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…
Anonymous on

 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 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?

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 - "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 meantime 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 apparent 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 whether they have surprising impact far beyond their intended audience of friends and family, or which languish on shelves to be discovered by a later generation are all important. 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, which 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 livable 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 was 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 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

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Believer's Brain

In a recent book The Believing Brain, Times Books, 2011 Michael Shermer makes a strong case that the human brain is necessarily a belief engine. His case is that pattern seeking and assigning agency to the patterns is a survival trait built in to the brain and that we believe first and think about it later, if ever. In my experience this is as true of atheists and skeptics (including Shermer) as it is for religious believers.

As many will testify dragging a belief, say about UFOs, out and trying to ask whether the belief is justified or not is extremely difficult for most people. Whether you are for 'em or ag'in 'em you just cannot decide that you just don't know. My experience is that most people can't be unsure on any belief based subject. Which is to say, if Shermer is right, on all subjects. It as if "I just don't know" doesn't have a home in the human brain. 

Even Shermer falls prey to this syndrome. He spends many pages debunking UFO's, ESP, God beliefs, political beliefs, etc. It seems his confirmation bias won't admit data that casts doubt on his skeptical belief system. Not at all unusual, and in effect his bias is proof of his thesis. I would not argue that any of these belief systems are true, but in many cases e.g. God and ESP, there is enough data to indicate "I don't know" is a reasonable position to take.

"That's right!" has many homes in the brain for decisions affecting beliefs. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is the center for rational evaluation of data is effectively shut down when first evaluating new data. The orbital frontal cortex the emotional center in the brain and the anterior cingulate cortex which is the conflict resolution center are both active. These centers essentially decide whether or not this data conflicts with my belief system.  Once a emotionally satisfying resolution of the conflict, that is to throw out the conflicting data, the reward mechanisms in the ventral striatum kick in. See P 260. for the experimental data. This makes a lot of sense, in the modern world "I don't know" gets in the way of many necessary decisions. Which stock to buy, which way to bet on a business decision, etc, as they say, it is better to go with the gut, i.e. the belief systems in the brain, and just do it.

The escape hatch for this belief reinforcement is the scientific method, which is the way we can after the fact check on our belief systems. But as Shermer points out even scientists have beliefs which shape their protocols, and may in fact be testing only things that reinforce their beliefs. Shermer ends with the belief that "The truth is out there, and although it may be difficult to find, science is the best tool we have for uncovering it."

One of the reasons I enjoyed the book is that he makes a hard scientific case, which is materialistic and rational, for woo-woo. Maybe I am belief disabled, or I had the wrong upbringing and went to the wrong school, but I have never been able to understand how extremely intelligent and rational people can believe weird things. I think I understand it better now, but I am still an outsider looking in.

Whether you are a believer, skeptic, or that rare breed I call "acred" who agree with Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love (Robert A. Heinlein, 1973) that "belief gets in the way of learning," you will find this book extremely helpful in dealing with believers of any persuasion. It seems the "La, la, la, I can't hear you" is a built in function of most human brains. According to Shermer it is an evolved necessary brain function for dealing with decisions under uncertainty. As my world class athlete father would frequently state: "Don't think, you weaken the ball club." A fascinating and apparently nearly ubiquitous attitude. Shermer's insight provides a useful tool for understanding all those morons that don't agree with you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

21st Century Sexuality

 God is losing the Kinder, K├╝che, Kirche battle, and female believers as well. Although some women will chose (be indoctrinated into) this path, the best and the brightest will leave the religious gene pool. The other nail in the religious coffin is female contraception. If you can't keep them barefoot and pregnant, why on earth would they want to go to church and listen to all that sexist garbage. There is an enviable trend in many denominations to women clergy, who perhaps recognize the social and community attraction of churches for women, and are downplaying the misogynic traditional theology of the Abrahamic traditions.

 The thing that religions generally do not want to recognize is that reproduction in humans is not just popping a litter out and seeing who survives. Reproduction in humans is a long term investment if the zygote is going to get to puberty. One of the main evolutionary purposes of pleasure in sex and the evolutionary reason for the hidden estrus in humans is that the pair bond is essential for reproductive success, which is getting reproducing offspring into the world.

  Technological solutions have insured that for practical purposes all pregnancies will result in a pubescent human for those that can afford the technology and many that can't. Historical fecundity limiters of maternal and child mortality have been eliminated by technology, so it is reasonable that technology should provide the solutions for fecundity limitation to sustainable limits.

 Women have solved this problem with contraception. If a man is going to have progeny the equation has changed radically. He can rape all the sterile women he wants to, or if you prefer make love to them, but he might as well as stay home with Rosy Palm for all of the progeny he is going to get. Before the contraceptive is going to disappear he is going to have to convince the woman that he is the best father she is going to find.  Or should I say co-parent as the lesbian pair bond is a viable parenting option with the sperm donation arranged in a variety of ways.

 Think of it as evolution in action.

 In defining what constitutes gender roles I suspect I am an apostate to the traditional males, although thoroughly and happily heterosexual. I am much more interested in relationships than sex, and partnerships rather than dominance. When I had growing children I did more than my share of parenting since my partner had the more demanding career and I had no problem with playing the male MBA privilege card when necessary to change jobs and careers to accommodate parenting.

  Probably because I make a point of noticing them, I see more males adopting this relationship model rather than the traditional patriarchal rape model. If this is effeminate so be it. I don't think so. I think it is simply not being a prick. That is one who is driven by testosterone to spread genes as far and wide as possible whether or not it will do any good. I see the testosterone driven model waning at least among the educated elite, but perhaps that is wishful thinking and I am only noticing the minority that isn't growing at all. I hope not, as I think this is the only way a modern society can survive. Relegating half the society's brain power to the bedroom is not going to work.

 Sexual responsibility involves radical respect for one's partner. That means no sex until both partners think it is a good idea. It means preventing pregnancy until again both partners think they are ready for the responsibility of raising children financially, emotionally, and with the social support including medical that constitutes responsible parenting. Preventing the possible transmission of STD's is usually not an issue if both partners have the same ideas about responsible sexuality. But if one has had irresponsible sex in the past that may be a consideration until medical testing confirms freedom from STDs.

 Responsible sexuality normally results in monogamy long before the monogamy is blessed by some church, but if the bond fails, as occasionally happens in spite of sexual bonding, it will happen early and before children are involved. Then the result will be serial monogamy usually on the second try.

 I was never indoctrinated that my sexual impulses were bad or 'dirty.' I was, however, strongly indoctrinated that if the Girl Scout was not similarly inclined (Hat tip to Tom Lehrer) or I was not prepared and ready to accept the consequences of my instinctual action, I had better cause her to cry and walk out the door, or cause myself to say 'Oh, shit. Oh well, there will be another who will be similarly inclined.'"

 All of which have happened to me. As well as similar situations where we were both willing and eager, but not ready for the expected consequences. In one case purely psychological consequences. As a normal heterosexual male, in normal heterosexual social activities, I have had all the usual opportunities, and temptations, but in general according to my standards I behaved morally rather than instinctively. I have no regrets about missed opportunities. I think I chose wisely to miss them. But it was not denying my dark side. It was controlling my life.

 Will it work for everybody? Of course not, but it works a lot better than denying the pair bonding efficacy of long term sexuality. And it works a lot better than trying to deny the stiffie. It seems that not even priests can do that reliably. As my favorite T-shirt says: Got a stiffie wear a Jiffy (brand condom.) The stiffie will win every time particularly if she or in some cases he is interested. It is called being mammalian.

 Personal responsibility may or may not include abstinence, monogamy, marriage, masturbation, porn, sex toys, sex workers, homosexuality, and sundry other things the churches deplore for everybody but the preachers. It does include radical respect for a partner, a partner capable of informed consent, and acceptance of responsibility for anything that is the result of the sex including STDs, psychological problems, and conception.

  I strongly advocate deferring first pregnancies to the last few years of education, but I am enough of a realist to know that changing instinctive behaviors is not going to work. Every person over the age of 8 should know the benefits and possible risks of all forms of contraception singly and in combination, the Pope be damned. Teens will have sex. This is a given. Very few of them male or female want the responsibility of pregnancy or abortion and will take the necessary steps to prevent it until they are ready for the responsibility of parenting. None of them will "Just say no"

 A huge change and I see it in the teens I know well is the complete separation of sexuality and reproduction. Teens of the appropriate age are doing the teen thing just like their remote ancestors did. The difference is that they know how to prevent conception and if relevant STD's and are deferring reproduction until much later. This is a mind-boggling change in attitude toward both sexuality and reproduction. At least for those of us who grew up with much different sexual morality and iffy contraception. My guess is that for those inclined that way late college and grad school will be breeding time for the females. Perhaps with older men who are already out working and established. Although many of the teens are bonding with people their own age and deferring children until an appropriate time. I can certainly understand that particularly with grad schools supporting married couples adequately if not comfortably.

 It started in the mid 20th centuryand with safe, effective female controlled contraceptives. Once the female can truthfully say "Go ahead fucker, it won't do any good," although the .32 or three fingers up into the solar plexus will have the same effect, the mating dance changes considerably and will be the death of paternalism and misogyny. It doesn't make any difference if God says do it, or force says do it, if the man wants progeny, he will have to convince her to stop the contraception. "God says do it" will retain power over those properly conditioned to accept God's word. But even back in my childhood, there were a bunch of "unlucky" Catholic families with 2 or 3 children. It was probably a coincidence that the woman was intelligent, educated, and employed.

 There will probably still be women that will choose to be sex toys and probably even have children by the rich and famous, recent news events prove that, and it is a viable reproduction strategy. The rich and famous probably have useful genes, or at least genes useful to the current culture. Prenuptials and paternity suits take care of the financial support issues whether or not the rich and famous guy is a father or simply a prick. The few that choose this route will make very little difference, those that aren't rich and famous are going to have to find the sex workers or the Rosy Palms, or make themselves desirable husbands and fathers.

 Since the domestication of animals and crop plants in the early Holocene, It seems to me that genetics and evolution has been reduced to "Whatever the smart ape wants." If I am right that we are seeing the domestication of the human male, it might reduce to whatever the female smart ape wants.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ring Speciation

 It is clear to me that there is a ring speciation going on where educated rational people (ERSSG) are at one side of the ring and belief based generally undereducated people (UFSSG) are at the other. In between are the educated believers (EFSSG) who may do well in technical and even science that does not require critical and rational thinking. Other parts of the ring include educated secular (ESSSG) where the SSGs like spectator sports and even some business organizations. Thinking and analysis is discouraged in favor of fitting into the group ethos. Educational achievement is quite varied in this group, but is of less value than knowledge of the details and social values of the chosen SSG.

 The speciation is due to mating habits. ERSSG couples breed late and selection is on willingness of the male to share parenting among other things. The women will generally choose the second to last year of academia for the first child. Mid to late 20's for most. The third year of med school is known as the breeding year for female med students. Marriage optional although the man is generally securely pair bonded. The woman's choice to eliminate the contraceptive is the key to breaking into this species.

 The UFSSG part of the ring is the traditional male dominated, male choice paradigm, with marriage and then first child at the end of high school for the woman. The man is typically a few years older, and established in whatever job he is building a career in. The couple formed in high school or church, and the assumption is that the female will drop out of education and work at child raising at least for the early years for the first children, although this typically stretches out with volunteer and church related activities. Typically the main SSG is the church and the ethos is belief and conforming to the church community. Education is generally a low priority, and in many cases actively opposed where it might interfere with the faith. When this works it works well, and provides the basis for many successful religious communities. The downside is that statistics show that stability of the pair bond is weak, as the male domination and role separation encourage straying by the man and subsequent failure of the family unit typically while the children are still young.

 The EFSSG in the ring is a traditional corporate career path where education is encouraged and rewarded but loyalty and "belief" in the organization is expected. The ethos is still male dominated, with women in the supporting and child care role. Marriage is generally later with the women getting their Mrs. in college while the men prepare for their corporate careers. Education is generally practical and directed with little emphasis on the thought provoking subjects. Graduate work if any is similarly practical and directed with the aim of corporate style research although that may be in a university environment. But the concept of traditional family style with the woman as social support for the man and in charge of home economics, child care and socialization. Outside work for the woman will typically focus on volunteer activities, possibly church related but usually secular. Typically for the EFSSG the ethos is for a stable family.

 Another connector is the relatively undereducated non faith oriented USSSG. In this group ad hoc social groups are common frequently revolving around spectator events, and in the worst case TV and talk radio groupies. Breeding habits in this group are casual social encounters usually in bars, or popular music concerts, etc. Hook-ups for sex and/or pair bonding are the norm. The pair bonds may be lasting but generally are temporary. Children are the responsibility of the woman with or without the support of the fucker. There is little movement to the ERSSG, but there is some movement between the other SSGs.

 The ends of the ring are breeding couples only. Evolution doesn't "care" about non breeders. Some will opt out of the breeding cycle although not of sexuality depending on contraception to prevent undesired progeny. Certainly there is a lot of room in the middle of the ring for many variations on the theme. A common mix of education for the men and traditional role for women involves usually a major age difference with the male breeding at the completion of the educational phase and selecting younger women from the church as parent. The man will continue in the traditional role of provider for the family and the woman and church will do the parenting and socialization.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Responsible Sexuality with Contraceptives

- Beliefnet

I STILL just hafta note, however, that a Guy who keeps his Willie in his Pants ISN'T called "Daddy" and DOESN'T contract an STD

I don't normally include quotes on this blog but the above statement seems to be the dominant paradigm in the US today. Paternalistic as is all Christian based morality which seems to revel in sin and its consequences here and in the afterlife. As if any horny male teen particularly at a alcohol lubricated celebration of anything, is going to be able to do so. And if the available female isn't enthusiastic, rape will frequently be the option. This is the reality of post pubescent mammalian male behavior.

Virginity by college age is quite unnatural, in the sense of contrary to natural mammalian instincts. Teens by and large will have sex, and responsible sexuality means not being called daddy and not being a carrier of STDs whether or not the underwear stays in place. Even with the best of intentions it sometimes doesn't. This means at a minimum that the male considers a fresh condom a necessary component of a wallet. The female should have one in her purse and know how to put it on (with her teeth in the foreplay) whether the male wants it or not. A female contraceptive of choice should be as much a part of preparing for a date as makeup. Once these preparations are completed the guy can keep his willy in his pants and the gal can just say no and everyone including God is happy. If by chance an accident happens it won't as the old saying goes "cause people."

The program of abstinence until the first rape blessed by the Church results in broken lives, broken families, and STDs when people fail because of their natural instincts which Christians call sin. The problem here is that I do not buy into Paul's idea of sexual responsibility from 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. Paraphrasing a bit: Since I am an ugly misanthrope who isn't getting any, nobody else is going to get any either, and if they take the marriage route they better not enjoy that.

Many Catholic young women in my high school many years ago were sexually active and were desirable partners because the tinge of sinfulness added excitement. But the Florence Crittenton home down the street made them early believers in teaching their partners the no condom no sex rule. They made sure it was used properly. Florence Crittenton services were where sinners rejected by their church could hide out until the baby was born, and prepared for the nunnery, as they were "used goods" and unacceptable to any good Catholic man as a wife.

I am not anti-Catholic. In everything but sexuality I find the Catholic faith to be useful and beneficial to its parishioners. I do however blame the Pope and his whole sexually dysfunctional dogma that is the cause of all that is wrong with the RCC. But the Catholics that benefit from it by and large ignore the sexuality dogma. Not just the no condom part, the whole no sexuality part.

For me sexual responsibility involves radical respect for one's partner. That means no sex until both partners think it is a good idea. It means preventing pregnancy until both partners think they are ready for the responsibility of raising children financially, emotionally, and with the social support including medical that constitutes responsible parenting. Preventing the possible transmission of STD's is usually not an issue if both partners have the same ideas about responsible sexuality. But if one has had irresponsible sex in the past that may be a consideration until medical testing confirms freedom from STDs.

I was never indoctrinated that my sexual impulses were bad or 'dirty.' I was, however, strongly indoctrinated that if the Girl Scout was not similarly inclined or I was not prepared and ready to accept the consequences of my instinctual action, I had better cause her to cry and walk out the door, or cause myself to say 'Oh, shit. Oh well, there will be another who will be similarly inclined.'"

All of which have happened to me. As well as similar situations where we were both willing and eager, but not ready for the expected consequences. In one case purely psychological consequences. As a normal heterosexual male, in normal heterosexual social activities, I have had all the usual opportunities, and temptations, but in general according to my standards I behaved morally rather than instinctively. I have no regrets about missed opportunities, I think I chose wisely to miss them.

Having been around the horn (pun intended) several times in several relationships with and without the intent for progeny, the decision to try for a child by a loving couple inevitably changes a relationship by changing the focus from each other as people and partners to the planned family with all the extra responsibilities and commitment that a family entails. With all of the other pair bonding activities available to a couple that are mutually gratifying and intimate there seems to be a case to be made for reserving that ultimate bonding act intended by nature for the welfare of the continuation of the species for the time when the couple is ready, willing and able to do so. Certainly "taking off the rubber" changes things, but in my opinion and experience not really enough.

I understand the argument from pair bonded teens that are deferring parenting for many years that the sexuality is important to holding the bond together and in a sense permitting the deferral of parenting until they are ready financially, and educationally to take on that responsibility. Particularly when many of their peers are pair bonded, sexually active and parents. This normally results in monogamy long before the monogamy is blessed by some church, but if the bond fails, as occasionally happens in spite of sexual bonding, it will happen early and before children are involved. Then the result will be serial monogamy usually on the second try.

Contraceptive sexuality works a lot better than trying to deny the stiffie. It seems that not even priests can do that reliably. As my favorite T-shirt says: Got a stiffie wear a Jiffy (brand condom.) The stiffie will win every time particularly if she or in some cases he is interested. It is called being mammalian.

Will it work for everybody? Of course not, but it works a lot better than deferring sex until blessed by church or state in marriage. It might have made sense when pubescent females were sold off to the highest bidder. The pair bonding of sexuality was useful in keeping the family unit intact and keeping dad amused between procreation opportunities. And may still be useful in the societies where marriage and high school graduation are the norm at least for the women.

Personal responsibility may or may not include abstinence, monogamy, marriage, masturbation, porn, sex toys, prostitutes, homosexuality, and sundry other things the churches deplore for everybody but the preachers.

It does include radical respect for a partner, a partner capable of informed consent, and acceptance of responsibility for anything that is the result of the sex including STDs, psychological problems, and conception.

Pair bonded parents provide the most stable platform for child raising, particularly when both parents are committed to the child raising process. The dad provider, mom caregiver paradigm is a holdover from the patriarchal religious past, and provides an unbalanced role image for the children. Far better is two parents sharing the providing and the nurturing.

Adultery is a different issue. There are many workable forms of parenting. And to a greater extent marriage without the intent of children. Consensual open marriages. Open mistresses and concubines with the knowledge if not the blessing of the wife isn't even a biblical sin. About the only moral issue is the ability and willingness to provide proper support to the mother of any resulting children.

Adultery without spousal consent is certainly a moral issue, but with contraception and STD prevention it is probably one of the most common moral failings around. Religious or secular. And if you factor in serial monogamy as a moral failing, which I do especially with children involved, statistics are ugly for religious and secular alike, something like 30% for religious couples and 20% secular."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Conversation with a Theist.

The 'existence' of gods - Beliefnet

You might consider God as a way to rebel against the idea that we are just mindless organisms whose only thought is to build wealth and reproduce.

Since I never bought into this religious concept I have no need to rebel. Reproduction and wealth are results not goals of living. I inherited an active and intelligent mind to think with, and I was encouraged to use it effectively to improve the welfare of my chosen society, beginning with family of course, but extending in ever expanding circles to include all those with similar goals. Some of the things I did created wealth, or at least enough to provide for my family, and in the course of events I found another person with an active intelligent mind to share the adventure of trying to produce and care for a couple of more people with active, intelligent educated minds.

Frankly God would have been a distraction all along the way that I never found a need for.
How do we get to connect with whatever this "something" is? What makes us uniquely human? Secular responses might be developing a connection to community, seeing beyond ourselves to put others first, or expressions of our creativity in our art, music etc. Interestingly, this is exactly what belief in God facilitates... seeing beyond yourself, community, and creativity. Belief provides a construct -- a organizational framework and common language -- to examine and express this "something else" and reject the utilitarian version of reality.
Sorry, I am missing something here. I have no problems at all connecting to my chosen society, and putting that society as primary, I frankly do not see how God does anything but divide society into little belief pools, that frankly can't see beyond the doors of the church. And when they do get beyond those doors they seem to want to drag others behind those doors.

My society is limited to those who can think about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are doing it for. There is nothing necessarily utilitarian about this society, and therefore nothing that I need the help of God to reject. In fact it is the rejecting part of God that gives me the biggest problems. Why do I need God to reject anything. If it is worth while and beneficial to the society it will be obvious to all reasonable members of the society, if not no one will pursue it.

But, if you've never come home at 3 AM after a long day and thought "what's the purpose of all of this?" then I think you've escaped something most people feel from time to time.
I would suggest if you have then your God has failed you. That is, not kept you out of something that perhaps you shouldn't have been in. I have pulled my share of late nights, some of which I will admit were lessons in what not to do. But the purpose was clear: Don't do this again, idiot!" And if somebody was hurt, I had to drag myself out of bed to do what I could to repair the damage. Sometimes the purpose of life is cleaning up the mess. I have yet to find a God that was much good at cleaning up messes.

I respect those Christians who can think and explain what they believe, what they are doing and why.

So do I. They fit very well into the thoughtful, purposeful society that I consider my own. In fact one of my favorite excuses for arriving home at 3am is having been arguing with a Jesuit, or a Jew about God. The purpose being that we all know more about God.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Educated, Rational Tribalism

 I like to think of my society as a tribe of educated, usually university educated, rational people an ERSSG. It is by nature diffuse and intimately mixed in with those that are not rational or whose education has been curtailed short of their capability. Education as the tribe views it includes training in critical and rational thought at all levels. The level of achievement is less important than the ability to make rational judgments about important life choices.

 It is my observation that this society does have many tribal characteristics that may separate it from the rest of the world as effectively as a stockade. In this post I will be exploring some of the characteristics of this tribe that clearly differentiate it from other tribes, particularly tribes based on religion, politics, and industry. Like any tribe it has well defined mores, values, and traditions. I will be exploring some of them in this post.

 It is important that absolute performance is not as important as reaching a level of competence available to the child. One of my favorite quotes is "We can't all be first violins in the orchestra, some of us got to push wind through the tuba." Apparently from E.E. "Doc" Smith. An early leader of the tribe. It is significant that one parental unit in the tribe never told a Downs Syndrome child that he was limited or different from the others in his school. They celebrated his mediocre grades and his athletic achievements and he ended up as a highly productive member of the tribe.

 Originally intelligent was part of the designation of the tribe, but since absolute levels are not as important to the tribe as good education to whatever level the person is capable of achieving, educated seems more apt. If a person is using the intelligence they have rationally and effectively to improve the welfare of the tribe all is good. The separation from the believers is not so much intelligence but how that intelligence is used.

 I was at Davies Symphony Hall last night sitting in the cheap seats next to a family obviously out of place in the setting. Chit-chat quickly revealed that the youngest daughter was in town for a master class with the musician on stage. The family was obviously uncomfortable with the fact that ":She really likes classical music:" but were determined to give her a chance to follow her muse. They were probably putting a fair dent in the family budget to do so to provide lessons with a world class musician in the rural city. Kudos to that world class musician who was "also an attorney" for carrying the rational educated tribal values to the hinterland.

 What got me thinking about ring speciation was a comment by several women medical students that the 3rd year of Medical School was the baby year. There was even pressure on a philosophical non-breeder I know of to get pregnant. Other female academic achievers generally plan on the first baby in their second to last year of their planned scholastic career. While advanced academics and atheism tend to go together, there are many men and women active in the campus churches, who fit into the late parenting end of the Ring.

 The ring is driven by the acceptance of women as productive contributors to the intellectual and economic segments of the society. They are no longer viewed as breeding stock and property of men. One of the reasons I identify the other end of the ring as religious, is that the Abrahamic traditions, tend to strongly reinforce the status of women in the society as the property of and subject to the men, their fathers prior to puberty and their husbands, defined as the man who took her virginity. Many of the Abrahamic traditions have involved sexual rules designed to insure the position of women as breeding stock.

  At the late breeding end of the ring, generally the women are the choosers. Sexual rituals are designed around building the parenting pair bond enabled by female control of contraception. Loss of virginity is largely incidental and no longer the equivalent of betrothal. Sexuality is just part of the dance of long term mate selection, although it seems that casual sex among the late breeding end of the ring is uncommon, as sex is viewed as a relationship building activity by both the men and the women. Biology still rules, but sexual partners are chosen by those aspiring to advanced education with longer term goals in mind than simply satisfying biological drives although those drives still encourage early mate selection although the breeding will be deferred by consent of both parties.

 The negotiation involved in removing the contraceptive is complex, involving child care issues, career support, and generally recognition of the fact that a male's career is generally more flexible than that of the female. I speak largely from experience here; three times I had to play the male MBA card to change careers to accommodate the inflexible career path of my co-parent. I am also seeing more males deferring career building for parenting either in the sense of limiting hours and travel at the cost of career advancement to outright deferral of employment for the child care role. Please note that dissertation completion, is quite compatible with primary parenting and is not viewed by the larger advanced educated society as a career interruption for either gender.

 As you look at the median age of first child for couples with advanced degrees, it is mid to late 20's for the women and much the same for the men. Compare this with the believers, defined in this context as people who adhere to the dogma of their church or mosque with little questioning who generally are parents in their late teens at the latest. Particularly the females have no interest in advanced education unless they didn't get their Mrs. in high school. The men may well go on to advanced education, with mom tagging along but as mom will be using the church as support, the man will be tied there as well. Even well into graduation and career.
The assumption is that the woman will be an economically productive part of the parenting pair and the man will be at least an equal partner in the parenting duties. Current realities in job mobility generally result in the man changing jobs and even careers in support of the woman even stopping out as necessary for parenting emergencies. This is all part of the negotiation that results in the female agreeing to remove the contraceptive.

 Neither the man nor the woman will necessarily be celibate prior to the choice to pair up for breeding, although typically the pairing will have occurred long before the breeding is planned. The pair bonding may well be reinforced by contraceptive sex, with or without the benefit of marriage according to the preferences of the pair. In general any teen dalliances will be carefully contraceptive and usually prophylactic. But generally these are rare as part of the preparation for pairing is intense educational and frequently arts and/or athletic achievement to the ability level of the partners generally precluding the intensive party scene. Intelligence is obviously a selection criterion, but effective utilization of available intelligence is respected as well. In rare cases even a challenged person can fit into the group.

 A fundamental value of the tribe is creating a rich learning environment for all children, with intense encouragement, OK, pushing, from the caregivers to make the most out of whatever talents the child demonstrates. One may argue about the "Tiger Mom" (or dad) approach, but the argument is tactical. The strategic goal of full realization of all capabilities of the child is unquestioned. Caregivers will be brutal to all instructors to insure the best possible learning environment is provided for all of the children of the tribe. Schools and instructors will be selected for their ability to provide that learning environment. Other than simply looking at school district real estate values, a quick visit to a PTA meeting will be useful in selecting a school. The caregivers will outnumber the teachers, and will insist on finding out what resources are needed and ways of providing them. An activity club will be evaluated on how fast children move through the levels as well as the skills demonstrated at the elite level.

 Child raising and socialization is a joint activity with heavy use of professional child care made possible by the dual incomes of the parents. It is taken for granted that prior to school age the professional aim of the parents will be career building rather than wealth building as child care costs are high. The investment in the children is a given in the ethos of the species as it is expected that children will be high achievers as the parents are.

 Some members of the ERSSG choose not to breed but support the overall welfare of the group in their contribution to the intellectual advancement and overall welfare of the ERSSG through their employment and social activities. Although a mid-life change of mind is common, with a partner from one of the adjacent groups frequently with children chosen to complete the pair. But the partner may have been a misfit in the adjacent group, explaining both the choice to leave the group and the aspiration for the ERSSG.

 But even with no kids, not common, the status of the pair bond will be of equals regardless of who is the breadwinner in the sense of more income.

 TV, games, and popular entertainment activities are generally ignored in favor of networking intensive dinner and a show with friends or associates. Ballroom dancing, renaissance fairs, and community theater and music are common investments of limited free time.