April 3, 2015
12 Worst Ideas Religion Has Unleashed on the World
From Alternet via GodKnows.info
Some of humanity’s technological innovations are things we would have been better off without: the medieval rack, the atomic bomb and powdered lead potions come to mind. Religions tend to invent ideas or concepts rather than technologies, but like every other creative human enterprise, they produce some really bad ones along with the good.
I’ve previously highlighted some of humanity’s best moral and spiritual concepts, our shared moral core. Here, by way of contrast, are some of the worst. These twelve dubious concepts promote conflict, cruelty, suffering and death rather than love and peace. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, they belong in the dustbin of history just as soon as we can get them there.
Chosen People –The term “Chosen People” typically refers to the Hebrew Bible and the ugly idea that God has given certain tribes a Promised Land (even though it is already occupied by other people). But in reality many sects endorse some version of this concept. The New Testament identifies Christians as the chosen ones. Calvinists talk about “God’s elect,” believing that they themselves are the special few who were chosen before the beginning of time. Jehovah’s witnesses believe that 144,000 souls will get a special place in the afterlife. In many cultures certain privileged and powerful bloodlines were thought to be descended directly from gods (in contrast to everyone else).
Religious sects are inherently tribal and divisive because they compete by making mutually exclusive truth claims and by promising blessings or afterlife rewards that no competing sect can offer. “Gang symbols” like special haircuts, attire, hand signals and jargon differentiate insiders from outsiders and subtly (or not so subtly) convey to both that insiders are inherently superior.
Heretics – Heretics, kafir, or infidels (to use the medieval Catholic term) are not just outsiders, they are morally suspect and often seen as less than fully human. In the Torah, slaves taken from among outsiders don’t merit the same protections as Hebrew slaves. Those who don’t believe in a god are corrupt, doers of abominable deeds. “There is none [among them] who does good,” says the Psalmist.
Islam teaches the concept of “dhimmitude” and provides special rules for the subjugation of religious minorities, with monotheists getting better treatment than polytheists. Christianity blurs together the concepts of unbeliever and evildoer. Ultimately, heretics are a threat that needs to be neutralized by conversion, conquest, isolation, domination, or—in worst cases—mass murder.
Holy War – If war can be holy, anything goes. The medieval Roman Catholic Church conducted a twenty year campaign of extermination against heretical Cathar Christians in the south of France, promising their land and possessions to real Christians who signed on as crusaders. Sunni and Shia Muslims have slaughtered each other for centuries. The Hebrew scriptures recount battle after battle in which their war God, Yahweh, helps them to not only defeat but also exterminate the shepherding cultures that occupy their “Promised Land.” As in later holy wars, like the modern rise of ISIS, divine sanction let them kill the elderly and children, burn orchards, and take virgin females as sexual slaves—all while retaining a sense of moral superiority.
Blasphemy – Blasphemy is the notion that some ideas are inviolable, off limits to criticism, satire, debate, or even question. By definition, criticism of these ideas is an outrage, and it is precisely this emotion–outrage–that the crime of blasphemy evokes in believers. The Bible prescribes death for blasphemers; the Quran does not, but death-to-blasphemers became part of Shariah during medieval times.
The idea that blasphemy must be prevented or avenged has caused millions of murders over the centuries and countless other horrors. As I write, blogger Raif Badawi awaits round after round of flogging in Saudi Arabia—1000 lashes in batches of 50—while his wife and children plead from Canada for the international community to do something.
Glorified suffering – Picture secret societies of monks flogging their own backs. The image that comes to mind is probably from Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, but the idea isn’t one he made up. A core premise of Christianity is that righteous torture—if it’s just intense and prolonged enough–can somehow fix the damage done by evil, sinful behavior. Millions of crucifixes litter the world as testaments to this belief. Shia Muslims beat themselves with lashes and chains during Aashura, a form of sanctified suffering called Matam that commemorates the death of the martyr Hussein. Self-denial in the form of asceticism and fasting is a part of both Eastern and Western religions, not only because deprivation induces altered states but also because people believe suffering somehow brings us closer to divinity.
Our ancestors lived in a world in which pain came unbidden, and people had very little power to control it. An aspirin or heating pad would have been a miracle to the writers of the Bible, Quran, or Gita. Faced with uncontrollable suffering, the best advice religion could offer was to lean in or make meaning of it. The problem, of course is that glorifying suffering—turning it into a spiritual good—has made people more willing to inflict it on not only themselves and their enemies but also those who are helpless, including the ill or dying (as in the case of Mother Teresa and the American Bishops) and children (as in the child beating Patriarchy movement).
Genital mutilation – Primitive people have used scarification and other body modifications to define tribal membership for as long as history records. But genital mutilation allowed our ancestors several additional perks—if you want to call them that. Infant circumcision in Judaism serves as a sign of tribal membership, but circumcision also serves to test the commitment of adult converts. In one Bible story, a chieftain agrees to convert and submit his clan to the procedure as a show of commitment to a peace treaty. (While the men lie incapacitated, the whole town is then slain by the Israelites.)
In Islam, painful male circumcision serves as a rite of passage into manhood, initiation into a powerful club. By contrast, in some Muslim cultures cutting away or burning the female clitoris and labia ritually establishes the submission of women by reducing sexual arousal and agency. An estimated 2 million girls annually are subjected to the procedure, with consequences including hemorrhage, infection, painful urination and death.
Blood sacrifice – In the list of religion’s worst ideas, this is the only one that appears to be in its final stages. Only some Hindus (during the Festival of Gadhimai, goddess of power) and some Muslims (during Eid al Adha, Feast of the Sacrifice) continue to ritually slaughter sacrificial animals on a mass scale. Hindu scriptures including the Gita and Puranas forbid ritual killing, and most Hindus now eschew the practice based on the principle of ahimsa, but it persists as a residual of folk religion.
When our ancient ancestors slit the throats of humans and animals or cut out their hearts or sent the smoke of sacrifices heavenward, many believed they were literally feeding supernatural beings. In time, in most religions, the rationale changed—the gods didn’t need feeding so much as signs of devotion and penance. The residual child sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible (yes, it is there) typically has this function. Christianity’s persistent focus on blood atonement—the notion of Jesus as the be-all-end-all lamb without blemish, the final “propitiation” for human sin—is hopefully the last iteration of humanity’s long fascination with blood sacrifice.
Hell – Whether we are talking about Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, an afterlife filled with demons, monsters, and eternal torture was the worst suffering the Iron Age minds could conceive and medieval minds could elaborate. Invented, perhaps, as a means to satisfy the human desire for justice, the concept of Hell quickly devolved into a tool for coercing behavior and belief.
Most Buddhists see hell as a metaphor, a journey into the evil inside the self, but the descriptions of torturing monsters and levels of hell can be quite explicit. Likewise, many Muslims and Christians hasten to assure that it is a real place, full of fire and the anguish of non-believers. Some Christians have gone so far as to insist that the screams of the damned can be heard from the center of the Earth or that observing their anguish from afar will be one of the pleasures of paradise.
Karma – Like hell, the concept of karma offers a selfish incentive for good behavior—it’ll come back at you later—but it has enormous costs. Chief among these is a tremendous weight of cultural passivity in the face of harm and suffering. Secondarily, the idea of karmasanctifies the broad human practice of blaming the victim. If what goes around comes around, then the disabled child or cancer patient or untouchable poor (or the hungry rabbit or mangy dog) must have done something in either this life or a past one to bring their position on themselves.
Eternal Life – To our weary and unwashed ancestors, the idea of gem encrusted walls, streets of gold, the fountain of youth, or an eternity of angelic chorus (or sex with virgins) may have seemed like sheer bliss. But it doesn’t take much analysis to realize how quickly eternal paradise would become hellish—an endless repetition of never changing groundhog days (because how could they change if they were perfect).
The real reason that the notion of eternal life is such a bad invention, though, is the degree to which it diminishes and degrades existence on this earthly plane. With eyes lifted heavenward, we can’t see the intricate beauty beneath our feet. Devout believers put their spiritual energy into preparing for a world to come rather than cherishing and stewarding the one wild and precious world we have been given.
Male Ownership of Female Fertility – The notion of women as brood mares or children as assets likely didn’t originate with religion, but the idea that women were created for this purpose, that if a woman should die of childbearing “she was made to do it,” most certainly did. Traditional religions variously assert that men have a god-ordained right to give women in marriage, take them in war, exclude them from heaven, and kill them if the origins of their offspring can’t be assured. Hence Catholicism’s maniacal obsession with the virginity of Mary and female martyrs.
As we approach the limits of our planetary life support system and stare dystopia in the face, defining women as breeders and children as assets becomes ever more costly. We now know that resource scarcity is a conflict trigger and that demand for water and arable land is growing even as both resources decline. And yet, a pope who claims to care about the desperate poor lectures them against contraceptionwhile Muslim leaders ban vasectomies in a drive to outbreed their enemies.
Bibliolatry (aka Book Worship) – Preliterate people handed down their best guesses about gods and goodness by way of oral tradition, and they made objects of stone and wood, idols, to channel their devotion. Their notions of what was good and what was Real and how to live in moral community with each other were free to evolve as culture and technology changed. But the advent of the written word changed that. As our Iron Age ancestors recorded and compiled their ideas into sacred texts, these texts allowed their understanding of gods and goodness to become static. The sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam forbid idol worship, but over time the texts themselves became idols, and many modern believers practice—essentially—book worship, also known as bibliolatry.
“Because the faith of Islam is perfect, it does not allow for any innovations to the religion,” says one young Muslim explaining his faith online. His statement betrays a naïve lack of information about the origins of his own dogmas. But more broadly, it sums up the challenge all religions face moving forward. Imagine if a physicist said, “Because our understanding of physics is perfect, it does not allow for any innovations to the field.”
Adherents who think their faith is perfect, are not just naïve or ill informed. They are developmentally arrested, and in the case of the world’s major religions, they are anchored to the Iron Age, a time of violence, slavery, desperation and early death.
Ironically, the mindset that our sacred texts are perfect betrays the very quest that drove our ancestors to write those texts. Each of the men who wrote part of the Bible, Quran, or Gita took his received tradition, revised it, and offered his own best articulation of what is good and real. We can honor the quest of our spiritual ancestors, or we can honor their answers, but we cannot do both.
Religious apologists often try to deny, minimize, or explain away the sins of scripture and the evils of religious history. “It wasn’t really slavery.” “That’s just the Old Testament.” “He didn’t mean it that way.” “You have to understand how bad their enemies were.” “Those people who did harm in the name of God weren’t real [Christians/Jews/Muslims].” Such platitudes may offer comfort, but denying problems doesn’t solve them. Quite the opposite, in fact. Change comes with introspection and insight, a willingness to acknowledge our faults and flaws while still embracing our strengths and potential for growth.
In a world that is teeming with humanity, armed with pipe bombs and machine guns and nuclear weapons and drones, we don’t need defenders of religion’s status quo—we need real reformation, as radical as that of the 16th Century and much, much broader. It is only by acknowledging religion’s worst ideas that we have any hope of embracing the best.
November 20, 2014
Oh dear I had my phone and wallet in my hoodie pocket and turned knocked against the sink and wallet and phone ended up in the toilet. Trax a shop in town said they could fix it, two months later and a replacement screen said the video chip was damaged and the phone couldn’t be repaired. Sigh. So I bought a Nokia Lumia 735 for €170 so far it seems to have the same features as my old one but with a quad core processor.
There are other advantages : It can take a 128gb microSD card which is awesome. It is also good for selfies with a front facing wide angle 5mp camera. Shame about the subject But its a nice feature. The Lumia camera suite works well.
getting insurance for this one. sigh.
heres the video capabilities with mp4 stitching three videos to one
July 17, 2014
To complete my technological revolution thought i better get a new phone. I had had my old phone since my daughter broke my Nokia and I subsequently lost it. It was a good phone and I had had it for about 5 years. Strapped for cash I bought a postfone from the post office which cost €10. It didn’t do much more than send and receive calls. So a new phone. I went to the eircom shop in the mall and found a Nokia Lumia 625 which looked pretty good. Went home and researched it, hmmm the Nokia 925 had a wonderful camera. It takes ordinary pictures with its 8 megapixel camera, takes multiple pictures of the same scene and a panorama, I’ll do a better one outside.
It also takes excellent videos even of the screens:
Very impressive. The music capabilities are likewise awesome. It connects to my Bluetooth speakers effortlessly. It has great features for making mixes. Its a Windows phone so its just a question of plugging it in to the computer via a USB and it appears in File Explorer. I am having problems with Bluetooth connecting to the computer. This is the computers fault. Been having trouble with connecting Bluetooth devices.
So, I seem to be well set up; tablet, computer, phone. AND I haven’t spent much money with regular affordable repayments. AND I’ve started going to the gym so will get healthy to use it all. My next step is getting glasses. Got eye test today and its free. Celebrating my 65th year on this planet and thanks to my UK pension which I get as a right I can afford stuff. I get my disability and next year this will convert to an Irish pension. Can I help? As an elder of the village I will use my skills as best I can for free. Use Me!! ( http://UseMe.biz ) It’s not so bad being old :)))
July 6, 2014
Well first impressions why bother with the new interface? Since windows 98 (yes I am that old lol) I have always had a customised cursor. I hate the pesky little white arrow that has been around since windows 3.1 (hehehe). So I have a customised cursor (CursorFX). This disappears in Win 8, tiles and apps so I have to tab and use arrow keys. There is nothing on the front screen that I need . One thing I don’t like is how when you launch an app it immediately goes into full screen. I have a primary monitor of 27 inches, its daft to have an app full screen. There is definitely a commercial aspect to all these windows apps. If they are free you get stuck ads. Far too commercial for me. Its my computer and I have bought the software I need there are over a hundred apps installed I don’t want or need. Mind you pressing the windows key and typing the name of the program e.g Word brings it up instantly.
and this is just up to Cs. Then click on them and you get full screen. Sticky Notes full screen?
I have all the programs I use on the task bar and half a dozen on the front screen. I won’t give up on the Windows 8 interface but with the Start button back and by right clicking on it… Everything you need for computer management is there. Then in Windows 7 there were gadgets which I loved and used the BBC radio player daily and a large clock. . The good news is I found a program that puts them back. So do I regret installing Windows 8.1? By no means its the latest generation of windows. It boots much much faster and has more security functions. The Task Manager is great and you can see exactly whats going on with the processor and RAM. I have no problem with two monitors either dragging windows from one to another and I have the task bar on both monitors. So I like Windows 8 just don’t like Metro or the apps but don’t use them. I like Windows 7 and have it as the interface but under the bonnet its Windows 8.1. I boot straight into the desktop.
So I have the best of both worlds.
July 1, 2014
Whoopee! I have a new computer.
Dell i7 – 4770 Intel processor up to 3.9 GHz, this is the fastest processor I could find on the Dell. There was an Alienware that went up to 4 GHz but the rest of the spec was not so good,
32 GB RAM, I researched this and at the moment it is far in excess of what most applications need so this is future proofing.
256GB Solid State Drive, my first choice was a HDD with a 32 gig SSD cache but on investigation the system can have only one SSD so I thought its better to get a large drive and forgo Intels Smart Response Technology that swaps to a 32GB SSD.
3TB Hard Disk Drive, 3 terabytes may seem huge but I download and watch lots of movies at blue ray quality I bought a 2 TB USB HDD and after 6 months had filled three quarters of it.
Radeon R7 2 GB DDR5, This is the only thing I would have liked to have a more powerful card. But I researched it and its a good card. I can always upgrade.
27 inch Dell Monitor. This is a lovely monitor of the Dell Professional class. It is very bright and I am running at 75% brightness and contrast which is great. It has full pivot so can be be watched in portrait.
Sweet! Here’s a pic of the monitors my “0ld” 22 inch is on the left my new 27 inch is on the right.
The whole system is very fast with the solid state hard disk, boot time is around 8 TO 10 seconds. The problems I encountered were primarily not being able to run Second Life without crashing and not being able to process video capture of Camtasia Studio, especially at high resolutions. Both these problems have been resolved. I can now capture over two screens and run second life over two screens. Here is a video I made as a test:
So in summary I am delighted with my new system which includes two more speakers and a sub woofer. I also have a Windows 8, track pad which I haven’t got working properly yet. I have my doubts about Windows 8 and spend most of my time in desktop mode. Not sure I understand the Charms, seems to be long winded to get anywhere.
Here is my performance score, in my old system the overall school was 5.4 due to a slow hard disk. Memory and processor were 7.1. Windows 8 no longer has a GUI interface for performance but it still exists using power shell:
CPUScore : 8.3
D3DScore : 8.4
DiskScore : 8.15
GraphicsScore : 8.4
MemoryScore : 8.3
WinSPRLevel : 8.15
PSComputerName : PHILIP
You won’t get much better than that as in windows 7 the top score possible was 7.4.
ref Windows 8 Performance Indicator: http://www.cnet.com/uk/how-to/find-your-windows-experience-index-scores-in-windows-8-1/
So in summary :WOW!!!!!
June 8, 2014
TAILS FROM THE CAT SHOP
COUNTDOWN DEAL (USA Only)
6 to 12 June 2014
Buy for a limited time special discount
Follow this link:
Fantasy meets Reality in Cyberspace, in a world where our online and offline experiences, friendships and even, our identities are excitingly entangled. Avatars are extensions of us, leading lives parallel to our own dull everyday existence. Having a Virtual Life sets you free to dream and some dreams do come true.
Meet the Divine Penny, the Italian-speaking Siamese cat, with the delicate chocolate paws, and find out if Professor Poppett’s poodle recovers from ‘indoor barking syndrome’. Go on an adventure in the alligator infested bayou to hunt for the Golden Kitten and find out why love always wins the day.
May 29, 2014
But also a nice bit of tech. My computer won’t display moving pictures. After extensive tests it seems the sockets for RAM are faulty. The moment any load is placed on the computer it freezes requiring a hard reboot. Second Life is impossible. It will take at least a month to three before I can get a new PC. This is unacceptable. I would lose my job as a host and possibly my girlfriend. I knew an iPad was out of the question as it wouldn’t run sl. So a tablet was the way to go. I bought three. The first one was from Debenhams the Intenso for €90 however it was somewhat low spec so I sent it back. The second was from Irulu this had a hdmi connection, keyboard and network socket. After researching it I cancelled the order. It didn’t have the memory or processor.
ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 ME173X with a 1.2 GHz quad core processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Cost €125. The sl client is Lumiya and you can find it here
This is a nice bit of tech. It is very fast and runs aps effortlessly. One problem with sl tho is the space for the display: As you can see the 3D view is confined to a very small window. However one feature of the ASUS that was a selling point was that it had bluetooth. My planned PC has bluetooth so I thought it would be handy.
I found a bluetooth keyboard for £25. Its great little bigger than the ASUS itself comes with a carrying case. It has been designed for the ASUS. Installation is very easy and despite the instructions saying you have to install it each time the unit powers of this is not the case. It works really well. So the screen I end up with is :
It took a few sessions to master it and there are some shortcomings but still learning. All in all its great and will keep me going till i get my new PC. I networked it and have complete access to my PC hard disk and USB drives.I watch movies on it streamed over the wifi.
April 28, 2014
Yes I have to give up. I’ve tried everything to make 8 gigs of RAM work on my computer without success. I’m running 64 bit windows with 4 gigs of RAM and it works, for now. My current system is over 5 years old, so it’s ready for replacement. So I’m going to buy a new PC. Another Dell
Base is an XPS 8700 i7 – 4770 4th Gen 3.7 GHz, which can be overclocked to 3.9 GHz.
Memory 16GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz – 4 DIMMs
Video Card AMD Radeon HD R9 270 2GB GDDR5
(I’m keeping my monitor unless I decide to have two)
Hard Drive 2TB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive + Intel SRT 32GB SSD Cache
has lots of room for expansion. Cost €1,239 inc taxes and shipping
have to wait for new ID so can’t buy until the end of May
April 8, 2014
March 13, 2014
We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.
Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969) .
Its his birthday today. There is a tribute on brainpickings.org
. Very good piece it was too. He was speaking about Sunyata, Śūnyatā, (Sanskrit, also shunyata; Pali: suññatā), in Buddhism, translated into English as emptiness, voidness, openness, spaciousness, vacuity, is a Buddhist concept which has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. In Theravada Buddhism, suññatā often refers to the not-self (Pāli: anatta, Sanskrit: anātman) Suññatā is also often used to refer to a meditative state or experience.
The emptiness of space will not crumble as it is no existant thing. It has no beginning and no ending. It only is.
For more on Buddhism please visit my Jnanabodhi.com site