Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Religious Satire - You Can't Lay it On Too Thick.

If the Jahwist had not been the Disney of her time it is likely we wouldn't even have a Bible, or Torah.  Can you imagine worshiping a book compiled from P, E, and R if you left out J? All the good stories that are remembered from the Pentateuch are J's  It is hard enough to wade through all that crap with the leavening of J.  All that would be left is a soggy matzoth.

If you read the Jahwist stories as a coherent whole The Book of J is a good place to start, although extracting them from your favorite scripture is also a reasonable endeavor, you will find an ironic reading of the oral tradition of the Hebrew people in which the male figures especially Yahweh are generally putzes that can't do anything very well.  The first Jahwist story, the famous creation story, God and Adam stumble around being dicks while mother Eve brings wisdom in the form of knowledge of good and evil without the intervention of any God to humankind.  This pisses off God and Adam, who was trying to push Eve around using God's edicts as as a lever, and they blame her for discovering this boon.
The birth of Eve - Beliefnet:

"Agnostic" wrote:

Clearly Eve was a divine creation, separate from Adam. Eve was created in the divine image of God Herself. In contrast, Adam evolved from primates with lower intelligence. It should be obvious that women are innately superior to males.

The Bible shows this. The very name for 'the Lord' is Yahvah. Eve in Hebrew is Chavah. If you look at the original Hebrew letters, they are even more nearly identical.

Each time a female is born, it is another divine creation. Males, on the other hand, bear far too much similarity to apes of lesser intelligence. It should be obvious.

The Genesis story shows God leading the animals and beasts to Adam for a potential mate, because Adam was just an animal. Adam almost chose a dog for a mate. But God, in Her infinite wisdom, realized Adam was not capable of living without divine help, so God gave a replica of Herself to watch over Adam.

This is clear from the Hebrew word, usually translated as 'help mate' It is 'Ezer,' a word which does mean help. But in the Bible, it only appears as a term for God Herself, or for Eve. David says, 'God is my Help (Ezer)' Eve, the Woman, was Adam's Help (Ezer). It was Adam who needed help, divine assistance. Eve was provided. She did not evolve. She had a separate divine creation.

Scientists generally are correct. Adam evolved. But religion is also correct, Eve was a Divine Creation. All the violence is the world is caused by men, who have barely evolved past their lower primate origins. Even with divine assistance from women, they often are unable to advance beyond their atavistic nature."

J'C: In light of Harold Bloom's theory that "J" was a woman, the irony in Genesis 2 is, with this post, beautifully explained. 
If you read J's stories with an intelligent woman author in mind the misogyny of the traditional oral history is clear from the ironic retelling of the Garden story as a prime example.  "The woman made me do it."  The woman is the only reasonable person in the whole tale.  Both God and Adam look like idiots.  

Unfortunately J's stories became incorporated in the Pentateuch as the "Word of God" mixed up with P, E, & R and the irony and satire got lost as proof-texting was discovered by the (male) preachers and priests and the march of the Patriarchs became unstoppable.      

The entire Book of Mormon is a joke perpetrated on an annoyingly pious young man in New England by his gay, atheist friend Walt Whitman.  The Mormons suppress literary analysis like work count and stylistic and content parallels but they cannot suppress any literate person from comparing the Book of Mormon with Leaves of Grass on a boring few day stay in a Salt Lake City hotel. 

I read the Book of Mormon on the first night of that boring stay (no booze, no friends) and could not miss the resemblance to a satire of the Bible I wrote in High School.  I gave myself 20 lashes with the monster's noodly appendages for not naming my angel Moroni, but chalked it up to a lack of literary genius.  The next day I got my copy of Leaves of Grass out of my suitcase and read it side by side with the Book of Mormon.  No brainer - same author.  I would not put it past Whitman to have given his friend "magic glasses" and told him where in the woods to dig.  I am sure Whitman kept a copy or revision of his satire and cleaned up parts of it for his future writings.  I still have mine.  

It is amazing to me that the LDS even refuse to notice the satire of the name of one of their major saints but treat it as part of the Gospel they live by.  The whole BoM if read without belief is a brilliant satire of Christianity.  

I know less about Islam than Judaism and Christianity, but the proof-texting by the Imams and other "Islamic" leaders from the Pentateuch and Muhammad is obvious to any reasonable observer.  Unfortunately I do not read Arabic and therefore cannot understand the context of the proof-texting.  I suspect the context is similar to Jewish and Christian scripture, and is as ironic in its character.   

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gender Inclusive Thinking and Reading

One of the first things that offended me when I found out that other people who believed in God believed that God was The Lord (masculine) and He/His were interchangeable with God.  I was still in the scatological humor stage at the time and gleefully referred to God as Sheheit.  Making myself unpopular in some circles, but most of my friends were at the most religious agnostics, so I didn't catch much flack.  And when I did I would always correct myself to Hesheit.  I outgrew the scatology but still refused to even think of God as He.  I invented the gender inclusive pronouns some of you have seen here Hesh and Herm very early in life, and discovered that they really helped me think about a supernatural power in a sympathetic way that was impossible with the testosterone poisoned "He."  Even trying to insert God in place of the male pronoun every time didn't work too well.  As the testosterone is frequently implied by context.

By college I had learned to think of everyone as hesh rather than he or she even when it was important to tell the difference.  It was the first step to radical humanism as once I began to think of people as hesh it was hard to create differences along any lines since the major pervasive division on gender lines carried over from the patriarchal social system we inherited from God was obliterated in my mind.  When you can't even think in gender terms, differentiation on other human variables is nearly impossible.  Try thinking about that "other" person without gender and note what it does to your mind.  

For the record, I was a strictly heterosexual male as interested in the hormonal needs only satisfied by a heterosexual female as anybody else.  But thinking of a woman as hesh in spite of the obvious delightful differences, did in fact change the way I related to women from the first contact in class or on the street to very intense relationships.  Even my parenting partner was early on a partner with benefits rather than a sexual person.   

When reading scientific literature I never noticed the scientist's name by policy until it was necessary for reference and even then as a footnote on the back of the index card.  Yep, I used them.  Any gender related references were automatically changed to hesh/herm mentally and on the card.   I learned a lot that way.  Some highly recommended papers turned to crap when the DWM was turned into hesh. Or LM for that matter. I have since changed policy a bit as the cutting edge scientists in my family educated me that for a woman to succeed in any meritocracy they had to be twice as good as the average male.  It follows that an accepted paper by a woman has twice as good a chance of being worth reading as one by the average man.  Similarly for professional choices.  Even though I think of them as hesh in the interview I will give interview preference to a woman given a bunch of equivalent CVs or Resumes.  

I have recently begun to apply the same thinking to reading and rereading fiction.  I mentally reassign a gender ambiguous name to the major characters and thinking of all as hesh.  In the mandatory sex scenes some role reversals are needed but it is surprising how often they are not.  It is amusing to think of a sex partner as trans occasionally. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Gender Inclusive Pronouns

Back in the mid 20th Century the feminist movement tried with some success to ban the generic use of "men" and "man" as in "All men are created equal." In current vernacular they have succeeded quite well. In some Churches led by UUs they even succeeded in removing male references to God in large part by eliminating the pronoun altogether, resulting in some rather weird hymnody with repetitive use of God and some strangled syntax to eliminate references directly to God.

I was frequently involved in God discussions at that time and found the effort of avoiding the Pronouns for God too much effort and found the shock of using Hesh and Herm in reference to God a useful result in my discussions. Typically it generated the assertion that God was male and that the proper Pronouns were He and His. This generally derailed the discussion into a useful discussion of God's testosterone levels.

When I came to beliefnet I continued the practice and for a long time linked on the words to a discussion on the old Gender and Sexuality boards. When I began to see "hesh" and "hir" or "herm" in the popular literature without explanation, (I admit to noticing each time) I quit linking particularly on this and the UU boards as everyone could figure out what I meant without the link from context although fundamentalist Christians and language conservatives continue to protest its use in reference to God.

I also eliminated the gender specific pronouns from my vocabulary as a general pronoun and use "hesh" and "herm" as my pronouns of choice whether the gender of the referent is known or not. This is particularly useful in calling attention to gender specific terms like "Actor," Waitress," or "Chairman." Traditionalists be damned. They need their consciousness raised. If it jars their reading or hearing of the term, they still need the consciousness raising.

More recently I have been using the terms when the referent is of known gender but the gender is not relevant in context. Reference to the author of a scientific paper was beat into my head by my then wife whose papers in a male chauvinist academic profession were referred to as "HER" papers as if they were therefore less important than "his" papers. They in fact were less important than "his" papers, even though in general they were significantly better. It is no accident that women in science generally publish with initials only. . If they are offended by having to think about gender, too bad. They need to. Particularly the sexist males. They can be sure I intended to insult them with the gender inclusive pronoun.

As for the ESL issue, some languages particularly Asian languages are non-sexist in that the pronouns are non-specific. I live with Asians and have become used to hearing "she" and "her" being used as a pronoun for anybody. I don't bother to correct them as they are on my side. I suspect Asians would have more trouble with "he" and "she" in writing and speech than they would be with "hesh" and "herm."

Other languages are inherently sexist. I was at the installation of a new department head couldn't even introduce his staff because his native language didn't have a word for a female colleague. He did all right with the men, but the female who outranked the men caused an embarrassing for all search for an appropriate honorific.

Humanism in the Real World

A humanist treats all people as individuals with the dignity and respect they have earned as a human being regardless of any group they may have been born into, chosen, or indoctrinated into at some point in their lives.  A humanist recognizes that humans come with a lot of baggage some of which may not be functional in a modern society, but a humanist recognizes that it is what the individual has unpacked from that baggage which is important, not the baggage itself.  Many men and women from religious and social indoctrination carry a heavy load of baggage of xenophobia, paternalism and misogyny, but to the extent that they have or have not left some of it behind, the humanist will accord respect for the human accordingly.

A major misconception about humanism is that humanists are incapable of judging other humans and treat all humans equally.  As a first assumption this should be true, but from Tom Lehrer's intro to National Brotherhood Week
I am sure we all agree we ought to love one another, and I know that there are people that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that.
The real skill in humanism is using behavioral cues rather than assumptions about the baggage that the person appears to be carrying in deciding how to deal with the encounter.  This is not to say that awareness of the baggage is unimportant in interpreting behavioral cues, but it is the cue properly interpreted rather than the baggage that should dictate the human response.

In dealing with a member of a discriminated against class the humanist is sensitive to and tries to defuse any justified resentment, but accepts it as a reasonable reaction and tries to find human commonalities to build a humanistic relationship on.  Always with the recognition that triggers exist, and can be inadvertently used.  Accepting responsibility for not avoiding triggers is an important part of defusing them.   As an example if I am caught holding a door for a feminist, and she objects that she can do it herself* I simply apologize for being in her way.  I have stimulated conversations with more than one feminist non-acquaintance that way.

A note on the current bigoted trend of "Color Blindness."  A humanist celebrates the diversity of coloration, face and eye shape, and the cultural traditions associated with that diversity in the human race.  Their history is our history and no group has a lock on superiority in anything.  Humans are "tribal" animals and we naturally gravitate to the lore and traditions of our tribe but doing so by ignoring or denigrating the lore and traditions of the other tribes' leads only to hate and bigotry.  

Members of an identifiable group must also be aware of the baggage that they carry as a member of the group, even though they have done their best to unpack and discard the worst of it.  As an example I am a member of the white, male, privileged, MBA, financially secure group.  In other words the assholes that run the businesses that run the government and oppress the working class and the disadvantaged.  I have diligently tried to avoid the social disabilities that come with the class of privileged white males.
  • Sexism/misogyny. 
  • Patriarchal assumptions. 
  • Being a winner rather than a loser. 
  • Refusing to cooperate or collaborate as an equal.
  • Rejection of active parenting. That is marrying a woman to do the job and accepting the costs of child support as freedom to change my mind. Or simply fucking someone to "carry a seed" and not really caring about whether that seed grows properly or not as long as it is born.
  • Using material success as a measure of worth. "He* who dies with the most toys wins." 
  • Hiring, bribing, or intimidating others to cover one's ass in all of the above.  

Unpacking religious and social baggage is a difficult and frequently impossible human task.  Castigating all those who have not done so because of their baggage is neither functional nor humanistic.  Those who have managed to unpack and leave behind some of the more dysfunctional bags need all the respect and help from others they can get, and not be thrown under the baggage bus.  For those on the bus education and ostracism are about the only options for a rational humanist, but these options are generational in impact, and those individuals on the bus that have unpacked a bit are critical to the education role, and deserve all the dignity and respect they can find if they manage to leave the bus even for a short holiday.

As humans are tribal animals tribal religious baggage is the most difficult for a humanist to deal with.  Telling Malala or any Muslim expatriate that she must lose the hijab if she is to be credible as a feminist is one of most dysfunctional tactics I have run into recently.  It certainly is a powerful statement of the misogyny of Muslim men, but until you change the men, we are talking generations here; the hijab is a rational response to that misogyny.  Incidentally fundamentalist Christian and Jewish men are just as misogynist, but society has made more progress in changing their behavior which is the first step in changing their thinking.  It is the men who must change the men to enable the women to feel more comfortable with relaxing the dress codes.

I have always selected female professionals when available when I had a choice, using the assumption that a female had to be twice as good as the average man to even have a chance in any professional role.  That is based on the reality that the average man who is successful in a professional position may be far to the left on the competence curve and still be able to compete in a paternalistic society.  Sorry, men, half of you are from the bottom half of your class.  Even in professional schools where women face discrimination even today.  Factoring in the discriminatory entrance barriers it is easy to believe that more than half the men end up in the bottom half of the class.  The few women who graduate are generally near the top as they have the Mrs. to fall back on if the going is too tough.  Men are always suckers for intelligent, competent women and the sex bait is difficult to resist, even if a Mrs. is the hook.

Humanism is a fundamental change in internal attitude that may or may not be accomplished in even a single lifetime.  It is simply a constant struggle to avoid categorization.  A personal anecdote may be illustrative.  When I have the choice I select among women medical professionals for care.  Nonetheless I have always been aware of the fact that they were female, and the stray mating dance thoughts always had to be repressed.  Especially if they were attractive in the gender sense.  Perhaps it is simply age, but I realized after a recent routine physical that I had finally made it over the gender hurdle and the doctor was just that: a professional doing herm job competently.  It wasn't that I didn't know she was female, I chose her for that reason, and it turned out that she was attractive, but after the first visit, hesh was "just" a competent doctor, and I was paying attention only to that as hesh was still in the evaluation stage of choice as a PCP. 

*Gender reference intentional.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why I Am Not a Feminist: Men and Women are Different Animals

Because I am a humanist.  A humanist treats all people as individuals with the dignity and respect they have earned as a human being regardless of any group they may have been born into, chosen, or indoctrinated into at some point in their lives.  A humanist recognizes that humans come with a lot of baggage some of which may not be functional in a modern society, but a humanist recognizes that it is what the individual has unpacked from that baggage which is important, not the baggage itself.  Many men and women from religious and social indoctrination carry a heavy load of baggage of paternalism and misogyny, but to the extent that they have or have not left some of it behind, the humanist will accord respect for the human accordingly.

As unpacking religious and social baggage is a difficult and frequently impossible human task, castigating all those who have not done so because of their baggage is neither functional nor humanistic.  Those who have managed to unpack and leave behind some of the more dysfunctional bags need all the respect and help from others they can get, and not be thrown under the baggage bus.  For those on the bus education and ostracism are about the only options for a rational humanist, but these options are generational in impact, and those individuals on the bus that have unpacked a bit are critical to the education role, and deserve all the dignity and respect they can find if they manage to leave the bus even for a short holiday.

Men and women are fundamentally different biologically, emotionally, and in the roles they play in insuring that the next generation of humanity is an improvement over the last which is a fundamental evolutionary drive for all sexual animals.  The mating dance in most species is clear evidence that females will refuse to mate with less than the best male available whatever the best means to the female and the male will invest significant time, energy and genetics in being best.  Males tend to be show-offs, brightly colored, bigger and more aggressive (expendable) while females tend to be drab, and blend into the scenery so they still can get the offspring to self-sufficiency even in the absence of the territorial protection of the male.  The male's primary role in the progeny project is to provide a safe and bountiful space for the female to nurture the young.  

In pre-industrial societies the division of labor between men and women was unforced, with women taking on the productive jobs that were compatible with child care, clothing provisioning, gardening, feeding the family, and housekeeping.  Generally the productivity of women was an investment in the family, rather than income producing.  The men, relatively more expendable after conception, took on the more time and labor intensive jobs on the periphery of the settlement that were also dangerous:  Hunting, grain farming, herding, and warfare.  Men also took on the local jobs that were essentially uninterruptable, smithing, building, etc.  For this productivity men were paid so that they could exchange their labor for other useful items they couldn't make. Most of the pay was spent on things useful to provide the safe and bountiful space for the family.  Some may have been reserved for capital improvements in his own productivity, or hiring others to boost his productivity.

Industrialization had a profound effect on the economic value of the productivity of women in the home. The 18th century mills were primarily devoted to production of cloth mainly cotton which effectively eliminated the economic productivity of spinning and weaving in the home.  The sewing machine and the clothing factories was the final nail in the coffin of homemade clothing as a value producing industry compatible with child raising.  In the early 20th century home appliances mainly the washing machine improved the home productivity of moms to the point that homemaking, shopping, cooking and serving were the last remaining home economic activity that were compatible with raising children.

Industrialization had an equally profound effect on the economic role of men.  No longer could the smith compete with a home forge, he had to tend an industrial forge that was running 24/7.  A wagon wright (archaic terminology intentional) no longer could produce a wagon, much less a mechanical vehicle in his shop at home; he was tied to an assembly line metaphorically catching a wheel bouncing off the floor to attach it to the axle.  The wagon came on schedule and the wheel bounced on time, and the worker could not even pee until a relief showed up. This set the pattern for a man's job in any role in industry.  Inflexible long hours on the job, that were well compensated as wages were relatively inconsequential compared with productivity of the enterprise.  If the genetic imperative of producing a reproducing adult carrying his genes was a need for a man, the Faustian bargain of enabling a less physically demanding but more important parenting role in the absence of a functional father for their parenting partner in exchange for the long, demanding job outside the home to provide the resources for caregiving, nurturing, and socializing their children to reproductive adulthood.

Management of these soul crunching enterprises reinforced some of the more antisocial characteristics of males: competitiveness, aggression, and lack of concern for their fellow humans of either gender.  It has always been known that "Nice guys finish last."  Not that it was necessary but science has caught up:    From a SciAm Book

Research shows that nice people are more likely to get and keep a job, but they tend to earn less and get passed over for leadership positions more often than their more demanding colleagues.  
They earn less because nobody really wants to be an asshole, and being an asshole is a necessary attribute for a leadership position.  From supply and demand theory a soulless enterprise will have to pay more to induce people to be assholes.  It therefore follows that assholes make more than nice guys or nice gals.  Human females fall heavily into the nice gal part of the humanism curve and it would seem reasonable for feminists to be trying to raise compensation for all in the nice people jobs.  Instead feminists seem to be pushing to compete for equal access to the high paid asshole jobs.  There are a few women that fall on the asshole end of the humanism curve and since they are competing with the average male asshole they generally do well in proportion to their distribution on the curve. Adequate pay for equal work in the nice guy positions primarily occupied by moms and people of both genders with more important things to do than being an asshole like students, artists, and care givers does not appear on the feminist agenda.

A few feminnists advocate for parental leave for both genders, but being a parent or a potential parent is a disqualification for leadership unless your name is Zuckerberg or you are in a comparable situation. While the interviewer may not ask if you are sterile or a non-parent, there are other ways of determining if your loyalty is to the corporation rather than humanity.  Note that a male active parent carries the same disability as a mom or a potential mom. Take too much time off to referee or even cheer a child's game or take herm to a tournament and watch the promotion bait for a salary increase fly off the hook.

There is a reason that moms are mostly women.  As a male mom at times I can attest that raising children to be productive and responsibly reproductive humans demands a lot of time, energy and emotional investment in those children.  From oxytocin, to breast feeding natural forces have generated a strong emotional bond between women and their children.  The nurturing investment in the gene pool is natural for women as they know for sure that the genes of the children are at least half hers given modern biology knowledge and instinctively for biologically naive women. 

The medical revolution which reduced maternal and infant mortality to insignificance and relatively reliable conception planning which became possible in the early 20th century had a profound effect on the last remaining home activity: child raising. When one conception could be reliably considered to be one reproductive adult, and women could reliably control their own fecundity without the consent of any man, a family size of 2 to 4 children became optimal socially, further freeing up women from the ties to the home.  Nonetheless, the demands of proper parenting of even a few children limit the kinds of work outside the home that women can consider even after the last child is in (pre) school when the father is in the socially traditional and absent provisioning role or as unfortunately all too common absent in any role.  The soulless corporate enterprise managed by assholes insures that most of these jobs that allow time for parenting are minimum wage or less (see tipped servers) and are generally held by moms either voluntarily or of necessity.  Just another reality for most women that is ignored by feminists and one of the major reasons I object to the label.  Believe me: the men and women fighting to raise the minimum wage do not call themselves feminists.

A major waste of time and effort by feminists is trying to change the nature of the mating dance of humans as sexual animals.  Normal male attention getting behavior: What used to be called chivalry; commenting on the attractiveness of a female; offering trinkets, food and drink; displays of their male prowess to strange women; even quiet appreciation of the attractiveness of a woman are all condemned by feminists as treating women as sexual objects.  In other words they are trying to change the mammalian male view of the female of the species. Men may come to appreciate other attractive attributes but the first thing a dry prick looks at are the secondary sex attributes.  They don't even need to be conventionally attractive but they have to be female.    

Everything that feminism has done since it became a movement in the last half of the 20th century has at best hindered women in fully participating as sexual humans in society.   Changing the language to pretend that male dominance does not exist.  Male dominance is a historical artifact of the dependence of reproducing women in many cultures, and in an industrial society.  Demanding access to asshole positions and the pay that goes along with them.  And suggesting that moms working or stay at home are an affront to feminism. 

Finally and probably the most important reason I am not a feminist is that almost all feminists of all genders discourage successful women from contributing to the human gene pool whether they choose to become stay at home moms, or continue to be successful in contributing economically in the society while parenting. The mommy wars are not over.  A proper feminist of either gender is childless, usually permanently so, in order to avoid the parenting penalty inherent in any job.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Paul is the reason I am not a Christian. God is the reason I am an atheist. Jesus is the reason I and many nominal Christians are Jesuists.

Paul is dead, but seriously… just this morning I was trying to come up with a term that would encapsulate my atheistic attitude toward Christianity (within which religion I was loosely raised) and permit my admiration for Jesus himself. I thought I might have coined the name "Jesuist" and Googled it…

Jesuism in the West is an atheistic worldview based on the teachings of Jesus as documented in the Gospels including the recently discovered Gnostic Gospels of Thomas and Judas. A Jesuist rejects the supernatural accretions to the stories about Jesus as mnemonic and marketing devices typical of the age, and rejects all theistic references including self-references by Jesus as metaphorical devices to communicate with the prevailing Jewish and Pagan religions.

To understand Jesuism one must understand the concept of radical respect for all people taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes, the Good Samaritan, the Adulteress, and indeed in all the stories involving Jesus directly. While Jesus believed in the eventual judgment by his God to help formulate and sell the radical concept that all people are to be accepted as brothers and sisters, the Jesuist will accept this as part of the religious culture Jesus dedicated his life to changing. Jesus was a Jew who believed in the Abrahamic God concept, but his rebellion was as much against his own God as the religion of the Jews he was immersed in.

The Jefferson Bible is a useful condensation of the traditional teachings of Jesus and could be considered the Holy Book of the Jesuist. Thomas Jefferson winnowed out the story and teachings of Jesus the man for us in The Jefferson Bible. He littered the floor of the President's office with trash from the bible created by Paul and others, until he had distilled the essence of Jesus from the rest of the bible. I claim Jefferson as the first Jesuist, he certainly was an atheist, (politically a Deist.) The Jefferson Bible is a concise and readable way to discover the ministry of Jesus.

Part of the traditional Unitarian “Affirmation”
Unitarians believe in
…the brotherhood of man
The leadership of Jesus...
could be its doxology.

Jesuism is really designed for Christians who, having lost faith in Paul's Christ have moved back to the Gospels for meaning and morality. Once they get comfortable without a savior many of them find they don't need God either. Particularly the God of the OT and Paul who was more worried about idol worship than people treating each other right. They can salvage most of their 'Jesus loves me' conditioning with Jesus as exemplar rather than God, and even worship in their same church.

You will hear them talking about Jesus ministering to the poor, the prostitutes, the gays, the fishermen, and other common people. You will also hear them focusing their religion down to the Second Great Commandment:
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
with the gloss of Matt 25:40
As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

It is the teaching of radical respect for all people which separates Jesus from all of the religious teachers of his time. Until Jesus, religion was all about us vs them, 'We are the world's sweet chosen few, the rest of you be damned.' After Jesus it was more of the same. Fortunately, Paul hijacked his charisma and caused the preservation of the synoptics to document it, incidentally preserving the message of radical respect to be rediscovered by those who can relate to it.

There are theistic Jesuists. Some might call them Synoptic Christians since for them the NT stops before John. But they believe Jesus is the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, who was sent to earth to teach the humanist message of Love your neighbors, all of them, even the Samaritans, respect the poor, the meek, the thieves, the whores and even the people who hate you. In short how to live this life. Many of them take the next step and don't worry about an afterlife believing that how they live this life is all that matters to God.

There is little of Christ in their beliefs but they call themselves Christians for traditional reasons, as many of them are found in traditional Christian Churches. Some call themselves Progressive Christians, I would call them theist Jesuists.

The Humanist Teachings of Jesus

It is clear to me that this historical person was a human that lived and died in the usual human fashion. He believed in God, but was not one himself. He was the earliest documented humanist, and I think all humanists, theistic and atheistic are indebted to him.

37...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:37-40 (King James Version)

In particular when the neighbor explicitly referred to was a member of a hated group that had just caused Jesus to 'shake the dust off his sandals' for one of the most serious breaches imaginable of the social contract of the time.

In a desert community refusing hospitality was probably comparable to refusing to help an injured man by the side of the road. The chances were good that one refused a drink of water, could dehydrate before getting to the next stopping place.

But he was not telling us to love just the nice neighbors, but all of them. This of course does not mean approving of everything they do, but that violations of the social contract must be dealt with with love rather than hate.

With the gloss of Matt 25:40
"As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." the explicit humanism of Jesus becomes quite clear.

I find Jesus to be quite human, quite humanistic, and radically respectful of all people. No wonder they killed him.

Cynic and Pharisaic teachings were an important component of the message of Jesus but it was his synthesis of the important ideas of both, and certainly his showmanship in presenting the synthesis that made his message so important for its time. The fact that there are still many people trying to emulate his teachings no matter how corrupted, although some are going back to the gospels only, that makes Jesus so important in western religions.

A distinctive feature of Stoicism is its cosmopolitanism. All people are manifestations of the one universal spirit and should, according to the Stoics, live in brotherly love and readily help one another.

The Historical Jesus

Jesus as a normal 30+ male of his time probably had a female companion who was with him during his ministry. Illiterate as nearly all women of the time she created an adoring oral history embellished as all oral histories are for mnemonic as well as story telling reasons. She probably helped him hone his message, I see a lot of anti-misogyny in it, at least in the context of the time. No man thought up the tale of the unstoned whore.

As I understand the 'Q document' its very existence as a 'document' is an inference. I find it much more likely that Q was a companion of Jesus for much or all of his ministry, had a good memory for what he said at the various gatherings and related those to the disciples along with other lore that may have been less important to the disciples in their cult building. Hesh probably was what would be termed today a groupie, probably was not literate, as it is unlikely that hesh had any relationship with the priesthood. The reason I am using the gender inclusive pronoun is that I find it probable that Q was female." And yes, I think of "Q" as Mary Magdalene.

Also I think Mary was much more important to the ministry of Jesus than the men who wrote the histories would even think of giving her credit for. I suspect that social conversations between the two were instrumental in developing Jesus' overall gospel of respect and love for ones neighbor.

In any event the story if you will or oral history which was probably the case in that illiterate culture was probably originated by a companion of Jesus in his travels.

This oral history was picked up by the disciples who as tradespeople of the time were probably also illiterate. At some point literate followers of the cults generated by Jesus were induced to write down the various oral histories, three of which were canonized along with John's commentary. The rest were destroyed, lost, or in the case of the Gnostics buried for posterity.

I have no problem extrapolating the Synoptics back to the original oral history and stripping the mnemonics and worship to get to the radical theistic humanism of Jesus.

What I get from the story is a humanistic and anti-religious message. Radical for its time and place. Certainly God is there but it is a personal not a male religious God. I find a strong feminine influence on the message. Admittedly a lot of soup from one oyster, but when the oyster is strongly and uniquely flavored, it may not be a useless soup. Even for an atheist.

The existence of a cult whose names and characters have been preserved in the stories argues strongly for the existence for a leader for that cult. People do not generally risk reputation and possibly their lives for a cobbled together philosophy or religion. Also crowds generally do not gather for panel discussions of religion or anything else. The cult had a spokesperson, Ockham's beloved razor says the spokesperson was Jesus and that he assembled and preached the stories that form the basis of his ministry.

The other very strong argument is that a contemporary religious charlatan needed a God like man as a marketing tool to be the savior for his followers who he had convinced were sinners in need of a savior. This charlatan hijacked the charisma and one of the miracles associated with Jesus as the basis for his savior Jesus, now Christ Jesus. The fact that his followers accepted the transfer of the charisma from Jesus to the Christ argues strongly that a popular preacher existed within their lifetimes who could believably be thought of as the Christ.

If you strip the obvious miracles, especially the resurrection, which Christians cannot do of course without destroying their faith, you find a charismatic itinerant preacher, who integrated a consistent message of radical humanism and independence from the god mediators, priests, and shamans. It was a theistic culture so it is not surprising that he would believe in God. The core of his message was to develop a personal relationship with God directly, no priests necessary or even desirable, and treat all humans as neighbors to be respected, aided when necessary even at considerable cost to yourself, and loved as one loves oneself....

Cults are not started by committees, which for me argues strongly that there was a historical person that was the basis for the Jesus cult for which there is some historical evidence, Paul's Christian Cult. for which there is ample historical support, the Gnostic cults, for which historical documentation has recently been discovered, and other cults rumored but for which no documentation exists.

But again, God was the dominant social paradigm at the time atheists and secularists really were non-existent. Even a personal God independent of any religion was radically humanist for the time. 
I see no religious establishment in the sayings of Jesus. He was in all sayings directly attributed to him giving religion back to the people. Jesus was using the prevailing paradigm of God to teach, but the focus was on being a better human being to and for other humans. In other words you learn from God how to be a better human.

I am not talking about The Lord Jesus of Nazareth I am talking about the human preacher Jesus, who was using God to teach his fellow humans humanity. I suspect he believed in his personal relationship to God and believed that his mission from God was to teach what he taught.

Certainly the radical theistic humanism of Jesus in the Synoptics before the passion has much to teach Christians and atheists alike. It is true some of the idealism is over the top, but none the less effective as an ideal if not a practical paradigm for living.

In some payoff scenarios turn the other cheek seems to be an extremely effective strategy in game theory known as tit-for two tats. Opponent defects once, cooperate. If opponent defects twice retaliate. Practically: If hesh smites the other cheek, kill herm.

There is a good reason that much of modern Christianity, the 'Progressive Christians' have for the most part reduced the entire law and the prophets, that is the whole Bible, to this teaching of Jesus. An atheist can learn simply by studying this and its context.

"Love thy neighbor As thyself." In those days as now religion made a good living selling self-hate. Jesus is clearly stating that all humans are worthy of self-respect. You can't get much more humanist than that. Theistic humanist? Of course theism was the language of the time."

I find the evidence for the existence of Jesus, the itinerant preacher and entertainer, persuasive. He would be a great televangelist today and as then he would refute all the Pauline garbage preached by the followers of his competitor in the religious leader industry."

What would Jesus do? If he were alive today would he have a television ministry based in a megachurch in Marin County? It sure wouldn't be in LaLa Land. Would he be regaling against the preachers of hate for your neighbors of the wrong religion, color, or sexual preference? Would he be successful?

Footnote the (2011) Wiki article of the same name was simply a ripoff of the name to simplify Jesusism which is what his article is about. But what do you expect from Wiki.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thinking about dying

There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew
that cultures decay, and life's end is death.
Robinson Jeffers The Purse-Seine, 1937

Charles Fiterman on facing death.
Beliefnet Discussions - Beliefnet.com: "I have bladder cancer and was given 6 to 18 months. I think I'm facing it fairly well. I ask daily what am I doing with my time that justifies the pain and expense and inconvenience to others of going on. When the answer becomes bad enough I will do the right thing." Written on 2/25/2005.

Charles died June 19, 2005 at The Palliative Care Center & Hospice of the North Shore, 2821 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201. Hospice care is not a death panel, it is a death option. It should be a basic right for all people.


As a youth with a lifetime ahead one has plenty of life to waste even if one is vaguely aware that death is somewhere ahead and final. So one wastes it discovering what is of transient value and what might be of more value to self and society. In midlife one is so busy with creating value for self, family and society that thoughts of the end of life seldom intrude.

Accepting the reality and finality of death, does not lead at all to fear of dying today or any day. When the time comes that the mind and body cannot maintain their integrity they will cease to function. In the mean time there are many things that a person needs to do to affect the society of which hesh is a part to make that society more human friendly. Some of those things will have lasting effects, some perhaps will have none, but all are important reasons for living today, and as long as one can affect others in the society.

After the creative torch is passed to children and/or the creative successors at work, 50 is as good an age as any, that the end of life becomes apparant and one reflects on the contributions one has made, and what still is left to be done to help those carrying on the legacy. Telling stories about life lessons learned is a common solution, either live if one is fortunate enough to have the successors nearby, or in writing if not. Self published books that may have surprising impact far beyond their intended audience of friends and family, or which languish on shelves. The value is in the creation, not the result.

I know of one atheist who is struggling to stay alive to finish volume IV of an immigrant's life story that is resonating with another immigrant from a different country in a different era. Worthless? Easing into death? I think not. But the pressure of impending death is powerful, and the work left to be done is reason enough not to go quietly into the night.

Death might well be described as a condition when affecting others is no longer possible. It is nothing to fear, if one has affected others properly they will carry on the task of making society a better place for humans, and life in the larger sense goes on, even though the no longer useful individual is not a part of it.

Today I can see people I have affected taking the society to places I cannot conceive, but which I approve of. Whether I die today or some day in the future I am content. But I am not finished affecting others in my society. So until the time comes when I can no longer do so I will continue to live my life so that it is worth dying for. Thanks, Forrest Church.

Just recently I passed some advice from my father, a great athlete, to his great grandson who will probably not be a great athlete but who is trying to learn a sport for fun. Maybe my grandson didn't even listen, but the time I spent with the memories of my father and the love I still gave and received from him makes his death merely a release from the pain of the cancer that took his life."

I would suggest that some people that are long dead are still creating meaning in the world today regardless of whether they ceased to exist at death or are entertaining God in Heaven. Homer, Socrates who influenced Plato through him the world, the human Jesus, Shakespeare, Monteverdi, Mozart, just to name a few. Even the apocryphal sweeper who was building a Cathedral, or the scribe that wrote Timothy. As Lincoln, Luscomb and many others have said "There is no end to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."

There is incredible meaning to today and every day if you know the kid (maybe your own) you rescue from the barrio may make it to the supreme court. It is true that some days are wasted, either through lack of opportunity, or laziness, but you never wake up planning for that when you know that the days left are limited.

I am not looking for immortality, that seems like emptiness forever to me. I would rather do what I can each day to affect my chosen society to make it better, more beautiful, and more liveable for all in it. Some days are better than others but the meaning is in the attempt.

As Edna St. Vincent Millay affirms;

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night.
But ah, my foes and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light.
"First Fig" from A Few Figs from Thistles

Possibly my favorite poem. How better to explain the value of a day in a finite life.

Accepting the finality of death does not mean courting it. It simply means that eventually it will happen, and that nothing will follow. I have found that atheists in general avoid risky thrill activities because they know that death is the end. I have many things to do in my life to continue and build on things I have already done. I am in no hurry to finish, but if death came tomorrow or today, I am content that what I have done is worth dying for.

An atheist would spend their last 24 hours if they are aware of the fact will spend the last day with friends and relatives giving and receiving love and thanks for all the joys and gifts received over the life of the dying person. This will be of great value to the atheist by making the end a wrap up of a long and meaningful life. Certainly there will be loose ends, but these will bequeathed in life rather than in some soulless will. I know this as a fact having experienced it twice. I know of but was not present at assisted suicides that were uniformly described as poignant but generally happy experiences for all.

"I have been to many atheist 'Celebrations of the Life Of .....' There is no mourning. Death is the bookend that says the person's active contribution is over, but those who knew and loved herm remember and celebrate all of the contributions the deceased has made to their lives and celebrate the Legacy of the deceased.

I have been to many Christian funerals, where mourners sing sad songs and hope against hope that somehow their prayers will help the dead avoid Hellfire and damnation. And also secretly hope that when they die they will also avoid Hellfire and damnation.

The 'High point' in a Requiem Mass is always the Dies Irae. The day of wrath and anger when the trumpets will sound and the dead will be judged. It is always scary music: Pay attention sinners! Get right with God or Hell awaits! Kind of fun to sing, but I wouldn't want to be a believer in that wrathful God. I particularly like the Tuba Mirum from the Berlioz Requiem The brass blares from the four corners of the hall "You are Damned" the chorus responds musically "I have hope?" The horns repeat, louder. "NO WAY." The chorus tries again. Again the horns deny. Finally the chorus gives up and joins the horns in the damning chord.

It is for this that we gather at the death of a friend? No, thank you! I much prefer the celebration of a friend's Legacy. To contemplate all those volumes on the bookshelf that we can remember at will and share with others when appropriate or necessary."

The world began the day that I was born
and on the day I die the world will end.
Between these dates there will have been
matters of great importance.
John Dobbs

I have no problem with the fact that the world began on the day that I was born. From my predecessors, alive and dead, I was left a rich legacy of a valuable space, filled with beautiful music and wonderful people. Many of of those wonderful people are dead, some long dead, but I can still appreciate their art and thinking from their legacies. Each day I look forward to the exciting challenge of incorporating as much as possible into my space. I eagerly do what I can to make the space even more valuable. Then, with as much love as possible I pass it on to those who will pay it forward.

...there is nothing I can leave
on the final date
but a legacy of urgencies.
John Dobbs

If I have lived my life well, and loved enough, there will be many around willing and able to deal with those urgencies."

With the kind permission of Bob and Louise Decormier, and with my greatest respect and love: I will end with a poem by Louise's Father from a collection of the same name. 

John Dobbs

I leave you this space
which I have occupied

now clean as a vacuum
to hold short sorrow,
and brief remembering.

There are no shards,
no broken statuary.
I had no idols.

The proud thoughts
and the humble things
remain unshattered.

I leave you this valuable
and useful