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Post How Can We Reduce Interreligious Conflict?
Created by John Eipper on 10/17/21 3:16 AM

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How Can We Reduce Interreligious Conflict? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 10/17/21 3:16 am)

In my view, the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket at an increasing speed because we are adoring false gods. We clearly have a serious theological problem, and people better find the real God before some god finds them or they wander around the desert without a compass.

I try to minimize the hurt potentially caused by criticizing someone else's religion by first declaring that is far from my intention. Second, as much as possible I present facts and clear logic, not just opinions.

Since science gave us the understanding of God-given Physics and Genetics, we should know that the Universe from its physical origin of pure energy (God's essence) transformed Itself into many forms of energy, some of which condensed into the basic components of atoms which got forged through the stars. Atoms of various elements combined into molecules studied by Chemistry, and eons later produced rudimentary forms of life studied by Microbiology which, as proposed by Darwin, evolved into complex organisms studied in Biology. Relatively recently science informed us about Genetics, and we should understand that all living things share part of their genetic information and that the genetic code difference between the chimpanzee and humans is about two percent. Thus we can safely assume that literally all people are created equal, genetically speaking. If all humans are created by the same God and we are so equal, how can we justify engaging in racial discrimination? How can we think that there is more than one God?

If God is the same for all mankind, how can anyone justify discrimination or violence based on theological differences? How can God be involved in so many disparate religions?

Despite the many problems from organized religions, most people also recognize their particular religion has provided some benefits. Probably the single most important benefit from organized religions is as a support group for individuals and family members. Also the social benefits of fellowship with friends and family. Many church goers love the music, the singing, the group cookouts, the group support for individual members who are ill or mourning dead relatives. The beneficial power of the religious group for the individual members is undeniable, just as with any other support group. Besides this positive social impact, individuals can also derive emotional support from reading the sacred scriptures and holy books associated with the various organized religions. Quite impressively, individuals have abandoned their drug addictions when all else failed, because of their newly established religious commitment to their church and their god. Needless to say, this is a great benefit to the individual involved but also to society.

Based on how they usually express themselves, members of different religions also seem to believe that other people's religions are fantasy, untrue, wrong, or even evil itself. Also, many times members of some religions, in the name of their God, threaten the followers of other religions with death or condemnation to some sort of hell in the afterlife. The blind faith of most religious people make them unable to think clearly about religion in general, because they have been brainwashed and mentally paralyzed by faith in their scriptures, or by fear of their gods, and by possible loss of comradeship from their religious group.

My thoughts here aim to make you think about the many problems from all organized religions and reduce the interreligious problems in the future. Based on many years studying organized religions, I reached a few conclusions: Humans must understand the universe with all its incredibly magnificent phenomena through science, not religion. Most people are unaware or tend to explain the world with supernatural artifacts and complex fairy tales. With time some people have learned that many of their fairy tales are wrong when tested by real events, and that scientific facts can better explain a particular phenomenon. Over time this process has represented the single most troublesome challenge to those who have used organized religion as a mechanism to control their group and attempt to conquer the world by widespread conversion and/or gain wealth/power. Facing overwhelming evidence, the clashes with scientific facts have been a painful process because well-established dogma embarrassingly has had to be changed after a long time of so-called gospel truth.

Much of the human-to-human conflict in the world today stem from a lack of understanding about the true nature of God which over the centuries has been replaced by thousands of gods dangerously created in man's own image often by ulterior motives, and likely in conflict with similarly imagined deities.

JE comments:  Food for spiritual thought on a Sunday.  Tor, the deepest question you raise above is the following:  How can anyone justify discrimination or violence based on theological differences?  From Roman times (or before) to the present, the track record on this matter has been abysmal.

It's been a long time since Vincent Littrell has discussed the state of high-level interfaith dialogue. Vince, if I may, could you send an update?  And where might China fit into this equation?  For the first time in human history, a culture is making a serious bid for world hegemony without an underlying theology.  Or could we call Confucianism a theology, rather than a quasi-religious secular philosophy?

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  • Good vs Evil: Are Global Cataclysms of Satanic Origin? (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 10/18/21 2:56 AM)
    Tor Guimaraes's presentation of religion into our discussions is welcomed and timely.

    There is a very active and committed Christian movement currently that views all the ongoing global cataclysms (hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, epidemics) as a reflection of the spiritual fight of good v. evil. The Devil (Lucifer) according to the Bible and Jesus Christ, is the prince of this world, and is now on the loose and exerting all his evil powers.

    The secularization of Europe has spread throughout the West un-Christian beliefs and practices from abortion, infanticide, divorce, pornography and euthanasia, to occultism, astrology, spiritism, etc. The comparison is made to the global situation prior to WWI and WWII, as the world headed to war. The USA v China rivalry is now becoming the global center of gravity, and as many now are clamoring--the United States Needs Fatima! (Those unfamiliar with the connection should read or watch such narratives as The Day the Sun Danced.)

    Meanwhile, a few devout Muslims I know see the current global situation as the opportunity for a restoration of a global caliphate after the sinful Christian world and the godless Chinese Communists eliminate each other!

    Needless to say, these topics deserve serious attention.

    JE comments:  Or Satan is us--we are experiencing the consequences of our criminal neglect of Planet Earth.

    Francisco, these topics do deserve serious attention.  For starters, I'd like to know more about the Muslim eschatological theory you outline above--that the secular Westerners and the secular Chinese will annihilate each other, paving the way for the Islamist Caliphate to emerge from the ashes.  Is there a textual corpus on this subject?

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    • Some of History's Most Important Books: Hitler, Marx, Trump, Adam Smith (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA 10/21/21 3:25 AM)

      Ric Mauricio writes:

      "All words are made up." Thor in The Avengers: Infinity War.

      It's a small line in the movie that is not elaborated upon other than that, but it is oh so true.

      I'll venture one step further: "All religions are made up."

      Yes, there is evidence of good and evil in this world, just as there is evidence that there is day and night. And yes, there seems to evidence of extrasensory goings on, aka as supernatural forces. But are not supernatural forces just natural forces beyond our current understanding? And aren't religions a way of humans to cope with things they don't understand? And with any 'ism," they evolve based not on natural logic, but are designed by man to eventually control their destinies and unfortunately, the destinies of others.

      Case in point, in Hinduism, the many-limbed goddess is dominantly female, whereas, in the Jewish and Christian, god is absolutely male (thus one of my Christian counterparts pointed out .. making the argument that women are secondary in rank ... ugh). Even in the Christian and Jewish writings, there are teachings that seem to contradict each other, but understandably so, since the writer is attempting to enunciate their own biases. Even the argument that God wrote the Bible defies logic, since much of it is attributed to parchment that is not in the best condition due to deterioration. OK, if it was God written, wouldn't God have instructed the writers to carefully store the scrolls? But couldn't anyone write something and tell everyone that it is God who wrote it so that you cannot challenge it, risking being burned at the stake or decapitation?

      Speaking of writings, there was a previous post on certain books that came to light. And being one of a curious mind, I had read some of them. Reading these "important" writings was quite challenging, especially as I kept nodding off as I read them.

      Mein Kampf, Volumes 1 and 2, written by Adolf Hitler. Interestingly enough, it was not only anti-Semitic (interesting point here; it is rumored that his real father was from the House of Rothschild, and yes, they are Ashkenazi Jews) views that Hitler espoused, but anti-Marxist views as well. The Jews in Germany were a convenient target, in that they segregated themselves from non-Jews and in many cases, were the wealthiest citizens. Oh, they were the bourgeoisie, so they must be overthrown. Wait, isn't that what the Marxists were advocating? And yet you are anti-Marxist? Oh, I think you are confused.

      The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli. Ah yes, "The End Justifies the Means." Machiavelli's name came to evoke unscrupulous acts of the sort he advised most famously in his work. He claimed that his experience and reading of history showed him that politics have always been played with deception, treachery and crime. He also notably said that a ruler who is establishing a kingdom or a republic, and is criticized for his deeds, including violence, should be excused when the intention and the result is beneficial. Machiavelli's Prince has had a mixed reaction. Some considered it a straightforward description of the evil means used by bad rulers; others read in it evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power.

      Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. Why did I read this book? Well, I had a philosophy class in my community college as part of the requirements. But nowhere in the class description did it say that it would be a course in communism. Now, there were no requirements in this class to do anything. No midterms or finals. No homework. An easy A for everyone. So I took it upon myself to learn about what the professor was teaching and I read Das Kapital. OK, I have to admit, this was most challenging reading of all. In fact, Karl Marx even admitted he was not a Marxist (after he sold a lot of books).

      Since Francisco Wong-Díaz repeatedly refers to the Left or Progressive (progressing towards what?) and indeed the state of California as a whole, as Marxist, I would like to ask him if he has read Das Kapital.  Karl Marx says that the Bourgeoisie (the moneyed people or capitalists) exploit the Proletarians (the workers) and therefore must be revolted against. Well, working in Silicon Valley, yes, there are those who do lord it over the regular folks. But I ask, does one throw out the baby with the bathwater? Alas, I have met no one in Silicon Valley who advocates overthrowing the Bourgeoisie. In fact, with stock options vested in their pockets, many of the Proletarians have become the Bourgeoisie.

      The Art of the Deal, by Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwarz. Trump cited it as one of his proudest accomplishments and his second-favorite book after the Bible. Schwartz called writing the book his "greatest regret in life, without question," and both he and the book's publisher, Howard Kaminsky, alleged that Trump had played no role in the actual writing of the book. Trump has personally given conflicting accounts on the question of authorship. In 2019, Schwartz suggested that the work be "recategorized as fiction." Mr. Trump repeatedly boasts about his accomplishments in real estate throughout the book. Thus he challenges Forbes magazine's calculation of his net worth on their estimate of $2.4 billion, saying it should be $12 billion. I contacted my real estate sources in NYC and this is what they told me:  #1, Trump overestimates the value of his real estate (it cannot be sold for what he values it as), and #2, he forgets that the debt he owes on this real estate cannot be included in his net worth (property value less debt equals net equity). By the way, I read the Bible from end to end, although I cannot classify myself as a scholar on the book, but a student (I love the parables of Jesus). Do you really think that Donald J. Trump really read the Bible? Give us this Day our Daily Art of the Deal.

      The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith. Ah, this was truly an interesting read, as Adam Smith warns against either side of the economic equation (bourgeoisie and proletarians, he didn't utilize those words) gaining an unfair advantage of the other. Ah, my kind of thinking. Everything in balance. I think we should advocate Smithism.

      Which leads us the theoretical question posed by our moderator: what is the best interest rate? Responses to this question were also theoretical in nature, but did not truly answer the question. If the interest rate earned equals the inflation rate (or the depreciation rate of the currency), could this then be the best interest rate? The problem then is, what is the real inflation rate? Is it the government manipulated CPI. You see, in digging deep into the CPI, I found a few algorithms that made me scratch my head. For example, there is the CPI without food and energy. OK, so no one eats. And is the amount we are charged for energy reflective of the real cost of energy (regular gas is $4.70 per gallon here in northern California)? Another calculation in the CPI that I found was the cost of computers. Here is a real mind-boggler. The cost of computing power 5 years ago was, let's say $100. That same computing power today would cost $20 (although you cannot find that computer in the stores today nor would you want to). Thus, we have deflation of $80 over 5 years or 16% per year, thus dragging down the inflation rate. Also, there is the substitution rule. It is assumed that consumers will forgo the filet mignon for a less expensive cut of steak, thus reducing the consumer price index. Oh, c'mon, isn't that comparing apples and oranges? That's not measuring increases in prices, that's making assumptions that may or may not be true.

      Then, of course, there is the bourgeois banking system, that charges 3% on your mortgages or 15% on your credit cards, yet only pays you .1% on your savings. Do we overthrow them? Ah, no, we create fintech: online banks and money market funds that pay you more interest. Or better yet, you invest in dividend-paying stocks (I don't invest in the money center banks) or REITs.

      My consulting work here in Silicon Valley, especially with the Venture Capital firms on Sand Hill Road, shows that Marxism is not alive and well here in California. Sure, there may be politicians who may outwardly identify with more leftist political views, but if you dig deep enough into their backgrounds, you will find that they are quite bourgeois and enjoy their French Laundry meals. Here's some homework: take a look at what the husbands of Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris do? By the way, PlumpJack Winery is a multi million-dollar enterprise employing 700 people. The owner: Gavin Newsom. Is he Marxist? I doubt it.

      On a more positive note: EV ranges continue to increase, many over 300 miles. And this without the SSBs (solid state batteries purported to have a range of 900 miles, but I'll take the more conservative 532 miles) and CVT (continuously variable transmission that will be even more efficient for electric vehicles). This is the near future, folks. Imagine taking your current vehicle and doing a transplant (current cost estimate: $10,000 to $12,000, but I'll wait for the SSB, currently cost prohibitive and the CVT).

      JE comments:  Give me 900 miles and I'll go electric, too.  I'm more modest:  600 miles is a full day's drive on that most American of traditions:  the road trip.  Until the EVs reach that threshold, they will never be embraced in this land.  Europeans put (whirr?) around their congested cities; Americans hit the open road.

      Ric, you've read the books people love to cite without actually reading.  And your conclusions make us think:  Hitler was nearly a Marxist, while Marx was not.  I've seen related claims that Jefferson was not very Jeffersonian.

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      • Machiavelli and the "Ends Justify the Means" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/24/21 7:01 AM)
        With reference to the thought-provoking post of Ric Mauricio, 21 October, I too have read the books discussed, but have different impressions.

        When I read Il Principe (The Prince), nowhere did I find "the end justifies the means."  As the blog "La cooltura" points out, this sentence never appears in Machiavelli's writings. However, the author expressed a more realistic concept: "In the actions of all men, especially the Prince's, when there is no jurisdiction to claim, men look to the ends. So if a Prince is convinced of winning and of keeping the state, the means have always been judged honorable and by each one will be praised." Is this not the case at present?

        This is a statement of fact: the Prince should act for the good of the state and of its safety; only in such a case are actions justifiable. The great scholar Francesco De Sanctis (1817-1883), wrote in his Storia della Letteratura Italiana that Machiavelli should be judged by all his great works toward the good of a united Italy and not judged by extrapolating five words from his Opera Omnia. Machiavelli was a republican, but in that moment of turbulence with foreign armies roaming around Italy, he realized that only a Prince could govern the nation.

        According to De Sanctis, we should judge Machiavelli for his logic and scientific values within the spirit of the times.

        Furthermore, in the book, it is stressed that if the Prince wants to keep the state he must be a good governor with the good of the citizens in mind. Machiavelli does not justify any wrongdoing but may justify a wrong action, such as a war if it is waged for the good of the citizens. Machiavelli never supported "the end justifies the means," meaning as a justification of wrongdoings.

        Furthermore, he makes the distinction between the Prince who acts for the good of his citizens and the Tyrant who acts only for his advantage. The first is good, the second is bad.

        The book "Il Principe" is a short book but requires a great deal of study. By the way, my first clash at age 15 with my professor was on the interpretation of Machiavelli, as according to him the latter was a bloody fascist in the post-WWII sense. This teacher was the same guy who later wanted to kick me out of school for my politically incorrect ideas.

        On the other hand, there is nothing confusing about Mein Kampf. An ideology, partially copied from Fascism especially in the social system, can easily be both anti-capitalist and anti-Marxist, which are, after all, the two faces of the same coin.

        I read the Das Kapital after reading "Il Principe" and I found, as I have already stated, that poor Marx wrote a big bore fascinated only by the "homo oeconomicus" and completely forgetting, as does capitalism, the "homo spiritualis."

        By the way, a silly question: why is Machiavelli's book titled in English and the other two in their original language?

        JE comments:  We discussed this last question earlier, and found that there have been some English translations titled My Struggle.  Eugenio, most "mainstream" interpretations see more parallels between Marxism and Fascism than between either of these and liberal capitalism.  In fact, today's American students don't seem to understand the subtle differences between Marxism and Fascism.  The best answer I can offer is to discuss the strong nationalist element in Fascism, which doesn't exist, at least theoretically, in Marx.

        Could you give us an idea of how Machiavelli was "officially" received in Fascist Italy?  As a great Italian thinker?  On the other hand, his cynical, subversive side would not fit in the type of nation Mussolini was seeking to build.

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        • Ric Mauricio on The Prince, Cliff's Notes (John Eipper, USA 10/30/21 3:51 AM)
          Ric Mauricio writes:

          Ah, I thank Eugenio Battaglia (October 24th) for his insight into Machiavelli. Indeed, the phrase, The End Justifies the Means is not stated in The Prince, but is an attempt by others to summarize the complex writing into one phrase. Sort of a Cliff's Notes on Cliff's Notes.

          For those who are not familiar with Cliff's Notes, they are small study guides for students in order to understand the underlying literature. Actually, they are really Cheat Notes, and students utilize them as a shortcut to not reading the entire text. Ah, there's the rub. By doing that, the student will miss the nuances of the writing. As in the case of The Prince, The End Justifies the Means totally misses the nuances of Machiavelli's writing. Machiavelli is saying "one judges by the results," not "do anything necessary to get your desired ends with no regard for virtue." Machiavelli, in many of his writings, was a satirist. So one can conclude that he is poking fun at Princes, which fits with the idea that the work is essentially written as satire and is trying to teach virtuous leaders how to overthrow tyrants and people how to form Republics. So that would make it not at all Machiavellian (as many define that). Wait, isn't that what Karl Marx was trying to say? I say the issue here is about "virtuous" leaders.

          In Francisco Wong-Díaz's post about sources, he states:

          "First, in my Cuban family of origin we have a Communist first cousin who married a Venezuelan lady, and we also had a distant uncle who owned a chocolate factory in Caracas."

          OK, you know one Communist, but does being Venezuelan (the wife) also make you a Communist? The uncle must hate the Maduro government, since his chocolate factory is quite entrepreneurial and capitalistic.

          Francisco added, "Second, on the Berkeley and Stanford campuses there are outspoken Venezuelans on both sides and some are very active online."

          Francisco, please provide a link to these outspoken Venezuelans. The ones I know are vehemently anti-Maduro. Need to know what the pro-Maduro crowd is saying.

          "Third, in Florida, Los Angeles and New Orleans, large contingents of Venezuelan expats are actively opposing the disaster that is VeneCuba."

          This seems like a discussion point that Venezuelan expats are anti-Maduro.

          "If Henry Levin is such an expert, he would know that the SF Mission is not a place that welcomes anticommunists from anywhere."

          Really, I am in SF Mission quite often. I don't know where in the SF Mission you are meeting these anti-anticommunists, but I've never met one.

          I know several socialists, but other than my CSM professor, have never run into a real Communist. If you were to equate socialists and Communists, you would need to call many of the Nordic countries Communist. And those countries, like the People's Republic of China, who profess to be Communist, utilize the Manifesto to form an oligarchy, in other words, pseudo-Communism. The PRC government recently pounded on the capitalistic wealthy bourgeoisie, stating, of course, that they are taking advantage of the workers. Ah, the real reason is that the government is threatened by these wealthy entrepreneurs. Gotta put them in their place.

          In several recent WAIS posts, I get the feeling that if you against Donald Trump, then you are a liberal, neo-Socialist, left-wing, Marxist. Thus by extension, anyone who is a Democrat and other smaller parties, are left-wing etc. It was stated that there are only really two main parties: Democrats and Republicans. I would venture to say that there is indeed a major third party. The members of this third party are registered as Democrats, Republicans, smaller third parties, and Independents. These members don't subscribe to the cult of personality. Oftentimes, they will vote against a candidate by voting for a candidate they do not even wholeheartedly support. This is what happened recently in the California recall vote. Voters are not wholeheartedly for Newsom, but the opposing candidate was not the solution and even very distasteful to many. My distaste for Donald Trump doesn't mean I am a wild-eyed left winger. How could I be? I was a registered Republican longer than Donald Trump. I voted for Mitt Romney, and although I liked John McCain, his pick for VP was not the optimal pick. I don't like AOC, but she does provide comic relief. I see where Bernie is coming from, but I don't agree with his methodology. I am not a Pelosi or Newsom fan either. But I do like Ro Khanna, who happens to be a Democrat from Silicon Valley. I've met Jackie Spier, a Democrat who I say is a centrist. And I know many people that are in this centrist political spectrum and they outnumber the left wingers and right wingers.

          Here's a question. Is there a word for those who will only read or listen to views that support their views and never bother to listen or read other viewpoints? This happens not only in the political arena but the religious sphere as well.

          JE comments:  Yes, moderation in everything.  Ric Mauricio makes Plato proud.  But how do we square this with Revelation, "Because thou art lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I shall spit you out of my mouth"? 

          We've never properly glossed this bizarre passage, but our extremist times call for it.

          Ah, Cliff's Notes (now stylized as CliffsNotes), the go-to source for slackers since 1958.  Students these days have moved to the online SparkNotes, which have the added advantage of being free.

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  • Does China Have a Theology? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/18/21 9:53 AM)
    Commenting on my last post, John Eipper brought up the topic of Chinese theology, or lack thereof:  "For the first time in human history, a culture is making a serious bid for world hegemony without an underlying theology. Or could we call Confucianism a theology, rather than a quasi-religious secular philosophy?"

    It is incorrect to say China has no theology. As we all know, it has many religious groups. The Communist Party controlling China is avowedly atheistic, but take that with a large grain of salt. Most religious people (atheists included) are theologically confused.  They say one thing but often do another (always remember, it is behavior that counts, not talk).

    If we are not very careful, more often than not we all behave under a different theology than we preach. We adore money, many types of power, drugs, convenience, etc. The Chinese are no exception. The central government has great power and great responsibility to deliver something better than Western democracies can do, or else everyone knows who to blame. They will go far because they believe in science for sure, but are missing the great benefits of believing in God the Universe, so theologically China will remain split into many small parts, and susceptible to future sources of unnecessary uncertainty.

    JE comments:  In my original remark, I should also have mentioned Hitlerism and Stalinism as "secular" theologies that vied for world hegemony.  But is an extremist worldview, mixed with a cult of personality, a genuine theology?  In any case, both attempts ultimately failed.  Now it's China's turn to see what they can do.

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