SocraticGadfly: 8/9/15 - 8/16/15

August 15, 2015

Why aren't "we" Mardukites or Baalists instead of Jews or Christians?

I'm none of the four, of course, but, per this post from his new blog by philosopher friend Dan Kaufman, it's a legitimate question.

Here's an edited version of my comment on there to both Dan and Peter Smith, a former secularist now Catholic, who, after his conversion has become quite ardent in his Catholicism. As you can see on this blog post, his ardency is against Protestants, as well as against atheists, all of whom he has repeatedly stereotyped on Massimo Pigliucci's Scientia Salon as New Atheists. (As a sidebar, to be honest, I question Massimo using him as an editor for book reviews, because of this and other things, but, it's Massimo's place, not mine.)

Dan asked, rhetorically, what justification was there for Christianity if one got rid of (western) Christianity's idea of original sin, and the need for a substitutory atonement for that by a "divine man."

First, the Eastern Orthodox tradition disagrees with both Catholicism and Protestantism, and doesn't believe in original sin the way either of them do, because it rejects Augustine on this issue. It does believe, though, in an idea of "ancestral sin."

That said, as I told Dan in a follow-up, one can reject original sin, and even Orthodoxy's idea of ancestral guilt, and still see the need for Jesus, if one believes in the need for sacrificial expiation. One simply believes that Temple sacrifices, or the scapegoat of Leviticus, weren't enough.

That gets to the big issue: Supersessionism. Starting with Paul in the book of Romans, then amplified more after the Bar Kochba revolt in the second century CE, and culminating after the legalization, then establishment of Christianity, the idea is that Christianity essentially replaced Judaism, a new covenant, or new testament. Some evangelicals today try to soft-pedal that, especially many who like waving the "Judeo-Christian" fig leaf in the US that Dan rightly decries, claiming Israel is our best ally, etc., all while looking for that magical red heifer.

I, as part of my journey to secularism, of course rejected original sin, even before completing that journey. I also rejected the idea that a god would be so angry that he'd kill his own son, who later Christian theologians say is part of himself, for a sacrifice for original sin, let alone just for actual original sin.

Of course, many more liberal Christians don't stop to ask Dan's (and my) rhetorical question about "Why Jesus."

That said, this is part of why I didn't stop at liberal versions of Christianity when moving away from the conservative wing of Lutheranism.

As for Peter ... even if he  and other more modern, theoretically more modern Xns, interpret Genesis that way, Paul did not. Aquinas did not. Augustine did not. So, per Dan:
A. Why is your version correct?
B. If it is correct, why is something more "liberal" than it, like Geza Vermes' Jesus as Jewish faith healer (or Crossan's Jesus as Jewish Cynic) not even more correct yet?

That said, as a former Protestant, I can wrong-foot Catholics on issues of narrow selectivity. I won't go into details, speaking of mountains of writing, but I can. (This is a bit off topic, but Peter explicitly used the phrase "narrow selectivity" for Protestants. On things like an unmarried priesthood, an all-male priesthood, and claiming that birth control kills life, no, Peter, your church has plenty of narrow selectivity.)

But, back to my header, and a rhetorical question of my own.

That said, since the B'reshit (Genesis) story itself comes from earlier myth, why Judaism, Dan?

Why aren't we all Mardukites, per Enuma Elish, or whatever term you would use? Per the Elijah cycle of stories in 1 Kings, Ba'alism might be better term yet.

Dan puts it off, saying that he is a non-proselytizer.

The reality, though, is that Judaism, via its pre-Ezra Israelitism roots, was also supersessionist. (It's only proper, academically, to use "Judaism" to talk about the religion after Judahites from the "southern kingdom" returned from their exile in Babylon, and Ezra knocked four strands of writing and tradition, plus editing, into the five books of the Torah.) Israelite religion replaced a polytheism of sorts of the Canaanites with first a henotheism (arguably Ba'alism was the same), then a monotheism, mainly in the southern kingdom of Judah. (I'm not getting into a discussion of some historical details, such as whether David and Solomon existed or not, and how much land any putative united kingdom controlled.)

As many a "good" secularist — especially of New Atheist stripe — knows, with the Amalekites, Israelitism even had its own small-h holocaust. (Should we small-h it?)

It's very arguable that Israelitism is supersessionist, and that it presented itself as such. I mean, that's the whole theme, the whole core theme, of the entire Elijah cycle, at least as edited today. Per my reply to his comment, is this exactly the same as Christian supersessionism? No. Is it entirely different? Also, no.

I'm not here to proselytize Dan out of his modern liberal secular Judaism. However, I do invite him, and others, to look at its own history of supersessionism. That plus a bit of luck against the decaying, semi-collapsing empire of Antiochus IV, i.e., Antiochus Epiphanes, still echo around the Middle East today.

Beyond that, his Judaism is too narrow. Yes, he's a professional philosopher and I'm not, but I once was on track to being a professional theologian and he wasn't.

First, Judaism of the era of Jesus can't be limited to the Tanakh. On the one hand, you have the Sadducees, who accepted only the Torah, not the whole Tanakh. On the other, you have the folks at Qumran, accepting all sorts of extrabiblical literature, a fair chunk of which at least somewhat parallels later Xn beliefs.

As for the idea that Christians "misquote," many people still assume the text of the Tanakh was more static at this time than in actuality. Fair parts of Joshua and Judges, and smaller parts of 1-IV Kingdoms (1-2 Samuel/1-2 Kings) are different in Qumran texts, or other non-Masoretic ones, by a non-insignificant degree, than in the Masoretic version. The Septuagint of Jeremiah is 1/8 shorter than the Masoretic version, and in drastically different order. (It's a different order that reflects the normal order of other prophetic books, though.) And, that too is partially reflected at Qumran. The text of other books, cited in targums at Qumran, also differs from the Masoretic text.

These last two issues get to a bigger point. Judaism of circa 0 BCE/0 CE was far more varied and dynamic than something we might call "proto-rabbinic Judaism."

Meanwhile, back to supersessionism.

Religions have long claimed to be replacing others. Arguably, Protestantism, within Christianity, has a supersessionist angle toward Catholicism. Atheism of the Gnu Atheism stripe has the same toward religion in general.

As for Peter, beyond his thinking that Catholicism's shit doesn't stink, compared to Protestantism, and that all atheists are New Atheists? He seems to think that Christianity has unique moral insights.

Well, no.

The Torah scribe cited Leviticus 19:18, "Love your neighbor as yourself," as one half of the fulfillment of the Torah. Jesus, of course, responded with the story of the Good Samaritan, which seems to have its general ideas translate today, though some details are still problematic and situational.


Yahweh himself showed Jonah that Ninevites, and by extension, Assyrians in general, were his neighbors.

As for the Golden Rule? The so-called Silver Rule, that says, "Do NOT do to your neighbor what you do NOT want done to yourself," is both morally superior in that it doesn't presume to know what's best for our neighbor, and is older.

Within Judaism, Hillel uttered it a century before Jesus. Beyond Judaism, Confucius said it 400 years before Hillel.

This is nothing personal against Peter. It's just that he is a known example of an enthusiastic convert to a non-fundamentalist type of Christianity who thinks he has all the bases covered. (That said, Peter never responded to any of my comments over there. I'm not at all shocked.)

Ditto, my noting that Israelitism is supersessionist is nothing personal against Dan. Jews theologically liberal (or nonobservant), moderate, and conservative alike abound who likely have never even thought about this.

Nor is this personal against New Atheists, who are also, of course, supersessionist and often vocally so.

August 14, 2015

Millennials, stereotypes and reality

OK, Millennials are supposed to be both the most entrepreneurial generation AND the most plugged-in generation ever. But, how true is that, really? Maybe it’s just true of a subset … like a subset that has gone to college while being watched over by the ever-loving arms of helicopter moms, to indulge in another stereotype.

Let me give you an anecdotal counter-example When I was picking up my U-Haul for my move two weeks ago Friday, July 31, a guy came in with a woman I’ll presume was his girlfriend. Just walked in and wanted to know what vehicle he could get to rent. Specifically, was looking for a small van plus a trailer or something.

The clerk waiting on him said he had nothing until Saturday morning. Noted that Friday was the 31st, the end of a month, and a lot of people were moving. Add in that the end of the month was on a weekend, and, I got lucky, after getting a bit of a curveball, to get what I needed, albeit later in the day than I had first desired. But, here’s a Millennial, who probably has Internet at his apartment or whatever, probably has a smartphone … And, never thought to reserve a vehicle online in advance.

August 13, 2015

What's with the love for Jim Webb?

Just over a month ago, after Bernie Sanders had entered the Democratic presidential race, along with Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee, but before the then-rumored Jim Webb did, I put up a poll with their names and the previously-rumored Brian Schweitzer.

I made it a multiple choice poll, where people could select any candidate they'd vote for in Democratic primaries before Hillary Clinton. (See poll at right.)

Almost every voter here has chosen Bernie. No surprise.

What IS a surprise to me is that Webb's gotten almost as many votes as the other three combined.

He's the one person on the list that I'd put behind Hillary.

First, he's a former Republican, and I don't think he's gotten rid of all of his Republican "sensibilities" yet.

Second, while I like his emphasis on socioeconomic class as part of what we should consider in affirmative action, I don't think it should replace race-based efforts. Not yet, for sure. And I have a suspicion he does feel that way.

Third, as far as Republican "sensibilities," I think he, as a Son of the South, still clings to some Lost Cause ideas about the Civil War. He's been the least vocal of the four announced candidates about the Confederate flag. (As far as getting quoted, both he and Chafee are fighting to get more media oxygen, it should be noted, but for Chafee it's worse, because he doesn't stand out as different from Clinton or Sanders on an issue like this.) He's even indicated support for some Southern "honor" ideas.

Southern honor ideas ... that justify the Confederate flag, that can lead to "driving while black" and related issues of policing and more.

Speaking of, of course, Webb wasn't at the Netroots Nation, so he hasn't been called out on Black Lives Matter, but I'd venture his response would be beyond just "politically incorrect."

And, I don't know about Schweitzer, but, of the other four, Webb was last to the table on most gay rights issues.

So, any of you Webb supporters, what gives? Is this just that blind of Hillary hatred, or is there enough you actually like about him to want him to win?

August 12, 2015

Will Saletan fires both barrels at the #GMO antis

Little of this is new to me, and Grist has had a kinder (and gentler) more in-depth look at some aspects of GMO fear, and more in-depth debunking.

Saletan focuses on a few big cases in a long-form takedown. Beyond plain fear, one thing he adds, and adds in much depth, to what Grist writes, is the flip-flopping of the organized wing of the anti-GMO movement. The worst example of this that he shows is anti-GMOers touting the use of Bt sprays while opposing Bt GMO crops. On top of this, the organized antis then lie about how heavily Bt sprays are applied.


Well, Saletan doesn't get into this, but the commercial organics subset of the organized wing of anti-GMOers itself makes healthy profits and profit margins.

In other words follow the money — and not just, and not necessarily, Monsanto's money. When organized anti-GMOers oppose golden rice even after it's modified, AND after being told that the poorest farmers will get it to free, money has to be part of the equation.

So is ... cultural imperialism. As with Greenpeace at the Nazca lines, a certain type of white Westerners thinks it knows what's best for others. Worse yet is when they and their defenders refuse to admit they're committing cultural imperialism.

Finally, although I support the Green Party with my voting as an alternative to the Democrats, things like this are why I'm not a member of the party, and will never be until it changes its stance on some issues.

August 11, 2015

Kinky Friedman's new Mexican border plan

When Donald Trump went mucking around the Texas-Mexico border last month at Laredo, I got to thinking about failed Texas gubernatorial candidate (well, failed in everything this side of dogcatcher of Utopia) Kinky Friedman and his five Mexican generals plan.

First, with all the GOPers in the clown car, why isn't Kinky running for president on some sort of independent angle?

Second, why doesn't he update to the five Donald Trumps plan?

Instead of giving five Mexican generals access to a huge pot of money in a bank or whatever, but taking some of that money away, every time someone crosses the border, clone The Donald four times (scary) and put five of him on the US side, paying every illegal immigrant who he sees money to go back to Mexico. Or Guatemala. Or China. (At least 10 percent of the southern border-crosses come from further south than Mexico, and not all southern border-crossers are Latino.)

Of course, the Donald refuses to accept that these are people simply trying to improve their lives, just like his ancestors.

Do I hear "Five New Jersey bankruptcies," anybody?

TX Progressives tackled HERO, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks that big GOP candidate debate needed more balloon animals and seltzer bottles as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff gives his campaign strategy for defending Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance.

Harold Cook presents the GOP Presidential Debate Drinking Game, which will come in handy for the next debate, if you ever recover from the first one.

Socratic Gadfly looks at the hoo-hah over Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments and his eventual $70,000 salary for employees, and has a mix of cautious applause and skeptical concerns.

A blogger started a petition to have the NFL relocate the 2017 Super Bowl away from Houston if the HERO is defeated by the voters in November.  And then a Houston television station picked up the story.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is in wonderment at how things can snowball -- or go viral, as the kids say these days -- so quickly.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that Texas Republicans are denying birth certificates for Hispanic babies born in Texas.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. More GOP mug shots this week, That Ken Paxton Is Attorney General Proves Our Political System Has Failed and Wilco DA Jana Duty.

Neil at All People Have Value spent the past week in Chicago and the Chicago area. Neil's blog has interesting pictures of that great American city.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Clean Air Matters urges state leaders to meet the Clean Power Plan with innovation and not resistance.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that long before he was indicted on felony charges, Ken Paxton was bad news for public education.

Media Matters captures video of Houston LGBT activist Noel Freeman shooting down lies about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Lone Star Ma celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2015.

Kevin Walker says Dallas needs a 21st century blueprint for building a better city.

Rafael McDonnell reports on a training program he attended for LGBTQ people running for political office.

The Houston Justice Coalition lays out its goals for addressing police brutality at the root.

Honorary Texan The Slactivist advises Texas politicians on the best way to pose for their future mug shot.

August 10, 2015

Inmates take over the asylum at Freethought Blogs, even from PZ Myers

No links of any sort will be posted to the site. I'm grateful to P.Z. Myers for, almost a full decade ago, giving a link to a blog post of mine when he and Richard Dawkins got expelled, or rather, barred, from a showing of the movie "Expelled."

From there, he and atheist/free speecher Ed Brayton founded Freethought Blogs.

But. after that, he went downhill, and like one of Galileo's balls of reality or Newton's apple of myth, did so at an ever-accelerating rate of speed.

An interesting idea, was FtB, even though PZed was already into not just Gnu Atheism but Atheism Plus and the emerging Social Justice Warrior movement (perhaps with two or three touches of hypocrisy) But it, not just him, soon dove deeper into the nearly waterless swimming pool of the SJW world.

I stopped regularly reading five years ago, and even semiregularly browsing, unless a Google search on a topic of my interest led me there, three years ago.

Finally, it reached the crack-up point. Brayton, for whatever reasons, went to Patheos. Before that, even, the most rabid SJWs had attached Ophelia Benson for being insufficiently feminist toward the transgendered. The "TERF" acronym — Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist — started getting hurled with ever more velocity. And, she then decided to pack up, too.

One part of the problem is that Brayton never could moderate PZ that much. Per a comment of his on Google Plus, though, my hopes of that happening when FtB was founded were perhaps vain all along. Fine, Ed, that's the bed you've made.

Despite attracting a number of additional bloggers, a tip jar, and enough Google Ads to pay a few dinero to bloggers, the website was never really upgraded that well. It did get one upgrade above its sub-Geocities-level start. (I say that because PZ said Patheos was below Geocities.) Ed and PZ apparently chose to do things on the cheap at the start, and never rose above the semi-cheap. Patheos as a blog site looks and runs better than FtB, there's no doubt about that.

That said, Patreos has a few SJWs itself; one has already blocked me. Maybe Ed won't be so lonesome.

Back to FtB. Apparently a number of its SJW types are mad at PZ because he tried to head off, or even moderate, the Ophelia criticism.

And hence, if not now, soon, they'll be running the asylum.

While Ed is clearly in the Gnu camp, probably a fair degree in the SJW camp, even (although Freethought clearly does NOT include things like the use of the Twitter Block Bot app), he was still, from what I know, a better organizer and manager than PZ. Myers will be unsuccessfully herding the SJW cats, I"m sure.

A friend asked that I not use his name in connection with linking to his blog. I used just his first name, but, that is, yes, not pseudonymous. I deleted the whole link, and I am not going to re-edit to link anonymously. Suffice it to say I disagree with him, and do so more now.

As for my privacy error? I think the easy way to avoid it is just not link, and otherwise treat it as kind of a blog version of an intranet. Yes, he's on my blogroll, for now at least. 

Ed, I wish you enough luck/success to keep body/soul together. That's about it, and I don't shed tears for any Argentinas.