Why I Think This World Should End – a video message by Prince Ea

I ran across this video just now and found that the message fit perfectly the theme of my blog. I invite all to listen closely all the way through. Comments will be appreciated.

I would only add that Prince Ea’s use of the word “love” in the video is synonymous with the word, “empathy.”

Empathy is the act of mentally projecting oneself into the mind of another and trying, as much as possible, to experience his life and environment as he sees and feels it. To understand his emotions, his hopes, and his constraints.

Empathy is much more than mere sympathy. It is brother/sisterhood with family, friends, and strangers. It is feeling for others as you would feel for your own young child. It is understanding the devastation that poverty, neglect, and indifference have on the world view of an impoverished child. What you would not want for your child, you would not want for all others. This is the concept to which Prince Ea points.

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ANSWERS IN GENESIS: A Profile in Parasitism (AN UPDATE)

—-Updated from my original post, Answers in Genesis: A Profile in Parasitism.—-

The State of Kentucky has decided to extend no further tax incentives to Ark Encounters, a Christian fundamentalist theme park.

The Mask of Deception

           The Mask of Deception

Now, I understand that some folks might think the following is a continuing attack against Christianity in general and Answers in Genesis (AiG) in particular. On the contrary. I am only suggesting how I believe empathy could be applied to this situation such that the solution is in the best interest of everyone. That is, by the way, the purpose of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

Fairness requires empathy, and empathy can only be derived from within.

First, with regard to AiG, note that no one is making any attempt to shut down its right to purchase property and have a theme park. First Amendment watchdog groups demand only that governments–federal, state and local–represent all of its citizens, without regard to their religious beliefs, their political opinions, or their financial standing. All working citizens pay taxes, thus, all citizens must have free access to commerce and must not be forced to subsidise sectarian religion.

Secondly, in the United States–as most of you know–all religions are to be treated equally under constitutional law. The only way this can be accomplished is for the government to remain neutral in matters of religion, (i.e., it cannot make laws respecting anyone’s religion).

When the courts attend matters of church and state separation, they reference the intent of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, which may be found in Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. Here is the excerpt pertinent to the AiG case.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical . . . [note that Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian]

How could this be more empathetic and fair to all citizens?

Now, with regard to AIG’s ongoing efforts to have the taxpayers of Kentucky pony up 10s of million$ more in tax breaks for its restrictive, fundamentalist Ark Encounters theme park, after Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) reminded Kentucky lawmakers, many times, that they were elected to serve all the people and not just fundamentalist Christians, the State backed out of further tax incentives for the park. AiG is now resorting to revenge attacks for being forced to abide by the Constitution.

From AU:

Answers in Genesis (AiG), a creationist Christian ministry, had applied for a 25 percent sales tax rebate through the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for Ark Encounter, a theme park that will feature a 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark. The application received preliminary approval, and since the project is expected to cost $73 million, final approval would have cost the state up to $18 million in sales tax revenue.

But the Ark Park sailed into stormy seas in August when Americans United informed the tourism cabinet that AiG had posted online an opening for a computer-assisted design technician to work at Ark Encounter. That job post has since been removed, but in the August description, AiG said applicants must submit a “[c]reation belief statement,” as well as “[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”

That “statement of faith” required potential AiG employees to affirm their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Bible is literally true. Anyone who doesn’t agree with those statements won’t be considered for the job. (Read more here.)

According to AiG’s own website, “The purpose of the Ark Encounter park is to point people to the only means of salvation from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also is the only God-appointed way to escape eternal destruction.”

But after receiving word of the tax-break cutoff, according to AU, “AiG . . . said earlier this week that it would run 16 billboards throughout the state promoting Ark Encounter and attacking ‘intolerant’ groups like AU. AiG also said it bought a 15-second digital video display that will run in New York City’s Times Square.”

AiG feels that it has been attacked unfairly and is being denied its “right” to tax dollars from non-fundamentalist Christian people–the same folks they would bar from employment at the park, no matter what their qualifications.

I have to wonder, What would the politicians of Kentucky, who want to continue the tax breaks, do if a group of Muslim citizens wanted the State to give them tax incentives to establish a park dedicated to Islam? Would you think that the folks at AiG would object?

How do you feel about this? Does AiG have a right to tax dollars? Should all religions have that same right?

THE ROAD TO PEACE: An Inspirational Video

Reposted from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG46IwVfSu8&feature=youtu.be

RSA Animate – The Power of Outrospection

I have only one comment on this wonderful video. Introspection is still necessary, but I like the Outrospection (I would call it, “exospection”) concept as an incorporation to the overall empathy message. I think one’s motivations need an occasional house-cleaning.

THE RENAISSANCE OF MY LIFE: A Journey From Exclusive Faith to Enlightened Inclusiveness

Irony

Irony

Irony! Who does not love irony?

It occurred to me this morning that I needed to post the story of my transformation, upon which irony played no small role. I’ve said a lot about empathy on this blog and how religious exclusiveness is the major obstacle to world peace. But, how did I get to this point and why did I, having been raised to be a strong Christian, leave it behind?

When I wrote the novel, The Empathy Imperative, my primary purpose was to demonstrate society’s disconnect between its sense of justice, mercy, and benevolence, and some of its religious beliefs. Too, I wanted to suggest what the world might look like were empathy to replace self-interest as our primary motivating force. If one seriously contemplates such a world, it should call into focus the lyrics of John Lennon’s, “Imagine.”

Because the novel can be, to varying degrees, disconcerting to those who hold their religiosity close to their hearts and remain faithful by rejecting all other beliefs, I decided to incorporate my personal transformation in the preface of The Empathy Imperative as a means of explaining my purpose for basing the story on biblical literality. What would it take, theologically, to achieve world peace?

I look forward to any comments you may have.


PREFACE

In 2008, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) aired the BBC/WGBH Boston production, God On Trial. It is a play, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on an event told by Elie Wiesel in his book, The Trial of God. It is a story about a group of Jews, imprisoned at Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp, holding court and trying God in absentia.

The charge was that God broke His covenant in allowing Hitler to commit genocide against them. In testimony, they deal with questions of justice and purpose (e.g., if God is just, then why does He allow, not just suffering, but also suffering on a scale such as the inhuman savagery of the Holocaust?).

It is a powerful and riveting play so well written and with such passionate acting, one hardly notices nearly the entire story takes place within one room.

I began writing The Empathy Imperative long before this play aired, and found, once having seen it, that many of the questions raised in the film I had included in the pages of this book, although in greater depth and with a different verdict. They are profound questions that test the parameters of our view of God’s justice, mercy and benevolence, in contrast with our own. What is justice? Is our sense of justice good, such that God, Himself, approves? Is divine justice something other than what we believe to be just?

The Empathy Imperative, like God on Trial, is a theological and philosophical exploration, but goes further in suggesting what would be theologically necessary to move our world into a future where empathy, not personal gain, is our primary motivating force.

The questions addressed in the following pages are a source of consternation in the minds of many, often exposing popular but strongly held contradictory views. It is no easy matter for one to examine, with objectivity, the religious “truth” he or she was taught as a child, especially those propositions deeply believed by the society in which one lives. Nevertheless, it is something that I feel must be done if we are to move beyond the walls of sectarianism, and view the world with understanding, compassion, and reason.

My journey beyond those walls began during my high school years when Bible class was offered as an elective, and I, desirous to be counted among the faithful, faithfully elected to attend. Having been raised a Bible believing, saved-by-perseverance Methodist, I had no doubt that God was in His heaven, that Adam was the first human being, that one of his ribs was appropriated to fashion his helpmate, Eve, and that humankind came by its various languages in one fell swoop at the Tower of Babel. I believed, as well, that two representatives of every species of animal on earth held first class tickets to a cruise aboard the good ship, Noah’s Ark.

For me, there was no alternative but to believe such propositions, because the fundamentals of the Judeo-Christian faith were what I was taught from my diaper days. By the time I reached high school, I was vaguely aware of other religions by way of various derogatory comments I heard and condescending movies I saw, but that was about as far as it went.

Perhaps, had an objective, world religions course been offered in my high school, my natural curiosity would have spurred my interest, but I will never know, because there was no such course. As for human evolution, it wasn’t so much as mentioned in biology or earth science.

It was with poetic irony, then, that my first serious doubt emerged from reading the Bible and thinking about what I was reading.

Late one night after a hearty round of supplications, I was repeatedly opening the Revised Standard Version at random, expecting God to give me a message by way of the first verse on which my eyes fell. I did indeed get a message, but, apparently, it was not from God. The verse that captured my attention was Revelation 13:8, which stated:

And all the inhabitants of the earth shall worship [the beast], every one whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slaughtered.

It was my first bout with an apparent conflict in my theology. There I was, a teen taught from tothood that I had a choice whether to follow the ways of righteousness and be rewarded with an eternity of blissful paradise, or to follow the ways of wickedness and reap an eternity of unrelenting torture.

Yet, try as I might to rationalize otherwise, the only interpretation I could deduce from the verse was that of predestination. If that were so, I reasoned, then God knew before the existence of humans, that most of them would be destined to eternal agony, no matter how good they may have strived to be.

“Why would God,” I asked myself, “condemn souls to Hell before they were born?”

The next day, I prodded the teacher for a different interpretation. After a thoughtful pause she replied, “We’re not supposed to know everything.” I was taken aback, as I had expected a bit more than a dodge, but I accepted it. Her answer, however, gave birth to another question. I wondered why a perfect god would not be perfectly clear in words He inspired someone to write and for us to read.

I suppose the verse could have been interpreted as meaning the Book of Life was begun with the first human, then each name was added as each person came into existence and demonstrated he was worthy of salvation. However, that would be salvation through works, not through grace, and it would cause a problem with the King James Version of the same verse, which states:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

This verse seemed to say the “Lamb”—taken to mean, “Jesus”—was destined to be slain from the creation of the world. Thus, although the wording was different, predestination was still painfully clear.

For some time thereafter, I pondered and prayed, reread the chapter, and pondered some more. In time, I moved on, but the questions remained resident in my mind.

Not long after high school graduation, I found myself in Army Basic Training. One afternoon on a weekend as I lay on my bunk reading, some friends who knew me to be a devout Christian came in and asked me to assist them in a debate they were having with a professed atheist.

Never one to miss an opportunity to proselytize, I donned my godly armor of faith and sallied into battle. With my friends gathered around, I dodged and ducked every salvo of my foe’s arguments, and responded with my own volleys of piety and scripture. The end of the battle came with a total rout—mine.

Thoroughly shaken, I laid out a smokescreen prophesying divine retribution for my faithless adversary, and withdrew from the battle. Hastily applying a sturdy brain-splint of seasoned prayer, I retreated for weeks into mental convalescence.

It had been my first contact with the enemy, and he had come to the field of battle with an awesome weapon entirely new to me—well reasoned, evidence-based arguments.

His knowledge of the Bible was greater than my own, his knowledge of other religions was far beyond mine, and his knowledge of evolution caught my ship-of-ignorance broadside.

Bertrand Russell wrote of Pierre Bayle, French philosopher and critic in the late 17th century, that Bayle would compose lengthy arguments on the strength of reason over orthodox belief, but conclude, “So much the greater is the triumph of faith in nevertheless believing.”

Perhaps such sentiments are necessary to placate the troubled minds of a great many people, but for me, there was something deeply repugnant about willful self-deception.

It was this abhorrence for intellectual dishonesty that seriously weakened the walls of my theology and set me up for the final blow—my own, reasoned argument.

An acquaintance of mine, having noted my air of piety, invited me off post to dinner and conversation at his home. That evening, seated in his living room, he and two others engaged in a concerted effort to convert me to Mormonism. Among other arguments, they contended that baptism into the Mormon faith was necessary to achieve salvation.

Marveling at their confident posture, I asked, “How do you know you are right?”

“We know in our hearts we are right,” they replied.

“Yes,” I responded, “but so do the Jews, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Catholics. They all know in their hearts that they are right. Every person of every religion believes himself to be right.”

After dinner, having made no commitment, I thanked them for their hospitality and took my leave. Returning to the base that night, something was bothering me, the cause of which I could not ferret out.

When I awoke the next morning, the insight came in a flash. The rebuttal I had made in reply to their heartfelt belief that they were right, applied to me as well.

The logic was clear; I had no more reason to believe I possessed the sacred truth than did anyone else. I had grasped the indisputable fact that one’s religious beliefs have more to do with happenstance of birth than with truth. A person is most likely to believe the theology taught by his parents, which is most often the predominant religion of the society into which he is born, and that belief is often unshakable for the rest of his life.

A cascade of questions followed, the foremost of which was: Could there be a good and compassionate god who condemns billions of souls to eternal torture for having been taught to believe the wrong religion? Since adherents to other faiths believe their “truths” every bit as passionately as the Christian believes his, how do I know I was taught the right one?

I decided, therefore, to place my faith in abeyance and view my beliefs with an objective eye. I would return to school and acquire a much wider breadth of knowledge so vital for sound reasoning.

I vowed to study with an open mind, and follow the arguments to their logical conclusion. I promised myself that I would accept the conclusion no matter how uncomfortable it might make me feel, for if I refused to do so, I would live a life of intellectual dishonesty.

Throughout the ensuing years, I applied a strong dose of reason to each of my attempts to fashion a new theology.

In pursuit of truth, I opened my mind to philosophy, world religions and evolution. I read and contemplated the arguments of current and past theologians, scholarly evolutionists and philosophers.

It was during this process that I came across a famous statement by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). In an attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the idea that God is omnibenevolent (all loving), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing), he suggested that God gave this world the best balance of all possibilities, good and evil. So that humans might act as free agents (possessors of free will), He gave us the ability to choose between the two. Therefore, Leibniz concluded, it must be that God blessed us with “the best of all possible worlds.”

Leibnitz’s proposition that this is the best world possible stuck in my mental craw where it festered. I recall thinking about the world; its wars, its hungry masses, its disease-infested children (what is more innocent than a child?), the horrors humans inflict on their fellow humans, and concluding that Leibniz’s best possible world conjecture was demonstrably false.

It was the age-old philosophical conundrum: If God is omniscient, then He knows of the intolerable suffering of billions of people through no fault of their own. If He is omnibenevolent, then it is reasonable to suppose that He would want to alleviate at least the depth of suffering. If He is omnipotent, then He could act on His desire. He does not alleviate the depth of suffering.

Therefore, either He is not omnipotent, and can do nothing about suffering, or He is not omniscient and does not know humans suffer, or He is not omnibenevolent as most of the world, astonishingly, thinks Him to be.

It was against this best-world proposition that I debated through my college years, but my post-college profession in quality management occupied so much of my time and raised my level of stress to such a degree that little time or inclination was left to ponder this primary interest.

In time, out of concerns for my health, I resigned from that profession, and eventually became a long haul, professional driver. This occupation appreciably lowered my level of stress and allowed me the time I needed to read and ponder my philosophical and theological interests.

It was early in this new career, while again considering the best-world proposition, that I realized neither I, nor anyone with whom I had debated, thought to ask the obvious questions: If this is not the best of all possible worlds, then could it be that we do not have the best of all possible gods? In addition, if this isn’t the best world possible, then what would a better world look like and how could we get there?

These are the questions about which I began to research and write, and which The Empathy Imperative attempts to answer.

I do not presume to believe this book constructs the best of all possible worlds or gods, and indeed, I am sure it does not. But I do not need to construct the best of either. I just need to demonstrate that, theologically, better gods and better worlds are possible.

Since any such qualitative construct necessarily deals with ethics and justice, I must deal with questions relevant to the omniperfection of God, and it is with this discussion that I feel a word to the wise reader is necessary.

For the purpose of this exploration, I began by assuming the King James Authorized Version (AV) of the Bible was literally true—both the Old and New Testaments.

Obviously, I had to deal with some misinterpretations and inconsistencies in the scriptures, while at the same time trying to remain true to the fundamentalists’ view that the entire Bible is the infallible word of an infallible god. This struggle becomes evident in the progression of the narrative.

I am well aware of considerable controversy in matters of scripture analysis and translation, but my thrust is not to make arguments of interpretation. It is rather to demonstrate that, again theologically speaking, a better world could have been created, and if a better world could have been created, then it follows that the god of the Bible, Yahweh, was not the best of all possible gods.

Therefore, in order for the astute student of theology to appreciate the point of the book, he will need to suspend his urge to fractious debate over scriptural interpretation, and tentatively accept my general premise that this is not the best of all possible worlds.

As for the version of the Bible, I chose the King James because it was the one believed and preached by the lead character’s father, and because it was the version with which most Christians were familiar, at least during my early years of study.

Another note of interest for the Christian true believer—when the Time of Sorrows begins, the lead character, Professor Mark Jefferson Hale (Jeff), is a politically aware, evolutionary biologist, and a causal determinist.

Jeff’s view of strict, causal determinism (cause and effect) is explained in the second chapter of part 1 as he attempts to avoid dealing with a culmination of unsavory events—the foremost being the death of his estranged, fundamentalist father—all the while struggling against a political purge, and romantic ambivalence.

To the Jewish reader, you are already aware that I spell out sacred words. I do this because I feel it is necessary for the integrity and flow of the narrative.

For the politically inclined reader, chapters three and four set up the political condition of Jeff’s time, suggesting what might happen if the political pendulum did not swing back, but became immobile far to the right, caught up in an entanglement of corporate greed and religious fervor, triggered by the beginning of the Tribulation—the Time of Sorrows. This political theme mingles with theology throughout part 1.

Part 2 begins an exploration into our view of the nature of justice in relation to events described in the Old Testament, and in relation to the culmination of events described in prophesies.

I am sure many will say that I cannot judge the acts of God described in the Old Testament by modern, ethical standards, but they will be wrong.

I am exploring Judeo-Christian theology and embracing the popular notion that the god of the Old Testament is the same god of the New Testament whose being and temperament does not change.

I am proceeding with the idea that we believe our sense of morality and justice is good, and that it is God sanctioned. Therefore, in order to conduct this theological exploration honestly, I must view events in the Old Testament through the moral lens of modernity.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

STEVIA: a Great, Natural, Non-chemical Sugar Substitute

Let not thine eyes glaze over, for the food shall set thee free!

This subject might seem to be a deviation from my theme of empathy, but it is not. Mental and physical health is both a necessary ingredient to, and a result of universal empathy.

If we could vertically eliminate or greatly reduce the current epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease, why would we not do it and how could it be done? The answer is more interesting than one might think.

Here is how to do it:

Remove sugar and chemical sugar substitutes from our family diet. It is not too difficult, although it is difficult to eliminate sugar altogether because it is in virtually all processed products on the grocery shelves. Still, consumption can be reduced to a minimum, especially if you buy mostly unprocessed foods and buy, if you must, processed foods that contain the least amount of sugar.

To be more socially empathetic, we can join together at the local level, attend school board meetings and call for all soft drink dispensers and sugary desserts to be removed from schools. As long as it is available, your kids likely will consume them.

But, you and your family love your desserts? Schools resist? No problem. We can do an end-run around bland foods and the bureaucracy.

From The Candida Diet: The Stevia Plant

From The Candida Diet

              From The Candida Diet

The best substitute for sugar is, as I have found in my research, highly refined, pure stevia (Rebaudioside A, also called Reb-A and rebiana). Stevia is not an artificial, chemical compound, but a refined plant derivative that has been used by other nations around the world for hundreds of years with no known ill effects on health, and some studies have found possible benefits for diabetics.

And, no, I have no stock in the industry and have no connection at all other than buying the product for myself.—-

A field of sweetness

                A field of sweetness

Here are some facts about stevia:

One teaspoon of pure stevia (no fillers) is equal to one cup of sugar. So, while Stevia, by equal volume, is more expensive than sugar, one only uses a very small amount (about 1/48 as much as sugar) for one’s dessert, candy, or coffee. This drops the cost to very acceptable levels–possibly even less than the cost of sugar (although I haven’t done all the math–I really don’t care if it is a few pennies more).

Pure stevia–with no filler–can be purchased on the Internet, and one can purchase it in bulk or in packets. The packets (like the packets of artificial sweeteners at convenient store coffee counters) make it much easier to determine the correct amount you want, and get it right every time. Buying the bulk containers (no fillers) is less expensive, but, until you get used to measuring it out, it can be just a bit iffy.

Be very careful when purchasing on the Internet. Be sure to read the “Ingredients” on the label to determine if it contains fillers (anything other than Rebaudioside A, also called Reb-A and rebiana). If sugar alcohols are present, the product contains filler.

* * *

So, if Stevia is the best sugar substitute (0 on the glycemic index, 0 calories), why is it difficult or impossible to find in super markets?

Follow the money!

Here is a little history of the politics that led to greater wealth for some, and poor health (sometimes death) for the rest of us:

Enter Donald Rumsfeld, onetime CEO of G.D. Searle (the corporation that created Aspartame–a chemical sugar substitute having probable health risks–and is a component of many diet soft drinks). Rumsfeld, as most folks know, is a neoconservative of the first order with long-time White House connections!

Shortly after Reagan came into office, the FDA approved Aspartame as an artificial sweeter, even though there was little know of its possible health risks. (Anyone want to guess who was a close friend of Reagan?) In 1991, the FDA, still composed of mostly Reagan appointees, effectively banned Stevia from importation into the U.S. (anyone what to guess who would financially benefit from that ban?)

Over the decades, likely because of the Internet, Stevia has become more widely known. The food industry and the artificial sweetener industry could no longer hide the facts and block its sale. People were beginning to buy Stevia over the Internet, and it could be found in health food stores (although the labels were not allowed to call it a sugar substitute or a sweetener).

The product has become more popular, even against political resistance and corporate-paid “research.” One can still find misinformation all over the Internet. Products are, however, now on supermarket shelves, using the usual deceptive Wall Street advertising and packaging for big profits. The products on your grocery store shelves that now contain Stevia, and claim to be Stevia, are deceptive. The individual packages and bulk containers are mostly cheep fillers, contrary to their names (“Truvia,” “Stevia in the Raw,” ” PureVia”). Sound so honest and pure, doesn’t they? Yes, Stevie is in the product, but with a much greater amount of filler. The chemical filler, itself, may not be so healthy. Last I read, the pure form of Stevia is still not in supermarkets.

Stevia products are marketed under the brand names Truvia and PureVia, but the packets are not just rebiana. Both Truvia and PureVia contain erythritol, a low-calorie sugar alcohol sweetener. One packet of Truvia (3.5 grams) contains 3 grams of erythritol, and “natural flavors” of undisclosed chemical composition.

Lastly, one caution to using stevia; you must use the proper amount. Too much will not taste good (too much sugar doesn’t either), but the right amount will have the great side effects of not leaving one’s lips sticky, will not add to your calorie intake, and will not rot the teeth. Also, it is heat resistant–you can bake with it.

I drink 4 cups of coffee every morning sweetened with stevia (from bulk containers of 0.7 oz) and periodically make delicious fudge and brownies (yes, I can cook).

Love the stuff. I am borderline diabetic (type 2) and have been for years. Why do I not have full blown diabetes? Stevia, diet, and exercise–and no soft drinks! Virtually all diet soft drinks are sweetened with chemicals, and are still harmful to diabetics.


 

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

A free chapter from The Empathy Imperative will be on this site soon.

HOMOSEXUALITY: Perception and Fear v. Reality and Reason

I have been arguing that universal empathy is the only path to peace and that organized religion builds walls that block the path. Few subjects make my case better than this one. Around the world in many countries, social and political forces work feverishly to suppress homosexual behavior. In the U.S., religious/social conservatives try to establish laws against same gender marriages.

In at least 10 countries, homosexuality may be punishable by execution. Why are homosexuals so feared? Homosexuality isn’t a disease, communicable or otherwise. It affects no one detrimentally.

Among the most favored arguments is that everyone’s sexuality is a choice. Yet, if you ask, I suspect most heterosexuals will deny they’ve ever been romantically attracted to their same gender (I’d love to get comments in this particular assertion).

Still, I can judge with certainty, only one person–myself. I’ve never been romantically attracted to another male. Am I to assume I am different from most folks? Are all conservatives, who make the choice-argument, really bisexual–equally attracted to both genders? I think not.

I offer four rational arguments that I hope most readers will spread:

1) Natural Law: When their biblical argument against homosexuality does nothing to convince lawmakers to make laws against same gender marriage, social conservatives turn to the deceptive and bogus “Natural Law” argument. They claim that in order to determine how humans are genetically programmed–how they should naturally act (unspoken: according to God’s Law)–we draw our conclusions from nature. Yet, it appears that few religious conservatives know much about nature.

The Catholic Church is a good example, as well as conservative Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States (and most in Congress). The Roman Catholic bishops, when Illinois legislators approved civil unions in 2011, said “Marriage comes to us from nature. . .That’s based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along. … It’s not in our doctrine. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates.”

Never mind the thinly veiled and false statement that “it’s not a matter of faith,” just a modicum of research would have told them that their uninformed opinion is not the way nature operates. It took me about five seconds to find the facts. Same gender attraction and sexual play occurs naturally in many species besides Homo sapiens. Among the best examples is the bonobo, sometimes called the pygmy chimpanzee. Research on this can easily be found online.

2) Science: A phenotype is a genetic trait that manifests physically (easily seen by the eye). A genotype is a genetic trait that manifests psychologically–a predisposition to certain behaviors, such as sexual attraction (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual).

      a. Phenotype: An estimated 1 in 4,500 infants are born with ambiguous genitalia. This is a condition in which the gender of a baby cannot be determined, having both male and female reproductive organs. This situation can become tragic when parents decide which gender they believe, or want their child to be, and then order the surgery. As the child grows, he/she discovers that the parents made the wrong choice. The question now becomes; Would religious conservatives deny that person’s right to pursue happiness by marrying a person of the same (apparent) gender?

      b. Genotype: Recall that “genotype” is really all those genetically predetermined behavioral characteristics of any person. Therefore, the genes predisposition a person to be romantically attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender, or to both genders (think of the indisputable variations in phenotype).

3) Strict Constitutionality: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbids the government from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. This is made applicable to the states by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Anti marriage laws are based solidly in religion. These laws represent government recognition and support of the theological belief of an establishment of religion, and are therefore, strictly unconstitutional. To fully understand the intent of the Establishment Clause, see Thomas Jefferson’s The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Establishment Clause was crafted.

4) Reason: Religious conservatives are often complaining that the government should stay out of their lives. They call it “intrusive government.” Yet, they are quick to use government as a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon the rest of society into living by their religious beliefs. This should be pointed out by people of empathy at every opportunity.


———————————
What is wrong with allowing every citizen, in this “land of the free,” to seek happiness according to the dictates of his or her own conscience–the same right social conservatives claim for themselves?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus. It must be read with an open mind. What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

Empathy: Bringing down the walls, one brick at a time

By M. Jefferson Hale*

What would happen if the entire world followed the greatest moral advice of the sages?  What would such a world look like? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not a concept owned by any religion. One finds it even in the words of secular humanists. It is almost universal:

It is Baha’i: “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. . . .Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u’llah;

It is Buddhism“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta Nikaya v. 353;

It is Christianity: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version;

It is Secular HumanismDo unto others as you would have them do unto you; 

It is Brahmanism“This is the sum of Dharma (duty): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”  Mahabharata, 5:1517;

It is Islam“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths;

It is Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a;

It is Confucianism“When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius, Doctrine of the Mean.

Indeed, reciprocity** is a moral concept advocated by these and many more religions, as well as atheists and agnostics the world over. It is possibly the highest moral value ever espoused, and yet most who claim to adhere to this philosophy often ignore it, especially in politics. If this were not so, then there would exist little or no poverty, little or no indifference, and there would be universal, nonprofit healthcare. Why would this not be something to which everyone could agree?

I confess to my own guilt here. I, like everyone, am a product of my environment and my genetic heritage. I am a work in progress. I have profound regrets for inappropriate statements and actions that brought stress to others, and still often have difficulty in controlling my desire for fractious confrontation against those with whom I have grievances in both social situations and politics. Civil debate is always better even if civility isn’t a trait of one’s opponent, and I am a firm believer in debate. Thus, I have to keep reminding myself that anger wins no converts, always troubles the soul, and makes the way difficult. Since I cannot change the past or my genetics, therefore, the best I can do is try my best to recognize my inclinations to self-centeredness, condescension, aggression, and resist.

On this site, I will call on readers to join me in traveling the difficult path of the sages. We are all subject to the same natural impulses and will often fall short, but if everyone were to try, it would be a far better world.

How hard can it be? Consider Matthew 25:32-46. Matthew, or whoever wrote Matthew, in his quest to bring about a more just society, did not suffer from any illusion that empathy is our primary motivating force. Self-interest is far stronger. He knew that without threat of punishment, relatively few would follow his words. Moreover, he knew that mere punishment, such as execution, prison, or flogging would not be enough. He knew the punishment must be far greater than anything dealt by society. It had to be the threat of divine punishment: unrelenting torture, without end, forever.

Yet, even that threat has never been enough. Why has it not? Because we human beings are only slightly less subject to our genetic heritage than other species. By nature, we are aggressive, self-interested, territorial beings. These traits are characteristics honed long ago by the drive for survival—a drive we’ve inherited from a distant past far more dangerous than the present when to lose one’s territory and possessions was to lose one’s life, or at the very least, create hardships.

Still, human territorialism is no longer the instinct it was long ago. An instinct is a drive that impels an individual, without recourse, to certain actions, not the least of which is to protect himself, his family, and his territory in an aggressive manner and to procreate.

We now have the power to override those passions, reducing what used to be instinct to mere impulses. We have become, collectively, more tolerant and less territorial. Even though we, for the most part, have intellectualized our territorialism in the form of property possession and sovereignty by force of law, our ethical concepts are evolving. We, therefore, now have the capacity to follow the path of the sages, difficult as that may be.

I can envision a future—not in my lifetime but long thereafter—humankind will live together as brothers and sisters. I can see a time when our primary motivation will not be self-interest, but universal empathy. The founders of that future are those who listen to the sages and have the courage to venture beyond the walls of their theological and self-centered ideologies, taking with them only the greatest words of wisdom; the words of benevolent reciprocity. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.

* M. Jefferson Hale is the lead character in the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr

** What was implied by the sages was benevolent reciprocity. Simple reciprocity might allow for returning violence for violence, but benevolent reciprocity is returning kindness for violence. It is, indeed, a most difficult thing to do. Shouldn’t there be a Church of Benevolent Reciprocity?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature Divine Justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Based on biblical literalism, the story opens at the beginning of the Tribulation, but a professor of philosophy and evolutionary biology becomes the focal point for a change that alters Yahweh’s Divine Plan. Jeff knew the answer to a question unspoken.

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