Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “Historical Commentary”

The Bible — Not a Book of Science, and NOT a Book of History

In Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012], I trust I laid to rest the notion that the Bible is a good source of science.  (And didn’t even have to mention obvious evidence like I Kings 7:23 and II Chronicles 4:2, wherein, apparently, the writers of the Word of God thought the value of pi was 3!)  Don’t go to Genesis for your natural history!

Then, when using the Protestant Bible (the one without the Apocrypha) to research my conclusions regarding the origins of Christianity, I was struck with how the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem near the end of the Jewish Revolt of 62-70 CE (or A.D.) signaled a sudden historical vacuum of eye witnesses into which the writers of the New Testament could inject whatever they were hearing or thinking, all practically devoid of the checks and balances of contemporaneous historians. Josephus is a pleasant exception.  (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015])

I asked myself if the New Testament is anemic in reliable history, what about the Old?  I was spurred to hold the whole Bible (including the Apocrypha) in historical scrutiny by the same spur that compelled me to sort out the origins of my Christian faith — my 21st century development of what I call Perception Theory, which I wrote down after “sorting out” Christianity. (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018], Going Global, [March, 2018], AVAPS!, [May, 2018], Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018], The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018], Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019], and God — The Ultimate Meme, or The Problem of God, [August, 2019])

To ask such a question so late in my life indicates how throughout my years as a church-going Christian I never questioned the historicity of the Bible.  In fact, as I analyzed my religious faith, I realized that a foundational pillar of my personal belief was that the Bible was based upon reliable history.  Looking at the dates of the posts above, it is embarrassing to see how long I waited to vet the reliability of biblical historicity.  Better late than never, I suppose.  Nonetheless, biblical historians have every right to respond to this post with something like “No shit, Sherlock?!  Welcome to the 21st century!”  I deserve it.  I see myself as no “higher” than a rank amateur as a historical reader — an amateur so “rank” as to satisfy myself I can use the reliability of historical consensus of the present time (and, presumably of the historical consensus coming in the future) and pass it on as a retired teacher to anyone interested.  I am no historian, but enough of an amateur historian to not be dangerous; that is, one can rely on what I pass on has the reliability of consensus; if I give my personal opinion or commentary that is not necessarily part of the consensus, I try to make that a clear distinction.

I used my sudden expansion of reading time rendered me by social isolation amidst the 2020 covid-19 viral pandemic to read up on the historicity of the Old Testament.  I read from five books reflecting the updated version of ancient history that has become available to us since WWII.  Published in hard cover by The Folio Society, they are:  1) The Egyptians, by Alan Gardiner (1961), 2) The Babylonians, by H.W.F. Saggs (1962 & 1988), 3) The Hittites, by O.R. Gurney (1952, 1954, 1981, & 1990), 4) The Phoenicians, by Glenn E. Markoe (2000, 2002, & 2005), and 5) The Persians, by J.M. Cook (1983).  2) also covers in depth the Assyrians.  These five are part of a Folio Society ancient history series that also includes The Minoans, by J. Lesley Fitton (2002 & 2004) and The Mycenaeans, by Lord William Taylour and John Chadwick (1964 and 1983).  I did not read these two for purposes of this post.  Full disclosure, I read completely 1) and 2), but skipped the architectural, economic, and other cultural details of 3), 4), and 5), as these chapters were practically void of biblical references I could use.  I made sure I covered the complete historical narrative and the religious cultural studies of all five.

What this series of ancient history generally tells us is that we now have a historical consensus not only based upon sources like the Bible, but based upon sources found since the middle of the 19th century, which include archaeological finds now scattered all over the world (due to colonialism and European cultural exploitation) and finds as recent as 20th century digs interrupted from completion by the two world wars of the 20th century.  The series prides itself in being well “grounded” (pardon the pun) in archaeology, in actual artifacts upon which in recent decades an agreed-upon interpretation has been established as a “new” consensus.

With just the Bible as your historical source, which does, after overcoming translation difficulties involving different languages and alphabets (5 different languages and writings from the 5 above), reference the five peoples which named the five books numbered above, myopic chronicling and confusion of names and events would probably cloud your panoramic view of what happened beginning about 5,000 years ago.  But as the longest running archaeology-based study over the centuries, Egyptology, has shown, when you increase your sources, the forensic picture of “what happened?” becomes more and more “fog free.”  I found it useful to think of the span between roughly 3,000 BCE (B.C.) to New Testament times (1st century CE or A.D.) in the Bible-relevant settings (Egypt, the Levant — eastern Mediterranean shore, Mesopotamia, and Anatolia — Asia Minor) as Egyptian pharaonic dynasties (Dynasties I – XXXI, 3,100 BCE to 332 BCE) starting first, followed by the Mesopotamian Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations (2,370 BCE to 1,900 BCE) becoming the Old Babylonian Empire (think Code of Hammurabi) (1,900 BCE to 1,500 BCE), which gave way to the Assyrian Empire (1,500 BCE to 615 BCE), which in turn gave way to the New Babylonian Empire (think Nebuchadnezzar) (750 BCE to 539 BCE).  In other words, Assyria “sandwiched” between two Babylons, with Egypt always to the southwest.  Affecting the affairs of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian Empires were the Hittite Empire (1,700 BCE to 1,250 BCE) and the Phoenician Empire (not a contiguous nation, but a collection of confederated sea-going city-states like Arwad, Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre) (3,100 BCE to 65 BCE).  The New Babylonian Empire was replaced by the Persian Empire (560 BCE – 330 BCE).  The Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great, creating the Hellenistic or Macedonian-Greek Empire (332 BCE – 65 BCE), which was ended by the Roman Empire, the empire in power in New Testament times.  The historical  parts of the Apocrypha were set in times the legacy of Alexander’s partitioned empire ruled the Levant, or the “Holy Land.”  From the earliest date listed above to the latest spans four stages of the Bronze Age, three stages of the Iron Age, the Persian period, and the Hellenistic period.

Amidst this long historical timeline appears the Hebrew Iron Age kingdom of David and Solomon (1,040 BCE to 931 BCE), without any archaeological evidence of Abraham, Jacob, the Exodus, Moses, or Joshua (more on this later).   In 931 BCE this kingdom split in twain into the ten tribes (the “lost” tribes) of Israel (Kingdom of Israel) and the two tribes of Judea (Kingdom of Judah), each with a long line of kings corroborated in records involving Assyria, New Babylon, Egypt, Hatti (Hittite Empire), and Phoenicia.  For instance, Solomon used Phoenician builders for his Temple, the god Baal, with whose prophets Elijah clashed in I Kings 18: 20-40, was a Phoenician god, in the book “Bel and the Dragon” in the Apocrypha, “Bel” is another name for the Babylonian god Marduk,  and the infamous Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel, was a Phoenician princess.  In 722 BCE Israel was conquered by Assyrian king Shalmaneser V, marked by the fall of Israel’s capital Samaria.  The ten tribes of Israel were deported from their homeland, becoming the “lost” tribes, and replaced by a people who were known as the Samaritans by Jesus’ time.  Such “diasporas” were common practice of conquering kings of Assyria and Babylon.  In 586 BCE Judah was conquered by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, destroying Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and deporting many of the Jews back to Babylon, marking a three-stage Jewish Exile, the most famous of which was the Babylonian Captivity from 586 BCE to 538 BCE.  (The Bible would have us believe that Jerusalem (around 701 BCE) was spared from an earlier conquest by Assyria under Shalmaneser’s successor (after Sargon II), Sennacherib, by divine intervention, but it seems more probable Sennacherib had to call off the siege because of documented threats to his authority back home.)

My uptake of the overview of Israel’s and Judah’s role during the Assyrian and New Babylonian Empires were that they both were “bit” players on the international scene of the coming and going of Empires in Egypt and the Middle East, making unwise alliances with Egypt or Phoenicia instead of “straying” from the “true” God Yahweh.  Both were pawns caught in the interplay of powerful empires that ebbed and flowed in their extended “neighborhood” for centuries; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In fact, the kingdom founded by David apparently came about at a time when he could fill a power vacuum in the Levant when the Babylonians and Assyrians were in weakened states of adjustment, the Hittites were plummeting in power, and the Egyptians were floundering in dynasty redefinition.  Just as the New Testament can be seen as apologetics for the fact that Jesus was tried and executed as a common criminal, the Old Testament, in my opinion, can be seen as apologetics that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and the “best” of the ancient Jewish people (God’s “Chosen”) were taken into exile in the Babylonian Captivity.

So far, the intersection of Old Testament books and this new historical consensus is roughly confined to the biblical “histories” of I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles and the major prophets Isaiah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  I mention the Daniel reference in Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump, [Dec., 2018], where I argue “White Evangelical Protestant Christian LiteralistS,” or WEPCLS, venerate the Persian king Cyrus (560 BCE – 530 BCE) as a “tool of God” for letting the captive Jews in Babylon (conquered by Cyrus) return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II ( a rebuilding covered by the biblical books Ezra and Nehemiah).  The historical truth is that Cyrus’ foreign policy featured the “innovative” foreign policy of expanding empires employing religious tolerance (The Jews, of course, worshiped Yahweh and Cyrus was a Zoroastrian, worshiping Ahuramazda.).  Cyrus could could bring the Jews under the shadow of the Persian Empire without having to kill them into submission by freeing them from captivity.

But what about the most famous part of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the story of Abraham, Moses, and the Exodus?  Where is the non-Hebrew historical evidence of these events?  This evidence simply is not there in the new historical consensus.  To defend Judaeo-Christian faith in the historicity of the Pentateuch with something like “The evidence will be found soon!” is as weak as the Mormon response I got in a public meeting while I was in graduate school to my question of why had not archaeological evidence been found in North America for events presented as history in the Book of Mormon.  I’m still waiting for confirmed Mormon archaeological evidence.  Turns out Deuteronomy may be the only book of the five written before the Captivity (circa 650 BCE), the others written post-Captivity around 200 years later, after Judea had been reestablished, thanks to Cyrus’ innovative foreign policy.

What this means to me is that the apologetics for the existence of the Jews, the ancient Hebrews, had to be ramped up in the wake of the “close call” of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Captivity.  Just like the destruction of the Second Temple in the Jewish Revolt against the Romans (62-70 CE) was a lynch-pin around which the New Testament was spun, the Captivity in the wake of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple was a lynch-pin around which much of the “early” Old Testament was spun.  To give the Semitic nomadic tribes “historical legitimacy” and be designated as “God’s Chosen,” despite their bloody conquest of Canaan, the “land of milk and honey” had to be part of God’s “covenant” with a long line of Semites going back to Abraham of Mesopotamian Ur, through Jacob, Joseph into Egypt, and Moses as the deliverer from Egypt.  Thanks to the Captivity and access to Egyptian stories over the centuries, the writers of most of the Pentateuch had lots of “grist for their mill” of historical legitimization.  The two different creation stories of Genesis (Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 & Genesis 2:4 to 3:24) not only reflect the different Old Testament sources dubbed J, E, D, and P by “higher” biblical criticism, they reflect similar creation stories in the origin traditions of the ancient religions of Mesopotamia.  The story of the Great Flood was ripped without much change from a sub-plot of the Sumerian-Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (The original Noah was actually Utanapishtim, and the story of the release of the dove from the ark was accurately copied.).  The Tower of Babel story was based upon the pyramid-like ziggurats of the great cities of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.  “Moses” was an Egyptian name (Pharaohs Amosis and Thutmosis I through Thutmosis IV — 1,575-1,405 BCE) and there was a charming Egyptian story of a child from the desert found in a basket in the Nile by Pharaoh’s family.  And the Mosaic Code of Law seems to be one of many adaptations of the Code of Hammurabi (1,792-1,750 BCE).  The conquerors of Canaan were given, in my opinion, “respectable historical roots” by a cleverly written epic or saga in several Old Testament books whose historical accuracy could not be vetted until the 19th century CE.

Attempts to justify Moses and the Exodus, such as identifying the Hebrews in Egypt with the Hyksos “foreign” rule of about 108 years in the Second Intermediate Period before the New Kingdom dynasties of Egypt (before Amosis and the Thutmosises) or identifying the Pharaoh of the Exodus as being Ramesses II (1,290-1,224 BCE) do not bear up under Egyptian archaeology.  It has been offered that the Exodus does not show up in Egyptian hieroglyphics because the unspecified Pharaoh was “defeated.”  But a defeat of Ramesses II by the Hittites and their allies under Hittite king Muwatallis II at the battle of Kadesh (1,275 BCE) in the Levant was spun as a “victory” for Ramesses — he “single-handedly” saving the Egyptian army; we know it was an Egyptian defeat by historical verification that the Hittites never withdrew from the Levant right after the battle.  Thus, if a group of slaves had been dispatched from Egypt on such a scale as the Bible relates, chances are another “victory” for the Pharaoh would have been recorded; none such has been found.  Mimimally, had anything like the Exodus actually happened, the biblical saga writers would have named who the Pharaoh of record was, it seems to me.

The importance of Moses and the Exodus to both Judaism and Christianity is clear, whether written by saga writers or not.  The traditions and theology of the Passover cannot be overlooked.  The Jewish/Canadian archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici (not real popular with Christians, due to his research on controversial ossuaries that have important implications for the origins of Christianity, as I pointed out near the end of Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012]) has on his TV show “The Naked Archaeologist” done some great geography and Old Testament exegesis involving rates of migration on foot to triangulate a more probable site for Mr. Sinai than the traditional site in the south central region of the Sinai Peninsula (some mountain northwest of the port of Aqaba. the port at the north end of the Gulf of Aqaba).  That the site where Moses supposedly received the Ten Commandments is problematic to pinpoint does not bode well for the writers of the Pentateuch.

However, it cannot be denied that the power of a migrating people in search of a “promised land” is vital to groups other than the ancient Hebrews.  A recent consensus on the origins of the Aztecs (The Aztecs, by Nigel Davies (1973)) reports a migration story with intermediate, temporary settling of the original Aztecs, the Mexica, from 1,111 CE to 1,345 CE, with evidence of a “travel log” between these dates of about 52 years.  (Compare with the children of Israel “wandering” the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years.)  Along the way they were guided, Yahweh-like, by their god Huitzilopochtli.  Circa the latter date of 1,345 CE, they came upon the sight of an eagle perched upon a prickly pear cactus holding a rattlesnake in its beak and claw (See the national flag of Mexico), and there they founded their city in the lakes, Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).

In addition, I have found to my satisfaction that the lynch-pin of the Captivity shows itself in the Old Testament history that resonates with the new historical consensus through cultural absorption.  As I pointed out in Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump, [Dec., 2018], comparing II Samuel 24:1 (pre-Captivity, c. 800 BCE) with I Chronicles 21:1 (post-Captivity, c. 450 BCE), both describing the same event, the concept of Satan entered into the ancient Jewish writings (as a sort of tempter, prosecuting attorney, or gadfly of God, shown vividly in the book of Job).  The concept was drawn from the evil counterpart of the good Zoroastrian god Ahuramazda (The Zeus of Persian theology), in my opinion.  The evil god was called Ahriman, and Satan passed into the New Testament and Christianity (not to mention Islam) as more evil than gadfly.  (Also see The Devil, by Jeffrey Burton Russell (1977)) (Could the argument be made that the serpent that tempted Eve in post-Captivity written Genesis (also c. 450 BCE) was based upon the same concept as the Satan of Job?)

To find reliable history about the ancient Hebrews, the ancient Jews, God’s “chosen” people, in the Bible instead of in the growing historical consensus of the peoples of Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia would be like trying to find reliable history about the Vikings in the Icelandic Sagas instead of in books like The Vikings, by Gwyn Jones (1968, 1973, & 1984).


My copies of the Bible will always have a place in my library, but never as books of science or of history.  The Old Testament and the Apocrypha remain sacred to Jews, Christians, and Moslems, and the New Testament remains equally sacred to Christians.  Sacred — nothing more and nothing less.  The Bible will always be a source of inspiration, an epic of importance, and a saga of historical morality — like the Qur’an or Koran is to Moslems, like the Vedas are to Hindus, like the Avesta is to Zoroastrians, like the Hinayana and Mahayana texts are to Buddhists.



What We Need to Know About Socialism

Regardless of who becomes the Democratic Presidential nominee for 2020 to run against impeached Donald Trump, and regardless of whether voters think of themselves as Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, it seems to me we all, especially those of my generation (“baby boomers” — children of the greatest generation of the 20th century: those who grew up in the American Depression and fought in and won WWII), need a little historical primer on what is becoming a “weapon” on all political sides nowadays — socialism.
Since my generation has been endeared to WWII for good reason, that might be a place to begin. The war was between two sides, the victors consisting of two political groups, the western democracies, the European democracies, and the USSR (Soviet Union) (together called the Allies) and the defeated Axis Powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan. All, with the exception of Imperialist Japan, were nations formed on the basis of some sort of socialism. Socialism is the philosophical template where people are considered united under one class, where society is treated as a whole, in theory without any kind of cultural hierarchy. In other words, socialist political groups operate assuming that no one subgroup is superior or inferior to the other subgroups. That is why WWI, by eliminating political power from monarchies and their accompanying aristocracies (similar to the French Revolution earlier wrenching power away from the organized Church ), ushered in the creation of socialist governments in Europe that were not already socialist.
The second “S” in USSR is for “socialist,” an extreme form of Marxist-Leninist socialism we know as communism, in which all property is considered owned by the state and none is considered private. Communism claims to be classless, but as Orwell pointed out in Animal Farm, the great parody slamming communism, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Communism is a dictatorship under the guise of egalitarianism, just like fascism. Letting the Nazis represent fascism in general, the “z” in “Nazi” comes from the German word for “socialist,” as Germany after WWI was not ruled by the kaisers or the militaristic aristocracy any more. The economy for fascism is not communistic, but is capitalistic, only the capitalists are under the direction of the state, just as the people are. Fascism is the other extreme of socialism, a dictatorship as ruthless and oppressive as communism, if not more. The irony of the two extremes of socialism, despite their dictatorial similarity, is that there were none who hated communists more than Nazis, and none that hated Nazis more than communists. Yet both groups flourished under a similar, extreme form of patriotism that only can be called extreme nationalism. The tragic misrepresentation of extreme socialism, of dictatorships such as those in Venezuela or Cuba, is that they are called just “socialist,” not communist or fascist. Another irony is that we have today a Russia that is an odd mixture of extreme socialism — a fascist state run by a communist-trained dictator.
That leaves the democratic socialism of the remaining victors of WWII, the western and European democracies, whose form of socialism goes back to the late 18th century with the formation of the United States. My “Holy Trinity” of American political philosophy, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Tom Paine (the third name to avoid two Thomas’s)(For Your Consideration, I Give You…….Tom Paine, [Aug., 2014]), without the stumbling block of a class hierarchy or aristocracy (except the rich “haves” and the poorer “have-nots”), had true egalitarian socialist ideas like a general postal service, municipal fire departments, and public schools. In other words, any political idea or program that treats all of society as one and funded through that same society (usually through taxes) is a democratic socialist idea that originated with the US founding fathers or with the European Enlightenment. When the French Revolution leveled all its society to the level of “citizens,” these egalitarian socialist ideas were refined and shared across the Atlantic with the USA. The European Revolutions of 1848, also known as the People’s Spring or the Spring of Nations, was a workers’ revolt against the ruling monarchs and aristocracy over worker’s rights and conditions of labor. The democratic socialist concept of modern labor unions, hearkening back to the guilds of centuries before, was launched and eventually also made its way to the USA, although with little impact in American history books, as our country was around that time focused on the coming of the American Civil War, which came in 1861. Workers’ rights came to the forefront of the American economy in the early 20th century with the economic class clashes of right wing, conservative capitalists like Henry Ford vs the labor unions of factories (Factory owners hiring goons with clubs to bust picket lines, etc.).
Thus today very little of the structure of our social lives in the US is not in some way socialist: public schools, highways, hospitals, libraries, community charities, first responders, police departments, garbage collection, and so on. The mammoth economic problems brought by the American Great Depression that plagued the childhoods of the baby-boomers parents were solved by the FDR administrations applying democratic socialist programs such as the CCC, the FDIC, the CWA, the FSA, the NIRA, and Social Security. Personally, without the financial support of Social Security for my grandparents, my parents would not have had enough money for my college education; that is democratic socialism. American democratic socialism, therefore, is economically capitalistic (a capitalism that understands that capitalism creates wealth; wealth is not zero-sum.) and based upon private ownership. Patriotism in democratic socialism avoids extreme nationalism by pledging allegiance to a constitution and its rule of law, not to a nation, a leader, a political party, or any philosophical or religious creed. Its function, ideally, is to promote economic and social freedom to all by preventing the formation of greedy oligarchies, such as those in Russia today, or any other form of a ruling class except that cited at the beginning of the Constitution — “We, the people…….”
The French Revolution also brought us the political terms “right” and “left” or “conservative” and “liberal,” based upon the seating by political philosophy of the French National Assembly after the fall of the Bastille. Ideally, the right or the conservatives work for rights, freedom, wealth, and power for themselves and their loved ones or close associates; the left or the liberals also work for rights, freedom, wealth, and power for themselves and their loved ones or close associates, but ALSO for the same things for ALL citizens, strangers or not. Liberals seem to care for all citizens more than conservatives. Note, too, that left/right, liberal/conservative cannot be applied in extreme socialist states, such as those under communism and fascism; neither should just the name “socialist” be applied to these extremes. The social movements of American history, therefore, such as the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and women’s rights are rightly seen as liberal, and, hence, democratic socialist movements. Liberalism is the modus operandi of putting into practice the ideals of democratic socialism.



To me the punch line suggested by this social history since the founding of our country is: Just like the spectrum from right/conservative to left/liberal is not a black and white dichotomy, neither is the political spectrum of socialism from dictatorships of all ilks to democratic socialist societies. The outcome of WWII and the collapse of Soviet communism are two latter-day giant steps toward the world’s societies moving toward liberal democracies and away from nationalism of all ilks. Societies in liberal democracies are not hard-line egalitarian organizations; they are meritocracies whose education for young minds allows students to discover and develop the unlimited possibilities of their individual talents and skills; that is the only “social hierarchy” needed (See Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  And education is encouraged in all as a lifelong personal vocation. The direction of this movement is compatible with the advancement and rise of international democratic socialism, which some like to call globalism (Going Global, [March, 2018]). Voting in the direction of liberal democracies means voting for candidates who are in some degree (it is a spectrum, remember) democratic socialists, and it seems all the 2020 Democratic candidates are democratic socialists to some degree. These candidates, as well as conservative candidates, need to be careful not to be culpable to unhistorical misinformation wielded as political propaganda regarding the generic terms “socialism” or “socialistic.” Some examples are the absurd views that communism = socialism or that fascism = socialism or that the horrible conditions in places like Cuba and Venezuela were brought on by socialism.
Another way of putting it is that socialism is neither all good or all bad, but is exemplified in specific settings in degrees of both. But it is not a coin toss, as what I hope is clear is that more democratic socialism is so much better than more dictatorial socialism. And overall germane to this point is that no politician is perfect. But the spectrum of political socialism has historically given us great leaders who have done bad things and awful leaders who have done good things. But the degree of good in the former should clearly stand out in favor over the degree of bad in the latter. In my opinion, history allows the determination of these ethical degrees for the following historical occasions of leadership, listed randomly in time and place:
The Soviet communists got rid of the czars of Russia, but that does not justify what Stalin did; Stalin was an awful, bad leader. Hitler give us the Volkswagen, but that does not justify what Hitler did to Europe and the world; Hitler was an awful, bad leader. Richard Nixon opened up world trade with China, but that does not justify what Nixon did in the Watergate scandal; Nixon was a deceptively corrupt leader. Thomas Jefferson did not free all his slaves and fathered children by his house servant Sally Hemings, but that does not negate all the great things Jefferson did in creating this country of ours; he was one of our greatest founding fathers and Presidents of all time. Bill Clinton betrayed his marriage, but that does not negate in any way his place as a great President; Clinton was a bright, clever leader who loved his country beyond measure. Ronald Reagan was an inspiring orator, but that does not justify his lack of intellectual insight beyond just reading the lines written for him; Reagan was a hollow mouthpiece for the Republicanism of his day. FDR may have had extramarital comfort, but that does not negate the rescue of America from the Great Depression he orchestrated; FDR was a wealthy aristocrat who proved that one of the “privileged class” could be a democratic socialist. LBJ was a vicious, vindictive politician, but that does not negate the great legislative strides he and Sam Rayburn made regarding the civil rights for all we enjoy today; LBJ destroyed crippling social barriers that held us back for decades. Benedict Arnold may have been responsible for the American patriot victory at Saratoga, but that does not justify his betrayal of his country; Benedict Arnold is the textbook definition of a traitor. Jimmy Carter was too trusting in the idealism of Washington DC, but that does not negate his legacy of a great peacemaker and post-Presidency philanthropist; Jimmy Carter was as close to being a Christian President as we’ve ever had, without violating separation of church and state. Fidel Castro may have improved education in Cuba, but that does not justify his destroying human rights and the Cuban economy by imposing idiotic communist ideology; Fidel Castro sunk Cuba into dictatorial disaster. Barack Obama failed to involve the younger generation of voters as promised, but that does not negate his unparalleled record of being the first American President of African-American ancestry along with an 8-year term of office free of scandal; Obama destroyed the barriers LBJ couldn’t reach and inspired all Americans from all backgrounds with living in reality the American dream. JFK loved on the side women like Marilyn Monroe, but that does not negate his legacy of breaking the religious bigotry of this country, being a great Cold War leader, and living as an example of American idealism; JFK made all Americans believe in our own version of Camelot. Etc…….etc…….
Note the pattern above: If there is more social good than bad from a leader, the words “that does not negate” appear. If more bad than good, the words “that does not justify” appear. Let me give out three more names and see which of these two sets of words you would put after them: Winston Churchill, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. No doubt you could add the names of any historical leaders since the late 18th century to these and likewise assess them. Knowing a little about history and the history of socialism can be a valuable forensic tool. The more history you know the more informed is your assessment. And, clearly it seems to me, such knowledge and such vetting can be indispensable to peer through the fog of the upcoming 2020 election in November.
I never vote in primaries for President of the US, because I do not register with any political party. So when the Presidential tickets for the two main parties are set, I apply the forensic tool defined above, and this explains why I have never voted in my life for a Republican Presidential candidate in the November Presidential elections. However, if you do participate in the primaries, there is no reason you couldn’t use this historical forensic tool in the primaries. Since the beginning of our country, the Democratic Party has consistently produced candidates with more democratic, socialist, capitalistic, and progressive positions than the Republican candidates, election year in and election year out.
Be part of the direction of history; vote for the advancement of the principles of liberal democracy; vote for rights, freedom, wealth, and power for all; vote for the higher degree of democratic socialism in November.




God –The Ultimate Meme, or The Problem of God

In Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019], the epistemological concept of memes was used to “tie together” the basic concepts of Perception Theory, “circling back” to the beginnings of the theory. This tying-together of memes into Perception Theory, if you will, was done within the group of related posts having to do with Perception Theory.

Similarly, this is the tying together of two groups of posts, one again being the Perception Theory group (Group II.) and the other being the origin of Christianity group (Group I.)  Both groups of posts share constituent subjects of God, religion, or, to use my phrase, god and god stories.

Group I. consists of Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].  It is a personal journey of religious belief utilizing history as a forensic science and my own “spiritual” experiences as a guide toward understanding how Christianity (and, by extrapolation, all religious systems of belief) came about.  It utilizes modern biblical criticism and the application of philosophy’s Occam’s Razor.  Conclusions gleaned in this group of posts rest upon the separation of theology and ethics, the former seen as mostly epistemologically and intellectually toxic, and the latter seen as epistemologically, intellectually, and socially essential and vital.  As the title Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] implies, Christianity’s value (and by implication the value of all religions) lies in the time-proven ethics of the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity, not in theology.

Group II. is much larger numerically, which correctly implies its greater subject breadth and depth.  It consists of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018], Going Global, [March, 2018], AVAPS!, [May, 2018], Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018], The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018], and, as indicated above, Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019].   This group develops a universal ontology and epistemology under the heading “Perception Theory.”  Perception Theory is a combination of rationalism and existentialism which enjoys a wide range of applications, as demonstrated in Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016] and The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018].  In addition to illuminating directions of modern political and economic theory, Perception Theory particularly sheds light on topics from Group I., as shown by Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017],  and Prayer, [Feb., 2017].   Hence, from the perspective of sorting out “god and god stories,” much of Group II. seems like a continuation and elaboration of Group I. (as the posting dates of publishing on (site name Beyond Good and Evil) above might indicate).

Memes blending “full circle” with Perception Theory (Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March, 2019]) indicates that a common theme woven throughout both groups, the “what” and “why” of gods and god stories, will also have a “full circle” of its own.  Philosophy of religion often posits the “problem” of God.  As in the “problem” of free will (The “Problem ” of Free Will, [June, 2018]), a question is begged:  is there need of a “problem” at all?  The epistemological questions surrounding the formation of Christianity (and all religious sects, for that matter), coupled with the suggestion that ontological differences among theists, atheists, and agnostics are silly and absurd (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), imply, in my opinion, a resolution concerning any such “problem” is highly plausible.

{Here it is necessary to interject that the more familiar the reader is with the content of all the posts referenced above, greater and swifter will be the understanding of that which is to follow.  Bear in mind that, as always, “understanding” is not necessarily the same as “agreeing.”  Listing all the posts above emphasizes that the “full circle” attempted hereafter is not some momentary epiphany, revelation, emotional experience, recent whim, or musing, but, rather, is the result of years of methodical, careful thought leading to satisfying  personal conclusions.  That they would be satisfying to anyone else is unwarranted speculation on my part.  Achieving understanding (not necessarily agreeing) with others may be a forlorn hope (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), but achieving any understanding from others at least would provide relief from any lingering angst over my personal “subjective trap” (See Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) — adding to the personal relief memes give (See Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle, [March 2019]).}

In dealing with gods and god stories in terms of memes, we do not start “from scratch;” all terminology has been defined in the above posts in both Groups I. and II.  The context of our start is 1. We are star-stuff in self-contemplation.  2.  Math is the language of the universe.  To this context is added 3.  God is a looped non-veridically based concept in our heads, or meme having no resonance with the “real” veridical world or universe outside our epiphenomenal minds contained in our veridical physiological brains. (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Therefore, God exists as does a unicorn, as does Santa Claus, as does the tooth fairy, as does Satan.  The same existence applies to the generic term “gods” as well as to stories about God, or god stories.

Memes or concepts of the veridical world outside us, like the idea of “rock” or “dog,” are non-veridical, like the memes of gods, but with a very important difference: they are resonant memes, resonating with the empirical data bombarding our senses when we experience a rock or a dog.  We use our epiphenomenal  imaginations to create memes of both looped concepts (non-veridically self-contained in the imagination) and resonant concepts (non-veridically related with the veridical “outside” world indicated by our continual “pouring in” of empirical sense data).  Imagined worlds in science fiction are looped memes and scientific theories are resonant memes.  “Scientific” objectivity is making memes as resonant as possible, or as veridical as possible (AVAPS!, [May, 2018] and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).

Certain looped non-veridical memes, like Santa Claus and Satan, are made to appear resonant by saying Santa Claus is the “personification” of Christmas giving or Satan is the “personification” of human evil.  Personifications are like avatars, or manifestations of something else.  If the “something else” has a veridical existence, again, like a rock or a dog, then it would not be looped.  The behavior of giving at Christmas and acts of human evil are real enough, just as human values like “love” and “freedom,” but equating the spirit of giving with a human form or evil acts in general with a human form is as absurd as equating all the facets of human love to a single form (like a pagan goddess) or all the facets of freedom to a single form (like Miss Liberty).  Therefore, just like a goddess such as  Venus or Aphrodite does not exist like a rock or dog, or a historical woman named Miss Liberty does not exist like a rock or dog, Santa Claus does not exist, nor does Satan.  As extant beings, Santa Claus, Satan, Venus, and Miss Liberty are looped memes; the phenomena of which these four are personifications, giving at Christmas, human evil, love, and freedom, respectively, do exist as scientifically observable distinct acts in the veridical real world, and, therefore, are resonating, non-veridical memes (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Personifying (or making gods of) real human activity is a primitive habit of human imagination that probably began with the earliest forms of animism, and is linked with the origins of religion and its ritualization; personification was and still is a method of making sophisticated memes understandable for children; as adults it is strange today that in Christian civilizations we shed the notion that Santa “really” (that is, veridically) exists, but many of us still believe Satan “really” (i.e., veridically) exists.

What about the looped meme God, a.k.a. Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah in Judaism, God in Christianity, or Allah in Islam?  To what would God resonate to make God a resonate meme, like love, evil, or freedom?  To the whole world, being that God is the creator god?  Would that not be pantheism, meaning we worship the universe? (How odd would that be, in that we are part of the universe?  To worship the universe is to make the matter and energy of our bodies also objects of adoration, along with mountains, stars, animals, etc.)  To worship any part of the universe is, again, returning back to primitive religion, to idolatry.  It seems clear to me that we have made up God as the personification of everything, as the answer to any question we may pose.  As I said in Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], God is the Grand Answerer, Super-friend, and Creator.   God, once believed in within the individual heads of worshipers, can be used to any end by the clergy, from yesterday’s shamans to today’s popes, ministers, priests, mullahs, etc.  It seems easy for us to forget that just because we can imagine X, that does not mean that X exists like a rock or a dog (Remember, a rock or a dog exists in our head like any other non-veridical meme — in the form of a concept stored as memory built by perception.)

God, therefore, is the ultimate meme, the meme beyond which nothing can be imagined.  The meme of God is seemingly a tribute to the power of our imagination, but the history of humanly imagined religion shows this tribute to be simultaneously a problem — a flexible meme easily twisted into a “pass” to do evil to each other; this is the toxicity of most, if not all, of theology; this is why Richard Dawkins describes religious, theological memes as agents of a chronic mental disease; this is why I separated ethics from theology in Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015].

But have I not described God as the atheists do?  No, not quite.  Perception Theory allows existence in the real, veridical universe outside our minds (which includes our bodies, including our brains), but also allows the epiphenomenal, non-veridical existence of imagined memes inside our minds, which are, in turn, inside our brains.  In other words, an imagined entity, like a unicorn, if defined in any mind, can have an ephemeral existence as stored data in the memory of the brain of that mind; in this sense looped non-veridical memes exist.  A very weak existence compared with the strong veridical existence of a rock’s meme or the quickened and strong veridical existence of a dog’s meme (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), for sure, but an existence made possible by our imaginative, epiphenomenal mind.  According to Perception Theory, then, an atheist recognizes only strong veridical existence, whereas a theist thinks that a weak existence is as strong as a strong existence.  An agnostic does not take either position, but Perception Theory would say all three positions are in denial of the ability of the mind to be both objective and subjective.  Theists, atheists, and agnostics can all agree that some form of God exists in the heads of both believers and non-believers (Atheists have a meme of a god that does not exist in the real veridical world like a meme of a rock or dog that does exist in the real veridical world.), and that existence of god has no basis outside the human mind; all can agree to the statement, “God exists!” in the dual veridical/non-veridical definition allowed in Perception Theory.  All the conflict, blood, and death perpetuated over disagreement as to what kind of God is “real” throughout the terrible annals of historical warfare, pillage, incarceration, and personal violence were never necessary, and in the long run silly; what still goes on today is folly, absurd, and unjustified.  How less amazing are the billions of concepts (memes) of God in the imaginations of humans worldwide compared to the consensus, imagined Creator God of, say, Genesis, Chapter 1?

In order for theists, atheists, and agnostics to agree on the existence of God or of the gods, atheists have to compromise but very little, while theists will have to move their position a great deal.  To agree that God exists in the imaginations of individual heads into which no other but that individual can “see,” due to the subjective trap, is not that far away from the “classic” atheistic claim that there is no supernatural deity or deities in the “real,” veridical universe.  The theist “classic” claim is just the opposite that of the atheist — there IS WITHOUT DOUBT a God that exists outside human imagination, just like some part of the universe or the universe itself actually exists.  If one listens carefully to the worshipful words of praise of theists (at least, this has been my experience), the existence of God is affirmed “within the heart” of the believer — affirmed by an epiphenomenal feeling of emotion fueled by faith (See Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]).  That is about as far from objective evidence as one can get.  This, instead of affirming God’s existence, affirms what Perception Theory identifies as a looped non-veridically based case for existence.  That is, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is no stronger than that of affirming the existence of unicorns or tooth fairies, and is much weaker than affirming the existence, of, say, freedom.  And, of course, the theist’s affirmation of God’s existence is minuscule compared to the strong veridically based cases for existence of, say, a rock or a dog (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  As for agnostics, I would speculate that some would welcome the compromise about God’s or the gods’ existence with the “little-to-lose shoulder shrug” of the atheists, or some might remain skeptical and non-committed, not willing to come close to agreeing with theists, who they see as gullible and naive.  All in all, I would speculate that at the “table” of agreement of all three groups over Perception Theory’s compromise possibility of the existence of God, it would be disproportionately made up of atheists, with a smaller group of agnostics, followed by an even smaller group of theists who have bravely changed their ontological thinking a great deal.   The future success of Perception Theory might be measured by seeing if the population at the compromise table might approach equal proportions from all three groups.  (No matter what the proportions at the table might be, Perception Theory might take credit for the absence of evangelism among the three groups, as, by definition, the table is one of agreement.)

Stated directly and succinctly, God or gods exist(s) only in our imaginations; we made up all deities, past, present, and future.  Most theology is not only useless, it can often be dangerous and even lethal.  Not all of religion is useless; part of religion is vital — the ethical part based upon the Golden Rule or Principle of Reciprocity (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  In Western culture this means a deliberate separation of ethics from theology in religions like the three Abrahamic ones, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; this separation is already done in some religions of Eastern culture, like Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and Taoism.  We have met the Creator God, and it is us; there is no problem of God or of the gods — just like all memes in our heads, the ultimate meme of God or the gods is at our disposal; we can do with theology what we will; we can make it impotent and irrelevant, just as we have made memes like pseudoscience, superstitions, and unwanted or uninteresting fantasies.  Just as was done by so many Americans in their revolution for independence, religion must be relegated and confined to individual minds, not made into social and sacred creeds demanding conflicting evangelism (The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June, 2012]).


With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now deal with god stories and the lessons they teach with historical utilitarianism.  Like so much of “ancient wisdom” from our distant past, such as the humanistic Principle of Reciprocity, we can both individually and collectively judge the god stories and their lessons without fear of supernatural reprisals.  For example, in Christian culture, from which I come, I can now see that the Old Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by Hebrew scholars and priests to teleologically justify the invasion and conquest by newly independent nomads of what we call the Holy Land, all under the theological guise of the Hebrews being God’s “Chosen People.”  I can now see that the New Testament of the Bible is a collection of literature blended together by the scholars of a new sect to teleologically justify the execution of their leader as a common criminal (See all of Group I. for details).  The New Testament is to Christians what the Icelandic Sagas were to many Scandinavians of the Viking persuasion.

Erich Fromm, a Jewish humanist philosopher, who describes himself as a “non-theist,” has done something very similar way before Perception Theory.  In Ye Shall Be As Gods (Fawcett Premier Books, New York, 1966 — ISBN 0-449-30763-8), Fromm “radically” interprets the Old Testament as the evolution of the relationship between the meme (concept) of God and the entirety of mankind, not just the “Chosen People.”  He offers understanding into the “God is dead” meme and gives insight into the New Testament’s Passion of Christ, using Psalm 22.  The rabbinic teachings of the Old Testament during the centuries of the Diaspora are also employed.  By critically looking at the Old Testament, Fromm has, in my opinion, created paths toward its greater appreciation. (Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump, [Dec., 2018])

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now investigate why religion sprang within the heads of our species in the first place.  The reasons why belief in some form of supernatural entities or spirits in the real world became, apparently, necessary for human survival in our cognitive revolution during our species “hunter-gatherer” stage can now be studied and be made into a consensus of anthropology.  Elements dealing with the origins of religion from Groups I. and II. have already pointed the way (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015],  Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016],  and Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018]).  The physical and cognitive attributes that were passed on from generation to generation over thousands of years contributing to our species-wide universal “religiosity” will have to break down the elements of our survival, such as cooperation, altruism, and the necessity of suspending doubt and questioning in times of emergency, such as discussed in I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], wherein our ancestors having to deal with a “leopard problem” is offered as a “thought scenario.”  How did religion evolve from simple appeasement of a local “leopard god” to the continual sacrifice of thousands atop Aztec temples in Tenochtitlan?  How did we get from admonishing our children to be quiet when the shaman is speaking to the eruption of the Thirty Years War?  What a difference between believing a god or gods causes thunder/lightning and calling the faithful to the Crusades!

With the gods relegated to fantasy within our heads, we can now see how important the separation of theology from ethics is.  Moreover, such a separation is conveniently seen as a sorting of memes.  When the origin of religion, with its subsets of theology and ethics, is couched in terms of memes, I would suggest that the vital “good” memes, those of ethics coming from the human mind and necessarily developing in the longest childhood of all primates, if not of all mammals.  That is, the memes of ethics for human beings necessarily formed on the “template” of the development of the nuclear family — mother, child, father, and extended family, including friends.  The rules of behavior taught to a child are extrapolated to apply not only to the mother-child relationship, but to all other possible relationships within the hunter-gather group, and these rules collectively are treated as social norms applied throughout childhood and adulthood.  In turn, these norms were justified upon the authority of the group.  This collective authority became more than “what our mothers and older siblings told us;” it became the authority of the political leaders and the authority of the “spiritual” leaders, the shamen, the beginning of politics and the beginning of religion.  But now, without the necessity of religious memes, only those of politics and ethics are still needed.  (Recalling a point germane to the “need” for religion shown by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – that religion is a meme that can motivate many more than a leader within shouting distance, once that meme is transmitted to other minds — I would hasten to add that today’s almost instant electronic communications over the world wide internet has taken over religion’s communicative skill and can spread memes much, much better; spreading theological memes using the internet only accelerates the spread of the “poison.”)  Religion and theology memes are not needed any more; only ethics memes are needed.

Gods as fantasy has at least one ancient precedent.  In India, in the 3rd to 6th centuries, BCE (or BC), the original form of Buddhism, called Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism, basically ignored the question of the existence of the gods (curiously non-theological) and concentrated on the human, inner, existentialist self (Jainism, contemporary with the founding centuries of Buddhism, could be spoken of in a similar vein, and could even be seen as outward looking, not for the gods, but for practicing an extreme reverence for life).  Hinayana Buddhism dealt with attaining Nirvana, or enlightenment as demonstrated by Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism; dealing with gods took a back seat to struggling with inner human desire; the gods were not germane to Siddhartha’s original teaching.  In time Mahayana Buddhism (along with other forms, like Zen) became the dominant form of Siddhartha’s teaching, in which Siddhartha himself, or Buddha, became deified as a god — much as Jesus himself became deified as a god in Christianity (Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015]).  Imagery featuring the statues of Buddha are found at Mahayana sites, but sites featuring simple imagery such as Buddha’s footprint are Hinayana or Theravada sites.

Note the “direction” of Hinayana Buddhism, though admirably unhindered by the gods, is inward, toward the non-veridical, not outward, toward the veridical, as are science, technology, math, and engineering (the STEM subjects in US schools), which are equally and admirably unhindered by the gods.  The success of studying “outward” toward the veridical is another way of repeating the message of AVAPS!, [May, 2018] — As Veridical As Possible, Stupid!  Hinayana Buddhism took its lack of theology and went the “wrong” direction!  Hinayana Buddhism should have done “a 180,” (180 degrees) and gone the opposite direction.

Without the threats of punishment after death or fantasies of paradise after death germane to much of theology, religion becomes transparent as many, many forms of the sociological phenomenon of a cult.  At every religion’s beginning — more finely, at the beginning of every denomination’s sect — it is a cult.  If I in another time had acted upon my “visitation” from my deceased great uncle in the form of a vivid dream, as described in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and had convinced others around me I had communicated with the dead, I would have formed a cult.  Great religions of the world throughout history are successful cults, their “truth” erroneously measured by their success, and large subsets of great religions are smaller successful cults.  Cults venerate a “great” being (usually a god or person of “special” powers) through the leadership of a cult founder, who also can be the venerated.  Thus, Judaism can be seen as Moses founding the veneration of Yahweh, Elohim, or Jehovah, and Christianity can be seen as Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene venerating Jesus (See At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]).  Smaller successful cults in the Christian vein include cult leaders such as many Popes, many Orthodox archbishops, many saints, Martin Luther (Lutherans) , John Calvin (Presbyterians), Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer (Anglicans in U.K., Episcopalians in U.S.), George Fox (Quakers), Jane Wardley, Ann Lee, and Lucy Wright (Shakers), John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Roger Williams (Baptists), Charles Wesley, John Wesley, and George Whitefield (Methodists), Joseph Smith (Mormons), Christian Rosenkreuz (Rosicrucians), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientists), William Miller and Ellen G. White (Seventh-day Adventists), Barton W. Stone (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), Alexander Campbell (Church of Christ), Charles Fox Parham and William Seymour (Pentecostals), 1914 General Council at Hot Springs (Assembly of God), and Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church) — just to name a few with which I am familiar.  Two non-Christian examples of small successful cults are 3 Roman Emperors (veneration of Apollonius) (See Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015])  and Scientology (veneration of L. Ron Hubbard).  Two unsuccessful cult leaders and their cults here in the United States are Jim Jones (Peoples Temple) and David Koresh (Branch Davidians).  The toxicity of theology throughout history has been carried out through cults such as these.  The ethical kindness, love, and care of one group of humans to another group has also been carried out through cults such as these, but what has been overlooked is that ethical behavior needs no theology or organized religion to spread from one human to others.  When Jesus taught his version of the Golden Rule, he talked not of loving your neighbor as yourself through the social vehicle of the synagogue; the foundation of ethics, our caring for each other, has no origin in any religion or any theology; the Principle of Reciprocity began within each little hunter-gatherer group that successfully struggled for survival.  If theology exists as a meme in an individual, there it must stay — it should not be passed on to others; mental health services can help individuals for whom resisting that passing on is a struggle.  On the other hand, if ethics such as the ethical teachings of Jesus exists as a meme in an individual, by all means it should be passed on, as ethical memes were passed on in the little hunter-gatherer groups.  To be ethical in the manner spoken here is to be human, not religious or theological.  We are not human to each other through the imagined groups to which we belong, but, rather through the fact we are homo sapiens.

The general “shedding” of religion and its toxic theology, then, is seen as a veridically-based “enlightenment” which follows AVAPS toward more anthropological memes.  Imaginations young and old, fueled by the ethics of reciprocity (The Golden Rule), cannot but generate memes fired in the scrutiny of scientific consensus that will solve problems and heal wounds both for our species and for our planet and the universe beyond.  We are tweaking our inner-star-stuff to resonate more with the star-stuff that makes up the rest of the universe.

I would suggest that any reader who thinks this is but another announcement of another religion, of another cult, is victimized by her seemingly genetic tendency to think in terms of gods and god stories.  He needs to go back and read or re-read Groups I. and II.  God as the ultimate, unnecessary meme is NOT a new religion, NOT a new cult.  Rather, it is a veridically-directed philosophy transcendent of theism, atheism, or agnosticism.  Using the combination of rationalism and existentialism provided by Perception Theory, it suggests an expansion of anthropology to deal with the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence; the “who, what, why, and how” of human existence used to be handled by religion and its attendant theology, and I am suggesting that they have failed miserably.  The “should” statements used above are not evangelical pontificates, but, rather, are calls to consider looking at existence veridically, to look at existence in the opposite way Hinayana Buddhism did.  When I followed my own “shoulds” of Perception Theory tied to religion, I found the intellectual and emotional personal satisfaction I had been seeking for years. (“Personal satisfaction” does not mean I’ve not continued to question “everything,” especially this meme like Perception Theory that my imagination conjures.)  Perhaps my own intellectual adventure might be of help toward others finding their own version of personal satisfaction.  Or, perhaps not.  I’ve written it down compelled by an ethical Principle of Reciprocity tens of thousands of years old and taught by Jesus and so many others.




Why Some White Evangelical Christians Voted for and/or Still Support Donald Trump

White evangelical Christians who apparently were “one issue” voters willing to sell their morality and soul by supporting Trump over an issue like abortion, prayer in schools, secularization of society, too liberal SCOTUS, demonization of liberals like the Clintons and Obama, etc. are in my experience not as dense as their stance might portend; there had to be some “sacred” reason(s) they would knowingly be supportive and culpable of the bigotry, immorality, and intellectual bankruptcy of Don of the present White House. Finally, I have discovered at least one such reason.

Up until recently all the clues I had from evangelical Christian friends and family, always reluctant to talk politics and/or religion with me, were comments like “God moves in mysterious ways!” (from the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper (1774), based upon Romans 11:33) or “Hillary is evil!” Then my friend and former student Dr. John Andrews sent me a link entitled “The Political Theology of Trump” by Adam Kotsko, which begins with the question “Why do evangelical Christians support Trump?” Kotsko, who is apparently white and an evangelical Christian, pointed out something concerning the Old Testament that “clicked” with my life-long experience with white evangelical Christians. Turns out, for some white evangelicals, to support Trump is to support God’s will; to not support Trump is to work against God’s plan!

First, let’s be clear about whom I’m writing. I am not talking about all Christians; I am not talking about all evangelicals; I am not talking about all white Christians. I am talking about a minority within a minority within a minority…, like the innermost figure in a Russian matryoshka doll, or nesting doll, or stacking doll. This minority group is mightily qualified and nuanced. White, Protestant, evangelical, biblical literalist, apocalyptic, and often holier-than-anyone-else describes this group well. I need an acronym to cover efficiently all these qualifications — White, Evangelical, Protestant, Christian, biblical LiteralistS, or WEPCLS, pronounced “wep-cils.” (I’ve not included the nuance of politically conservative, which I assume is obvious.) WEPCLS vote for and support Trump with hypocrisy so “huge” and blatant they seem unaware of it, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

Here in the “Bible belt” part of Texas, it may not be apparent that the WEPCLS constitute a minority. After all, the large First Baptist Church of Dallas with Dr. Robert Jeffress, well-known Trump supporter, as pastor, is seen as a beacon of WEPCLS values. But even this congregation is not 100% WEPCLS. When all Christians nationwide and worldwide are taken into consideration, then even we Protestant Texans can see WEPCLS as a minority.

Second, the reason something “clicked” about the Old Testament with me is that, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve lived my whole life among WEPCLS; many of my friends and family are WEPCLS and, therefore, voted for Trump. (Personally, I “got” the “W” in the acronym down pat! 23 and me showed me to be Scots-Irish, English, French, German, and Scandinavian; I’m so white I squeak!) The denomination in which I grew up, Southern Baptist, was and is replete with WEPCLS; not all Southern Baptists are WEPCLS, but every congregation in which I have been a member contained and contains not a few WEPCLS. Why did I not over the years join the WEPCLS? Because, briefly, I early on asked questions answers to which were NOT “Because the Bible said so,” “Because the Church, Sunday School teacher, pastor, your parents, etc. say so,” “Just because,” “Because God made it that way,” “You shouldn’t ask such things,” etc. These woefully inadequate and empty answers made me take a closer look at the Bible, and by the time I went to college I had read both testaments and began to see why so much of Scripture was not the subject of sermons or Sunday School lessons. (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012] on my website In short, I did not become a member of WEPCLS in large part because I did not become a Biblical literalist, and over time the idea of evangelizing others based upon faith that had few if any answers added to the social divisiveness around me — added to the “us vs. them” syndrome, the bane of all religions.

In addition to WEPCLS’s Biblical literalism, which is the clue to their support of Trump, it is my opinion the WEPCLS have sold their birthright from the Reformation with their emphasis on conversion and conformity. The Reformation gave birth, it seems to me, to a Protestantism wherein congregations are not groups of sheep (pew warmers) led by shepherds (the clergy), but, rather, are groups of meritocratic believers, each one of which has his/her own pathway and relationship to God. Moreover, WEPCLS have turned their backs on the great gift of the Enlightenment to everyone, including all believers — that everything is open to question, including this statement; there are no intellectual taboos. The human mind is free to question any- and everything, in the fine traditions of Job and doubting Thomas. It has not been that long ago a WEPCLS friend of mine referenced Martin Luther negatively because the Reformer was not godly enough and blamed the Enlightenment for the blatant secularism of today. To ignore both the Reformation and the Enlightenment categorizes the WEPCLS as woefully anachronistic — downright medieval even.

Incidentally, the mixing of politics and religion by so many WEPCLS (an attack on separation of church and state) is very unsettling because it is so un-American. As Jon Meacham, renowned American historian, said in his book American Gospel (2006, Random House pbk., ISBN 978-0-8129-7666-3) regarding the Founders’ view of the relationship between the new nation and Christianity, “The preponderance of historical evidence….suggests that the nation was not ‘Christian’ but rather a place of people whose experience with religious violence and the burdens of established churches led them to view religious liberty as one of humankind’s natural rights — a right as natural and as significant as those of thought and expression.” (p. 84) (See also my The United States of America — A Christian Nation? [June 2012] at

Back to the clue of why WEPCLS support Trump. If one is a Biblical literalist, chances are you have to hold the Bible as your sole source of truth — the source of true science (creationism and intelligent design) and of true history (Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Adam and Eve were actual historical beings, Joshua actually commanded the sun to stop in the sky, Mary of Nazareth was impregnated through some form of parthenogenesis, Jesus was resurrected back to life after crucifixion, etc., etc.). As time went on it was to me like adult Biblical literalists actually believe Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Satan, the Easter bunny, ghosts, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Uncle Sam all exist just like the live friends and family that surround them instead of as concepts in their heads. As I studied epistemology in college, it became obvious one could justify and believe in literally anything through faith. Evidence-based truth is non-applicable to a Biblical literalist, and therefore is not applicable to WEPCLS.
Eventually, I became a physicist who likes to teach, instead of a WEPCLS. This post represents how the teacher in me compels me to pass on knowledge as best we know it at the present; to not be skeptical as all good scientists should be, and to not pass on what evidence-based skepticism cannot “shoot down” as all good teachers should do, is for me to fail my family, my friends, and all my fellow homo sapiens.

Recalling my days as a Sunday School teacher who relished the rare lessons from the “histories” of the Old Testament (like I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles), let me give you in brief outline the Biblical history that animates the WEPCLS (especially if Old Testament history is not your cup of tea):

1.) After the reigns of kings David and Solomon, the Israelite kingdom (consisting of the 12 tribes associated with the 12 sons of Jacob) split in twain, 10 tribes in the north known as Israel and 2 tribes in the south (close to Jerusalem) known as Judah. Each new kingdom had its own line of kings. The split occurred around 930 BCE (Before Common Era) or B.C. (Before Christ).

2.) Beginning about 740 BCE, the Assyrian Empire, which replaced the “Old” Babylonian Empire, invaded and overran the northern kingdom of 10-tribe Israel over some 20 years under the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul), Shalmaneser V, Sargon II, and Sennacherib. The 10 tribes were scattered in an Israelite diaspora and became known as the “lost tribes” of Israel. Assyria replaced the displaced Israelites with other peoples from the wider Mesopotamian region who became known by New Testament times as Samaritans. Sennacherib tried unsuccessfully to conquer 2-tribe Judah in the south, being killed by his sons. These events are covered in II Kings, Chaps. 15, 17, & 18, in I Chronicles Chap. 5, and in II Chronicles Chaps. 15, 30, & 31. The prophet known as “early Isaiah” from the 1st of three sections of the book of Isaiah is the major “prophet of record.”

3.) The Assyrian Empire was replaced by the “New” Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar II and by 605 BCE the kingdom of Judah was succumbing to Babylon in the form of three deportations of Jews to Babylon in the years 605-598 BCE, 598-597 BCE, and 588-587 BCE, the third resulting in the Babylonian Captivity from 586-538 BCE following the siege and fall of Jerusalem in July and August of 587 BCE, during which Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. The end of II Kings and II Chronicles record the fall of Judah, and the Book of Jeremiah, Chaps. 39-43 offers the prophetic perspective (along with the book of Ezekiel), with the addition of the books of Ezra and the first six chapters of the book of Daniel.

4.) After Cyrus the Great of Persia captured Babylon, ending the Babylonian Empire and beginning the Persian Empire in 539 BCE, the Jews in exile in Babylon were allowed by Cyrus to return to Jerusalem in 538 BCE and eventually rebuild the Temple (II Chronicles 36:22-23 and “later” Isaiah). The book of Daniel records Cyrus’ (and, later, Darius I’s) role in the return and the book of Ezra reports the construction of the second Temple in Jerusalem begun around 537 BCE. Construction, toward which contributions by Nehemiah were incorporated with Ezra, lasted at least until 516 BCE.

The Biblical histories and books of the prophets concerning the historical events described in 2.) through 4.) above show a “divine pattern” which WEPCLS have seized upon. The great cataclysms brought upon the ancient Hebrews after Solomon were orchestrated by God as punishment for the sins (turning from God) of His Chosen People, and, moreover, God used pagan, heathen kings like Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people and a pagan heathen king like Cyrus for the restoration of His people. For instance, Nebuchadnezzar is called God’s servant in Jeremiah 25:9 and is promised that the Babylonian’s land will be wasted only two verses later (Jeremiah 25:11). Later Isaiah calls Cyrus God’s “anointed” (Isaiah 45:1) and promises Cyrus God’s divine favor (Isaiah 44:28 & 45:13), while nonetheless declaring that Cyrus “does not know” God (Isaiah 45:4).
In other words, the WEPCLS have been swept up in the “divine revelation” or “special knowledge” that whatever happened to the ancient Hebrews (all the death, destruction, and utter humiliation), God was always in control of both punishment and reward, using unGodly evil empires as his tools to chastise His wayward “children.” Being Biblical literal-ists, the WEPCLS “naturally” transfer these Old Testament revelations to the present day, seeing “evil” Trump as God’s tool to punish the secular world for resisting God’s plan according to the interpretations of the WEPCLS. Trump as God’s tool is WEPCLS’s “special knowledge” through which all their issues like abortion will be “taken care of” without regard to the pagan, heathen, and evil attributes of that tool — just like the pagan, heathen, and evil actions of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian rulers were disregarded by the prophets.

Trump is a tool all right, but not God’s tool.

Before applying “higher” Biblical criticism (or just biblical criticism) to WEPCLS’s interpretation of scripture, look at the conundrum the WEPCLS have created for themselves. Trump is so unGodly the absurdity that evil can be a tool of good is somehow proof that this must be, in the end, of God; Trump must be God’s President. And the more unGodly the tool, the greater proof that the tool must be of God! It reminds me of the Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard’s assertion that the absurdity of accepting Jesus as God on nothing but pure, blind faith is all the more reason for taking the leap of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. Or, on a more mundane level, it reminds me of the creationist scientist on the banks of the Paluxy River announcing that the absence of human prints in the Cretaceous limestone alongside those of dinosaurs must INCREASE the probability that human prints ARE to be found; in other words, absence of evidence means presence of evidence! One can’t help but think of an Orwellian “double-speak” mantra “Bad is good!” and “Good is bad!”

Faith, like falling in love, is irrational, but falling in love is not bat-shit crazy!

The epistemological problem with faith-based religion is that any one religious belief cannot be shown to be better or worse than any other. By faith the WEPCLS believe the Bible is the Word of God established as everlasting truth about 1600 years ago (when the biblical canon was finally hammered out by acceptance of some books and rejection of others). For them truth is “set in concrete,” never to be altered by facts thereafter. despite the uncomfortable truth that God’s “concrete” of Jesus being God in the Trinity was not established as truth until about 400 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. What became amazing to me is that such canonization into unmoving, unchanging truth can only be defended by ignoring hundreds of years of new facts. If I were living in Europe around 1500, the fact that the Bible does not record the existence of a whole New World of two huge continents would make me revisit the rigidity of my faith and my beliefs. Nor does scripture mention all the scientific facts that evolve with ever-increasing evidence year after year, because the Bible is pre-scientific and written way before widespread literacy.

Because Christianity is “set” in history for biblical literalists, and because history has become a forensic science, Christians such as the WEPCLS do not have history on their side, just as all other believers who believe solely on faith. The forensic science of biblical criticism shows that literalists such as the WEPCLS do not have to become atheists or agnostics if they seek the most reasonable and probable view of what must have happened in the past for the Bible as we know it today to be in our hands. They must accept more historical facts than they presently do — facts that are compatible with as objective a view of the past as possible, facts that conjure the broadest agreement across Christendom, facts that place Christians in a majority armed with modern techniques of forensic history and forensic science, like archaeology and the history of Judaeo-Christian scripture (See the Dec. 2018 issue of National Geographic).

What then does biblical criticism have to say about WEPCLS’s interpretation of the Old Testament stories involving Assyria, Babylon, and Persia? Note the span of years covered by the events 1.) through 4.) above — essentially 930 BCE to 516 BCE. If you look at faith-based, conservative listings of the books of the Bible covering this span (I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah) and when they were written, you would be told the books were written contemporaneously with or soon after the events with which they deal. But biblical criticism, which we have had since the 19th century or earlier, is, through archaeology and study of the origin of scripture (Dec. 2018 National Geographic), finding that they were all written well after the events as rationalizations or apologetics for the tribulations of what are supposed to be God’s Chosen People who He loves. (To say God employed “tough love” dealing with the ancient Israelites is a gross understatement indeed!) For a fairly well-established example, the book of Daniel was not written during or soon after the Babylonian Captivity or exile (586-538 BCE), but rather was written in the 2nd century BCE, circa 165 BCE. Further, it appears the author of the book of Daniel was writing about the 2nd century persecution of the Jews under the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes using the prior persecution of the exile as a cover. The same dating fraud is committed concerning the books of the New Testament, especially the Gospels. Faith-based conservatives such as the WEPCLS want the Gospels written well before the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 62-70 CE (Common Era or A.D. , anno Domini), as close to the life of Jesus as say, Paul’s letters. But biblical criticism based upon historical research shows the Gospels to be written during or after the Revolt (See Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012]).

As we enter the 21st century, we know much, much more about the origins of the Bible than ever. What is needed in Christian scholarship of the scriptures is more polemics, not more apologetics. For WEPCLS to ignore this new wealth of historical findings for the sake of their medieval-like literalism is intellectually anachronistic and irresponsible. Consequently, the WEPCLS give non-Christians a bad name, as many non-Christians erroneously think WEPCLS represents all Christians.

Epistemologically, the WEPCLS commit the intellectual fraud of decontextualization, the practice of plucking a source out of its context so that its plucked state of being ripped from historical references makes it applicable to any time whatsoever, even a time bearing no relationship to its original intended applicability. The WEPCLS have decontextualized much of the histories and major prophets of the Old Testament so that they can be used for their conservative, Trinitarian, evangelistic purposes. Higher Biblical criticism has exposed their attempts to relate Old Testament references to Old Testament historical individuals as being references to the coming of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. To relate God’s use of Godless leaders in the Old Testament to today’s situation is not the WEPCLS’s first “fraudulent rodeo.”

I urge everyone in Christendom to apply biblical criticism to expose WEPCLS as a corrosive influence to Christian evangelism. I urge believers of all religions to use the same techniques of biblical criticism to their own faith-based creeds and/or practices. I urge non-believers to apply these same techniques to combat the politicization of theologies of organized religions.

My own experience in biblical criticism suggests it does not necessarily mean the WEPCLS retreat further from intellectual inquiry nor mean that it drives one away from Biblical consideration forever. The Bible itself often is all that is needed for its foibles to be exposed; often the Bible is its own best critic. For instance, I found that by comparing pre-exile-written II Samuel 24:1 with post-exile-written I Chronicles 21:1, one discovers how the concept of Satan, a parallel to the Zoroastrian (Persian) evil co-god Ahriman (counterpart to the good god Ahura Mazda), was introduced into Judaism by the exile (and later into Christianity). Calling upon other sources from archaeology, the Christian scrolls found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt show that there were at least 21 possible Gospels, not 4. These scrolls also show how the early Church bishops strove mightily to suppress and destroy these “lost” Gospels and also perpetuated the besmirching of Mary Magdalene’s character. To my surprise, when I placed Genesis 1 in its literary context, I saw it was not a history of the beginning of the world at all, but, rather, a comparison of the “superior” Hebrew Creator god with the “inferior” gods of neighboring peoples; my respect for Genesis 1 has risen considerably. Biblical criticism opens your mind to broader horizons not suggested by the Church, and helps to understand the archaeological findings relating to ancient religions.

Biblical criticism and its related readings applied to consensus world history has led me to work through a “most probable” scenario of how to me Christianity came into human history (Read in order on my website Sorting Out the Apostle Paul [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I The Great and His Momma Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus [July, 2015],  At Last, A Probable Jesus [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper [Sept., 2015]). Any person so “armed” and inclined can come up with their own scenario as well or better than I.



Regarding this matter of Biblical or biblical proportions and votes for Trump, I hope I have not failed my family, my friends, or my entire species in passing on what I see as the best of a growing majority consensus.




American Conservatism Belies History

[Waxing philosophically right now, so……CONSERVATIVE DISCRETION ADVISED!]
Seen as a parade of good and bad (and in-between) ideas instead of a parade of good and bad (and in-between) people’s lives, history reveals definite directions of advancement over, say, the centuries since the “discovery” of the American continents. These directions are easy to detect following the rise and fall of ideas along time’s arrow using a broad time scale (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]). Also easily detected are peoples’ ideas discarded along the way, ideas that didn’t “make it,” that didn’t “stand the test of time,” that history “left behind in its wake.”

For instance, the two world wars of the 20th century left in their wake discarded ideas such as monarchism and fascism (and certain forms of government they imply, like theocracy and oligarchy). Another resulting discarded idea was that of empires like the Roman, the Mogul, the Mongol, the Ottoman, the Spanish, and the British. The final “victory” of WWII was the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the idea of Soviet communism collapsed. These wars sent history toward liberal democracies (or democratic liberalism) in the form of republics (Reference former Republican Steve Schmidt for this terminology.). The economy of the victors was capitalism (witness how China today is employing a form of capitalism). But non-liberals (especially American conservatives) strive against the liberal capitalism that emerged victorious by practicing a perverted capitalism (They should read their Adam Smith.), wherein not enough profits are plowed back into business as capital and too much of the profit is selfishly stagnated as personal wealth — all of which opens the doors for oligarchy (striven for by Donald Trump) and its ancillary kleptocracy (striven for and practiced by Vladimir Putin). Autocracies of many forms, including “banana republics,” however, have yet to disappear.

(If you think democratic republics are “safe,” having been given the “nod” of 20th-century history, think again. Who was the only democratically elected President of Russia after the Soviet Union? Boris Yeltsin and Russian democracy are now gone. And just in the second decade of the 21st century, Turkey has collapsed into a form of fascism Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito would easily recognize.)

Also left behind by history are the ideas of the Luddites and those of American Tories at the end of the American Revolution (also called loyalists). Yet these are the same ideas animating the Republican Party led by Trump. (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017], and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]) Despite history’s harsh lessons, “Trumpies” today fail to grasp workers adapting to new ongoing technology and even to what it means to be a citizen (“citizen” being well-defined by the blood spilled in the American and French Revolutions (Egalite: A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018])).

Generally speaking, American conservatism has clung to antiquated, outdated, and anachronistic ideas history has “shaken off” like water off a dog’s back, such as isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sacred political states, tariffs, elitism, class hierarchy, nepotism, non-universal health coverage, and non-universal suffrage. (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], and Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016])

The xenophobic “circling-the-wagons” mentality of so many American conservatives is based upon the human tendency to take on the “us-versus-them syndrome,” which served us well when we were all hunter-gatherers (about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago). That is, “They over there don’t look like us, so there must be something wrong and possibly dangerous about them.” The “sacred” “us-versus-them syndrome” serves all religions, ancient and modern, including Christianity, well: “They don’t believe the same things we do, so we must convince them to believe as we do or rid ourselves of them.” Here in the 21st century, I think there is no longer any need of the “us-versus-them syndrome,” nor of its attendant bad ideas of nationalism and evangelism; history has passed them by. (Going Global, [March, 2018], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Towards an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS, [June, 2018])

Speaking more specifically, it even seems Trump’s administration, in the name of historically despicable and bigoted immigration laws, is now using our tax money for systematic child abuse. (I have visions of him going down to the detention centers and throwing scraps of food and rolls of paper napkins over the edge of the cages and into the flaps of the tents — similar to his condescending actions in Puerto Rico.) The June 30, 2018 protests across the nation speak loud and clear: the crying two-year old trumps Trump and all his zero tolerance.

Some of the Trump supporters who have not repudiated him and would vote for him still, despite his despicable words, actions, and inaction, such as “evangelical ‘single issue’ Christians” who turn a blind eye to his plethora of “sins” so they can have their conservative SCOTUS in the name of anti-abortion or pro-life (or immigration, or campaign finance, or some such). Pro-life is such a historically unsustainable position, much like creationism and intelligent design. These positions place their proponents at loggerheads with nature, and just like “history bats last,” “nature bats last.” As opposition to evolution is without evidence and completely useless, so is risking future babies to the horrors of genetic defects, when such risk is so unnecessary. I’m angry that sex education courses in schools and sex education at home and in places of worship do not inform future parents that already we have the medical skills in place to assure every pregnant mother she has the right to have a genetically healthy baby. Yet the pro-lifers, by denying mothers the basic right to control their reproductive cycles, force the possibility of tragedy upon families — tragedy that can with certainty be avoided. (It is like inequality of wealth forcing poverty upon countless people of minimal means, which also can be avoided.) The modern technology of human birth and “natural abortions” — miscarriages — compel history to give pro-choice the “nod.” If expectant mothers want to go ahead and take to term a baby with genetic defects, detected early in gestation, that is their choice; there is a chance in future such defects can be rectified either in womb or just after birth. But such a choice is risky, especially based upon a religious belief. (The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk, [April, 2013], and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs, [July, 2013]) To cling to pro-life is like clinging to slide rules and horse collars; it is out-of-date.

And moreover, such Christians as described above risk, by clinging to pro-life, walking into the theological quicksand of redefining Christianity (“You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.”), just as the creationists and intelligent designers have done (“You can’t be a Christian and ‘believe’ in evolution.”). (Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction, [July, 2012]) You do not have to be anachronistic to be a Christian (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]) Nor do you have to be historically clueless to be a Christian. (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012])

Historically, American conservatives has lost their way. History is not on their side. And it is their own fault. They let their own credulity get the best of them, and then somehow become too lazy and/or too busy to vet any and all political statements. And today with the sources we have at our fingertips, thanks to the social network, it often takes only seconds to vet almost anything. Liars like Trump thrive because not enough people, regardless of political leanings, vet what he says. What do you think history will do with the “birthers?” Like the flat-earthers, history, I think, will fling them into the dustbin of bad ideas, worth only a laugh or chuckle if ever remembered.

American conservatives, unless they start reading some history instead listening to Fox News exclusively, risk, in the long run, going the path of the Luddites, the American Tories, the flat-earthers, the creationists, the intelligent designers, the pro-lifers, and the birthers. Unless they start reading some history they risk becoming pawns of revivalist fascism, organized crime, communism, nationalism, isolationism, imperialism, and/or colonialism; they risk “warping” in their heads back into 1950’s America.


Going Global

In addition to being possible 21st century Luddites and possible 21st century Tories, early 21st century American ultra-conservatives, such as those brought “out of the woodwork” by the Donald Trump administration, display other facets worthy of condemnation (21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017] and 21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017]).  A common thread running through American ultra-conservatives very different from, say, lifting up the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a sacred call to own as many powerful weapons as possible {Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Second), [March, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third), [April, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fourth) — the “Smoking Gun,” [May, 2013]; Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Fifth) — “Four Dead in O-HI-O,” [June, 2013]}, is categorically demonizing globalization.  Why?

First, I had to find out what is the consensus definition of “globalization,” when did it begin, and what is its history.  Two paired books helped me do just that:  1) 1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 2nd edition, New York, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4000-3205-1, and 2)  1493, Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles C. Mann, Vintage Books, 1st edition, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-27824-1.  The two titles tell the reader a lot.  They sandwich the year before and the year after Columbus “discovered” America.  (Of course this language we learned in school discredits historical characters like Lief Erikson, and, worse, an entire people who migrated across the Bering Strait into the two continents of the New World thousands of years ago.)  Clearly they compare the “before” and “after” of the European discovery of the New World; the pair present a measure of the impact of that discovery, an impact that echoes across centuries to the present.  Mann’s major theme is that globalization as we know it today began with Columbus’ first voyage.

The year 1492 ushered in a world-wide exchange of cultures, knowledge, foods, diseases, wars, and forced labor in the form of slaves.  As technologies of transportation improved, worldwide trade and colonial exploitation integrated the planet Earth into a global market.  Projecting this sweeping historical view into the 21st century, Mann, in my opinion, suggests that the lesson of globalization is that trading with each other is better than exploiting and killing each other.  A rather obvious good lesson, I’d say.  So, why would anyone be against globalization as defined by these books?

Look again above at the grossly over-simplified list of what was and is being exchanged in globalization; not all of them can individually be labeled as “good.”  Sure, to take one many foods from South America that “saved” Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment Europe, the potato, the “spud,” became the basis of the diet of the poor, and, later, the middle class.  Yet also from the New World came venereal disease and to the New World came European diseases to which native Americans had little or no resistance.  European diseases were even more devastating to the New World people than the Black Death was to Europeans about 150 years before Columbus sailed westward. However, economies based upon world-wide trading were spawned, economies like which are expanding to this day.  For example, the gold and silver mined by the Spanish with native American slave labor in Mexico and the Andes went not only east to Europe, fueling many national economies, but also went west across the Pacific to the Philippines, where Chinese traders traded Chinese goods like silk for the precious metals; this westward movement fueled the economies of China and the Philippines, as well as that of colonial Spain.  Foodstuffs like the potato and corn (maize) also went west.  Black markets and pirate economies sprung up in the Caribbean and in the waters off China as a result.  Another example was the flow of furs and timber to Europe from colonized North America.

But human beings, especially those from Africa, became commodities of trade to work the sugar cane and tobacco industries in the New World, later followed by the cotton industry.  Tropical diseases, such as malaria, killed off European overseers so badly, sometimes slave populations literally disappeared off the plantations into the interior to form new, independent, and undocumented societies often of blended heritage from native Americans — societies of mulattoes and maroons for example.  Because of sickle cell anemia from Africa, more slaves survived the ravages of disease than did the Europeans.

These examples are but “the tip of the iceberg” found in Mann’s books, but they are enough to clearly show that globalization is a mixed blessing; its contributions to our species often came at a considerable price of human suffering.

The more I knew about the history of globalization, the gift of hindsight compelled me to say the price mankind paid was more than worth it, given how global trade of resources back and forth across the oceans made possible the worldwide improvement of life compared with that hundreds of years ago.  Much of this improvement, like the establishment of democratic republics and the march toward universal suffrage and social justice, the rejection of monarchies, and the rejection of slavery, centers around making sure the price paid for globalization is more humane than ever before.  Yet, ultra-conservatives speak of globalization as if they wished it had never happened, even while speaking in an environment filled with comforts and advantages made possible by globalization.

Could it be that conservatives don’t know enough history to appreciate what globalization has done for us?  Possibly, but there are lots of ultra-conservatives, like Steve Bannon of Trump administration infamy, who appear very smart and well-educated.  So, the question begs itself — why, when you know the effects of globalization throughout modern history, would you despise it so?  Why are so-called liberals pro-globalization while so-called conservatives seem anti-globalization?  Those conservatives who still prefer war over trade are getting fewer and far between, as they are symptomatic of vestigial colonialism and imperialism, which began disappearing after WWI and WWII.  So it is possible a conservative might be both anti-war and anti-globalization.

I suspect the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is found in the phrase above containing the words “mulattoes and maroons.”  Ultra-conservatives equate globalization with the mixing of races, and, as a result, become usually political isolationists.  In a word, they are racists at the core; they are xenophobic toward persons not like them.  It is true, much mixing of races came with globalization; Spaniards and Portuguese with American Indians became Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans; Europeans with Africans became mulattoes; Chinese with Filipinos became Sangleys, or Chinese Filipinos.  It is no accident that even in “progressive” societies like the U.S., many family trees were produced by brides and grooms marrying “one of their own.” Not that all who want to maintain a strong connection to the “mother country” are racists.  Rather, that the attachment to the “mother country” is psychologically based upon a racist xenophobia for some of them.  Ultra-conservatives have politicized this racism and politically express their racist bias by opposing globalization.  Their economics resemble that of a long-past colonialist, imperialist overseer.


P.S.  Lest you, the reader, think my linking anti-globalization with racism is but fanciful whimsy or giddy rationalization, consider how a growing number of historians and anthropologists are agreeing that the concept of “racism” was not a concern in Western civilization until it was clearly possible European and non-Europeans would be living together in an ongoing situation; that is, until different races lived together to make interracial mixing possible.  In other words, racism was not a considerable problem in Western culture until very different groups were shuffled across oceans; racism became synonymous with globalization when globalization began such shuffling, when the New World was “discovered” by Columbus.

Egalite: A Qualified Virtue

For years I’ve pondered why the French Revolution devolved into the Terror despite the fact its values (liberte, egalite, and fraternite) paralleled nicely those of the American Revolution (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). The answer came slowly to me with further reading (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist [March, 2012]).  In a nutshell, the Terror destroyed the idealism of the French Revolution over the “middle” virtue, egalite, or egalitarianism.  Robespierre’s regime began labeling anyone who was different, who stood out from the crowd for any reason (greater skill at something, for instance), as being counter-revolutionary, and, as such, he/she became a potential victim of “Madam” guillotine.  In order to avoid the possibility of the “middle” virtue being elevated at the expense of the other two a la Robespierre and have such a tragic event be associated with the term “liberal,” I suggested in the post cited above the political position of “liberalist,” wherein all three virtues must be held co-equal; one or two cannot dominate at the expense of two or one.

Another horrific example of mutilating the intended meaning of egalite is the history of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, outlined from “the inside,” from personal observation, by Chenda Tom in her book He Knows The Plan, Lulu Printing, 2018, ISBN 978-1-387-47663-3.  In the 1970’s the radical left-wing Khmer Rouge group, led by the despot Pol Pot, suddenly took over Cambodia and destroyed the country’s society in the name of forcing everyone to be “equal.”  The entire population was stripped of professional and occupational designation and forced to live and work in rural camps reminiscent of the Japanese determent camps of WWII.  Khmer Rouge “soldier/overlords” allowed the sick and starving to die, as well as killing indiscriminately at any provocation they imagined, resulting in the filling of mass graves wherein countless skulls began to accumulate; over two million died, one quarter of the entire Cambodian population.  One died in the Killing Fields if one was not judged “equal.”

Over my teaching career of 40 years, both in public and private school, I was fascinated how parents expected their student children to emerge as intellectual equals, as if the high school diploma made a given student equally as smart as the next.  Many schools resisted ranking students academically, though not successfully, as colleges and universities wanted to know how applicants compared with their peers in the classroom.  Though not as egregious as the Terror or the Khmer Rouge, this resistance is also indicative of a misunderstanding of equality in the education of young minds.

So terribly can equality be distorted, George Orwell wrote the book Animal Farm as a satire of egalite and equality well before the advent of the Killing Fields.  This classic is summarized in the phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Clearly, the ideal of egalite or egalitarianism needs to be qualified.


Our Declaration of Independence proclaims:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are

endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,

Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…..”

Note the Declaration does NOT say that all Men will turn out equal, just that we all START OUT equal.  Thus our society and its sub-units, like schools, are obliged to give all of us equal opportunities and rights AT THE BEGINNING of our citizenship or school, NOT at the end.  How we end up is up to us, and our government will not, presumably, behave to give certain citizens advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; in other words, in terms of the French Revolution, liberte, egalite, and fraternite.  Exceptions to both American and French egalitarianism for all citizens are instances when the citizens forfeit their opportunities and rights given them at the beginning by violating the law — committing a crime, say.

It is like a race where everyone lines up at the same, fair starting line understanding there is no assurance that everyone will win; breaking the rules of running etiquette during the race will disqualify a runner or runners from winning the race.  The parents of school students I mentioned above are like spectators of the race expecting all runners or most of the runners to cross the finish line at the same time.  The Terror or the Khmer Rouge is like forcing the entire entourage of racers to step across the finish line simultaneously.  If the race is a metaphor of life, the Terror or the Khmer Rouge prevents the racers from “living.”

So, the United States’ Declaration of Independence and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen give the citizen a QUALIFIED equality — the right not to be handicapped at the start of citizenship and the right to achieve as much as possible without violating the rights of fellow citizens.  Chances are our crossing the finish line — making the most of our citizenship — will be a solitary one, with many ahead of us and with many behind.

Just like liberty or freedom is not absolute (We cannot do anything unlawful and/or at the expense of the liberties of our fellow citizens.), egalite is not absolute (We are equal only in opportunity and rights.).  Take advantage of your egalite if you are a citizen of the United States or France; your rights and opportunities at the start are indeed the same; how and when you cross the finish line is up to you; if you do your best, you can celebrate the finish line regardless of how your finish compares with others’.


As we physicists like to say, “That is the theory.”  Often theory and experiment, or theory and practice are far from being the same.  Ideally, the movement of establishing equality in the newly formed United States would begin as soon as the American Revolution ended.  Just look at the history of women and of African-American former slaves in the United States to see how far from ideal was the progress of egalite in our country.  Slavery was not abolished until 1863; women were not able to vote until 1920, after WWI; widespread acceptance of the LGBTQ community did not enjoy the protection of law until the 21st century; reparation to Native American communities did not begin until well into the 20th century; women still do not enjoy equality with men in the work force; xenophobia seems to trump xenophilia still as the reaction to immigration into the US.  The road to equality in the USA is still filled with roadblocks of misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, traditional unjust entitlements, and irrational, a-historical nationalism.

As inertia-filled the movement toward equality is, the good news is that there has been reformist progress — the liberal spread of rights and privileges despite conservative resistance — in our country over the last 242 years.  I do not know enough modern French history to know how liberal reform and progress in the brain-child of the French Revolution compares, but I think France can make similar claims.  I am sure that in the long run both countries have avoided the horrors of Robespierre and Pol Pot — avoided the distortions of an unqualified egalite.  Just remember, you two countries, keep all three, liberte, egalite, and fraternite, equally important and equally strong.



21st Century Tories?

With American conservatives in power in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election, the sharp dichotomy of political divisiveness from this election makes comparison of who makes up the two sides very easy.  21st-century American conservationism is bound to the post-both-Bushes Republican Party and to the populist “know-nothing-like” Tea Party (i.e. Freedom Caucus) movement largely populated, embarrassingly, by members of my own generation, the generation of Baby Boomers, born during and just after WWII.  Older modern-day Republicans and modern-day old populists, on the average, are made of those relatively unaffected by the three-pronged social revolution in America during the 1960’s:  Prong 1, the civil rights movement, Prong 2, the women’s movement, and Prong 3, the anti-war, anti-govt. movement.  In my opinion, President DJT, a member of my generation, embodies the oligarchical and plutocratic branch of modern American conservatism giving big business a very bad name.  Mix together these ingredients, and you have the definitive recipe of early 21st century American conservatism.  In this post I would like to make the historical comparison of this conservatism with a group we studied in American history known as the Tories of the 18th century.  (I could use “right/left” to describe the American political dichotomy, but herein I have obviously chosen “conservative/liberal.”)

The American Revolution was a close affair, whose outcome was in doubt for many years.  As I have said elsewhere (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]), American colonists rebelling against the British crown and Parliament won by two decisive factors (besides tactical and strategic opportunism and plain old luck):  a) the fledgling upstart nation made itself a secular, not a sacred, cause, and b) the French crown furnished the colonist cause with vital military and financial aid.  What contributed more than anything to the Revolution being so nip-and-tuck and up-in-the-air was the large population of colonists who did not support the rebellion, those who remained loyal to Parliament and King George III — those who became known as Tories or Loyalists.  There were not only patriot militias in the Revolution, there were Tory militias.  At Revolution’s end, at least three fates awaited these Americans who opposed the rebellion.  1)  Those who could afford passage made their way back to England, joining the likes of Benedict Arnold, 2) those of more modest means made their way to Canada (Today, many residents in the lower peninsula of the Province of Ontario between Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron are descendants of Tory families who crossed either the lakes or the Niagara River.), or 3) many Tories went “underground” with their “true” patriotism and gradually became indistinguishable within the new society of the United States.  Almost all identified Tories faced violence and/or threat of violence as the Revolution concluded; many never tasted liberty and justice until they left the USA; “the spirit of ’76” could not tolerate anyone deemed “traitorous.”  Even the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin was a Tory New Jersey governor, incarcerated during the Revolution, and he eventually moved to England in 1782, away from his father.

Clearly, 18th-century American Tories fit the “original” definition of conservatives — those who in principle oppose change in their lives, usually because they live more comfortable lives than others around them.  This is why conservatives often are the rich and powerful.  The original definition of liberals identified those who, like the conservatives, wanted for themselves and their families, money, power, property, and happiness; but liberals were not against change in their lives if that change meant others could also have the money, power, property, and happiness both liberals and conservatives enjoyed.  This is why liberals are often connected with the idea of “spreading the wealth,” which, contrary to conservative political mythology, does not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” liberals know that enough new wealth can be created, in principle, to allow all who work to live as comfortably as they.  Succinctly, conservatives have always tended to exclude others, while liberals have always tended to included others.

The Tory position toward the American Revolution was obviously conservative; the Patriot position toward the American Revolution was obviously liberal.  Only subtle differences in these “original” definitions are still around here in the 21st century.  Today conservatives fear change will be at their expense, with complete disregard to today’s inequality of wealth, which causes the inequality in wealth of the 18th century to pale in comparison.  Liberals have struggled to learn change must not be at the expense of any one of the three principles from the French Revolution (another liberal rebellion), liberty, equality, and brotherhood (liberte, egalite, and fraternite, or LEF for short). [The French Revolution, despite virtually the same ideals as its American counterpart, devolved into the Terror when equality was emphasized above those of liberty and brotherhood.  Because of this liberal “black eye” concerning the Terror, I’ve proposed those who sustain all three ideals of LEF in perpetual equal importance be called “liberalists” instead of “liberals,” but, so far I’ve not gotten many “takers.”]

I therefore argue that in 21st-century America, conservatives are modern-day Tories.

This “Tory” argument is another approach in my earlier critique of American conservatism:  An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], and An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012].  Ancillary to these three posts are suggested changes in the modern American political system aimed at both conservatives and liberals:  Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth [Jan., 2013], and Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013].

One of many parallels one can draw from this approach is how in America attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor and disenfranchised has remained remarkably unchanged for about 240 years.  In the colonies, British aristocrats in the form of colonial governors, many of the rich “landed gentry,” and rich British and American merchants tended more often than not to “look down” upon the poor peasant class of small farmers and workers, and especially down upon African-American slaves.  Concern for the bettering of the lives of those struggling to live was not a priority of Tory-like conservatives.  Today, oligarchs and plutocrats of many ilks have a similar lack-of-concern; or, as I like to crudely and rudely (some would say unnecessarily) say, conservatives, on the average, don’t give a shit about others beyond their own; liberals do give a shit about others.

I personally witnessed conservative disdain toward those not considered “of their own” in the small west-central town of Cisco, Texas, in which I grew up; this disdain by conservatives was like a pervasive xenophobia — uncomfortable with, dismissive of, and mistrusting of those who were “different” than they.  The rich and powerful, usually town folk and large land owners, tended to “look down upon” poor town folk, small land owners, poor to middle-class farmers and ranchers, and generally anyone who lived in the country outside town; conservatives tended to classify people according to the size of their bank account, the amount of property they owned, and on which side of the city limit line they lived.  There were very philanthropic, well-to-do people in my home town, but to me they seemed “few and far between,” although I grew to recognize them as part of the “Cisco liberals.”  I saw conservative disdain by the rich “from both directions” or “straddling” this social judgement because I lived in a lower-middle to middle-class neighborhood in town and, simultaneously, “lived” on the farms and ranches of both sets of my grandparents outside town.  I was fortunate that this unique perspective of my growing up never ingrained into me to “look down” upon anybody.  But I sure sensed others “looking down” and sensed being “looked down upon.”  All I had to do to be so sensed was to wear my “country” working cloths downtown.  It was fun to project myself as a city boy sometimes and as a country boy at other times, but I soon grew to understand that what would not be fun is to become as those who “looked down upon,” or, who were, as I know now, modern American conservatives — who were, in words of this post, modern American Tories.  I rejected the social bigotry that was obviously germane to the conservatism I knew; it took me a long time to figure out what that rejection meant I had become, but eventually (with the help of the social revolutions of the 1960’s and the political definitions above) I realized I was a liberal.

The attitude I’ve developed toward American conservatives as described above was encapsulated years ago when my wife’s maternal grandmother said, as she was encouraged to be impressed by the gubernatorial mansion in Austin, Texas, “Well, that doesn’t make him any better than we are!”  At that moment I knew I had politically married into the “right” family for me.

I think I see why conservatives, modern-day Tories, fall prey to the social bigotries of their society.  They simply parrot the bigotry of their parents and grandparents so doggedly they fail to see that what they politically preach is racist, inhumane, xenophobic, anti-Christian, greedy, sexist, misogynistic, selfish, and/or “blue-bloodied.”  As I’ve told many of my generation who voted for and support Trump, they themselves may not be social bigots, but by their vote and support, they have “hitched their wagon” to the basest of these forms of social bigotry, because of Trump; they are guilty by association.  While it is certainly true that both conservatives and liberals can be bigots, my experience has seen more social bigotry in the former than in the latter.

Lest I be accused of being too “black/white,” compartmentalized, or simplistic regarding the conservative/liberal duality, I fully acknowledge that instead of two separate parts of the political spectrum, the spectrum is a blend of the duality.  And all along the spectrum individuals can be as free from social bigotry as possible, as Jesus taught.  Just like men can have female attributes and women can have masculine attributes, there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals, both groups hopefully being bigotry-free.  For a long while I have considered myself to be a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, and I’ve met others who feel the same way.

Nonetheless, it seems logical that  since the rich and powerful are few in number, a new-comer to the earth might, looking at the American political situation, predict that conservatives would never be put into office by the voting electorate.  But, since we have approached closer than ever to universal suffrage during the 20th century in America, conservatives are in office as much or more than liberals.  Part of that can be explained by corruption, as conservative oligarchs, like the Koch brothers and Cisco’s Wilkes brothers, can attempt to “buy” elections by having more campaign money than some liberals, but that is not the full story.  Conservatives have co-opted the political tactics of aristocracies, monarchies, and church leaders to convince the poor and disenfranchised-from-the-“American dream” that they too can become rich and powerful like the conservative rich and powerful.  And certainly that is possible, but it is like telling all junior high football players they will be able to play in the NFL; odds are they will not play in the NFL; likewise odds are most Americans will not become rich and powerful.  The odds are better to go from poor and destitute to rich and powerful in the United States than anywhere else in the world, I agree, but to suggest that is common is to be cruelly misleading.  The ease of that transition from poor to rich is the myth of conservatism, as it gets the demographically non-conservative to vote for the conservative, to vote against their own best interests; voting for liberals is to vote for those who are interested in the demographically non-conservative climbing to the same demographic as the well-to-do liberals and conservatives; liberals tend to see the “American dream” as potentially attainable, as difficult as it is to realize, for all who work to develop fully their personal attributes.  When in office, conservatives usually work to see that it will be even more difficult for the poor-through-middle class to climb the socio-economic “ladder,” by funneling wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, like in pre-Revolutionary France.  Thus, conservative politicians and their supporters are often culpable of using the myth of conservatism like propaganda to which every fascist could relate.  A corrupt, bigoted American conservative, as the Trump era has shown, can sink to the autocratic depths of fascism and communism.

Hamstringing even slow, healing change among the modern American Tories is their almost reverent deference to authority, authority of any sort.  It is like the divine right of kings turned into 21st-century jargon.  The election of Trump among his supporters brought phrases like “We should respect the office of President always, and therefore, anyone in that office.”  I think the framers of the Constitution were so “gun shy” of kings, queens, kingdoms, theocracies, and aristocracies of all ilks, for very good reasons, they knew that any office created by the Constitution is never at any given time any better than the individual occupying it.  So the expulsion of Nixon in the wake of Watergate should not be viewed with tragic sorrow, but with great pride, as the system set up by the Constitution providing the peaceful transfer of power, even in times of crisis like Watergate, allowed the American people’s elected officials to preserve the dignity of the office of President for future Presidents.  In that spirit, Thomas Jefferson taught that one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do is to be critical of all elected officials.  Those of us howling about what Trump is doing to the dignity of the office of President are doing so out of the spirit of patriotism, the “spirit of ’76,” the bane of Tories past and present.  Bottom line, patriots:  elected officials must earn our respect, not be given it!

Germane to this myopic, almost blind, deference to authority practiced by modern-day Tories is the conservative tendency to not only defer to authority, but to believe everything authority tells them.  The insanity and danger of this tendency was what the third prong of the social revolution of the 1960’s cited above was all about — don’t just believe what the government tells you; vet and check out what they are telling you for yourself.  Today this is so much easier to do with cyberspace media (internet, etc.) than it was back in the 1960’s.  In other words, grow a “metaphorical pair,” a spine, a courageous, confident skepticism!  Parts of this conservative tendency to believe are intellectual laziness and ease of distraction.  Formally educated or not, every American citizen can become an informed voter, but it takes effort, and in my experience, it also takes time, like enough time to read and reflect on a novel like War and Peace.  Vital to an informed electorate is the ability not only to distinguish between fact and opinion, but also to recognize distraction from evidence.  From the time of the original Tories and even much, much earlier, conservative and liberal authorities have “gotten away” with corruption and scandal because ill-informed voters cannot follow the “scent of the trail.”  Once a voter learns such guidelines as “what evidence supports this,” “follow the money,” “what did he/she know and when did he/she know it,” and “where have we seen this before in history,” the trail will get hotter and hotter if there is actual corruption and scandal.  Therefore, my fellow American citizens, don’t be like a Tory, be like a hound on a hot trail or a shark in bloodied water.  Hold all politicians’ (conservatives’ or liberals’) “feet to the fire.”

One final warning concerning a thankfully few number of “ultra” conservatives — the horrible state of mind to which irrationally committed conservatives can stoop, in which they are un-phased by facts; the ideology in their heads “trumps” (pun intended) the evidence “staring them in the face.”  These are conservatives who seem to have the attitude, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  — a complete refusal to consider evidence.  At the close of the Watergate scandal, many conservatives still believed Nixon was innocent and/or he was framed!  This example reminds me of a story I used to tell my students in class to warn them of the “insanity” of irrationality and abandonment of “common sense.”  Briefly, the possibly apocryphal story (to me “apocryphal” means “if it’s not true, it ought to be”) went like this:   In Belton, Texas, years and years ago, a con man collecting money from his “marks” supporting the development of his “perpetual motion” machine, using a prototype with which he was publically “wowing” his credulous audience, was eventually exposed by skeptics who found a hidden battery/wire boost of energy to keep the prototype moving.  The money was recovered and returned to those who had been conned, but a few refused their money because they still believed in the con man!  Whether from fear of embarrassment or lack of the ability to understand the significance of the battery, those who refused to take back their money chose their faith in a crook over the facts before them.  I personally experienced the same phenomenon years ago when I got a Biblical literalist, creationist friend of mine to admit that, no matter how much evidence I placed before him, he could NOT admit that he possibly could be wrong!

It is not hyperbole to state that it is possible that modern-day American Tories, today’s American conservatives, can sink to this depth of mental bankruptcy and intellectual indecency; this depth is like “credulity on steroids!”  I’ve not yet met anyone of liberal tendencies who seems in danger of such depth.  I am relieved to say that the overwhelming majority of my conservative friends also seem not to be in such danger, so I want by this to warn them not to be associated with such danger.  In fact, let me exhort the entire political spectrum, conservative or liberal, to “call out” anyone on that spectrum who has sunk to this depth, anyone who, in terms of the “farm/ranch lingo” of my upbringing, has gone, politically speaking, “bat-shit crazy.”


I think history is on the liberals’ side.  Post WWII’s emergence of progressive political ideals in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, and other nations has marked the transfer of more political power into the hands of the electorate than into the hands of the elected; this despite conservatives’ everywhere “dragging their feet” against this transfer; remarkably and thankfully, our vote is mightier than the sword or the dollar.  Consequently, history’s political compass points in a direction constituting anathema to 18th-century Tories, and, therefore, anathema to 21st-century Tories.  It is the “good sort of anathema” towards which to steer the future.


21st Century Luddites?

After the 2016 Presidential election, participants in and supporters of the US coal mining industry were asked why they voted against the industry being phased out, despite the widespread agreement it is a “dirty” source of energy contributing mightily to atmospheric pollution and climate change, and despite the promise that participants could easily be retrained for far more healthy employment in the future.  One particular answer from a participant spoke volumes to me — something to the effect that not only had his family been coal miners for generations, he categorically rejected the notion of being retrained in anything other than what he had been doing!  It was sort of a “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” answer.

I thought of the Luddites.  Luddites were primarily textile factory workers in England during the Napoleonic Wars years who created a movement of destruction and violence from 1811-1816, which was crushed by heavy-handed government reprisal supported by the factory owners.  The Luddites were most famous for breaking into factories and destroying the new looms and other machines that were doing the Luddite labor at less cost, more efficiently, and more productively.  It probably is a misconception they destroyed the machines out of fear of the machines themselves replacing them, as some research suggests they actually feared that time spent learning new skills (retraining) germane to the new machines would be wasted.  This suggests that perhaps a lot of destruction, maiming, and death could have been avoided had the factory owners at the time offered to retrain the dissident workers at full pay.  Nonetheless, the term “Luddites” came to mean those in opposition to industrialization, automation, and, today, computerization.  What has not changed from the early 19th century to today is that factory mechanization clearly allows faster and cheaper labor and allows operation to be done by fewer laborers, who can even be less-skilled — meaning working for lower wages than the workers-before-machines who were replaced by the machines.  This is not to overlook the present-day need for highly skilled and high-wage workers to maintain and repair the machines; the point is that the number of skilled and well-paid workers needed today is less than in the days when far fewer products were manufactured by workers.

The Luddites seemed placed in a historical spectrum of labor whose roots go back to the medieval guilds, which gave way in the emergence of modern Europe (16th and 17th centuries) to organizations such as village and town support groups for traveling journeymen, which pointed toward labor unions following the era of the Luddites.  As you watch at length programs such as How It’s Made on the Science Channel, fostering the notion that machines “make everything” nowadays, the social and political influence of modern labor unions seems less germane to industrial economies in the last couple or three decades or so, simply because the unions did their job protecting workers so well in the past.  I suspect this spectrum is laced throughout with a workers’ stubborn refusal to change with the times, as per the Luddites.

I have witnessed in the past 30 years or so a “change of economic times” affecting farms and farm workers in the agricultural region south of Cisco, Texas — the town in which I grew up.  So much of southern Eastland County used to be “peanut country.”  My paternal grandfather was a peanut farmer, and my father grew peanuts on the family farms near the end of and during his retirement.  The paternal side of my family traditionally had two “cash crops,” peanuts and beef cattle raised on pasture land not devoted to planting peanuts.  Before my father died, the peanut economy south of Cisco was irrevocably transformed into today’s disappearance.  First came the mechanization of peanut farming and of cattle feed farming (hay), so rapid that with tractors and all the accompanying attachments and implements, my father could do more by himself than what 3 or 4 of us could do only 15 or so years before.  Then came the expansion of irrigated peanut farming elsewhere in Texas, making the small acreage peanut farms of Eastland County pressed to compete with volume of production and the ability of larger farms to sell at lower prices; the small scale peanut farmer of Texas was being phased out.  Despite attempts to irrigate peanuts also in the county, the main peanut mill in Gorman, Texas, dwindled into non-existence; peanut farmers could not economically survive even one bad season.  Farms did survive by turning the peanut fields into hay fields, mostly nowadays growing coastal bermuda grass; peanut-growing implements became scrap iron or decorative antiques.  Southern Eastland County is today a hay/pasture/cattle agricultural economy.

What if the peanut growers of Eastland County had taken the attitude of the Luddites, the attitude of modern coal miners, and refused to change, citing family traditions of peanut farming as I have just done?  They would have gone to their graves owning fallow, unused ground, assuming they had not been forced to sell in order to pay the land’s taxes.  They would have lost everything, for they were never unionized like the coal miners; they had no economic “safety net.”  Instead they changed (begrudgingly, I admit) by seeing their land as something different — producing hay underwriting the cattle industry pervasive all over the county, not just in the southern part.  They are still farming today, needing fewer workers than ever before, thanks to machines, and producing hay (some irrigating, some dry-land), pasture land, and cattle.  Their fathers and grandfathers would not recognize the family land today!

 I am not saying that modern US coal miners will turn violent if they are not allowed to continue coal mining in the tradition of their forefathers, but I am saying the peanut farmers of Eastland County, Texas, should give these miners and their supporters pause.  The miners run the risk of being 21st century Luddites (without the violence) and dooming their traditional economy to an ignoble end, causing further, unnecessary environmental pollution along the way.  Circumstances forced the peanut farmers to change, just like circumstances are forcing coal mining to change; I think that the miners, just like the farmers, have no choice but to change.  So focused are the miners and their supporters on tradition, nostalgia, and reverence for the values of their ancestors, they only look to the past, not to the future; they are, in a word, anachronistic.  They are so anachronistic, they even vote against their own best interests, and thereby vote against the best interests of their children and grandchildren!  They as a group remind one of the irrational, tradition-bound “secret societies” many medieval guilds became.  Using the peanut farmer analogy, it would be like the farmers giving their heirs no choice but to continue growing peanuts, despite the regional support structure for growing “goobers” having long since dwindled away!  “Good luck, son and daughter, because I know you are going to have a harder time than I had!”  Again, downright medieval, if you ask me.

Nor am I saying worker organizations like unions are a cause of the “insanity” of “Luddite-ism.”  If the coal miner unions get behind the backward-looking position of the miners-who-refuse-to-change, then the very concept of unions is being abused.  Protection of jobs does not entail battling progress; unions should always be in step with what is best for the future of workers, not with irrational loyalty to family tradition.  Unions are the reason for child labor laws, safe and humane working conditions, and the exercise of workers’ basic rights; they are not perpetrators of the ancient, archaic idea of guilds based upon family tradition.

Also, to not change with the changing economic times is myopic and selfish.  When farmers in Eastland County gave up raising peanuts, they did not see that as betraying their family traditions; they did not cease to revere, love, and take pride in their peanut-farming heritage!  Farmers knew their ancestors would have done the same thing in their place, given the same circumstances; the way one makes a living is not sacred — it is an individual choice.  Do the coal miners actually think their ancestors would be proud of their continuing doing the same unhealthy things as their grandfathers did?  I have a hard time believing that.  Instead, I think it comes down to the fact it is easier not to change than to change one’s employment.  In a word, they are, ironically, lazy.  Those who do one of the most physical, dangerous jobs still around may well be too lazy to change to an easier, safer job.  It takes effort on the part of the worker to be retrained, an effort the Luddites were not willing to exert.  So it is with today’s coal miners.  They need to be reminded, as they comfortably and longingly gaze into their past, that this is the 21st century of accelerated change, and that coal mining does not “revolve” around them, just as peanut farming did not “revolve” around denizens of southern Eastland County.  Coal mining must look to the future, and will evolve according to environmental circumstances and changing means of obtaining clean energy, not according to the traditions of coal miners.



We All Can Have PTSD

PTSD (acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder) has started expanding its applicability way beyond its military context, it seems to me.  Historically, the concept of PTSD developed from the stress of combat and other horrors of war causing either damage to brain physiology or to the individual psychology of the mind, or both.  Its symptoms, regardless of particular causes in particular cases, are a myriad of brain disorders that cause mild to chronic disruptions of normal brain function.  In World War I, it was called “shell shock,” and in World War II on in to Vietnam, it was called “combat fatigue.”  I want to make the case that all of us can have shell shock and combat fatigue without experiencing a second of combat, without a speck of horror or brain damage.

My most vivid experience of PTSD in a Vietnam vet was when I was working with faculty members from Waxahachie High School years ago in preparation for a faculty party to be held at the Waxahachie National Guard Armory several years ago.  Helping us build stage sets for party performances was David Simmons, building trades instructor at the high school and a Vietnam vet.  The Waxahachie Guard was moving the last cargo truck out of the building when David, upon hearing the truck’s engine, immediately had a flashback to Vietnam.  He dropped his hammer and had to be helped to sit down on the edge of the stage we were building.  For a few moments, he could not stop the imagery in his head; only when the truck had exited the building did he return to “normal.”  Clearly this was purely mental PTSD, as I am not aware of his suffering a head injury during the war.

Equally clear are PTSD-like cases of closed head injuries, such as result from motorcycle accidents.  I remember my friend Rick Qualls and I visiting a motorcycle accident victim who was seeing blood on the fossils he was collecting; we were “experts” invited by his mother to examine the fossils and help him be a little more critical in his hopefully therapeutic hobby.  We to no avail could convince him his iron-compound stains were not blood or that blood does not normally leave trace fossils.  At least he was not a “vegetable,” but that was little consolation to a mother whose son’s close head injury had interjected tragedy so cruelly into the family.  The son was experiencing something personally real in his head, just as David was in his head inside the armory, but the something was permanent, not temporary, as in David’s case.

I have come to think similarly about my older son Dan, who experienced a closed head injury in 1986 as a freshman in high school with a collision on bicycle with a van.  He is Sylvia’s and my “miracle child,” as he clearly recovered completely from all his physical injuries and almost recovered completely from his brain injuries.  Years after his accident, only the stress of traumatic events like divorce revealed his inability to deal with higher cognitive functions, as now in the past few years he is incapable of finding and holding a job.  Only recently have I recognized his cognitive trauma as PTSD-like, showing symptoms like paranoia, depression, mistrust, and hallucinatory reports.  But his brain recovery was so complete he now has a healthy case of denial, stubbornly refusing to recognize he is behaving abnormally.  But, when seen in comparison to the motorcycle accident victim, our son could have suffered mentally much worse.

Also helping me to recognize my son’s form of PTSD (in my opinion), was my recent development of Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) and its wide spectrum of applications in our universal experiences (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]).  Perception Theory was suggested to me during explaining the role hallucinations played in the origin and development of Christianity (At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]), in which I shared my own flashback-like hallucinations.  Emerging from both projects conjured the realization my own non-combat hallucinations (only requiring some kind of trauma of the mind — not necessarily bad or harmful trauma) might mean I too have a form of PTSD, and, by extrapolation, all of us have the capability to empathize with PTSD victims, for we have experienced it ourselves, but have not recognized it as such.


I know I can empathize with David, with the motorcycle accident victim, and with my son Dan, for I have had several PTSD flashbacks over the years.  Rather than repeating those in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], I thought I would share with you three others:

1)  I grew up, as I’ve said in my memoirs and in my book SXYTMCHSC1964M4M (ISBN 978-0-692-21783-2, College Street Press, Waxahachie, TX, 2014) {See Fun Read, [August, 2014] to read how to attain a copy}, I grew up simultaneously at three homes, one with my parents in town in Cisco, Texas, and in the two rural homes of both sets of my grandparents outside Cisco.  The “home” of my maternal grandparents, the McKinneys, was completely destroyed by a tornado in May, 2015, a site that belongs to my wife and me nowadays.  For sentimental reasons I had the bulldozer and track hoe “cleaning up” the site leave a surviving iron yard gate still swinging on its hinges, so that any time I want, I can go out there, open the gate, and slam it shut.  That sound it makes when closing conjures images of the house and yard and of me going in and out the gate as a young boy.  I cannot help but see the house and yard, even though they are not there today.  The images are triggered by the slamming of the gate; it’s like being one of Pavlov’s dogs.  There is some possible bad trauma in this example, because of memory of the tornado, but the images are pleasant and very sentimental.  This feels to me as a PTSD-like experience of bittersweet memories and pleasant imagery, triggered by an iron-on-iron collision.  The imagery doesn’t last but a few moments, but can be re-conjured by slamming the gate again.  (This gate triggering also seems to work, at least mildly, on first cousins of mine who spent a lot of time at the site also as young children.)

2)  In the summer of 2007 I arranged a very personal and emotional moment upon myself when I confided in my good friend Bill Adling (See SXYTMCHSC1964M4M.) that I was about to write my life’s novel at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  He was the first in whom I confided such information, and I had insisted I tell him in private away from our wives.  The site chosen to reveal my secret to Adling was a neon display advertising the Beatles-based performances of “Love” by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage.  The display had places at which we could sit.  It is hard to overstate how important the Beatles are and were to Adling’s and my friendship — for example, the two of us, along with our fellow fast friend/high school prankster Bob Berry, claim to be the very first Beatles fans in Cisco as 1963 changed to 1964.  How appropriate a setting for me to share my secret with Adling!  Fast forward to the summer of 2016, when just my wife and I were “taking in” Las Vegas and I was wandering around the casino floor of the Mirage while my wife Sylvia was still playing video poker.  I wandered to the spot where the neon display was 9 years earlier (It was now gone, despite the fact “Love” was still playing — we saw the show again, incidentally.), but I recognized the spot by its surroundings.  And suddenly, here came into my head bright neon lights, Adling’s face, and exchanged words I seemed to remember from almost a decade ago!  It was very fleeting but no less vivid.  The “trauma” must have been the “stress” of keeping the secret from everyone except Adling at the time, but the feeling was exhilarating, making me momentarily almost giddy!  I now look upon this moment as a PTSD-like experience.

3)  The third of this trio is the most PTSD-like to me and, coincidentally, the most gross.  Near the McKinney house of 1) above, my Granddad McKinney, among other animals, raised and kept for selling and butchering (Yes, the tornado left the rock and concrete foundation of the old slaughter house.) hogs, lots of hogs.  Playing in and around the lots, sheds, and barns there as a boy, I was in a constant menagerie of not only hogs, but cattle, chickens, turkeys, and peafowl.  Fast forward to just a few years ago, I had stopped at Brendan Odom’s house (Brendan today leases much of the land my wife and I own, including the McKinney place.), which coincidentally is on the road between where my Granddad McKinney lived and my Granddad Hastings lived, to ask him something.  Away from his house but sort of in the extended front yard was a covered cattle trailer, one of my dad’s old ones, in which Brendan kept wild hogs he had trapped for sale to buyers with customers craving “wild pork.” (Today, because of the collapse of the small-scale hog market, no one today raises hogs such as my grandfather did.)  As I walked by the trailer, I noted there were no hogs in it, but that there recently been some “residents,” as my nose was bombarded by the unmistakable odor of hog shit!  And the imagery flowed in my head of hogs wallowing, hogs sleeping, hogs feeding, and hogs squealing.  I could not stop seeing them!  As David’s trigger was auditory, mine in this moment was olfactory.  I had to walk away almost to the house to get the imagery to stop.  The trauma, as well as the trigger, was the incredibly bad odor, so the images were not particularly pleasant.


Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016], (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]) suggests what is going on in our heads during PTSD experiences.  Some non-veridical trauma in our mind triggers uncontrollable perceptions upon our inner world view, momentarily or permanently blocking or suspending the non-veridical brain mechanisms by which we normally determine that what we are perceiving at the moment “must have been a dream.”  The uncontrollable perceptions seem as real and the controlled perceptions we receive from the “outside world” outside our brains.  They are suspensions of rationality, much like what we do when we fall in love.  Often they make us doubt our sanity, and often we are reluctant to share them with others for fear they will doubt our sanity.  Yet, history has shown they can cover the spectrum of individual perception from the destruction of life, through little or no effect, to the basis of starting a religion or a political movement.

PTSD-like experiences are profound epiphenomenal capabilities of our brain, part of the evolutionary “baggage” that was part of our “big brain” development.  I would guess it was a trait neutral to our survival (or, “tagging along” with our vital survival trait of the ability to irrationally fall in love), and, therefore, could be a vestigial trait passed into our future by the same genes that produce our vital non-veridical existence within our brains (in our minds).  Whatever future research into them brings, I will always be fascinated by their possible triggers within an individual, whether it be combat, closed-head injuries, a sound from the past, the Fab Four, or hog shit.


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