. Teachers are also overburdened with larger classes, more discipline problems, and fewer resources. I made this observation while doing my student teaching. The teacher's union makes it very difficult for bad teachers to be fired and often times, better teachers lose their positions because of a fault seniority system. Also, there are simply students that do not desire to better themselves through education and I have very little sympathy for them because application, dedication, and discipline are key to success and kids just don't have a clue. I also don't believe in punishing hardworking students that pursue their education, apply themselves, and become successful adults by diminishing their opportunities in order to provide opportunities for those who have not had to work as hard but are given favor because they are considered to be a minority of some kind. It's actually a degrading system for all involved. My grandfather was dirt poor as a kid and couldn't even finish high school and managed to start a business that became highly successful. He provided jobs for others and a good life for my grandmother, mother and her brothers. I don't know if you have ever been to Europe but I have on a few occasions and it goes without saying that the access to government sponsored artistic experiences is superior. Also, many Europeans speak several languages and travel extensively because of their public transportation system and close proximity to other countries. This is largely why Europeans tend to be as cultures as they are. I have a very good friend who is from Poland and she said that when she came to America, she was at least one grade level ahead. A note on Catholicism. I am confused as to what you expect from the church. The analogy about the broken arm is accurate, but the church's ministries serve immediate needs of the poor. Your first claim was that Catholic ministries pour money into the church but I know for a fact that many ministries are established to provide need to the less fortunate. Mother Teresa's organization provides free education to street kids and yet you accused her of not starting any schools. It is possible that her comments about suffering for Christ were made about the women that take vows when they join the ministry. It is hard to understand the idea of finding beauty in one's suffering if you are not a follower of Christ. I don't say this to be demeaning because I understand why you would find comments like that sadistic but many Christians find it a privilege to be able to share in a small sliver of suffering as our Saviour did for us. It's an ideology that you may not agree with but it is valid. By the way,
I don't see other major religions stepping up to the plate to help the poor like the Catholic Church does. In fact, a lot of impoverished people live in countries where these religions are practiced and it is a fact that people in these impoverished countries begin to live better lives once becoming Christians. Not only do the quality of their lives improve, but their discover a purpose in life. The Catholic Church, despite it's many faults, has been a major player in the spread of Western culture. A Judeo-Christian belief system has been critical in the shaping of our country. I think that the major issue with Christianity in America is that it is perceived to be anti- intellectual and there is an element of truth to this, though I would generally remove the Catholic Church from this statement. We can talk more about this next time but I am reading an interesting book by Ross Douthat called "Bad Religion," which is an anthropological study of the decline of Christianity in America. As an intellectual, I have been disenchanted with the lack of critical thinking on the part of many Christians and I believe that secularists notice the same thing. The difference is that I have no doubt in God's existence and his plan for his creation, but I do notice that there is a serious crisis in the church today.


Keely "What exactly is a dramaturge? Are you involved in theater professionally or just for pleasure?"

A dramaturge is a theatrical researcher. I read the play, related historical works, other plays of the period, other plays by the author, author biographies, collections of criticism, and I distill all of that into something for the director, cast, costumers, and set designers to read. I explain the significance of various terms and references, the background of the setting, the author's thoughts, and all that.

I also sat in on rehearsals to help explain what certain lines meant, or what the idea behind the scene was. My job was to make sure that everyone involved understood the play, in and out. I did get paid to do it for a while, but I'm not doing it anymore.

"If politicians accept bribes, they are equally guilty. There is as much corruption with politicians as with wealthy CEO's."

Well, that's because a lot of politicians are wealthy CEOs. They serve on Boards of Directors, work as consultants, then go into politics. When they get out, there are cushy jobs waiting for them on the boards of the big companies they helped by passing laws the companies lobbied for.

The big companies pay for the campaigns, too, so in order to get elected, you have to play that game. This is why I don't tend to blame 'big government' for problems, because when the government makes a bad decision, it's usually because a big industry wanted that decision made. I don't blame the bank teller when the bank forecloses on me.

Contrarily, there are some things the government does very well, like the Supreme court, which, unlike most government institutions, is full of some of the most intelligent and well-informed people in Law today.

"people that buy homes without doing research are equally responsible for their foreclosures . . . individuals have to take responsibility for their actions"

This is the part where I feel like you're speaking from privilege. My Girlfriend teaches college and a lot of her students can't calculate their grades because they don't understand how percentages work. They don't know how to use google or wikipedia, let alone how they would go about researching a loan.

And these are the ones who actually made it to college--they are already the top percentage of people they know. Expecting the average person to be able to do the research necessary to understand a car loan or mortgage is not reasonable. Most people just don't have those skills.

Likewise, the contracts for such loans are often made to be confusing for just that reason. If a bank can get a few payments out of someone then repossess and move on to the next person, they will. As I mentioned before, the problem in the housing crisis wasn't just people taking bad mortgages--it was also people accepting perfectly good mortgages and then the bank over-investing on that mortgage and losing it--the same way that people's retirement funds were wiped out because the company 401k plan was in a mutual fund which bought faulty, incorrectly-rated investments.

A bank is set up to take money from people, and a lot of the ways they do that don't appear anywhere on the loan itself.

"I have very little sympathy for them because application, dedication, and discipline are key to success and kids just don't have a clue."

So you feel no sympathy for people who don't know any better? That seems rather heartless.

Determination is something that has to be learned. If a child grows up in a place of hopelessness and depression and never sees anyone escape or find a better life, where is this sense of determination supposed to come from?

"I am confused as to what you expect from the church."

I except a charitable organization to make the best use of its resources to help those in the worst need. The examples you pointed out of providing abortion consultation and bringing in foreign goods are not examples of useful charity. Likewise, you've brought up 'education' several times but it's hard to quantify whether this is useful education, or whether it helps people economically.

"many ministries are established to provide need to the less fortunate"

Yes, but the ends do not justify the means. There are many charities out there that were started with good intentions, but which waste money and make life worse for the people they intend to help, as in these examples.

"Mother Teresa's organization provides free education to street kids and yet you accused her of not starting any schools."

She didn't start any schools or hospitals. It's true that the Missionaries of Charity built many 'Homes for the Dying' with funds she acquired, where people are allowed to stay for free, but they are the worst sort of care facility--unhygienic, lacking any trained care providers, and needle-sharing is commonplace. They are places where the sick go to die, not to be cured--one doctor reported that patients who could have survived if they had care are treated the same as terminal patients.

It may be that they offer some educational services there, but I have no reason to believe that this 'education' is any better than the medical care they provide.

"It is possible that her comments about suffering for Christ were made about the women that take vows when they join the ministry."

No, it was in response to the question "Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?"

"Christians find it a privilege to be able to share in a small sliver of suffering as our Saviour did for us."

That's fine if a person wants to suffer for the purposes of reaching ecstasy--but watching someone else suffer and die instead of helping them because it makes you feel close to god is reprehensible.

"I don't see other major religions stepping up to the plate to help the poor like the Catholic Church does."

Well, there are other religions that practice charity worldwide, but none on the same scale as the Catholic Church. But then, the Church has a vested political interest in spreading itself and its ideologies. The fact that you often mention 'education' as a goal of the church is apt, since they are a colonial power trying to spread their influence--though at that point, it's more 're-education'. As you say the Church 'has been a major player in the spread of Western culture', which hasn't always been a good thing.

". . . people in these impoverished countries begin to live better lives once becoming Christians"

It's easy to make this claim, but very hard to prove it. Historically, the arrival of missionaries and Christianity in countries has been swiftly followed by conflict, death, and breakdown of social institutions. Of course, that can be blamed on industry coming in to take natural resources, but it doesn't paint a pretty picture of the spreading of 'Western Thought'.

"A Judeo-Christian belief system has been critical in the shaping of our country."

Funny that Judeo-Christian morality took so long to produce a great country. For thousands of years, Christian nations were tyrannical, warlike, prejudiced, an unjust. I'd suggest that the success of America had more to do with the progress of rationality and utilitarian morality during the Age of Enlightenment, which happened just before America was founded--and not on laws from thousands of years ago that failed to produce rationality or democracy in the hundreds of nations that followed them.

"I think that the major issue with Christianity in America is that it is perceived to be anti- intellectual and there is an element of truth to this, though I would generally remove the Catholic Church from this statement."

Very generous of you. I'd actually say that Catholicism tends to be more anti-intellectual than Protestantism, because Catholicism is more mystical and impassioned, and is based on an authoritative structure--instead of coming to god on your own, you have to follow a preset series of traditions and beliefs.

"As an intellectual . . ."

Haha, I didn't realize that was a term one could de facto apply to one's self. Privilege indeed.

"I have been disenchanted with the lack of critical thinking on the part of many Christians and I believe that secularists notice the same thing."

Well, as I was saying before, a lot of the Christian belief system--like the Ten Commandments--does not encourage critical thought. It doesn't give you some ideas like 'life is precious' and let you reach your own conclusions, it tells you how to behave straight up. So, there will be some people who are drawn to religion because they do not naturally think for themselves and want a structure of authority to follow.

Of course, this is not true of all people who come to religion, and to extend your comment, there is plenty of critical thinking among secular, folk, too. But for a lot of people, religion is kind of a 'given'--it's something a lot of people just do because they did it as kids.

For most people who become atheists, it means questioning the religion that's already there and searching for some personal truth, so for most people, being secular starts with critical thinking, meaning that it would be self-selecting, and secular people would be more likely to be critical thinkers. This doesn't make them intelligent or correct, but it does say something about how they think about the world.


Christa Well, in regard to referring to myself as an intellectual, I find it reasonable to make that claim as it applies to the approach I take when formulating an opinion. Since I am educated, well read, and fairy well informed, I don't have a problem attaching that label to myself. I also take time to consider the opposing view and it's validity. We may have differing world views but that doesn't mean that we can't have engaging, academic debate. My comment about anti-intellectualism is actually true. You may not agree with me but as I have said, I am reading a book that explores the history of Christianity in our country and mid-nineteenth century Evangelism approached Christianity from an anti-intellectual approach in response to the scientific developments being made in Europe. On the other hand, the Catholic Church has historically acknowledged the role of science and the possibility of the marriage of it with Christian creed. I could be wrong about this but I heard that a Catholic actually came up with the idea of the Big Bang Theory. At any rate, my observations about Evangelical Protestantism are rooted in personal experience, as that is the kind of church that I was raised in and left as a young adult. Catholicism appealed to me because I was looking for an opportunity to explore the historical traditions of the faith and study the history of the church. Additionally, in studying tradition and history more intently, Christian creed has become more clear to me. I really don't know what the mystic experience that you speak of is; I have not noticed its presence in American Catholicism. If you attended Mass for yourself, you might be surprised to find that we don't whip ourselves into a frenzy over a statue of the Blessed Virgin like people think we do. I also find your allegiance to Protestantism interesting, given that you are an atheist. Again, I have spent significant time in both Catholic and Protestant Churches and have found that generally speaking, Evangelical Churches are more focused on an emotional, "heart-felt" experience with God which is fine, but it can also be distracting, as there is more to our faith than a personal experience with God all the time. Again, if you read the book that I mentioned, I think that you would understand my position more clearly. In regard to Catholic charity, I simply cannot wrap my mind around why you are so unwilling to acknowledge the good that they do. You and I already agreed that education is a way out of poverty and it is a fact that Mother Teresa's organization has opened schools and brought in volunteers to educate the poor. The numbers are out there to support the people that are suffering from disease and poverty, and Catholic charities are there to, as you say, fix the broken arm while providing opportunity for better lives. As you said, few other religions step up to help others and to make a claim that the only reason that the Catholic Church helps others to begin with is to gain political power is completely outlandish. It appears that your personal bias is getting in the way of being able to acknowledge any good that the church does and no amount of facts, numbers, or personal experiences that I have witnessed is going to shed light, so that is fine. We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. My aunt and uncle are international missionaries and the stories that they share about lives being changed after
Conversion is remarkable. People in these
countries have so little and when they are introduced to Christianity and realize that their lives do have purpose and that there is hope for their future, they become better people. My relatives have witnessed this on countless occasions. First of all, these people are often living in poverty because of the teachings of their own religion and often have to practice their new faith in secret, for fear that they could be killed for practicing otherwise. Yet they would be willing to die for their faith in God's promise to them. To make claims that Christianity serves no positive purpose while sitting in safety and comfort in this country is
Elitist on your part. It is remarkable to me that you are unwilling to acknowledge the positive
outcome of the spread of Western civilization. True, not all of it has been good but the fact that you can practice a faith freely without fear of death is a Western ideal and is possible because of Judeo-Christian thinking. Our creed teaches that God has instilled in us free will and it is because of it that we can worship or not worship without fear of persecution. If you have ever seen the Sistine Chapel or listened to a Tallis motet, you cannot deny that Christianity has had a profound impact on Western thinking, which has affected art and culture. For example, J.S. Bach dedicated all of his music to "the glory of God." Now, there is some fantastic secular music as well but the point is that it cannot be denied that Christianity has had a profound impact on the West. It is ridiculous to blame the suffering of people in the East on Imperialism. Countries
That have been imperialists are far more economically advanced than those that are not. Here's an example to illustrate my point. When the English came to India, they became aware of the tradition of widow burning, which meant that widows would be killed because their husbands were dead. The colonists spoke out against this because it was morally wrong. Do you mean to tell me that the English were incorrect I trying to interject their Judeo-Christian values on a non-Western society, even though the practice was dehumanizing? I am very well aware of what Enlightenment taught, and our founding fathers, some of whom were deists and such, still created a Constitution reflective of Judeo-Christian values in regard to life and liberty. These values have not been so readily implemented into the fabric of thinking in non-Western societies, and the result has been obvious. That is why a Western thinking people have stepped in to help relieve the suffering of those who are unable to help themselves.


Christa I meant to say that imperialized countries tend to be more economically and socially advanced, as opposed to non-Imperialized ones. Kind of changes the meaning of the statement. Sometimes my iPhone auto-corrects and I don't catch it until later.


Keely "I am reading a book that explores the history of Christianity in our country and mid-nineteenth century Evangelism approached Christianity from an anti-intellectual approach in response to the scientific developments being made in Europe."

Yeah, I'm familiar with that--the radio evangelists who ironically used technology to preach that society was getting worse every day. Meanwhile you had scientists like J.B.S. Haldane who were big, public figures for talking about rationalism. Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry is a clever social satire of that period, about a corrupt evangelist preacher.

" . . . the Catholic Church has historically acknowledged the role of science and the possibility of the marriage of it with Christian creed."

Well, they hardly lead the way in terms of thought. Often they drag their feet until the science becomes so undeniable that they can't argue against it without looking completely foolish. Galileo and Copernicus were banned and censored for centuries, even into the 19th and 20th centuries.

When Darwin Wrote the Origin of the Species, the Pope stated that Christians were forbidden to defend any positions which contradict the doctrine of faith, and that 'faith and reason can never be at odds', despite the fact that they had been at odds before, in the case of heliocentrism, and faith had not won out.

And then, despite the earlier statements of Pious IX, which were made under 'papal infallibility', the church has now come to accept the evolutionary model and the Big Bang, which were included in a 2004 statement from Pope Benedict. It doesn't seem to me that the church promotes critical thought as much as is gradually allows itself to be gradually drug toward the truth by the world around it.

"I could be wrong about this but I heard that a Catholic actually came up with the idea of the Big Bang Theory."

Yes, that is true--it was a secular priest and scientist named Georges Lemaître who thought science and the church should be kept separate. However, the fact that you threw that out there with an 'I heard' doesn't make me think of you as an 'intellectual' in a 'engaging, academic debate'. I mean, if you can figure out an entire bank loan contract, it seems like it wouldn't be hard to research a single fact.

"generally speaking, Evangelical Churches are more focused on an emotional, "heart-felt" experience"

Very true. I do think evangelicals are much more focused on that sort of mystical experience. When I mentioned Protestantism as being less about passion, I was referring to non-evangelical branches, like the Church of England or Lutheranism.

"I really don't know what the mystic experience that you speak of is; I have not noticed its presence in American Catholicism. If you attended Mass for yourself, you might be surprised to find that we don't whip ourselves into a frenzy over a statue of the Blessed Virgin like people think we do."

I have attended many masses, of several denominations. Catholic masses tend to focus on rituals, repetition, and icons. The call-and-response form and the constant return to the same passages over and over place the focus on mystical, mass experiences, not on thought and consideration. The massiveness and ornateness of the construction is meant to promote a sense of awe and smallness.

Sure, these effects are evident in a lot of churches--and Evangelicals are into it much more strongly than Catholics. Lutherans are less interested in ritualized behaviors, ornate decoration, and icons. Their worship tends to be much less theatrical, and more low-key, and focuses on conversing instead of singing or chanting.

Now, I don't prefer Protestantism, and I'm not trying to defend it or say it's better than Catholicism--I'm just saying it tends to be less focused on emotion and the crowd mentality--that doesn't make protestants any more reasonable in their belief.

Beyond that, talking about the general practices of a church does not define the preferences or personalities of all its believers.

"I simply cannot wrap my mind around why you are so unwilling to acknowledge the good that they do . . . Mother Teresa's organization has opened schools and brought in volunteers to educate the poor."

I already said that I'm not convinced the quality of that education is any good. Let's imagine for a moment a man opens a school in another country and teaches all the kids that the sun will come to Earth and destroy them if they don't eat their veggies. Even if he educates them for free and lets them sleep in the school, the 'education' he is providing is not actually charitable.

Since various Doctors and reporters have found that the Missions Mother Theresa set up are poorly run and actually make more people sick instead of curing them, it stands to reason that the education they provide would be of a similar quality to the medical service. In which case, it is not education worth the name.

You yourself were just lamenting the bad state of education in America--how people go into schools and come out worthless, knowing nothing. Just because a school is there doesn't mean it's doing anyone any good.

"You and I already agreed that education is a way out of poverty"

No, I never agreed to that. The 22% of American students in poverty all get an education, they all go to school, and that doesn't get them out of poverty, because the education is not high enough quality. In fact, education can be a way to keep people in poverty, if that education teaches them that they are inferior and punishes them for thinking.

"It appears that your personal bias is getting in the way of being able to acknowledge any good that the church does and no amount of facts, numbers, or personal experiences that I have witnessed"

Personal experiences are not evidence. They are what is called 'anecdotal'. It is easy for people to be mistaken about the world, and all of us are, in some ways, and the point of a rational debate is to try to overcome those prejudices. If you want to put forth facts and numbers to support this case, you're welcome to, but you haven't done so yet.

If you want to talk numbers, we can do that. Condoms show an 80% prevention rate for AIDS. In 2010 in Africa, 1.9 million additional people were infected with the virus. Abstinence-only education has negligible effect on the transmission of these diseases. Yet the church continues to oppose condoms and spends its charity money on abstinence-only education.

This is why I say that their charity is not actually helpful, the money they spend is a waste in this instance, and actually makes things worse because they are contradicting the advice of charity doctors in the country trying to treat the disease. This is why I say the church is not doing good work, overall, even if many of their members are good people who want to help, trying to help and actually helping are two very different things.

In terms of Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of charity, yes, it's true that they built buildings and poor, sick people live in them, but that doesn't make them useful hospitals or schools. How many people a year do they cure? Does the 'education' actually make children into productive members of society? Where are these facts and numbers?

"My aunt and uncle are international missionaries and the stories that they share about lives being changed after Conversion is remarkable."

Yeah, but there are stories just like that for every religion and movement--people who found meaning in Yoga or talking with ghosts or smoking weed. It's all just anecdotal--just stories people tell.

If you go into a country where people live in poverty and you go to them and help them and sit and talk to them and befriend them, of course some of them are going to agree with you. That isn't a testament to the power of Catholicism, that's just love-bombing. That's how cults work.

I'm not saying Catholicism is a cult, I'm just saying that Scientologists also tell stories about people who 'found meaning for their lives' when they converted. I have to hear more than that to think that good is being done.

"these people are often living in poverty because of the teachings of their own religion"

Do you have anything to back up this claim? Most other cultures, independent of their religion, have lived for thousands of years farming, catching fish--doing normal everyday things. The native tribes of the Amazon don't live in poverty, they have plenty of food to eat, and do just fine alone with their own cultural traditions.

"To make claims that Christianity serves no positive purpose while sitting in safety and comfort in this country is Elitist on your part."

Yes, people find meaning in it, but that doesn't make it any different than any other religion. I have yet to see anything unique about the meaning of Christianity when compared to the meaning people get from any other religion.

"the fact that you can practice a faith freely without fear of death is a Western ideal and is possible because of Judeo-Christian thinking."

Actually, that's the opposite of Judeo-Christian thinking. Remember those ten commandments? The first ones are all about how you aren't allowed to worship any other gods. In fact, Judaism was one of the first religions that preached the idea of religious intolerance. Before then, the Greeks had no problem with the fact that the Egyptians had their own gods, and vice-versa. In fact, they sometimes traded gods around.

Again, it's not Christianity that has made this country great, it was the enlightenment. It was the values of the Christian rulers in England that drove the pilgrims to America. This country wasn't founded due to Christian tolerance, but as a reaction against Christian intolerance.

"Christianity has had a profound impact on Western thinking, which has affected art and culture . . . J.S. Bach dedicated all of his music to "the glory of God."

True, but that's because the church had the money. They were the ones funding art and music at the time. If people look back at us in 200 years, they could say the same thing about industry: 'you can't deny that Coca-Cola and Disney had a huge effect on the culture--look at all the artists and musicians they employed in their commercials and shows!'

And it's true, it is a huge effect, but it doesn't mean the musicians were well-versed in religion. A guy writes a song for a Coke commercial because he can make a living, not for the Glory of Coke. I mean, look at Mozart: he spent his public life writing songs to the Glory of God, but in private, he wrote songs about people pooping on each other because he thought it was funny.

CONT.


Keely "Countries that have been imperialists are far more economically advanced than those that are not."

That's because that's how imperialism works: you go to another culture, you take control of it, and then you make money by exploiting its resources and people. Of course imperial countries are more economically advanced, they take the wealth from the countries they control.

That's still how it works, today. People all over the world work hard at their jobs making things for America, and that's what makes us wealthy. We forcibly put a system into place that means if people in poor countries want to eat, they have to work in our company's outsourced factories fourteen hours a day.

Before imperial nations arrived, those countries had their own economies, they had agriculture, they fished, they supported themselves with their own products. Then an imperial power comes in and starts strip mining and damming the rivers. In many cases, two or more powers would enter the same country and then fight a war against one each other by conscripting the populace, as the Dutch, French, and English did in India.

Those who resist are killed and driven off their land and then the corporate interests take over the economy, shipping all the valuable resources overseas to be sold for a profit. Third-world countries didn't have poverty and starvation until the imperial powers arrived. Sure, they didn't have skyscrapers or hospitals, but they were well-fed and as happy as any other society, barring times of war or drought.

"When the English came to India, they became aware of the tradition of widow burning which meant that widows would be killed because their husbands were dead.. . . Do you mean to tell me that the English were incorrect I trying to interject their Judeo-Christian values[?] . . ."

Sure, let's talk about Sati. It was not a practice of killing widows. It was a voluntary suicide by a woman after her husband died. She could choose to do it or not. Now, it was seen as shameful for her not to do it, so there was some pressure, but it wasn't just people throwing widows into fires.

Now, there were several cultural reasons for this practice. One is that India is a country with a large population based around a family structure. Once her husband was dead, a woman might not want to become a burden on her family, and might choose to depart life with her husband. Likewise, she would probably be very distraught, and could look at it as an escape from her sorrow.

The first British force to move into India wasn't colonists or the government, it was the East India Company--one of the first multinational corporations, and despite being a company, it actually had one of the largest and most well-armed military forces in the world. It did require that Sati be carried out before an official, to make sure things were on the up-and-up, but it didn't oppose the practice until it had already been in the country for two-hundred years.

Again, despite a Christian imperial power being in control of a foreign country, the moral outrage didn't appear until after the rise of rationalism in the Enlightenment.

Beyond that, the practice was widely opposed by many Indian political leaders and Hindu priests. They researched Vedic history, finding it had no basis in the scripts, and passed out pamphlets to oppose it, and it was mostly this cultural shift from the interior, not the condescension of a tyrannic ruling power.

But the opposition against Sati is morally defensible, and might be a good argument for imperial powers, if it weren't for the fact that the East India company was enforcing a brutal military regime on the populace, eventually leading to the Opium Wars, a series of conflicts by which the English used their military to force other China and India to accept their drug trade, despite the fact that China had outlawed opium in an attempt to prevent the drug from running rampant in the population.

So let's say I have a neighbor who I think is stupid and amoral. So I go into his house and I tell him it's my house now. He tries to fight me, but I kill him. I then lock his family in the basement and use starvation and beatings to force them to make leather wallets. I take and sell the wallets at a tidy profit for myself. I then forbid them to commit suicide, because it's wrong, but force them to become drug addicts and to buy all their drugs from me with the small amount of money I pay them for making wallets. Am I a good Judeo-Christian imperial power yet?


Christa You seem really hung up on my reference to being an intellectual, just as you make a claim that a five star writer cannot call him or herself one and actually be one. Interesting. Are we not able to acknowledge our own achievements or processes? You're right about the statement that I made about the Big Bang Theory. It's best not to use an example if you don't know it to be fact. However, cross-referencing it with a so-called claim that I made about being an expert in legal documents is bad form. I never made that claim but if taking personal responsibility for the things that I attach my name to makes me elitist, play on! You and I apparently read different translations of "Candide" because in fact, Voltaire, a leading figure of the Enlightenment, believed in a higher power, namely, God. However, he challenged the role that God played in the mere mortal's life and believed that a rational man would not depend on superstition as a means of existence. You see this idea evident in musical forms of the time. Baroque music was highly ornamented, with little restriction put on the interpretation of said ornaments, whereas ornaments in compositions of the Classical period were much more constricted
or restrained. A note on the role of Christianity in sacred music. Not all composers were wealthy, which is why they depended on patronages. Their impetus for honoring God within their compositions was not merely materialistic; rather, God often provided the inspiration. It is ridiculous to suggest that Christianity has not played an important role in the cultivation of Western art, music, and literature. Again, at the risk of sounding elitist, I have a Masters Degree in Music and have built part of my career in singing sacred music. I know it intimately and have seen and heard the finger of God in this music, both in my travels abroad and in my performance experience. Now I realize that you seem to believe that personal experience and homespun antidotes are interchangeable, but my knowledge and experience with music indicates otherwise. I have known non-believers that have been moved by sacred music because they can recognize its virtue without necessarily being religious themselves. I believe that overt humility is as arrogant as overt pride and I will completely own my statements about sacred music. You made a judgment against the Ten Commandments because one of them commands that the Israelites place no other God before their true God. I don't understand why this concerns you. Is it because God didn't place himself in equality with idols? By the way, Moses did not create these commandments in order to wield his own authority over the Israelites, rather, he led them out of slavery! The commandments were given to Moses by God because they were returning to old pagan customs and God had made a with them. Let's discuss the gods of ancient Egypt and Greece. There would be no need for them to be in disharmony because these gods were equally false. They eventually faded into memory and mythology because they were glorified humans, in essence. The true God, the singular creator, cannot be God if he is no different than pagan idols. God demonstrated his power in Egypt when he sent plagues upon the people for Pharaoh's disobedience. Their gods could not save them from destruction and death. In fact, death was more important to the Egyptians than life, as evident in their belief about the afterlife. It was a unique idea that God would provide commandments to his people to preserve life. Likewise, Greek gods were adopted by the Romans and eventually fell away as Christendom claimed Rome. They left no long lasting influence, apart from that of
Mythology. I have a question for you. What is your instructional manual in life? If it is not the Ten Commandments, I would honestly like to know what it is. Is it your heart? You made a claim a while ago that people would remain lawful even if the Ten Commandments were not in place because people are essentially good. What makes them good? Since our laws are directly based on The Ten Commandments, I would like to know what would keep people from becoming unlawfully. Is it their hearts? We have already acknowledged that the heart often leads us astray. Why wouldn't we commit crimes if there were no consequences for committing them? Why wouldn't I steal a designer bag if there was no consequence for stealing? I could go to prison but our society has determined that stealing is a crime because of the moral law stating that stealing is sinful. I choose not to steal because it is morally wrong. Dennis Prager brings up this idea about everything in life having an instruction manual and it is certainly true. Having said that, in following your thoughts for several conversations, which I find very interesting, by the way, I notice that you are willing to make a lot of excuses for people's mediocrity and I simply do not agree with you. As I said, I never claimed to be an expert on legal documents; however, I maintain that it is a buyer's responsibility to do as much research possible to understand what a contract states. My best friend just bought a house and knew that the bank was trying to pull the wool over her eyes, so she did some research online and asked some questions so that she would not get into a predicament that could lead to a foreclosure. Now, if you are going to tell me that many homebuyers are too stupid to do that, they simply have no business buying property if they are going refuse to take any responsibility when their homes foreclose. You made a statement that people with bad jobs do not get out of bed because their lives are meaningless and their jobs are dehumanizing. So is the solution that the rest of us hard-working tax payers should have to support them because they are having an existential moment? I may sound heartless but here's the deal. My dad was raised in an extremely poor family and had to work at a fast food restaurant to be able to pay for his own piano lessons. He was runner up valedictorian and got a large college scholarship. By the way, he happened to be a very poor person in an affluent school and he didn't mope around, bitching about everyone else with more resources than him. He became an excellent US History teacher and composer as a result of, what? Hard work. Some people are dealt a better hand than others; nature has never dealt a fair hand and it never will. Utopia is a wonderful fantasy but not a reality, yet this country has historically provided more opportunity for people to better their lives. I didn't claim for one moment that I have not experienced privilege in my life; I thank God constantly for my blessings. However, I also inherited a strong work ethic, and have spent much of my youth in university and the practice rooms in order to achieve my goals. By the way, I didn't get the same scholarships and grants that the lower class receives because my parents made too much money, though there was no way that they could afford to fully fund four years of my education at a prestigious university. I received some aid and took out student loans and am thankful that I can defer them for the time being. I could sit around and bellyache about how unfair it is that the middle class constantly gets screwed but when rubber meets the road, I chose to pursue a higher education and it is my responsibility to pay my loans back Again, I think that you mistake homespun antidotes for sheer fact. I have personally driven through the districts in my community and marvel at how people that are considered "too poor" to pay regular rent can afford luxury cars. Having student taught at a school where the majority of students were on free and reduced lunch, to the tune of about 75%, I was amazed at how they could afford designer purses and cell phones. The bottom line is that the poor have more at their fingertips than many because they are cradled by a political agenda that keeps them dependent so that they can assure votes. At the risk of sounding cliche, these entitlements are like a drug. You accused me of being heartless because my heart doesn't bleed for lazy kids. Well, tell you what. Go out and get a teaching credential in a subject you love, such as Theater or English, work your butt off developing creative lessons, and tell
me how you feel when students look you in the eye cart blanche and tell you that they appreciate you caring about their success but that they have no intention of putting forth effort because they have already decided that they are going to become an auto mechanic. You
made a comment that education does
not help a lot of students and I actually agree with you. Many students have no business being in school; they would be far more
useful in trade school. It is because of the current administration's ridiculous notion that more kids need to go to college that entrance requirements and standards have been lowered, all in the name of equality. Well,
if equality equals mediocrity, I have an issue with that. It's like rewarding a kid for showing up to class when the kid who made honor roll is overlooked. Maybe I set the bar too high because I encourage others to take the bull by the horns and live up to their potential without sinking into the swamp of eternal self-pity. The claim that the poor have little opportunity to better themselves is simply not true. However, it has become an expectation that those who are successful should have to take care of those because they were dealt the bad hand. This mentality punishes incentive and hard work and rewards mediocrity.


Christa I meant that God made a covenant with his people. One more note about music. So what if the church sponsored it? Does that diminish its
value? The church could afford to patronize poor musicians. You spoke earlier about the importance of national funding for the arts. The
Concept is the same. Those with money keep
art alive by funding it.


Keely "you seem to believe that personal experience and homespun antidotes are interchangeable

Heh, looks like another iphone autocorrect mistake, but I understand what you're getting at. But yes, personal experiences are the same as anecdotes. 'Anecdotal Evidence' means evidence based on personal stories. These are not a good basis for argument because they are always biased.

If a guy was beaten up by a bus driver twice in one month, his personal experience would tell him that bus drivers are dangerous and violent. Yet those personal experiences are not enough to base an argument on. You need those 'facts and numbers' you mentioned earlier.

When I mention your claim of being an intellectual, capable of 'engaging, academic debate', your mention of people in the housing crisis needing to be responsible for themselves and do their own research, and the need for 'facts and numbers', I'm not trying to tease you or harp on you, I'm trying to point out that from my point of view, you haven't been doing those things. The facts you provide, like the example about Sati or about the discoverer of the Big Bang, you're putting this stuff into the discussion without researching it.

The fact that you even mentioned that you weren't sure about Monsignor Lemaître suggests to me that you are not engaging in an intellectual, academic discussion, because you are putting forth ideas and arguments without researching them. This makes it hard for me to give you the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't a source-supported fact, it was a sound-bite.

"cross-referencing it with a so-called claim that I made about being an expert in legal documents is bad form"

You said that it's up to people to be responsible for doing their own research. I assume this extends beyond getting a loan to include things like academic discussions. I'm just asking you to hold yourself to the same standard.

The reason I thought it was funny when you said you were an intellectual is because it seems like a pointless thing to say. It's like saying 'I'm really funny'--if it's true, then your actions and words will make that clear, so what's the point in claiming it?

"Voltaire, a leading figure of the Enlightenment, believed in a higher power, namely, God"

True, and did was Thomas Jefferson and Rousseau and Descartes, and Monsignor Lemaître. However, just because they were Deists or Christians does not automatically mean that their works of rational philosophy were Christian. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich does not become a hot dog just because it was made by a hot dog vendor.

Indeed, both Jefferson and Voltaire, being Pantheists would have found the Ten Commandments a poor code to base morality on, since the first several rules are about religious intolerance and the promotion of a single faith over others.

And as I said before, there were numerous Christian nations for thousands of years, all based explicitly on Christian teachings. Yet we didn't have America until the 1700's. It does not make sense to me to make a causal distinction between Christianity and egalitarian democracy since most countries based on Christianity were not egalitarian democracies.

America comes about after the Enlightenment, and while many of the thinkers of that age were religious, they tended to have a more secular belief: deism and pantheism, which was informed by rationality and humanist ideals. These were men who moved away from central, ritualized, mystical religion.

"A note on the role of Christianity in sacred music. Not all composers were wealthy, which is why they depended on patronages. Their impetus for honoring God within their compositions was not merely materialistic; rather, God often provided the inspiration."

Sure, that's true for many composers. Yet the church was still a patron, they provided money only if you wrote religious music, and a lot of composers wrote secular music in their free time--or made money with bawdy operas. I agree that religion has been inspiration for many artists of all kinds, but you can't just point at a past full of religious music and say it was made because those particular artists loved god, because writing religious music was their day job. It was how they got paid.

That's why I compare it to modern commercial advertising. Maybe there are some bands who lend their music to a Coke commercial because they love coke, but it would be foolish to suggest that most musicians are inspired to write due to their love of commercialism and products.

I'm not saying there aren't people who were inspired by religion, I'm just saying you can't look at a history of people being paid to do something and declare that it was all due to their love of god.

"I have known non-believers that have been moved by sacred music because they can recognize its virtue without necessarily being religious themselves."

Yes--I have been moved by that music, myself. But people are also moved by music about sex and violence and aliens and every other aspect of human life. Music is moving, and if you change the words to a song about religion to be about digging a hole, it wouldn't make the melody any less lovely.

But then, I'm sure you know that many religious hymns were originally folk songs--many of them about love and knights and battle--which had their words changed to reflect god. Music is undeniably moving, but religious music isn't any moreso than secular.

"You made a judgment against the Ten Commandments because one of them commands that the Israelites place no other God before their true God. I don't understand why this concerns you. Is it because God didn't place himself in equality with idols?"

Because it promotes religious intolerance. It says 'I place my beliefs above the beliefs of others'. The Israelites were setting their god above other gods. There was no fundamental difference between Yahweh and other early gods. They all had the same powers and similar myths. The old testament is full of myths which demonstrate this, and which are taken from earlier myths of Babylon, Greece, and Rome.

In the early days, Yahweh was even part of a pantheon of gods, worshiped alongside others, like his wife, Asherah. Now, it's possible that this worship was a corruption of the faith, but it shows that people did not think of god as being different from any other 'idol'.

"Moses did not create these commandments in order to wield his own authority over the Israelites, rather, he led them out of slavery!"

Actually, there's no evidence in other historical texts that this actually happened. We have Egyptian texts that tell us how many sheep were bought from a particular sheperd in Greece for a particular year, but nowhere is there any evidence of a slave uprising as described in the Bible. But then, it seems impossible for it to have happened as it was described, since the number of people described would have been roughly half the population of all Egypt.

"It was a unique idea that God would provide commandments to his people to preserve life."

That is not true. All the examples we have of law codes provide similar strictures against theft, murder, adultery, rape, and other such basic anti-social acts. These are part of the Code of Hammurabi, the Code of Ur-Nammu, The Laws of Eshunna, and The Egyptian code of Ma'at, which all pre-date the Ten Commandments. Then there are the non-Western codes of Native Americans or Asians which depict the same values. In fact, the Native American legal code was democratic and egalitarian in nature, and was a large influence on the American Constitution.

"What is your instructional manual in life? If it is not the Ten Commandments, I would honestly like to know what it is."

I find it curious when people claim that the Bible is their 'instruction manual for life', because I've never met anyone who follows all the tenets therein. I don't know any Christians who care whether their clothes are of different threads, or whether the food they eat comes from a field 'sown of different seeds' (it'd make veggie gardens hard to do).

No, Christians, like everyone else seem to use their common sense to pick and choose and make sense of things. They take the things they like and ignore the rest. Like slavery, which is never forbidden in the Bible--we figured out that was a bad thing on our own.

The way I figure out morals is the same way as anyone else does: I look at the world around me and I try to determine what seems fair, and what causes satisfaction in life. I feel sympathy for others. When I see someone hurt, it makes me feel bad. So I don't want to do things that are going to hurt other people.

More than that, human beings are social. We are at our best when we are all working together. A single human being alone is going to have trouble surviving, and is going to become mentally unstable from lack of natural interaction. Thus, it doesn't make sense for me to do things that will cause me to be ostracized. If I hurt another person, it will cause other people to dislike me, and will hurt my ability to exist in society.

If I want to be satisfied in life, the best way to do that is to work alongside and help other people. Behaving morally doesn't just help others, or help society, it helps me have a better life. People have to interact with each other every day, and they have to find ways to make that interaction work.

That's what makes people good, because it's beneficial for them to be that way. If they behaved badly and hurt people, it would tend to mess their lives up. Sure, there are always exceptions, but across history and cultures, people have developed these same ways of getting along, with or without Christianity or the Ten Commantments.

"Why wouldn't we commit crimes if there were no consequences for committing them? Why wouldn't I steal a designer bag if there was no consequence for stealing?"

Are you telling me that if you weren't afraid of the wrath of god, and suddenly it became legal, you would start stealing? If so, I don't think you are a moral person at all. Fear of being caught is not a basis for personal morality.

I don't do negative things because they are destructive and harm others, and I don't like to see other people harmed, nor would I find those activities particularly helpful in making me more satisfied with my life. You say it yourself:

"I choose not to steal because it is morally wrong."

See how that sentence doesn't mention god or the Bible, it's a personal decision. Why should it be different for anyone else?

CONT


Keely "You made a statement that people with bad jobs do not get out of bed because their lives are meaningless and their jobs are dehumanizing. So is the solution that the rest of us hard-working tax payers should have to support them because they are having an existential moment?"

I don't know if you've ever had this experience, but it's something I've seen before. Imagine a girl in high school, she does her best in class, and gets along. She's an average kid. Then one day, she stops doing her work, her grades drop, she isn't talking to people or going out, she loses her job.

My first thought here isn't 'this girl is lazy and needs to take responsibility for herself', I assume there is something very wrong. Maybe she was raped, maybe her parents were killed in a car crash, but she doesn't need to pull herself up by her boostraps--she needs help.

Now for people in poverty, this is something they go through every day. None of their experiences are defined by success. No one is helping them. Their school is a jail where they are berated by their teachers. I agree it's a problem when students don't care, but the reason they got there is that they had teachers who didn't care.

It's not an 'existential moment' when your mother works three jobs to support your five siblings and your father has to try to make ends meet living on disability. After twenty years of that, what do you expect from people?

They aren't going to have any sense of self-worth, no strong center to motivate them, they're going to be stuck in a mire of mental disorder. Motivation doesn't just magically appear from nowhere, it has to be instilled in a child from a young age, as it was with your father and with you, and you were both very lucky to have it.

For people in poverty, most of them just don't have that option. No one is going to teach them self-reliance or help them up. They are going to be brutalized and ignored. Do you really expect them to just magically snap out of it one day? That's not how mental disorders work.

Like a physical disorder, a mental disorder can prevent a person from working or from having a normal life. And like a physical disorder, it requires treatment to fix it, and the way our society is set up right now, the treatment available to them is not adequate to the problem. In my girlfriend's job as a professor of English, she constantly runs into students who don't care, who don't know how to motivate themselves, who don't understand how the world works.

Yet she still does her best to help them, and it's amazing to me when a 25 year-old kid comes up to her and says 'I never realized that women had things bad before, like they couldn't work and men tried to control them--I just thought that's how the world was. You made me change the way I think about women and the world.' It makes me want to cry for these poor people who just never had a chance. They were never even in the game.

You talk about opportunity, and it's true that a person can go out there and get a job if they have the will, connections, skills, knowhow, and support. It seems to easy. But for a person who has been taught by the world that they are useless, who has never received those vital skills or education, it's often insurmountable.

And I don't think it's a bad thing to give these people charity, especially when the big-money companies are causing a lot of the problems. Wal-Mart comes in and destroys local businesses, so suddenly, instead of a local economy with a lot of job options, your only option is to work at Wal-Mart, which will pay you less and refuse to give any medical care.

The big testing companies push through laws that turn our education system into a test-based farce, and as you point out, the whole college system has been turned into a for-profit scheme where people have to go to a school for years and put themselves into debt for life in order to get a job that should be covered by a vocational degree. The reason that's there is because big companies like Sallie Mae lobbied for it, increased prices, then pushed through legislation to make sure a person can never get out of that debt, even if they declare bankruptcy. And yet, people who want to get ahead don't have any other option to turn to.

In both cases, the people at the top make huge profits and the people at the bottom struggle to support their families. Investors gamble on our housing market, cause it to crash, messing up our economy and causing increased homelessness and poverty--and not all the people who lost their houses were poor or on bad mortgages.

Or look at the situation with HMO's--I don't know if you've ever heard this audio clip, but it's pretty telling about how people on top put profits before people and encourage poverty. It's a recording of Nixon talking about how putting HMOs in place would end up with people getting less health care, but big companies having higher profits.

So yeah, taking some of those profits back and trying to help the people they screwed over so they can eat and have a place to live doesn't seem that absurd to me. It's certainly not the ideal solution--we need to 'teach them how to fish', but we aren't actually doing that, and when huge industries are already taking all the fish, it's hard to see a good solution.

I'm not going to blame a baby for sticking its finger in a light socket. Likewise, there are plenty of adults who were never taught how to live or how to motivate themselves. They couldn't calculate a tip much less understand a mortgage. It's not good that people live this way--it's awful--and I don't want to promote it.

But we can't take away food and housing charity for the poor without replacing it with some other system to help fix these people and make them into productive members of society. Since there is currently no such system in place, the only end result I see to taking away charity is causing all those people to get even worse--to starve, have less education, and to have to raise their children on the streets.

We shouldn't have to tell the people at the top to help--they should want to make the world a better place, and alleviate suffering. But this goes back to what I talked about earlier: part of what makes a person moral is their interactions with other people. We see people suffering and we want to help.

But most big time, wealthy people--CEOs and politicians--never really run into that kind of suffering. They don't actually see it going on, so it's easy for them to imagine that people are 'just lazy'. It's even worse right now because American has outsourced its slave labor to other countries, so the poverty of the people who support us is even more invisible: folks who make our goods for cents a day in countries most people will never visit.

"Maybe I set the bar too high because I encourage others to take the bull by the horns and live up to their potential without sinking into the swamp of eternal self-pity."

I think it is too high of an expectation. If a person never had anyone in their life who showed them how to 'take the bull by the horns', it's going to be very difficult for them to figure out on their own.

It's true what you say: poor people are more likely to buy luxury and status items. This is because they have no intrinsic sense of self worth. Their lives are unsatisfying and they don't know how to do things any differently. Instead of investing the little money they have, they use it to buy status items because that's the only kind of personal worth they have ever known.

People don't want to be worthless--they don't want others to look down on them. They don't know how to escape poverty so they do they try not to look poor. These are not people saying 'I want to be poor', and they aren't necessarily less hard working, they just don't know how to get that work to change their life.

I know that a hotel maid works more hours a week than Mitt Romney--and is probably more tired at the end of the day. Yet the check she brings home would probably be less money than she'd get on unemployment. That isn't a problem with the amount given by unemployment, it's a problem with the wage the company pays her. A person shouldn't have to work three jobs just to live somewhere and buy food.

If they choose to use money to buy luxury goods, that's in part because the huge multinational companies have spent billions of dollars trying to convince uneducated people that luxury goods are important, because it makes them bigger profits. They wouldn't get much if poor people saved and invested what they made, instead.


Christa You make some excellent points about poverty, and your views actually reflect Christian teaching about human value, which is why Christians tend to be more charitable than any other religion. I agree that poor people need to be provided with the means to better themselves. There are organizations, by the way, to help the poor become more self-sufficient. I once wrote an article about a service organization in my community that provides people with temporary aid by means of clothes, food, and education. However, the people receiving this aid are also expected to contribute to the work at this place, and are taught how to become self-sufficient. I do not agree with you that people do not want to be supported by a government; rather, handouts become addictive. I have personally seen people take advantage of the system. I have seen people go on disability and stay on it when in reality, they are very active. Do you honestly believe that all poor people are mentally ill? My ex-fiance is very mentally ill and I have seen what mental illness looks like. It is ludicrous to say that poverty is a direct result of mental illness, though it can be the case. Yes, I resent the fact that my tax paying dollars are spent supporting those who are fully capable of taking care of themselves. Have you ever been a CEO? I certainly have not and am not going to assume to make a judgement call about every CEO and their motivations. It is easy to demonize a Romney because he is successful but you and I have no idea how much work went into achieving that success. It isn't intellectually savvy to make broad-stroke remarks, which you do a lot. I acknowledge that corporations can be greedy and that they take advantage of people; one would have to be completely naive to say that. I also acknowledge that there are people that genuinely need help but there numerous resources made available to them, in terms of housing, transportation, medical aid, free food, tax returns, etc... You, however, don't want to address any blame on their part. Your heart bleeds so much for them that you aren't willing to admit that the people receiving handouts are as capable of being as greedy as those who have "put them there to begin with." You are simply incorrect in stating that personal experience is not a basis for discussion. I have provided you with numerous examples to support and validate my points, instead of shooting from the hip without anything tangible with which to base an opinion. It is one thing to approach a subject academically and another to experience it tangibly. I know this because I have lived in both worlds. My opinions were much more liberal in college; it is easy to sit around a table and pontificate about the meaning of life but life slaps you in the face once you exit the university. This is why people tend to become more conservative as they get older. Like your girlfriend, I have also taught at the college level and agree that it is extremely rewarding to make an indent in a student's life; however, I have also taken students to task. I admit that I made a statement about the Big Bang Theory without having done the research first; I owned up to it. I have since done research on the role of the Catholic Church and Science and you are correct in your statement about the travesty of the Galileo Affair; however, Pope John Paul II made a formal apology on behalf of the church. There have been several Catholics that have been leaders in scientific discovery, Copernicus being one of them. It is true that it is a sketchy area because of the obvious conflict between evolution and creationism; however, the Catholic Church, unlike it's Evangelical counterpart, does not seek a literal interpretation of Genesis and acknowledges that intelligent design and some form of evolution could coexist harmoniously. Again, you have such a bias against Christianity that you put blinders up in regard to its value in the spread of Western values. It is ridiculously arrogant on your part to say that you need proof that missionaries do good work. Again, have you been a missionary? I have family that are and they would be happy to share evidence with you that having a personal experience with Christ changes lives for the better. If you want to have a conversation about morality, then let's go there. Unlike you, I believe that people are not, by nature, good. History has shown time and time again that by nature, people desire power, greed, and avarice. What prevents people from pursuing these things, en masse, is personal accountability. The accountability may not be to God but there is, nevertheless, accountability involved. Everyone is accountable to something or someone; my claim is that if it to oneself, that is dangerous because the heart leads us astray. It is the heart that dictates that it is justifiable to murder an unborn child because the mother is too damaged to bring the child into the world, for example. In regard to the instruction manual, how do you build something? You use an actual manual to assist you; you don't figure it out metaphysically. The same applies to a value system that guides one's life. Saying that looking around at how people treat each other in order to make a determination about how we should live is a problem, because it is subjective. You're getting into the territory of "your truth is yours and mine is mine." That philosophy accomplishes nothing because nobody can agree on a determined set of beliefs. So if one culture abhors suicide and another finds it honorable, who is correct? Again, it's back to the idea that equality is more important than actuality. I understand why you find it elitist for the Judeo-Christian God to call himself the true God because you don't believe it; I do. Where does that leave us? We must bow to each other's differing opinions because we are not going to convince one another that one is correct. If you don't believe Genesis1:1 to be correct, it is natural that you will look for fallacy in the rest of the Bible because the rest is irrelevant, in that case. You need to know that your personal value system, however, is much more in line with New Testament teaching than that of many other religions. In regard to music, of course I am aware that many hymns come from folk tunes; I've sung several of them. What's the point? "Folk" traditions often predated the infusion of Christianity into these cultures. I am also aware that many of the great composers wrote secular madrigals, chanson, lieder, etc... Does that diminish their spiritual beliefs? Are you really in a position to call the spiritual beliefs of a Bach or Mendelssohn into question? Just as you hold a mirror to me in regard to intellectualism, I hold it up to you in regard to your arrogance in cases like this. It is also ridiculous to claim that being a musician is a "day job." Now you've made a judgement call about my profession. Again, are you a professional musician yourself? Are you going to tell me that if I am getting paid to cantor Mass, I cannot have a spiritual experience simultaneously? It is true that many composers wrote sacred music to make money while writing opera and other forms of secular music as well. However, given that Christianity was the predominant European religion and that many people prior to the twentieth-century we're actually religious, many composers had a deep religious conviction as well. It's honestly not an arguable point.


Keely Alright, clearly we have to try to iron this out before we go on. Personal life experiences are anecdotes. They are biased and they are not representative of how life actually is. Basing an argument upon such experiences is not diligent, it is not academic, and it is not intellectual. Personal experiences are not accurate representations of the world.

You might tell me that the missionaries you know personally are good people, and helped people in meaningful ways, but even if you personally knew a thousand missionaries, that would still be fewer than .001% of all the missionaries out there. Your personal experience is only the tiniest part of that picture, so trying to claim the other 99.999% is the same is not justifiable.

That's where numbers and facts need to come in. It's fine to start off with a personal story to express what you're getting at, but then you have to back up your claims with real evidence. Why do you think it's arrogant for me to want to see these numbers? Do you really expect me to just take your word for it? What happened to research and responsibility? If you are actually an academic, you have to understand that you can't make your case with personal stories, you have to have something more concrete to back them up.

This is why, when I give you an example of my personal experience, I back it up with larger facts and examples. I didn't just say 'big industry is greedy', I gave you five specific examples of instances where companies put forward policies that made poverty worse.

Asking whether I've 'ever been a CEO' is not relevant. That would just be one person's personal experience of being a CEO--it would not be a definitive analysis of business methods or practices.

Are you trying to suggest that the only people capable of judging a business are CEO's? All we poor folk just have to sit by and trust in those CEOs to direct our future for us, because we aren't in a position to judge? I think if they run huge plans that wreak havoc on the economy, making life harder for me and everyone else in this country, I should be able to call them on it.

The reason I know that cleaning ladies work harder than Mitt Romney is that he takes vacations.

"your views actually reflect Christian teaching about human value"

It's true, and I wish more Christians reflected that teaching and instead of condemning the poor, tried to do something to help them. Certainly, I have met some great, giving, unselfish Christians in my time, but I've met many more hypocrites. Of course, that's just my experience--there could be more going on out there that I don't know about, but I won't know about it until someone can show me.

"It isn't intellectually savvy to make broad-stroke remarks, which you do a lot."

So do you, but at least I try to put some sources and numbers behind mine.

"I do not agree with you that people do not want to be supported by a government; rather, handouts become addictive."

Something being addictive does not mean people actually want it. 2/3rds of smokers want to quit, but that's the thing about addiction, it not something you can control. That's even more true when we're talking about things like food and shelter--most people in the world have trouble going without those.

"you aren't willing to admit that the people receiving handouts are as capable of being as greedy as those who have "put them there to begin with." "

Definitely true. Anyone can be greedy. However, if one group's greed causes them to cause tens of thousands to become homeless, destroys retirement plans, and weakens the economy while the other group's greed causes them to buy a videogame, I'm going to be more concerned with the first group. Greedy poor people screw up their own lives--greedy rich people screw up everyone else's.

Sure, there are plenty of poor people with poor morals, who are greedy, and who hurt others. But growing up in chaotic poverty and abuse makes people take it out on others. In order to become productive members of society, these people need treatment. Neither punishing them when they repeat behaviors they have learned nor taking away the charity that supports them is going to help alleviate poverty, because it doesn't address the psychological problems that keep people in poverty.

". . . life slaps you in the face once you exit the university. This is why people tend to become more conservative as they get older."

Actually, a lot of modern neurology is suggesting that a lot of the differences between liberals and conservatives can be accounted for by differences in the brain. For example, conservatives tend to have much stronger fear responses to stimuli than liberals. This doesn't make conservatism wrong--because there are many things which justify a strong reaction, but it is a difference.

Likewise, as people age their brain goes through various chemical changes which can have a big effect on how they view the world. Again, this doesn't make them wrong, it just argues that it's a difference in the mind, not a difference in the outside world. Curiously, people who find religion or convert later in life also show signs of hippocampal degradation. I'm not saying 'religious people are brain damaged', just that when people think differently, sometimes it's because they have different kinds of brains.

". . . . you are correct in your statement about the travesty of the Galileo Affair; however, Pope John Paul II made a formal apology on behalf of the church"

Yes, and it has come to accept the 'old time' model of the universe, the Big Bang, and evolution, but not until hundreds of years after the fact. You were arguing that the church is scientifically-minded, and I don't think that's true, since it always comes to these discoveries much later. It is not progressive, but eventually adapts to the world around it after a change has taken place.

"It is ridiculously arrogant on your part to say that you need proof that missionaries do good work."

I understand that people take it on faith that god exists, but do you also take it on faith that Christian charity is good? If it is good and helpful, why is it hard to find proof of this? Shouldn't those numbers be out there?

I have reasons to doubt the effectiveness of charity because there are many charities out there that do no good, and many that actually harm the people they try to help, as I have given you examples of before. Just because someone means well does not mean they are doing good. I have heard a lot of bad things about the Missionaries of Charity, and I have heard few good things. Based on what I know, they do not seem to be an effective charity, and money that goes to supporting them is not money well spent.

Likewise, the Church's treatment of AIDS in its many African missions is flawed and troubling. Again, it is a charity which means well, but which does harm. Why is it arrogant for me to want to see evidence that they do good? Again, should I just take your word for it? you keep talking about my bias, but again, I have been giving out facts and numbers to support what I think.

I know your bias is in favor of the church, but you still have to back that up with some real evidence. If the church is the best charity out there, that shouldn't be difficult to demonstrate--the numbers ought to tell the story for you.

"Again, have you been a missionary?"

Again, it doesn't matter if I have worked in charity or not. If the charity helps people, that should be evident from what is achieved. I don't have to be a missionary to understand an article by a doctor who talks about needle-sharing and incompetence in facilities run by the Missionaries of Charity.

I have worked in charity before, and in my experience, a lot of them are mis-managed, with a lot of the money going to pointless expenses. Many times their programs are also poorly-planned and ineffective, so even the money that does go into actually trying to help people tends to be wasted when those attempts at aid are misguided and poorly-researched. Again, I've linked you to many examples of such sad organizations.

"I have family that are and they would be happy to share evidence with you that having a personal experience with Christ changes lives for the better."

Well, I've had the same offer from Evangelists, Scientologists, Mormons, Muslims, Hare Krishnas, and all and sundry. They all tell stories of lives made better and people finding meaning, which is great, but the fact that they all sound the same means I don't see a reason to choose one over the other. It's like and SAT problem: if answers A), B), C), and D) are all the same, but only one can be correct, it must be E) None of the Above.

"It is the heart that dictates that it is justifiable to murder an unborn child because the mother is too damaged to bring the child into the world, for example."

It is also the heart which dictates that a mass of thoughtless blood and flesh is more important than the quality of life of a human being with thoughts, emotions, and desires.

"how do you build something? You use an actual manual to assist you; you don't figure it out metaphysically."

But that's not actually how you build something. A craftsman who makes a table doesn't follow an instruction book, he goes through a process of trial-and-error. He builds a table, sets it on its legs, and sees if it stands. If it doesn't, he goes back to the drawing board. That's how a conscientious person builds their morality.

Sure, there are plenty of folks content to go to IKEA and get theirs ready-made, but the results from that are never going to be strong or lasting.

" . . . looking around at how people treat each other in order to make a determination about how we should live is a problem, because it is subjective. You're getting into the territory of "your truth is yours and mine is mine." That philosophy accomplishes nothing because nobody can agree on a determined set of beliefs."

It's no less subjective to work from scripture. People justify killing in war as not being murder, they suggest that 'be fruitful and multiply' should apply to AIDS babies, despite the fact that those offspring will bear no more fruit, nor will the death of weanlings lead to multiplication.

That's why it's important to have more than a set of rules for what to do or not do, there needs to be a basis for them. We can base morality on things which are not subjective--people feel pain, people do not want to feel pain, people desire food and shelter and safety, people desire companionship and support. From these basic, objective, universal experiences, we can construct a morality which leads to all the best parts of the Ten Commandments, but leaves out the intolerance. The notion of 'the most happiness for the greatest number of people' is a moral principle which can be constructed from those objective observations.

CONT


Keely "I understand why you find it elitist for the Judeo-Christian God to call himself the true God because you don't believe it; I do."

It doesn't matter if I believe it or not, it's elitist and intolerant either way. Even if god was real, it would still be elitist for him to order us to think of him first--but to some degree, it would be justifiable, because he would be the ultimate 'elite'.

But I'm not talking about the effect this rule has on god--that's immaterial (literally)--I'm talking about that philosophy as a way of interacting with other people. It is a system which teaches a person to think that what they believe is correct and that they don't need to defend their ideas. I'm not talking about intolerance on god's part, but on the part of believers. I know not all believers are this way, but the Ten Commandments promotes that way of thinking.

"You need to know that your personal value system, however, is much more in line with New Testament teaching than that of many other religions."

Moreso than the Old Testament, sure, but I find more similarity to the Greeks, Romans, and Existentialists than Christianity, because they all attempt to produce a foundation which justifies morality instead of basing it off belief. But the fact that many different philosophies came up with similar endpoints despite very different foundations is a good indication that much of human morality is universal.

"In regard to music, of course I am aware that many hymns come from folk tunes; I've sung several of them. What's the point?"

I'm just saying that music is beautiful and moving, with or without religion. Sure, some composers were religious, others weren't. Music has taken up many forms to fit many cultures and ages. Whatever is central to a culture, that's what the music will focus on. When the church was central, music focused on that. Now that big business is central, music focuses on that. A melody is beautiful whether the lyrics are about love, god, or Coke. Hence, I am reluctant to agree that the church was responsible for the elevation of music, because music has always been beautiful and sublime in every culture and period.

"I am also aware that many of the great composers wrote secular madrigals, chanson, lieder, etc... Does that diminish their spiritual beliefs?"

If they wrote religious music for money and secular music for themselves, then yes, it would suggest that spirituality was not the driving force behind why they made music--it was the music itself that drove them.

What I'm saying is you can't assume these guys were deeply religious just because they wrote religious music, because they were paid to do it. They already had a strong motivation to write religious music, even if they were atheists or Mithraists or Zoroastrians, they might be motivated to write religious music because it paid well.

That's why I draw a comparison to advertisements--it's where the money is. It doesn't mean the composer loves the product, it means they love music and have found a way to support themselves making music. I'm not just going to assume that composers were religious if they wrote religious music, because they were paid to do it. Again, I don't understand how that's supposed to be arrogant on my part. If it is, it's less arrogant than you assuming that they are religious.

"It is also ridiculous to claim that being a musician is a "day job." Now you've made a judgement call about my profession. Again, are you a professional musician yourself?"

Once again, it wouldn't matter if I was or wasn't, my observation would still stand. If a person is a musician, then they are going to make music--and many will try to find a way to make a living doing it. If they get paid to do it, then that's their job, and they have to write music in accordance with what their employer requires.

At that point, it's not some pure, sublime representation of their own desires. The church wasn't going to pay people to write secular music. Just as great writers had to flatter their patrons--even when they didn't mean it, as in the case of Ovid or Ariosto--artists have to work in accordance with the wishes of the people who pay them.

This doesn't mean they can't create great works or experience joy when they do their work, but it does mean that their motivations are not entirely personal, nor are they free to express their art as they see fit. This is why I argue that you can't assume a composer's faith based on the music they wrote, because their patron wanted them to write religious music.

". . . many composers had a deep religious conviction as well. It's honestly not an arguable point."

No, it isn't and that's why I never argued that. Please stop setting up straw man arguments about things I never claimed. As I said in my response:

"I'm not saying there aren't people who were inspired by religion, I'm just saying you can't look at a history of people being paid to do something and declare that it was all due to their love of god."


back to top