27 December 2006

On Buddhism, as a supposedly benign religion

  • Dec 27, 2006

On Buddhism, as a supposedly benign religion

Buddhism doesn't believe in a supreme creator God, and different sects believe different things, but there are (in some versions and texts) other worldly or other dimensional beings, be they Gods, angels, spirits, or whatever.
They also believe in literal Karma, of being re-born indefinitely.
It still involves meta-physics, and it still involves faith.


Buddhism specifically instructs its followers to refrain from "Sexual Misconduct" (although it does not specify what that means) and Buddhist monks and nuns are expected to remain celibate, just as Christian ones are.  Gender roles are determined and rigid.

Many westerners seem to have a view of Buddhism which would apply better to Taoism.
It is really more of a philosophy than a religion.

Personally, I find "spirituality" to be just as silly as religion.  It requires a denial of both the physical senses and common sense. I believe that the thought is basically complex emotion, emotion is complex instinct, instinct is complex stimulus-response, stimulus-response is complex biology, biology is complex chemistry, chemistry is complex physics… and that's all there is.
But if some people can experience a personal higher power, or interconnectedness, or whatever, maybe people feel a sign that the Book of Mormon is really true once they read it and pray.
The Mormons make a significant and deliberate point of saying that every individual should turn to God themselves and ask whether their teachings are true, they don't ask that you just believe what they tell you.

I think individuals of all religions are expected to not just believe, but to feel it is true from personal experience.  Just look at the practitioners "speaking in tongues".  And they say that everyone, given a life of goodness and faith, can achieve salvation, not just the Prophets.
You can find people who are intelligent, who think critically, within every religion, no matter how stupid.  That's the thing about faith.

19 December 2006

on so called "conspiracy theories"

·                     Dec 19, 2006

on so called "conspiracy theories"

The pain ray, and the video I saw, and the comments on it, and looking up the PNAC, and from there about the "conspiracy theories" surrounding 9/11/01, got me thinking about all that again.

Obviously there are some theories out there which are born of hear-say, conjecture, misinformation, and ignorance.
Others have not really been addressed in any serious way - and probably could not be.
The people who object to them, (Popular Mechanics, John McCain, 9/11myths.com) tend to point out the reasons why such and such could have physically happened the way the official version says it did, or why such and such theory is impossible.
They then also say something along the lines of it being both unscientific and and detrimental to America to suggest such things.
But how it happened is not the point, and never was.

16 December 2006

Two immigration articles in a week

·                     Dec 16, 2006

Two immigration articles in a week

The first was The Nation, which is strongly liberal, entirely political.
The article was pro-immigration.  Presumably the readership would be largely if not entirely liberal, yet the responses to the article, more than half of what was published, were negative.
That came as quite a surprise.
The second was Playboy, which is also consistently liberal, but which - for obvious reasons - has a more diverse readership.
It is too soon for anyone to have written in yet, but I know they will.

So, I wrote in to both.  I have had several short letters to the editors published in the past couple of months (PopSci about energy efficiency, PopMec about the efficiency of living in an RV, and possibly Sierra Club on BioDiesel - they said they would, but I never found it).
Kind of like this blog, except much shorter - and read by thousands of people!

So, anyway, here is, more or less, what I wrote:

13 December 2006


·                     Dec 13, 2006


Looking up an article for the "pain ray" (Military 'Active Denial System') which basically uses a radio frequency similar to microwaves to heat up the skin of nearby rioters or protesters (she wanted to know if it was real - it is) I came across a link to a BBC documentary on the simultaneous rise of the NeoCon and Islamic Fundamentalist movements.
They both were largely inspired by what they saw as the corruption of modern life in America, caused by the incorporation of liberal values throughout society.  For an muslim visiting America, this was represented by young people at a dance.
People were becoming "too selfish" which prevented them from focusing on what is really important - God, and the words which were written hundreds of years ago by a guy who claimed to be able to talk directly with God.
Interestingly, while they do mention the religious component of the neocons ideas, they never mention the economic components.
The Muslims at least are consistent, and in that have a sort of personal integrity, even if it is based on something utterly stupid.
For the conservative movement, christianity is only half the story.
They also want unlimited wealth for the wealthy.
This is what caused them to hate the USSR so much.  When they speak of "The American Way of Life" they want the listener to believe they talking about "family values" or "freedom" or something of the like, but what they really mean is capitalism.
By very definition, capitalism's goal is maxing it easy for someone who already has money to make more money with out working.
It is about earning interest on your capital, investing.
We make it seem like it should be taken for granted that people can earn interest through investments, but this concept is not universal.
Beyond the obvious case of communists, muslims are forbidden to earn interest on their money.  However, this is not just written in the Koran.  It is written in the Bible, (remember Islam and Christian and probably 95% exactly the same - they seem more different than that because christians choose to ignore the parts of the bible which aren't convenient)
The bible also says you must pay your workers daily, you must forgive all debts every 7 years, neither work nor allow employees to work on Sunday, in addition to not charging interest on borrowed money. (Slavery is ok, though)
So much for the country being based on "christian' values.  It is based on business, and pretty much always has been.

I am getting side-tracked

07 December 2006

In response to my last entry

·                     Dec 7, 2006

In response to my last entry

Thearticle in my last entry was written in 1932

74 years ago, and as accurate a portrayal of modern life today as it was then. 
Only the USSR he speaks of has fallen, adopting our system of "free market"
In the US production increases every year - an increase in per capita GDP of over 7 times, or almost 10% per year; yet work hours have been constant ever since - slightly increasing for most, decreasing for some, balancing out to an average of... exactly the same: slightly more than the 40 hour week which was made standard not long before the essay was written.
Since productivity has increased 7 fold, while hours have remained constant, presumably median real income (after accounting for inflation) would presumably have also increased 7 fold.
In actuality, median pay has increased around 2.1 times from 1948 to 2004 (earliest data I can find).
The one thing this otherwise excellent essay misses is that, while the land holding privileged class of royalty has been eliminated, they have been replaced indirectly by the societal acceptance of virtually unrestricted investment returns and inheritance.
Through them the primary owners and controllers of major corporations have taken the place of a class which does not have to do any real work but can instead charge ordinary people for the privilege of living and working on their land or in their companies.
It is much more their choice than the workers themselves that, for example, when the pin making machine is invented and production per person doubles, the work force is halved instead of individual hours.
It is to the advantage of the company - or, more specifically the owners and investors - who do no actual work but keep a percentage of the earnings - to have fewer people with more hours, as there is always a per person cost in taxes and benefits above the cost of wages.
With the introduction of the labor saving device, the employing company could choose to have all employees work half as often with the same total pay.  The employees are only given the choice of cut hours at reduced pay or 50% lay offs.  Given that, they prefer to retain the 8 hour day.  Were the company to continue to pay the same weekly rate for less hours (or double the hourly rate and halve the hours) it would not lose any money.  It would be exactly where it had been all along.  If it had been sustainably profitable before, it would continue to be.
However, the assumption in our society is that the company gets to reap the full benefit of the new invention.
Thus the increase in GDP over the years is primarily concentrated in the hands of those who need it least.
It is not actually true in most years that "the poor get poorer while the rich get richer"
A more accurate statement would be "the poor get slightly richer while the rich get much much richer", which is really just as bad.

06 December 2006

In Praise of Idleness

·                     Dec 6, 2006

In Praise of Idleness

By Bertrand Russell

"Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: 'Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.' Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. this traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain...."