Seeking funds for Flint, Democrats block energy bill

Deceit

publicdomainpictures.net

When will America wake up? There appears to be no depth to which congressional conservatives will not sink in their utterly disgraceful attempts to undermine the president at the expense of the lives of thousands, even millions of citizens, including the lives of children. Their complete indifference to suffering is simply without precedent, at least in this nation. It appears, to them, the public is no more than a Machiavellian means to power.

I have to say that, even though I do not tend to favor conspiracy theories, knowing the sheer insensitivity, incivility, and inhumanity of leading conservatives, there isn’t much I wouldn’t put past them.

Thus, I have come to lean toward the theory that the Cheney-Bush Administration knew in advance of the 9/11 attack and let it happen (or even facilitated it) in order to fulfill their Project for the New American Century dream of “reconstructing” the Middle East for American control the oil fields.

Although the original site for this document has been taken  down (surprise, suprise), I found it.

The key line in this PDF document is the statement that their designs on the Middle East would take a long time to accomplish “absent some catastrophic catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” (Italic mine).


 

Now, this:

Washington (CNN) Frustrated Senate Democrats blocked a bipartisan energy bill Thursday after Republicans refused to allow a vote on an amendment to help the city of Flint, Michigan, respond to its catastrophic water crisis.  READ MORE HERE.


How did Republicans become so insensitive, deceitful and belligerent? I researched the rise of the neoconservatives from my novel, The Empathy Imperative. I plan to post the relevant pages on The Benevolent Thou shortly.

 

 

Believe It or Not, the World is Becoming LESS Violent

Should there be Empathy for Terrorism?

 

Being an advocate of universal empathy and benevolent reciprocity, acts of sheer terror such as the Charlie Hebdo attack place me squarely on the horns of a dilemma, especially since I am opposed to the death penalty as well. So, since I do not shy away from cognitive dissonance, as I write this piece, I will attempt reconcile my seemingly opposing concepts. I turn to philosophy.

On one horn, I am a devotee of the John Stuart Mill School of Free Speech—a school of empathic thought that says, in Mill’s words:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.  –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2 – Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

Side note: It is clear to me that this mode of thought, in no small measure, influenced Jefferson and Madison when they crafted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the intent of which is laid out in Jefferson’s Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. And that intent is the very heart of a constitutionally limited, representative democracy (a republic). I no longer see our nation as such, however, but that is an argument for another time.

Indeed, as Mill wrote concerning the “tyranny of the majority”:

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing (sic) are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices (sic) a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of  human affairs, as protection against political despotism. —John Stuart Mill, On liberty, chapter 1

Thus I have to say that Charlie Hebdo has, in my opinion, every right to lampoon fundamentalist Islam, bearing in mind that their parodies of Mohammad is not the root cause of the terrorist attack, but was a contributing factor.

On the other horn of my dilemma is the root cause of the Charlie Hebdo attack—that of the right of fundamentalist religions to preach and believe as they do—a religious teaching that encourages murder as revenge for perceived insults to Islam. Too, it is for the most part a mindset with which one cannot reason. This last point, of course, is the same for peaceful but still dangerous fundamentalist, religious beliefs of Western nations. If one is convinced that he will burn in an everlasting Hell if he does not abide by the doctrines he was taught to believe, how can anyone change his mind? Cannonballs of logic and reason will not dent his walls of dogma. But, has he the right to teach and build those walls for others?

This brings me back to Mill, who wrote:

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience. —John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2 – Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

Therefore, fundamentalist Islam does, indeed, have a right to teach its opinions, although Mill would not condone—nor would any person possessing even a molecule of humanity and reason—allowing it to act out its nefarious teachings.

The solution? By allowing radical and harmful ideas to be spoken, society, perceiving the danger, knows who to watch and to whom contrary opinions, especially those of empathy, must be conveyed. Still, there must be constraints, especially in fundamentalist Islam, to prevent harmful acts. If the individuals of the group are beyond reason, then society must protect itself, by any means necessary—although capture should be our primary concern.

However, terrorists who are captured should not be put to death, but imprisoned and detoxed, if possible, of their harmful concepts. If they cannot be detoxed, then they must remain in prison and be treated humanly.

This episode highlights why I promote the view that every individual should rid himself of all religious dogma, saving only the single concept of benevolent reciprocity: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This goes for Western nations as well. Our primary goal, above all, should be the elimination of poverty and corporate/government greed–the ultimate medium for radicalism to grow.

I welcome your arguments and corrections if you find any.


Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that takes a critical look at justice, love, and mercy, and written in the spirit of the BBC/WGBH Boston film production, God On Trial. 

Based on

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.

Does Life Have Meaning?

Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life.
It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.
― Joseph Campbell

This post might seem to be something of a deviation from my theme of universal empathy and benevolent reciprocity, but it is not. It is a revision to the response I gave, concerning Campbell’s quote, at Kendall F. Person’s blog recently and it reminded me that, although I have held the same concept for many years, I had never thought to reconcile it with my philosophy of causal determinism (all events in the universe, including our actions and thoughts, are determined, not from any deity, but from nature). But if causal determinism is true and we have no free will, then how do we “give” meaning to life?

The meaning I try to give is unconditional empathy and benevolent reciprocity. Looking back at the horrors of history, I think humanity is evolving ever so slowly toward a world of brotherhood and sisterhood, and I desire to help the process, yet it may be coming about involuntarily–despite my meager and often flawed efforts, or the efforts of anyone else.

Involuntarily? How so?

Campbell’s quote suggests that the meaning of life is entirely existential (from within each individual)–that there isn’t a meaning other than what we give it. I think this is necessarily so. Plato recognized the existentiality of true social justice somewhere around 400 BCE. Indeed, looking back at my own intellectual evolution, I can see the causal factors that brought me to the world view I hold today, and I am virtually convinced that I had no choice but to evolve as I have.

So, if causal determinism is true, then the meaning each of us give to our lives was determined from an incalculable number of intertwining causes and effects going back to the beginning of the universe, and possibly back into infinity past.

To make my point more lucid, I offer you another excerpt from The Empathy Imperative:

* * *

[Scene: Jeff Hale, professor of evolutionary biology, is trying desperately to suppress an onslaught of grief caused by news of the death of his estranged, fundamentalist father. He stands at his office window, staring out in search for distractions.]

His attention was drawn to a wind-blown sheet of paper, loosely crumpled, trapped in the hedge by the sidewalk. He mused at how it seemed to struggle to free itself.

It might be a page from a philosophy paper, a rough draft, or even a graded paper, possibly from one of my own students. Discarded thoughts, once regarded by their perpetrator as brilliantly original arguments, but found on deeper reflection to be groundless assertions—conjecture without foundation—a desecration of sound logic.

Jeff smiled and nodded approval. Even if it were so, failure is often a good thing. From every attempt to elucidate an argument, fail or not, a student learns and progresses.

The paper freed itself from its prickly captor. Jeff watched as it joined the swirling leaves tumbling off across the quad, its unwilled course set by the capricious wind.

Capricious? No, even the direction of the wind has a cause, as does the wind itself. And was there not a cause that impelled the student to crumple and toss the paper? Anger? Disinterest?—an attempt to cast away his regret for not having studied sufficiently?

The paper was going to bounce across the quad long before the student crumpled it, long before he adorned it with his thoughts, long before the paper itself was made, and even long before the student was born. From the beginning of the universe, an unbroken chain of countless, intertwining events merged to cause that crumpled sheet of paper to tumble across the quad.

It reminded Jeff of Laplace’s Demon. Pierre-Simon Laplace penned the most cogent explanation of causal determinism, a concept that suggests the current state of the universe and everything therein is “the effect of its past and the cause of its future.”

He supposed that if there could be an intellect so immense as to know all forces of nature in the universe at a single instant, know the positions and trajectories of all particles, and could analyze that data, to such an intellect there would be no difference between the future and the past.

My standing here gazing out this window, every whip and whirl of wind, every deflected motion of the tumbling paper, indeed, every thought in my head and in everyone else’s head would be known to such an intellect from eternity past.

It’s the very definition of unqualified omniscience. But what an eternally boring state of existence such a being would have. What an unending, intellectual hell it would be.

Jeff grinned. How could such a being possess humor? It would know the punch line of all jokes in the universe for all time. No humor there. It also would be devoid of curiosity. It would be indifferent to all things.

The net effect on such a being would amount to eternal, intellectual paralysis. Is that why the god of the Old Testament was so angry and devoid of humor? He spent all of his prior existence trying to do something he would not know he would do before he did it? But, then, were the stories of the Old Testament even remotely true, he didn’t act as though he were omniscient.

Still, there is no need of a god or a demon. Take them out of the mix—remove the intelligence factor altogether—and you have determinism: cause and effect.

Thoughts of omniscience brought Jeff back to his father, who zealously believed that his god was omniscient and knew the thoughts of every soul on earth at every moment, even before the thinkers thought them, and even before the earth came into existence.

* * *

I welcome all points of view on this.


Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel of Justice, mercy, and love, written in the spirit of the BBC/WGBH Boston production, God On Trial

The Key Ingredient for Empathy is Understanding: Do Atheists Have Faith?

Do Atheists Have Faith?

tumblr_m81iz6Artd1qdbcn8If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that atheists have faith, too, I could quit my day job. Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration but I probably could at least afford a pretty decent steak dinner. It’s very frustrating to hear and it’s not for the reason the person saying it thinks it is.  This assertion doesn’t irritate me because it’s clever or insightful; it irritates me because it’s nowhere near as clever or as insightful as it sounds.  In fact, it’s a logical fallacy called equivocation.  I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second, but ultimately I’m not interested in talking about argumentation (well, maybe I am a little bit). I’m more interested in explaining how faith and reason represent two very different approaches to perceiving the world, and how they operate on very different principles.

Equivocation happens when . . .

read more at Do Atheists Have Faith?.

_________________________________________________________________________

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to true 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?

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?

Religion Verses Atheism: A Misunderstood Debate

religion and science debateRecently on The Daily Tarheel, I posted a comment in support of same-gender marriage in which I chided religion for inhibiting advancements in the human condition. A contributor responded with a few questions which seemed to show that some good, religious folks have misunderstood the roll of atheists in relation to advancements in the human condition. Although I had not mentioned atheism in my original post, he wanted to know what atheism has contributed to humanity. I took this as an opportunity to elaborate, and decided to share the debate here.

I begin with my reply to his questions, which are incorporated below and are marked by <>:


Thank you for the questions. I always appreciate a civil debate. Forgive the lengthy reply, but your questions cannot be answered in a few words.

First, my argument has nothing to do with atheism. It has everything to do with religion-free Reason. Perhaps you could call it humanism. There are atheistic humanists, spiritual humanists, and religious humanists–and every shade within that spectrum. This applies, as well, to scientists the world over.

<>What advancements do you believe the anti-religionists of the 20th century brought to the world and the human psyche?

The question is a straw man argument. Again, I am not arguing atheism v religion. Advances in human societies have nothing to do with atheism, but everything to do with critical thinking. Better to ask what advancements have dogmatic religion brought to the world and to the human psyche. Dogma, by its very nature, is not a result of critical thought. (no condescension meant).

Once science divorced itself from religion and threw off (or set aside) the yoke of religious dogma, we achieved great strides in knowledge. In medicine, for example, we found that illness was not caused by demons, a devil, witchcraft, and/or a god’s punishment, but by organisms too small to see with the naked eye. The religion-free Scientific Method brought us cures for most of those diseases, and it will be religion-free science that conquers the Ebola virus.

For contrast, I researched the effectiveness of prayer and know that it does not work–subjective opinions notwithstanding. See: http://new.exchristian.net/201….

Too, science gave us knowledge that mental illness is not demonic possession, and this advancement led to cures and therapy instead of exorcisms. We no longer burn people to death because Reason has brought us empathy and understanding.

The Enlightenment brought us real astronomy (fought against by the church, fang and claw). Astronomy was nurtured by the birth of physics (where was the church here?)

The short if it is that the exclusion of religion in science has opened up humanity to every advancement known to the world and religion has been dragged along kicking, screaming, and killing. Reject science and you get ISIS (as an example).

<>If theism is out, what reason do you propose for our ability to reason?

My powers of reason (and yours) are a product of evolution. It developed because of its survival value just like most traits of all other species.

I sense that you would not agree with that. I will welcome your thoughtful arguments for Intelligent Design, but before you start, check out the documentary and trial transcripts of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find them athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/e…. Dr. Behe testified, and the judge was a conservative, appointed by a conservative.

<>When you consider world history, how has atheism fared in the promotion of world peace?

Again, it isn’t atheism v. religion. it is about Reason. Unfortunately, partly because of religion, science has had little effect on the human psychological thirst for domination and territoriality, and this, too, is a result of those traits we inherited from our evolutionary past. It is only when humanity realizes its own nature and whence it came will we be able to collectively do something about it. Better to ask what religion has contributed to world peace. Here is an article that will answer this question..

<>What religion(s) do you see killing each other in the names of their loving, merciful gods?

When you realize the real reason you disbelieve and oppose other religions, then, and only then, will you realize why they disbelieve and oppose yours. Muslims of every persuasion believe their god to be a loving god, so long as one is faithful to Islam. Christians believe their god to be a loving god so long as one is faithful to Christianity.

In the Muslim world, however, having rejected the Enlightenment, various denominations are even now killing each other. Surely you’ve noticed. Listen to many fundamentalist Christians who think we should nuke the Muslim nations and kill them all. I’ve debated many who advocate a “finial Crusade.” I suppose you might call that their “finial solution.” It is such a sad view, I think.

<>Where does the “golden rule” come from?

From many religions as well as the ancient sages. I’ve researched this as well: See: https://thebenevolentthou.com/2… for the list and the quotes.

<>How do you know that’s the only doctrine humanity needs?

The last answer lays out the reason.

<>Why do you list “love” as a prerequisite to marriage?

I did not “list” love as a “prerequisite” to marriage. This question is an equivocation on my argument that no one in this nation (U.S.) should be denied the right to marry someone he or she loves. This is not a theocracy. It is a secular nation. No religion has a right to dictate to others in society that they must abide by certain religious beliefs. You may not like what others do because of your religious beliefs, but since their actions bring no harm, they have every right to marry someone they love–the same right you reserve for yourself.

ANSWERS IN GENESIS: A Profile in Parasitism

Full disclosure: I am not a scientist. I am science literate. But I do not have to be a scientist to vet information given by scientists.


From Merriam Webster:

Parasitism:  an intimate association between organisms of two or more kinds; especially :  one in which a parasite obtains benefits from a host which it usually injures.

Sophistry: the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false.

Prosperity Theology - art source unknown

Prosperity Theology – art source unknown

Recently, I came across an article written by Dr. Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis (AiG), titled, A Big Belief. As most folks know, AiG is an organization, headed by Ken Ham, that advocates Young Earth Creationism (YEC), which holds that the earth was created just as the Bible says, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. The article set me thinking about the why people follow doctrine that, by any reasonable measure, has been shown to be false. Why do people choose faith over objective facts?

I understand that most people hold their religious beliefs deep within their being. After all, for billions of people on this interstellar vehicle we call Earth, life is little more than hunger, sickness, sham, and drudgery, especially among the poor. Their religious beliefs give them some comfort and hope for a better world to come, if not on this earth, then in a wonderful life hereafter.

My heart goes out to these people of all faiths, and I do not wish to take away hope for a better life. Yet it must be pointed out that blind religious faith (believing a proposition to be true even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) makes one vulnerable to deception and fraud by charismatic personalities such as Ken Ham, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Creflo Dollar Jr., Joyce Meyer, Benny Hen–the list goes on. These are seemingly devout personalities who prey on the pious for no other reason than their own economic self interest.

But, how can one tell the impostor from the genuinely-believing minister? They both speak the same religious language, display the same piety, and point to many of the same verses in the Bible.

The face you don't see

The face you don’t see

The first clue is glaringly obvious; their wealth! These predatory charlatans often defend their wealth by what they call Prosperity Theology—the holier one is, the more God rewards him with treasures on Earth. They often put on a glittering, big-stage show, sell many books, and sometimes “lay on hands.” They might point to Job or Abraham as proof of God’s generosity to those of the deepest faith.

For the thinking Christian, this should be recognized as sophistry, and sophistry is the means by which these frauds attach themselves to the mind of the unfortunate believer, inject the poison of a misguided sense of self-worth, and then feed on his hope (sucking it out right through his wallet).

To avoid these fakes, the thinking Christian must ask himself; What is the real message from the Gospels–the message I am supposed to be following?

Matthew 6:19-21

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

and,

Matthew 19:23  ¶

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:24

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

and,

Luke 18:22-23  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Now the Christian must ask himself if his minister, and/or anyone else to whom he contributes, follows the aforesaid prescription. If not, then they are frauds.

Secondly, to avoid harm, the Christian needs to understand that there are true-believing ministers who are delusional and dangerous. They seek not only your money, but your very being as well. These are folks like Jim JonesMarshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate, and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. It is unfortunate, but apparently there always will be lost people vulnerable to these passionate, but insane folks, and I can see little that can be done other than through education and psychological help.


So, what does all the above have to do with Answers In Genesis, Dr. Faulkner, Ken Ham, and their Creation Museum?

Ham’s income at Answers in Genesis is a modest 150,000 per year, but added to that are speaking fees (he’s among the most sought after speakers in fundamentalist circles as well as one of the top spokes persons for the media on the subject of creationism) and book sales numbering in the millions. The man is a millionaire.

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner's work

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner’s work

Ham’s sophistry (the injection device): The article by Dr. Danny Faulkner is an excellent example of sophistry. Leaving out pertinent details and facts can be as deceptive as simply lying. It amounts to disinformation, or propaganda. Most Christians recognize such deceptions–when they recognize them–as “bearing false witness.”

In his article, Faulkner argues that the Big Bang–the current accepted scientific model of the beginning of the Universe, space, and time–cannot be true because, (1) it is, “fraught with problems,” (2) “different parts of the [Cosmic Microwave Background] CMB have precisely the same temperature.” and that, (3) the model does not agree with the Bible’s account of creation.

The first claim (1) amounts to misinformation, and his use of the use of the word, “fraught” is designed to cast doubt on the entire theory before any evidence is given or vetted. It is true that there are anomalies/problems within the Big Bang Theory, but problems are a normal characteristic of scientific research. Suggesting otherwise is misleading. Science is progressive. The more question solved through research, the more questions those solutions raise. Greater knowledge is gained over time, especially by the advent of better technology–new and more finely-tuned instrumentation.

This leads us to (2), the claim of temperature uniformity in the CMB. The claim was correct when the CMB was first discovered accidentally, but not now. As technology advanced and finer tuned instruments were developed, minute fluctuations in the temperature were discovered, and the explanation was given. Faulkner should have known this.

That the Big Bang theory does not agree with the Bible (3), is an astonishing statement coming from a scientist. It is an atrocity to reason. It is choosing the authority of an ancient, pre-science, unauthenticated story over modern, objective, scientific research. The statement is so far from scientific, that to be spoken by a scientist, it reaches the greatest possible height of absurdity.

Still, statement does lay bare very reason for the existence of AiG. It is the primary argument of the creationist–though often unacknowledged–and it is the very reason why creationism is not science. Faulkner should, and probably does, know this.

What was left unsaid: By far the most salient fact that Faulkner left out of his article was the primary reason for the Big Bang Theory. In my mind, the way to refute the Big Bang Theory is to show that the physics of the Red Shift, or the Doppler Effect, is false. And the likelihood of that happening is infinitesimally small–it ain’t gonna happen, folks.

One last point. Recent advances in theoretical physics are suggesting the possibility that our universe may not be the only universe in existence. Indeed, models now taking shape tend to solve some of the problems within the Big Bang Theory.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to humanistic 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?

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.

ACTS OF EMPATHY: How to Spread the Warmth

This post needs no comments from me.


— 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?

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?

When Civil Rights and Libertarianism Collide

Image   What does it take to create a harmonious civil society? Individual rights are extremely important, but so are civil rights. Should individual rights trump civil rights? For me, a recent exchange of opinions with a self described libertarian on the social blog, SodaHead, highlighted this conflict.

First, I understand the position of the libertarian and I do sympathize. Libertarians believe that the individual is the sole arbiter of his associations, and not the government. I agree to an extent, but I argue that for the purpose of building and maintaining a civil society, there must be at least two exceptions, e.g., commerce and religion.

This clash of rights came to light lately when a baker refused his service to a gay wedding. The baker was not required to attend the wedding, but simply to bake and decorate the cake. He based his refusal on his religious beliefs. At first blush, one would tend to agree with the baker. After all, we do have the right to practice our religions. Yet, this practice sometimes runs afoul of law, which is the manifestation of the government’s obligation to guarantee all citizens equal access to commerce.

The government (We the People), have a compelling interest in the promotion of a civil society. While the baker, in his private life, has a sovereign right to association, in his business practices, he does not have the right to select which customers he will not serve. The gay couple’s right to equal access to commerce outweighs whatever right he may think he has for refusing his service.

He who has a business open to the public, must serve the public. Besides, the baker is not being forced to associate on a social bases with them, he is merely obligated to operate his business as usual, even if his cake does have two male or female figurines on top. This case illustrates my argument that religion is often divisive–a major hindrance to peace and harmony. Were the baker to follow the path of benevolent reciprocity–do unto others as you would have them do unto you–empathy would have dictated his actions. We should not be in the business of building walls, but dismantling those we’ve built.

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