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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Atheism as Creed
Created by John Eipper on 05/07/19 7:49 AM

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Atheism as Creed (John Heelan, UK, 05/07/19 7:49 am)

JE asked me on 4 May: "I can't say I've met anybody educated by Jesuits who didn't turn into an agnostic or atheist, including close friends and one family member. John, have you?"

No. Only Agnostic (i.e. don't know) but not Atheist. Long-term Jesuit indoctrination prevents my taking that final step, as atheism is a creed in its own right with its own prophets (eg. Dawkins, Hitchens and others) and its quasi-"sacred" texts. Some close friends now claim to be "Humanists" and have attended Humanist burial services.

JE comments:  "I swear to God I'm an Atheist."  The God(s) were not smiling on WAIS earlier today, as we were off-line all morning.  My thanks to Roman Zhovtulya for his trouble-shooting.  I'll catch up on the postings over the course of the day.


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  • I Studied with the Jesuits, and I Still Believe (Edward Jajko, USA 05/07/19 11:17 AM)
    JE mentioned that he hasn't met anyone who was educated by Jesuits who didn't become atheist or agnostic.

    Yo, John, over here! Remember me?


    I went to a Roman Catholic parochial school for nine years (kindergarten plus grades 1-8), then Jesuit high school/prep. I went to an Ivy League university--two, in fact (Penn and Columbia), and the American University of Cairo. No, three, if I can count an eight-week course in second-year Chinese at the Yale Summer Language Institute. I remain a practicing Catholic and a weekly communicant. I have many complaints about my Church--I have at times told some of my fellow Catholics that the longer I remain in the Church in which I was baptized as an infant in 1940, the greater my admiration for Martin Luther--but it is my Church, I have a lifetime's investment in it and believe in it and its truth. On a practical level, I serve as a member of my Parish Advisory Council.


    I can't understand John Heelan's apparent objection (May 4) to "indoctrination," that is, the instilling of teachings. Any upbringing involves "indoctrination" of one sort or other. Would John prefer the wild or feral child, raised by animals and without language? (Medieval Islamic authors wrote works of imagination on such children, living alone on remote islands, and they came to the conclusion that such wildlings were of course Muslim, since Islam is the natural condition of man.)


    Or is John's objection to the Roman Catholic "indoctrination" from which he has been "enlightened"? Did I misunderstand him?


    In any event, I am a product of Jesuit teaching who remains a faithful, if somewhat grumbling, Catholic. And I know many more.


    JE comments: Ed, I've long admired your faith and conviction, but I didn't know you studied with the Jesuits. (!)  Forgive me!

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    • Ric Mauricio Reflects on Indoctrination (John Eipper, USA 05/08/19 6:34 AM)

      Ric Mauricio writes:



      Oh, there is obvious indoctrination in the world. Boys play with boy things and have boy colors. Girls play with girl things and have girl colors. If you are born into the Muslim world, you are educated in Islamic doctrine. Likewise for the Christian world. And more so, the Catholic world. And of course, Jewish and Hindu and the myriad of other religions.


      I attended Catholic elementary school from the 6th grade to the 8th grade and Catholic high school from the 9th to the 12th, educated by the Marianists. And yes, I was an altar boy, but I was lucky to not have met any priest who made untoward movements towards me. Oh, would I have been excommunicated for clobbering a priest?


      Today, I call myself more spiritual than religious. So neither agnostic nor atheist. In fact, I find that atheists can actually be as religious in their beliefs than religious people. They avoid or ignore evidence just like those brought up in a "religious" upbringing, aka indoctrination. They indoctrinate themselves by only listening to other like-minded people. Oh, isn't this very similar to those of particular political persuasions? Once again, there is the indoctrination: people listening and thinking to viewpoints that only support their own viewpoints. Oh, it is so easy to manipulate people. Ah, sounds a bit like Star Wars, doesn't it? Yeah, George Lucas was pointing that out, wasn't he?


      Some bits of religious logic that confound me: If one is very happy in heaven, how does one reconcile that someone they love went to the other place and still be happy? If one doesn't rebel against leaders because they are God-chosen, as the apostle Paul teaches, then one should not question the leadership of a Mao, Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot. So logic says that God has enabled evil by choosing these leaders. It just goes on and on.


      One, of course, will follow a certain religion, because they want to belong. Also, peer and family pressure comes into it. Gotta reeducate this person because they are straying. And, of course, some go along because it is so much easier not to think. Like electricity, they follow the path of least resistance. It's only natural.


      JE comments:  This is not Ric Mauricio's point, but pink for girls and (light/sky) blue for boys is not as timeless as we would assume.  The "rule" was only codified in the 1940s.  The Ladies' Home Journal in 1918 argued exactly the opposite--that pink is a strong, masculine color, and blue gentle and dainty:


      https://jezebel.com/the-history-of-pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys-5790638


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      • Reading "Das Kapital" in Secret (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/09/19 3:44 AM)

        Regarding our discussion on indoctrination, I would like to relate a personal experience.


        When I was 16 I was in an Oratorio and a new priest arrived. He was quite a character, ready to fight for his beliefs. As a seminarian in 1948, he joined the Catholic armed forces in hiding, ready to fight against the Communists had they taken over after the 18 April 1948 elections. The communists were stating that one way or another they would have wiped out the Church and all anticommunists. At that time the menace was real and the communists still had a great deal of arms in hiding. A couple of years ago a large cache was found in a cave near my town (Savona).


        Anyway in 1952 after he became a priest, we became friends. By the way, he is still in very good shape and we are still very good friends.


        Anyway he was rather strict. At that time I decided I wanted to read Karl Marx's Das Kapital.  It was a blow for him and we quarreled a lot, as he did not want me to read such an ill-famed book (for the Catholic Church at that time; now the priests have, unfortunately, changed a lot).


        I risked being sent away but I stuck to my plan; I got the book and read it. Of course I judged Das Kapital to be BS from my point of view, as there is no homo oeconomicus alone, but both homo oeconomicus and homo spiritualis. Poor Karl did not understand such a clear truth while someone else had clearly understood it.


        JE comments:  "Cited by many but read by none":  this is the common summation of Das Kapital. Eugenio Battaglia is an exception!  Probably the best way to motivate young folks to read any book is to forbid it.


        I've already mentioned to WAISers that my mother-in-law in Chruslanki found the perfect use for Kapital:  as a doorstop in the warmer months.  Kapitalism in its purest form?


        Eugenio, what more can you tell us about Italy's Catholic militia in the postwar years?


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        • Italy's Post-WWII Catholic Militia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/11/19 4:30 AM)
          Commenting on my post of 9 May, our esteemed moderator asked, "Eugenio, what more can you tell us about Italy's Catholic militia in the postwar years?"

          Really I do not know much. My friend never wanted to talk about this militia, which under the direction of the "Carabinieri" was ready to fight any communist insurgence.


          We had the beginning of an insurgence following the attack on the Italian-Russian leader Palmiro Togliatti on 14 July 1948, when he was badly injured. This tentative insurgence resulted in 16 deaths and more than 200 injured.


          In spite of the thirst for a bloody revolution among the Communist base, the Party leaders realized that the chances of success were slim following their recent electoral defeat, which showed the great strength of the anticommunists, as well as the Yalta Accords and the presence of US troops. Therefore they cooled down but then tried, with success, to dominate "cultural life"--schools, media, the arts, and the judiciary system.  This is still the case today.


          The Catholic militia was later absorbed by the "stay-behind" and Gladio organizations which unfortunately were completely under the command of the CIA. They therefore were not necessarily working in the interests of Italy. There are rumors that the terrorist acts during the "anni di piombo" (lead years) 1968-1988 were directed by the CIA.


          JE comments: Eugenio, I cannot let this one slip by. What interest did the CIA have in promoting terrorism in Italy?  And do the rumors suggest there was a Mafia connection as well?


          A "stay-behind" organization refers to the contingency plans in place in the NATO countries, in case of a Warsaw Pact takeover.  I know very little about them, but we've just found a great topic for WAIS discussion.

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    • Reasons for My Agnosticism (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 05/09/19 8:54 AM)
      I also studied in Catholic schools but their efforts at religious indoctrination were not the cause of my current agnosticism. My religious questioning is a product of several other factors.

      Perhaps the main causes were my intellectual and scientific curiosity and less-than-spiritually inclined character. Another factor is my friendship with many people of diverse religious inclinations--Jews, Muslims, and Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, and of course atheists--as well as people of different philosophical and political ideas--liberals, republicans, monarchists, socialists, communists, nationalists, and activists of different stripes.



      In my search for spiritual inspiration I had discussions with religious people and read widely, the Bible of course among them, as well as Oriental religious texts. Despite the strong faith people showed to me, or not, they made me think that there are not enough conclusive reasons or feelings to believe (or not) in God or any other divinity. Nevertheless, ideas and beliefs in this regard should be respected. I concluded long ago that the question of God was not of concern to me.


      Political ideas are totally different. They have been always a concern of mine. When I was young I read everything I could on politics, not always with the proper understanding of course. My indoctrination began with readings by Hegel and the works of Bertrand Russell; Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto, by Marx, or one of the best books I ever read, the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Marx & Engels, as well as What is To Be Done? by Lenin and Mao's Little Red Book.


      The fact is today I firmly believe those works are purely for intellectual satisfaction or curiosity.


      JE comments:  You tackled the political classics at a tender age, Nacho!  I doubt many youngsters today can make the same claim.



      How about an informal WAIS poll?  What's the greatest political treatise of all time?  My vote is for Machiavelli's The Prince.


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    • My Experience with Catholic Indoctrination (John Heelan, UK 05/10/19 4:06 AM)
      Ed Jajko--whose comments I always admire--asked me on May 7th: "Is John Heelan's objection to the Roman Catholic 'indoctrination' from which he has been 'enlightened'? Did I misunderstand him?"

      As usual, Ed is right on the ball. My objection is directly aimed at the classic RC indoctrination (in my case, 2 years in a convent, 6 years being taught by priests, 30 years or so as a parishioner and altar boy--I can still remember the Latin responses). I recall attending an RC primary school but still being compelled as 10-year-old to attend a "mission to save our souls."


      My underlying objection is the international hypocrisy exhibited by RC clergy from the Vatican down. For several years I lived next door to a famous public school and RC monastery with friends among the brothers. I soon became aware of frictions between the brothers, ranging from "holier than thou" attitudes to more libidinous activities resulting in some brothers being expelled from this famous teaching order.


      So atheist or agnostic? Agnostic I suspect, as I just don't know how to reduce the influence of a lifetime's RC indoctrination.


      JE comments:  The news this week from the Vatican:  Pope Francis issued a worldwide law requiring Church officials to report accusations of sex abuse to their superiors.  This is seen as a move to bring accountability to bishops and to prevent future cover-ups, but it stops short of requiring officials to inform secular authorities.


      Has the Church turned the page on its biggest crisis of modern times?



      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/world/europe/pope-francis-abuse-catholic-church.html


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  • I Studied with the Jesuits, and I Don't Believe (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/07/19 4:47 PM)
    Oh my God!

    I was educated by Jesuits too.  My father thought they would provide me with some good thought-baggage, and they did indeed. But the experience turned me into an agnostic on the way to becoming a full atheist.


    I remember that in the early 1960s I was introduced to the work of Teilhard de Chardin while on a spiritual retreat. He was then demonized by the Vatican. He was probably one of the brightest minds within the Roman Catholic Church and consequently rejected. But not by the Jesuits.


    JE comments:  Maybe I should have been more precise, and said that I never met a Spaniard educated by Jesuits who didn't become an agnostic or atheist.  By the by, Spaniards embrace atheism as a near-religion, unlike other nations that lean more towards agnosticism.  I assume it's the legacy of Francoism, which made it impossible to separate the Church from the State, and to reject one without rejecting both.


    See below.  Spain reportedly has 10% "convinced atheists," but I am not convinced.  France has a far higher percentage, but they strike me as less convinced.  (The Czech Republic is the least believing in Europe, at 30% atheist and an additional 29% agnostic.)


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


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  • When the Gods Don't Smile on WAIS: A Note on Sacrifice (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/08/19 3:20 AM)
    John E's comment that the "God(s) were not smiling on WAIS" (May 7th) has me worried.

    Considering that John is a great Hispanist and has very good knowledge of the ancient Central and South American civilizations, his travels to Latin America and his love for publishing our posts, I hope he will not resort to human sacrifices to inspire favors from the God(s).


    JE comments:  Worry not, Eugenio!  Sacrificing the occasional ant at WAIS HQ gives me pangs of guilt.  I'm not even comfortable with baseball, because of the sacrifice fly.  But let's turn this into a teaching moment.  Why is sacrifice such a central part of religion?  The Mesoamerican peoples were the most famous for it, but the Old Testament is no stranger either (Abraham and Isaac, and Cain slew Abel because the latter's gifts of meat were so darn pleasing to God).


    Let's start with this question:  can there be any religion without sacrifice?  The nation-state is also fond of demanding sacrifice from its people.

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    • God, Sacrifice, and Business Acumen (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/09/19 4:24 PM)
      In the discussion of human sacrifice or otherwise for religious purposes, John Eipper asked, "can there be any religion without sacrifice?"

      Most religions except for God the Universe is based on the notion of a supernatural afterlife, for which you have to pay your dues while still living. Whoever said that most human-created gods are not good business people is dead wrong, eh?


      So this "let's sacrifice something or someone else to appease the gods" fits right in. Again another show of good business sense: a show of power through ritualistic control, something or someone else get hurt, and the gods may actually listen/watch and do something good for the worshippers. And if they don't, the sacrifices were not enough so let's do more.


      Of course some religions were designed for war, so if the warrior died with a sword in his hand he would go straight to heaven. I wonder how the women got to heaven in this case?


      JE comments:  For the Mexicas (Aztecs), women who died in childbirth received the same "five-star" afterlife as warriors slain in battle.  Tor, I can see the political acumen of the traditional deities, but how are they business-savvy?  Are you referring to the profit of the priestly classes/castes?

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      • Why Religion? Thoughts from John Lennon (Anthony J Candil, USA 05/11/19 6:05 AM)
        To me, when reaching this point, is why a religion? Did God invent us? Or did we invent God?

        After all, humans need to believe there is an aftermath, or else. Probably without a reason to believe, the world would be very different and societies could go into rampage as there won't be any barriers to stop them. Is that the reason why we invented God?


        Nevertheless, religion has been with us forever and indeed it has been the reason of many killings and war. Is there much difference between what ISIS has been doing these days and what the Spanish Inquisition did back in the Middle Ages?


        I am reminded of some of the poetry John Lennon wrote:


        Imagine there's no heaven

        It's easy if you try

        No hell below us

        Above us, only sky

        Imagine all the people living for today.


        Imagine there's no countries

        It isn't hard to do

        Nothing to kill or die for

        And no religion too

        Imagine all the people living life in peace.


        JE comments:  It's been a long time since we've discussed Lennonism on WAIS!  Who am I to question the wisdom of any Beatle (except perhaps Ringo), but a world without countries?  I cannot imagine such a thing.


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        • Reflections on Anarchism; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/12/19 3:52 AM)

          Gary Moore writes:



          Replying to Anthony Candil (May 11), our moderator wondered how
          John Lennon of the Beatles could write a song hoping for a world without
          not only religions but even without countries.


          The answer is easy, though
          enigmatic: anarchism. This ancient mystery can express as peaceful, dreamy
          anarchism like Lennon's, or violent anarchism like Nechayev or Antifa, or
          archetypal anarchism like Rousseau's. But the mystery remains: tear it all down
          and the good will then flower spontaneously (rather than the more likely default
          of the guy with the biggest fist or club taking over the ruins). As with other
          political dreaming, society as an overall authority can't legitimately ask: "How can
          they believe this crap?"--because "they" is so often "we." The consensus demands
          its place at the table of possibilities. At this level, politics might seem clearly to be
          psychology, but "clearly" to whom? Post-Enlightenment empiricism offers no way
          to stand apart from the observations and categorize, and pre-Enlightenment dogmatism
          scarcely did either.


          WAIS on May 11 also segued to David Duggan's concise rap sheet
          on serial killer John Wayne Gacy, with his formal MPI diagnosis of "antisocial personality
          disorder (a disorder which incorporates constructs such as sociopathy and psychopathy)."
          But note here that the latter two terms don't handily differentiate separate pathologies.
          "Sociopath" evolved as a politically correct way to replace "psychopath"--which came
          to seem bigoted, placing blame on someone's deformed psyche and not on more nebulous
          society--the same path leading to "antisocial personality disorder." So might this include
          anarchism? Or is that unfair? Our politics is barely above the level of trial by combat or
          getting the best lawyer, since we've still found no way to systematically understand our
          extremes.


          JE comments:  Gary Moore has put his finger on it:  "dreamy" (perhaps Utopian?) anarchism.  Lennon himself anticipated the naysayers:  They say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.


          WAIS has not given anarchism much attention, outside the context of our perennial favorite, the Spanish Civil War.  We now commonly take the Libertarians to be the inheritors of the anarchist mantle, although we also associate Libertarianism with a hard-boiled Darwinism, with nothing of Lennon's touchy-feely lovefest.  (I don't have a question to stimulate further discussion here, but I'll agree with Gary that anarchism is a very interesting political philosophy.  It's the most extreme form of optimism:  Destroy it and we will live in bliss.)

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      • How Are Deities Business-Savvy? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/12/19 4:35 AM)
        After my post of May 9th, JE stated he could "see the political acumen of the traditional deities, but how are they business-savvy? Are you referring to the profit of the priestly classes/castes?"

        John, I have a deal for you: If with deep faith you really believe in my words, sacred books and rituals, support our religious organization with 10 percent of your income, go visit our sacred monuments, etc. I promise you will go to heaven (or equivalent) where you will live forever among your loved ones in whatever wonderful conditions you desire (bliss, 92 virgins, feasting in Valhalla, etc.). Oh, and don't forget, if you happen to be a bad boy, don't worry I can sell you dispensations for a very reasonable sum. Also if when called you kill our religion's infidel or liberate sacred places...


        The whole setup is so obvious that only my early brainwashing and ignorance did not allow me to see it sooner. My theory is that when homo sapiens first existed, they were intelligent (could notice patterns, were imaginative and creative, etc.) but had very little knowledge. Such conditions are perfectly conducive to fear of the unknown and being manipulated by superstitious and/or devious people. As mankind's knowledge grew, so did the complexity of the world to the point that mankind is still bewildered about what to do.  So we today follow the wrong paths, love superstitions, choose the wrong leaders, and neglect the necessary factors for prosperity in the long run.


        JE comments:  Tor, in your second paragraph, aren't you conflating the actual deities with their earthly representatives?  Organized/institutional religions, to be sure, must follow solid business practices or face extinction.


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        • Faith v. Business v. Politics (David Duggan, USA 05/13/19 3:57 AM)
          I have hesitated to opine on this question of faith v. business v. politics because unlike business or politics, I don't believe that faith can be learned. It can only be shared. You can go to Harvard Business School and become reasonably competent in a business setting. You can go to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton (horrors), and become reasonably competent at international affairs (or at least competent enough to earn a living). But you could spend a lifetime at a seminary or monastery, and if you don't have faith, a baseline belief that there is a power outside yourself which you can neither define nor control, you're wasting your time.

          Somehow, as readers of my Glimpses of Grace, Reflections of a Life in Christ (WestBow 2013) would realize, I have been given that gift, and have been privileged to share it with others. To some it has fallen on deaf ears (the Parable of the Sower comes to mind), but others have been encouraged, challenged and maybe even caused to re-think their prior assumptions. For this I am grateful, as it is only through sharing these experiences and insights that the faith grows.



          Let me try an example. I have traded stock options for the last 10 years or so, but stock options have been around at least since the 19th century when Daniel Drew and Jay Gould traded them privately to squeeze out other owners of railroads (some not so successfully). It was only in the 1970s that "listed options" became traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The question became how to price them (unlike the New York Stock Exchange with its system of specialists who are required to create an orderly market, the CBOE is a pure auction market, with buyers and sellers agreeing on a price). Along came mathematician Fischer Black and economist Myron Scholes (at the University of Chicago, where else) whose "Black-Scholes" method of pricing options became standard fare at business schools. The point is that this was an example of pure intellectual inquiry, backed by empirical observation from a real market.



          By contrast, consider the number of bust-out seminarians or gurus whose contributions to the well-being of society have been decidedly negative (Josip Visarijonovič Džugašvili, later Stalin; Grigori Rasputin; guru Rajneesh-he of the 93 Rolls-Royces at an Oregon ashram). Whatever they learned in their formative years was desecrated by their later actions. Some may still follow or respect these leaders, but the movements which they started or fostered can be found on the ash heap of history. Their faith, such as it was, was dashed on the altars of self-indulgence, paranoia, and venality. Anyone who tried to follow their examples of faith would have been sorely disappointed.



          There may or not be an inanimate world, a world beyond our senses, a world of beginnings before time. It may have been created by a loving God purely for His pleasure, Who thought in his infinite wisdom that He would bestow on mere mortals the ability to discern good from evil and right from wrong (otherwise sin). That God cannot be found in the heavens or in the libraries or in the laboratories. He can only be found by looking within, and that search cannot be assisted by any man-made tool.


          JE comments:  I believe David Duggan has solved our "Jesuit mystery."  Why do some indoctrinees reject and others embrace the theologies they are taught?  Perhaps because matters of faith cannot be taught.


          Maybe it's as simple as this: Some possess the "God Gene" and others don't.


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          • The "Gift" of Faith, and an Encounter at Starbucks (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 05/15/19 4:29 AM)

            Gary Moore writes:



            I'm going to hazard a response to David Duggan's note of May 13th,
            which articulately says that faith, meaning religious faith, as
            exampled by his own deep faith, is a gift.


            I think I may agree,
            in that "gift" has metaphorical enormity to take in the unknown.
            A gift sets apart its recipient from those who don't get it, and
            this is the mystery we've been exploring: Why can some people
            so deeply believe in what others don't find believable? As we've
            seen in this thread, mere religious indoctrination is not the answer,
            since it causes many to rebel and scoff at the stage props behind the
            curtain, while others emerge profoundly engaged...


            Oops--just as I was typing these words, in a peaceful Starbucks store,
            a voice said hello and I looked up to see a very intelligent acquaintance, Tim Guess,
            who is also an evangelical missionary in Central America. He asked what
            I was writing about, and immediately the deep question of why some of
            us believe could be explored through a living, impressively bright source.
            He said when he had come to belief he found a great peace, a "resting,"
            with a very solid confidence. But was it cultural? Had he been born under
            Islam, could a very similar-looking "resting" have come with different labels?
            He said, just as calmly and thoughtfully as before, that only Jesus rose from
            the grave. But how did he know that? There were 500 witnesses, he said.
            I kept things off the road of "Yeah, but..." and said it still looked to me like
            some people have a gift for coming to the great sense of rightness that can
            make such a difference in life. Well, I do confess I wasn't able to resist asking
            him about the Holy Ghost and three-in-one. He seemed more or less to say
            this is a mystery we should accept because it's reasonable--reasonable to him.
            So back to Square One.


            My larger point here, though, is quite different: I said to my sudden source
            that I agreed with him about many of the ways of faith, in that this very
            moment, our sudden conversation, could be looked at as a confirmation.


            But to me it confirms the profoundness of our ignorance about the ways our own
            elusive minds are part of whatever it might be that we choose to label as being ineluctibly
            larger--a something whose obscure but occasionally startling ways very much include
            our own mental machinations. Of course Tim knew the answer to that one, too,
            but was too polite to proselytize me on it.


            Is it really as simple as all of us being lost in the great wood, and some seeing more specific
            shapes than others?  Reaching this question gives me a sense of peace, a sort of resting.


            JE comments:  The God Gene?  Agnostics and atheists often assume, even if they don't say it, that True Believers are naïve at best, simple-minded at worst.  Yet there's no correlation between measurable intelligence and religious conviction.  Or is there?  One can Google a number of studies such as the following in Psychology Today.  One of the conclusions:  intelligent people are less likely to conform.


            https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mr-personality/201312/why-are-religious-people-generally-less-intelligent


            (You've found a peaceful Starbucks, Gary?  If so, I recommend you keep the location secret.)

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            • Religion, Man, and the Forest (John Heelan, UK 05/15/19 1:41 PM)
              Gary Moore asked on 15 May: "Is it really as simple as all of us being lost in the great wood, and some seeing more specific shapes than others?"

              Oh yes, the old wood analogy! I remember a feminist quote, "If a man is alone in a wood, is any decision he makes intrinsically wrong?" The answer is a scornful "of course!"


              JE comments:  I am reminded of my favorite student interpretation (ever) of a Pablo Neruda poem.  Neruda's iconic "Walking Around" begins with the statement:  "Sucede que me canso de ser hombre/It just so happens I'm tired of being a man."  Why?  The answer is simple:  the poet wants to be a woman.

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              • The Forest, Dante, and Non-Sequiturs (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 05/17/19 4:41 AM)

                Gary Moore writes:



                As to my analogy about being lost in the great wood, I'm glad
                John Heelan (May 15) was struck by that question, but I thought
                the reference would be perhaps too obvious to Dante.


                I'm at sea
                (or at wood?) as to how both Johns have seemed to take it toward
                feminism. Because of one sentence with a forest metaphor? I've got
                to get out of the 14th century and wake up and smell the coffee.
                ("Hey, wow, look at that flying saucer!" "Yeah, reminds me of a dog
                I had once...")


                JE comments:  But Gary, some of the best WAIS discussions begin as non-sequiturs!  Still, I urge us to return to the topic at hand:  Cute Animals in Socks:


                https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=119160&objectTypeId=87588&topicId=188


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                • Polari, A-Slang, Backslang (John Heelan, UK 05/18/19 4:42 AM)
                  Gary Moore responded (17 May) about non sequiturs.

                  Having had to study dead languages like Latin and Greek as a teenager, I am comforted that language creation still thrives, such as reported in Fabulosa! The Story of Polari, Britain's Secret Gay Language, by Paul Baker, 1 Jul 2019.


                  As teenagers we sometimes hid our conversations from parents and others in authority by using "A-slang," "Backslang" and other disguised languages. Some of my family were Cockneys, born and bred, and automatically used the first words of rhyming slang, e.g. trouble (and strife)=wife, plates of meat=feet, barnet fair=hair, boat race=face, apples and pears=stairs.


                  A frequently used pejorative borrowed from Yiddish was "bleedin' schnorrer" when somebody was describing somebody else who has upset them in some way.


                  Language lives!


                  JE comments:  How is it that after a lifetime's fascination with language, I never heard of Polari?  It's not just a language of the gay culture, but is shared by other marginalized groups:  circus performers, merchant sailors, criminals and prostitutes (per Wikipedia).  It borrows heavily from Italian (polari from parlare), Romani, Yiddish, and Cockney rhyming slang.  Wikipedia gives a fairly complete glossary:


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


                  The Paul Baker book is dated July 2019--I presume that means it's forthcoming?  You can pre-order on Amazon.

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            • Ric Mauricio Explains the Trinity (John Eipper, USA 05/21/19 4:14 AM)

              Ric Mauricio writes:



              The essay "Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent?" is very interesting.  (John E appended it to Gary Moore's post of May 15th:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mr-personality/201312/why-are-religious-people-generally-less-intelligent )



              It actually puts into writing my opinion of religionists in general. But I have to be careful not to think I am more intelligent than my Christian (or any other religion) friends just because I am more questioning.  That could lead to arrogance. I just have to smile, when they always end the discussions with "you just have to believe."


              But let me attempt to explain to Gary my take on the Holy Trinity. To me it is not a mystery, but most religionists fail to comprehend the true meaning of the Holy Trinity. God the father (or as Tor would put it, God the universe) is the universe and everything that makes up the universe, from the smallest grain of sand to the largest stars (and yes, everything is made up of very micro atomic particles; totally blows my mind, this scientific stuff). God the man is the physical manifestation of an intelligent being created by these subatomic particles. Yes, it is possible that there are other beings just as intelligent as humans, although I am finding that intelligent may be an overused adjective these days. OK, so they might be missing the third branch of the Trinity. God the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is enlightenment (ah yes, Zen and Buddhism share this concept). A question I asked my Buddhist mechanic as I pointed out his statue of the Buddha, complete with burning incense: isn't the Buddha something that exists within us? He smiled, and said "ah yes, you understand." When the disciples were suddenly beset upon by the Holy Spirit, it transformed them from the scared disciples of Christ to brave men willing to face martyrdom.


              Being a non-conformist or as I like to call myself, a gadfly, I will always question the prevalent opinion of the group. Yeah, gets me into a lot of hot water.


              JE comments:  Could we describe Buddhism as the ultimate articulation of the Holy Spirit?  Ric Mauricio does an admirable job of synthesizing the world's religions.  I have nothing profound to add here, so I'll close with a nod to OSHA:  with all the solvents and oily rags around, isn't it a really bad idea to burn incense in a mechanic's shop?

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        • Why Hypocrisy in Organized Religion? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/14/19 1:25 PM)
          Commenting on my post of May 12th, JE questioned the notion that whatever a god was defined to be or stood for according to his/her followers, is the same as the followers' behavior and what they say it is.

          Except for God the Universe which everyone can see exists, can be studied and measured by any observer, all other gods exist in whatever form (rules for behavior) only in the minds of their followers. The followers become the god. Whoever found a particular religion imagines whatever god they want to suit their purposes here on Earth. They create the god and the god then tells the followers what behavior is appropriate or not. The behavior of the followers is the true representation of the particular god. If the followers say or write in their sacred books that their god stands for peace but they engage in war, the peace god does not exist except as empty words. Thus we have always had and forever will have huge amounts of hypocrisy in every organized religion.


          Without at least one follower, for all the hundreds of religions throughout history and before, the particular religion disappears. The Universe is the only thing (I call It God) which I believe will live forever in some form. If I am wrong about this and the Universe will end someday, I also merely imagined that It will live forever, and this notion will disappear without a believer.


          JE comments:  Here's a "tree falls in the forest" riddle:  do "dead" religions cease to be religions?  Why not?  There are no more Cathars (I think), but no one doubts the religion's existence.

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          • Thoughts on "Dead" Religions (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/16/19 4:07 AM)
            JE commented on my post of May 14th: "Here's a 'tree falls in the forest' riddle: do 'dead' religions cease to be religions? Why not? There are no more Cathars (I think), but no one doubts the religion's existence."

            I see a big difference. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, in reality a tree did fall and the air molecules vibrated violently, even though no one's ears were there to pick up the vibrations.


            On the other hand, if the followers of the religion based on the Sun god all died out, so did the religion. What is left is people talking and writing about this ancient and anachronistic religion which existed once upon a time. We have conclusive evidence that the Sun is a common star, it has never been a god, so the Sun god was merely superstition. This religion exists on in the history books, just like unicorns, medusa, and centaurs.


            JE comments:  We should discuss further the topic of "dead" religions.  Even the most obscure religion of antiquity probably has a practitioner or two.  Religions are easier to bring back than dead languages.  Also, nobody embraces a different language out of a sense of spiritual emptiness.


            And yes--Catharism has been revived.  Just ask them:






            http://cathar.org/about/the-cathars-of-xxi-century/ 


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            • Thoughts on Revived Religions (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/02/19 2:40 AM)
              My post of 16 May proposed that if the followers of the religion based on the Sun god all died out, all that is left is people talking and writing about this ancient and anachronistic religion which existed once upon a time. Such religion was based on a false belief, because there is conclusive evidence that the Sun is a common star, it is a false god, and merely superstition. With the truth, this religion now should exist only in the history books, like unicorns, medusa, and centaurs.

              JE commented that Catharism has now been revived and that "even the most obscure religion of antiquity probably has a practitioner or two. Religions are easier to bring back than dead languages. Also, nobody embraces a different language out of sense of spiritual emptiness."


              It is true that any belief can be revived and that just like a drug can even make followers feel different, and motivate good or evil behavior. Beliefs based on imaginary gods will lead to uncontrollable behavior. If the belief is true in reality, then it will become useful for humans to solve real problems like curing diseases, going to the planets, creating whole new industries, etc. That is the important difference between false religions and a God is the Universe religion. It is also true that real knowledge can be used for evil deeds by people following false gods.


              JE comments:  An interesting paradox:  followers of institutional religions argue that they keep humanity from committing barbarous acts ("evil deeds"), yet critics argue exactly the opposite, citing all the suffering caused throughout history by zealous religionists.  I see no way to reconcile these conflicting positions.


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              • Religion, Non-Religion, and Morality (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/02/19 11:33 PM)
                Commenting on my post of June 2nd, JE stated it is a paradox that "followers of institutional religions argue that they keep humanity from committing barbarous acts ('evil deeds'), yet critics argue exactly the opposite, citing all the suffering caused throughout history by zealous religionists. I see no way to reconcile these conflicting positions."

                There is no paradox, just misinterpretation. Organized religions are designed to keep their followers within the stated laws of the group but apparently have great difficulty maintaining morals and ethical behavior among their followers. On the other hand, organized religions normally believe they are doing god's work, and thus are always right. The other religions are misguided at best and dead wrong at worst; their followers are all going to hell or oblivion. Thus, we have had numerous atrocities and wars in the name of god against the followers of alternative man-made religions.


                The only way to reconcile all religions is to replace the ones based on man-made gods with one which is based on the universally observable God. Unfortunately, as I have recently learned, most humans prefer fantasy and superstition, not logic and reasoning. As stated earlier, I believe this is so because humans are relatively very imaginative compared to their lack of discipline and laziness acquiring new knowledge about the universe. In other words, voodoo is fun and science is boring. Should we be surprised our education system is going to the dogs?


                JE comments:  My point was a simple one:  religions offer codes of morality.  Let me cite one beyond the obvious candidates of "don't kill/don't steal":  laws against usury.  Would "God the Universe" have anything to say about exploitative levels of interest?


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                • Religion and Usury (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/05/19 1:11 AM)
                  JE commented on my post of June 3rd: "Religions offer codes of morality. Let me cite one beyond the obvious candidates of 'don't kill/don't steal': laws against usury. Would Tor Guimaraes's concept of 'God the Universe' have anything to say about exploitative levels of interest?"

                  Any codes of behavior are useless if the supposedly followers don't behave accordingly. That is my number two reason why organized religions are useless:  people don't do what they preach. Worse, because we all know that is true but ignore the reasons why, everyone else's religion becomes a focus of derision and sometimes even hatred.


                  Regarding rules against usury, it is a man-made issue created because we invented money and charge for the use of money over time, society should decide what is a fair interest. The Golden Rule of not doing to others... applies in general, otherwise God has nothing to do with it. The same goes for any unethical and immoral behavior, crimes, war, etc. They are all man-made and it is wrong to bring God into it. That is why knowingly humans developed whole books of law, ethics, rules, and regulations.


                  JE comments:  I'm presently reading WAISer Muqtedar Khan's excellent new book, Islam and Good Governance (https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=124273&objectTypeId=90023&topicId=175 ).  Muqtedar's exploration of Ihsan (perfection in Muslim theology) delves deeply into the concept of hypocrisy.  Rest assured that serious theologians of established/hegemonic religions don't overlook the urgency of combatting it (hypocrisy) in all its forms.


                  I urge Tor Guimaraes and Muqtedar Khan to reach each other's books.  This could spark a very productive discussion. 

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    • Religion, Sacrifice, and Pagan Rituals (John Heelan, UK 05/12/19 8:40 AM)
      JE asked on 8 May: "Can there be any religion without sacrifice?"

      I suggest not! Christianity might not exist without the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, as Nobel winner Jose Saramago pointed out (and was then excommunicated by the Vatican).


      There seems to be a hangover of sacrifice surviving from pagan rites reflected in many pseudo-Christian rituals such as Semana Santa processions, the Burial of the Sardine, Saint John's night, and sundry others. Even on our little Island in the Solent, Bloodstone Border Morris dancers celebrate the Winter Equinox by lighting a beacon on the top of a local cliff and dancing.


      The dog in the background was moaning, "aren't they ever going to throw those sticks for me?"


      JE comments:  Did you take those photos, John?  Very cool.  Together with my rhetorical question about sacrifice, here's another:  why are neo-Pagans so enamored of fire?


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  • I Too Studied with the Jesuits (Enrique Torner, USA 05/09/19 3:19 AM)
    Our dear editor is in need of summer break: if Adrian College has the same academic calendar as ours, he must be stressed out and exhausted.

    So I can understand his forgetting about my Jesuit upbringing, and not having become agnostic or an atheist. I have mentioned before in WAIS my being raised in a Jesuit school in Spain, and how they instilled in me the fear of God and Hell. Their discipline was both physical and mental: they used all kinds of discipline methods that I believe I mentioned in a previous WAIS post, though I couldn't find it; and they taught us the needed self-discipline to learn our subjects well. Yes, I remember how, when I was 15 or 16, I stopped going to Mass because I couldn't stand all those warnings of Hell any more. In doing so, I was rejecting God at that time, but that doesn't mean I doubted or denied His existence.


    After I came to the US, I became acquainted with Evangelical Christianity, and learned of being able to have a personal relationship with Christ through repentance and faith. Learning that He loved me unconditionally, despite all my sins, and that He would forgive my sins if I repented and put my faith in Christ, and, above all, that salvation was by faith alone (not dependent on my deeds, as the Catholic Church teaches) was very liberating, and, for the first time, after I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I actually felt I had a personal relationship with God.


    I am still a sinner, still sin, but now I have hope, because my final destination does not depend on what I do or I don't, but on what Christ did for me on the cross. Does this give me license to go ahead and sin? Yes, it does in theory, but, when one is born again by the Spirit, "he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, the new "Christian" does not want to continue living in sin any more. This doesn't mean they won't sin any more, but that they will not live in continuous sin, because the Holy Spirit lives in them and gives them the power and grace to overcome it. Paul puts it this way: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2)


    So, no, though I was raised by Jesuits in Spain, I haven't become agnostic or an atheist. As a matter of fact, I bet most Spaniards raised by Jesuits still believe in God. Many may have rebelled against Him, going against His commandments plainly ignoring Him, or even hating and cursing Him, but, in the process, demonstrating their belief in Him. I bet many declared agnostics and atheists are really like them.


    JE comments:  I've learned my lesson:  never generalize about the Jesuits!  And it's funny you should ask about summer vacation.  My break officially begins today, as soon as I turn in my final grades (due at noon).


    Enrique, if you will permit me one more sweeping observation:  You're the only Spanish Evangelical Christian I've ever met.  (We actually haven't met in person, although we've become very close through WAIS.)  Do you know others?


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    • Evangelical Christianity in Spain (Enrique Torner, USA 05/10/19 4:43 AM)
      To answer John E's question, I have met very few Spanish Evangelical Christians, but I have met several American Christians who have been or are missionaries in Spain. I have met several Evangelical Christians from Latin America though.

      Interestingly, upon doing some checking online, I found out that Evangelical Christians now form the largest religious minority in Spain. In 2018 alone, they opened 16 new worship places every month! As of December of last year, there were 4,238 places of worship in the country, an increase of 197 from previous December. In comparison, the Catholic Church owns 23,019, according to the following article:


      http://evangelicalfocus.com/europe/4122/Spanish_evangelicals_opened_16_new_worship_places_every_month_in_2018_


      Personally, I don't doubt these statistics, but I found them incredible. I would have thought Spain had many more Catholic temples in relationship to Evangelical churches. According to this article, Evangelical growth is much higher than that of the other minority religions. This is supported by other websites, like the Joshua Project, whose estimates show an annual growth of 3.4%, while the global growth rate is 2.6%:


      https://joshuaproject.net/countries/SP


      Latin America has had an impressive growth in Evangelical Christians as well. According to a recent article by The New York Times (January 17, 2018), 20% of their population are Evangelicals, up from 3% three decades ago:


      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/opinion/evangelicals-politics-latin-america.html


      The NY Times article describes the tight relationship between Evangelicals and conservative politics, with which I agree, but I strongly disagree with the author's statement that Evangelical pastors expect "women to be completely submissive to their evangelical husbands." This is completely false.


      In conclusion, Evangelical Christianity is on the rise in Spain and Latin America.


      JE comments:  WAIS has discussed Evangelicalism in Latin America, which is not exactly on the "rise" because it's been a major presence for nearly a century.  In Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, Evangelicals rival Catholics in numbers.  Guatemala's embattled president, Jimmy Morales, is a Pentecostal.


      As for Spain, I would have assumed that Muslims constitute the largest religious minority.  Do the number of "places of worship" translate to numbers of parishioners?  Many Evangelical churches are tiny storefront operations.

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