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Social Gospel

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It has been 2,012 years, give or take, since the birth of a man ‘honored’, nominally, by our largest annual consumer blitz. And as this celebration, in one form or another, has been continuously held for over seventeen centuries, perhaps there is something to it besides cheering everyone up around the Solstice. Our society, which loves more than anything to expound upon Christian values, could certainly take a cue from the gospel writers’ version of what Jesus taught. From Matthew, Chapter 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Certain ideologies in the United States hold that utter cynicism, essentially social ruthlessness, is the highest form for political practicality and sophistication. Vague praise of Christian values is easy to come by, but except for as applied to the unborn, these values are rarely quantified or acted upon. They are almost never applied to the hungry, the homeless, the sick, and the prisoners in our society. Religious belief is a de facto requirement for political success, but out of the same lips come grave announcements about dependency and free enterprise and who deserves to eat and receive healthcare. It is true that many of those who would take the food away from poor students needing free or reduced lunches, who carry on about the expense of caring for the sick using THC or with government funds, and who decry any effort to increase the comfort of our nations’ record-breaking number of prisoners are, on a personal level, highly charitable. But for the people who wrote the gospels and those who followed them, breaking dependence on material things for the sake of charity and solidarity was not a character building activity or a conscience salving exercise, it was an absolute moral obligation.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge difference between what is a religious obligation for believers of a particular faith and what ought to be a legal obligation for all members of a society, and the blurring of that distance can and does lead to disaster. But when the majority of Americans of both parties believe the president ought to follow a particular spiritual leader, it bears (re-)considering what the first followers of that figure wrote about human beings’ moral obligations to one another.

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The Polish Wolf

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  • To some degree, I think you are confusing which spiritual teacher people in this country choose to follow. The writings we attribute to the Christ do speak of morality, what is is to be a good human being in the sight of God. However, the one who wrote most extensively about what it is to be a good Christian (follower of Christ) was Paul. Certain themes that inform us today are easily recognizable in Paul’s writing. The one I suggests relates to the topic here is ‘competition’.

    Paul’s purpose in writing his letters wasn’t to convert the unbelievers, but rather to instruct the newly faithful on what it was to be Christian. He had a bit of a problem, though. He was writing to disparate cultures, and had to tailor the message to reach within the social understanding. (Yes, Mark, he committed propaganda.) The letters all read as if he is saying to each city’s believers, “You can be the best Christians of all.” Notice also that Paul never talks about “false” Gods in the sense that they don’t exist. He speaks of them in terms of their ability to lead people astray, and no match for the power of the ONE TRUE GOD! Almost from the outset, Christianity became a game of one-upmanship. The Romans became the best Christians because, well weren’t they the best at everything? Martin Luther had a game changer with the argument that all are equal in the sight of God because of Jesus suffering for our Grace, which is granted to all. The game became about piety, who could be more worthy of Grace than any other.

    Fast forward about half a millenia, and you find a country in America desperately in need of Spirituality. We’d just fought a war against our brothers. We were killing heathens by the thousands., those that weren’t relocated to safely manageable habitats that weren’t very hospitable. The industrial age was upon us, and folk were hoping for release from the new slave-class. That would be the rise of the evangelicals, those who took “piety” to an insane new level. It wasn’t your deeds that got you into Heaven, nor was it your steady belief. It was your belief proven through your deeds (miracles, speaking in tongues, playing with snakes, baptism in cold rivers, public displays of your affection for JEESUS! )
    That’s your foundation right there.
    Seriously, if the deeds that prove your competitive piety don’t include the demand for a ‘Christian’ President, why would they be strong enough to include “In God We Trust” on our money, or “One nation, under God” in our basic pledge of allegiance? Everybody loves a winner, even God, apparently. We do what we are taught, and we have been informed by history that piety is what wins God’s favor. So, even those who doubt the Christian God’s existence are likely to say they favor a “Christian” President. It’s that small miracle of saying the right thing for an audience.

    • If you had not made that snarky reference, I would ignore your BS. I much prefer “thought control” to “propaganda,” only because the latter is so burdened with the image of brainwashing GI’s in Korea. Thought control is a little more civilized, embraced as it was by American liberals of the early 20th century.

      “Paul” is probably “Apollo,” as the Romans easily substituted new gods for old as they made up Christianity. That “Paul’s” writings survived the early church means that they had an imprimatur. So Christianity was merely an overlay of old religions by a newer one, suppoosedly monotheisitc even as it promoted three gods and one mother (Meres, or the moon, to go along with the sun and the minor players.) Astrology also played a large role, giving us twelve apostles and tribes and the fish symbol for Jesus (Pisces).

      I find that all very interesting, but I don’t mock religious belief even though I don’t indulge. I know deeply spiritual people who think the metaphors are real, and deeply spiritual people who know better. I also know that there are cynical and manipulative people who like to take advantage of the people who believe the metaphors, and that people also confuse non-belief, atheism and agnosticism with badness.

      In other words, there is nothing new under the sun. American has always been wacky on the fundamentalist scale, right up there with Saudi Arabia, since we were seeded with European rejects and infected with Calvinism. Just as Arab leaders must praise Allah, so to must ours praise Jesus, thoug we all know that Obama secretly thinks “Allah.” But underneath it all, people are people.

      • You are correct in that many factors of European Christianity are merely adopted Roman religious beliefs and traditions – Christmas definitely being among them. However, describing it as simply an evolution of Roman religion is also overly simplistic. Obviously Paul’s writings are filtered through the lens of Rome, but in fact Christianity was accepted outside Rome far before it become the religion of Rome. What appeal would a religion that was a mere re-naming of Apollo have had for Ethiopian or Indians, whose direct contact with Rome was minimal and whose religious traditions were quite different?

        It is possible to get a clearer look at what Christianity was before it was Hellenized (though it always grew up in a Hellenistic context, made clear in the Gospel of Luke and Acts, the early church did not embrace Hellenistic formal logic or philosophy immediately) and then Romanized by looking at the non-Chalcedonian and even non-Ephesine churches and their beliefs and practices. Unfortunately, four-fifths of the Pentarchy (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople) was eventually occupied by Muslims, and between Islam and the Tang dynasty the Nestorian Christian churches were almost completely destroyed. Add in the colonial efforts of the Catholic church to Romanize the the Oriental churches they came into contact with and its easy to see why modern Christianity is seen as a ‘Roman’ religion. Try telling an Orthodox Ethiopian that their religion is merely adapted Roman mythology, and you’ll find that they wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment, and for good reason.

        As to us being right up there with Saudi Arabia, the false equivalence scale has never rung higher. You and Rob both bring up Calvinistic theology, which is truly a strange mode of thought and does have great influence in the US, but the great difference between a Calvinist and a Wahhabist is that for a Calvinist the existence of other beliefs is no problem – the Calvinist goes to heaven, the rest go to Hell, and everything is as it should be (indeed, as it was predestined to be). Islam, as practiced in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, requires that the entire community be of one mind, religiously and morally. So while American Christians and Saudi Muslims may be equals in fervor and fundamentalism, they will rarely display even comparable levels of intolerance, at least not officially or legally.

        • Of course you’re not going to find explanations for all things in a blog comment. Why would you think such a thing.

          But I’ll clarify one remark: The US and Saudi Arabia have extremely high rates of fundamentalists. That’s quite different from the way I put it before.

          For the rest, your assumptions rests on your inferred premise that Christianity was merely Hellenized or Romanized. Far from it – the Egyptians also had heavy influence. Myths about the risen-again son and virgin birth are common throughout pre-Roman civilizations (the solstice happens around the time of the rise of the constellation Virgo.)

          The Romans chose Christianity – it was not the only sect out there, but in so doing had decided to banish the rest, which is why only a few works exist outside the Bible – they were destroyed. Why “Paulus” and no other? Why am I wearing a blue shirt today. It was hanging in the closet among others. A religion that glorifies poverty, that encourage people to be sheep in a flock, had to be seen as useful.

          For the rest, they made it up as they went. Astrology was a world-wide phenomenon, as was sun worship. It makes perfect sense. In the pre-scientific era, the sun is the giver of life. When it reaches it low point on the horizon, appears to be stationary for three days and then rises again, there is great joy to be had.

          Finally – the Romans were tolerant and readily incorporated local deities into Christianity, so that the saints and apostles replaced them, often with like-sounding names.

          They made it up as they went.

        • I want to add here that I do not mean to be critical of people who have religious faith, whether they believe the myths or have transcended them. I happen to be of a mind that cannot truck with mythology of any kind, political, social or religious. I get my satisfaction in kowing what is real – that excites my cortex.

          But I recognize that myths are a means of passing down important truth from generation to generation. Smart and average people all embrace religion because it makes them happy.

        • As I did above, PW, I would contend that American evangelicalism shares much more in common with Wahhabism than it does anymore with Calvinism. In America, your state of Grace must be exhibited and proven, most specifically by attacking other beliefs, if not those other people. That’s been true since the turn of the 19th century and has lead to the consequences I intimate above. Calvinists may not display high levels of intolerance and our Constitution may not allow (yet) for legal instantiations of fundamental beliefs. But what makes American fundamentalism unique is that the will to control ‘belief’ is not driven so much by violence or authoritative mandate but by political action, the strange marriage of nationalistic identity and ‘Christian’ faith. As Mark indicates (poorly, but rightly so) the pleasant mythology is that to be an “American” is to be ‘Christian’, regardless of what being Christian *really* means.
          We all know what a “jack-Mormon” is, someone who professes the faith but behaves much to the contrary. (Interesting to note that Mormonism began during the period of evangelical rebirth in this country.) Every one of us knows a passel of garden variety ‘agnostics’ who just can’t make up their minds but behave for all the world as atheists. Your concern that Americans prefer a Christian President, while we behave particularly anti-Christian, focuses on a confusion, in my opinion. There is the mythology of the religion and then separately the mythology surrounding the belief in the religion. Those are not the same when one accepts that the belief is not dictated by or beholden to any spiritual leader, any Gospel, but rather a norm of society impressed/oppressed by a vocal minority.

          • Well said, Rob. I think you and Mark both pointed out important considerations when it comes to America’s relationship with faith (though I still don’t understand what you’re arguing about, except that you hate one another). It is troubling that there are Evangelicals in America who would, but for the constitution, be happy to tread on the religious rights of other faiths. I suppose that’s a conversation for another day, but for now I agree that it’s merely a vocal minority attempting to define Christianity for the rest of the country, thus exerting undue influence over people who identify as Christians but don’t read their own Bible, at least not with an open mind. What I wonder is why they are so good at it.

            • Our argument is simply about Mark defining himself. Soren Kierkegaard pointed out in the book “Either/Or” that ofttimes we are identified by our enemies more so than by our friends. So, Mark decided that Dave Budge and I were his arch-nemeses, and I haven’t had much peace online since. I apologize that the argument carries over to every site which still allows him to spout. It isn’t my intention to muddy your waters. But I can tell you, it is grating in the extreme when I have to consider commenting anywhere knowing that Tokarski will show up with the same litany of crap as before.

              I think that offers a nugget of insight into why the evangelicals have been so successful at driving agenda. When an atheist goes to court to remove a creche from a public space, it isn’t because they are anti-Christian. But they become a more worthy foe if they are seen as such, and we become “more worthy” standing against them than siding with people who actually hate us, and our immoral ways. That was precisely the claim Jerry Falwell used to envision a “moral majority”. Where most of us stand is with Wil Weaton: “Don’t be a dick!”. The social gospel is that we stand with an enemy, until we don’t. There are good reasons to promote atheism. They won’t gain traction as long as ‘atheists’ are so much the enemy of all that is reasonable and good, even when they’re not.

                • If all it takes to ‘bait him’ is agree with him, Lizard, than I’d say my complaint has teeth. And as I’ve told Mark many many times, I don’t do requests. Save your commandments for someone who cares what you think.

        • When you write, it is more an affectation than a vehicle for information. You’re trying to impress with your depth and breadth, neither of which I’ve ever been convinced you possess. OK cupcake?

            • No, not at all. It is your thought processes, and this goes all the way back to your reference that the Democrats were engaged in “clever negotiating,” a way of saying that you had an understanding in accessible to the rest of us. I spotted a phony that very moment, and later you reinforced that notion with your pretentious claims to being a 4.0 philosophy major at MSU. Those two incidents, reinforced by many others, convinced me that you are a charlatan.

              Because you at once lack depth and try to impress at once, you come off as tedious, which I’ve mentioned to you many times before. You don’t have any insight of note, you’re self-impressed, a legend in your own mind, and boring. SO no, it’s got nothing to do with writing style, but rather lack of content conveyed with tedious prose.

              Now go away. Try me again in 2014.

            • I’ve told you before, Mark, though you seem too dim to understand, that I don’t do requests. Most certainly not from you.

              Here’s a suggestion: Go back to school. Study the scholarly texts you expect from blog commenters (though rather hypocritically, you defend your own weak efforts based on the venue.) Go away, and exist among your own kind, the Pompous. Worship of yourself and your own reason is your religion, so serve the mythology you desire, and leave the rest of us in peace. Study with greater minds.

              ~heh~ You lack the courage and always have. You lie to cover your cowardice. I’ve never stated that Democrats were engaged in clever negotiating, and I’ve never claimed a 4.0. You throw those lies out as a claim of religious authority, your religion being your own self-important will to “reason”. You are not reasonable, Mark. Not at all. That’s why I pointed out that you agreed with me but still think I’m writing “BS”. You are so enamored of yourself that you don’t even understand any distinction.

              And yes, I’m, attacking your religion because it’s stupid and you deserve it.

              • Thr ability to tell bold face lies such as that, my knowing that you said the things you did, is evidence of the psychopathic personality. Even when caught in a lie you easily deny without any second thoughts, as if it is all an affectation. You’ve never read the “scholarly texts,” you have no background in religious faith, you’re mimicking. You’ll inevitably trip up as you go along, as you can parrot words, but have no grasp of concepts.

                This is the other thing I’ve noticed about you – the more you write the less coherent you are. You’re a weird one.

                • Humans are an interesting species, unswayed by evidence and yet beguiled by authority figures.

                  On everything, my opinion of you, and other matters for which you are a cowardly sniper, evidence speaks for itself.

                • 1) Humans are unswayed by evidence and yet beguiled by authority figures.
                  2) Mark Tokarski is human.
                  Therefore, Mark Tokarski is unswayed by evidence and yet beguiled by authority figures. The evidence speaks for itself.

                  Give it a goddamned rest, Tokarski.

                • Aren’t syllogisms part of the survey course for freshmen? Didn’t your teachers who admired you so much tell you that life is rather complicated for such reductions?

                  People are not honest with themsleves or others. Groups and authority figures dictate opinions. The people who give you your opinions kmow you better than you know yourself.

                  There is nothing wise or lofty in public opinion or yours. That is simply a commodity to be managed. The mind of the public and your mind is prejudices, images, cliches … and each citizen and you believes that he uniquely arrived at his attitudes by means of creativity and intellect. You does not know that you only reflects what leaders wish you to be.

                  Some of us, a few I admit, don’t travel your road. It’s always interesting, and yet frustrating in that we have to endure ridicule from the likes of you.

                • That Mark has chosen to withdraw from the political process is typical of convicted felons: rehabilitation is a process he can only endure. Choosing champions is how a republic stands: if you can’t stand the heat don’t fry your eggs on the sidewalk.

                • You rarely make sense, Larry, but do bring p a valid point IF the political process consists only of the two corrupt parties. But political change does not come from there. The larger political movements are pretty much dead, the population dumbed down and unable to imagine anything different than what we have. This appears to me to be a totalitarian system now.

                • Mark, you’ve written hundreds of words here that have done nothing but rail against a status quo over which you seem to preside but to which you have offered no options for change.

                  Put your good mind to work fixing instead of fencing with us Democrats, most of whom already know that politics sucks but who mostly acknowledge that only political processes can correct the abuses of power.

                • That is the mistake right up there in lights, Larry – the assumption that returning to this process every two years to elect people who have to accept bribes to even be comsidered electable. That tends to attract liars and poseurs.

                  I continually say that “Democrats are the problem” because you absorb all of the energy that might actually be useful in correcting abuses of power, investing it instead in weak and dishonest people who then become part of the problem.

                  Obama, for instance, has codifed and intensified every Bush abuse of power, and yet is presented to us as an alternative. Do you see that the plitical process is the problem?

                • The US is under attack every nanosecond of every day, Mark; how any President keeps sanity through two terms escapes me but driving people from the polls seals the totalitarianism that you believe already exists.

                  Holding a constitutional convention might amplify the volume of voices like yours: get on it.

                • Again, it is up there in lights.

                  We are not under attack. No one is attacking any of our citizens except in those places where we have inserted our troops by force. We are a violent aggressor state, and that is the problem. We leave them alone, they leave us alone.

                  The constitution is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. It’s incredibly difficult to govern anywhere when the people who want power need to be kept out of power, and the people who would be good leaders don’t want power. So no document is ever enough, and skilled politicians of good will, like FDR, rarely come to power.

                  But our closed two-party system is not in the Constutution – that is a natural byproduct of money in politics. The obvious remedy for our illness is public financing of campaigns. We don’t need a CC for that, but getting by the two parties to pass such a law is near impossible.

                  But that is a remedy, and worth fighting for. It is what we non-partisans do.

                • Loading links to an ongoing cyber war would likely not sway your commitment to US aggressor status: the evidence is clear. Few believe that unilateral demilitarization will happen in our lifetimes even as most Americans wish it. Only an extinction-level event would alter the course laid in by this country and a shadow government exists to ensure continuance anyway.

                  Dystopianism seems to guide your worldview, Mark: how sad.

                • Agreed, the evidence is clear. [Editor’s note: He’s being snarky.] But your outlook is confusing even if common – that we cannot change it, and so should act as if it is not so.

                  I must emphasize again here that our opinions are not formed based on evidence, but rather on group membership and authority figures. I do suggest that you actually look at the evidence of US aggression, beginning, say, in 1895?

                • That treachery is enshrined in law comes as no surprise to anyone but you, Mark and lobbing verbal grenades will have no effect on that.

                  Pulling behind the safety of your own pile is a conservative’s tack: it suits you.

                • I’m getting emails with comments from you here and at my blog. You are welcome to comment there, and I am not further engaged with Rod here, as we can be nasty. And no one is banned, so I am not behind a barricade.

                  Your comments are too general to be useful, your excusal of your own compliance in a non-functioning system shallow. It’s as if someone pointed out to you that you are but a bit player in a stage show, and so you quickly cloaked your face and said “We all are, and we know it.”

                  You did not know anything much of substance before our exchange, as I read you, and are stung now that I don’t view you as you view yourself.

                • Taking a few shots for a comrade from someone who professes to be post-partisan is the least that one can do: when you choose to be a problem-solver instead of just another member of the Uh-Oh Squad maybe you could be taken more seriously, Mark.

                • You make no sense. The parties are captive of the oligarchy. Joining the parties assures that you’ll be assimilated, have your balls cut off. You will waste your time supporting candidates who are pre-purchased.

                  Look at it this way: You’ve spent great time and energy electing Tester, Bullock, and Obama. You’ve achieved nothing, as these men are agents of power, but were kept busy and feel validated.

                • I’m still curious where political change comes from, Mark, and more specifically, how you are more effective in implementing it than Rob, larry or I.

                • Here is how it works, PW: Republicans get elected and make very hard rightward pushes, often succeeding, especially since 9/11.

                  People tire of Republicans and elect Democrats, who immediately put a ratchet in place to prevent backsliding. and when reasonably assured that Party Faithful are asleep at the wheel, they continue with the rightward push, codifying Republican achievements, and engaging in a further rightward push.

                  Our role as leftists is only to push back, as frankly, there are not many leftists or progressives in this right wing country.

                  And indeed, you, Rod and Larry are effective in implementing change. More so than leftists and progressives. You are just not aware of your direction.

                • In the fifties and sixties it was civil rights and feminism, poverty programs and environmentalism. Movement politics infected the Democratic party resulting in tons of progressive legislation signed into law by Nixon.

                  Now? A dumbed down public, only a handful of progressive Democrats. There’s no ground level organizing of any note – OWS was a start but Obama crushed it.

                  So we move ever rightward, the Democrats and Republicans each doing their part.

                  You seem to think that something comes of nothing, that because we cannot stop the force of the right, that we should just join you. You also seem to think that a faux left (Democrats) is a worthy substitute. But as I mentioned, Democrats are the problem, as you have inserted yourselves in the shoes of the left, and run far right. That is our biggest problem – Democrats and Republicans merging.

                • That doesn’t answer my question, Mark. What does it mean to push back? I’ll go back to defending Democrats after we see what they actually secure for us in the current fiscal negotiations. But even assuming it makes no difference, how does an enlightened one such as your self make a difference? Not voting is certainly has little effect. Griping on blogs – hard to spin that as effective resistance. What is it exactly that you do that makes you better at ‘pushing back’ than the rest of us?

                • If only you could see that there are no negotiations. That part is done. That’s politics, man. Why can’t you see that itis not WYSIWYG? Why no savvy?

                  What I mentioned above is that progress happens in bursts, after the Great Depression, after the sixties. Since that time, starting with the Powell memo, there has been a concerted effort to shut down every scintilla of left impulse in this country. Part of that was to take control of the Democratic Paty, the DLC the primary lever. It succeeded. The left is in shambles but started to rumble again, and Obama beat it down. He’s a righty, or as Nader says, a con man.

                  You don’t seem to understand that you are now part of the right, part of the push for wars, low taxes on wealth, surveillance … you. Not me. I am part of the left, and perhaps we’ll rise again in my lifetime. What can I do now? I can only help Democrats see that they are the problem.

                  As I said, you guys are effective, but without guile. You don’t seem to know your role in this.

                • Still not answering the question, Mark. What are YOU doing to push back? What aren’t WE doing that we should be?

                • Oh, but he did answer the question, with the juvenile ‘War Games’ version of Tic-Tac-Toe. The machine plays itself, and concludes that the only way to win is not to play. Democrats and Republicants can’t win because stalemate is a necessity when they are the same, and one body plays itself.

                  However NUANCE! The game isn’t a body playing itself, rather it is rigged by a controlling force (one might might posit a rich organization of overlords, say, an Illuminati.) So, since the overlords manipulate one side more than the other, Democrats being the problem, one is a fool to play the game serving the will of the overlords who have the game rigged. Only one problem. For all the rigging, the game continues and the overlords don’t always win or even seem to have the control Mark is so certain that they have.

                  Of course, the rationalizations are there. If X happens, it must certainly be because the overlords wanted it to happen. Still, it doesn’t ring true, even to Mark. The people can regain control by ‘organizing’, that always unspecified happening that refuses to play the game and stands against its controllers. In Tic-Tac-Toe, that would be referred to as an opponent playing on the idea that the other will make a mistake in order to win the game. Of course, that can’t *really* happen until strangely it does, which is playing the game to win as opposed to not playing the game so that the other plays and wins by default. How very odd, that is, don’t you think?

                  What Mark is really calling for is revolution. That is not a bad quest, nor one that should or would be objectionable. But it is a ‘play’ that Mark has no interest in fostering or even making any effort to support. If you want your answer, that is it. ‘You kids go off and revolt lest I insult you again, but whatever you do, don’t support the game as I see it’. Don’t ask him to do anything; that’s your job. His job is to live a good life better than yours, and to write of it at any opportunity. That’s Mark’s answer to your question, that he will likely never give.

                • I repeat, the left in this country is dead. Your rendering of the Obama foreign policy, that he is Bush with a chisel instead of a hammer, is utter self-delusion, training your own mind to ferret out differences that do not exist.

                  It’s all about validation, I know. You cannot face futility, and so imagine that here are differences, that money doesn’t matter, that politics plays out before us like a sitcom or TV drama. Deal with life, as so many generations before us have, realize that we mostly lose, that time goes on and on and there seems to be no change and no winning, and then some event, a black swan, sparks change. And for a brief period we have an open window, and massive change. that was the Great Depression, the sixties. The current depression ought to spark similar reforms, but because your party is corrupt, it is not happening.

                  What you are doing is not nothing. It is quite more than that. You are part of enemy forces, unknowingly doing your part and imagining that you are somehow part of gradualism or clever negotiating. That is losing while whistling.

                  You’re trying to corner me, thinking that because I see what is going on, that I must offer you some other form of validation. You’re not mature enough in your thinking to understand the expression “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the spirit.” The time will come, I hope I am alive when it does, but it is not now. As for now, because you are part of the non-resisting resistance, you are the problem.

                • Still not answering the question, Mark. What are YOU doing to push back? What aren’t WE doing that we should be?

                  Yes, I am in a way trying to corner you, corner you into doing something or proposing something. So far the only suggestions you’ve had are 1) that we shouldn’t vote and 2) we should ‘organize’ or ‘push back’. The first lacks any efficacy, the second is what I’m trying to get you to define. You know where my priorities are and how I try to ‘push back’ against the problems I perceive, and you know how I wish other people behaved about those same problems. I’m asking the same from you.

                • I’ve answered it quite well enough, and fully understandable. Enough of your games.

                  Now answer for me:

                  Do you understand the role of money in politics? Do you understand power relationships? Do you understand public relations, advertising, suggestion and thought control well enough to back your presumption that none of it has worked on you?

                  Because from where I sit, you appear completely bought in. You seem clueless about how the game is layed.

                • It’s not a game, Mark, and you’ve answered nothing. You have yet to put forth a single concrete action that in any way ‘pushes back’ against the problems you are seeing. By what action am I contributing to a problem you are solving?

                  It is appropriate that this discussion is taking place on this thread, because the criteria you are using are ones of belief. You have determined than unless a person believes the same things about the political process that you do, they are essentially part of the problem. You thus sit back and wait for a messianic left wing movement to save us, and refusing to identify any action you yourself could take. Even if the insights you have into the political process had value, they are unaccompanied by action, and are thus worthless.

                • That’s utterly useless. I asked you if you understood power relationships. You did not answer. If you do, then you know that you have hooked up with power, and have undergone the necessary internal transformation to accomodate all of the compromises. Yes, your people take money, yes, your agenda looks just like theirs, yes we’re still eavesdropping and torturing and have secret prisons and are attacking other countries and you’ve even ramped it up, but dammit! You’re Democrats, somehow better. That’s your quest. Discover how you are different. For sure you are too damned smart to ever be snookered.

                  Me? I understand the game. I don’t play. Sorry if you find that unsettling.

                • “I understand the game. I don’t play. Sorry if you find that unsettling.”

                  By not playing, you mean you don’t vote, and you like to complain online. Of course, you also loudly proclaim that neither voting nor ranting online have any impact. So by your own admission your ‘not playing’ is indistinguishable from my ‘playing’. Congrats. That’s all I needed to know.

                • I voted, as down-ballot often matters, but also recognize that voting is the least important aspect of democratic governance (especially in an age when we cannot be sure that votes are even counted properly).

                  Other aspects, ground-level organizing for purposes other than voting, holding office holders accountable once elected, working to remove them from office when they betray your trust, engaging intelligent people in discourse, training leaders who truly understand the system, fighting for real reform (campaign finance, for instance, ending dark money like that that elected Tester), publicly speaking out agains odious policies (aggressive war, torture, surveillance, secret prisons, detention without trial) …

                  I don’t see where you are a sterling citizen. I give you a D-, but not an F because, dammit, you voted. You don’t seem to understand how our country works and certainly are not working for hope or change.

                  Democrats … The problem.

                • Just for clarity of record, Mark, you’ve banned me a couple of times and then claimed that I am ‘unbanned’. And yet you have deleted ~every~ single comment I’ve left since you first claimed I was banned. I’d say your claim is pretty much baseless, a distinction with no difference.

                  So, if we are to fans of nuance and actually examine distinctions, let’s look at another rather telling syllogism:
                  1) In Mark’s judgement and pronouncements, Democrats are the problem, a general statement.
                  2) In Mark’s judgement, some Democrats are not the problem, a specific statement.
                  3) This is a contradiction, save for one factor, Mark’s judgement.
                  Therefore, the only resolution to the obvious contradiction is Mark’s judgement.

                  If one is to actually examine nuance, then one needs to question Mark’s judgement. I think many of us have done so, quite effectively, the only accepted conclusion being that Mark’s judgement isn’t to be trusted for personal view or political action. Seriously, Mark, if you are so willing to distort and fabricate ‘for your judgement’ what others think and opine, then how can those others think you capable of passing judgement on the ideas clear to them, nuance or not? You lie about me consistently, and lie about your treatment of me and others at your website. Still, we are to accept that your judgement (nuanced as it isn’t) is to be the dictate of what is real?

                • I used to joke that you had read a logic pamphlet, but you do carry on as if you’ve taken that 100 level course and do e what our prof warned us not to do – attempt to apply it to everyday conversation. it’s tedious, pointless, and boring.

                • “Our prof”? Whomever did we have?

                  My professors, (Allard, Brittan, Chakribati) always cautioned us, my fellow students and I, that logic was an essential tool for critical thinking and should never be abandoned just because others more dim (like yourself) might find it off-putting. To do us would leave ourselves and others, such as you, vulnerable to FAUX news style claims. So, your complaint sounds like a personal problem to me, Tokarski. And I don’t care.

                • Oh, you care enough to bait me, and now that you’ve gotten your ass bitten off once again, you’re going all pompous ass on me.

                  Not buying a word of it. You’re a fraud.

  • I agree with the sentiment in the scripture above, but to me, the vagueness with which the scriptures were written lends itself the internal incoherence of scripture, and thus its lack of utility to motivate individuals to act in certain ways. The “liberal” can read Jesus and find a completely different message than the more “conservative”. Individuals can be moved toward feelings of unconditional love for their fellow man, and in the same moment find comfort in the infinite torment of human souls based not upon their deeds, but upon thought-crime during their finite lives. Jesus was clearly an exclusisivist. It is a mistake to assume that simply teaching Jesus'(or Paul’s) philosophy removes the malignant aspects of Christianity.

    C.S. Lewis said Jesus was, “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic”. If he existed, I lean towards lunatic, based upon all the evidence of Jesus-like cult leaders we find in the present day, and all the problems the Christian Theodicy fails to address. Though, the Jesus Mythicists have a very compelling case IMHO. When I read the bible front to back as a young Christian looking for answers, I was horrified at how plainly obvious it was to me that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. He made promises about the end-times that didn’t come true. He promised states of affairs that to obtain, require your subservience and your death. Sound familiar?

    Americans and their preference for a religious leader comes as no surprise. We are a super-religious super-power. I’ve pointed out before that Atheists are the least trusted minority group in the United States. As recently as 2010, religious people polled said that they trusted atheists on the same level as they trust rapists. http://digitaljournal.com/article/315425

    The good thing is this is changing. Even now, the 2011 poll cited in the O.P. above is becoming outdated. As the older religious die off, they are being replaced with the less religious or not religious at all. This is occurring all over the industrialized world, but has only recently become relevant in the U.S. Americans are less religious now than ever before. I hypothesize that in the same way it was inconceivable 40 years ago that an African-American could be president, a similar situation exists for the non-religious.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/10/09/162591220/study-finds-americans-less-religious-than-ever

    Personally, I look forward to the day when we can talk about morality and politics to most Americans, and appeal to people’s compassion, rationality, and desired goals, as opposed to the supposed hearsay of a lord,liar, or lunatic, who may or may not have said the words, and may or may not have existed.

  • My one kid spent time as a checker in a local grocery store. Every week he’d come with these amazing stories ’bout the “needy” buying groceries with their EBT card and then spending as much with their own cash on beer and cigs.

    • There’s a hell of a difference between stories and statistics, Ingy, but at least you’re bringing some kind of ‘evidence’, loosely construed, and I guess that’s progress

      • Yeah, me and the Boston Herald. Story tellers.

        Quote: Does it make any difference for the state to ban the use of EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards at tattoo parlors, strip joints or package stores if beneficiaries can use them to get cash from an ATM?

        What difference does any kind of control on the use of the actual cards make if the benefit can accessed in cash?

        …According to that EBT Commission report, 85% of EBT benefits, or $77 Million in a three month period between October and Dec. 2011, were translated into cash at ATMs.

        • Now you’re confusing things again, Ingy. EBT benefits are not synonymous with food stamps – SNAP assistance cannot be used at an ATM, though Cash Assistance can. A person qualifies for the two in different ways. While the physical card used for Cash Assistance operates the same way as one used for SNAP food benefits, a person qualifying only for SNAP benefits will no be able to use the card at an ATM or for non-food purchases, while someone qualifying for cash benefits will be able to do so. The reason so many MA EBT card holders withdrew money from ATMs is probably because Massachusetts links a variety of state benefits to EBT cards. Now, attempting to control CASH benefits by limiting the acceptance of EBT cards at certain establishments is little more than making such use inconvenient – the benefits that can be withdrawn from an ATM are not legally restricted to food, housing, or any other kind of purchase.

          • Big picture, PW. There’s numerous govt. programs all which contain fraud. Let’s take the scriptures.

            “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

            Nothing in there that would infer there must be some unaccountable middle man.

            I was hungry and you took money from me to give to the govt. who kept 90% of it to give to me who should be out working instead of watching Oprah.

            • “Nothing in there that would infer there must be some unaccountable middle man. ”

              Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

              But seriously, the hypocrisy of the religious right lies in philosophy, not policy. It is quite possible to call for individual charity to take the place of Government assistance and claim to have scriptural support. But the fact is that individual charity has proven woefully inadequate to the task. Look, for example, at literacy, child mortality, life expectancy, etc. among the poor in countries or period of our history where individual charity was relied upon.

              A philosophy that ignores this fact and determines to let the poor suffer because they don’t work hard enough, accepts the murder of inner city kids because they have criminal records, and to let infants and the sick die at higher rates than other industrialized nations because the poor didn’t have the foresight to buy better insurance, is a philosophy that stands in direct contradiction of the gospels. Those promoting this kind of thinking while proclaiming the Christianity are either ignorant or dishonest.

              • Chicken or egg argument.

                A single mother earns $24K/yr. on average. Married couples earn $80K.

                Would Jesus endorse rewarding single motherhood with stolen goods?

                • 1. Hard to argue that Jesus, hailing from a pre-capitalist society and abhorring wealth (camels and needles and all that), would see a tax on the rich as theft.

                  2. Unless her public assistance amounts to 16K a year, the single mother is still not being rewarded, merely compensated.

                  3. If the woman has chosen her child’s well-being over her own career, leading to a lower paying job, there’s every reason to believe Jesus would support the choice, again, he being a noted anti-materialist.

                  4. It’s unclear what Jesus would do, but we know from Acts that the early apostles would have asked your three adults to split the 104K between them as they had need…because that’s exactly what they did in the book of Acts.

                • You sent me out on a search mission finding this timely comment.

                  Quote: Jesus IS the Son of God and has no ascribable political agenda. He is the sacrifice that made possible our salvation. Belief in Him is our only hope of eternal life. He transcends all political triviality and classification.

                  The moral imperatives asked of us by the Christ are our PERSONAL responsibility.

                  These moral standards are between each individual and God, not the government and God. Using government force to steal from some of us and then distributing …that stolen property to others DOES NOT SATISFY the Christ’s imperatives to us. As a matter of fact it offends Him, since so called “charity” resulting from theft is a clear violation of the “Thou Shall Not Steal” Commandment and is a sinful act.

                  We are accountable only to God for our charitable and moral actions, not the government. This is yet another area where the government has no business getting involved.

                  It is an individual responsibility, not a collective one.

                • It is a valid point of view, Ingy. I can see the point of view that says that the Gospel calls for private charity, not government charity.

                  However, that point of view isn’t particularly well defended. First, you are falling back on the idea that taxation by income is stealing. That’s quite anti-biblical. The bible predates capitalism and predates the idea of individual property as an inherent write. Though taxation by the Romans was a big issue in Jesus’ day, he refused to argue against it. In the old testament, the government requisitions supplies and property without a thought to property rights.

                  Secondly, the Gospels were written at a time when only a small minority of people were Christians, and therefore there was no hope for them to truly influence policy. Therefore, the emphasis was on individual charity. Does that obligation change when Christians are in charge of their society? It’s not addressed, probably because the Gospel writers couldn’t foresee the mass conversions that would occur a couple centuries after they wrote. However, the Old Testament provides some guide; nearly all the prophets associated neglect of the poor with divine justice. For example, Ezekial 16:49 –

                  “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

                  We know how that story ends.

                  Finally, even if the Gospels do indeed call for individual charity and imply nothing about governmental assistance, the mindset is still important – we are responsible for the poor among us, not merely for ourselves. Now, there was a time it was possible to believe that less government interference was the way to do that. But the century that followed the invention of laissez-faire capitalism largely disproved that hypothesis. So, even if you don’t believe the Gospel specifically calls for government assistance to the poor, the attitude of compassion towards the poor demanded by by the bible is hard to square with the attitude of Paul Ryan and those who would imitate his budget priorities.

                  But I appreciate that you took the time to bring your own evidence and actually look into the issue – obvious in theology there are no solid answers, and I appreciate that you’re willing to engage the topic nonetheless.

                • Taxation was stealing, even more prevelent back in the Roman era.

                  //www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/web/articleid/66741/columnid/5437/default.asp

                  Read “The Hated Tax Collector” paragraph.

                • It is true that tax collectors were hated…by the pharisees, and by the zealots. Jesus, on the other hand, refused to endorse that position, even when encouraged to do so. Your premise falls flat. And the point of the Gospel remains – those who would vote for children to go hungry or for the sick to die of preventable diseases would vote for the same to happen to Jesus. Or is voting as an act altogether different from personal charity? I find that a difficult position to defend. Like I said before, even if government aid is no explicitly endorsed, a compassionate outlook for the poor is. I fail to see how the current Republican response to the budget deficit is compassionate.

                  There is, of course, an exception – if the wealthy themselves decide to redistribute their own wealth, then they can consider themselves to be upholding the Gospel even while they attempt to lower the taxes they themselves pay. But very few of the wealthy in this country have decided to do so, at least while they are alive.

                • Take all the money that the wealthy has. It won’t matter.

                  39 states to go.

                  ://www.thecomingdepressionblog.com/government-dependents-outnumber-those-with-private-sector-jobs-in-11-u-s-states/

        • Take away the poor’s EBT cards and we’ll get even more poverty and its related toll on society. Take away the rich’s tax shelters, loopholes, and gov transfers and they’ll get one fewer yacht or third home. STFU!

    • I’m sure that you take whatever tax-payer funded benefit you get and then buy cigs and booze and porn with your own cash.

      What’s the BFD? It’s the american way, rich or poor.

  • Been stuck in moderation for a while now so this is attempt 2.

    The sentiment in the scripture above is admirable, but to me, the vagueness with which the scriptures were written lends itself the internal incoherence of scripture, and thus its lack of utility to motivate individuals to act in certain ways. The “liberal” can read Jesus and find a completely different message than the more “conservative”. Individuals can be moved toward feelings of unconditional love for their fellow man, and in the same moment find comfort in the infinite torment of human souls based not upon their deeds, but upon thought-crime during their finite lives. Jesus was clearly an exclusisivist. It is a mistake to assume that simply teaching Jesus’(or Paul’s) philosophy removes the malignant aspects of Christianity.

    C.S. Lewis said Jesus was, “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic”. If he existed, I lean towards lunatic, based upon all the evidence of Jesus-like cult leaders we find in the present day, and all the problems the Christian Theodicy fails to address. Though, the Jesus Mythicists have a very compelling case IMHO. When I read the bible front to back as a young Christian looking for answers, I was horrified at how plainly obvious it was to me that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. He made promises about the end-times that didn’t come true. He promised states of affairs that to obtain, require your subservience and your death. Sound familiar?

    Americans and their preference for a religious leader comes as no surprise. We are a super-religious super-power. I’ve pointed out before that Atheists are the least trusted minority group in the United States. As recently as 2010, religious people polled said that they trusted atheists on the same level as they trust rapists. http://digitaljournal.com/article/315425

    The good thing is this is changing. Even now, the 2011 poll cited in the O.P. above is becoming outdated. As the older religious die off, they are being replaced with the less religious or not religious at all. This is occurring all over the industrialized world, but has only recently become relevant in the U.S. Americans are less religious now than ever before. I hypothesize that in the same way it was inconceivable 40 years ago that an African-American could be president, a similar situation exists for the non-religious.

    Personally, I look forward to the day when we can talk about morality and politics to most Americans, and appeal to people’s compassion, rationality, and desired goals, as opposed to the supposed hearsay of a lord,liar, or lunatic, who may or may not have said the words, and may or may not have existed.

    • ” find comfort in the infinite torment of human souls based not upon their deeds, but upon thought-crime during their finite lives.”

      A common misconception. The Gospels only rarely speak of punishment, it is never clearly pointed out to be eternal, and does not rely on belief [EDIT: it does not generally or universally rely on belief. There are instances where salvation is linked with belief, but they are outnumbered by instances where salvation and damnation are associated with behavior, generally with generosity). Instead, as in the verses following the one I quoted, some sort of posthumous punishment is implied as a result of deeds. The idea that ‘bad thoughts’ lead one to hell is not really developed until the epistles, and even then does not closely correspond to the modern Western Christian conception thereof.

      The gospels are in fact not particularly theological at all; in them, Jesus is quoted as speaking extensively on personal and societal behavior and only periodically about heaven and hell (though John does delve deeper into the theology). I chose the passage partly because it is the most explicit treatment of the afterlife to be found in the Gospels, and the message is inescapable: personal compassion is a prerequisite for salvation. There can be no meeting of the minds between Ayn Rand and the Gospel writers, and to claim to spiritually believe in the latter while pushing a policy agenda inspired by the former is to miss the entire point of the Gospel. That the Christian Right uses as its litmus test for Christianity abortion and gay rights, two topics which the gospels leave entirely unaddressed, shows the extent to which they are failing to live up to the religion they claim to believe in.

      Those who believe there is no God and furthermore that most humans leave something to be desired and thus adhere to objectivism or social darwinism as welcome to do so, and though with all my heart I believe their policies are cruel and wrong, they at least make an argument. Those who profess Christianity and rail about our moral decline in order to pass laws that further the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged among us, on the other hand, are charlatans, and those who follow them need to take a step back and look at how the actions of their leaders align with the demands of their faith.

  • I wasn’t directing my distaste of the doctrine of hell at the specific narratives, but rather the bible as a whole. Usually people do not limit their Christian Philosophy to that which is only in the Gospels. Whether it is deed or thought makes no difference really either, (Infinite Punishment for finite misgivings could never be Just) though thought-crime does seem to be there.Most Christians accept the doctrine of hell. But it is certainly true there is a universalism/exclusivism debate within the religion. From Matthew 10:28:

    “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    That sounds permanent to me.

    From Matthew 25:46

    “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    I admit the previous passage is referring to deeds and not thoughts.

    But there is Mark 9: 43-48

    “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

    For example, I may be wrong, but it is my understanding that the thought of adultry is just as much a sin as the actual act. Thought-crime. Matthew is full of discourse about Hell, and the bible as a whole makes itself clear that Hell is eternal separation from God. Numerous descriptions abound as well- “weeping and gnashing of teeth’ or ‘the fiery furnace’. (Both of those from Matthew)

    The Thought-Crime that sends individuals to hell that I was referring to though, was that which most present day Christians believe in- The thought-crime of Nonbelief. I absolutely think you are right that the Christian Right is at odds with proclamations in the Gospels when they focus on things like abortion, gay rights, or the poverty of others as moral failures. My point is that any time you adhere to one aspect of Biblical Philosophy, chances are you will be at odds with another aspect of the Bible. Such is the nature of that book.

    You wrote: “Those who believe there is no God and furthermore that most humans leave something to be desired and thus adhere to objectivism or social darwinism as welcome to do so”

    I don’t understand what you’re saying with this. “Thus” doesn’t work here. I don’t believe there is a God. I also believe that humans leave something to be desired. It doesn’t follow though that I adhere to objectivism or social darwinism. Most non-believers follow a sort of Secular-Humanism, or countless other moral philosophies based on compassion and rationality.

    • Absolutely, most non-believers follow a sort of Secular-Humanism, the point being, most non-believers are humanists, in that they believe in the capacity of human beings to be self-sufficient and without the need for a God-figure to give them morality, and generally a belief in the inherent moral value of a human being. Such belief is admirable. It is those who neither believe in God, nor see the the inherent value of humanity, who tend to adhere to Objectivism or Social Darwinism.

      I suppose ‘leave something to be desired’ is too vague – I suppose I should have said they believe that Humanism leaves something to be desired. A secular humanist will have as hard a time swallowing the cruel policies of the extant right wing of American politics, “thus” only a person who lacks belief in God or the value of the majority of humans can be justified in following a political philosophy as callous as the one currently popular on the far right wing.

      As to Hell and Punishment, you are correct that the gospels are inconsistent in the extreme as to the nature of that punishment or the causes of it (and one could say the same about salvation). In my opinion it thus makes a poor basis for a religious doctrine. As to the thought-crime of adultery, etc., the point I believe is that the law is untenable and unachievable, supporting the greater doctrine (in my opinion the most consistent doctrine of the Gospels) that religious written laws are subservient to universal dictates of compassion and generosity. A doctrine which is, indeed, not all that far from the beliefs of secular humanism, though I’ve admittedly never thought of it that way before.

  • That doesn’t answer my question, Mark. What does it mean to push back? How does an enlightened one such as your self make a difference? Not voting is certainly has little effect. Griping on blogs – hard to spin that as effective resistance. What is it exactly that you do that makes you better at ‘pushing back’ than the rest of us? This will continue to be my response until you actually answer the question. You’re giving me plenty of reasons the Democrats are so bad, but you’re not answering the question I’ve asked. You’re stuck in the negative.

  • Well there you have it, The Polish Wolf. You have failed Civics as taught by Professor Tokarski. And make no mistake, mister, ~that’s going on your PERMANENT record!~

    Mark, I think PW’s point was that much of what you call good citizenship is accomplished through voting, or things you yourself won’t lift a finger to accomplish save for complaining on the Internet.

    • We’ve pretty much covered this subject, including the fact that I do vote when there is a meaningful choice. I voted for Obama in ’08, and seeing that he was a bad choice, and that no better choice was available, voted Green in 2012.

      I did not throw my vote away. You’ll never grasp that.

      • Didn’t throw your vote away? Sure you did. You display nothing but disdain for any who might actually agree with you. So your ‘vote’ means that you think such a thing matters more than the rest of ours. Sorry kitten. You lose, and we get to laugh at you.

        That’s just the way it works, you know.

      • By the way, you’re not banned at my blog so you might want to ease up here. I did delete some comments where you were going to explain Newtonian physics to everyone (we waited with bated breath, and hoped after that you would bring us the final solution to quantum and relativity – where do they meet? Don’t hold back on us).

        I have noticed that there are complimentary remakrs about you all over the Montana blogs. The problem is they are all by you.

        • Mark, you’ve deleted every comment I’ve left since you “banned” me. No ‘easing up’ will change that fact, and your appeal is meant for others to think fondly of your fairness and wisdom. Kindly don’t insult the intelligence of the people who run other websites at which you are still allowed to comment. You are not that good at manipulation.

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