Front page of the day

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Gaslighting, revisited

I pointed a few weeks ago toward a guest post at Bruce Gerencser’s blog that likens religious teachings to a form of gaslighting, a type of psychological abuse that undermines the target’s confidence in his or her’s judgment and apprehension of reality. The author of that post revisits the analogy with a second post today and y’all should go read it, too.

This guest post is the same one as before, except that I have added some examples at Bruce’s and his editor’s request. At times, the post is a bit snarky. I have to say that I’ve used so many Biblical examples in it that it felt like preparing a Bible study. However, you might say that it’s more of an anti-Bible Bible study.

Theologians, Friedrich Nietzsche once said, cannot tell the truth.

Whatever a theologian feels to be true must be false: this is almost a criterion of truth. His most basic instinct of self-preservation forbids him to respect reality at any point or even to let it get a word in. Wherever the theologians’ instinct extends, value judgments have been stood on their heads and the concepts of “true” and “false” are of necessity reversed: whatever is most harmful to life is called “true”; whatever elevates it, enhances, affirms, justifies it, and makes it triumphant, is called “false.”

The Antichrist, §9

Christianity’s only truly indispensable metaphysical claim is Original Sin, the teaching that to be born human is to be born foul, guilty, unfit to exist, deserving of eternal torture.

If you don’t believe in Original sin, then Christianity’s promise of salvation is meaningless. It doesn’t need much imagination to reconstruct Christianity without the resurrection or virgin birth, but Christianity literally has nothing on offer without the promise of salvation — and that relies on your acceptance of Original Sin.

It is against the Holy Man’s interest that you be happy, confident, self-assured, because if you think your life is pretty good then you aren’t going to buy his claim that you deserve eternal punishment and he knows how to help you avoid it. What is more, Christian ideals were born in a defeated underclass; they re-interpreted obsequious submission — turn the other cheek — as a virtue because they had no choice but to submit to being mistreated.

There is nothing in Christian teaching that elevates men; whatever elevates men undermines the norms of the underclass in which Christianity was born — and threatens the Holy Man’s livelihood. Christianity needs for you to be sick in order to flourish. That is why Nietzsche held that theologians cannot tell the truth, because the theologian can’t admit straight-out that he means to degrade you. Thus …

  • Christianity tells the marketing lie that it is the source of family values, but teaches that good, decent, godly people will betray their family and friends on command — like Abraham.

  • Christianity tells the marketing lie that it cherishes life, but teaches that things don’t get good till you’re in the grave.

And on and on. Think about it for a bit, and you should have no difficulty thinking of more examples out of your own experience.

Though there are plenty of cynical and knowingly-abusive and self-serving Holy Men out there, I should probably add that I don’t think they’re the majority. Most, I think, are simply too unintelligent and unreflective to realize that they’ve gone over to the Dark Side.

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Tweet of the day

Naturally, one hopes this all tongue-in-cheek, but Trump is so conspicuously unstable that one wonders. This election can’t be over soon enough for me.

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Donald Trump faces the prospect of defeat

Asked whether he would accept defeat, Trump answered at last night’s debate: “I’ll look at it at the time.”

As regular readers know, I’ve grown increasingly to appreciate the writings of James Michener over the past couple of years; he was not, as sometimes said by the artsy crowd, a mere entertainer. The novel Space is extraordinarily prescient with respect to many of the issues now wracking the country, and his valedictory, This Noble Land, could have been written after last night’s debate.

3. Does the nation have a political system that ensures peaceful transition of power from liberal to conservative and vice versa?

One of the glories of American and British government is the orderly way in which such transfers of power occur. In the United States we have an election on a Tuesday and by eleven o’clock that night the entire nation knows and accepts the fact that a new political power is now in charge.

Apparently, The Donald is so megalomaniacal that he is prepared to upend that honorable American distinctive if he “looks at it” and doesn’t like what he sees.

Is another krystallnacht in the offing? Though most of us look at Trump and see a buffoonish cartoon character, I am convinced that he and the insane mob that follow him around are quite capable of it — and that too many Republicans are whorish opportunists who will look away. The greatest threat the Republic faces today is Donald Trump, and he must be not merely defeated, but humiliated and cast out of public life forever on November 8th.

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John Dewey, b. 1859-Oct-20

One of the most influential men of his time, and an architect of the “American Century,” John Dewey was the man behind the curtain as the Progressive Era undid the predations of the Gilded Age and constructed the now-declining middle class.

Dewey was a pragmatist, a school of philosophy which places primacy upon experience and rejects Platonism unconditionally. It is not a set of metaphysical claims so much as a habit of thought, and all engineers and scientists are trained by default to the pragmatic approach to problem-solving: Think first, believe later.

  • It is no accident that all democracies have put a high estimate upon education; that schooling has been their first care and enduring charge. Only through education can equality of opportunity be anything more than a phrase. Accidental inequalities of birth, wealth, and learning are always tending to restrict the opportunities of some as compared with those of others. Only free and continued education can counteract those forces which are always at work to restore, in however changed a form, feudal oligarchy. Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.

  • Every thinker puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril and no one can wholly predict what will emerge in its place.

  • Legislation is a matter of more or less intelligent improvisation aiming at palliating conditions by means of patchwork policies.

  • It is a familiar and significant saying that a problem well put is half-solved.

  • In the late eighteenth and the greater part of the nineteenth centuries appeared the first marked cultural shift in the attitude taken toward change. Under the names of indefinite perfectibility, progress, and evolution, the movement of things in the universe itself and of the universe as a whole began to take on a beneficent instead of hateful aspect.

  • The revolution in scientific ideas just mentioned is primarily logical. It is due to recognition that the very method of physical science, with its primary standard units of mass, space, and time, is concerned with measurements of relations of change, not with individuals as such.

  • This idea is that laws which purport to be statements of what actually occurs are statistical in character as distinct from so-called dynamic laws that are abstract and mathematical, and disguised definitions. Recognition of the statistical nature of physical laws was first effected in the case of gases when it became evident that generalizations regarding the behavior of swarms of molecules were not descriptions or predictions of the behavior of any individual particle. A single molecule is not and cannot be a gas. It is consequently absurd to suppose that a scientific law is about the elementary constituents of a gas. It is a statement of what happens when a large number of such constituents interact with one another under certain conditions.

  • The mystery is that the world is at it is — a mystery that is the source of all joy and all sorrow, of all hope and fear, and the source of development both creative and degenerative. The contingency of all into which time enters is the source of pathos, comedy, and tragedy.

  • Surrender of individuality by the many to someone who is taken to be a superindividual explains the retrograde movement of society. Dictatorships and totalitarian states, and belief in the inevitability of this or that result coming to pass are, strange as it may sound, ways of denying the reality of time and the creativeness of the individual.

  • The ground of democratic ideas and practices is faith in the potentialities of individuals, faith in the capacity for positive developments if proper conditions are provided. The weakness of the philosophy originally advanced to justify the democratic movement was that it took individuality to be something given ready-made, that is, in abstraction from time, instead of as a power to develop.

  • To regiment artists, to make them servants of some particular cause does violence to the very springs of artistic creation. But it does more than that. It betrays the very cause of a better future it would serve, for in its subjugation of the individuality of the artist it annihilates the source of that which is genuinely new. Where the regimentation is successful, it would cause the future to be but a rearrangement of the past.

  • Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

  • Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

  • We only think when we are confronted with problems.

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