Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pascal's Wager and Monergism

If you've never encountered Pascal's Wager or don't know what is, here's a brief summary. If you believe in a god and a god exists, you go to its heaven. If the god doesn't exist, there is no loss. However if you don't believe in a deity and it turns out he does exist, you burn in hell forever.

Therefore, since there is cost to believing in a deity, you may as well believe.

There are numerous holes in this theory, the most obvious being that there are thousands of deities and you have to be sure to pick the right one because most of them don't like each other.

However there is another hole in this idea of Pascal's. Simply put, there is a huge cost to having religion. Don't believe me? Look at the monergism website. (It's okay, I know it has "gism" in the title, but it's completely safe for work) What is Monergism? Quoth I, Monergism is:

The view that the Holy Spirit is the only agent who effects regeneration of Christians. It is in contrast with synergism, the view that there is a cooperation between the divine and the human in the regeneration process.

Now look at that absolutely monumental website, entirely dedicated to this miniscule portion of Christian belief. Think of all of the intellectual time spent by these people rationalizing this tiny schism of Christian doctrine. Just gaze in rapt fascination at the sheer insanity of it all.

Now tell me again how the premise of Pascal's Wager, that "there is no cost to believing", is an accurate depiction of how people practice religion. Imagine how much better off our society would be if all of the historical church figures who had been indoctrinated in to this nonsense and therefore spent their mental power on it had instead spent their time refining our understand of the natural universe.

Imagine how far we would have progressed by now. Instead we have centuries of writings and examinations on whether an imaginary man will forgive our crimes based on our interactions with a ghost or based solely on the power of the ghost.

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War is Stupid. Everybody knows that.

Oh, if only this were true.

Unfortunately there's a huge crowd of people on the right wing of politics everywhere who believe that war is the inevitable state of humankind. There has always been war, they will tell us, and therefore there will always be war.

Well, there are a lot of things that "always were", and yet we've put a stop to so many. You don't see a whole lot of land wars in Europe or human sacrifice anymore, do you? And there a lot more "always were"s that we're slowly stamping out: genital mutilation; asbestos; honour killing.

The most telling comment, though, regarding the father of the man who died so recently in Afghanistan, is this one from the mother of another deceased soldier:

"You've gotta believe that what they did, they did for a reason," she said, adding: "I honestly believe they're there for a good reason."

It sounds sadly desperate, doesn't it? You gotta believe. You just gotta. They can't be dying and killing for no reason. No. No way.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Harper Apologizes to the Natives

The Conservative government perplexes me. In amongst all the obvious pro-business, pro-wealthy tax cuts, the military expansion, their involvement in the torturing of prisoners and their secret assistance to the invasion of Iraq - they go off and apologize to native Canadians for their mistreatment at the hands of the government's residential schools.

It's a well deserved apology. These people were horribly mistreated. The basic crime is attempting to destroy someone's culture. We're not talking about the "culture" that Jeffrey Simpson and that lot are worried about (wherein, apparently, all Muslims want to come to our country and change our constitution in to sharia law). We're talking about speaking your own language, signaling yes and no the way you were raised to do so, eating your own food and following your own religion.

Yes, that was bad enough. But on top of that we've got to deal with the rampant sexual and physical abuse at these schools. It's very hard for us, as Canadians, to believe that we perpetrated this level of abuse on people in our country.

The question for Mr. Harper is this: what will you do now?

Will you recognize that these residential schools were not isolated outcasts or small stains but rather symbolic of the nature of our treatment of native Canadians? Do you now realize that the way that we act toward these people, our fellow Canadians, our fellow human beings, has to change? Do you now see, along with all of the other parties in government, that we need to reexamine our handling of our relations and our treaties with the natives?

The apology is only a first step. Any money paid is largely irrelevant.

What matters is that the policy changes. If it doesn't, the apology rings hollow.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

McLellan on the Bandwagon

Honestly, I'm not even going to read the man's book. It's nice that people who leave the Bush Administration are telling us what a bunch of dogmatically driven pack of liars they are, but it's a bit late, Scott.

The time we needed you to call them out was sometime in 2003, when you were helping them lie. You're no hero. You're too late. You're too late by 4000 American dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead and hundreds of billions of American dollars spent.

Good luck with the book, though.

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