Ku Cuck Klan: The Family Values

Introducing my latest, finalized project and first ever published ebook novel. I’m still working on another one that I’ve already spent 3 or so years on. This one is more of a parody of concepts regarding contemporary culture and the current vitriolic rise of hate groups than anything else. So… I wrote an ebook exploring how Christian hate groups and Christian religious extremists would act in their idealized Utopian society. Hope you all enjoy!

Summary:

Due to inspiration from the alternative facts movement; Flat Earthers, the Ku Klux Klan, the majority of Neo-Nazi groups, and White Evangelicals joined together to form a utopian society to separate itself from the sinfulness of the carnal world so that they could live according to the Holy Bible. They established their utopian society known as “The Family Values” to rejoice in the purity of their faith in the Lord and in the purity of their blood.

They follow strict conservative social values for their namesake of protecting Christian family values. As such, they forbid the cursed children of Ham from entering due to lacking their pure skin tone, people follow gender roles with strict obedience as per the Bible’s instructions on what roles men and women must maintain, brothers and sisters in Christ must often marry or be kept servile to continue the divine right of blood purity, and they live modest, quasi-ascetic lives with strict adherence to the Bible as the inerrant Word of the Lord without question or doubt.

Witness as people of faith and blood purity come together to rejoice in worship for the Lord.

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The Abrahamic Faiths are vacuous and lead to justifying violence

This is not going to be a very kind post. It is not intended to dehumanize, but it may offend. I don’t mean for this to be a personal attack against anyone specific and I am not advocating or justifying violence of any kind. I’m just tired of seeing the same shit.

I am thoroughly exhausted and sick of trying to find rational reasons to understand and empathize with the causes behind why human violence continues to persist. I have tried so hard and so long with trying to find the empathetic element to all the violence and death that pervades the world due to the spread of hate, but to be perfectly frank, I can no longer find it in me to avoid putting the blame on religion as a clear, consistent, and continuous self-justification for violence and hate. And, most particularly, the Abrahamic faiths are usually the ones continuously inciting, justifying, and turning a blind eye to equivocate on violence.

The Abrahamic Faiths, the religion of Yahweh, are constantly justifying their own violence by saying the “other side” is more violent. The US public justifies bombings by pointing to Islamic beheadings and vice-versa, Muslims in the Middle East justify beheadings by pointing at US bombings. It’s a never ending cycle of stupidity and death.

At this point, I can’t find any way to reasonably justify and argue that all religions are somehow equally to blame when it’s just a way of lacking any meaningful answer and just espousing the circular logic that humans are humans. It’s just a non-answer and it creates the expectation that you can never change or, at the very least, that we as a society or a world can never decrease incidents of murder, assault, and rape. It’s just a way of being complicit with human violence and shielding any criticism of religion.

How many Christian groups remain silent when the US launches a War and Right-wing groups talk about protecting the Holy land such as when they did to support the Iraq invasion? How many even bother to condemn US bombings like MLK did?

Why do so many different Christian groups have the issue of systematic child rapes being hidden by Church officials?

How many Rabbis write arguments to justify Israel’s torture of Palestinian children and the ongoing genocide of Palestine every year?

How many times do we have to hear about Islamic fundamentalist violence growing across the world with extremism becoming more unified thanks to the Internet and social media? How many times do we see justification for heads being lobbed off and the rape of women and young girls?

Pro-tip: If you’re constantly giving a pass to violence in your religion, every single year and have a history of violence towards people who believe in the same God that you do, then maybe, just maybe, your religion’s value system being interpreted wrongly isn’t the problem. The problem is your religion is violent, stupid shit.

The Abrahamic religions are constantly blaming each other to justify their own violence and the majority equivocate to the egregious human rights violations of wars. Arguing the religion being interpreted wrongly is asinine. If it happens throughout your religion’s history, then perhaps you should start seeing the religion itself and Yahweh as the central problem.

How can anyone reasonably argue that the religion of Yahweh isn’t to blame when Christians, Muslims, and Jews — including pastors, clergymen, imams, and Rabbis write editorials and op-eds to equivocate on their religion’s violence and justify it by blaming the other religion of Yahweh?

Lastly, how can open interpretation be anything else but moral relativism under the approval of a God? That argument seems asinine to me. In my view, Open interpretation is just moral relativism under the idea that a God agrees with your opinion over the entirety of the religion’s history. It’s fundamentally self-contradictory.

But please, feel free to prove me wrong. I would love to be proven wrong about this. But to be frank, it just seems to be a way to equivocate, rationalize, be complicit, and ignore human violence committed by all three subsets of the Abrahamic faiths.

I no longer believe the religion of Yahweh is tolerant or it’s continued existence worthy of respect or justification. The religion of Yahweh is such that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism don’t even identify as believing in the same God because of the history of violence against each other.

That’s not proof that you’re a different religion, it’s proof your religious theology isn’t peaceful.

Christianity since the inception of the US has justified and still justifies massive rape crimes of Native Americans that is still ongoing and still hiding it’s already disgustingly lengthy history along with a sterilization campaign, “successful” Christian nation-states commit mass bombing campaigns of other religions of Yahweh, and literally acts like every other culture was more violent than it to argue it’s peaceful when that has no historic basis. It’s just a false-consensus effect based on ignorance of other religions and the utter destruction and violence committed by European and US Christians upon the rest of the world under Imperialism.

Staunch Judaism tries to enforce a narrative about a history regarding Moses that has no credibility whatsoever. There’s no point anymore. There is nothing at all of value in a so-called holy land where Palestinian children are being tortured because the IDF is allowed to do what it wants to them with impunity. The fact you don’t even know this is an ongoing issue for decades should tell you something about the level of violence in a religion.

Islam… you hear it every day. I’d rather not promote further hate.

I’m just tired of trying; stupidity and hate just keep chugging along and I hear the same stupid trite excuses. I’m done. The Abrahamic faiths are a cancer upon intellectualism and empathy. Apart from a few trite anecdotes, there’s nothing good about their moral values at all. Prove me wrong or don’t bother.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

This book, by Psychologist Angela Duckworth, was very illuminating. I had heard of this book before thanks to having read Carol Dweck and Heidi Grant Halvorson’s books, but I wish I had read this one before them because I feel that it provides the foundational basis for those other two authors delve into with mindsets. Halvorson and Duckworth’s books together seem to give a more concise and efficient view on how to pursue goals. Dweck details the self-conceptions and lists anecdotal examples.

The most striking matter I’ve found about this book doesn’t really relate to the book per se. I’ve discovered that a lot of the more “official” reviews, such as the New Yorker, are being utterly pretentious and vilifying this book based on arguments that Angela Duckworth never made or even implied. I was shocked to see the radical difference between the contents of the book and the disparaging reviews that were being dishonest in their representation of both her research and her as a person. I was in disbelief until I read her perspective on her TEDTalk in her own book where she mentions, in much nicer words than I’m describing, how the CEO of TED basically asked her to dumb down her information to the public about her findings. The TEDTalk and the arguments against her feel and sound like they’re calling her bluff about nonsense the public has heard before, specifically because she was requested to tone down the information. So, it’s unfair. It’s unfair of us to judge her based on her TEDTalk and those shockingly disingenuous reviews. I wouldn’t honestly be saying this had I not done the same prior to reading her book on a whim.

Long story short: this book isn’t about education policy and never claimed to be. This book is for individuals and parents who want to learn what encourages people to find a passion, how to learn to work at that passion for a long term, and how we internalize a greater purpose for ourselves and others by following through with commitments that we feel strongly about. Grit was never about making kids better with grades. Nevertheless, this can only apply to grades, if kids care about the classes they take, but this book is more oriented towards extracurricular activities and encouraging them in kids early, it was never about trying to force kids to be passionate or persevere in grades on subjects they don’t care about. Duckworth even explains the problems trying to force people to be passionate about subject matter that they don’t care about.

In Duckworth’s book, her interviews and general research have found that people who are very successful in their careers didn’t simply find their passion from one incident. They discovered tidbits or gained encouragement from loved ones multiple time. As Duckworth puts it: Again, and again, and again. People might be happy to know that there isn’t a specific parenting style, you just shouldn’t devalue or tell your child the interest is bad, if you want to encourage their growth. Moreover, even if a child follows with an activity the parent has misgivings about like joining a music band, evidence shows that sticking to it for more than a year (generally 2 years) is likely to encourage them to stick to future goals when they discover a new passion. In the long term, the “grit” mindset of following through with your intrinsic passion can have long-term benefits. Also, much of the passion and perseverance doesn’t come from pushing through adversity, but rather being encouraged to follow your intrinsic motivation. Children need encouraging parents and teachers, we need encouraging friends, and – most of all – we need a sense that what we’re doing is meaningful for both ourselves and a greater society. I began realizing that a lot of the passion in the passion and perseverance rubric could apply to the immediate feedback loop that video games give people. Generally, we can immediately ascertain gains and losses and the techniques for how to improve are either instructed in the game itself or can be found from tips online. Having a community of friends to talk to about games like Dragon Quest or Dragon Age is self-reinforcing.

I’m somewhat hesitant to jot down a list of the crucial parts of her research, because I’m often afraid that I’m simply not giving this book and it’s author due credit by paraphrasing and potentially taking her out of context. I’m particularly hesitant because of how thoroughly people have insulted caricatures of her work instead of the work itself. When people begin counting terminology and the number of times a word was used, I begin to question whether they had ever even read her book at all. I was really disappointed with so many reviews that conflate Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth’s research with their personality characteristics. This isn’t even isolated to women or even people who exist in the present-day. I just keep spotting this same pattern and when I read someone’s work, it’s largely incredibly different from what accusers espouse that their work  contains. I don’t want to contribute to that form of misinformation, even if subconsciously, and I don’t like taking someone’s words out of context as I see so often done.

I’ll just jot down certain specific quotes that I felt were key points in the book and align them with the overarching information that the book was explaining in bold text so people can judge for themselves.

The major overarching theme is underlined and specifics are placed underneath those umbrella concepts:

Developing a Passionate Interest

How Does Passion Start?

When it comes to lining up our occupations with what we enjoy, how come so many of us miss the mark? And does my dad’s success offer a counterexample to the passion argument? What should we make of the fact that, by the time I came along, my father’s work really was his passion? Should we stop telling people to follow your passion and, instead, tell them to follow our orders? I don’t think so. In fact, I see Will Shortz and Jeff Bezos as terrific inspirations for what work can be. While it’s naive to think that any of us could love every minute of what we do, I believe the thousands of data points in those meta-analyses, which confirm the commonsense intuition that interest matters.

Nobody is interested in everything, and everyone is interested in something. So
matching your job to what captures your attention and imagination is a good idea. It may not guarantee happiness and success, but it sure helps the odds. That said, I don’t think most young people need encouragement to follow their passion. Most would do exactly that—in a heartbeat—if only they had a passion in the first place. If I’m ever invited to give a commencement speech, I’ll begin with the advice to foster a passion. And then I’ll spend the rest of my time trying to change young minds about how that actually happens. -Page 98.

Passion takes time, so give it time:

A few months ago, I read a post on Reddit titled “Fleeting Interest in Everything, No Career Direction”: I’m in my early thirties and have no idea what to do with myself, career-wise. All my life I’ve been one of those people who has been told how smart I am/how much potential I have. I’m interested in so much stuff that I’m paralyzed to try anything. It seems like every job requires a specialized certificate or designation that requires long-term time and financial investment—before you can even try the job, which is a bit of a drag. I have a lot of sympathy for the thirty-something who wrote this post. As a college professor, I also have a lot of sympathy for the twentysomethings who come to me for career advice.

My colleague Barry Schwartz has been dispensing counsel to anxious young adults for much longer than I have. He’s been teaching psychology at Swarthmore College for forty-five years. Barry thinks that what prevents a lot of young people from developing a serious career interest is unrealistic expectations. “It’s really the same problem a lot of young people have finding a romantic partner,” he said. “They want somebody who’s really attractive and smart and kind and empathetic and thoughtful and funny. Try telling a twenty-one-year-old that you can’t find a person who is absolutely the best in every way. They don’t listen. They’re holding out for perfection.” “What about your wonderful wife, Myrna?” I asked. “Oh, she is wonderful. More wonderful than I am, certainly. But is she perfect? Is she the only person I could have made a happy life with? Am I the only man in the world with whom she could have made a wonderful marriage? I don’t think so.” A related problem, Barry says, is the mythology that falling in love with a career should be sudden and swift: “There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it, or what have you. Well, that requires that you stick with it.” After a pause, Barry said, “Actually, finding a mate is the perfect analogy. Meeting a potential match—not the one-and-only perfect match, but a promising one—is only the very beginning.”

Interest, Discovery, Successive Rediscovery, and Positive Feedback from Loved Ones:

To the thirty-something on Reddit with a “fleeting interest in everything” and “no career direction,” here’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening. Let me explain. First of all, childhood is generally far too early to know what we want to be when we grow up. Longitudinal studies following thousands of people across time have shown that most people only begin to gravitate toward certain vocational interests, and away from others, around middle school.

This is certainly the pattern I’ve seen in my interview research, and it’s also what journalist Hester Lacey has found in her interviews with the “mega successful.” Keep in mind, however, that a seventh grader—even a future paragon of grit—is unlikely to have a fully articulated passion at that age. A seventh grader is just beginning to figure out her general likes and dislikes.

Second, interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t. You can’t simply will yourself to like things, either. As Jeff Bezos has observed, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.” Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t. Paradoxically, the initial discovery of an interest often goes unnoticed by the discoverer. In other words, when you just start to get interested in something, you may not even realize that’s what’s happening. The emotion of boredom is always self-conscious—you know it when you feel it—but when your attention is attracted to a new activity or experience, you may have very little reflective appreciation of what’s happening to you. This means that, at the start of a new endeavor, asking yourself nervously every few days whether you’ve found your passion is premature.

Third, what follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development. Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention—again and again and again.

For instance, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins told me that it was watching space shuttle launches on television in high school that initially inspired his lifelong interest in space travel. But it wasn’t just one launch that hooked him. It was several shown in succession over a period of years. Soon enough, he started digging for more information on NASA, and “one piece of information led to another and another.”

For master potter Warren MacKenzie, ceramics class in college—which he only took, initially, because all the painting classes were full—was followed by the discovery of A Potter’s Book by the great Bernard Leach, and then a year-long internship with Leach himself.

Finally, interests thrive when there is a crew of encouraging supporters, including parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. Why are other people so important? For one thing, they provide the ongoing stimulation and information that is essential to actually liking something more and more. Also—more obviously—positive feedback makes us feel happy, competent, and secure. Take Marc Vetri as an example. There are few things I enjoy reading more than his cookbooks and essays about food, but he was a solid-C student throughout school. “I never worked hard at academics,” he told me. “I was always just like, ‘This is kind of boring.’ ” In contrast, Marc spent delightful
Sunday afternoons at his Sicilian grandmother’s house in South Philly. “She’d make meatballs and lasagna and all that stuff, and I always liked to head down early to help her out. By the time I was eleven or so, I started wanting to make that stuff at home, too.” As a teenager, Marc had a part-time job washing dishes in a local restaurant. “And I loved that. I worked hard.” Why? Making money was one motivation, but another was the camaraderie of the kitchen. “Around that time I was sort of a social outcast. I was kind of awkward. I had a stutter. Everyone at school thought I was weird. I was like, ‘Oh, here I can wash dishes, and I can watch the guys on the line [cooking] while I’m washing, and I can eat. Everyone is nice, and they like me.’ ”

If you read Marc’s cookbooks, you’ll be struck by how many friends and mentors he’s made in the world of food. Page through and look for pictures of Marc alone, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find many. And read the acknowledgments of Il Viaggio Di Vetri. It runs to two pages with the names of people who made his journey possible, including this note: “Mom and Dad, you’ve always let me find my own way and helped guide me through it. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it. I’ll always need you.” Is it “a drag” that passions don’t come to us all at once, as epiphanies, without the need to actively develop them? Maybe. But the reality is that our early interests are fragile, vaguely defined, and in need of energetic, years-long cultivation and refinement. – Page 103.

Don’t Rush a Passion:

For now, what I hope to convey is that experts and beginners have different motivational needs. At the start of an endeavor, we need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we enjoy. We need small wins. We need applause. Yes, we can handle a tincture of criticism and corrective feedback. Yes, we need to practice. But not too much and not too soon. Rush a beginner and you’ll bludgeon their budding interest. It’s very, very hard to get that back once you do. – Page 108.

Helpful tips to develop a Passion for Young Adults and Adults:

If you’d like to follow your passion but haven’t yet fostered one, you must begin at the beginning: discovery. Ask yourself a few simple questions: What do I like to think about? Where does my mind wander? What do I really care about? What matters most to me? How do I enjoy spending my time? And, in contrast, what do I find absolutely unbearable? If you find it hard to answer these questions, try recalling your teen years, the stage of life at which vocational interests commonly sprout. As soon as you have even a general direction in mind, you must trigger your nascent interests. Do this by going out into the world and doing something. To young graduates wringing their hands over what to do, I say, Experiment! Try! You’ll certainly learn more than if you don’t!

At this early stage of exploration, here are a few relevant rules of thumb taken from Will Shortz’s essay “How to Solve the New York Times Crossword Puzzle”: Begin with the answers you’re surest of and build from there. However ill-defined your interests, there are some things you know you’d hate doing for a living, and some things that seem more promising than others. That’s a start. Don’t be afraid to guess. Like it or not, there’s a certain amount of trial and error inherent in the process of interest discovery. Unlike the answers to crossword puzzles, there isn’t just one thing you can do that might develop into a passion. There are many. You don’t have to find the “right” one, or even the “best” one—just a direction that feels good. It can also be difficult to know if something will be a good fit until you try it for a while. Don’t be afraid to erase an answer that isn’t working out.

At some point, you may choose to write your top-level goal in indelible ink, but until you know for sure, work in pencil. If, on the other hand, you already have a good sense of what you enjoy spending your time doing, it’s time to develop your interest. After discovery comes development. Remember that interests must be triggered again and again and again. Find ways to make that happen. And have patience. The development of interests takes time. Keep asking questions, and let the answers to those questions lead you to more questions. Continue to dig. Seek out other people who share your interests. Sidle up to an encouraging mentor. Whatever your age, over time your role as a learner will become a more active and informed one. Over a period of years, your knowledge and expertise will grow, and along with it your confidence and curiosity to know more. Finally, if you’ve been doing something you like for a few years and still wouldn’t quite call it a passion, see if you can deepen your interests. Since novelty is what your brain craves, you’ll be tempted to move on to something new, and that could be what makes the most sense. However, if you want to stay engaged for more than a few years in any endeavor, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy the nuances that only a true aficionado can appreciate. “The old in the new is what claims the attention,” said William James. “The old with a slightly new turn.” In sum, the directive to follow your passion is not bad advice. But what may be even more useful is to understand how passions are fostered in the first place. – Page 114.

Gritty Journalist Anecdote; Passion as a Compass:

‘Screw it, this is what I’m going to do.’ I set out a very deliberate path that was possible, because the journalism industry was very hierarchical, and it was clear how to get from A to B to C to D, et cetera.” Step A was writing for Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell. Step B was a summer internship at a small paper in Wisconsin. Step C was the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on the Metro beat. Step D was the Los Angeles Times. Step E was the New York Times as a national correspondent in Atlanta. Step F was being sent overseas to cover war stories, and in 2006—just over a decade since he’d set himself the goal—he finally reached step G: becoming the New York Times’ East Africa bureau chief. “It was a really winding road that took me to all kinds of places. And it was difficult, and discouraging, and demoralizing, and scary, and all the rest. But eventually, I got here. I got exactly where I wanted to be.” As for so many other grit paragons, the common metaphor of passion as fireworks doesn’t make sense when you think of what passion means to Jeff Gettleman. Fireworks erupt in a blaze of glory but quickly fizzle, leaving just wisps of smoke and a memory of what was once spectacular. What Jeff’s journey suggests instead is passion as a compass—that thing that takes you some time to build, tinker with, and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, you want to be. Page 60.

Passion as a Compass forming a Life Philosophy:

Pete realized he didn’t have one and needed to: “If I was ever going to get the chance to run an organization again, I would have to be prepared with a philosophy that would drive all my actions.” Pete did a lot of thinking and reflecting: “My life in the next weeks and months was filled with writing notes and filling binders.” At the same time, he was devouring the books of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won a record-setting ten national championships. Like a lot of coaches, Pete had already read Wooden. But this time, he was reading Wooden and understanding, at a much deeper level, what the coaching icon had to say. And the most important thing Wooden said was that, though a team has to do a million things well, figuring out the overarching vision is of utmost importance. Pete realized in that moment that particular goals—winning a particular game, or even a seasonal championship, or figuring out this element of the offensive lineup, or the way to talk to players—needed coordination, needed purpose: “A clear, well-defined philosophy gives you the guidelines and boundaries that keep you on track,” he said. Page 61.

Having a Life Philosophy

Goal-Oriented Passion:

At the bottom of this hierarchy are our most concrete and specific goals—the tasks we have on our short-term todo list: I want to get out the door today by eight a.m. I want to call my business partner back. I want to finish writing the email I started yesterday. These low-level goals exist merely as means to ends. We want to accomplish them only because they get us something else we want. In contrast, the higher the goal in this hierarchy, the more abstract, general, and important it is. The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself, and the less it’s merely a means to an end. In the diagram I’ve sketched out here, there are just three levels. That’s an oversimplification. Between the lowest and the highest level might be several layers of mid-level goals. For instance, getting out the door by eight a.m. is a low-level goal. It only matters because of a mid-level goal: arriving at work on time. Why do you care about that? Because you want to be punctual. Why do you care about that? Because being punctual shows respect for the people with whom you work. Why is that important? Because you strive to be a good leader. If in the course of asking yourself these “Why?” questions your answer is simply “Just because!” then you know you’ve gotten to the top of a goal hierarchy.

The top-level goal is not a means to any other end. It is, instead, an end in itself. Some psychologists like to call this an “ultimate concern.” Myself, I think of this top-level goal as a compass that gives direction and meaning to all the goals below it. – Pg. 62.

Prioritize Your Goals:

What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination. At the extreme, one might call your focus obsessive. Most of your actions derive their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy. You have your priorities in order. -Page 64.

Forming Your Goal Hierarchy:

Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy,” as Pete Carroll might put it, is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. In contrast, a lack of grit can come from having less coherent goal structures. Here are a few ways a lack of grit can show itself. I’ve met many young people who can articulate a dream—for example, to be a doctor or to play basketball in the NBA—and can vividly imagine how wonderful that would be, but they can’t point to the midlevel and lower-level goals that will get them there. Their goal hierarchy has a top-level goal but no supporting
mid-level or low-level goals: This is what my good friend and fellow psychologist Gabriele Oettingen calls “positive fantasizing.” Gabriele’s research suggests that indulging in visions of a positive future without figuring out how to get there, chiefly by considering what obstacles stand in the way, has short-term payoffs but long-term costs. In the short-term, you feel pretty great about your aspiration to be a doctor. In the long-term, you live with the disappointment of not having achieved your goal. Even more common, I think, is having a bunch of mid-level goals that don’t correspond to any unifying, top-level goal: Or having a few competing goal hierarchies that aren’t in any way connected with each other: To some extent, goal conflict is a necessary feature
of human existence. For instance, I have one goal hierarchy as a professional and another as a mother. Even Tom Seaver admits that the travel and practice schedule of a professional baseball player made it hard to spend as much time with his wife and children as he would have liked. So, though pitching was his professional passion, there were other goal hierarchies that obviously mattered to him. Like Seaver, I have one goal hierarchy for work: Use psychological science to help kids thrive. But I have a separate goal hierarchy that involves being the best mother I can be to my two daughters. As any working parent knows, having two “ultimate concerns” isn’t easy. There seems never to be enough time, energy, or attention to go around. I’ve decided to live with that tension. As a young woman, I considered alternatives—not having my career or not raising a family—and decided that, morally, there was no “right decision,” only a decision that was right for me. So, the idea that every waking moment in our lives should be guided by one top-level goal is an idealized extreme that may not be
desirable even for the grittiest of us. Still, I would argue that it’s possible to pare down long lists of mid-level and low-level work goals according to how they serve a goal of supreme importance. And I think one top-level professional goal, rather than any other number, is ideal. In sum, the more unified, aligned, and coordinated our goal hierarchies, the better.

Assessing Goals:

Indeed, giving up on lower-level goals is not only forgivable, it’s sometimes absolutely necessary. You should give up when one lower-level goal can be swapped for another that is more feasible. It also makes sense to switch your path when a different lower-level goal—a different means to the same end—is just more efficient, or more fun, or for whatever reason makes more sense than your original plan. On any long journey, detours are to be expected. However, the higher-level the goal, the more it makes sense to be stubborn. Personally, I try not to get too hung up on a particular rejected grant application, academic paper, or failed experiment. The pain of those failures is real, but I don’t dwell on them for long before moving on. In contrast, I don’t give up as easily on mid-level goals, and frankly, I can’t imagine anything that would change my ultimate aim, my life philosophy, as Pete might say. My compass, once I found all the parts and put it together, keeps pointing me in the same direction, week after month after year.

Inculcating Grit Habits to Form Grit Culture

Positive Self-Talk:

Carol also explains that the brain is remarkably adaptive. Like a muscle that gets stronger with use, the brain changes itself when you struggle to master a new challenge. In fact, there’s never a time in life when the brain is completely “fixed.” Instead, all our lives, our neurons retain the potential to grow new connections with one another and to strengthen the ones we already have. What’s more, throughout adulthood, we maintain the ability to grow myelin, a sort of insulating sheath that protects neurons and speeds signals traveling between them. My next suggestion is to practice optimistic self-talk. The link between cognitive behavioral therapy and learned helplessness led to the development of “resilience training.” In essence, this interactive curriculum is a preventative dose of cognitive behavioral therapy. In one study, children who completed this training showed lower levels of pessimism and developed fewer symptoms of depression over the next two years. In a similar study, pessimistic college students demonstrated less anxiety over the subsequent two years and less depression over three years. If, reading this chapter, you recognize yourself as an extreme pessimist, my advice is to find a cognitive behavioral therapist. I know how unsatisfying this recommendation might sound. Many years ago, as a teenager, I wrote to Dear Abby about a problem I was having. “Go see a therapist,” she wrote back. I recall tearing up her letter, angry she didn’t propose a neater, faster, more straightforward solution. Nevertheless, suggesting that reading twenty pages about the science of hope is enough to remove an ingrained pessimistic bias would be naive. There’s much more to say about cognitive behavioral therapy and resilience training than I can summarize here. The point is that you can, in fact, modify your self-talk, and you can learn to not let it interfere with you moving toward your goals. With practice and guidance, you can change the way you think, feel, and, most important, act when the going gets rough. As a transition to the final section of this book, “Growing Grit from the Outside In,” let me offer one final suggestion for teaching yourself hope: Ask for a helping hand. A few years ago, I met a retired mathematician named Rhonda Hughes. Nobody in Rhonda’s family had gone to college, but as a girl, she liked math a whole lot more than stenography. Rhonda eventually earned a PhD in mathematics and, after seventy-nine of her eighty applications for a faculty position were rejected, she took a job at the single university that made her an offer. One reason Rhonda got in touch was to tell me that she had an issue with an item on the Grit Scale. “I don’t like that item that says, ‘Setbacks don’t discourage me.’ That makes no sense. I mean, who doesn’t get discouraged by setbacks? I certainly do. I think it should say, ‘Setbacks don’t discourage me for long. I get back on my feet.’  ” Of course, Rhonda was right, and in so many words, I changed the item accordingly. But the most important thing about Rhonda’s story is that she almost never got back up all by herself. Instead, she figured out that asking for help was a good way to hold on to hope.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 192-194). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Learned Industriousness:

So, it appears that sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and sometimes it does the opposite. The urgent question becomes: When? When does struggle lead to hope, and when does struggle lead to hopelessness? A few years ago, Steve Maier and his students designed an experiment nearly identical to the one he and Marty Seligman had conducted forty years earlier: One group of rats received electric shocks, but if they turned a small wheel with their front paws, they could turn off the shock until the next trial. A second group received the exact same dose of electric shocks as the first but had no control over their duration. One crucial difference was that, in the new experiment, the rats were only five weeks old— that’s adolescence in the rat life cycle. A second difference was that the effects of this experience were assessed five weeks later, when the rats were fully mature adults. At that point, both groups of rats were subjected to uncontrollable electric shocks and, the next day, observed in a social exploration test. Here’s what Steve learned. Adolescent rats who experienced stress they could not control grew up to be adult rats who, after being subjected to uncontrollable shocks a second time, behaved timidly. This was not unusual— they learned to be helpless in the same way that any other rat would. In contrast, adolescent rats who experienced stress they could control grew up to be more adventurous and, most astounding, appeared to be inoculated against learned helplessness in adulthood. That’s right— when these “resilient rats” grew up, the usual uncontrollable shock procedures no longer made them helpless. In other words, what didn’t kill the young rats, when by their own efforts they could control what was happening, made them stronger for life.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 187-188). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Because his wife was a teacher, Bob had the opportunity to try short-term versions of the same experiments with children. For instance, in one study, he gave pennies to second and third graders for counting objects, memorizing pictures, and matching shapes. For some children, Bob rapidly increased the difficulty of these tasks as the children improved. Other children were repeatedly given easy versions of the same tasks. All the children got pennies and praise. Afterward, the children in both conditions were asked to do a tedious job that was entirely different from the previous tasks: copying a list of words onto a sheet of paper. Bob’s findings were exactly the same as what he’d found with rats: children who’d trained on difficult (rather than easy) tasks worked harder on the copying task. Bob’s conclusion? With practice, industriousness can be learned. In homage to the earlier work of Seligman and Maier on learned helplessness, where the inability to escape punishment led animals to give up on a second challenging task, Bob dubbed this phenomenon learned industriousness. His major conclusion was simply that the association between working hard and reward can be learned. Bob will go further and say that without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they’re rats or people, default to laziness. Calorie-burning effort is, after all, something evolution has shaped us to avoid whenever possible.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 239-240). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Deliberate Practice and The Hard Thing Rule:

In our family, we live by the Hard Thing Rule. It has three parts. The first is that everyone— including Mom and Dad— has to do a hard thing. A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice. I’ve told my kids that psychological research is my hard thing, but I also practice yoga. Dad tries to get better and better at being a real estate developer; he does the same with running. My oldest daughter, Amanda, has chosen playing the piano as her hard thing. She did ballet for years, but later quit. So did Lucy. This brings me to the second part of the Hard Thing Rule: You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other “natural” stopping point has arrived. You must, at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you begin. In other words, you can’t quit on a day when your teacher yells at you, or you lose a race, or you have to miss a sleepover because of a recital the next morning. You can’t quit on a bad day. And, finally, the Hard Thing Rule states that you get to pick your hard thing. Nobody picks it for you because, after all, it would make no sense to do a hard thing you’re not even vaguely interested in. Even the decision to try ballet came after a discussion of various other classes my daughters could have chosen instead. Lucy, in fact, cycled through a half-dozen hard things. She started each with enthusiasm but eventually discovered that she didn’t want to keep going with ballet, gymnastics, track, handicrafts, or piano. In the end, she landed on viola. She’s been at it for three years, during which time her interest has waxed rather than waned. Last year, she joined the school and all-city orchestras, and when I asked her recently if she wanted to switch her hard thing to something else, she looked at me like I was crazy. Next year, Amanda will be in high school. Her sister will follow the year after. At that point, the Hard Thing Rule will change. A fourth requirement will be added: each girl must commit to at least one activity, either something new or the piano and viola they’ve already started, for at least two years. Tyrannical? I don’t believe it is. And if Lucy’s and Amanda’s recent comments on the topic aren’t disguised apple-polishing, neither do my daughters. They’d like to grow grittier as they get older, and, like any skill, they know grit takes practice. They know they’re fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. For parents who would like to encourage grit without obliterating their children’s capacity to choose their own path, I recommend the Hard Thing Rule.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 241-242). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Grit Culture:

How do you know you’re part of a culture that, in a very real sense, has become part of you? When you adopt a culture, you make a categorical allegiance to that in-group. You’re not “sort of” a Seahawk, or “sort of” a West Pointer. You either are or you aren’t. You’re in the group, or out of it. You can use a noun, not just an adjective or a verb, to describe your commitment. So much depends, as it turns out, on which in-group you commit to. The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 245). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Internalized Grit Culture:

Short-term conformity effects are not what excite me about the power of culture to influence grit. Not exactly. What excites me most is the idea that, in the long run, culture has the power to shape our identity. Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us. The way we do things around here and why eventually becomes The way I do things and why. Identity influences every aspect of our character, but it has special relevance to grit. Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make— to get up one more time; to stick it out through this miserable, exhausting summer; to run five miles with our teammates when on our own we might only run three— are a matter of identity more than anything else. Often, our passion and perseverance do not spring from a cold, calculating analysis of the costs and benefits of alternatives. Rather, the source of our strength is the person we know ourselves to be.

James March, an expert on decision making at Stanford University, explains the difference this way: Sometimes, we revert to cost-benefit analyses to make choices. Of course, March doesn’t mean that, in deciding what to order for lunch or when to go to bed, we take out a pad of paper and a calculator. What he means is that, sometimes when making choices, we take into consideration how we might benefit, and what we’ll have to pay, and how likely it is that these benefits and costs will be what we think they’ll be. We can do all of this in our heads, and indeed, when I’m deciding what to order for lunch or when to go to bed, I often think through the pros and the cons before making a decision. It’s very logical. But other times, March says, we don’t think through the consequences of our actions at all. We don’t ask ourselves: What are the benefits? What are the costs? What are the risks? Instead, we ask ourselves: Who am I? What is this situation? What does someone like me do in a situation like this?

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 247-248). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

How to Begin Grit Oriented Behavior:

First, thinking of yourself as someone who is able to overcome tremendous adversity often leads to behavior that confirms that self-conception. If you’re a Finn with that “sisu spirit,” you get up again no matter what. Likewise, if you’re a Seattle Seahawk, you’re a competitor. You have what it takes to succeed. You don’t let setbacks hold you back. Grit is who you are. Second, even if the idea of an actual inner energy source is preposterous, the metaphor couldn’t be more apt. It sometimes feels like we have nothing left to give, and yet, in those dark and desperate moments, we find that if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, there is a way to accomplish what all reason seems to argue against.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 252). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Grit Culture Anecdotes:

“You have to learn to get over bumps in the road and mistakes and setbacks,” he told me when I called to talk about the culture he’s built at JPMorgan Chase. “Failures are going to happen, and how you deal with them may be the most important thing in whether you succeed. You need fierce resolve. You need to take responsibility. You call it grit. I call it fortitude.” Fortitude is to Jamie Dimon what sisu is to Finland. Jamie recalls that getting fired from Citibank at age forty-two, and then taking a full year to ponder what lessons to take from the episode, made him a better leader. And he believes in fortitude enough to make it a core value for the entire JPMorgan Chase bank. “The ultimate thing is that we need to grow over time.”

Is it really possible, I asked, for a leader to influence the culture of such an enormous corporation? True, the culture of JPMorgan Chase has, with some affection, been described as “the cult of Jamie.” But there are literally thousands and thousands of JPMorgan Chase employees Jamie has never met in person. “Absolutely,” Jamie says. “It takes relentless— absolutely relentless— communication. It’s what you say and how you say it.” It may also be how often you say it. By all accounts, Jamie is a tireless evangelist, crossing the country to appear at what he calls town hall meetings with his employees. At one meeting he was asked, “What do you look for in your leadership team?” His answer? “Capability, character, and how they treat people.” Later, he told me that he asks himself two questions about senior management. First: “Would I let them run the business without me?” Second: “Would I let my kids work for them?”

Jamie has a favorite Teddy Roosevelt quote he likes to repeat: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. And here is how Jamie translates the poetry of Roosevelt into the prose of a JPMorgan Chase manual, titled How We Do Business: “Have a fierce resolve in everything you do.” “Demonstrate determination, resiliency, and tenacity.” “Do not let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses.” And, finally, “Use mistakes and problems as opportunities to get better— not reasons to quit.”

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 253-254). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Final Thoughts on Grit

This book has been my way of taking you out for a coffee and telling you what I know. I’m almost done. Let me close with a few final thoughts. The first is that you can grow your grit. I see two ways to do so. On your own, you can grow your grit “from the inside out”: You can cultivate your interests. You can develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can learn to hope when all seems lost. You can also grow your grit “from the outside in.” Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends— developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 269). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Limitations of Grit:

As a psychologist, I can confirm that grit is far from the only— or even the most important— aspect of a person’s character. In fact, in studies of how people size up others, morality trumps all other aspects of character in importance. Sure, we take notice if our neighbors seem lazy, but we’re especially offended if they seem to lack qualities like honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. So, grit isn’t everything. There are many other things a person needs in order to grow and flourish. Character is plural. One way to think about grit is to understand how it relates to other aspects of character. In assessing grit along with other virtues, I find three reliable clusters. I refer to them as the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual dimensions of character. You could also call them strengths of will, heart, and mind. Intrapersonal character includes grit. This cluster of virtues also includes self-control, particularly as it relates to resisting temptations like texting and video games. What this means is that gritty people tend to be self-controlled and vice versa. Collectively, virtues that make possible the accomplishment of personally valued goals have also been called “performance character” or “self-management skills.” Social commentator and journalist David Brooks calls these “resume virtues” because they’re the sorts of things that get us hired and keep us employed. Interpersonal character includes gratitude, social intelligence, and self-control over emotions like anger. These virtues help you get along with— and provide assistance to— other people. Sometimes, these virtues are referred to as “moral character.” David Brooks prefers the term “eulogy virtues” because, in the end, they may be more important to how people remember us than anything else. When we speak admiringly of someone being a “deeply good” person, I think it’s this cluster of virtues we’re thinking about. And, finally, intellectual character includes virtues like curiosity and zest. These encourage active and open engagement with the world of ideas. My longitudinal studies show these three virtue clusters predict different outcomes. For academic achievement, including stellar report card grades, the cluster containing grit is the most predictive. But for positive social functioning, including how many friends you have, interpersonal character is more important. And for a positive, independent posture toward learning, intellectual virtue trumps the others. In the end, the plurality of character operates against any one virtue being uniquely important.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 273-274). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Effort Counts Twice:

If you define genius as being able to accomplish great things in life without effort, then he was right: I’m no genius, and neither is he. But if, instead, you define genius as working toward excellence, ceaselessly, with every element of your being— then, in fact, my dad is a genius, and so am I, and so is Coates, and, if you’re willing, so are you.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 278). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I enjoyed her book thoroughly, but I couldn’t personally identify with the parenting chapter and the chapter after it seemed like it was simply filling space with anecdotes. Angela Duckworth seems to write in a journalistic fashion just like Carol Dweck, they both utilize anecdotes to give people a more impressionable affect and it probably helps the average reader to remember more. I prefer Heidi Grant Halvorson’s more personalized writing style where she presents the reader with questionable assumptions about life and then presents the evidence to explain the reasoning behind why the research is valuable and how it can improve lives.

With all that said and shown, I give Angela Duckworth’s book:

9.7/10

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

10/10

This book is definitely worthy of its praise. Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert provides some of the most incredible insights on how we misjudge our own behavior in the future and even go as far as to misinterpret the past. There’s more depth in so many of these psychology books that I read that one simple review honestly doesn’t do them much justice, I highly recommend reading them yourselves. I sometimes wonder if even these concise explanations do them justice, since the books by the actual experts are better able to detail and explain the details far more clearly and effectively than I ever could. I’ve decided to take several critical portions to provide evidence of why this book is such a goldmine of information and should be purchased by any avid reader of human psychology.

This book comes in six parts and for the purposes of this review, I’ll also add my own personal feelings regarding each of the parts.

Gilbert begins the book in Part 1 about the lack of control and misunderstandings that we have on human behavior by explaining details about how we remember surprising events or beholding man-made wonders and how our brain recalls specific instances of a moment but not details between those moments. He goes on to detail the life of Phineas Gage. I had heard the tale before in other psychology books, but Gilbert goes into much greater detail and explains why this was fascinating to doctors and psychologists during it’s time. Phineas Gage was a foreman who had a pipe blow across his skull and through his brain. He survived the incident, but after being hospitalized and treated, he was never the same. His compassionate and cordial personality suddenly changed to fits of irritation, rudeness, and anger. After the accident, he would yell at people and generally treat everyone who knew him poorly. The case is often cited by psychologists because it’s demonstrable proof that we – as human beings – simply aren’t as knowledgeable about our behavior or as independently in control of our own behaviors as we’d like to believe ourselves to be. As a point of comparison, I recall New Atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris, in a debate about Heaven and a rewarding spiritual life, pointing out that people like the idea of seeing their grandma in Heaven for all eternity, but don’t seem to understand or even consider the fact that injuries to the brain can hurt your motor functions and even change your personality, yet people think they’ll be on some spiritual plane where their family is able to have full motor functions, consciousness, and hold the same set of personality traits when their brain is buried along with their physical bodies and has stopped functioning long ago. In the same sense, Phineas Gage’s life, and those like him, is irrevocable proof of the opposite. If your personality can so drastically change from physical damage to the brain – due to an accident of either chance or foul intent, it’s plainly unrealistic to believe you do have as much independence as you believe that you do or that your subconscious processes don’t influence your behavior. On the part of Phineas Gage, the parts of his brain that were damaged did influence calmness and compassion. It genuinely wasn’t his fault that he became what laypeople would chalk up as being an “asshole” to others.

Admittedly, I felt the book was going through several different parts without any coherent reason and felt it was sloppy. I took several months off reading it, because I had heard of Phineas Gage’s story before and I wasn’t sure if I was going to learn much of anything beyond what I had already read. The book did go into details of other studies covered, but upon closer examination after having finished reading, I realized I was being incredibly unfair. One such research material in another book, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, was – from what I recall – done by the researcher himself. Using it as reference isn’t a valid reason to put a book down, I had just felt bored by the prospect without just cause. I was happily proven wrong about my presumptions as I read further on and it did provide amazing insights on the subject matter. Looking back, Gilbert’s starting structure makes complete sense because of how the research material and explanations covers psychology, neuroscience, economics, and memory recall. Therefore, while the Part 1 seems a bit ridiculous, it’s actually not sloppy writing, but something that Gilbert had to place in Part 1 so that readers get a more complete understanding of the complex research and can learn from it. It simply wasn’t fair of me to judge the book on Part 1 alone and he had very good reasons for explaining and writing Part 1 in the manner that he did.

Part 2: Subjectivity begins explaining the various forms of happiness and how people routinely try to deceive themselves about what constitutes happiness by trying to find ways to ground the feeling by definition. It’s largely seen as an intuitive gut reaction; a “you-know-what-I-mean” feeling and definitions are problematic. Even if, for instance, people are dieting and we can reasonably refer to such people as unhappy while they’re dieting, it’s largely to increase future yields because people who diet are trying to make their lives more pleasant. Moreover, the worst conceit is virtue happiness which was first promoted by the Greeks and later the twist that Christian theologians had added of happiness not being a product, but a reward to be expected after death – i.e. death worship. Later theologians then asserted that the virtuous and pious life was itself fulfilling and happy, with the premise being that those who don’t walk the path of God were unhappy.

The intermixing usage of virtuous happiness and Christian theologians later defense that living for God made one happy led to some bizarre arguments that were simply indefensible. Philosophers and theologians alike, by muddling cause and consequences as Gilbert states, would argue that a pious believer being eaten alive by cannibals is happy while a Nazi war criminal basking in an Argentinean beach is not really happy. That’s because happiness is a word that is generally used to cite an experience, but not the actions that give rise to happiness. Gilbert goes on to further point out that we should admit when even astonishingly awful events make people happy. He asks the reader if it makes sense to say: “After a day spent killing his parents, Frank was happy”? Absolutely! We hope no such person exists, and we understand this Frank person is a horrible person, but if he says he’s happy and looks happy, is there any reason to doubt him?

Gilbert goes on to write: “Happiness refers to feelings, virtue refers to actions, and those actions can cause those feelings. But not necessarily and not exclusively.” – it’s important to remember the nuance when we form an understanding of what happiness is and isn’t.

Can we distinguish the degree of happiness between people as a basis? Gilbert says we can’t tell and it’s because, even with side-by-side comparisons, we’re not having the same experiences at the same time. He points to research where two groups of people looked at a specific color of yellow paint with one group describing the yellow paint and the other being the “non-describer” group. They were then taken to a swathe of six different colored yellow paint and asked to pick the one they had just seen 30 seconds ago. The first interesting finding was that only 73 percent of those who hadn’t described the color could accurately select the color they had seen. The second, and shocking, finding was that only 33 percent of those who spent time to describe the color paint they had seen just 30 seconds ago were able to accurately identify the same color paint from the six different colors of yellow. Evidently, the describers verbal descriptions “overwrote” their memories. They didn’t remember the event that they had just experienced; they remembered what they said about what they experienced and their explanation wasn’t clear or precise enough to help them identify the same color painting 30 seconds later.

Gilbert points out that people simply don’t notice visual discontinuities due to their eyes jiggling every few seconds. In a study similar to the previous one, volunteers looked at text that LoOked LIKe tHis which alternated every few seconds to one that lOoked likE thIs every time their eyes jiggled away and the volunteers never noticed as they read the passages on the screen. In essence, and I’m paraphrasing now, our memories simply take snapshots of the most emotional parts of our experience with an event (such as going to a new diner), where we’ll remember the bad taste of the wine or the good taste of the food but not the before and after of how we arrived and left when nothing that affected us happened. We take these “snapshots” and reweave our memories of events. We’re not actually recalling; we’re fabricating memories based on the emotional snapshots of the experience that we’ve made. It’s why it’s hard to sometimes remember what year or what we did after a particular special memory like snapping photos at the Grand Canyon with our spouse/parents/children.

Moreover, we don’t seem to be aware when our gut reaction is simply giving us a false-positive. In a study where one set of volunteers were shown quiz-show questions, one group (quiz questions only) felt the questions were quite difficult. The other group (questions-and-answers) believed the questions were quite easy and believed they could have answered them had they never known the answers beforehand. Once the volunteers knew the answers, the questions felt simple (“Of course it was x – everyone knows that!”) and the volunteers (questions-and-answers) were no longer able to judge how difficult the questions actually were for those who didn’t share the knowledge of the answers. Gilbert mentions: “Studies such as these show that once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened.” and further says “Our experiences instantly become part of the lens through which we view our entire past, present, and future, and like any lens, they shape and distort what we see. This lens is not like a pair of spectacles that we can set on the nightstand when we find it convenient to do so but like a pair of contacts that are forever affixed to our eyeballs with superglue. Once we learn to read, we can never again see letters as mere inky squiggles. Once we learn about free jazz, we can never again hear Ornette Coleman’s saxophone as a source of noise. Once we learn that van Gogh was a mental patient, or that Ezra Pound was an anti-Semite, we can never again view their art in the same way.” (Stumbling on Happiness, pg. 49).

Gilbert points out that, as a result, we can be happy without knowing or having awareness of an experience that we’re missing in life. That conclusion genuinely shocked me. I had thought and believed the opposite for so long. Gilbert uses the examples of conjoined twins who have claimed to be happy and don’t wish to separate. We as a society may believe that they’re not truly happy because of the lack of independence, but how we gauge relative happiness and how they do is on different standards. They don’t know what it feels like to not have someone else always connected to them in life (even on personal matters like the bathroom), but that’s the point. Even if they were to agree to a separation and say they weren’t really happy before, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that they were right. They genuinely could have been happy as conjoined twins and their new experience simply gave them the opposite feeling when looking back on their lives. They may have genuinely been happier before the separation for reasons explained further on.

Chapter 3: Outside Looking In has Gilbert explaining why, despite the issues, the best indicator of a person’s emotional state is accepting their view. At the end of the day, only they can give us a measure of their personal happiness. Most deficits regarding this method can be cleaned-up by the Law of Large Numbers. Because using them as a basis for analysis is only a problem when we fail to recognize a glaring issue in the research study. Despite individuals having different subjective scales, the least flawed method to find the most accurate information is to understand the average of an experience.

Gilbert summarizes this point on page 70:

“The bottom line is this: The attentive person’s honest, real-time report is an imperfect approximation of her subjective experience, but it is the only game in town. When a fruit salad, a lover, or a jazz trio is just too imperfect for our tastes, we stop eating, kissing, and listening. But the law of large numbers suggests that when a measurement is too imperfect for our tastes, we should not stop measuring. Quite the opposite – we should measure again and again until niggling imperfections yield to the onslaught of data. Those subatomic particles that like to be everywhere at once seem to cancel one another’s behavior so that the large conglomerate of particles that we call cows, cars, and French Canadians stay exactly where we put them. By the same logic, the careful collection of a large number of experiential reports allows the imperfections of one to cancel out the imperfections of another. No individual’s report may be taken as an unimpeachable and perfectly calibrated index of his experience-not yours, not mine-but we can be confident that if we ask enough people the same question, the average answer will be a roughly accurate index of the average experience. The science of happiness requires that we play the odds, and thus the information it provides us is always at some risk of being wrong.” He essentially adds that if we wish to bet against it, then we need more of the same question to be answered by more respondents to prove otherwise. It’s the most credible way to measure happiness. We must know, after all, what religion, art, music, etc are good for. If not our personal happiness, then what would mattering to us even mean?

In the next chapter, In the Blind Spot of the Mind’s Eye, Daniel Gilbert elaborates on how we store and use memory. This is explained in pages 78 – 79: “How do we cram the vast universe of our experience into the relatively small storage compartment between our ears? We do what Harpo did: We cheat. As you learned in the previous chapters, the elaborate tapestry of our experience is not stored in memory-at least not in its entirety. Rather, it is compressed for storage by first being reduced to a few critical threads, such as a summary phrase (“Dinner was disappointing”) or a small set of key features (tough steak, corked wine, snotty waiter). Later, when we want to remember our experience, our brains quickly reweave the tapestry by fabricating-not by actually retrieving-the bulk of the information that we experience as memory. This fabrication happens so quickly and effortlessly that we have the illusion (as a good magician’s audience always does) that the entire thing was in our heads the entire time.” Later on, Daniel writes in pages 79 – 80: “This general finding-that information acquired after an event alters memory of the event-has been replicated so many times in so many different laboratory and field settings that it has left most scientists convinced of two things. First, the act of remembering involved “filling in” details that were not actually stored; and second, we generally cannot tell when we are doing this because filling in happens quickly and unconsciously. Indeed, this phenomenon is so powerful that it happens even when we know someone is trying to trick us.” In essence, the meaning we give our feelings after an experience will be our interpretation of the event.

Later in the chapter, Gilbert details the issue of Realism within the human psyche. In this specific context, he means that we confuse our interpretation of the world for objective reality and that such a bias is instantaneous. In pages 88-89, in his own words, Gilbert elaborates: “According to this line of reasoning, we automatically assume that our subjective experience of a thing is a faithful representation of the thing’s properties. Only later-if we have the time, energy, and ability-do we rapidly repudiate that assumption and consider the possibility that the real world may not actually be as it appears to us. Piaget described realism as “a spontaneous and immediate tendency to confuse the sign and the thing signified,” and research shows that this tendency to equate our subjective sense of things with the objective properties of those things remains spontaneous and immediate throughout our lives. It does not go away forever, and it does not go away on occasion. Rather, it is brief, unarticulated, and rapidly unraveled, but it is always the first step in our perception of the world. We believe what we see, and then unbelieve it when we have to.
All of this suggests that the psychologist George Miller was right when he wrote, “The crowning intellectual accomplishment of the brain is the real world.” The three-and-a-half-pound meat loaf between our ears is not a simple recording device but a remarkably smart computer that gathers information, makes shrewd judgments and even shrewder guesses, and offers us its best interpretation of the way things are. Because those interpretations are usually so good, because they usually bear such a striking resemblance to the world as it is actually constituted, we do not realize that we are seeing an interpretation. Instead, we feel as though we are sitting comfortably inside our heads, looking out through the clear glass windshield of our eyes, watching the world as it truly is. We tend to forget that our brains are talented forgers, weaving a tapestry of memory and perception whose detail is so compelling that its inauthenticity is rarely detected. In a sense, each of us is as counterfeiter who prints phony dollar bills and then happily accepts them for payment, unaware that he is both the perpetrator and victim of a well-orchestrated fraud.”

In a further chapter, The Hound of Silence, Gilbert specifies how we distort our own perceptions of future events by temporal distance. We confuse the vagueness of our thoughts on how an event will play out as realistic representations of that day. In pages 105 – 106, Gilbert explains:

“Seeing in time is like seeing in space. But there is one important difference between spatial and temporal horizons. When we perceive a distant buffalo, our brains are aware of the fact that the buffalo looks smooth, vague, and lacking in detail because it is far away, and they do not mistakenly conclude that the buffalo itself is smooth and vague. But when we remember or imagine a temporally distant event, our brains seem to overlook the fact that details vanish with temporal distance, and they conclude instead that the distant events actually are as smooth and vague as we are imagining and remembering them. For example, have you ever wondered why you often make commitments that you deeply regret when the moment to fulfill them arrives? We all do this, of course. We agree to babysit the nephews and nieces next month, and we look forward to that obligation even as we jot it in our diary. Then, when it actually comes time to buy the Happy Meals, set up the Barbie playset, hide the bong, and ignore the fact that the NBA playoffs are on at one o’clock, we wonder what we were thinking when we said yes. Well, here’s what we were thinking: When we said yes we were thinking about babysitting in terms of why instead of how, in terms of causes and consequences instead of execution, and we failed to consider the fact that the detail-free babysitting we were imagining would not be the detail-laden babysitting we would ultimately experience. Babysitting next month is “an act of love,” whereas babysitting right now is “an act of lunch,” and expressing affection is spiritually rewarding in a way that buying French fries simply isn’t.”

Gilbert explains later on that one simple trick can effectively manage this bias: think of the future event as if it was happening tomorrow instead of in the future. Doing so should aid you in figuring out all the mini-steps and requirements needed to act effectively for the event and provide more consideration for what you’ll be doing.

In further chapters, Gilbert goes onto explain prefeeling. Due to our bias for the present, we have a ubiquitous tendency to confuse our present emotions for how we’ll feel in the future. Prefeeling has some positives, Gilbert details a study in which people who used prefeeling to choose a poster instead of thinking over it for long were more satisfied with their choices than those who cogitated over the cost-benefits of how a particular poster would look with their apartment or house wall’s coloring. However, prefeeling has us “fill-in” the details of future events with our current emotional states and subconsciously bias us into believing that our present feelings of depression, happiness, or even boredom will continue in the future and even during future events that friends recommend to us – such as going to a party or concert or going to a new restaurant. We believe our current emotional state will remain the same regardless of the experience.

In the chapter Time Bombs, pages 145 – 146, Gilbert explains how our frame of reference – such as being a buyer and seller of a car – impact our feelings. He details the full effects of confusing the present moment for how we’ll feel in the future. He explains on page 147 in the Onward: “Because predictions about the future are made in the present, they are inevitably influenced by the present. The way we feel right now (“I’m so hungry”) and the way we think right now (“The big speakers sound better than the little ones”) exert an unusually strong influence on the way we think we’ll feel later. Because time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist, thus our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today. The reality of the moment is so palpable and powerful that it holds imagination in a tight orbit from which it never fully escapes. Presentism occurs because we fail to recognize that our future selves won’t see the world the way we see it now.”

In the following chapter, Paradise Glossed, Gilbert explains how we ascribe meaning to ambiguous experiences  and how our minds generally form a preference on what the ambiguous stimuli means to us. We infer these meanings from context, frequency, and recency and often prefer that the ambiguous stimuli mean one thing rather than another due to our desires, wishes, and needs. As such, our brain tends to exploit the ambiguity of a stimuli for such preferable interpretations of the world.

Analogous to our physical immune system, our brains provide a psychological immune system that interpret incredibly negative events in a positive way. Generally speaking, this psychological immune system interprets events in ways that feel preferable to us after an incredibly negative experience so that we may derive meaning from it. This is why incidents of people who have been wrongfully jailed for decades, extramarital affairs, and debilitating injuries like the permanent loss of motor functions is interpreted positively with people feeling happier with their lives – these events reach a critical threshold where our psychological immune systems try to rationalize our experiences in a positive way. That is not to say that these are delusions or that it’s wrongful behavior, Gilbert is simply explaining the psychological process that is going on. Sure, losing an appendage is objectively worse than having avoided such a loss, but that doesn’t make our rationalizations and self-interpretations of those events any less meaningful or valuable. Gilbert mentions we need both a mix of reality and illusion to keep us going everyday and our psychological immune system interprets ambiguous events in a positive way to protect our emotions. Gilbert mentions that we have a general preference to give more thorough examinations and critiques to evidence that we dislike than to evidence that we find favorable. Gilbert mentions that this is essentially subconsciously cooking the facts for our own favored conclusions. However, just as important as that, we must feel as if the evidence is a discovery and not merely a self-delusion. When the information feels like a genuine discovery, we feel that we’re being honest with ourselves. It doesn’t work when we are dishonestly accepting a lie when the evidence that we value overwhelmingly disproves us. We like believing that we’re being honest with ourselves in these new discoveries and not dishonestly lying to ourselves and we do that be interpreting facts for our benefit.

Gilbert further explains the foibles of our psychological immune systems in pages 178 – 180 of the chapter Immune to Reality:

“Ignorance of our psychological immune systems causes us to mispredict the circumstances under which we will blame ourselves. Who can forget the scene at the end of the 1942 film Casablanca in which Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are standing on the tarmac as she tries to decide whether to stay in Casablanca with the man she loves or board the plane and leave with her husband? Bogey turns to Bergman and says: “Inside we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life.”
This thin slice of melodrama is among the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema-not because it is particularly well acted or particularly well written but because most of us have stood on that same runway from time to time. Our most consequential choices-whether to marry, have children, buy a house, enter a profession, move abroad-are often shaped by how we imagine our future regrets (“Oh no, I forgot to have a baby!”). Regret is an emotion we feel when we blame ourselves for unfortunate outcomes that might have been prevented had we only behaved differently in the past, and because that emotion is decidedly unpleasant, our behavior in the present is often designed to preclude it. Indeed, most of us have elaborate theories about when and why people feel regret, and these theories allow us to avoid the experience. For instance, we expect to feel more regret when we learn about alternatives to our choices than when we don’t, when we accept bad advice than when we reject good advice, when our bad choices are unusual rather than conventional, and when we fail by a narrow margin rather than by a wide margin.
But sometimes these theories are wrong. Consider this scenario. You own shares of Company A. During the past year you considered switching to stock in Company B but decided against it. You now find that you would have been better off by $1,200 if you had switched to the stock of Company B. You also owned shares in Company C. During the past year you switched to stock in Company D. You now find out that you’d have been better off by $1,200 if you kept your stock in Company C. Which error causes you more regret? Studies show that about nine out of ten people expect to feel more regret when they foolishly switch stocks than when they foolishly fail to switch stocks, because most people think they will regret foolish actions more than foolish inactions. But studies also show that nine out of ten people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.
But why do people regret inactions more than actions? One reason is that the psychological immune system has a more difficult time manufacturing positive and credible views of inactions than of actions. When our action causes us to accept a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes an axe murderer, we can console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience (“Collecting hatchets is not a healthy hobby”). But when our inaction causes us to reject a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes a movie star, we can’t console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience because . . . well, there wasn’t one. The irony is all too clear: Because we do not realize that our psychological immune system can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward. As students of the silver screen recall, Bogart’s admonition about future regret led Bergman to board the plane and fly away with her husband. Had she stayed with Bogey in Casablanca, she would probably have felt just fine. Not right away, perhaps, but soon, and for the rest of her life.”

Further on, he explains the Inescapability Trigger on page 183:

“Intense suffering is one factor that can trigger our defenses and thus influence our experiences in ways we don’t anticipate. But there are others. For example, why do we forgive our siblings for behavior we would never tolerate in a friend? Why aren’t we disturbed when the president does something that would have kept us from voting for him had he done it before the election? Why do we overlook an employee’s chronic tardiness but refuse to hire a job seeker who is two minutes late for the interview? One possibility is that blood is thicker than water, flags were made to be rallied around, and first impressions matter most. But another possibility is that we are more likely to look for and find a positive view of the things we’re stuck with than of the things we’re not. Friends come and go, and changing candidates is as easy as changing socks. But siblings and presidents are ours, for better or for worse, and there’s not much we can do about it once they’ve been born or elected.  When the experience we are having is not the experience we want to be having, our first reaction is to go out and have a different one, which is why we return unsatisfactory rental cars, check out of bad hotels, and stop hanging around with people who pick their noses in public. It is only when we cannot change the experience that we look for ways to change our view of the experience, which is why we love the clunker in the driveway, the shabby cabin that’s been in the family for years, and Uncle Sheldon despite his predilection for nasal spelunking. We find silver linings only when we must, which is why people experience an increase in happiness when genetic tests reveal that they don’t have a dangerous genetic defect, but not when the tests are inconclusive. We just can’t make the best of fate until it is inescapably, inevitably, and irrevocably ours.”

In essence: We’re more likely to do something and enjoy doing it when we limit our options and have no option than we would when given choices.

Gilbert goes on to further detail how unexplained events strike us as unusual and cause us to think about them more, thus a pleasant unusual experience is something we feel more joy in than an event we can explain away since we can stop thinking of them. Even in situations when an “explanation” doesn’t actually explain anything, this effect will happen since the event only needs to seem as though it was explained. By contrast, uncertainty can preserve and prolong happiness. When we don’t know why a person feels happy or angry at us – we question it more and why they felt that way and it’s a much more lasting impression.

Gilbert details in the chapter Once Bitten, about how our brains use facts and theories to make guesses on past events and the feelings we had of those past events. On page 206 – 208, in his own words:

“Our brains use facts and theories to make guesses about past events, and so too do they use facts and theories to make guesses about past feelings. Because feelings do not leave behind the same kinds of facts that presidential elections and ancient civilizations do, our brains must rely even more heavily on theories to construct memories of how we once felt. When those theories are wrong, we end up misremembering our own emotions. Consider, for instance, how your theories about something-oh, say, how about gender?-might influence your recollection of past feelings. Most of us believe that men are less emotional than women (“She cried, he didn’t”), that men and women have different emotional reactions to similar events (“He was angry, she was sad”), and that women are particularly prone to negative emotions at particular points in their menstrual cycles (“She’s a bit irritable today, if you know what I mean”). As it turns out, there is little evidence for any of these beliefs-but that’s not the point. The point is that these beliefs are theories that can influence how we remember our own emotions. Consider:

  • In one study, volunteers were asked to remember how they had felt a few months earlier, and the male and female volunteers remembered feeling equally intense emotions. Another group of volunteers was asked to remember how they had felt a month earlier, but before doing so, they were asked to think a bit about gender. When volunteers were prompted to think about gender, female volunteers remembered feeling more intense emotion and male volunteers remembered feeling less intense emotion.
  • In one study, male and female volunteers became members of teams and played a game against an opposing team. Some volunteers immediately reported the emotions they had felt while playing the game, and others recalled their emotions a week later. Male and female volunteers did not differ in the kinds of emotions they reported. But a week later female volunteers recalled feeling more stereotypically feminine emotions (e.g., sympathy and guilt) and male volunteers recalled feeling more stereotypically masculine emotions (e.g., anger and pride).
  • In one study, female volunteers kept diaries and made daily ratings for their feelings for four to six weeks. These ratings revealed that women’s emotions did not vary with the phase of their menstrual cycles. However, when the women were later asked to reread the diary entry for a particular day and remember how they had been feeling, they remembered feeling more negative emotion on the days on which they were menstruating.

It seems that our theories about how people of our gender usually feel can influence our memory of how we actually felt. Gender is but one of many theories that have this power to alter our memories.”

In the following chapter, Reporting Live from Tomorrow, on pages 216 – 217, Gilbert details why certain beliefs gain popularity over others in a society.

“If a particular belief has some property that facilitates its own transmission, then that belief tends to be held by an increasing number of minds. As it turns out, there are several such properties that increase a belief’s transmissional success, the most obvious of which is accuracy. When someone tells us where to find a parking space downtown or how to bake a cake at high altitude, we adopt that belief and pass it along because it helps us and our friends do the things we want to do, such as parking and baking. As one philosopher noted, “The faculty of communication would not gain ground in evolution unless it was by and large the faculty of transmitting true beliefs.” Accurate beliefs give us power, which makes it easy to understand why they are so readily transmitted from one mind to another.
It is a bit more difficult to understand why inaccurate beliefs are so readily transmitted from one mind to another-but they are. False beliefs, like bad genes, can and do become super-replicators, and a thought experiment illustrates how this can happen. Imagine a game that is played by two teams, each of which has a thousand players, each of whom is linked to teammates by a telephone. The object of the game is to get one’s team to share as many accurate beliefs as possible. When players receive a message that they believe to be accurate, they call a teammate and pass it along. When they receive a message that they believe to be inaccurate, they don’t. At the end of the game, the referee blows a whistle and awards each team a point for every accurate belief that the entire team shares and subtracts one point for every inaccurate belief the entire team shares. Now, consider a contest played one sunny day between called the Perfects (whose members always transmit accurate beliefs) and a team called the Imperfects (whose members occasionally transmit an inaccurate belief). We should expect the Perfects to win, right?
Not necessarily. In fact, there are some special circumstances under which the Imperfects will beat their pants off. For example, imagine what would happen if one of the Imperfect players sent the false message “Talking on the phone all day and night will ultimately make you very happy,” and imagine that other Imperfect players were gullible enough to believe it and pass it on. This message is inaccurate and thus will cost the Imperfects a point in the end. But it may have the compensatory effect of keeping more of the Imperfects on the telephone for more of the time, thus increasing the total number of accurate messages they transmit. Under the right circumstances, the costs of this inaccurate belief would be outweighed by its benefits, namely, that it led players to behave in ways that increased the odds that they would share other accurate beliefs. The lesson to be learned from this game is that inaccurate beliefs can prevail in the belief-transmission game if they somehow facilitate their own “means of transmission.” In the case, the means of transmission is not sex but communication, and thus any belief-even a false belief-that increases communication has a good chance of being transmitted over and over again. False beliefs that happen to promote stable societies tend to propagate because people who hold these beliefs tend to live in stable societies, which provide the means by which false propagate.
Some of our cultural wisdom about happiness looks suspiciously like a super-replicating false belief.”

Gilbert explains how we can use surrogates to understand our own emotional futures and why most people prefer to use imagination instead of the more useful tool of using other’s experiences as surrogates to know how we’ll feel in the future. Gilbert details why we have an aversion to this and the falsehoods we tell ourselves about uniqueness and the foibles of simply using imagination to think of a future experience that we have yet to experience:

On pages 224 – 225, 226-227, and 227-228, respectively. Gilbert details the shortcomings of our imagination:

“The idea sounds all too simple, and I suspect you have an objection to it that goes something like this: Yes, other people are probably right now experiencing the very things I am merely contemplating, but I can’t use other people’s experiences as proxies for my own because those other people are not me. Every human being is as unique as his or her fingerprints, so it won’t help me much to learn about how others feel in the situations that I’m facing. Unless these other people are my clones and have had all the same experiences I’ve had, their reactions and my reactions are bound to differ. I am a walking, talking idiosyncrasy, and thus I am better off basing my predictions on my somewhat fickle imagination than on the reports of people whose preferences, tastes, and emotional proclivities are so radically different from my own. If that’s your objection, then it is a good one-so good that it will take two steps to dismantle it. First let me prove to you that the experience of a single randomly selected individual can sometimes provide a better basis for predicting your future experience than your own imagination can. And then let me show you why you-and I-find this so difficult to believe.”

“No one can imagine every feature and consequence of a future event, hence we must consider some and fail to consider others. The problem is that the features and consequences we fail to consider are often quite important. You may recall the study in which college students were asked to imagine how they would feel a few days after their school’s football team played a game against its archrival. The results showed that students overestimated the duration of the game’s emotional impact because when they tried to imagine their future experience, they imagined their team winning (“The clock will hit zero, we’ll storm the field, everyone will cheer . . .”) but failed to imagine what they would be doing afterward (“And then I’ll go home and study for my final exams”). Because the students were focused on the game, they failed to imagine how events that happened after the game would influence their happiness. So what should they have done instead?
They should have abandoned imagination altogether.”

“Imagination’s second shortcoming is its tendency to project the present onto the future (which we explored in the section on presentism). When imagination paints a picture of the future, many of the details are necessarily missing, and imagination solves this problem by filling in the gaps with details that it borrows from the present. Anyone who has ever shopped on an empty stomach, vowed to quit smoking after stubbing out a cigarette, or proposed marriage while on shore leave knows that how we feel now can erroneously influence how we think we’ll feel later. As it turns out, surrogation can remedy this shortcoming too.”

“Imagination’s third shortcoming is its failure to recognize that things will look different once they happen-in particular, that bad things will look a whole lot better (which we explored in the section rationalization). When we imagine losing a job, for instance, we imagine the painful experience (“The boss will march into my office, shut the door behind him  . . .”) without also imagining how our psychological immune systems will transform its meaning (“I’ll come to realize that this was an opportunity to quit retail sales and follow my true calling as a sculptor”).

On pages 229-232, Gilbert explains the issue with our incessant belief in uniqueness:

“Because if you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people. Science has given us a lot of facts about the average person, and one of the most reliable of these facts is that the average person doesn’t see herself as average. Most students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student, most business managers see themselves as more competent than the average business manager, and most football players see themselves as having better “football sense” than their teammates. Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers, and 94 percent of college professors consider themselves to be better-than-average teachers. Ironically, this bias towards ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too. As one research team concluded, “Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, fair-minded, and healthy-not to mention more attractive-than the average person.”
This tendency to think of ourselves as better than others is not necessarily a manifestation of our unfettered narcissism but may instead be an instance of a more general tendency to think of ourselves as different from others-often for better but sometimes for worse. When people are asked about generosity, they claim to perform a greater number of generous acts than others do; but when they are asked about selfishness, they claim to perform a greater number of selfish acts than others do. When people are asked about their ability to perform an easy task, such as driving a car or riding a bike, they rate themselves as better than others; but when they are asked about their ability to perform a different task, such as juggling or playing chess, they rate themselves as worse than others. We don’t always see ourselves as superior, but we almost always see ourselves as unique. Even when we do precisely what others do, we tend to think that we’re doing it for unique reasons. For instance, we tend to attribute other people’s choices to features of the chooser (“Phil picked this class because he’s one of those literary types”), but we tend to attribute our own choices to features of the options (“But I picked it because it was easier than economics”). We recognize that our decisions are influenced by social norms (“I was too embarrassed to raise my hand in class even though I was terribly confused”), but fail to recognize that others’ decisions were similarly influenced (“No one else raised a hand because no one else was as confused as I was”). We know that our choices sometimes reflect our aversions (“I voted for Kerry because I couldn’t stand Bush”), but we assume that other people’s choices reflect their appetites (“If Rebecca voted for Kerry, then she must have liked him”). The list of differences is long but the conclusion to be drawn from it is short: The self considers itself to be a very special person.
What makes us think we’re so darned special? Three things, at least. First, even if we aren’t special, the way we know ourselves is. We are the only people in the world whom we can know from the inside. We experience our own thoughts and feelings but must infer that other people are experiencing theirs. We all trust that behind those eyes and inside those skulls, our friends and neighbors are having subjective experiences very much like our own, but that trust is an article of faith and not the palpable, self-evident truth that our own subjective experiences constitute. There is a difference between making love and reading about it, and it is the same difference that distinguishes our knowledge of our own mental lives from our knowledge of everyone else’s. Because we know ourselves and others by such different means, we gather very different kinds and amounts of information. In every waking moment we monitor the steady stream of thoughts and feelings that run through our heads, but we only monitor other people’s words and deeds, and only when they are in our company. One reason why we seem so special, then, is that we learn about ourselves in such a special way.
The second reason is that we enjoy thinking of ourselves as special. Most of us want to fit in well with our peers, but we don’t want to fit in too well. We prize our unique identities, and research shows that when people are made to feel too similar to others, their moods quickly sour and they try to distance and distinguish themselves in a variety of ways. If you’ve ever shown up at a party and found someone else wearing exactly the same dress or necktie that you were wearing, then you know how unsettling it is to share the room with an unwanted twin whose presence temporarily diminishes your sense of individuality. Because we value our uniqueness, it isn’t surprising that we tend to overestimate it.
The third reason why we tend to overestimate our uniqueness is that we tend to overestimate everyone’s uniqueness-that is, we tend to think of people as more different from one another than they actually are. Let’s face it: All people are similar in some ways and different in others. The psychologists, biologists, economists, and sociologists who are searching for universal laws of human behavior naturally care about the similarities, but the rest of us care mainly about the differences. Social life involves selecting particular individuals to be our sexual partners, business partners, bowling partners, and more. That task requires that we focus on the things that distinguish one person from another and not on the things that all people share, which is why personal ads are much more likely to mention the advertiser’s love of ballet than his love of oxygen. A penchant for respiration explains a great deal about human behavior-for example, why people live on land, become ill at high altitudes, have lungs, resist suffocation, love trees, and so on. It surely explains more than does a person’s penchant for ballet. But it does nothing to distinguish one person from another, and thus for ordinary folks who are in the ordinary business of selecting others for commerce, conversation, or copulation, the penchant for air is stunningly irrelevant. Individual similarities are vast, but we don’t care much about them because they don’t help us do what we are here on earth to do, namely, distinguish Jack from Jill and Jill from Jennifer. As such, these individual similarities are an inconspicuous backdrop against which a small number of relatively minor individual differences stand out in bold relief.
Because we spend so much time searching for, attending to, thinking about, and remembering these differences, we tend to overestimate their magnitude and frequency, and thus end up thinking of people as more varied than they actually are”

“Our mythical belief in the variability and uniqueness of individuals is the main reason why we refuse to use others as surrogates. After all, surrogation is only useful when we can count on a surrogate to react to an event roughly as we would, and if we believe that people’s emotional reactions are more varied than they actually are, then surrogation will seem less useful to us than it actually is. The irony, of course, is that surrogation is a cheap and effective way to predict one’s future emotions, but because we don’t realize just how similar we all are, we reject this reliable method and rely instead on our imaginations, as flawed and fallible as they may be.”

A truly fascinating read. I cannot recommend it enough. Amazing work by an amazing writer and psychologist.

The SJW Left and the Alt-Right

People argue that these opposing sides should come together and find common ground, but you can’t debate with people who dismiss everything you say and don’t want to hear it. This is conceit; pure and simple. There is no chance that debates with people who don’t even agree on what a fact is can yield anything worthwhile. I’ve tried, this is a short essay explaining why I’ve given up.

You can’t talk about context, important global issues, or facts with people who dismiss you out of hand based on the idea that no matter what, you’re just touting pure garbage from “Fake news” sites. The Alt-Right has made it clear that they don’t understand national objectives and don’t distinguish when it’s important for nation desiring to go to war vs issues of gender equality They like shouting “cuck” and “sjw” to feel good about their miserable lives every 5 minutes instead of honestly examining beliefs. When I explain anything to them, they erroneously and pretentiously argue on one point – usually associated with their own feelings – than the issue itself and when pressed on issues, they revert back to “oh you’re blaming white people for everything!” as if anybody ever even made that claim when arguing about climate change, global wars that burn alive civilians with drone bombings – including children being victims of such bombings, or a massive 20 trillion dollar debt that nobody is doing anything about. Meanwhile, shouting “sand nigger” is fine when explaining their dislike of Muslims.

We have all these pressing issues and the world is only going to get worse from the US pulling out of the Paris Climate change agreement . . . but instead we’re talking about what random meme Trump is tweeting. The saddest part is, the mainstream media went from mocking him to… taking him seriously as of now. As if we should expect seriousness of any kind because a joke is in office. Somehow giving more self-importance to him is going to help fix the country and lead it? The Alt-right doesn’t even understand context and constantly disparages everything until it’s reduced to their special feelings about being a white male Christian. I honestly tried understanding what the issue was to see if there is any steps to be taken to ameliorate whatever is going on. But I was being arrogant and foolish in doing so.

Here’s all I found for my troubles:

#Identity politics are bad and lead to losing elections – except when talking about White Male Christians feeling oppressed. Whenever identity politics is talked about for minorities, the context is forcefully changed to exclamations of white men being blamed for everything.

#SJW Cucks should stop being “special snowflakes” and deal with insults when given to them – but insulting Trump or “white people” (whatever that means since they’re generalizing a broad range of people based on skin pigmentation) is wrong and you should apologize to show respect. Oh, but also, you should be allowed to say whatever you want without being told to stop.

#paygap women shouldn’t get paid equally to men because they lack testosterone. Women are evidently always passive and don’t ask for a raise as much as men.

They’ve done no research on this since the data has shown women asking for raises generally face reprimand while men who do the same don’t face such reprimand. They don’t even seem to understand that this would reduce the jobs of men in the long run, because any intelligent hiring manager would recognize that choosing between an equally competent man and woman for a position would mean that they would obviously go for the one they’d be paying 30 cents less. They’re too dumb to even understand that.

#Feminism issues: Insulting women for their appearance like their hair, breast size, weight, and so forth should be a free speech right; but women calling you a shithead for it is wrong and they’re horrible people for responding like that. Oh, and everyone should have the right to say what they want but third-wave feminism is bad and evil for teaching young adult women and men about responsible sex.

#Terrorism: we should make Trump memes when video footage of bombings happen to feel smug about bombing another country instead of horrified for allowing things like “the mother of all bombs” being dropped and killing a mass amount of people. Also, we should believe Trump when he says there’s no civilian casualties, because we can trust him with that when he’s flip-flopped and argued the opposite of his original argument on every other issue.

There’s no debating people who don’t even understand objective, scientific analysis and don’t put value in it or in anything that you have to say. We’re at the most pressing juncture of reducing climate change and the US is literally going to lead to a permanent environmental disaster with the clown in charge and will have absolutely nothing of value to offer the next 4 years to either wind-down the wars or reduce debt. If serious leaders like Obama and Bush couldn’t do it, then there’s no way a clown who can’t be bothered to do anything besides tweet stupid shit is ever going to do anything of value in reducing the debt, reducing greenhouse gases, or ending the two wars. North Korea is shooting nuclear bombs into Japanese waters and Trump gets into a twitter war as a response. There are people who are waiting for greenhouse gases to have a planned and concerted fix to prevent climate disaster so they can feel secure in having children and the response has been more pipelines and bigger bombs for oil wars.

Democracy, in all its forms, has utterly failed. It’s the result of a middle-ground fallacy with objective scientific research on environmental impacts versus the special feelings of people who don’t value fact-checking at all. They like reducing issues to simplistic monolithic entities that they can scream at with their keyboards. They don’t care and have no inkling or even desire to understand what the global issues are or how they’re progeny are now imitating them to feel good about themselves. Facts are reduced and re-contextualized to trying to appease their emotional sensibilities towards factual evidence. The very issue becomes asinine and absolutely nothing is achieved.

Dies Irae Review

THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS

Dies Irae is a very interesting case of a visual novel that I just don’t know whether to give a positive or negative review.

Mercurius: “Wallow in Filth. Purity is but an illusion – discard it, and all doors shalt be open to thee. No matter the era, a singular choice may shift the cosmos, shaking the world to its very foundations. You will learn and achieve nothing while bound by the chains of seclusion.”

Overall, despite having completed it, I still don’t know what to think of it. I think my main contention is that Fuji Ren is one of the absolute worst characters I’ve ever seen. His motivations are inconsistent, incoherent with his inner monologues, and it becomes downright annoying when he just has “generic anime protagonist quote” as a response while never expressing any point within his inner monologues. As an example, he brings up Theresia’s background and how the concept of self-sacrifice in Christianity could be used to brainwash her into accepting memento mori in a very fatalistic way. This is an interesting observation, but all Ren actually says is essentially “Don’t give-up senpai!” in a very generic anime dialogue. It just doesn’t feel like there was any connection between his inner thoughts and his speech. A fellow visual novel player informed me that the entirety of the character’s point was to show the negative qualities of the standard hero archetype. As of yet, I can’t find any fault with that claim, but I still feel like the visual novel made a bad decision because the narrative would have been more interesting with Fuji Ren having more fleshed out dialogue with the rest of the cast. It feels like the generic anime dialogue is meant to be presented as subtext for something deeper, but I feel the message falls flat and often becomes an incoherent ramble because Fuji Ren’s thoughts and actions don’t always correlate well.

By contrast, this is actually never an issue for any of the side events and side character fights. I enjoyed the Marie route the most because it had one of the most phenomenal fight scenes between Kei and Samiel. I loved how the narrative showed us a total contrast between where Kei ended-up in her own route (a fairly generic storyline to be honest) and showcase one of the most brutal and devastating story arcs that I’ve ever seen a character go through in Marie’s route. She lost any chance to save her brother, realized too late that Beatrice was always there trying to protect her (unlike in her own route, where Beatrice saves her in the nick of time and is conveniently freed by Fuji Ren from the trapped collection of souls within Tubal Cain), has her sword shattered and is forced to use her family’s curse to survive, and is at the precipice of losing her life and becoming a mindless abomination as the next Tubal Cain and she still chose to fight despite the overwhelming power of the enemy forces.. She’s lost all her hopes and dreams, everything she wished to get back is forever gone, and her own freedom is now barred from her – yet she still chooses to fight. Kei’s story progression in Marie’s Route is so much more heartbreaking and interesting than in her own route. She became my favorite character ironically because of Marie’s route. Samiel’s words about war show just how cruel it really is, while Kei’s response is absolutely amazing. I loved that part. Shirou and Ellie vs Schrieber was also amazing but less philosophical in it’s underpinnings.

Part of my criticism has to do with Ren’s final fight in the Marie Route feeling just right in how over the top it is, it felt like there were set boundaries of what was and wasn’t achievable in a god-like state. But, the Rea route… it just became incoherent. The fight wasn’t even really a fight, it was people roaring final attacks or some strange phenomena happening when Ren also joined the fight, and I felt like it lost all coherence. I was trying to keep-up with the random deus ex machina at the end. My chief argument for this portion of the story is that it’s as if the battle could have had anything occur when you start shooting cosmic stars and summoning anti-matter.

I enjoyed the Kei route chapter 13, Marie Route chapter 13, and Rea Route Chapters 1-11. The “true” ending felt like it made the entire journey pointless though and I know they’re trying to say even the supposed bad guys in a war are human too… but when you have people saying how hot the Gestapo leader is while only mentioning the Holocaust in passing, I have to say I just couldn’t bring myself to care. I guess the Truth ending is more complete, but I couldn’t help but feel genuine disgust. Yeah, okay, Nazis were human beings too – they still supported policies that resulted in the mass genocide of their own people and others outside the country. I’m not going to pass that off as some background noise and I genuinely don’t know how to feel about the message of this game, or possibly it’s unintended message. I’m not going to sympathize with people who want other people dead for being a certain ethnicity. I found the part with them hanging out at the pub and speaking of how good looking the Gestapo leader was to be really unsettling. I liked the Marie and Kei endings, the Kasumi route is hilarious in how much she ruins everyone’s lives due to her ignorance. The Rea route endings I just flat out didn’t like because of the ridiculous Nazi humanizing and the fact that the ending means nothing really mattered. I really don’t like “time warp” endings like that and it’s always for the sake of celebrating middle class lifestyles as “normal”, which I find ridiculous. Moreover, Marie could rewrite the timeline… and still let the Holocaust happen? Like what? I don’t even get what they were trying to achieve or what the message was in the true ending of the Rea route.

That’s my take on it. I don’t even know what to give it as a score. Partly due to the fact that I don’t know whether to call Mercurius brilliant writing or a convenient deus ex machina to explain away potential plot holes.

G-Senjou no Maou: A Captivating Narrative turned into an Incoherent Mess

This Review Contains Massive Spoilers

This might sound like some angry, stupid rant and I totally apologize. I just want to let it be known that I enjoyed this visual novel so much that I didn’t sleep for a whole day just to complete chapter 3-4. I played it non-stop because I was totally loving it. Completely captivating plot, wonderfully written characters, and amazing music… and then that stupid plot twist at the end of chapter 4 happened. And, I feel as if the game took a giant hammer and smashed my heart into little bite-sized pieces. Playing this game was like enjoying the first 7 Harry Potter books, only for the ending to turn into 50 Shades of Grey – essentially a fanfic parody of a terrible novel series. Most people say that the other paths make plot holes, but looking through it objectively, I’d say the true route is the plot hole ridden route and I will explain why below.

This story has completely disappointed me. I don’t know who the heck thought it was a good idea to introduce the generic evil brother twist, but it completely ruined the entire game.

Some points in it’s favor before I begin bashing the hell out of it, in the hopes of showing that I’m not trying to just be offensive or anything like that. I’ll give this game props for having a narrative that subtly points out the propensity of using children for acts of despicable human violence. It seems to be an underappreciated and obscure theme. When Maou talks about the use of car bombs from Northern Ireland and ten year-olds using guns in the Middle East, the author seems to be bashing the use of children in violence for terrorist purposes, and pointing out to the realistic nature of using children for the purposes of human violence.

That being said, this plot completely fails because of the evil brother twist. The saddest part? The plot was perfectly fine before then.

First problem: It’s beyond suspension of disbelief to believe that Kyouhei could fake his own death in a terrorist subway bombing in Great Britain, one that evidently made world news, just because they couldn’t find the body only to be hiding in Northern Ireland becoming a terrorist and then skip to the Middle East to learn more terrorist activities. From bombmaking in Northern Ireland to handling weapons in the Middle East, to gun smuggling in Russia. How was he not on the CIA’s hit list? Everything he did had to have left a trail. We live in an age where US Spy blimps can record the exact phrase people in Afghanistan make when they’re writing down on a piece of paper using pencils. It’s beyond disbelief to think he’d even be able to get back into Japan, or that he wasn’t noted to be the only young Japanese guy part of Northern Ireland and the ME’s terrorist cells, or that there was no eye witness or DNA evidence when he was learning and testing his skills. It’s beyond ridiculous to believe that he was “very careful” to avoid everything. Furthermore, how the hell could Haru be chasing after him? So apparently, this guy evaded the secret service agencies of Great Britain, the US, and whatever alliances the US has with various ME countries, but Haru was tailing him? This is incoherent.

Maou’s goal is to free his father; this goal becomes completely incoherent. Kyousuke and Kyouhei’s father is dead. The Psychologist mentions him having been executed in one of his talks with Kyousuke when admonishing Kyousuke for defending his father’s actions.

Now, a friend of mine who loves the game argued that “freeing” may have been freeing his father’s name from shame and that his goal was simply revenge. That’s consistent with killing Gonzou, but why didn’t he also just wire transfer money to Kyousuke and their sick mother, when Kyouhei is evidently so extremely OP that he can evade investigation and leaving any trails from the US, Britain, and Russia? He can keep everything off his tracks and play mindgames with Haru, but he can’t steal money to pay off his family debt – despite avoiding being on the radar of US spy drones, the CIA, the equivalent of Britain’s security forces, and agencies throughout the Middle East and Russia? Yet again, incoherent. If he could accomplish this with simply being careful, why not force Gonzou and the others into a massive debt or trick those organizations into thinking the Japanese Yakuza were a higher threat and needed to be taken down?

Back to the father, Kyousuke supposedly only met him once when seeing him in jail, but if he suicided after killing four people, then how did Kyousuke meet him once when his father was in jail? And also, why would Kyouhei’s goal be to free him, if he committed suicide? Yet again, incoherence.

Gonzou’s actions become incoherent too. Why let a sniper shoot him after evading a car bombing in the previous chapter? Why even say Kyousuke had psycho-amnesia? Perhaps, it could be argued, to put a red-herring on the twist, but that part comes off as pointless and nonsensical because of the generic evil brother twist.

Worsening this is that the distinction between the organizations fall into incoherence after Gonzou’s death. Gonzou is the boss of Azai and leading the Souwa Alliance, an amalgamation of different Yakuza groups working together out of necessity because police have largely put a stop to Yakuza crime over the past several years. However, after Gonzou’s death, the writing claims that Gonzou is the leader of Sannou, which loses all sense of narrative coherence.

Sannou is the corporation that they’re making backdoor deals with to maintain economic hegemony in Kyousuke’s city. In fact, the narrative made this clear since Sannou was trying to push for Makiko in the chapter 3 arc of the Skating tournaments, but the Azai group was heavily backing Azai Kanon – their interests didn’t align on that. Saying Gonzou – a city mob boss – is a CEO of Sannou loses all narrative coherence because he could have just asked Makiko to step down and that would be that.

Kyousuke’s character loses coherence too. The previous night, when heartbroken over his mother’s tragic death, and thinking over how shitty his life has been; Haru reveals her deep love and Kyousuke shouts at her and seriously threatens to rape her, if he sees her again because she’s the daughter of the man who ruined his father, mother, and his life and chose that time to apologize to his dead sister.

Now, if he felt this way, and was repressing his mind from thinking about Usami Haru being the daughter of Usami Yoshinatri – the man who ruined his family, then why did he suddenly decide on the next day – as the Yakuza are chasing after him to kill him – that she’s his woman and that he’ll protect her, no matter what?

I… What was that? He’s on high-stress, threatening to kill people, and going mad with the idea of being Maou – presumably losing all his sanity. But then, after Gonzou dies and the Azai group think it’s Kyousuke, suddenly Kyousuke decides that he actually loves Haru and will protect her… the day after threatening to rape her, if he ever saw her again?

The plot hole isn’t any of the other routes. The plot hole is the true route. Maou not being Kyousuke makes no narrative sense. Maou’s petty actions have more consistency, if he’s Kyousuke and bound to the Souwa alliance and trying to make a name for himself in Sannou.

Keep in mind, Kyousuke killing Gonzou would have made far more sense since he’d been mentally tortured by that man and living as a puppet under him for several years. Moreover, his madness driving him to hate and kill Haru… seemed to be exactly where the narrative was leading with the flashbacks. The twin brother twist just ruins that even further. Especially since Kyousuke’s disappearance spells stop making any sense altogether throughout the story.

The most bizarre thing about all this, is that the story feels perfectly consistent, complete, and *coherent* before the twin brother revelation. Which leads me to believe that – considering the off-line of raping Haru – the game was definitely suppose to end at the choking scene.

Purely a guess, but it seems like Haru probably had 3 distinctive “bad”, “normal”, and “good” paths for that scene before the awful twin brother twist. Bad ending was probably Kyousuke giving into his madness as Maou and either raping or killing Haru after choking her to unconsciousness. Good ending may have been some bittersweet chance at reconciliation before the Yakuza stormed the place and killed them both, and the ‘true’ was probably them both making amends, getting the hell out of there, and the happy ending of the epilogue with their 8 year old daughter. The reason I say that is, despite all the hardships each of the previous 4 story arcs go through, the theme of the game is about love conquering all. Tsubaki hugs her brother and apologizes because he has no concept of her sudden spite towards him, Kanon loves Kyousuke deeply but can never grow to understand him because they have to keep out of each other’s affairs and that prevents any true intimate relationship from forming but Kyousuke’s doing it out of a sense of family love just as much as his obligation to Gonzou but Kanon will never understand, Mizuha breaks down in tears because she always feels powerless to help the sister that has suffered so much and truly does love her – causing Tokita to have her own emotional breakdown because she loves her sister just as much but society keeps pulling them apart, and finally, Kyousuke loses the only remaining hope he had left of having a happy life with the mother who has suffered mental torture and has been taking it out on Haru through mindgames as a way of getting back at the world. Finally, he just snaps and his Maou personality takes over – the promise of being with each other as kids can either be seen as childish sentiment, meaningless, or something they decide to stake their hope on despite the bad blood and they elope together. Their love conquering the bad blood between them and the societal circumstances around them creating grudges beyond their control.

Side note: Haru’s submissive nature to Kyousuke – despite how guarded she was – was hinted at with Yuki Tokita. Tokita declares herself a sadist, Haru says she learned to follow her orders as friends, Tokita would play with her sexually, Haru calls Tokita her only real friend, and Tokita insists she’s the only one who can please Haru sexually. Haru and Tokita were into S&M, I don’t even mean that as a joke. They really were. Haru taking her clothes off to please Kyousuke… oddly enough fits the narrative because she’s heavily into being sexually submissive but embarrassed about others knowing. When it’s just her and Kyousuke on New Years, she does nothing but giggle and laugh at Kyousuke insulting her because she’s being sexually aroused by his insults. …Yeah.

That’s just my thoughts on it. The plot literally loses all coherence thanks to that terrible plot twist and I’m honestly disappointed. I don’t know what else to say. I really loved this visual novel up until that twist literally ruined every single thing about the game. It’s really a shame because I loved the mindgames between Maou and Haru and really felt this was the perfect Maou versus Hero rivalry and romantic love affair before that horribly atrocious plot twist ruined the coherence of the entire plot. The side characters were also absolutely wonderful. The emotional turmoil between the circumstances related to Tokita and Mizuha even made me cry a little by the end of their character arc. The realism of Tsubaki’s situation with her brother and Kyousuke assessing his own apathy towards life were genuinely great moments. Haru is also surprisingly one of the best female leads in a story. Her sense of justice, her fearlessness, and her rational outlook to assess and defeat Maou’s logic games make a very compelling narrative. Her emotional turmoil towards Kyousuke possibly being Maou made for a compelling narrative since it was already established that she didn’t have a good assessment of her emotions and tried to bury her feelings by focusing solely on her goal of revenge against her mother’s murderer. I would have given this visual novel a 10 out of 10 but regrettably, I can only give it a 5/10 and I feel like that’s stretching it. One horribly stupid plot twist really can ruin an otherwise great story.

5/10 Visual Novel.

A good visual novel, but unfortunately one egregious twist ruined it from being a truly amazing story.

 

Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

Part 1 of 2; The Broader Themes

This will contain major spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.

What can be said about SMTIV: Apocalypse? I’m not sure if my meager words can ever provide this game the sufficient praise that it deserves for being quite possibly the greatest game of 2016 and perhaps the all-time best game ever created in all of humankind’s history. Indeed, it is as if all of human evolution, all forms of human invention, and all of humanity’s lengthy history of entertainment was a prerequisite for greatest video game to ever be created. In the future, I’m sure people will look back and gape in stunned awe at the sheer magnificence of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. The all-time best sequel game and best duology to ever exist thus far in video game history. I kid you not, it is by far the greatest plotlines to ever exist, but requires actual knowledge of its philosophical and religious underpinnings to fully appreciate.

This duology – and indeed, it is a duology with SMTIV – is quite amazing in its usage of it’s in-game plot and the subtle philosophical themes combined to make one of the greatest and most unappreciated masterpieces of gaming. It has become my favorite duology game with one of the most brilliant uses of writing and plot progression ever written in gaming. The best use of the alternate universe concept – in effect, Atlus has made a duology that is the multiverse written in the best way imaginable. This game outstrips and outdoes the multiverses of Chrono Trigger-Cross by a wide margin.

Without further gushing, let us begin examining the greatest duology in all of gaming history. I doubt I’ll be able to give this duology the full breadth of praise that it deserves, however, but I’ll do my best.

           

The Juxtaposition of Flynn and Nanashi

Central to the duology are the experiences and views of the two main characters on the same conflicts that effect their lives. We have two games that present what is largely the same major conflict but with two contrasting views on the same information.

The philosophical underpinnings of Perspectivism espoused by Friedrich Nietzsche is clear between Flynn and Nanashi. That is, each main character views their reality from their own interpretations of the same information to form their own “truth” of what that information means. In this case, while a stronger degree of facts give a better understanding of reality, people decide which facts hold more significance to them and whether they will be antagonistic or positive to those facts. In essence, there is no objective truth from a purely personalized view of what reality means to a person. Someone might view the same set of facts in entirely different views. For instance, the decision between Jonathan and Walter in IV was a decision between whether the status quo was beneficial despite the use of a small segment of children as sacrifices to keep the people of Tokyo safe and a question of whether Flynn had any right to change the future of Tokyo, or a decision to do what was necessary and overturn a system that allowed such pernicious brutality against the small segment of children even if it meant putting Tokyo itself in immediate danger.

Flynn’s view:

Flynn is constantly recognized as a Messiah. From the start of his story, when meeting those mysterious voices and talking to the dream versions of Walter and Jonathan. He is constantly asked for his views; both his close friends and the societies around him ask for his personal opinion. There’s a deep, underlying message about Flynn being such an important and impactful figure on the scope of the world because of his triumphs and tribulations. His accomplishments create reverence and acknowledgement. This is an explicit, active part of the Neutral Path’s latter-half where he raises the hopes of the people through his positive, humanistic deeds.

Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as almost heroic and relatable due to the human element of being close friends with Walter and Jonathan before their respective ascensions, and the player – as Flynn – has to do a cost-benefit of what is of more importance for the future of the world.

Each choice feels meaningful and you identify with each because of the personal relationship that Flynn has with both characters throughout the journey. You feel a sense of loss when you’re forced to fight former friends and hearing their voices in the monstrous forms gives you a sense of loss. But in the end, you’re choosing a path that feelings like the correct decision, even if it costs hundreds of thousands of nameless, faceless people their lives. The sacrifice is worthy, necessary, and possibly even honorable for the greater purpose designed for their personal sacrifice.

Whether it be the people of Tokyo or Mikado in the Law and Chaos paths; whether it’s to allow God to reassert absolute control over humanity with you giving yourself to the greater goal or whether it is to allow humans to live in freedom with you as King. Even in Neutral, their positions seem understandable for the most part, because they’re struggling against the cosmic horror of the endless war of Law and Chaos explained by the White, but still have decided on a profound choice despite the endless cycle. This creates a very privileged position, typical of a the standard JRPG “chosen one” narrative, that feels normal in a video game.

The foreign language on the scaffold of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado is presented as the “mystic script” and as Flynn, you’re left to wonder about the mystery because it’s never explained what the language is. You’re simply made aware of this strange, mystical language that Mikado is in wonder of. After that, as you go down what you believe to be the depths of hell itself, you see below the medieval kingdom of a typical JRPG lays the vast city of Tokyo and most players felt surprised by this revelation when playing the game without spoilers as Flynn. You meet denizens of Tokyo with noticeable thick accents and a bizarre fear of God and angels.

The Four Routes: When playing as Flynn and making decisions, you feel a significant sense of freedom and that your choices are meaningful. Within the framework of the game itself, it feels that way. However, story-wise, you’re forced to accept the fact that none of your decisions have any sense of permanence for the greater purpose of the story itself and you must acknowledge that despite your decisions, humans are tools to be manipulated. The White offer the only resolution and that is mass oblivion to end human suffering.

The theme of Hope is central to the Neutral route of the game. It’s made explicit and even before Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse confirmed the allusions, Flynn’s actions bringing meaning is what created the hope despite knowing that it would all come to ruin as part of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos. As mentioned in a previous segment, the Chalice of Hope and the Great Spirit of Hope, in conjunction with Masakados character unambiguously espoused this theme, The theme is an answer to humanity’s nihilistic feelings regarding the meaninglessness of life itself. It expresses this point fabulously through minimalism with the White. The theme of Hope borders on nationalistic pride in certain parts of the game and gives this idealism for a hopeful future despite the pernicious understanding that it’ll all fall to ruin regardless of Flynn’s actions because it is a constant, cyclical change bound to the extremes of Law and Chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

Nanashi’s view:

Nanashi is constantly vilified as a demon’s pawn throughout his journey. His allies become ambivalent in their trust towards him during the first mission to rescue Flynn in Tsukiji Konganji. While this encapsulates a small portion, it is part of a larger narrative of the game that is divergent from Flynn’s in IV. Nanashi is constantly told by Dagda that he’s just a puppet and the only ones who seem to empathize at a certain point are Hallelujah, Asahi, and Navarre.

The people of Tokyo come close to murdering him in cold blood because they view him as a constant threat to their continued existence. Neither Asahi’s emotional pleas or Fujiwara’s rational approach work to quell their hatred and desire for revenge for the loss of Flynn and the rise of the Divine Powers. Nanashi’s age is simply a non-factor as he’s constantly told to take responsibility for his actions because they have such overarching consequences. Consequences that he was too ignorant to understand at the time, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what his reasoning or limitations were once Shesha had murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Any attempt to point out naivety or ignorance is seen as running away from responsibility.

The only reason that the mob in Fujiwara’s Cafe Florida don’t outright murder Nanashi is because the Divine Powers act on their plans to seal away demon summoning to temper down the resistance to their plan of saving the universe from YHVH’s control. Nanashi becomes a convenient tool for them to utilize for their continued survival because he’s the only one that can summon demons thanks to Dagda.

After Nanashi is forced to prove himself, the people of Tokyo begin celebrating him as a Champion of Tokyo just like Flynn in the previous game. Unlike Flynn’s narrative of bringing meaning into people’s lives through good works, the narrative of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse has a double-edged sword. The player can view it in the same viewpoint as the previous game of bringing meaning into people’s lives, however, we’re presented with the knowledge that these denizens of Tokyo will cling to anyone convenient and powerful enough to act as their savior. It doesn’t have to be Flynn, it can be anyone who does the work for them. And if you, as Nanashi, fail and cause mistakes? You have to accept the knowledge that you’ll be vilified as a demon’s puppet like before. The way they view Nanashi – whether as champion or Messiah – is dependent upon what benefit Nanashi brings to them. It is a subversion of the message of Hope. You’re a tool of the people for the sake of their own convenience. It is an admittedly dangerous situation, but they place pressure with no regard for Nanashi’s personal wellbeing at any point in time.

The language of the mystic script that the people and Samurai of Mikado speak of in the early parts of Shin Megami Tensei IV are revealed to be the plain, mundane language of English. It is a rather amusing development that Mikado reveres the English language as sacred.

As Nanashi travels up the scaffold, he views each of the dungeons in reverse numerical order from how Flynn viewed them because of their vantage points. Flynn grew-up in Mikado and the shock of seeing a city “below ground” through Naraku is juxtaposed with a youthful generation finally being able to bask in the sun and skies for the first time in their lives. The only prior experience being knowledge that such landscapes existed and seeing it through a small hole made by Shesha when it tore through space-time. The thick language of Tokyo in IV is not present in Nanashi’s understanding of the language, everyone sounds normal to Nanashi. By contrast, from Nanashi’s view, the random Samurai that Nanashi meets sounds very off and strange in his pronunciation of words compared to the people of Tokyo.


Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as antagonistic and morbid monsters who seek to hurt Tokyo for their own insane ideological positions. We learn that the young men who they use to be, Jonathan and Walter, are now dead as a personal sacrifice for the sake of these ideologies that the majority of the people of Tokyo neither want nor desire. Denizens of Tokyo wonder whether everyone in the firmament is insane because of what they’re being told about what Jonathan and Walter did to themselves. They’re seen as foreigners and almost alien in nature.

Nanashi has no personal relationship with either of them. He only knows them through images on a television screen or a brief summary on their phone and he only understands them within the insulated environment of the Hunter faction. Neither Lucifer nor Merkabah vie for his favor in the beginning of the story until he seems to be useful for their goals in the latter-half of the game. Some players speculate that the game purposefully made them out to be antagonistically evil and that the deep, meaningful personalities were removed. However, this ignores what Atlus has brilliantly done to further juxtapose Nanashi’s personal life with Flynn’s personal life. If Atlus had meant to express them as unambiguously evil, then they wouldn’t have bothered showing their human forms or having them reunite for one last battle as brethren samurai in Bonds or even had the characters interact with Anarchy Flynn at all in the Anarchy route. We see a relationship between Flynn, Walter, Jonathan, and – in Bonds – Isabeau that we’re simply not privy to from Nanashi’s personal perspective.

Most important to note is that there was no change in either Merkabah or Lucifer’s personalities. Lucifer wanted war for the sake of survival of the fittest due to the doctrine that Power is Everything, Merkabah outright kills Tokyo and Law Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV because they were spattered with unclean blood. Neither the angels nor demons changed their behaviors from either game. Nothing about the conflict beyond the addition of the Divine Powers changed. So what was changed? Why is there such a dynamic shift in presentation of the conflict? It was not, as people may assume, to make a good versus evil representation or to unambiguously say that people who choose either Law or Chaos are wrong. The presentation wasn’t meant to be objective and it wasn’t presented as such.

You changed. Your vantage point of the conflict is all that changed in the story of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. You aren’t Flynn, the messiah who has been curried in favor of by both sides from the personal relationships that he has with Walter and Jonathan. You’re Nanashi, a kid whose name translated to “no name” and who has no say on the grand scheme of these decisions. You have no personal relationship with either Walter or Jonathan and they don’t know you. You’re seen as one of the nameless, faceless people of Tokyo just like the rest of the NPCs in the beginning of the game.

Flynn has the privileged position of feeling like a Chosen One, who can freely choose to either support or reject Law and Chaos, and who is one of the prominent figures that decide the fate of the world. Nanashi is just a random denizen of Tokyo. He is a product of the conflict. He is doubly hated for being seen as a demon’s puppet and as one of the unclean ones, the discriminated group who were never given a choice. While Walter and Jonathan had very good ideological reasons for their choices, the people of Tokyo never learned of those reasons and can only learn of the conflict through biased filters. Moreover, neither the decision of Law to commit genocide upon Tokyo or the decision of Chaos to commit to warfare to reshape the world were ever favorable to the vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The only difference now is that you’re no longer a foreigner from Mikado with the privilege to choose sides, you’re a resident who identifies Tokyo as home and lives with the consequences.

The beginning of the game shows these consequences from the three that Tokyo views as leaders. Flynn’s neutral choice presents us with vastly improved hunter technology, running electricity throughout the active areas (this was, in fact, one of the sidequests in IV), a more hopeful people, and the prospects of the emerging three-way conflict. Walter’s choice of becoming part of Lucifer and raising a demon army is what leads to Adramelech attacking and killing Nanashi, Nikkari, and Manabu. Jonathon’s choice of merging with Merkabah results in the sealing of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado with guards violently preventing Hunters from utilizing the terminal in the scaffold to better control their movements for the mass extinction plan.

The theme of Dependency. Clinging from one object of hope to another, to the extent that despite all of Flynn’s heroics during the Neutral path for a vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV, nobody really knew him as a person. Neither Fujiwara nor Skins picked-up or mention any changes in Flynn’s behavior, Isabeau mentions that Flynn seems different, but she still believes that it is Flynn. The only two people who had clear understanding of the dire situation and pointed out that Flynn was a fake were Merkabah and Lucifer. Not surprisingly, the only two people Flynn had any meaningful personal relationship with in the previous game. By contrast, when speaking to the people of Tokyo, you see how easily they cling from one hope to another. First, by vilifying you as a demon spawn one day to celebrating you as a “champion” the very next day – Nanashi is given the same title as Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Then, by showing us the Shesha-Flynn plot twist.

As Nanashi, we witness how easily hope can be manipulated for the purposes of someone who pretends to embody them. How did the Divine Powers go about masquerading the fake Flynn? They had Shesha tell the people what they wanted to hear, they acted as the part of a cartoon villain in the second Tsukiji Konganji scene to continue misleading the player and the cast of what was going on, and Shesha never acted “out of character” for our own expectations of how Flynn should act as a Neutral-aligned protagonist. It was, shockingly, perfectly in line with what we should expect from a Neutral Hero and it’s a slap in the face when the plot reveals it isn’t simply Flynn having some curse placed upon him or programmed via brainwashing to conduct certain actions against his will. The person that we thought was Flynn, and who followed the expected patterns of behavior for a Neutral protagonist, wasn’t Flynn at all. Nanashi sees firsthand how hope can be used to manipulate and use people for purposes counterproductive to their self-interests.

The most crucial aspect of the theme of dependency is the large cast of characters that are part of Nanashi’s journey. You’re presented with a cast that you can act as compassionate or mean towards. While Dagda acts as an overt and controlling force that demands that you obey him, it is under the expectations that you were going to follow his commands because he brought you back to life from the horrendous death that the player suffered. Some fans, particularly those who hadn’t played Shin Megami Tensei IV, seemed to assume that this was an expected anime-like set-up where you’re suppose to choose the expected “morally right” decisions regarding the power of friendship. But this idea of needing to choose the morally right path for the sake of it is, in actuality, meant to make you feel as if these friends are too dependent upon you and dragging you down. In essence, the feeling that you need to choose the supposed morally righteous decisions because it’s expected in a archetypical anime set-up is used against the player to make you feel that these characters are dragging you down and forcing you to be what they want you to be. They are dependent on you insofar as what you mean to their own personal expectations of you and you feel bound to a duty to them. Asahi being the most significant example of this and serving as an anchor of anger and guilt in the latter-half with her death. Her relationship to you interpretable as either a sister, lover, or a nuisance regardless of how you see her. Nevertheless, all of this can either be interpreted as the standard expectations of any typical JRPG with you meeting and helping allies as a good and typical JRPG protagonist or you can view them as hindrances. You can feel that they are sapping you of choice. After all that you go through together, you can choose the bonds of friendship as being well worth the struggles or see it as blind sentimentality compared to the overarching problem that will surely doom the future of the cosmos, if you don’t choose the morally reprehensive but objectively rational path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Flynn and Nanashi perceive Akira:

As Nanashi, when journeying into the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, you meet and have fun speaking with ignorant medieval folks who don’t understand how a simple thing like a fan works and who have become more fundamentalist in their beliefs despite the social concessions for equality. Unlike Flynn, who viewed the statue of Aquila standing proudly with full appreciation of who that man was, Nanashi only sees it as defiled and broken. A statement of how little they view the founder of the country despite how hard he worked. Unlike Flynn, who had the chance to read the Obelisk fully to learn of and feel a part of Mikado’s history, Nanashi finds the history of his previous incarnation defaced and the people supporting extremist measures of genocide of his home of Tokyo under Merkabah.

As Flynn, we experience the social dynamics of Mikado with the two-tier caste system, the social issues between Samurai and the Monastery having in-fighting over Aquila’s law, and we gain a sense of wonder and mystery over this amazing human being known as Aquila. We meet two versions of him from the other worlds, Demonoid Akira and Human Akira. We know that this man, Akira, is someone of great importance who can reshape world events but will live a tragic life faced with total doom of all his achievements because of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos under YHVH. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Akira is seen as an honorable and heroic figure who does his best just like Flynn.

As Nanashi, we see the past memories of the Third Akira directly. We become aware that the angels were set on an isolationist and stone age society under the angel Gabriel and the other Archangels. We see that the angel Merkabah has successfully taken power and rules over Mikado with a plan to commit genocide against Tokyo. Isabeau’s brief explanation of the caste system sounds stupid and obviously antiquated. Meanwhile, everything related to Akira is defaced or ignored. To Nanashi, Akira comes off as looking like a complete failure despite his earnestness.

As Nanashi, we’re forced into viewing the life of a man that we understand is our previous life but we don’t know why we’re seeing these images. We see Akira trying to form the middle path and believing in humanity, but Nanashi is well aware of the results. He was vilified in Tokyo as a traitor and his hard work in Mikado led to the rise of an extremist, isolationist, and hateful society out to destroy the only home that Nanashi has ever known and most of the friends that he’s expected to cherish. Unlike Flynn, who sees Tokyo as a distant country filled with adventure; Nanashi sees it as home as exemplified by their distinct differences in the Tokyo world map music of each game.

In an interesting twist, while Flynn is only vaguely aware of his past life and sees the ramifications of what other versions of himself did. Nanashi witnesses the suicide of past Flynn firsthand and from the narrative, Asahi herself is disturbed by what Nanashi tells her. We see how a man had to give-up his own life just to preserve Tokyo and how broken Tokyo still is. Nanashi is actually more informed than Flynn about Flynn’s past life; by contrast, Flynn is more aware of who Nanashi’s previous life was and helped seal the archangels after they murdered Akira when sent to the past via Mastema’s power.

Why Both Games are necessary to understand the full story:

This duology presents one of the most intriguing cases of shocking the player regarding the full scope of what is necessary versus what is comforting. People who have only played Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse without having played Shin Megami Tensei IV feel it is a black and white choice of good versus evil that is being presented, in which players should be expected to pick Bonds instead of the supposed “Bad” ending. The narrative would lead someone who hasn’t played the previous game, and who isn’t paying attention to Dagda or Krishna’s explanations or perhaps not taking them seriously since they do go into great lengths about these problems, to believe that you’re making a good choice.

The White, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, go into copious lengths of elaborating that humans are just tools to be manipulated by God, that humanity cannot escape it’s pitiful cycle of endless Law and Chaos forced upon them by God. If the Law and Chaos world doesn’t align with God’s will then it is cast into destruction.

And, as previously mentioned, the philosophical underpinnings of the ascetic ideal are being expressed as the general theme of the White.

The first meeting alludes to how often they meet in this setting throughout the multiverse. The White ask what you believe the meaning of life is:

The Second meeting, they explain that humans are tools to be manipulated by their social conditioning. The context goes broader than religious worship later on to mean human weakness in needing a hope to cling to and being unable to suppress their desires during the battle against them. In this instance, however, the White’s nihilism over the truth of what human beings are within their own socialized context and under the rule of a God who decrees them chosen people is made apparent.

The third and final meeting, in which they explain humans are prisoners of God’s expectations and how anything not aligned to God’s will – even if it’s Lawful – will be cast into destruction. If humans choose freedom, then freedom will also be cast into destruction. Humans are constantly repeating their mistakes. God wants humans to view their life as a “test” and loath themselves so that he can keep himself in power. Thus, humans are prisoners of his expectations. Humans must constantly loath themselves for the crime of being born human and appropriately worship God as the perfect creator of the universe. The allusions to sinfulness are clear.

The Divine Powers, Danu, and Dagda clarify additionally that the Creator, YHVH, bound humans into cages of flesh and essentially that the physical world is – from the point of view of all the deities – an illusion that humanity is shackled upon. The natural living within human flesh is seen as the worst possible misery for the souls of human beings and must be obliterated to save their eternal souls for true prosperity in the afterlife from the perspective of the Divine Powers. There are allusions to the Divine Powers loathing sinfulness as an anathema to existence itself.

Krishna and the Divine Powers view what YHVH has done to humanity as inexplicably evil and wishes to give all of humanity salvation by destroying the sinful world and recreating humanity to be free of sin.

Krishna speaks of humanity being bound to cages of flesh and makes his intentions clear:

Danu admits that Krisbna is right. Her only defense is that it’s still life:

Lucifer adds further clarification explaining that so long as humanity (within this context, the humanity created by God) exists then neither herself, the White, or YHVH himself will disappear.

The humanity of Flynn’s is the Fifth humanity. The previous four were slaughtered by the Archangels and the White came into being from the ancient races and are the Will of Humanity. It seems to be implied that when humans repress their nihilism towards life itself, it gives the White strength.

Stephen is the one who tells us about the White being aggregate sentient of humans thoughts:

Gabriel explains much of the same as Stephen:

The SMTIV Artbook further clarified:

the embodiment of the ancient races destroyed by the angels. They’ve appeared to humans four times now, sharing their memories and knowledge of the past. They claim that whether humans submit to angels or unite with demons against God, history is doomed to repeat itself and the future will never change. Therefore, they aim to obliterate all existence and return the cosmos to nothingness. They show the protagonist visions of two alternate futures – “Blasted Tokyo” and “Infernal Tokyo” – while taking on the appearance of Isabeau and Hugo in order to deceive the protagonist.- Shin Megami Tensei IV Artbook

Once you play both games and understand the full scope of the plot, you realize that not only have you made the objectively wrong choice in Bonds, but you’ve doomed all of your allies to an eternity in hell under Yahweh’s rule. Playing the Bonds route would simply have you believe that the ceiling not being broken apart and the characters all living happy lives is the only difference between it and IV’s neutral ending should you search it online, but the actual narrative tells us a dire tale. The happy ending of IV Neutral was, like all Neutral endings in the mainline series, a ruse that would only lead to total failure in the long-term of the story. In this case, not only was fighting Yahweh pointless because the extremes will always exist, but Nanashi and the player have wasted their only opportunity to free the universe from utter ruin. Bonds is about fighting hard for what they have and holding steadfast to keep their lives intact, but eventually all of them will die of natural human causes. Dagda and Nanashi are implied to never meet again. Everyone in Bonds will be cursed forever similar to Aleph and Demi-fiend. This pernicious and subtle theme isn’t make-believe, it’s presented clearly within the game as a recurring theme that’s only noticeable to people who take the time to chat with NPCs and who pay attention to the narrative involving the NPCs in the main story.

The Bonds ending is worse than at first glance; not only will Law and Chaos return with an extreme vengeance because humans created by Yahweh will always repeat their mistakes, but the White present a ticking time bomb of any and all future incarnations of Jonathan, Walter, Flynn, and Nanashi accepting their goal and destroying the Yamato Perpetual Reactor. Even worse, should none of those four be reincarnated then the White known only to Nanashi as the Pale Man explains that Twisted Tokyo is a world in which no Messiah came to save the human race from extinction. That explanation thoroughly repudiates the entire point of Bonds. If no Messiah comes to save people, the Bonds that people themselves forge don’t matter at all. Atlus goes further to express this point: if Nanashi agrees with Yahweh’s proposal and ignores Dagda’s pleas to give Dagda his hand, then the game ends and Yahweh is implied to have cast the rest of the party into hell for all eternity. If there Bonds really mattered and the power of the people can overcome everything, then why is this presented to us? Is it a glaring plot hole? No, considering the length they went in their revelation of the White in the previous game and the fact that we have the White explaining how a world simply dies off without a Messiah, it’s clear that they were making implications and subtly hinting that the happy friendship ending of Bonds will never last. The party even remark, it is all up to them. What we’re left with is a brutal war of attrition until the Fifth humanity dies out so that Yahweh makes good on his threat to replace humanity with more obedient servants like the previous four times.

So then, is Bonds just a horrible ending secretly made out to be positive, just like all previous Mainline games? Well . . . not necessarily. Bonds is about living and dying for one’s convictions of what is right, even if it means suffering eternally for making the most meaningful choice for one’s loved ones and home.

The party of Nanashi and Flynn know that they’ll suffer eternally, Yahweh doesn’t mince words. Unlike previous main characters, it doesn’t come as a horrifying surprise, they’ve accepted eternal suffering as meaningful for the sake of preserving their world and believe in the infinite possibility that positive changes will be ongoing with the dire struggles. To believe in the pure, blind chance of humanity. To be cursed eternally in hell for one’s convictions, one’s intrinsic beliefs, is a horrifically tragic, but ultimately loving and admirable message. It is not a deviation from previous mainline games, it’s just the most satisfying and expressive pro-humanistic message.

Most insidiously, from Shin Megami Tensei IV to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, only one ending was foreshadowed in the duology. But more on that in the next part regarding specific characters and character-driven themes.

Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Link to Amazon website for the book:
Winner-Take-All Politics

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Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Must Read: for those who care about economic inequality and feel disillusioned or depressed by the inaction in Washington.

This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change.

Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of the US, this book is an absolute must-read that will give you the full breadth of information and clarify much of the purposeful misinformation that the Mainstream news media posits as reasons for the economic inequality and the chronic inaction of Washington.

In brief, I’ll cover some of the broad range of topics that this book covers and fully clarifies. I can only go into a minutiae and highly recommend personally buying and reading every single chapter in chronological order so you understand the full scope of the contemporary events that are creating problems in the US.

A brief warning though, this is mostly going to seem incredibly one-sided and although I don’t doubt bias, much of this makes far too much sense and is consistent with much of the political issues that are making the Middle and lower class of the United States suffer. It’s a hard pill to swallow and it completely destroys the failure of bipartisanship on both sides narrative.

Most interestingly, Hacker and Pierson do not pull any punches on the ignorance of the majority of US citizens on policy issues, agenda setting, the inner workings of Washington, and the average US American knowledge of how many of which party voted on a highly publicized policy such as Obamacare. They take it even further, and elaborate on how each party use the ignorance of the broad public to purposefully create the sense of disillusionment, apathy, and despair that the majority of US Americans feel with Washington. Moreover, how it’s used to stoke anger, backlash, and constant resentment so that tax cutting initiatives for the super-rich go unimpeded.

One key aspect before you begin to read:

Who are the Super-rich? Broadly speaking: The heads of Financial institutions such as CEOs in banking, investment banks, brokerage firms, corporate CEOs, Realtors, and private equity firms. Essentially, Wall Street executives.

They typically hide how much in millions they’re making from their tax returns via stock options and deferential payments to avoid showing up on their tax returns. For that matter, their expenditures for donations to both major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are four times as much as energy companies and other organizations. The financial industry donates the highest in campaign contributions to both parties of Congress and the White House.

Without further ado, here are just a few topics covered in this book and the explanations below are only the tip of the iceberg. If you wish to fully understand the key issues, purchase and read the full book yourselves. You will gain a clear insight and possibly pick-up on specifics that I possibly missed.

To reiterate and emphasize, this political book is highly recommended:

  1. The Mainstream News Media is purposefully misleading voters/viewers on what the problems are:

The coined term “objective journalism” isn’t really objective at all. It’s really the Middle-ground fallacy, that is trying to find fault with both parties in equal measures, when the data shows that one side is disproportionately the problem. The Mainstream media continues this fallacious narrative in trying to make a “our side” and “their side” narrative with Pundits going on ego-stroking explanations on how a disaster would have been avoided if the current administration (whether Democrat or Republican) had just followed an idea that the pundit had after some financial or political disaster has happened.

The mainstream news media also continues to play up or give credence to this distorted narrative of “big government” being in the way of economic entrepreneurs who wish to freely express their individual freedom for economic growth and job creation. This is a completely fictitious narrative, not the least of which is because corporations and the top 1 percent and, even more so, the top .001 percent have received constant tax cuts for the past thirty years. Even more importantly, the income bracket has not been updated to reflect the whooping increase in wages for the top .001 percent to raise their taxes for infrastructure and to update economic regulation on unchecked corporate power. As a result, wages for the bottom 80 percent have effectively stagnated while inflation has risen, and upper middle to lower class Americans are paying more and more while the wealthy are getting tax cuts.

The idea that technological changes created this inequality, while true in some slight respects, is pure garbage in regards to the broad economy. Other countries do not have such a vast difference in wealth disparity apart from countries like Great Britain which modeled themselves after US economic policies and harbor a vicious classist culture of their own. But countries like France, Germany, and Japan do not hold this problem, because their labor unions didn’t fall apart like US labor did during the Carter years and onward. More on that in #3.


  1. The Mainstream Media is using Swing Voters as a scapegoat.

Contrary to what mainstream outlets have the majority of US Americans believe to be true about swing voters, poll after poll shows that they’re the least informed and most ignorant about political events and the differences between both major parties. This means that they can be utilized as convenient scapegoats with this narrative of racism or ruthlessness on the part of voters against racial minorities, White Americans, or those of the lower-income bracket. The idea that the average US American hates it’s poor or hates a specific racial group gets personified. While there may be some truth to these claims, especially from outlandish types online and violent types that make headlines, the majority of US Americans don’t actually secretly hate each other as this narrative implies.

The most crucial and dangerous aspect of this issue is the attempt, engendered by the super-rich, to differentiate social equality with economic equality. To put bluntly, it’s trying to make people believe the impossible. While yes, to a significant degree, economic inequality helps perpetuate racial divisions, the fact of the matter is that true social equality simply cannot exist when everyone is struggling to make a living. It creates apathy for social issues at best and places blame on racial minorities at worst. But, when the slice of the metaphorical pie is being taken more and more by the super-rich, there’s simply no quality of life for the rest of the country because the public simply cannot function when there is no livable wages for anyone. The Mainstream media is completely apathetic to this basic fact and does everything to essentially brainwash US Americans into believing that the two can be separate.

It’s actually a strong show of the US’s strength of character that discrimination continues to be highlighted, criticized, and robustly vilified by the majority of US Americans even as everybody is losing out to the Super-rich thanks to the two-party system.


  1. Organized Labor’s fall caused an information vacuum and Economic Drift.

In brief, during the Carter years, there was a massive shift in business organizations linking together to fund special interest groups. By the 1980s, American Labor couldn’t compete with the massive and concerted organized funding of lobbying groups representing business interests. Previously, they weren’t making any concerted organization and felt threatened by American Labor’s powerful lobbying firms. So, corporations took action and joined together to form powerful interest groups. They spent, for their time, unprecedented amounts of donations for fundraising for politicians. Within short order, politicians of both parties had to fundraise hefty amounts of money for televised advertisements and flyers to keep their seats in office. It was, during Carter’s time, a massive shockwave that changed the contours of US politics.

Over the years, there was an expansion of the number of lobbying firms, expenditures for business lobbying firms rose exponentially, and the lobbying firms eventually – and still do – functioned as “floating heads” without any organized grassroots efforts. Their expenditures were initially three times higher than what American Labor groups could do, this unprecedented and sharp rise in lobbying from business crippled American Labor within a short time. It only got worse by the 1980s, the expenditures rose from three times what American Labor could do for fundraising and donations to then becoming ten to thirteen times higher. American Labor broke down and the massive protests did little to stop the policy shift of economic drift.

Economic Drift, in Hacker and Pierson’s terms, are not derailing policies, but rather failing to upgrade existing regulatory policies to reflect the modern political landscape, economic shifts of wages, inflation, and providing regulations for emerging technologies. Instead, organized efforts of interest groups made loopholes for tax breaks, put stops to critical social protections for the American workforce, deregulated the financial industry, and worked to make sure that politicians didn’t upgrade emerging financial trends to prevent economic catastrophes like the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Then, after the catastrophes, made sure to keep tax cuts for the super-wealthy while forcing the bottom 80 percent of the American workforce to foot the bill for their disregard and lack of regulatory oversight to protect consumers, stockholders, and the American workforce.

This, in and of itself, is a very brief synopsis since Hacker and Pierson meticulously go through the history and details of exactly how all of this happened from the Carter years onward. They make a definitive point to note two key changes that truly harmed the American workforce and helped the deregulation that prompted the careless disregard by the super wealthy:

First, due to the rapid decline of American Labor – which was partly shielded by the rise in labor unions in the public sector while the private sector unions all but evaporated – the American workforce became less tuned to Washington policy changes. Despite the funny hats and social customs, American labor was key in getting the majority of Americans to understand policies that effected their living standards. No more. Thanks to their fall and the rise of special interest groups working exclusively for corporate power.

Second, during the supremacy of television, televised advertisements for politicians by lobbying firms helped to spread misinformation and focused on anger inducing techniques to inspire voting for policies which were harmful for the majority of US Americans. Sometimes they utilized outright lies to fool people into voting for a politician who supported policies harmful to the majority of the US public but helpful to corporate interests.

Even worse, US Americans don’t understand the true importance of elections because the mainstream media utilizes Us versus Them sports analogies. This is ultimately a corrosive and disingenuous view of the politics of capitol hill. What matters most is that the supermajority in power determines the policy agenda that the Congress will discuss for their years in power and what the majority of Americans should pay attention to is what policies that politicians actually pass and permit to become law. Often, they’ll try to bluff by espousing rhetoric about how economic policies favorable to the majority of the US public couldn’t pass because of the specific bill in place, but the politician will insist they support the public good while passing laws that diminish and harm the majority of the US public. The main focus needs to be on policies and laws actually being passed to learn what politicians in general – and your specific politician – really support on a consistent basis.


  1. Partisan Politics is useful for the agenda of the Super-rich.

Have you ever heard the phrase, flaunted as a soundbite by the wealthy when donating to the two major parties, “Give to the Republicans to get what you want, but give to the Democrats for insurance.”?

It’s interesting and gives a superficial understanding of what has happened, it is ultimately wrong. It does not unveil the true extent of the problem. The two-party system hatred is absolutely valuable for the agenda of the Super-rich, if anything it is highly crucial to keep their stronghold on Washington. That is because retired government officials or those who’ve moved to private sector jobs usually find work with the very powerful interest groups that lobby in Washington. People understand this, for the most part, but they don’t understand how deep it goes.

As time has gone on, since the beginning of this trend during President Carter’s administration, significant increases in millions of dollars of expenditures for lobbying groups have been pumped into lobbying to increase the proficiency of organized groups. These organized special interests work diligently to make into law the interests of the Super-rich. Typically, they work hard on tax cut loopholes for the Super-rich.

Special interest groups representing the Super-rich have keyed in and have gone from developing strategies in which they hire former congressional staffers, who have knowledge of or a close personal relationship with each congressman in Washington. Typically, it is congressmen who are on specific congressional boards and whose policy formations represent their business interests. Over the past thirty years, the Super-rich and their lobbying firms have “modernized” this strategy. The problem was that, when there was political overhaul with a new supermajority party in power, the special interests typically cajoled the previously hired staffer of a political party, that was no longer the majority in Congress, to retire early. This was so that they could hire someone new from the other political party to take the helm and pursue their political interests utilizing the close personal ties to that specific party.

No more; this strategy proved inefficient and obviously led to distrust. Now, with the increasing expenditures of special interest groups to create a more efficient organized capacity for lobbying, it has created a massively successful framework. The special interest groups representing the Super-rich have created two sets of organizations – one for Democrats and one for Republicans – so that regardless of whichever party is in power, the Super-rich will simply switch up the teams to use the most relevant political party that has ties to the elected congressman. Thus, the two-party system, and the public’s idea that one political party is “their team” and that their corruption is “less worse” or “necessary” to fight the other team, helps the Super-rich continue to demand tax cuts while both political parties write up new tax laws that raise the taxes of the lower-income Americans, the Middle Class, and the Upper-Middle class while slashing taxes vigorously for the Super-rich.

The Super-rich and both political parties have helped obfuscate the heinous degree in which they’ve ruthlessly continued this policy for the party thirty years. They have the Mainstream News media depict reduced taxes for the lower-income, middle, and upper-middle class and seem to increase taxes for the Super-rich; what isn’t shown however is the chronological effect of such tax policies. While most of them will have reduced taxes for the bottom 80% for the first year or even the first two years, and have that part publicly shown on mainstream news outlets, within short time (for a tax policy), the 5 or 10 year tax policy will have aggressive cuts for the Super-rich and significant – often massive – increases in taxes for the lower-income, Middle, and Upper-Middle class of the US public. Obviously, it’s proportional to what they have but there are significant increases all around, and the burden is solely on the bottom 80 percent.

So what happens? Lower-income voters feel detached and like they don’t matter so they don’t vote. Middle-class voters become more permissive or apathetic to discriminatory rhetoric for racial minorities (those who lose jobs either blame identity politics or the racial minorities who they feel are stealing their jobs), and the Upper Middle-class has this biased idea that they’re becoming poorer despite working harder than lower-income Americans. They may blame their lessened wealth on the idea of lazy poor people because they met one or two lazy people or know of a family they think of as lazy or with certain problems. Reactionary politics ensues, the “other party” Democrat or Republican, takes the supermajority hold in Congress and promise reform while then helping distribute more tax cuts for the Super-rich without any meaningful debate on what it’s doing to the rest of US society. The Super-rich use their other team of their special interest group that have close ties to the other political party and then the Super-rich walk home with the grand prize of less taxes while the bottom 80% begin to blame their morals or technology or lack of religion or racial minorities or Millenials or whatever.

This is also why Gerrymandering is important, and often given the narrative of us vs them between Republican and Democrat political parties to further obfuscate how much the bottom 80% is losing out to the Super-Rich. Gerrymandering assures that the two-party system stays in power and is vitally important for the Super-rich to keep their own power over the bottom 80 percent.


  1. Evangelical Christians faithfully served the Super-rich and destroyed the Middle-Class.

This is probably the most contentious aspect of their book, but they have the historic facts to back it up and the tale is unfortunately very one-sided under legitimate objective scrutiny.

In brief, starting from the Carter years over rising anger over the possibility of churches being taxed, the anger simmered since Evangelicals were already reluctantly conceding to racial integration, the approximately 50 million US Americans (a number Evangelicals are happily to self-tout in their propaganda) staunchly and happily acted as the grassroots force of the Republican party. And with the majority of the US public inattentive and ill-informed, the Evangelicals highly organized and motivated grassroots organization proved effective in keeping Republicans under majority control from the Carter years to the Clinton years in the US Congress. The political advocacy for conservative social values only increased for the Presidency of George W. Bush and especially during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry.

Republicans organization forces, and during the 1980s, their mail-in donation orders, helped to eclipse the organizational capacity of the Democrats. The dedication and tireless work of Evangelical Christians for the Republican party helped to cement their supermajority foothold. Evangelicals were quick to campaign door to door, to phonebank for candidates, and to help fellow Evangelicals to drive to the polling locations. And for all their hard work? They happily sat back as Republicans aggressively promoted Conservative social values such as the anti-LGBT scare of 2004 and the anti-abortion bills in local, State, and Federal government, sometimes even in the cases of infringing upon the rights of rape victims. Recall, if you will, the 2008 election in which Sarah Palin deflected questions on raped women’s rights to abortion, and consider the fact that none of the mainstream media covered the lack of laws protecting Native American children from being raped by opportunistic, racist US citizens.

And what was the economic cost? Republicans kept pushing an economic fundamentalist agenda. Economic fundamentalism in the sense that they made a concerted and deliberate effort to aggressively slash taxes for the Super-rich while massively increasing taxes for the poor, Middle-class, and Upper Middle-class while doing little to adjust wages for inflation. Essentially, Evangelical political action groups stole the American Dream from the rest of their fellow Americans while the US public was largely blind or ignorant of their activities.

Evangelicals were happy to concede to the economic interests of the Super-rich, if it meant their conservative social values were defended. While the broader US public largely thought of them with a patronizing outlook, the general idea of Evangelicals being ignorant and perhaps kooky but ultimately harmless, because they were mostly noticed by the general public when loudly protesting against LGBT peoples and women’s reproductive rights, helped to shield the impact of what they actually did. Evangelicals have concerted with corporate interests into systematically robbing the rest of the US public of their wealth and handing it on a silver platter to the Super-rich. The economic redistribution to the Super-rich was thirty years in the making and is most certainly permanent. Evangelicals robbed the American people of their wealth, they robbed you of your wealth, and the degree of their impact means that they have most certainly robbed your children and grandchildren of a better life. You could argue that perhaps in another thirty years, after you’ve worked hard being part of massive protests that barely move Washington DC into acting upon the public good, that you’ll eventually be able to redistribute wealth . . . maybe. But the dismantling of Occupy Wall Street and, more recently, the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline should give you pause to consider whether or not this will be the permanent state of affairs. Regardless of where you stand on either protest, it is indicative of the fact that if the Super-rich feel their interests aren’t being met then your first amendment rights don’t matter anymore. All because Evangelicals worked hard for thirty years to make this state of affairs permanent. And then, when economic woes get tough, racial minorities are blamed and often killed by socially conservative, usually Evangelical sympathizing vigilantes.

On a personal note, I now have to live in fear of being shot to death on my front lawn thanks to the ongoing hatred of Sikhs and the recent killings of Indian origin US citizens, all because Evangelicals decided to unilaterally destroy the livable wages of the US public in service to the Super-rich. Evangelicals themselves blame racial minorities for the economic downturn that they helped create. One might question how they could be this stubborn and shallow, all I can say is, this is what happens when you give a permissive cultural norm to ignorant people who don’t believe in facts, but strongly believe in a moral high-ground irrespective of real life conditions and how their actions hurt others. To the Evangelical mind, they most likely believe that the US is suffering economic downturn for their support for progressive social values like women’s reproductive rights and treating the LGBT community like human beings worthy of respect and equal rights. To the Evangelical mind, it would just be a punishment from God and the permanent loss of your wealth because of their actions is just “arrogance” on the part of people who disagree with their authoritarian mindset in favor of freedom of expression. They would simply believe that you’re being punished for being a sinner and celebrate the permanent loss of your livable wages as Jesus Christ’s judgment upon you. They likely believe your suffering is justified because they don’t agree that you have the right to your own personal beliefs on faith.


  1. Republicans became “tax cut fundamentalists” for the Super-rich and continue to raise the taxes for everybody else.

This part is going to seem overly biased and one-sided, but true objective analysis means taking a hard look at what activities each party is pursuing and what bills they’re supporting to bring into law. It is not, as the mainstream media continues to espouse, finding faults with both parties to create an “equal” form of journalism that gives a disingenuous view of events. However, since this information tells a very bizarre and altogether one-sided story, people may come to expect it’s pure ignorance or one-sided propaganda. Previously, I pointed out to their modern assessment of what is going on, but the history of how we got to this point gives us an insane picture that is hard to believe and even more difficult to stomach. It’s anger-inducing and I don’t believe that most will take this part of their analysis seriously because the broader US public is so use to this idea that both parties have failed the public.

Regrettably, the actual picture shows that Republicans were aggressively moving hard-right on Economic issues to support tax cuts for the Super-rich while increasing taxes for everybody else. The days of fiscal conservatism had a painful death as a result of politicians becoming bought and paid for by lobbying groups exclusively working for the Super-rich.

In brief, the increase in lobbying groups and imperative for politicians to seek fundraising in the millions has caused massive inattentiveness and inaction for the majority of politicians. Compounded with this is the Hard-right Republican culture of Newt Gringrich during the Clinton years. Thanks to Gingrich and those who followed the “tax cut fundamentalism” approach of the 90s Republican party, the fiscal conservatives became shunned and then eventually replaced. The Gingrich Republican party filibustered and sidelined any attempt to regulate or update the existing financial structure and blithely demanded tax cuts for the Super-rich as the most prominent and important agenda aspect of the Congress. Due to the sixty vote majority necessary to end filibusters, the Gingrich Republicans continued to advocate for tax cuts. When discontent with Republicans rose over this new and extreme platform, the States that usually shift from each party during an election, ended-up removing the few remaining fiscal conservatives out of office in favor of Democrats. As a result, the Gingrich tax cut fundamentalists became even more extreme in tax cuts for the Super-rich to show they were more useful to the Super-rich. Republicans could still prevent a raise in taxes thanks to vetoes requiring sixty votes.

What about the Democrats? Many did support the Republican party’s entrenched and concerted partisan position. By the Clinton years, needing fundraising from the Super-rich to get elected became a necessity to keep your seat in Congress, and the Democrats under Chuck Schumer positioned themselves with aggressive fundraising tactics, but the majority of Democrats generally try to balance the interests of the Super-rich with the needs of the public and their constituents varying requirements.

Hard-Right Economic Republicans under Gingrich, however, do not concern themselves with matters of inflation or with the need for livable wages for the poor, the middle class, and the Upper-middle-class. In fact, the Gingrich Republicans flaunted the very idea of economic regulation to help the majority of a country. They don’t view it as their duty to help the public good and feel the government should stay out of issues of social or economic inequality. They don’t need to. The authoritarian mindset of Conservative culture and the unshakeable faith of Evangelicals working as grassroots organizers assured that they would remain with enough congressional seats to filibuster and promote tax cut fundamentalism in favor of the Super-rich.

The rise of the tea party made the situation increasingly more partisan and even more extreme since they didn’t accept any rise in taxes for the Super-rich while emphasizing no rise in taxes, even for a few short years, for the Super-rich. From the Gingrich veto-happy Republicans onward, Republicans have stopped concerning themselves with the needs of lower-income, Middle class, and Upper-Middle class society. They’ve used the biased assumption that Republicans lower taxes to slash taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle-class, and upper-middle class via long-term tax policies that initially seem favorable to the majority of US Americans before changing overtime to favor the Super-rich and burden the rest of society. Since the Gingrich years, the Republican party no longer thinks of the broader US public as their “base”, but rather the Super-rich as their exclusive base that they need to appeal and show favor towards. Even in situations where a rational set of regulatory policies could have prevented the economic collapse known as the Great Recession, Republicans have remained unfazed in their tax cut fundamentalist policy positions since Wall Street doubled-down and spent more lobbying money to assure that nothing too extensive changed. As a result, Democrats had conduct a painful, costly bailout that burdened the rest of the US public because Republicans resolutely refused to even consider raising taxes on the Super-rich and by 2008, Democrats had to compete with balancing what was the sensible solution for the US public with gaining favor from the Super-rich to continue being an elected official for the next term in office.

The unvarnished truth isn’t simply both parties being utterly corrupt. It’s Republicans refusing to consider anything but slashes for the Super-rich and Democrats having to balance the requirements of fundraising from the Super-rich with the public good. It’s Democrats constantly reacting to competing interests and Republicans remaining firmly set on hard-right economics. Republicans don’t consider it their job to balance the budget or to concern themselves with the needs of the broader public; not for the minimum wage, not for medicare, not for the reality of climate change, or the future prosperity of the country. Their concern is only appeasing the Super-rich and any catastrophe that happens, they will let the Democrats deal with and the US public pay the costs of.

Their strategy has proved efficient and Democrats have fallen out of favor. Republicans know, and consistently utilize, the political reality that when a supermajority of Democrats fail to live up to their promises to the US public then the positive election buzz eventually loses steam and the broader public becomes discontent with them. They question why compromise and often unfavorable compromises are necessary, but because of the veto and delay tactics of Republican members of Congress in conjunction with extensive fundraising activities that take more and more precedent over the many years, the US Congress has effectively become paralyzed with perpetual inaction. When promised changes fail to materialize and voters become angry, there is an obvious tendency to blame the majority because they’re perceived to hold the most power in the US Congress. The reality that both parties need compromise to fully function as a result of aggressive lobbying escapes notice.

Republicans, especially with the Tea Party branch of Republicans, seize the anger every time the positive feelings lose steam. They aggressively and staunchly oppose bipartisanship so that the public feels fear, anger, and stress over the fact their lives never get better. The Republicans openly flaunt and brag about this strategy, they don’t want to be seen as having a bipartisanship resolution because it makes people feel relieved and feel as if the politicians will resolve matters. The Republicans have boasted that they tap into the anger and frustration to motivate people into believing they’ll get tax cuts, if they vote Republican, and once Republicans retake supermajority role, they don’t concern themselves with even weak regulatory legislations that Democrats pass to protect the US public and instead create loopholes and continue to aggressively cut taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle, and Upper-middle class of US society.

If problems should arise? They let the Democrats deal with the fallout and have – since the Gingrich years – stopped concerning themselves with the majority of US Americans as being relevant to their agenda. The ignorance of the broad US public, the angry sentiments that arise from failed promises, and most importantly, the organized and concerted grassroots efforts have firmly kept Republicans in power. Republicans know how reactionary the US public is and how ignorant they are of what actual policies the Republicans support. They continue to pass policies of tax cuts for the Super-rich as proof of this continued assault on the US public and destroy whatever meager regulatory protections there are with loopholes or fear campaigns of socialism or deviate the argument away from tax cuts by highlighting conservative social values to engender Evangelicals continued compliance.

Hacker and Pierson even highlight this with Obamacare. They point out the Democrats were already conceding to the Super-rich to even push Obamacare forward and even then, it had almost failed. They show the horrifying ignorance of the US public over the issue. A poll about Obamacare showed that most of the US public believed approximately 20 to 30 Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare when asked how many they believe voted in favor of it. That would be a reasonable and possibly compelling idea, if we assume the Republican party cared about the US public’s healthcare and ability to continue living after conceding to the interests of the Super-rich. It’s also wrong. The correct answer was none. Not a single one of the Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare. And with Republicans unilaterally opposed to any tax increases for the Super-rich, the Democrats had to follow the Republican agenda and agree to increase taxes for everyone else to make sure that healthcare averted an economic fallout similar to the Great Recession but at the US public’s expense and not at the expense of the Super-rich.

Finally, it’s unlikely even this small article will change voting practices, I’m not naive enough to believe people will even want to listen because this seems so irrational. But we’re 20 trillion in debt, by comparison our GNP/GDP is 4 trillion a year, and the bottom 80 percent is continuing to foot the bill for the recklessness of Wall Street and other financial firms because the Republicans have successfully held a firm hold using the ignorance of the US public and reactionary sentiments whenever the Democrat majority fails to deliver on promises. The fear and anxiety is useful for reactionary shifts so that Republicans, who gain significantly more in donations from the Super-rich, continue to have organized grassroots activities from conservatives more in favor of the authoritarian mindset and from the general ignorance of the US public who don’t pay attention to what policies and laws that Republicans largely sponsor. It sounds one-sided, ridiculous, and insane that Republicans simply don’t concern themselves with the debt, the reckless financial activities of the Super-rich, and that they would burden Democrats to fix whatever they broke, but the policy preferences and fundraising disparity paint a clear picture.

The modern Republican party of our time doesn’t believe that economic equality is important, doesn’t concern itself with the struggles of the lower income or the middle-class or even the upper middle-class, and continue the tax cut fundamentalism to keep themselves in power and to keep Democrats in a perpetually reactionary state of affairs. This party is devoted to destroying the country; the failed economic policies of Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr. make it apparent that Democrats are actually better for the economy, but the effect has weakened since both parties need to keep in mind that they need to appease the Super-rich to stay relevant. Democrats try to play a balancing act, but Republicans tap into reactionary sentiments and see the broader public as little more than rabid dogs while offering tax cuts to the only base that they have concern for; the Super-rich.

Personally, after reading this book, and acknowledging the fact that the overt racism of Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t stop people from voting for him, and thus people with racially discriminatory views have increased hate crimes – including shooting people of Indian origin dead in their front lawn. I’ve since concluded that I’ve been incredibly naive. I don’t believe things will get better, I don’t believe the very scant few people who read this will believe this is what’s happening, and it’s doubtful people will pick-up Hacker and Pierson’s book to better understand the objective policy agendas that both parties follow without the partisan nonsense seen on television to make both sides seem equal. The one-sided nature of this seems altogether ridiculous and it’s a vexing truth to swallow. But nothing will ever change. The Super-rich have won and the Evangelicals helped them do irreparable damage to the United States economy.

If you do wish to learn more about what is going on, this book is highly recommended. Please read it, at least you won’t be as confused about why nothing positive seems to be happening with the US Congress regarding economic inequality. If you still have hope for change, unlike me, then please read this book.

When life gives you uncertainty…

So, I’ve had quite the challenging couple of months.

I managed to get a new, well-paying job, then upon finishing job training and exiting out of work after the first week, I was struck by an oncoming, speeding vehicle. The crash could have killed me since he hit the driver side door and my car careened all the way into a parking lot where it crashed into a parked car. Since then, I’ve been undergoing physical therapy and had to deal with severe pain in my neck, back, knee, and my left elbow.

I felt like I could recover, then my insurance company basically told me that the accident was my fault since there was no proof the driver was speeding (cases like this need outside witness testimony and nobody was there to witness the other driver crash into me). The police didn’t even do their paperwork right. Despite giving my name, telling them the car was in my father’s name, and giving them my license, they never bothered to listen to my side of the story. I’ve spent the past few months having at least four crying fits, in which I locked my door and shut myself up in my room just crying and been dealing with chronic pain and flashes of pain up until a few weeks ago. I will now be living with neck pain and potentially need to go surgery in the future depending on if it gets worse according to my doctor since they still don’t know yet.

My emotions have basically ranged from dejection, numbness, self-deprecation, and anger over the situation. What I say didn’t matter, my side of the story meant nothing, and the possibility of me almost dying meant nothing to either insurance company, the police, and the laws of society. I don’t even know what else to say, blogging about it feels just as worthless and meaningless. Nobody cares, that’s life. That’s been my life since grade school. That’s the only consistent answer society ever gives. Apathy and complicity to human suffering. A part of me wonders if I should feel ashamed about this, another part of me realizes someone somewhere is going to take this out of context and mock me for it.

Before the accident, I had thought I was weak-willed and would hypocritically think of a higher power if put in a position where my life was on the line. When I was struck by the oncoming car, I only thought of three immediate things: Regretting not being able to finish the other route in a game I was playing, not being able to write a fanfic I had been toying with the idea of, and how I viewed myself as a member of the atheistic branch of Hinduism and believed in certain parts of the Ubermensch philosophy espoused by Nietzsche. After that, I basically thought about how I wouldn’t be able to finish the book criticizing religion, if I died then. Although, a part of me is tired of trying to improve my life and only seeing failures and punishment. I’ve just been passing the time by playing the route of the video game I had yet to totally finish and decided on another playthrough despite there only being two meaningful endings in that game.

I’m not sure how bizarre that sounds . . . at this point, I really feel uncertain about everything and I’m not sure if I’m running away or just trying to figure things out. I don’t know how to feel and I don’t know how to move forward yet.

Internal Affairs (1990)

0/10.

Completely awful film.

I pretty much disengaged from the film when it became evident that Raymond, the main character, was more likely to believe some known crooked officer who makes goading remarks than his actual wife. Evidently, the film finds Raymond assaulting his wife and throwing a childish temper tantrum to be forgivable manly behavior.

The film marketed itself as two intellectuals doing battle, and I have seen recommendations where it’s compared to the Departed. This is utter nonsense. The Departed is hundreds of leagues superior to this craptastic shit excuse of a film. It went from an interesting investigation into a crooked cop into a whiny manchild screaming and hitting his wife because of a bunch of insults. The fact his wife was having dinner with the man, and the fact the man somehow had his wife’s panties (or so it is believed, most likely the man took one from his four wives and pretended it was the main character’s wife, Catelyn). The wife evidently is sorry and obediently has sex with her husband when prompted to after her husband accused her of cheating on him, made a mess of her business dinner in front of all her colleagues, and assaulted her right in front of them.

The ending is a predictable “main villain threatens main character’s wife” nonsense. Nothing about this movie was interesting. I absolutely hate it. It was obvious the crooked cop was making things up due to his behavior around women in general. Overall, the main character was a total idiot who believed some stranger over his wife and got rewarded for it. The fact another wife beater’s wife was cheating meant nothing, because it had nothing to do with the relationship of Raymond and Catelyn.

I absolutely hate these types of films. Women are treated as objects to be owned, required to forgive any abuse placed upon them, and somehow they’re suppose to be a “good wife” of upstanding moral character by forgiving their wife beater husbands. As far as I’m concerned, if a husband beats his wife, then she’s free to leave him. Human trash don’t deserve to act like victims while treating other people like crap and ignoring the pain they bring them. Raymond is human trash galore, an icon of all the stupid men of society who don’t deserve to be in any relationship because they’re petty, jealous, insecure, and utterly disgusting pieces of trash. If you don’t trust any women, you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with one.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso / Your Lie in April

Mild Spoilers Below

This 22 episode + 1 OVA anime series is an exceptionally well made standard romance-drama storyline.

Thinking over it, it has a fairly standard manic pixie dream girl teaches guy life lessons and then leaves plotline but there are key differences that make this anime outshine the standard template of what people typically expect from this series.

1.) The characters are incredibly realistic. Every single character in this anime has a realistic personality, passions, and goals in life. In contrast to the standard story formula, these aren’t cliche. Arima Kousei, the main character, has monologues that aren’t cliche or stupid; they show the introspection and emotional pain of a damaged prodigy whose whole world shattered after his mother’s death and his regretful last words despite her child abuse.

2.) Most importantly of all; there is no forced melodrama to force the story to continue, there is no character stupidity,  and just about everything the characters struggle through is either real life issues that many people can relate to or ambivalence about feelings for long time friends that is just as relatable.

As a result, this anime shines far above the typical cliches and provides some incredible character development and story transition. Despite the seeming haphazardness of the story progression as it immerses us with scenes from past and present in seamless transition to show us the characters thoughts, motives, and struggles; it conducts the immersion brilliantly with a deft hand at picking out scenes that make the classical music scores resonate with the tumultuous emotions given to the audience.

The classical musical scores make the show shine as we’re treated to the inner struggles of artists who play songs to reach their loved ones and to reach audiences beyond language, religion, nationality, age, gender, and all the other social statuses that sever human connectedness. Music is generally portrayed as otherworldly but this anime makes it a point to say that music is just as flawed and human as the people playing the musical scores. Most interestingly, the artist is stated to follow the Dark Path as that is what it is to be a musician despite one’s nervousness at a live performance.

It is explicitly stated, by Kaori, the main heroine, that music is freedom. She explores and showcases the freedom of music by playing musical scores in her own beat and rhythm with her violin.

Kaori’s characterization seems fairly realistic in terms of being selfish and forcefully proactive because of her limited time in life, but unfortunately it’s still the standard cliche of a manic pixie dream girl. But I did really like her character, and the emotional turmoil she went through as her condition (which some viewers have stated resemble ALS) deteriorated and she underwent the operation. The last scene with her was a nice touch for the anime.

Despite Kaori being a manic pixie dream girl, since even in her last words at the end of the anime, it predictably stated that her whole life was about getting to know the boy whose music she admired as a kid; the childhood friend of the main character, Tsubaki, provides better character development overall. Tsubaki’s ambivalence and emotional turmoil is a more realistic portrayal of a female character  facing struggles with her own feelings.

Watari, Arima Kousei’s other close friend, and his rivals Emi and Takeshi, along with Takeshi’s sister Aiza Nagi, and Kousei’s teacher Hiroko, and other side characters have incredible characterization.

I would say that it is a must-watch anime. However, I’m not sure what to score it. An 8 out of 10 or a 9 out of 10 or a 10 out of 10 . . . I’m just not sure. You be the judge after watching it. It’s certainly masterfully written and produced; a great use of standard cliches to make a riveting story and the music composition alone makes the anime standout and shine. Definitely worth your time.

Also, on a more personal note, I really enjoyed how every single one of the characters can be considered ubermensch in the defined term that Nietzsche meant. Following their own self-satisfaction, giving their lives for their art/sport, living as embodiments of art for art’s sake, and struggling and feeling happy with struggling whether it be emotional or physical impairments. Kaori, Arima Kousei, Tsubaki, Emi, Takeshi, Nagi, Hiroko, and all of the other characters all embody the ubermensch philosophy of Nietzsche. Kaori was especially the personficiation; I loved how, despite the tragic circumstances, she gained enjoyment and happiness from finding a purpose in struggling against her condition thanks to Kousei’s words about playing music with her again.It was beautiful and I think it personifies the ubermensch and the theme of the anime beautifully.

Bungaku Shoujo / Literature Girl Film

A surprisingly good film.

Once viewers can move past the abnormal psychological desire of the literature girl, Amano Tooko, eating pages from books to cement her love of them, it delves into a rather intriguing romance story.

Inoue Konoha is a highschooler whose past we slowly uncover and learn about his quasi-friend, quasi-girlfriend Asakura Miu, a girl who attempted suicide in middle school due to the confluence of problems with her home life and the horrifying aspect that Konoha will no longer be in her life in the future. Throughout the film, we discover just how much Miu hates herself and how she deceives and hurts Konoha because she both despises herself and despises the fact that Konoha could leave her. Her ambivalent attitude of love and hate for her only real friend is portrayed incredibly realistically. What I particularly liked was the ambivalence of her character.

Konoha himself seems to hold shame and guilt for winning a book contest which he initially believes stole Miu’s dream and made her commit suicide. In reality, it was because Konoha wouldn’t continue to be her “dog” and stay loyal to her. Konoha’s two other friends, Nanase Kotobuki and Akutagawa Kazushi, are absolutely disgusted with Miu’s manipulative and selfish behavior that continues to cause Konoha severe mental anguish. Konoha is in such emotional turmoil that he shows signs of PTSD and severe anxiety on multiple occasions when thinking over Miu’s attempted suicide. Amano Tooko’s adventuring and chats about her future prospects with college serve to help him stay adjusted and distracted from the tumultuous thoughts about Miu and his deep sense of shame and guilt over what he feels was his fault.

Unfortunately, Tooko herself seems like a cookie cutter version of the manic pixie dream girl. She shows a strong sense of empathy and understanding for Miu’s mental breakdowns and Konoha’s deep regret, but we can only really use that to judge her character apart from her frequent chats about her future prospects and exams. The conversation is usually focused upon Miu or Konoha’s lives and there is much less emphasis on Tooko to really know much about her. Even side characters like Kazushi and Kotobuki seem to show more depth. However, I do feel that the caring and strong demeanor that Tooko portrayed was realistic within the situational contexts of the film; I just wish there was more depth given to her character.

8/10

 

Akagami no Shirayukihime / Snow White with the Red Hair Anime

This is probably one of the best 12 episode anime stories to be made. It makes an engaging and compelling story without any need for grimdark undertones. It just takes a minuscule bit from a fable, Snow White, to tell an original story. There is no prince kissing Snow White; instead it features a pro-active likable female protagonist leaving her country of origin to avoid being the concubine of a misogynistic prince and eventually entangling herself into the life of a prince from another kingdom whom she develops a friendship with. The main character, Shirayuki, eventually works hard to make her own place as a top-notch herbalist in the neighboring kingdom.

Zen, second prince to the neighboring kingdom, is just as likable as Shirayuki and works hard to make his kingdom a safer place. What’s interesting about their character dynamics is that, unlike most anime where characters continuously try to have idiotic slapstick comedy filled with cliches of the female calling the male an idiot and voyeuristic bath scenes, this anime portrays a completely normal, healthy relationship between two characters and it is entirely realistic. Part of the realism is that it’s a normal relationship that naturally progresses to romance and doesn’t have any cliches like “He saved me so I’ll devote my life to him”, or “The power of friendship”, or “It’s a man’s job to protect a woman”, or any other typical, nonsensical anime/pop culture cliche. What binds them together is their capacity for hard work. Shirayuki wants to prove that she isn’t just some lucky girl who is trying to use her friendship with Zen to either marry him or harm him for personal gain. Certain guards and the first Prince have strong misgivings about Shirayuki’s intentions due to assassination and kidnapping attempts in the past. Shirayuki wants to prove them wrong, she wants to feel equal to Zen, and most importantly of all, she wants to work hard and prove to herself that she can be a respected herbalist because that’s her dream goal.

Throughout the anime, we see her strive towards passing her exams and becoming a full-fledged member of the Royal Herbalists in the Castle. Her desire to be of use bears fruit with the fact that she heals a platoon of soldiers on guard at one of the Kingdom’s borders. Zen requires her skills and asks her to come along; her work helps to cure the sickness, find the cause through process of elimination, and she helps give the recovering soldiers medicine for the duration of their eight hour shifts; nearly causing herself to collapse from lack of sleep because she took so much time working on the medicine and holding herself to a timely schedule. This is among many other achievements throughout the anime.

Zen works hard as the second prince to prove that he’s a competent ruler to his brother. He feels some shame for being born into nobility because of a friend in his past remarking jealously about how Zen will never have to fight and kill to survive. He can always expect guards to protect him, a loving home, and food on his plate every day. His friendship and eventual love for Shirayuki is equally compelling to Shirayuki’s own. Just as Shirayuki doesn’t feel equal to Zen, Zen feels that Shirayuki flies far above him in terms of personal strength, commitment, and endurance. While he was born into the life of the castle, she worked hard to achieve her place among the castle’s people, she can always be relied upon to help others in any given situation, and her herbalist skills become increasingly needed to provide valuable medicines for the kingdom. Zen thinks of Shirayuki as a strong, competent, and tireless individual who he’s regrettably entangling into the drama of royal politics. Shirayuki gets placed into physical danger on more than one occasion because of it.

Beyond that though, they both seem to really, really like each other and the chemistry isn’t forced, has no cliches, and just seems so shockingly natural that it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this anime the best romance anime of all-time. Shirayuki does get kidnapped but she fights back and occasionally breaks out of her prisons through her wit alone before Zen and others can come to take down the villain. The stress takes a toll on Shirayuki but thankfully she never becomes bitter because she can rely on Zen as much as Zen relies upon her.

Overall, this anime series gets a 10/10 in my book.

Why Christianity Will Always Fail You

Over the course of a few weeks, I seem to have attracted the scorn of Reddit. In this one particular subreddit, r/badeasternphilosophy, someone took interest to my blog and made a topic about how extreme my criticism of Western philosophy was. While there were people who mocked me under the presumption that I only read Nietzsche, some of the more thoughtful topic posters pointed out that many Western philosophical schools don’t really delve into Eastern philosophy at all.

The chief reason why I find Western philosophy to be largely beneath me is because most Western philosophers tried reconciling their limited knowledge of the world with Christian values. Specifically, the doctrine of original sin, this is to the point that they would make up other causes for why humans were intrinsically evil. After joining a Christian club in college, I got more curious about Jesus’s teachings and decided to read the King James version of the Sermon on the Mount. I expected peaceful teachings because I was led to believe it was the pivotal teaching of peace by Christians and a significant cornerstone for championing peace under Western schools of thought. Needless to say, I was dismayed by what I read, which I’ll explain further on.

I’ll number the criticisms I have so that I may better address each of the specific contentions that I have with Christian theology.


#1: Open interpretation isn’t a solution.

Most modern Christians try to find a middle ground between the reality of the modern day with the teachings in the Bible. A convenient way to ignore biblical teachings that explicitly condone treating women as the property of men and all of the violence within the Bible itself is to use open interpretation. Stories of violence upon other tribes in the Old Testament or violence condoned in the New Testament is ignored because it is inconvenient to acknowledge the wrongful actions within a supposed holy book.

Open interpretation is largely an attempt to feel consistent with identifying oneself as a Christian because of the implicit assumption that you must be a “Christian” to live by positive morals. It allows modern Christians of the West to feel consistent with Christian values by ignoring whatever they dislike and disagree with. Yet, they don’t see the inherent self-contradiction in trying to feel consistent with being a Christian through ignoring teachings that make them feel uncomfortable. Arguably, the less significance modern Christians place on the Bible, the more Christian they can feel through the parameters of what open interpretation can allow. It is an attempt to maintain the supposed bliss of being a Christian while ignoring how modern conveniences and modern moral sensibilities would shun, feel outraged, penalize, and criminalize actions conducted within the Bible should they occur in modern times. Beheadings, the murder of children, the mass death of civilians, depictions of torture/”enhanced” interrogation, and so forth.

Open interpretation is an empty argument. Christians who believe in open interpretation either don’t realize or willfully ignore this severe issue. When violence is committed by Christians in the name of Christianity, whether in the West or in non-Western countries when the perpetrators of violence are Christians, then many Christians argue that violence is not a true interpretation of the faith. But they don’t seem to acknowledge the contradiction.

How can there be a true interpretation of the faith, if the faith is openly interpretative?

Open interpretation is the ultimate convenience for moral problems and self-contradictions in the Bible. In Western “feel-good” culture, everyone is right and open interpretation allows us to continue the feel-good culture by ignoring moral problems with the Bible by arguing anyone’s interpretation of the Bible is correct. Arguably, all that would be required is acknowledging Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and that would be the only requirement. After that, you can be right as many times as you want, because you don’t have to do anything but interpret the Bible in any way you please. Christian priests are also doing this by ignoring the explicit texts and trying to re-contextualize misogynistic and violent passages commanded by God as being above human knowledge or arguing that we don’t really know the significance. Essentially, doing everything possible to ignore the sadistic aspects of the teachings while being careful to give reverence to the supposed holy book.

However, there is a clear danger to believing in open interpretation as a valid middle ground for maintaining one’s faith in Christianity. Some modern Christians acknowledge the contradiction in believing open interpretation is a valid choice and then arguing that violence isn’t the true interpretation of the religious faith. After all, if faith is openly interpretative then the violent extremists are just as morally right as you. Thus, in order to stay consistent with their Christian identity, some moderate Christians concede to the idea that the violent extremists are just as morally right as they are and that they cannot know whether their moderate beliefs are truly better than the violent extremists because open interpretation does mean that everyone is right about how they interpret the Bible.

Due partly to the fact they cannot conceive of morality beyond the Christian God and see no ethical significance to the world beyond such a framework; the aforementioned moderate Christians are willing to concede that violent extremists killing innocent people is just as morally valid as their moderate Christian beliefs. These moderate Christians detach themselves from what extremists do, they don’t observe it as their problem, and seem to feel no shame in justifying extremist violence that allows for the murder and rape of innocents to feel secure in their own Christian identity. In other words, to feel secure in their ethical significance of God and Christian identity, they concede to violence being an option so long as they’re not the ones participating in it. They give up on core moral principles to maintain their so-called moral system.


#2: Jesus Christ’s teachings were insane. Not even self-described Biblical literalists will follow them.

You’ve probably heard that Jesus Christ is constantly being misunderstood by people of different political affiliations than you. If you’ve grown up in the US or possibly other predominately Christian countries, then you’ve probably heard “Jesus said” followed by some vague agreement with your moral beliefs so many times online and especially when some vaguely Christian topic comes up in the news media. Perhaps you’ve even heard that Jesus never really wrote anything down except with a stick on the sand once, only to allow the waves to wash them away. Jesus is portrayed as “misunderstood” because modern Christians, including Evangelical Christians, will not follow the explicit texts because they’re insane.

The explicit truth of the matter is that only someone completely crazy would follow his teachings in our modern times. That is why Christians always attempt to emphasize that the Bible is meant to be read in “parables” and not explicitly. Atheists who come from Christian backgrounds are freely willing to insult the Catholic Church, Protestant beliefs, and Jesus’s divinity but many shy away from criticizing Jesus’s teachings, they still hold respect for them and, just like Christian preachers, insist that Jesus was speaking in parables.

What do I mean when I argue that they’re insane? Take a look at these passages of the King James version of the Sermon on the Mount, the so-called cornerstone of peaceful teachings within the Bible:

Matthew 5:29-30 KJV

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Christians will insist that he’s speaking in parables, but you can read the Sermon on your own. It is clear that he meant these two teachings to be taken literally. It was within the instructions of how to act towards divorced women and Jesus is teaching his disciples of how to avoid sinful thoughts and deeds. He explicitly calls for people to cut off their right hand and pluck out their right eye.

These are the teachings of peace? This is the cornerstone of Christianity’s peaceful doctrines? Even self-described Biblical literalists will vehemently argue that Jesus was speaking in parables here because he asks people to commit two acts of self-mutilation and identifies it as good moral behavior. This is nothing but the ramblings of a deeply insane individual. Is that blasphemous to say? Is that shocking? Am I being too extreme? If we can vilify Mohammed for being a pedophile, why is it wrong or uncomfortable to vilify Jesus Christ as an insane man for instructing Christians to cut off their right hand and right eye? If we agree that he’s speaking parables, then should Muslims believe that whatever historical misdeeds Mohammed committed should be regarded as parables too? Should every religion with violent parables, Christianity among them, just ignore when they’re acted upon by true believers? If you are a Christian, then should you continue to act on “faith” whenever it is convenient for you and in only ways that make you feel comfortable while ignoring the passages in the texts that other people could interpret more violently than you?

When you argue that Jesus was speaking in parables, all you’re really admitting is that you don’t want to follow his explicit teachings because you don’t agree with them. You live by a moral system outside of Christian values.


#3: The Sermon on the Mount’s self-contradictions make them worthless teachings.

A short excerpt from the book I’m still writing:

            You must always strive for “perfection” to enter the Kingdom of God but you’ll always be contradicting the steps towards being a good Christian (Matthew 5:48). As a result, you must always seek Jesus’s forgiveness because you’re committing thought crimes when you have normal and healthy sexual desires (Matthew 5:28), you’re speaking wrongly when you make any attempt at asserting self worth, you never know if you should speak only in “yea, yea” and “nay, nay” (Matthew 5:33 – 5:37) or if you’re being one of the so-called “hypocrites” when speaking in “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7 – 6:13), you should turn the other cheek when wronged (Matthew 5:39) and love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) or return any behavior that wronged you with a response of your own (Matthew 7:12), and should you rejoice in persecution (Matthew 5:10 – 5:12) or avoid being tried and persecuted for your beliefs at all costs? (Matthew 5:25) Moreover, even evangelicals and other Bible literalists would never take Matthew 5:29 – 5:30 literally and therefore the most extreme Bible worshippers require a degree of open interpretation because of how disastrous those verses ultimately would be, if taken literally.

No matter what, you’ll never be a good Christian under the guidelines of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus contradicts himself too often for that to ever be possible. Christians may perceive the self-contradictions as beyond human understanding or proof of human folly, but the former is just an argument from ignorance and the latter is further evidence of my next contention.


#4: Original Sin is misanthropy revered as humbleness

For all the arguments about the lack of morality without a God, original sin seems to invalidate the significance of Christian morality. This notion of humanity’s intrinsic folly is subsumed into Western culture to give a detached justification for all forms of human violence. Worst of all, when these misanthropic beliefs are applied to humanity, they become increasingly revered as “deep”, “profound”, and “humbling” because people go on ridiculous diatribes about humanity being inherently violent, evil, stupid, and other semantics. All this celebration for acknowledging the apparent sinfulness of human existence. Western people seem to act as if this misanthropy is always new and cool. Any violence anywhere in the world is used as “proof” of humanity’s intrinsic folly.

This folly is seen as being “only human” and admitting to being flawed, worthless, and similar to a speck of dirt compared to a perfect creator. The more you show loathing and disgust for being a human, the more “profound” and “humble” you are. It can, and often does, go so far as to belittle and denigrate any human accomplishment as arrogant, evil, and wicked. Any desire for more in life, especially physical objects, is spurred as self centered, arrogant, and disgusting and often viewed as explicitly evil. To not carry the belief in original sin, i.e. to not feel misanthropy for the human race, makes people perceive you as shallow and arrogant. To argue against the extreme belief that all humans are born evil causes people to perceive you as naive and stupid. The belief that humans are born sinful is a powerful and pernicious belief within Western cultural norms. Yet, the pernicious nature of this belief seems to make people ignore the consequences or be blissfully unaware of what types of behavior is being implicitly condoned.

Original sin posits that humans will always fail to uphold morally good actions because of their intrinsic sinfulness. Therefore, the belief in original sin destroys the ethical significance of morality. Original sin makes morality become pointless because humans are expected to constantly fail in following moral principles. Wrongful deeds are met with staunch indifference because it is expected that a human being would commit horrible acts of cruelty. This is particularly true in regards to strangers who are depicted in the news after undergoing a tragedy. A woman being raped, a child being murdered, a Christian priest raping a child, a war in a foreign country, or a mass shooting. Unless such events are happening to a loved one, you probably wouldn’t care. Now, would Christianity ceasing to exist stop such events? Of course not. However, because of the belief that humans are intrinsically prone to folly is so pervasive, original sin strongly influences people to be complacent with such horrible events. Instead of being motivated to change systems of violence or to stop the propensity of violence, Christianity motivates people to be detached and complacent. Often associated with the detached complacency is the belief that the physical world isn’t real and that the afterlife is the true world with all the answers. Original sin permits people to shut themselves off and shy away from life’s consequences by insisting that all horrific acts should be expected. This is true of fellow Christians too and not just people deemed as outside groups.

The concept of original sin creates a self-defeating moral system. This self-defeating system is honored as a form of humility while ignoring the cruel impact of the belief system.

The credit for this argument partly goes to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of the Morals. I had always wondered about why religion emphasized human negatives but could never really put it into words until reading genealogy. What Nietzsche identifies as the will to nothingness, I’m willing to explicitly point out the misanthropic aspects of this will to nothingness.


#5: Jesus Christ’s doctrine of forgiveness removes all responsibility.

The doctrine of forgiveness is just as extreme as original sin. It doesn’t have any parameters on what heinous actions should be punished. At best, the belief the people committing atrocities may serve time in hell despite accepting Jesus Christ as their lord and savior is a possibility. But this creates apathy and complacency with allowing human violence to occur throughout the world. Due to the fact the hardships of the physical world are seen as a test for the afterlife, people wouldn’t be motivated to improve their own lives or that of others. Instead, people would simply be apathetically awaiting Jesus’s return.

Perpetrators of all heinous offenses, including rape and murder, need only come to Jesus to be forgiven of all their sins. A person could participate in genocide and still be forgiven by Jesus Christ for their heinous atrocities. Rape and murder become expected norms, the murderer or rapist would only need to seek Jesus’s forgiveness, and Christian culture would associate it with good behavior and humbling oneself for God. Meanwhile, should the victim be a non-Christian, or a Christian who doesn’t accept the forgiveness after being raped or nearly beaten to death or is a relative of a murdered victim, then they would be seem as being too extreme in their hate and would be insisted to forgive the criminal. The presumption being that the perpetrator acknowledges that humanity is intrinsically sinful, acknowledges they committed sin, and sought Jesus’s forgiveness. Meanwhile the victim or relative of the victim is admonished for allowing “evil” in their heart for not forgiving the perpetrator and disrespecting the sacred doctrine of forgiveness. The victims and relatives of the victim’s feelings don’t matter in this worldview. Only the perpetrator coming to Jesus for salvation matters. Their heinous acts are par for the course of humanity under the doctrine of original sin and therefore forgivable.

Functionally speaking, the perpetrator forgives themselves by accepting Jesus into their heart and doesn’t have to concern themselves with how the victims and loved ones of the victim feel. You could commit wrongdoing, including murder and rape, and forgive yourself of any horrible deeds by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart.

No perpetrator can ever be held accountable for their actions after seeking forgiveness. Christians believe that accepting Jesus is atonement. However, all the perpetrator is doing is accepting that they’re a sinful human being and recognizing Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. They don’t have to acknowledge the victims or seek to atone themselves by apologizing to the victims. All they have to do is accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. After that, you’re no longer responsible for your actions.

Is that an extreme interpretation? Well, unfortunately that is a legitimate interpretation. Open interpretation allows for such an interpretation.

Furthermore, consider this thought experiment I made:

If a criminal, who is a serial child rapist and killer, comes to Jesus, sincerely accepts Jesus into his heart, before death row then he’s going to heaven. The pastor who has convinced him to come to Jesus, who has studied his theology for the majority of his life and believes in Jesus’s forgiveness just as any other Christian, sincerely believes that the criminal has been forgiven by accepting Jesus into his heart under the doctrine of forgiveness. Therefore, the criminal, who is a serial child rapist and killer, should be going to heaven. If either of them is wrong, then Jesus’s doctrine of forgiveness doesn’t save everyone.

If the criminal was targeting Jewish or Muslim children then those children are going to hell for not accepting Jesus into their heart. If they die believing in their respective religions, or called to their respective Jewish or Islamic deity, then they’ve deceived themselves and they’re going to hell. If they’re allowed in heaven, then accepting Jesus into one’s heart, and Jesus’s doctrine of forgiveness, isn’t necessary to go to heaven. Thereby, making Jesus Christ’s doctrine irrelevant.  If they’re in purgatory and have to seek forgiveness for being sinful, then Christianity doesn’t save innocent children who have been raped and murdered.

The only response I received from genuine Christians who were asked this thought experiment was that the children need to acknowledge their sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ. Evidently, raped and murdered children have some “sinfulness” in them because they don’t acknowledge Christ as their savior. But that shouldn’t be surprising, as stated prior, original sin is just misanthropy and the misanthropy is being extended to include innocent children.

If you believe this is extreme, you should recall exactly how St.Augustine interpreted Christian values in regards to the violence when Christians wage wars:

Difference between Augustinian “just war” and “crusade”:

The standard for a Christian “just war” as developed by Augustine (c. A.D. 400) is: “rightful intention on the part of the participants, which should always be expressed through love of God and neighbour; a just cause; and legitimate proclamation by a qualified authority.” (Quoted from J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Yale University, 1987.)  The doctrine of holy war/crusade added two further assumptions: 1) Violence and its consequences–death and injury–are morally neutral rather than intrinsically evil, and whether violence is good or bad is a matter of intention. (The analogy is to a surgeon, who cuts into the body, thus injuring it, in order to make it better/healthier.)  2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man, and intends for his agents on earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that was a “single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the lay and clerical magistrates he endowed with authority.

It follows from this that the defense of the Christian Republic against God’s enemies, whether foreign infidel (e.g. Turks) or domestic heretics and Jews was a moral imperative for those qualified to fight. A Crusade was a holy war fought against external or internal enemies for the recovery of Christian property or defense of the Church or the Christian people. It could be wages against Turks in Palestine, Muslims in Spain, pagan Slavs in the Baltic, or heretics in southern France, all of whom were enemies or rebels against God.

 

 

What does this mean? It isn’t morally wrong for Christians to launch a war, violence of any kind committed by Christians isn’t morally wrong, and Christians should detach themselves from any negative moral consequences and shouldn’t feel responsible for their violence according to Saint Augustine. The doctrine of Just War helps to ignore the physical realities of child deaths, rape, and mass civilian casualties of war and that has been consistent with Christian doctrine since 400 AD.

Therefore, a pertinent cornerstone of Christian theology should be made clear:

Jesus Christ’s doctrine of forgiveness and Christian theology itself is fundamentally about having no responsibility for one’s wrongful actions so long as you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can be forgiven for rape, murder, and mass civilian deaths by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart and worshiping him as your Lord and Savior.

It’s no wonder that predominately Christian nation-states can call predominately Muslim nation-states savages for beheadings while ignoring all of the multitude of bombing campaigns all over the world paid for by Western taxpayer monies and the consequences of which are never significantly questioned in the West.


#6: Jesus Christ was a narcissist with a God complex

If you’re a Christian, or grew up with a Christian background, then please try considering Jesus Christ from an outsider perspective.

You’re expected to believe that he was meek and mild while he proclaimed himself God, the Son of God, and said anyone who didn’t believe in him was going to hell. Whether or not hell is hellfire and brimstone or the absence of God as modern Christian apologists argue is irrelevant. The point is: you’re expected to believe a man who proclaimed himself God and Son of God was being meek and mild. You’re expected to feel guilty for a torture and murder that happened before you were even born. Why not accept responsibility for slavery, all the genocides that happened in the world, and all horrible events in the world as well?

You’re expected to believe that his death on the Cross was worse than the Holocaust and every other human genocide. Worse than that, you’re expected to believe it’s all a part of God’s plan.

You’re expected to love Jesus more than your parents, your friends, your spouse, and your own children.

Do you not see the problem here? You’re expected to believe a man who supposedly died more than 2000 years ago loved you more than all of your family, friends, and spouse. You must always expect to have a second-handed love by your loved ones compared to their love for Jesus Christ. Their love for you and your love for them must always be eclipsed by the love for Jesus.

If this were any other context, it would be recognized as being mentally abused by a narcissist.

But Jesus is “divine” i.e. He told people that he had special qualities like narcissists are prone to do and was able to dupe villages of uneducated bronze age people from over 2000 years ago.

All he really gave people from his Sermon was meaningless mental torture for the crime of having natural sexual feelings and thoughts for women and he denigrated divorced women as the property of men, who should constantly have to live with the crime of being adulterous under the view of all men.

Matthew 5:27-32 KJV:

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


Final Thoughts:

To be clear, I have no animosity whatsoever to modern Christians. I just think that it’s negatives get far too much of a pass because of the reverence for Christianity in Western culture. Having read the Sermon on the Mount, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christianity was never anything special. Some would argue that its popularity and perseverance make it so, but I would argue that it simply lucked out at being the chief religion during the time of the West’s technological revolution. Furthermore, none of the contemporary religions of our time are anything like their centuries old version. Do any Christians burn witches at the stake? Would Western Christians feel okay with Christian soldiers eating civilians like what happened during the first Crusade? Would you be committing to war over squabbles about Jesus Christ being a bodily figure versus a pure spirit like during Constantine’s time in ancient Rome?

In all honesty, I feel a bit of pity for the Christian worldview, because you’re expected to live by such self-contradictory guidelines in the hopes that you will “get all your answers” after your death. The whole point of any religious tradition, but especially Christian religious tradition, is to die appropriately so that you obtain some reward that is apparently beyond your own understanding. If that’s how you wish to live your life, I hope it makes you happy, but I cannot condone forcing such views in the political realm and trying to coerce others to obey the doctrines of a religion that they never agreed with. If it’s attempted to influence public policy, then it deserves criticism and being taken out of any rule of law. Anything less would be a theocracy. I hope that you seriously consider all that I’ve written.

Please send your opinions on this topic in the comment section or email me at jovejarin@hotmail.com. Thank you for reading.

Captain America: Civil War

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

Avengers 3: Civil War is a brilliantly written film that . . . oh, I’m sorry, Captain America: Civil War. I apologize for the oversight, you see, I just couldn’t tell the difference between this Captain America film and an Avengers film . . . because far more than just Captain America gets character development. In fact, the main character of this film seems to be Ironman.

The addition of Black Panther is something I really enjoyed about the film. His fight against Ironman and Bucky was amazing. However, what I truly enjoyed was the main villain’s motivation. This is, by far and with all sincerity, the best Marvel film that I’ve ever seen.

The divide is an argument for accountability to the whole world versus personal freedom for the Avengers. Both aspects are done incredibly well. Scarlet Witch’s lack of freedom is expressed well by being kept under house arrest by Tony Stark. The reason being the beginning of the film where one of the enemy’s were strapped with a bomb. There was only a split second decision that could be made and Scarlet Witch pushed the bomber into a building . . . that was an apartment complex filled with innocent people and accidentally ended-up killing more people as a result of that snap decision-making in a very stressful environment with superheroes and villains having war on a crowded civilian street in Africa.

The old black woman that Tony meets after his presentation at MIT is a very damning point for the Avengers. Captain America constantly seems to argue about wanting to be right when the world deems them wrong and standing up for what they believe in, but this visceral example of the dangers is probably the most damning point against the Avengers. For those who didn’t understand what happened, in Avengers 2, when the Hulk went on a berserk rampage in a different African city, Tony Stark had to use an extra-powered Ironman suit to effectively stop him. During the ensuing fight, Hulk destroyed a massive building that killed many civilians within it. That old black woman, a State government employee and implied to be a single mother, had a son who had been working in that country during his summer as part of a volunteer program, to help the poor in that country on behalf of the US government and presumably in conjunction with his military service for the US government in that country, he was doing this as a summer job while working on his Bachelors for an IT degree in college. The Hulk’s rampage and destruction of that building killed that young man and many other civilians.

Some of the photos by the US government in explaining the ramifications of the Avengers actions included children killed from the building Scarlet Witch inadvertently destroyed. 170 nations worked together, after the incident in the beginning of the film, to bring peace through regulating the Avengers.

I love Captain America’s portrayal because it shows how the typical hero archetype in Hollywood films, while well meaning, is ultimately self-centered and destructive to both their allies and a threat to the world. The twist with Bucky killing Ironman’s parents was fabulous. While Bucky “wasn’t at fault” the fact remains that anyone who hypnotizes him could use him to kill more innocent people. Is it really worth it to protect him and find a cure, possibly allowing more innocent people like Ironman’s parents or the staff at the UN being murdered mercilessly by a rampaging monster who has all of Captain America’s abilities? More people will die, it’s not so different from the Hulk. Can everyone who allows such monstrous power to go unchecked always argue that they’re vindicated from the potential danger of keeping such people alive?

Despite Scarlet Witch being forced into a suit that could kill her at any moment, it ultimately was her own responsibility. She chose to take down Vision and join Captain America’s group. The power can’t go unchecked and she was allowed greater freedom before she joined and explicitly went against US and UN laws by acting as a rogue agent/terrorist sympathizer.

The main villain’s motive, the diversity of even the foreign cast, and the believable characters and sympathetic emotional understanding of the foreigners, a dynamic female character like Scarlet Witch, and three different Black men who all had independent and dynamic motives really show just how great diversity and characterization has come in depicting women and minority characters. I’m honestly shocked at just how good this film was in portraying them without any of the drawbacks of stereotypes. Spiderman, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and even War Machine to an extent all gain amazingly deep characterization on the level of Ironman and Captain America. It really made watching this film a wonderful experience. Avengers 2 had everyone in character archetypes and boring shoehorned stereotypes. This film, by a shocking contrast, had a deep philosophical undertone of the damaging effects of superhuman powers on an international level (WITH REALISTIC POLITICS! HOLY SHIT!), a deep level of characterization for all the characters, amazing fight scenes among MULTIPLE characters that flow shockingly well, and basically everything that I felt Hollywood could be, if it tried. And it did try, and it was AMAZING!

The main villain’s final words, in response to a discussion about justice is just perfect. Black Panther tries to convince him to seek justice and the main villain rebuffs him telling him to tell that to the dead right before trying to kill himself. The man lost his family during the end of Avengers 2, being crushed to death by the ensuing earthquake and debris from tragically living too close to the floating land. Another damning point, Ultron’s creation was the result of the Avengers experimentation, and all they did after the damage was go back home while the main villain had to deal with putting his family into their graves after a funeral. The twist with his character, instead of seeking the other Winter Soldiers as was expected by the audience; he decides to kill them in their sleep, and his motivations were phenomenal and perfect for the film. He sought to destroy the Avengers empire internally instead of externally, because as he so rightly pointed out, empires will simply persevere from the hardship and come back stronger to fight the external enemy. His point about destroying empires internally by revealing the video tape and Captain America admitting to having kept the truth from Ironman was a great ending twist.

There is so much more I could say but I’ll stop here.

This is the best Marvel film I’ve watched so far. It kicks the teeth of the crap known as Avengers 2 and is a true Avengers sequel. Definitely a Must-watch film. It’s as good as the Dark Knight, I kid you not! I would really love to see if Marvel can top how amazing this film was.

9.8/10

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Major Spoilers Below

One of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. The plot twists, apart from the one at the end, take a surprising turn. The Ice Queen displays more cunning, thoughtfulness, and endearment to her child slave army than Ravenna did with . . . anything. However, the film is more a romance/adventure more than anything else and it definitely passes the Bechdel Test.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film, it leads you into believing that the film will be a typical revenge film and then destroys that belief with a rather interesting plot twist that spectacularly shows off both the Snow Queen Freya’s cunning, which far surpasses Ravenna’s, and her cruelty, which is more psychological and physical. The film’s ending twist, although predictable, does an amazing and believable retcon in explaining why Ravenna didn’t just kill Snow White immediately and instead let her grow up. Ravenna’s guilt over what is revealed was palpable. It explains why the Huntsman, Eric, is such a great warrior.

Also, in all honesty, this film is better without Snow White making an appearance in the film. It’s an improvement because this film is about Eric and his wife, Sara. Who, shockingly, we found out wasn’t killed by the black guy, but instead was imprisoned for seven years and brainwashed by the Snow Queen into believing that Eric ran without her while Eric believed that Sara had been brutally killed. The film is really about them getting reacquainted and back together. It helps reinforce why Eric remained true to his one love. Both of the characters have fairly dynamic, believable, and relatable motives and personalities.

The foreshadowing for each twist is done subtly and fairly well. The young black youth’s demeanor before they chucked Eric into the river, the brief mind control and riff that Eric endures. What I particularly love is the time skip aspect of the film. I thought it would be a fairly predictable revenge film prequel before the events of Snow White but instead the film goes into Ravenna and Freya’s sisterly relationship before a timeskip after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman.

Certain drawbacks of the film, however, are that the final fight between Ravenna and Freya is a huge letdown, some of the lighting decisions were just stupid as we cannot see Freya clearly when she’s making announcements to her child slave army, Freya and Ravenna’s brother is never brought up, Freya and Ravenna’s bloodline powers aren’t given greater detail and seem to contradict Snow White’s assertion of Ravenna’s mother bestowing magical witch powers on Ravenna, and I feel as if certain scenes should have hung for a few seconds longer to make more of an emotional impact on an otherwise good plot.

Overall, however, I think it’s a good film. I really don’t get the negative reviews for this film series but perhaps Europe just has a finer taste in films than American audiences and their rampant Michael Bay explosions.

For me, this film is definitely worthy of an 8/10.

And here is a re-post of the rap battle, because it is so awesome:

Struggling Against Personal Apathy

Sometimes, it’s a struggle to fight apathy. Particularly when confronting bleak aspects of the world.

I am in the perfect position to be working on subjects of great import to me, but I find myself struggling with apathy again. I had hoped that I would no longer suffer this stupid problem but here I am, facing it again, and with no rational sense of why. Sometimes, I really don’t understand myself. I despise this self-defeating procrastination.

Perhaps it is atelophobia, that is, the fear of lacking perfection. I definitely had this problem and never properly recognized it until very recently. Maybe it’s the lack of ever following deadlines, maybe it’s this terrible nihilistic concept of how – within the grand scheme of cosmic life – it just doesn’t matter what I do, and maybe it’s the fact I always hate myself for being lazy. I had assumed punishing oneself for laziness was a positive reinforcement, yet according to Kelly McGonigal’s book “The Willpower Instinct”, this is not so. In fact, it’s utterly detrimental and it’s actually better to forgive oneself.

Unlike what most people boast, I have read through a good amount of positive psychology books on getting work done, but I always seem to fail to follow through. I’m always lacking in the step that requires self-monitoring and then the apathy sets in. Oftentimes, I just don’t feel enough to care. The apathy first began with a moral quandary, then acknowledgement over a reality that I didn’t quite like, and then wondering whether life had any significance in the grand scheme of the universe’s life cycle and the heat death of the universe.

I had been struggling with depression throughout my grade school life from fifth grade onto my early college years. The best way to describe the feeling was a detached sense of reality and lack of seeing value in what I felt were trivial and boring aspects of life. Classes, in particular, were of no value to me until I began college and could choose what I wanted. Choice, therefore, was empowering and I hadn’t been able to handle that freedom at first since it felt like every aspect of my life was decided for me. Particularly because my parents kept hounding me about how I could end-up going to juvenile prison if I didn’t strictly listen to them. A ridiculous argument born out of fear and paranoia from the national news and my father’s job, I had never once committed a crime or even attempted anything of the sort. I was always an attentive student and the only real problems were lack of self-respect and inability to deal with failure. My parents are great for financial support, but they’re damn stupid with dealing with anything related to either difficulty or empathizing with people outside of their own paranoid worldview. Admittedly, I probably have aspects of their personality, or perhaps the whole personality, and just don’t recognize it. But, to be perfectly frank, I really despise this part of my life and these tendencies of both my parents. The high school wasn’t all that different either. The high school was either extremely strict or extremely lax in administering regulations and there was never a sensible middle ground. Fights would break out practically every week during my Junior year in high school, the graduation ended in a massive fight with eight police cars coming in to stop the mass violence (at least, by my count before I left), and I was never able to express myself without scorn or derision or paranoia by the faculty when trying to convince them that I wasn’t going to harm people in the school.

I had written an essay related to a scholarship I had hoped to win. Participating in the essay ended-up being one of the worst decisions of my life. After 3 months with no answer, I suddenly got a response 3 days after the Virginia Tech massacre. It came as a shock to the faculty during an emergency conference about an essay that I wrote in which they learned that someone of my skin pigmentation wasn’t a Muslim. This only helped bolster the racism of my classmates who were quick to perceive me as crazy as the essay I had written for a scholarship somehow became public knowledge within the school the very next day after the emergency meeting. As for the reason this fiasco began regarding the material in the essay? I said I was justified in hating members of the faculty for being incompetent. Now, during my high school years, I had been taught and led to believe that rules were the cornerstone of decision-making in a very advanced social process. However, these schisms and general stupidity in rule implementation throughout high school made me believe, at the time, that people in power were the only determinants of the rule-making. And for a so-called democracy, the school system of the US school I went to felt fairly authoritarian in both its theoretical reasoning and practice. Amazingly enough, in college, it was basically confirmed by a few professors that college is for those who are meant to think in a society while grade school is only meant to teach the history of a country and nothing else.

This was one of the influences for a moral quandary that I had realized. I’ve since realized the problem as a result of operant behavior within animals in general and thus a flaw, if one can even call it that, within humans. We humans have a tendency to ignore and to not perceive the tragedies within foreign countries as real. This has been somewhat lessened in influence as a result of social media, but the problem persists because, for the most part, people just pay attention to the general town that they live in and nothing else. They hold psychological biases for their in-group, in this case their country, and don’t perceive the lives of people in foreign countries as having equal value to those among their own populace. The in-group/out-group issue can serve dehumanization campaigns even of people that we do meet day-to-day, such as the current stigma against Muslims and people of Hispanic descent within the US. As I studied more political psychology, I learned the reasons why this was and I realized I couldn’t put my expectations on the general populace to simply “know better” or be knowledgeable as I am in consideration of these pertinent moral and ethical questions. That may sound patronizing but I say that simply because they honestly have no interest in such questions. Admittedly, my reasoning could be little more than pop philosophy but I try to include my readings of psychology in my examination of this geographic fact of life regarding human apathy for those who live outside one’s borders.

The most pertinent reason for my apathy, especially for all of 2013 where I could hardly bring myself to do much of anything, was the issue of drone strikes. I had happened to come upon a video of bombings thanks to Youtube’s recommendations list as a result of watching Chomsky and Chris Hedges videos. I had clicked it not fully knowing what it was and saw a collection of real life bombings caught on camera. For the following months, I woke-up with horrible migraines, chest pain, sometimes I felt like it was hard to breathe, and I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had been misled into believing that those bombings were drone strike videos but that wasn’t the case. It was just videos of . . .  typical bombings in different parts of the Middle East. The first time seeing them brought on a sense of overwhelming anger, hate, loathing, and revulsion. The chief emotion that kept wracking me was guilt. I realized whenever someone pays taxes, they pay into that horrific act of destruction and mass death of civilians. I tried discussing this on various forums, not knowing how else to handle it and not wanting to burden my family with it, and I mostly got shut out of various forums. In retrospect, I should have realized that would be the case. However, discussion without any videos on forums which I had never linked such content was also shut out as “trolling” because the lives of people overseas just didn’t matter to the typical US citizen. A harsh truth, but one I continued to observe whenever trying to form a serious discussion over such issues. Whenever serious discussion was met, people would either jeer at me for having compassion for people overseas or they would say that it had nothing to do with them; this is despite the fact that we recognize we’re living in an elected government by the people. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t care about foreign policy or just what the US actually does overseas to other countries. It doesn’t register into their radar or even their worldview. I didn’t fully comprehend just why until reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. However, it should’ve been clear to me when thinking back on my high school years, although even then I would often think about the human power structures of the world itself.

Fortunately, I was slowly able to move on from this crippling depression and guilt, by recognizing that the decision obviously wasn’t mine, that if I could change it then I would, and that recognizing I wasn’t to blame wasn’t an attempt to say to myself that I didn’t care about the impacts of what drone strikes did when they burned alive innocent men, women, and children who had nothing to do with terrorism. Even to this day, it amazes me how we US citizens can argue that Islam is the problem, meanwhile we pay taxes for a drone program that is now bombing and flaying alive innocent people in seven different countries; a fact that we conveniently ignore while touting ourselves as morally superior and ignore how our complacency with such a program continues to create massive terrorist insurgencies throughout the Middle East. Moreover, what are people who see news of their own country and neighboring countries with wreckages from drone bombings suppose to think of us? They would constantly be bombarded with images of people with the same ethnic background as themselves and the same faith as themselves suffering from horrific injuries or seeing the general destruction of such bombings; what are they suppose to think of us? This has had real world consequences, like the revolution in Yemen to oust their country’s leaders.

The last, and probably most normal, of issues related to procrastination and depression, was wondering what significance my life has when I consider the heat death of the universe. Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence helps sometimes but not always. I eventually pulled through and pushed past this one by recognizing the reality that, even if heat death is certain, this is still my life and I should try to maximize my life satisfaction because it is still my experiences. It isn’t wrong to live for personal self-fulfillment but I always struggle with the first step of just pushing forward, it’s always been a struggle for me to do work when I don’t feel like it. I’m not sure how to adequately handle that aspect of beginning a project. I can’t “push through”, I can’t “trick myself”, and I can’t “just do it” as none of those work. The latter, in particular, is shown not to work in psychological studies. I try breaking it up into steps but then procrastinate by reading or watching TV. I think the issue is Atelophobia. I’ll try to remind myself of the Growth mindset as I seem to forget at the most important of moments, but I’m just not sure anymore . .  .

If anyone has any advice, feel free to give me tips on this issue.

Bakemono no Ko

An anime film that is worth the watch. I felt as if some of the storyline was generic but the method in which the story occurs makes it unique enough to be interesting.

Some parts, like the relationship the main character has with the love interest, is rather melodramatic. But this film portrays a Master-Student/Quasi-Step Father – Stepson relationship really well.

The characterization of the bear, Kumatetsu, is well portrayed and believable. Kyuuta’s character development, albeit somewhat generic, is engaging enough for the film.

The story’s overall themes of bonding and moving forward by oneself is probably the best aspect of the film. It carries this theme extremely well with all of the characters. It seems to be in favor of Kumatetsu’s honest, straightforward, and blunt parenting compared to his rival’s hesitant and well-meaning parenting that didn’t seem to help one of his children grow into becoming self-reliant and having a strong sense of identity.

Despite Kyuuta’s identity crisis, he’s shown to be able to overcome it, partly thanks to his love interest, and mostly from his positive and blunt style of upbringing. Despite the hiccups along the rode, Kyuuta is better able to handle the real world because of his sense of identity.

Without spoiling it, the conclusion of Kyuuta and Kumatetsu’s relationship is allegorical to moving on after a parent has left and seems to be meant to parallel Kyuuta’s younger self in the beginning of the film when his mother died and he began to hate everyone in his life.

However, one major drawback of the film, for those who don’t understand Japanese cultural themes, is that much of the allegory and cultural significance of the film is lost on outside audiences who may simply conclude “it’s magic” when viewing the film. But there seems to be strong cultural symbolism to Japanese folklore within the film, that the film itself presumes the viewer may already be knowledgeable about. But this isn’t necessarily a damning point because the intended audience is obviously Japanese people and those with the cultural understanding of Japan.

Overall, I would rate this film a 7.7/10. Definitely worth the watch.

Fun, Frustrations, and Managing People

So, this month, I finished up a class I had previously failed in and got a letter grade of B this time; I volunteered all of my time at a field office closest to me for the Bernie Sanders campaign for the New York primary, and my relatives sold off an ancestral homeland that was supposed to be my inheritance from the family. They sold it for basically the equivalent of pennies when the full value was far above it. So, I can no longer pursue my parents dream of building a hospital to help people suffering in third world country poverty.

I’m not even age 30 yet and one dream seems far out of my grasp than before. My parents have feelings of finality towards it. I’ve mostly been dealing with my parents inability to handle stress on any significant or healthy level up until today when my mother finally calmed down.

Meeting people and helping the field organizer manage volunteers was a fairly eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize how effective the psychology books made me in managing people but I vastly underestimated myself. I’m no expert, by any means, but I am capable of managing volunteers, even difficult ones, by instructing them on what to do for phonebanking, explaining the reasons why we don’t make multiple facebook pages to sway young voters as this one difficult volunteer insisted upon, and asking if they have any questions to make sure I’ve fully explained everything and effectively got them to start their duties. It was an amazing experience. I met a lot of very kind and intelligent people but I suppose that’s par for the course among volunteers. A selection bias of only quality people emerges from volunteer work, it seems.

Although, take that with a grain of salt, as I can only speak of my own anecdotal experience and I cannot help but wonder what could conceivably happen if someone wanted to do something nefarious when assigned with a fellow volunteer. Of course, I would hope such a terrible outcome will never happen but people should try to keep safe. But, in this instance, it was nothing but meeting amazing, proactive, and encouraging people. One man in particular, a senior citizen by the name of Joe, told me that he had nothing but respect for the young generation and that we should fight against apathy because we do create real changes. He and several others of his age group and those in their 50s, pretty much admitted that the youngest generation today is the smartest, hardest working, and that they have nothing but respect for our dedication because they’re fighting apathy too. Moreover, they feel their generation just wasn’t as prepared or as intelligent enough to properly handle the ongoing problems of terrorism, climate change, and so forth like the young generation are. So, according to them, we shouldn’t feel useless, or apathetic, or like we can’t change our futures because of complexity. I can honestly say that I firmly agree with those sentiments.

In general, it’s actually been a pretty good month for me. I got a good grade on a course I wanted to prove myself in, I volunteered and made professional contacts from people I genuinely like, and I’m realizing I need to begin planning out my future immediately and that I’ve been too malaise while overthinking difficulties. The first step toward change is stepping forward.

Kamasutra: A Tale of Love (1996) / कामसूत्र अ टेल ऑफ़ लव

Warning: Film Spoilers!

This film, by far, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Definitely the best Indian film that I’ve ever seen.

Admittedly, the transition is a bit hard to follow, and the love triangle may not be what people like to see in a film that was meant to be porn but was changed because Indian authorities watched over it. Instead, we have one of the best feminist films ever made in all of human history.

Maya, the main heroine, is a deeply complex, conflicted, and believable character who goes through changes in opinions as she grows up. Banished by her village due to having sex with the King before he was to wed the princess right before the wedding vows, she meets and falls in love with an artisan who rebukes her because she inhibits his professional career. Despite making love, Jai Kumar feels that she can only be a hindrance and make him lose focus.

Maya disavows love, after being burned twice, first by realizing the King was a philanderer who acquires servant women to have sex with, and then by being rebuked by Jai despite both of them being mutually in love. Maya decides, since she already lives with the stigma of being a whore and cannot find work by any other means, to become a professional courtesan. She learns, from her sex instructor, to exude her femininity, to not shy away from sexualization, and to take control of her life by controlling men’s hearts. What’s most interesting is the dichotomy between fate as a result of her stigma and her choice to improve her own living standards by making the best of a bad scenario. In the beginning, Maya shows independence by rebuking an ugly Prince’s sexual advances and even when banished, she stays firm in her belief that she can create her own destiny. It expresses one of the subtle characteristics of Hinduism and of Indra’s affirmation about life; if fate exists, if all is predisposed, then even in this setting, we exert influence and create our own destiny.

How can this paradox make sense? By making the best of our bad situations. Maya’s name has negative connotations of being a wicked goddess of illusion, however, in this scenario it expresses the fact that Maya seems to pierce through the illusions of finality in life itself.

By the end of the film, Maya saves the life of her friend Tara from committing suicide, but cannot prevent Jai’s death by orders of the King. Despite the supposed fatalism, everything in the film subtly points to “fate” being the result of our prior actions and inactions in life. Maya chose the life of a courtesan as a result of one youthful mistake, Jai chose to put his life in jeopardy to get back Maya after rebuking her love and making her believe that she would never have a genuine relationship; thus pushing her to decide to improve her own life without him, Tara chose to hide and ignore her problems up until the end when she finally confronts the King and points out that she doesn’t hate him because that would require a form of love, and the King despite having the best of everything, ultimately loses everything as a result of his lack of care for his own empire and subjects.

The final scene, with Maya leaving after Jai’s execution, shows her accepting the role that she’s made for herself and continuing on with her life despite regrets. It is the perfect ending to a great film.

10/10!

Definitely a must-watch film. It doesn’t have any of that terrible CGI nonsense in modern Indian films. Quite possibly, the greatest Indian film ever made.

Punch Drunk Love

Okay, so I get that this is suppose to be a “fallen superman” message within the film but Barry Egrem is a complete idiot. I can’t find this film enjoyable because of how terrible of a character he is. This was arguably Sandler’s best acting and . . . the character itself is the problem. It goes beyond awkward; some of the questions that he poses are utterly stupid. A lot of the actions that he takes – giving his social security number – is incredibly stupid. I know that there are desperate people like this, I met real life people similar to Barry when I heard cases as a juror, but I just can’t identify with such a character because it goes beyond awkwardness into utter stupidity. I truly find his character too pathetic to care about.

But honestly, I often wonder if it’s just this Christian mentality about life being an utter and constant tragedy that I find truly boring and disgusting. If you really believe that’s all life will bring you, then why do you not just end your pain and kill yourself? Such a life is perpetual self-hate, mental torture, and constant self-depreciation into becoming content with being an utter failure. It’s pathetic and I can’t force myself to feel sympathy for such a life style anymore.

I don’t think Barry is a good character, I don’t think any derivative from the Comic book Superman is ever truly a good character, and this stealth Protestant obsession with being a complete failure at life and accepting it as inevitable doesn’t make any aspect of a story endearing to me. You’re a pathetic person, that’s it, and that’s the ending of the tale.

Striving for one’s goals is way more interesting. Learning to improve yourself is way more interesting. Self-surpassing is far more endearing to me.

Amazingly enough, Barry does do this with his brash actions, demanding one of his sister’s shuts up or he’ll kill her and then essentially fixes all of his problems through force, violence, and threats but it doesn’t really redeem the beginning and middle being so utterly boring.

The film is a chore to watch. I don’t even know what else to say about it. Don’t bother wasting your time on it.

Snow White and the Huntsman Film (2012)

I am pleasantly surprised by this movie. It was fantastic from beginning to end. The main characters all have well-rounded depth, the use of the Grimm tale doesn’t feel forced, and the curse feels more real when it actually occurs.

I really liked the adventurism of the tale, the depiction of meaningful interactions between the Huntsman and Snow White, and a brief glimpse upon Ravenna’s horrific past and her comments on what led her to become crazy.

The interaction with magical forests was actually… extremely well done in this film. I was actually surprised. The blend of originality and cliche just gave a greater emphasis on the story’s depth. The actress for Snow White, Kristan Stewart, finally could show off her acting talents when playing a character that wasn’t simply a terrible concept strewn with idiotic cliches.

The deaths, interplay between the Duke’s son and the princess and lead up to the twist involving the apple, and the ending were actually very well done. I can’t say anymore without delving into spoilers, but needless to say the apple curse is actually smoothly transitioned in the film. There is, as typical of most action-adventure fantasy films, a war scene at the end. Of course, in any realistic war, running straight into a fortified castle would never work but I can look past the nonsensical part of the fantasy film.

What I disliked and couldn’t look past, however, was the end response by the princess to a specific death in the film. It felt so flat . . . virtually anything else, even silence with the last quote being a play by play of responding to the fairest of them all, would have sufficed over the stupid and out of place response.

Overall, the film is an 8.5/10. I can’t wait for the sequel. And, in fact, I was inspired to watch this film after watching this amazing rap battle:

Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda film

The beginning and set-up of this film is great. The theme of needing to tell the truth, even painful truths, is a great lesson to learn in people’s personal lives. The characters are well developed but the plot is a fairly generic “high-school musical set-up” kind of shtick.

I would say it’s worth watching. What surprised me about this film was that it was actually excessively generic in the middle parts but it still managed to keep me interested. I was surprised that I found such a generic plot so likable. What really sells it are the characters; they’re all believable, likable, and show relatable problems. Nagusa’s “plot” for the play is incredibly hilarious and I especially love the first story’s ending because it just seems so perfect as a realistic portrayal for what a high school girl would come-up with instead of generic, boring crap shown in most of films for this genre. Nagusa’s various expressions, both how they’re drawn and the execution, make for great comedy, an endearing character, and a very relatable depiction to someone who’s family has gone through divorce – at least from what I understand of it. The beginning of the film is great, the ending “twist” is actually nice and gives a far more realistic portrayal of what dating and human interaction is like in high school. That is why I give it such high marks.

If you like music, or an anime high school musical, or if you’re like me and like believable characters then this film is worth the watch. The beginning of the plot doesn’t really begin until the musical is being made; before that it’s just the rather interesting and realistic set-up for high school life. However, this is definitely not for everyone. If any of these factors are something that you can’t look past then you should probably skip this film.

But for me, I think it’s one of the finest anime films released so far this year.

8.9/10

Second Episode of the SJW Podcast

The US Gov’t and US Traditional News Media’s Complicity and Silence on crimes of unarmed Native American shootings and massive rape epidemic inflicted upon Native Americans by non-Native peoples.

Soundcloud: https://t.co/JqHcV9PisE

Youtube:

The SJW Podcast: The Establishment’s Silence and Complicity in Violence upon Native Americans:

Personal Ponderings

Sometimes, I really do wonder why I bother doing anything, I had contented myself about the idea that much, if not all, of my writings would be ignored by most people because they don’t read but it’s become clear that this is less true than I thought. What led me to this wrongful conclusion was the observance that most people in online forums and even within the comments section of news articles never bother to read the article itself. Most people just regurgitate their own nonsensical beliefs and commenters typically place doubt on the authenticity of real events or don’t want to go beyond blabbering their own opinion without becoming more informed. They don’t wish to learn, they wish to constantly go on articles they disagree with and repetitively go on rants about how wrong the journalist writing the article is.

I had thought this was because journalists were adept at re-categorizing facts to suit their agenda but the problem is on both ends. Some elements of the public just don’t care about authentic information, they want their own biased opinion to be the truth. I recall looking up various comments in the article about the recent lawsuit by the US department of Justice on the police department of Ferguson for constantly violating the constitutional rights of the people of Ferguson. I read various right-wing commenters arguing that what the police did isn’t wrong. I try to make an honest effort in believing that these are just the outliers but the Donald Trump campaign has made me seriously doubt all of this. Not simply because of Donald Trump’s rhetoric, but because the rest of the Republican candidates went along with the idea of “No Muslims allowed” before suddenly realizing Donald Trump was, in fact, serious about what he was saying and a week later the Republican elites backed away from what they had said by affirming that Donald Trump wasn’t representing their values. However, the damage was already done. Supposedly less divisive candidates like Chris Christie was the one saying that he wouldn’t even allow 5-year old children into the country for protection from war. The rest weren’t any better, arguing for religious tests to enter the country and bringing up ideas of celebrating the Abrahamic traditions of the country.

First of all, in what way was any negative statement about five-year old children suffering from war suppose to help the Republican side of the debate over immigration from the Middle East? In what conceivable way could such a statement be positive for the Republican party? He wasn’t admonished for this statement by his fellow Republicans, what does that tell you? Many of my Republican friends became frustrated by the racist rhetoric because it ignored what they felt were security concerns. How could the Republican elites have screwed it up so much by insisting five year olds shouldn’t be allowed into the country? Had they just focused their narrative on protection and security, then this wouldn’t have been an issue. That was all they needed to do. The majority of US citizens were supportive of keeping immigrants out, but then the discriminatory rhetoric began to be uttered and it wasn’t by Trump, it was by the Republican elites. Trump just ran with it for longer than they did and then was branded a racist.

Second, it’s become increasingly clear that we’ve overestimated the intelligence of the wealthy elite of the country. Indeed, not all of them are as intelligent as Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffett or Angelina Jolie. While the Gates foundation is decreasing infant mortality across the world and giving reasons for South Africa to praise the US as a bastion of kind-hearted people, Warren Buffett is helping them with his donation and making it less likely for people to equate Wall Street as full of greedy people, and Angelina Jolie is campaigning for activism in the human rights of people across the world which helps give a positive image of the US. Democrats and Republicans continue insisting that more bomb droppings and war will make the scary terrorists disappear while spreading fear, paranoia, and hate for the US abroad throughout the Middle East.

Regardless, it’s become apparent to myself that I probably don’t have what it takes to deal with closet xenophobes or any sort of traction. I’d lose too much of my patience and I’d get ulcers as a result of headaches. Even more than the summer job I took as a cashier and meeting all sorts of idiots, I realize that what I take pleasure in, chiefly reading books on psychology and articles on politics, wouldn’t really interest others and most would view what I say as a conspiracy theory while spending approximately $11,000+ a year on lottery tickets and believing they’ll “win big” off of their investment – all the while being assured that nothing they do could ever help them save enough for retirement. Multiply this by meeting people throughout the country and I just don’t want to bother. More likely than not, I could conceivably become just like Sam Harris, believing himself right despite any contrary evidence and always re-contextualizing my detractors in negative terms. How would I, as I’d obviously be biased by that point, adequately assess whether their criticisms were valid or if I was simply too biased in my own views to accept their detracting remarks as legitimate?

Moreover, a deep problem I’ve observed in the US is that nobody, and I’m probably included in this too but in ways I don’t fully realize due to my own bias, values the truth. They want their worldview to be appreciated but they confuse their worldview – their subjective experience – as the objective truth even despite contrary evidence. Consider this biased sentence: Just how stupid can the right-wing media be to condemn the Justice department for suing the Ferguson police department for violations of constitutional rights when the Ferguson police was utilizing military weapons, gas, and military vehicles upon US civilians? Does the violations of constitutional rights mean so little to the right-wing media when it’s black citizens having rights infringed upon? Now, I’m pretty sure you can come up with your own legal or philosophical reasons for why I’m wrong to feel in this obviously biased manner. But, I’d probably be too staunch in my beliefs to really consider anything less than an apology to the US public arguing that what happened in Ferguson wasn’t a violation in constitutional rights. Why? Because if it’s permitted there, it can be permitted everywhere in the US.

Most people will never even consider that proposition because they only pay attention to their subjective, visceral experiences. And that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? How do you communicate effectively with people who only consider their own personal lives as relevant and ignore everything else? You can’t. It’s like talking to a wall. Moreover, they or people with agendas will take you out of context to fit their own biases. For example, the book I’m writing in my criticism of religion could easily be exploited with Christian extremists using my criticism of Islam to justify violent military actions and vice versa. It’ll become impossible to effectively communicate and you’re likely to be lambasted for something that you never said or was taken entirely out of context. On the flip side, people could be accurately criticizing you and you just take it the wrong way like Sam Harris. I wouldn’t really have time, and perhaps not even the willingness, to adequately address any criticisms respectively.

Another important component of all this, is that I really don’t want to bother offending anyone because it would – more likely than not – possibly get me fired some point in the future should I find a good career. Moreover, I just don’t like being rude to people. You hear stories about tortured artists or lambasted philosophers all the time, I’d prefer to never be associated with that. It’s better to conceal who you are and your true opinions. Besides which, what has simply highlighting human rights abuses like the Native Americans suffering or the inequality that Black Americans suffer from actually done? I can’t fix those issues, despite any deep desire on my part, as you need money, resources, and a lengthy amount of time. Native children suffer rape in this country everyday and the general public is completely apathetic, probably more willing to espouse some anonymous and fictitious defect because they’re not Christian than actually helping these people even while continuing to use their lands and ignore the rape crimes they suffer as a result of US laws and apathy. Even when the topic is about helping raped children.

In the end, what difference does it make when solutions can always regress?

Moreover, I have slowly grown to harbor the utmost loathing for the US national news media. They’re protectors of child rapists, war crimes, misogynistic rapists, gunmen, and they must truly gain intense satisfaction in mentally torturing the US public with their constant stream of negative news.

Western Philosophy Sucks

After trying to read alternative philosophical perspectives apart from Friedrich Nietzsche, I have come to the sad conclusion that Nietzsche’s rather blunt and extreme opposition to Western schools of thought may have been entirely justified. Despite the unrepentant mockery and hatred that Nietzsche gets for highlighting existential crises, all he really did was point out the stupidity, repetitiveness, and deep misanthropy that permeates Western philosophy. I had wanted to do more book reviews regarding Western philosophy and the many psychology books that I’ve read but I keep noticing this ridiculousness and I wonder if the reviews would feel repetitive if I broached each individual book. So, I’ll tackle this issue here. Here we go.

Before Nietzsche’s time, this issue with Western philosophy was sadly apparent and thus why I’ve come to the conclusion that Western philosophy sucks. Schopenhauer’s conclusion on a good life was essentially closing oneself off from human society and pondering life. Never mind the lack of any realistic basis for such a stupid concept, as he clearly meant to live by entirely focusing on this and ignoring everything else in life beyond basic necessities, Schopenhauer’s justification was that Black Americans proved their intellectual inferiority to his ideal standard of how to live life, because Black American communities enjoyed community affairs of dancing. Keep in mind, this is before rap and hip-hop – yet, even in that context, his argument would be invalid – and he’s exclusively demonizing all Black Americans for choosing to have a strong community structure with a nightlife that is filled with romantic partners dancing to classical music. This is someone the West considers a profound thinker.

However, Schopenhauer has nothing on the stupidity and racism of Thomas Hobbes. The Hobbesian model of human nature, the idea that every man fights every man in a constant state of nature, is totally false since hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian, men and women were equal, and the groups shared responsibility based upon who was the most capable in what field. The best hunter led the hunting party, the best preacher led the religious rites, the hunter-gatherers were monogamous (polygamy was a result of the creation of primitive countries where concepts of privilege became more pronounced as a result of changing social conditions and didn’t exist in hunter-gatherer societies), food was shared as a right among people, there were no slaves (they wouldn’t have been able to take care of slaves, much less subdue them in wandering hunter-gatherer tribes), they were very leisurely because lacking food one day meant hunting for it the next day, and they didn’t war. There are a few cases of murder, but those are large outliers and almost totally non-existent in hunter-gatherer societies.  Hobbes would have you believe that they were all killing each other indiscriminately because humans are similar to animals. Animals don’t kill indiscriminately, and even animals have submissive tendencies among their pack in the wild to maintain social cohesion among themselves, and thus his thesis was entirely make-believe. But his justification was his own racist and fictitious notions about Native Americans. As typical of Western culture, the more Hobbes celebrated the idea of humans being intrinsically violent, genocidal, and human existence largely being a nihilistic war of all against all, the more this man was celebrated as a deep thinker. Misanthropy sanctified in holistic terms and celebrated as awe-inspiring.

Rousseau, probably regarded as the most humanistic of his time, evidently concluded that European nation-states could never form a European Union because they would all try to mercilessly war with each other for control and that there was no preventing such a problem because of human nature. In other words, no different from the nihilism and misanthropy of his contemporaries. Violence in Western society was deemed inevitable. People after Nietzsche, such as Albert Camus, just found their own nihilistic drivel like the concept of Absurdism. I’d like to believe the essence of all this is the religious idea of “nothing new under the sun” as taught by the Bible but it’s clear that this has existed before that during the time of Socrates. If anything, Socrates himself celebrated this nihilistic drivel by espousing that he knew nothing. No surprise that he put himself in the exact situation where the government of Athens would feel it was legally justified to kill him and he avoided all attempts at getting himself out of his own execution. The intrinsic belief permeating throughout Western culture that humans are defective and thus fated for failure seems to gain universal applause as thought-provoking throughout Western history. No matter what, humans are fated for tragedy, failure, and must constantly observe their own intrinsic negative essence to be closer to God or to accept that they’re too arrogant to be happy. Even with all the successes and might over the entire world, the people of the West can never find happiness and are constantly “reassured” of their negative bias that happiness is a hopeless quest. Please, don’t mistake this for disgust or hate, this is just a constant recurring theme that I’m observing throughout reading, listening, and watching Western culture. A culture that I was born into and raised in. I’m just now waking up to the fact there’s a pathological obsession with self-hate.

This cultural self-hate exists in Western media: from music, to television shows, to documentaries, to film, and much more. Even modern philosophers like the seemingly happy-go-lucky Alain de Botton isn’t immune, he did an entire film on “status anxiety” and concluded that being closer to death was the solution. Sam Harris’s book, Waking Up, tries to teach people to calm down during stress and implicitly accepts that pleasures and happiness are an illusion. I’ve just about had it trying to research and read more in-depth about Western philosophy from past to present and finding this utter drivel. It’s everywhere in Western society. For that matter, the West is only satisfied in incorporating the most negative aspects of Buddhism to reassure itself that all religious faiths think desire and ego are evil and that every culture ubiquitously “understands” the “truth” of human nature’s “flaws” because it’s apparently unavoidable. I’m beginning to wonder if Western philosophy was just “progressed” by the most extreme self-hating idiots to secretly try to convince people to kill themselves because human existence is virtually perceived as either a disease or intrinsically and unavoidably worthless throughout much of these famed writings.

This self-loathing persists to the point where many psychology books written by experts with M.D,’s in psychology almost unanimously wrote about a chapter to reaffirm that seeking happiness is a hopeless endeavor and argue following only your desires is arrogant and evil. Evidently, to be regarded as “serious” in any way, shape, or form by Western audiences, you must either elaborate upon why humans are intrinsically violent/evil/narcissistic or you must maintain that your work is “serious” by insisting that seeking happiness is hopeless and naive. If you challenge this basic assumption, you’re automatically branded a naive idiot or from a primitive culture. Now, do humans suck? How about it depends upon the human being and we shouldn’t label everyone as capable of the actions of Hitler based upon examples like Hitler. To be perfectly frank, this intrinsic and often implicit assumption about the negativity of human nature has very real consequences. Consider the atomic bombings of Japan, Western culture has US citizens believe that atomic bomb droppings were merciful because US soldiers wouldn’t have to come in and continue a war campaign. Now, whether or not you agree with the military aspect of the action is an entirely different subject. The point is that US citizens are led to believe that atomic bombings were an act of mercy based on a choice between continuous war campaigns or two nuclear bombs slaughtering innocents. Neither choice is merciful and to call it merciful is so stupid and dangerous.

Please, before you judge that statement, just think about this thought experiment, okay? Consider a Middle Eastern country with a nuclear weapon bombing a Western country or your country (assuming you don’t live in the West). You see on the news every day as nuclear radiation leaks into your water system and the images of hundreds of men, women, and children suffering and dying from nuclear radiation. The Middle Eastern country’s justification is that they didn’t have conduct an extended war campaign and kill more of your people. They celebrate their actions as an act of mercy. How do you feel? Do you think anything about their justification makes any rational sense? What would you desire to do to that country? Is the violence and justification committed by this act any different from the Boston bombings or 9/11? Now, regardless of who started the war, what do you think the Japanese thought about the nuclear weapons and felt about them? Do you really believe racism didn’t play a factor considering the Japanese encampment during World War 2?

Most importantly, this obsession with human nature being synonymous with evil or negative personal traits seems to be a rash self-justification by people to feel more comfortable with human violence and especially in instances where their country is committing the human violence upon a foreign country. I’ll admit that the majority of Western philosophy seems adept at trying to convince people to kill themselves, but I don’t really see any value beyond that anymore after trying so hard to be objective when reading and watching various material by Western philosophers. It’s no wonder Nietzsche went crazy when trying to create a philosophy about life-affirmation for Europe.

Here’s the most recent example that I’ve come across from a psychology book that tries to delve into philosophy. This specific book. Flow, was so patronizing and redundant in its multiple expositions on hatred for human happiness that I just couldn’t bother to patiently read through most of it after trying to take it seriously. I see this so often in Western literature that it’s completely ridiculous but this specific anecdote is truly disgusting.

It’s a depressing account of what war did to a person from the book Flow. The author intended for some supposedly deep spiritual lesson in the human ability for high concentration referred to as “flow” in conscious experience, but this is exactly the nihilistic self-reverence that Western philosophy consistently tries to celebrate as meaningful when there is nothing meaningful to be gained. In other words: the greater the misanthropy, the more celebrated the so-called deep thinker.

Excerpt:

Reyad is a thirty-three-year-old Egyptian who currently sleeps in the parks of Milan, eats in charity kitchens, and occasionally washes dishes for restaurants whenever he needs some cash. When during the interview he was read a description of the flow experience, and was asked if this ever happened to him, he answered:

“Yes. It describes my entire life from 1967 up to now. After the War of 1967 I decided to leave Egypt and start hitchhiking toward Europe. Ever since I have been living with my mind concentrated within myself. It has not been just a trip, it has been a search for identity. Every man has something to discover within himself. The people in my town were sure I was crazy when I decided to start walking to Europe. But the best thing in life is to know oneself…. My idea from 1967 on has remained the same: to find myself. I had to struggle against many things. I passed through Lebanon and its war, through Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Yugoslavia, before getting here. I had to confront all sorts of natural disasters; I slept in ditches near the road in thunderstorms, I was involved in accidents, I have seen friends die next to me, but my concentration has never flagged…. It has been an adventure that so far has lasted twenty years, but it will keep going on for the rest of my life…. Through these experiences I have come to see that the world is not worth much. The only thing that counts for me now, first and last, is God. I am most concentrated when I pray with my prayer beads. Then I am able to put my feelings to sleep, to calm myself and avoid becoming crazy. I believe that destiny rules life, and it makes no sense to struggle too hard…. During my journey I have seen hunger, war, death, and poverty. Now through prayer I have begun to hear myself, I have returned toward my center, I have achieved concentration and I have understood that the world has no value. Man was born to be tested on this earth. Cars, television sets, clothes are secondary. The main thing is that we were born to praise the Lord.

Everyone has his own fate, and we should be like the lion in the proverb. The lion, when he runs after a pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread…. If I am to live twenty more years, I will try to live enjoying each moment, instead of killing myself to get more…. If I am to live like a free man who does not depend on anyone, I can afford to go slowly; if I don’t earn anything today, it does not matter. It means that this happens to be my fate. Next day I may earn 100 million— or get a terminal illness. Like Jesus Christ said, What does it benefit to man if he gains the entire world, but loses himself? I have tried first to conquer myself; I don’t care if I lose the world. I set out on this journey like a baby bird hatching from its egg; ever since I have been walking in freedom. Every man should get to know himself and experience life in all its forms. I could have gone on sleeping soundly in my bed, and found work in my town, because a job was ready for me, but I decided to sleep with the poor, because one must suffer to become a man. One does not get to be a man by getting married, by having sex: to be a man means to be responsible, to know when it is time to speak, to know what has to be said, to know when one must stay silent.”

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2008-08-18). Flow (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) (p. 197). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This is a man who is very clearly suffering the harrowing effects of war trauma but because he’s said life has no value and is totally meaningless, this Western college professor decided that – instead of actually trying to find this man some measure of treatment for his horrible condition – the professor decided to celebrate the man as “profound” and “deep” because . . . the man no longer sees any value in life itself. Does anyone but me see the problem here? Does anyone else see the pernicious nature of this fundamental hatred for life in Western philosophy? Also, consider this, if this man had kept living in Egypt, he would have been regarded with disdain by Westerners and seen as a result of a backwards culture. But because this man moved and made a very meager living in a European country, he’s viewed as a profound thinker instead of a man suffering from mental trauma from prolonged exposure to war. Alain de Botton did similar in his interview with lower-income and jobless Americans in the United States. I recall one particular instance of an old white woman begging on the streets for money to feed her family, the only people who gave her money were Hispanic and white women who felt empathy for her. Men, of all backgrounds, simply drove past her as if she was invisible. De Botton’s conclusion being that people should feel closer to death to avoid status anxiety.

With all of that being said, and as I now regard only Eastern philosophy with any degree of seriousness, here’s some Eastern philosophical writings for those interested. Here is why I liked reading and learning from them better than anything from Western philosophy outside of Nietzsche. That isn’t to say that Eastern philosophy doesn’t have problems; it’s just as broad as Western philosophy but more diverse based on my experience.

I’ll let the philosophical underpinnings speak for themselves:

“Guidance is creative, efficacy develops, people give shape, implements complete. That is why all people honor guidance and value efficacy. The nobility of guidance and the value of efficacy are not granted by anyone, but naturally so of themselves. Guidance creates, nurtures, develops, matures, brings to fruition, nourishes, sustains, and shelters. It is creative without possessiveness, constructive without conceit, develops without coercion; this is called unobtrusive efficacy.”

Tzu, Lao (2012-05-11). The Original Tao Te Ching (Kindle Locations 104-110). . Kindle Edition.

“The Self desires only what is real, thinks nothing but what is true. Here people do what they are told, becoming dependent on their country, or their piece of land, or the desires of another, so their desires are not fulfilled and their works come to nothing, both in this world and in the next. Those who depart from this world without knowing who they are or what they truly desire have no freedom here or hereafter.”

Easwaran, Eknath (2009-06-01). The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality) (p. 142). Nilgiri Press. Kindle Edition.

“165. By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.”

Buddha, Gautama (2013-04-22). The Dhammapada (pp. 26-27). Start Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.

And here is one from Nietzsche, in case anyone is interested in him:

Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox belief. Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker:–he, however, is the creator. Behold the believers of all beliefs! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker–he, however, is the creator. Companions, the creator seeketh, not corpses–and not herds or believers either. Fellow-creators the creator seeketh–those who grave new values on new tables. Companions, the creator seeketh, and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacketh the hundred sickles: so he plucketh the ears of corn and is vexed. Companions, the creator seeketh, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers, will they be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers. Fellow-creators, Zarathustra seeketh; fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers, Zarathustra seeketh: what hath he to do with herds and herdsmen and corpses! And thou, my first companion, rest in peace! Well have I buried thee in thy hollow tree; well have I hid thee from the wolves. But I part from thee; the time hath arrived. ‘Twixt rosy dawn and rosy dawn there came unto me a new truth. I am not to be a herdsman, I am not to be a grave-digger. Not any more will I discourse unto the people; for the last time have I spoken unto the dead. With the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers will I associate: the rainbow will I show them, and all the stairs to the Superman. To the lone-dwellers will I sing my song, and to the twain-dwellers; and unto him who hath still ears for the unheard, will I make the heart heavy with my happiness. I make for my goal, I follow my course; over the loitering and tardy will I leap. Thus let my on-going be their down-going!

Nietzsche, Friedrich (2009-08-16). Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (8 books) (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 10819-10841). . Kindle Edition.

 

The Best Presidential Race ever?

This presidential race is shaping up to be the greatest Presidential race in the history of America. Indeed, we’re living in the best of historical moments that’ll be remembered throughout the ages. What I feel especially fond of is not only were my negative assumptions and biases regarding both the establishment media proven correct but the dynamics have resulted in the current powerplay in this country. Corporate interests, albeit corrupt, versus genuine do-gooders of the public who are too ignorant to realize the ramifications of Trump’s policies. The establishment media’s lack of consistency has opened the floodgates to just how controlling their framing and priming narratives are; moreover, the Republican party is crumbling due to their own insulated behavior.

Why did they think Jeb Bush was electable? Were they really so isolated from the public perception of the Bush family despite the obvious polling numbers? Did they not realize the permanent damage wouldn’t be so easily forgotten?

As it stands, if Trump wins, then we all have Jeb Bush to thank. Most of the billionaires who have donated to their favorite candidate – i.e. Jeb – would be remiss to back out now and snub their family friend. Jeb isn’t quitting the election either, which means the establishment and the rich corporate interests cannot pick out a more viable candidate without permanently destroying relations with the Bush family. Jeb’s tactics are also a total failure – and if I have to be honest, I am laughing so much at how pathetic his campaign actually is – his solution to the hated image of his family is getting his brother and father to work on the campaign with him. Then he has his own mother making some nonsensical and calculated “heartfelt” video that does absolutely nothing. When he opened his mouth about Iraq and how he wouldn’t do anything differently from his brother, it was over. You can even look at the polling results to confirm this. He went from 17% to 0 after proving his ignorance of the genuine disgust and loathing that the public feels for George W. Bush. It would be easy for him to fix this… but he’s too protective of his family.

What the people on the Right want is Donald Trump. Why? It isn’t simply racism, it’s because he stood up for social security, speaks “honestly” which is something the public wants now, and his racism makes paranoid racists feel secure about their personal welfare and safety.

The Left isn’t any better. They want Bernie Sanders and to be perfectly blunt, Hillary Clinton is flip-flopping too much and the fact remains that she’s under a federal investigation that is also gaining coverage during her running. At this point, they’re desperately hoping Bloomberg will somehow save the day from the chasm and chaos of this election. Good luck with that, Establishment media. Occupy Wall Street will come-up and that was an undisputed violation of the First Amendment.

But Wow, is this the best election season or what? The country’s on the balance, wars keep raging, the debt keeps piling, and we’re reaching our zenith. This is the stuff of adventure novels!

The Rising Anti-Intellectualism of Atheism

If you’ve been following the trends in the Atheist subculture of the West, you’ll probably begin to notice just how far its fallen from the stated goals back during the early 2000s. A once strong movement has petered out after the death of Christopher Hitchens. Richard Dawkins has lost much of his positive public image as a man of science thanks to his patently discriminatory and unsavory comments on twitter. Worst of all, Sam Harris has shown himself to be a dogmatic and paranoid bigot towards both Muslims and anyone who disagrees with Harris on anything that he says. Whether it’s about freewill, his arguments against lying, his dogmatic hatred for Muslims, his advocacy of racial profiling, his arguments in favor of a nuclear first strike on Muslim majority countries, or anything that he strongly advocates; Sam Harris goes on ad hominem tirade after tirade about how everyone else is simply too dumb to understand his arguments and displays just how much of an intellectual charlatan that he truly is.

A movement once touting better social norms for minorities and women, a pro-science stance, and arguments for a world without war has fallen apart in the wake of massive sexual abuse crimes and rapes occurring at Atheist conventions, a pathological fixation on Islam and growing hatred for all Muslims, defense of thoroughgoing right-wing lies, defense of torture, and explicit racism. Atheist violence towards Muslims and Christians have reached more national scrutiny, as gunmen and self-described anti-theist Christopher Stephen Hicks murdered three Muslim college students in execution style. Followed soon after by Christopher Harper-Mercer’s mass murder of Christians in Umpque community college because of his own deluded fantasy about becoming famous by murdering innocent people. He was found to have an overwhelming amount of hatred for all forms of organized religion from his online diatribes. The shootings seemed to coincide with a tonal shift in atheist propaganda campaigns. The movement has gone from touting the social benefits of atheism to arguing that atheism isn’t really about social values and the chief goal is to convert people to atheism. Therefore, atheism has shifted from arguing progressive social values to functioning as a semi-nihilistic religious cult that provides no hope for people who miss their dead loved ones, provides no help for people suffering in poverty, argues for “equality” by insulting the faith of rescue workers and self-sacrificing soldiers who died in service to the US, creates mocking billboard signs meant to insult all religious faiths, and mocks feminist atheists while ignoring the rampant sexual assaults and rapes of feminists happening in their own organized events.

Beyond the pathological hatred for religious people for the crime of independent thought and community values, the most striking shift  is that a strong faith in critical thinking has given way to uncritical acceptance of everything New Atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris says about virtually anything. Any dissenter, on either political spectrum, who points out any flaw in Sam Harris’s arguments is automatically deemed by Sam Harris’s fans as deceitful, hiding the “truth” from the public, ridiculed as a “liar” because the dissenter doesn’t automatically agree with Sam Harris on everything that Sam Harris says, or the dissenter is seen as out to slander Sam Harris for some vague career bonus. Moreover, this behavior has been duly encouraged by Sam Harris himself, Harris has gone on record to say that if he could wave a magic wand to end either rape or religion then he would end religion. Evidently, anyone who honestly disagrees with Sam Harris must be one or all of those accusations because – in their own words – Sam Harris is “too smart” for the general public to understand and anytime someone points out a flaw or discrimination in Sam Harris’s language then they must not understand the “nuance” of Sam Harris’s arguments. Evidently, overt racism and self-contradictions are what accounts for “nuance” in the male atheist communities. The level of patronization and hate for religious people in these online forums is palpable. One need only browse the numerous atheist forums on reddit to see the increasing levels of malevolence towards honest, hardworking religious people.

However, one of the surprising aspects in all of this is just how much of a pathological liar Sam Harris actually is. For those who are familiar with his arguments, consider these contradictions:

Harris has stated more recently that Islam isn’t a race and that the accusations of racism against him are ignorant. Yet, in his own words, he has argued for racial profiling for people who look Muslim in his own words. Do you see the contradiction? How can he argue for racial profiling against people who look Muslim but then admit that Islam isn’t a race? Incidentally, Islam is actually one of the most racially diverse religious faiths both in the US and outside of it. Therefore, Harris never fact-checked before making his bigoted arguments.

He has argued that the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic monarchy, is due to the religious conservatism of the country and used it as proof that Islam preaches misogyny. He has systematically ignored the fact that Saudi women protested this and went driving around the country as a peaceful protest. If you strictly read Harris’s accounts of what Muslims are like as people, you would expect the women to have been viciously beaten and raped. Surprisingly, or not for those who know that the Saudi people have protested for improved human rights for years, men who saw the women driving appeared surprised at first but then continued their usual activities. No harassment, no violence, and none of the nonsense that Harris espouses happened. Where were the uncultured savages bringing violence against women? Where were the irrational Islamic uprisings and misogyny? Where was the so-called “reality” of Islam? Keep in mind, this is from the most conservative and religious Islamic country in the world; also known for its close partnership with the United States.

If Harris’s arguments are truly as nuanced as he and his supporters claim, then why does he constantly need to argue that everyone who denounces his arguments – Chris Hedges, Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uylger, Ben Affleck, and Ben Norton – are all taking him out of context? Furthermore, why does he obsessively claim that they’re liars , charlatans, or always frame the argument to imply that these people are somehow hiding the “reality” of Islam because they disagree with his premise that Islam is the central cause of the violence in the Middle East? Why doesn’t he make any effort to address their criticisms instead of going on spurious ad hominem rants about their character traits? Why assume the worst of his critics instead of simply accepting the very reasonable fact that his critics simply disagree with him?

There is also his flagrant deceitfulness in using the audio clip of the shooting in the Netherlands to continue spreading fear and paranoia during his podcast addressing the Chapel Hill shootings. While declaring Islam the prime culprit, police in the Netherlands found evidence that the shooter did it for the same reasons that Mercer committed his atrocities. Chiefly, the desire for world fame from committing atrocities. It had nothing to do with religious background. Harris used the clip to try to downplay the growing racism towards people of Arab lineage and the overall contempt for Muslim people in the atheist community. He went so far as to blame Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan by insisting they have “mad men” as viewers; this is on a podcast meant to address the fact that the shooter of 3 innocent Muslims was an atheist who was found to be a fan of the New Atheist movement from the material discovered on his facebook profile. The fact this podcast was praised by his viewers ultimately shows their level of abject racism, cognitive dissonance, and hatred for all Muslims.

Finally, Harris’s “debate” with Noam Chomsky shows the depth of his commitment to being a pathological liar. He admits in their email exchange that he never read anything Chomsky wrote before having criticized Chomsky in his books. Previously Harris argued for “honest debate” against people and shows rudeness towards religious people who agree to debate him, yet if someone is rude to him? Then they’re denigrated for being rude. Never mind the fact that Chomsky was simply complying with Harris’s wishes for honesty. After the debate, Harris changed tune on what he was wrong about regarding Chomsky’s focus on moral dilemmas in international relations. Harris stunningly decided that he wasn’t wrong about Chomsky after all; in fact, he was correct all along despite still never having read any of Chomsky’s writings and having been proven thoroughly wrong about Chomsky taking basic moral questions about international politics into account. In fact, despite Harris’s claims, it was clear that he never intended to have any sort of honest discourse with Noam Chomsky about any topic. He went into nonsensical thought experiment after nonsensical thought experiment when Chomsky proved him wrong using facts about the bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical building. The whole purpose of the exchange was so Harris could argue that Chomsky was being mean to him so he could self-aggrandize himself further, as he has done so with everyone else who criticized his arguments.

Sam Harris has thoroughly proved himself to be a pathological liar, narcissist, racist, and entirely devoted to the task of worshipping himself as infallible. Instead of simply accepting the fact that making views public subjects oneself to thorough criticism (because that’s simply how democracy works), he’s gone on rant after rant about the “regressive left” for the crime of disagreeing with his pathological obsession with Islam. It’s apparently “regressive” to argue for social justice, cultural inclusiveness, and to denounce discrimination based on religious faith and skin pigmentation.

If you’re interested, I have written a book available on amazon in more detail about the problems of the New Atheist movement.

The ongoing tragedy of the Native Americans; a history of institutional sex crimes, mass murder, and racism

National interests will always be a pivotal component in determining the significance of human rights. The United States of America has always projected itself as the defender of human rights and the American public have maintained a woefully uninformed bias that their country is the least worst in human rights abuses upon people within the country itself. Unfortunately, such biased cultural beliefs ignore the ongoing suffering of the Native Americans. The US media, a hateful and racist group of chauvinists, will constantly highlight human rights abuses in foreign countries such as the honor killings in the Middle East, the rape crimes in India, and worker abuse in China but an examination of the rampant sexual assault, rampant rapes, and high death rates of Native Americans by predominately non-Native people has never made it on US corporate news stations. This is not an accident; US news outlets simply don’t care about the suffering of the Native Americans and work to maintain the projection of the US being a country that is more benign than foreign nation-states. As such, the ongoing mass rapes, sexual assault, and high death rates of Native Americans throughout the country are ignored.

The rampant rape crimes upon Native American women has historical precedent. US scholars continue to be apologists for the rampant sexual assaults ongoing to this day including gang rapes, child rapes, and other forms of violent sexual assault. By sanitizing the history of the Native genocide by the United States of America, the US has sent a message that the history and abuses of Natives lack any significant worth and that their lives are less important than US interests in maintaining a benign projection. The selective removal of the mass rapes following the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk upon Native women, the glossing over of the cruel conditions of “Indian reservations” that continue to cause health problems for Native women, and the lack of focus by the media on the rampant sexual violence that is ongoing and which originated from the colonial period has served to devalue the lives of Native women and Native children suffering from rape crimes. This was not random; colonialists used rape as a tool of conquest and colonization throughout the history of the US and US history books have systematically sanitized, devalued the impacts, or ignored the history of sexual violence against Native women as a result of the racism of the past centuries. By devaluing the history of rampant sexual violence committed by predatory US citizens upon Native women and Native children, the current perpetrators of ongoing systematic rape crimes upon them have been allowed carte blanche access to continue sexual violence thanks to the utter apathy of their situation by the general US public, lack of scrutiny of the ongoing sexual violence, the slow change of US laws that abuse Native American peoples, and lack of financing for tribal lands. The US government wasn’t able to effectively respond with legal protection for Native Americans until amending the Violence against Women’s act in 2012 and the US media never bothered to make a public notification on corporate news stations about the rampant rape crimes occurring throughout the US since the colonial era. The lack of proper context and scrutiny over the systematic rape crimes throughout US history that have contributed to the widespread gang rapes and child rapes of Native Americans. The extent of the history displays the explicit apathy for their suffering and is a byproduct of racism against Native Americans by denying their history and human rights. If the history of sexual violence against Native Americans doesn’t matter, even despite the ongoing rape epidemic against them, then how can the US possibly be a defender of human rights? It is clear that by devaluing the history of sexual violence against Native women and ignoring the clear-cut history of genocide, the US government and US public have continued to create unsafe environments for Native American women.

There are usually attempts to blame Native Americans for their own suffering, this is the general response from the US public thanks to the history of racism and discriminatory laws passed against Native Americans living in tribal lands. In 86 percent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault, the perpetrators were non-Native men. Entire communities of Native American women have reported that they have never met another Native woman who wasn’t raped according to Amnesty International’s interviews of Native communities. This is the result of chronic underfunding of Tribal hospitals regarding rape kits, lack of State enforcement, ongoing racism, and discriminatory – almost predatory – laws passed that have effectively kept Native Americans in a state of helplessness. The state of helplessness to widespread sexual violence and especially systematic rapes throughout the United States; the Major Crimes Act (1885) granted federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Native American territories. While a scant number of tribal jurisdictions among the 550 federally recognized tribes retain concurrent powers, it can hardly be enforced due to the lack of funding. Certain States – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska – have extensive jurisdiction over criminal and civil proceedings within Native territories but don’t provide adequate funding to tribal authorities and don’t provide adequate protection for Native communities themselves. The lack of funding extends to healthcare facilities causing critical healthcare risks for pregnant Native women. Native communities live in a continued state of lawlessness in these areas because of the lack of funding and lack of State response to protecting Native civilians despite having jurisdiction. Certain other States – Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, North Dakota, and South Dakota can assume or relinquish rights over tribal lands – a right not given to Native Americans and therefore a further affront to their sovereignty. The States with optional jurisdiction have not received proper funding by the US Congress so many tribal lands are underfunded as a result. This has led to a state of perpetual lawlessness in many communities and increased difficulty between State and tribal officials in protecting the rights of the Native people from crimes of rape and murder. The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offense – including murder and rape – to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of five thousand dollars; this has resulted in tribal courts being less likely to prosecute serious crimes pertaining to sexual violence. Moreover, the 1978 Supreme Court decision of Oliphant v. Suquamish ruled that tribal authorities cannot have any jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens; this effectively denies rape victims due process and equal protection under the law. State and federal governments that have exclusive jurisdiction over tribal lands usually don’t follow-up in protecting the tribal lands through due process and don’t prosecute the perpetrators of rampant sexual violence. The lack of action from State and federal authorities, lack of funding for tribal governments and police, and laws explicitly preventing due process has allowed non-Native US citizens to enter these areas and commit rampant child rapes, gang rapes, and numerous forms of sexual violence upon Native women and especially Native children. In some cases, kidnapping of children through blindfold, raping them, and then washing their bodies before sending them back to tribal lands where they cannot say for sure whether the rapes happened on tribal land or not and therefore don’t have a right to due process. Even after the violence against Women act of 2012 was passed to stop the high accounts of sexual violence, very little funding has been conducted especially in areas of Alaska which lacks any meaningful law enforcement to protect Native women and lacks sufficient healthcare facilities for survivors of sexual violence. The fact these laws existed for so long and remained uncontested is a result of the history of racism against Native Americans and has resulted in the shaming of Native Americans as to be seen as less than human even when facing rampant sexual violence. The US government and the US media have effectively kept silent about these deplorable human rights abuses of Native Americans; including silence over incidents of child rape and gang rape to maintain the illusion of the US being “less worse” than foreign countries in their sexual abuse of women.

The United States rampant abuse of Native Americans doesn’t begin and end with the legacy of sexual violence against Native women and children. Scrutiny has been conducted upon the US police agencies for the high death rates of unarmed black men but little to no scrutiny occurs over the unarmed deaths of Native American men who suffer a higher kill ratio than even Black men. Native men have no media coverage over their wrongful deaths and have more institutional barriers – purposeful institutional barriers – preventing their families from ever receiving justice even after their deaths. Native children often go into foster care and drop out of schools by approximately tenth grade; this is largely due to the historic destruction of Native American family life. After World War 2, Native soldiers for the US army didn’t receive any medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder unlike their white counterparts and this led to the breakdown of the Native family structure. Moreover, most of the sexual violence is being blamed upon Native Americans themselves despite the overwhelming amount of sexual violence occurring because of discriminatory laws and the perpetrators chiefly being non-Native men in 86% of the reported cases with very little legal actions taken to protect the Native Americans by State or Federal authorities after they assumed jurisdiction. The purpose of re-contextualizing sexual violence as a “native problem” is to remove blame from the failings of State and federal governments and to continue the longstanding dehumanization campaigns conducted throughout US history upon Native American peoples for the horrors conducted upon them. US history books and contemporary media continue to ignore cultural genocide of Native Americans throughout the 1870s – 1890s, in which nuns of Christian boarding schools would torture – through various cases of sexual abuse, malnourishment, forced heavy labor, and sometimes murder – Native children as young as five years of age to force them to forget their native heritage and culture. This was conducted upon Native American children by the tens of thousands and resulted in rampant sexual abuse and child deaths in Christian boarding schools throughout the United States. In the 1970s, due to the popularity of eugenics movements in certain US States that blamed social ills upon peoples ethnic backgrounds, there were massive sterilization campaigns of Native American women that were conducted without their consent and conducted concurrently with coerced abortions by the IHS. The result was over approximately 3,000 sterilizations and an unaccounted for number of coercive abortions of Native women by the IHS under the terms that they weren’t accountable to federal regulations when operating on Native American lands. California, in particular, has a record of forced sterilizations of over 20,000 peoples subsidized through federal funding of Native American women, Black women, and  Latina women. It effectively resulted in the sterilization of approximately 25 – 50 % of the Native American population.

Although politically incorrect, it is probable that Christianity played a prominent role in the horrific destruction of Native American lives and family structure. The boarding schools that tortured children were Christian boarding schools, the torturers were devout nuns, the mass deaths of Natives were celebrated as a curse from God upon the “heathen” Natives throughout US history, and the level of apathy towards their situation may come from Christian morality itself. How could so many IHS workers thoroughly discriminate against Native American women by coercing them into abortions or sterilizing them without their knowledge? How can this entire nation-state argue advocacy of human rights but thoroughly ignore child rapes, gang rapes, and murder rates of Native American peoples? The US consistently touts itself as a Christian nation, so why not then criticize Christian cultural norms when they fail? These horrors aren’t unique to the Native Americans, Europe committed similar mass deaths, cultural genocides, and sanitized their history books of their human rights crimes thus treating well over 60 million people as afterthoughts to the violence facilitated by their empire expansion. The intrinsic failure of Christianity could be thus: the belief that original sin exists creates circular reasoning because people intrinsically believe that they’re capable of committing horrific crimes due to some intrinsic evil nature within humanity which is labeled by Western culture as “human nature” as the chief term. The second, and most important component, is Jesus’s forgiveness of all crimes: this concept, more than anything, is a carte blanche to commit any human rights crime; it is not a peaceful doctrine because you don’t need to feel responsible for committing horrible crimes upon others. The only person that you have to answer to is Jesus Christ by accepting him into your heart, therefore, it effectively functions as a self-forgiveness system. After committing the horrible crimes, you’re forgiven by either the Church or – if you believe in open interpretation – through your own prayers and you can continue believing that humans are ubiquitously sinful and commit to “human nature” by committing atrocities. While that may seem shallow, it is important to note that serial murderers and serial child rapists have sought Jesus’s forgiveness, expect to be in heaven after death, and the pastor who has made it his life goal to serve and teach the faith has the same expectation. Along with that expectation is that any person, including children, who aren’t Christian will be going to hell for the crime having a different set of opinions and beliefs. Therefore, there can never be any culpability or any sort of morality from this intrinsically broken system of moral ethics. This concept of atoning only through Jesus Christ, more than anything else, contributes to human apathy towards genocide and especially the current conditions of sexual violence against Native American women because any human rights abuser can seek Jesus’s forgiveness to cleanse themselves of any wrongdoing with the expectation that it was unavoidable precisely because they’re human.

The lack of scrutiny and media coverage over the full extent of the destruction of the Native American family life, unarmed shootings of Native men by US police forces, cultural genocide, systematic rape campaigns in contemporary times, forced sterilization campaigns in the 1970s, child abuse at the hands of Christian boarding schools in the 1870s, historic genocides of the past, and dehumanization of the victims of the present is likely due to the unwillingness of Western culture to grapple with the utter failings of Christian morality. Despite the West’s persistent attempts to tacitly label the rest of the world to have been ignorant savages before the colonial period and the US’s attempts at depicting the same for the Native Americans by overemphasizing the Northeastern tribes and ignoring the plurality of the 550 Native cultures beyond that region, it remains the truth that Christianity is primarily responsible for these thoroughgoing genocide and hatred for all non-Western cultures. Attempts at building “objectivity” by trying to find common happenstances between colonialists and the natives usually means ignoring systematic rape crimes of the Native Americans, ignoring the actual numbers slaughtered in genocides throughout US history, and trying to dehumanize the Natives under the “noble savage” stereotype to justify Western aggression. It is the same for the West’s exploitative practices of the Middle East and Asia, evidently the West is content to demonize people in India for rape crimes and people in the Middle East for honor killings, but the murder rates and sexual violence of the Native Americans is thoroughly ignored by the US media, and Natives are repeatedly treated as an afterthought that continue to be ignored, contributing to their ongoing suffering as a result of neglect, to be viewed as lesser humans because they aren’t granted the same protections under US law. Yet, even when they are granted protections, it’s poorly enforced due to lack of funding and apathy towards their situation. Moreover, the US media attempting to portray the main perpetrators as distinctly Native men and lack of coverage of the overwhelming amount of non-Native men who take advantage of the lawlessness created by federal and State legislations shows an ongoing effort to continue an explicitly racist history. The reframing of this issue and lack of scrutiny of the US government shows the dishonesty of the US media and disingenuous nature of their reporting activities. The trackrecord of abuse, extending beyond a century in length, doesn’t give much hope that the human rights of Native American peoples will ever improve or that the US public will ever stop it’s tacit compliance with racism against Native Americans in order for meaningful change to be conducted to stop widespread gang rapes, child rapes, and higher death rates of Native American peoples.  The violence against Women’s act of 2012 was a very good path in the right direction, but the government needs to fund hospitals, tribal authorities, and create meaningful changes in the law to protect Native American women regardless of if it means a small loss of land for the US. The US Congress has, in fact, taken more land and that includes during this past year; at this point, the word “complexity” is being thrown forth to obscure the actual abuses upon Native Americans and to continue dehumanizing them. In pursuit of its national interests, the US government has effectively ignored the human rights crimes systematically committed upon Native Americans.


 

Works Cited

Bear, C. (2008, May 12). American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865

Cheney-Rice, Z. (2015, February 5). The Police Are Killing One Group at a Staggering Rate, and Nobody Is Talking About It. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://mic.com/articles/109894/the-police-are-killing-one-group-at-a-staggering-rate-and-nobody-is-talking-about-it

Maze of Injustice. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/maze-of-injustice

Maze of Injustice full report. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

McAuliff, M. (2014, December 3). Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill. Retrieved November 2, 2015.

Rutecki, G. (2010, October 8). Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies | The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from https://cbhd.org/content/forced-sterilization-native-americans-late-twentieth-century-physician-cooperation-national-#_ednref

Williams, T. (2012, May 22). For Native American Women, Scourge of Rape, Rare Justice. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/native-americans-struggle-with-high-rate-of-rape.html?_r=0

Two Shocking Human Rights Myths about the USA

Myth 1: Despite its flaws, the United States doesn’t have problems like widespread rape crimes and murders like in third world countries.

Fact: Native Americans have been, and continue to be, systematically raped, murdered, and tortured thanks to lawlessness as a direct result of US laws that prevented rape victims and families of murder victims from being able to sue the rapists and murderers. Rapists and murderers continue to commit acts of lawlessness: including gang rapes, child rapes, and wanton murder upon Native American tribal lands. In truth, in 86% of the cases, the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Chapter 4 of Amnesty International’s report underlies the chief causes regarding why this has continued to happen for so long. The Violence against Women’s Act’s amending in 2012 helped to identify Native Americans as having more rights, but thanks to the chronic underfunding of the majority of States throughout the US, nothing has really changed in a majority of these areas.

A Summary of Amnesty International’s Findings

Sexual violence against Indigenous women in the USA is widespread. According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn’t know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence. Though rape is always an act of violence, there is evidence that Indigenous women are more likely than other women to suffer additional violence at the hands of their attackers. According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Sexual violence against Indigenous women is the result of a number of factors and continues a history of widespread human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples in the USA. Historically, Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers, including during the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization. The attitudes towards Indigenous peoples that underpin such human rights abuses continue to be present in in the USA today. They contribute to the present high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and help to shield their attackers from justice. They also reflect a broader societal norm that devalues women and girls and creates power dynamics that enable sexual violence against women of all backgrounds.

And Chapter 4 of the Report:

The Major Crimes Act (1885) granted the federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Indian Country.51 There is a widespread misconception that under the Act only the federal authorities have the authority to prosecute major crimes.52 In fact, tribal authorities retain concurrent jurisdiction over Indigenous perpetrators. Nevertheless the impact of the Act in practice has been that fewer major crimes have been pursued through the tribal justice system.

Most state authorities do not exercise criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans in Indian Country. However, Public Law 280 (1953) transferred federal criminal jurisdiction over all offences involving Native Americans in Indian Country to state governments in some states.53 The US Congress gave these states – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Alaska upon statehood— extensive criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian Country. Public Law 280 also permitted certain additional states — Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Washington — to acquire jurisdiction if they wished, and while a number of states originally opted to do so, currently only Florida has full Public Law 280 jurisdiction.54 Where Public Law 280 is applied, both tribal and state authorities have concurrent jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal land by American Indians or Alaska Natives. Public Law 280 is seen by many Indigenous peoples as an affront to tribal sovereignty, not least because states have the option to assume and to relinquish jurisdiction, a power not extended to the Indigenous peoples affected. In addition, Congress failed to provide additional funds to Public Law 280 states to support the law enforcement activities they had assumed. The BIA, however, reduced funding to tribal authorities as a result of the shift in jurisdiction. This has led to a situation where tribal and state authorities have not received sufficient funds to assume their respective law enforcement responsibilities, resulting in a sense of “lawlessness” in some communities and difficult relations between tribal and state officials.55

The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offence – including murder or rape — to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a US$5,000 fine.57 The message sent by this law is that, in practice, tribal justice systems are only equipped to handle less serious crimes. As a result of this limitation on their custodial sentencing powers, some tribal courts are less likely to prosecute serious crimes, such as sexual violence.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that tribal courts could not exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens.58 This ruling in the case of Oliphant v Suquamish effectively strips tribal authorities of the power to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indian perpetrators on tribal land. This decision raises issues of sovereignty which are beyond the scope of this report. It also denies victims of sexual violence due process and the equal protection of the law. Jurisdictional distinctions based on the race or ethnicity of the accused, such as the jurisdictional limitation here, have the effect in many cases of depriving victims of access to justice, in violation of international law and US constitutional guarantees. (Tribal courts are the most appropriate forums for adjudicating cases that arise on tribal land, and, as this report finds, state and federal authorities often do not prosecute those cases of sexual violence that arise on tribal land and fall within their exclusive jurisdiction.) This situation is of particular concern given the number of reported crimes of sexual violence against American Indian women involving non-Indian men. In such situations, either federal or state authorities have the authority to intervene. Reportedly, the apparent gap in jurisdiction or enforcement has encouraged non-Indian individuals to pursue criminal activities of various kinds in Indian Country. 59 Tribal police do have limited powers of arrest over non-Indian suspects in some states.60 They also retain the power to detain non-Indian suspects in Indian Country in order to transfer them to either federal or state authorities, but this is not generally understood by tribal, state or federal officials.

What survivors report to have experienced for decades throughout US history:

  • Support workers told Amnesty International about the rapes of two Native American women in 2005 in Oklahoma. In both cases the women were raped by three non-Native men. Other similarities between the crimes were reported: the alleged perpetrators, who wore condoms, blindfolded the victims and made them take a bath. Because the women were blindfolded, support workers were concerned that the women would be unable to say whether the rapes took place on federal, state or tribal land. There was concern that, because of the jurisdictional complexities in Oklahoma, uncertainty about exactly where these crimes took place might affect the ability of these women to obtain justice. Interviews with support workers (identity withheld), May 2005
  • The mother of a survivor of sexual violence from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation told Amnesty International how she returned home in September 2005 to find her 16-year-old daughter lying half naked and unconscious on the floor. She took her daughter to the hospital in Mobridge, South Dakota, where a sexual assault forensic examination was performed. She described how the suspected perpetrator fled to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Standing Rock Police Department (SRPD). He returned to the Reservation in early 2006 and was held by police for 10 days, although both mother and daughter only discovered this when they rang the SRPD to ask about the status of the case. They found out that the suspect was to go before a tribal court, but the mother told Amnesty International that to get this information, she had to go to Fort Yates and ask them in person. She told Amnesty International that she hoped that the case would be referred to the federal authorities because this would mean a lengthier sentence for the perpetrator. She said that, months after the attack, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer and a BIA Special Investigator arrived unannounced. As the daughter was not home at the time, the mother told them where to find her. However, she never heard from them again. Federal prosecutors did eventually pick up the case and in December 2006 the perpetrator entered into a plea bargain and was awaiting sentencing at the time this report was written. Interview with mother of survivor (identity withheld)

Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

US politicians know that this is happening and have shown total indifference toward fixing the situation. Taking more Native lands seems to be more important than helping rape survivors.


Myth 2: The police have a duty to protect US citizens from harm.

Fact: The Supreme Court decided in the case of Castle Rock V. Gonzales that the public duty doctrine doesn’t extend to private citizens and that the safety of Gonzales’s three children was not a protected entitlement under the fourteenth amendment. In effect, the police don’t have to help you when you’re being robbed, raped, or murdered.

Politicians attempted to redirect the argument to what the police have to go through every day on the job but that was an attempt to divert the main issue: the US government – Local, State, and Federal – didn’t want to be held liable to lawsuit whenever police failed in their duty across the country. Ergo, the decision was ultimately about protecting government monies above the rights of human lives; in this case the three innocent children that the police failed to protect by not enforcing the restraining order.

Sources:

A summary of the case: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect-someone.html

The case file itself: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-278.ZS.html

Assessment of the legal implications:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525280/

Lying by Sam Harris

This book is, by far, one of the silliest that I’ve ever read. Sam Harris makes bold claims about how lying is always morally wrong and goes so far as to argue that a college lesson by a professor influenced him into realizing that lying is always wrong. Harris actually claims that even in the situation of Nazis knocking on your door on the hunt for Jews that you’re protecting, lying can be seen as morally wrong.

By the end of the book, Harris’s claim left in the most ridiculous “thought experiment” to try and argue his extreme interpretation on the morality of lying. When setting up the example of a Nazi knocking on your door, Harris states that redirecting the Nazi to some other location would put other people in danger. Okay, great, so why not just say “No, I haven’t seen them.” and continue to hide the Jews that you’re protecting? He never addresses the most obvious option and goes on to make some absurd statement about threatening the Nazi with a gun. Because apparently, a single person with a gun that shoots and kills an officer of what is effectively a military dictatorship is going to live after that experience and keep the Jews in hiding safe. Even if that one officer dies, his fellow Nazis would hear the shot, see the body, kill you, and raid your house. The example and explanation that Harris used simply lacks any degree of critical thinking that I’m surprised that he felt confident enough to publish an argument that he wanted people to regard seriously.

I couldn’t help but read the Amazon reviews and realize that Harris’s fans have effectively become the equivalent of atheist evangelicals. How can they not recognize the obvious defects of Harris’s scenario? The rest of the book is just cherry-picking examples of situations that cause severe social problems. It certainly isn’t good to lie but telling the truth isn’t always the answer.

Now, a weakness of this review is that I can only bring my own personal opinion to my argument. I don’t have any qualitative data so please just regard this as my own biased and self-centered outlook on life because that is all I can provide. However, I would like to add that Harris’s use of social psychology seemed dubious to me from the citations that he used but I digress . . .

There are three chief points that I feel necessary to argue as a counterpoint to what I view as a silly argument by Sam Harris.

The first is that people enjoy being told lies. The brief feelings of appreciation, self-worship, happiness, and what they feel to be innocence when being told a lie that makes them feel happy is enough to satisfy the majority of people. That is precisely why the elected officials, in all democratic countries, are evasive and indirect in their responses. The public calls it lying, but the politician knows that a brief moment of self-reverence is all that the public needs to feel that their lives are meaningful and to convince them to vote for the politician. We see this all the time during elections. That is how empty the lives of the majority of people are; a few seconds of kind words is all that people need to feel appreciated and to convince them to vote for a man or woman that they recognize as two-faced and condemn as a liar every other month. The majority of people are, indeed, that shallow within your home country and across the world. If I’m wrong, then prove me wrong; the people’s actions speak louder than their angry responses. A few seconds of cheering up is all the meaning that the majority of people require in their lives. To be clear, I am not saying this to be insulting; I’m saying it because it’s what I’ve observed. I might be wrong and I hope that I am.

Second, people don’t want the truth; they just want their preconceived notions to be the truth. When people holler in real life or online that they’re just going to say the truth, what they’re really espousing is their own worldview because they believe it to be the truth. A person could honestly believe that 9/11 was a government hoax or that President Obama is a Muslim pretending to be a Christian but both these “truths” that the person believes is empirically false. Thus, people don’t honestly want the truth; they just want their view of the world to be the objective truth.

Finally, and this part is truly a complete anecdote and shouldn’t be regarded as anything else but a personal view, I can safely say that, for the majority of times in my life from grade school to now, I have hardly ever seen a situation in my life improve from telling the truth. It was almost always the opposite. Even when I didn’t mean offense, and simply felt that something needed to be said, it was never appreciated. It was always seen as spreading “shit-talk” among my ex-high school peer groups, as making complaints about my grade school teachers, as insulting my friends, or just being viewed as an asshole. Even when said upon the nicest possible terms and in the most compassionate of reasons, I was simply viewed as a jerk and an idiot for bringing up “the truth” of a situation. The truth has hardly ever brought any positivity in my life. I usually received degrading insults and deprecating remarks as rebukes. I honestly find no compelling reason to believe that Sam Harris’s argument for this particular book, Lying, is anything but sophistry or naïve stupidity. The very few times I recall a situation improving was due to clarifying something I didn’t know in school. However, the majority of times were just totally disparaging. People hate being told the truth and view you as a terrible friend when you’re honest. Now, certainly in situations of health, fitness, and habits, people should be told the truth to improve but otherwise I see no use for it. For the most part, people seem to enjoy living in their own illusions about themselves and the world. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m probably also part of that equation.

It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t bother using my real name or showing a picture of myself on this blog or twitter. I just don’t want to bother with any possible hounding or stupid comments. It’s just not worth my time and effort. Maybe I’ll get over these misgivings in the future. I’m pretty sure people dislike the mystery and I apologize for that.

Anyway, Harris’s book gets a 0/10. It fails on every level and I don’t find cherry-picking examples to be compelling evidence. His failure to address his own lauded argument about Nazis at the door is what clinched this negative review. This book is a total failure. Sorry for being honest.

Questioning Christianity: A method to effectively and peacefully stop Christian conversions

Smashwords ebook version:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/578425

Unfortunately, both versions will cost 0.99 cents and I have tried to get Amazon to lower it but there have been no changes after three full months of waiting. I tried listing that it was free on smashwords but it apparently takes weeks for Amazon to make changes. I’ve since made adjustments to keep it fair for both sets of readers. I deeply apologize for that but if anyone is interested:

http://www.amazon.in/Questioning-Christianity-effectively-peacefully-conversions-ebook/dp/B015JTZ52E/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Edit: I’ve written this to help stop Christian conversions. The above are the ebook versions. Should you find any of this helpful, then I encourage you to save it, make copies, and even translate it. If you believe that it’ll be of any value in stopping forced conversions then please do so. Thank you for reading.

I have written this short, question-style book out of frustration with the current political events in India. I can understand being annoyed and angered by Christian missionaries who proselytize and forcibly convert Hindus to Jesus Christ. However, reacting with violence or covertly supporting parties that allow violence is completely unethical and I consider it to be anti-Hindu. Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma, should always be about peace and kindness. India has a rich history of rational and skeptical thought that has been ignored by the majority of Hindus for years and I think that, if you or anyone that you know truly wish to effectively stop forced conversions and unethical practices that lead to conversions, that you must respond with skeptical inquiry towards Christianity. If you are truly passionate about stopping the spread of Christianity then you must use skeptical inquiry. Christianity is dying out in the US and Europe, not because of violence but because of skeptical inquiry. The Atheist movements in Western civilization have reduced Christianity into looking childish and stupid. India has a rich argumentative tradition in skeptical inquiry and I believe that it’s the only effective way to challenge these conversion tactics. Violence will only make Hinduism look evil and it is an anti-Hindu action to do. So please, consider what I have to say. This book offers you a list of questions to confront or politely ask proselytizers with when you see them or to effectively stop them from their predatory tactics. You have to risk looking annoying to truly do this. This book is mostly a guide, conversations are obviously more fluid and voluminous but I hope that utilizing these arguments will help to stun and confuse the Christian missionary and bring doubt to those who are viewing them or forming a crowd around them.

Evangelical Christianity is currently propagating throughout India, China, several parts of Africa, and other places because it is dying out in the West. Christianity has lost its stronghold in the Western world and the majority of Westerners are “Christian” in name only. The only time they really practice faith, at least in the US, is when they circumcise their child and have funerals for their family. Buddhism is slowly overtaking the US and Islam is slowly overtaking Europe. Evangelical preachers are scared so they, and their many British and American corporate backers, have funded and backed Christian missionary efforts in India to convert the majority of the rural and uneducated population because they see them as easy pickings. I’ll be blunt, if you truly wish to stop Christian missionaries, then Hindus need to set-up social support systems and institutions of their own to effectively help people with food, money, and housing or you can expect Christianity to be the majority religion in the years to come. Hindus are down to 79% as of the last data percentages on the number of self-described Hindus in India. What makes it easy is the negative attitudes towards Dalits, which I’m sure missionaries take advantage of. If you truly wish to stop these conversion practices, then you’ll need to effectively challenge these groups where they proselytize; in market places, outside shops, and especially in rural areas. Although, in the case of rural areas – and their possible danger – I think simply providing food, money, or building requirements to make a house would be a better alternative. That may sound foolish, but it’s the chief reason that conversions to Christianity are happening. People need help and are being ignored. What choice do they have? What options does the majority of the Hindu population leave them with? Make no mistake, there are starving children to consider and poverty needs to diminish for India to truly get out of the current trap. People cannot just blame the current government and not do anything constructive about the social issues themselves.

Regardless, I hope these arguments are helpful and provide you with some aid in dealing with the growing concern of forced and coercive conversions of innocent Hindus. I shall provide some social context for the questions and links to certain unsavory aspects of Christianity so that you can formulate your own questions but they’re linked to websites that can only be read in American English. The objective of these questions is to discredit the Christian missionary. That can only be done through systematic inquiry and skepticism. Blasphemy laws, enacting stricter laws on their practices, and complaining to the government aren’t going to do much when very few people pay taxes to the civic institutions in India and when police and courts are bogged down due to the lack of Judges and infrastructure. That needs to be ameliorated for law enforcement to be more effective in stopping and criminalizing these incidents, but even then, it makes Christians look like martyrs which are what they want. Violence upon them is completely stupid and would only create sympathy for Christianity and enhances their arguments about Hinduism being devil worship – which is what they secretly think about Hinduism and what they want to expunge for the sake of their God. They see Hinduism as evil because of the tenants of their faith about worshipping so-called “False idols” that they perceive to be devil worship. Skeptical inquiry will do far more and is by far a more peaceful tactic than violence.

If you wish to use these lines of questioning, then I recommend writing them down, using small cards to record them, printing them and sharing them among friends or passionate Hindus, and memorizing them. Writing them down can also be of help for memorization. The point is to make the crowd or people that Christian missionaries are looking to convert into observing these weaknesses in conversation and doubting Christianity’s goodness. However, please be sure to maintain civility and politely inquire when you see these people proselytizing so that they’re interested in your questions. Always remember, questioning them on their faith hurts them worse than violence ever will. Violence makes their convictions stronger and makes them feel justified in whatever barbaric practices they commit. Questioning Christianity is far more effective, because nearly all Evangelical Christians privately recognize the inaccuracies of their religious faith to the world that they live in. On the outset, they show solidarity and try to gain more converts to make themselves believe in their faith more strongly. By making the missionary question their religious beliefs, you are doing more harm and shaking the very core of their personhood. They secretly know the inconsistencies and try to gain more converts to believe in the religion more strongly.

I don’t know how good this book will be for you, but I hope that it helps do some good in stopping the conversions to one of the most violent religions ever created by humankind. Please consider what I’ve written in this book, and perhaps form your own questions using this as groundwork. I hope this one small attempt has been helpful.

Understanding Evangelical Christianity:

I will briefly give my opinions about Christianity and in particular Evangelical Christianity and why they do what they do. Please read and consider this insight so that you may be able to more effectively respond to these Christian missionaries and stop them.

Christians believe that they need to convert everyone in the world to Christianity so that Christians can be flown away to heaven after Israel is attacked and destroyed by some evil demonic force made by Satan. They think that once Israel is destroyed then the end of the world will commence. They believe that all non-Christians are “doomed” to suffer on earth while Jesus saves his chosen to send them to heaven after fighting Satan and the Anti-Christ in a massive world war. They believe Jesus defeats the Anti-Christ in a final battle and Christians are then “raptured” to a new world with Jesus Christ to live eternally. This belief is the true motivator behind their conversions and it is where you must question the missionaries most on this issue. By forcing them to feel ashamed or significantly less confident, it will shake their beliefs.

Physical harm upon them only strengthens their belief, they enjoy feeling persecuted and harmed. It makes them feel as if they’ve succeeded in showing that they’re better than Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs. They view all non-Christian faiths, including Judaism, as devil worship and truly believe they’re doing God’s work. They are self-deluded, insane, and unwilling to compromise. They will stop at nothing to destroy India’s rich culture,  commit cultural genocide, and the genocides they did to the Native Americans, Africa, the Celtics, and what they’re currently doing to Thailand are irrefutable proof of this history and its current impacts. The Goa Inquisition is the truth of Christianity’s natural interaction with the rest of the world. They have successfully committed genocide and destroyed the cultures of Tasmanian aboriginals, several African cultures, the Native Americans (who they refer to as “Indian”), and they wish for endless war with Muslims and Islam because they view Islam as the worst form of devil worship. Unfortunately, I am not making this up, several US weapons industries manufacture weapons to use for bombing campaigns upon Muslims throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I shall provide a youtube link in the sources to show what 50 million of these people in the US honestly believe is their religious duty to make war with Islam. To that end, they try to make Hindus and Muslims in India hate each other so they can decry both as devil worship to convert both to Christianity. The proud Christian British during their rule used a political theory called the Realist theory of International Relations to worsen the divide between Hindus and Muslim Indians by either forced starvation, placing them in the most deplorable work camps that caused massive diseases to spread, refused to sell grain to Indians who were starving, allowed massive illiteracy and poverty, and justified it all not just through the Realist theory of international relations. The Christian British justify it to themselves through their belief in original sin and the fact Jesus forgives Christians of whatever crime they commit upon others. Be it lying, theft, murder, rape, or genocide, Jesus Christ forgives Christians of all crimes. That is the fundamental belief in Christianity. That is why the West can continue committing massive bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan and simply ask Jesus to forgive them of their crimes. Many Christians, especially the Evangelicals, also see endless war with Islam as a duty. They can never say it outright, because it is a crazy belief, but Evangelical Christians strongly believe that Hinduism and especially Islam need to be wiped out through any means necessary. Some use charities and kindness, others use violence and forced conversions.

The Evangelical Christians despise anything different from them and view different beliefs as blasphemy. They hate anything that is different from Jesus Christ. They are unrepentant in their murder, rape, and genocides. They take joy in being persecuted, beaten, harassed, and murdered because they believe they’re going to heaven for it. The Christian extremist enjoys death more than anyone enjoys life. That is what a true Evangelical Christianity is – a death cult. Evangelical Christianity is a fundamental hatred for all human life; a desire for world genocide so that Jesus sends them to another world of “perfection” with Jesus. Evangelical Christianity is truly the worst blight upon the world that seeks to force everyone to submit to await a mass Holocaust of innocent Jewish people and then an even more massive genocide of the world. That is the true core of Christianity and especially Evangelical Christianity.

Please, don’t hate them. Be true to the peaceful nature of whatever religion that you believe and recognize what a sorry state that these people are in. Evangelical Christians may act happy and charming to you, but what they fundamentally desire is their own suicide. That is why they enjoy the thought of being killed by people of other religious faiths, they hate their lives so much that being killed by others is seen as a joy because it gives what little meaning that they view their own lives into their strange idea of maximizing their own importance for something they self-delude themselves into believing is greater than them. That is also why they do so many unsavory practices to convert people; they hate their lives so much that they wish others to experience the same pain as them. They believe that their concessions to Jesus Christ is somehow a strength above others and makes them morally superior because they think it shows their “humility” but in reality, other religious faiths scare them because they’re proof that Christianity could be wrong and they can’t understand other religions because of how close-minded they are. They need to see foreigners converting so they can feel strength in their Christianity because they suffer from so much doubt and yearn for their lives to end; which is why they believe in their world mass genocide with Jesus coming down to send them to a worldly heaven. They are a pitiable, depressed, and self-hating death cult that seeks conversions to comfort and affirm their own beliefs because they doubt Christianity so much in their private thoughts. They hate themselves and yearn for suicide by Christ through the idea of martyrdom.

Evangelical Christianity is not a freedom. It is the worst form of living. Not outwardly, but inwardly, it is the worst belief system imaginable. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ teaches his followers to look for hypocrisy everywhere and condemn anyone who seems to be a hypocrite to you. Evangelical Christians believe any lewd thoughts is proof of “original sin” and an insult to their God because Jesus Christ tells them that thinking of other women while having a spouse or a girlfriend is cheating on your wife or girlfriend. That is a fundamental belief in a “thought crime” – the crime of thinking outside of a certain way. It is also false. Modern psychology has found that people’s thoughts simply come and go, they are not an indication of your personal desires. Thus, Christianity is perpetual mental self-torture over having “wrong” or “evil” thoughts; in other words, they’re delusional and live with unrealistic expectations. In Christianity, you aren’t ever free from evil and instead of being free to believe in gods, you become a prisoner of a single God’s expectations and you must constantly view yourself as sinful, only capable of evil, and seek God’s forgiveness for committing any evil upon others so that you never feel guilty of the crimes that you commit. It is no wonder that so many criminals in the first world profess to Jesus Christ and are told they will be forgiven for their crimes. If mass murders and serial rapists can be forgiven through Jesus Christ, then how is he a good moral teacher and how is this religion not simply recognized as a criminal organization? All you have to do is seek Christ’s forgiveness for the crime of your existence to forgive yourself of any crime that you commit upon innocent people. I genuinely don’t know what else to say about the structure of this belief system except to say that it’s insanity given a systematized structure. I am not even trying to be insulting, I genuinely tried to keep an objective and impartial view of this religious belief but the more I learned, and the more stories of forced conversions that I read about, the more I grew concerned about just what these people are actually capable of doing to innocent Hindus, innocent Muslims, innocent Sikhs, innocent Jews, innocent Buddhists, innocent Zoroastrianists, and other innocents in India.

The only true way to fight against these predatory conversion practices and even forced conversion is to make them question their own beliefs. Violence will never work; rational thought and the argumentative tradition of India will be the only true weapon against these beliefs. That is why they are predatory and aim for the poor, because the West has questioned and shown how weak their beliefs are. If India wishes to become a first world country in the coming years, then it must realign with the path of ancient India’s rich history of skeptical inquiry and multicultural tolerance for questioning people’s beliefs and discussing them. The traditions practiced or tolerated by Buddha, Ashoka, Akbar, and the Charvaka philosophy. If any of these sound controversial, they shouldn’t. In their own way, each of these people or philosophies expanded democratic free thought and freedom of expression. We Indians should be proud of our rich cultural heritage and try to educate our population to bring forth a better world for ourselves and our fellow Indians. Evangelical Christians, in reality, are in deep depression and doubt about their faith, and bringing forth their doubts will weaken their resolve and make them seriously question their own methods. If you think this is silly, just look at all of their discussions in the West. It has decreased their numbers and made them look evil to the majority of the Western societies. Skeptical inquiry is the only peaceful, rational, and pro-active way to stop these forced conversions. I suggest making a group of people with at least one person having a recording device and questioning these Christian extremists on their beliefs. If they become violent with you, then you have the recording device and you can then upload to online video websites to show the true actions of these people. Don’t give up. If you wish to protect Indian culture from their cultural genocide, then you must either donate to the poor in India so they can live in a better standard of living and make skeptical inquiries to these Christian missionaries. Who will stop the Christian conversions in India by predatory Christian missionaries? The Indian people must work together to accomplish this peacefully and rationally by themselves. I have written this book to help you do that. I honestly don’t know what success you may have but I hope this book is of help to you. I wish you all the best of luck in protecting Indian culture, a rich culture that is being attacked by Christian missionaries’ predatory practices.

The questions here can be utilized via framing the argument. Psychologists have found that you can motivate people into conducting actions or affirming stricter beliefs by framing seemingly innocent questions to affirm their commitment to a particular belief and then raise less savory questions to make them feel committed to that specific belief. Also, humans live by a universal principle of reciprocity. If someone does a kind action for you, then you feel as if you owe them and if someone does a terrible crime to you, then you feel as if you must repay the action for the sake of fairness. Christians utilize this technique to make Hindus and Muslims war with each other to then make them believe their religions are evil and goad them into converting by impressing Hindus and Muslims with their money and extravagant wealth. They know that Hindus and Muslims group each other negatively by association bias, believing the entire group of Hindus or Muslims are collectively responsible for a scant few troublemakers and criminals. While gangs of Hindus and Muslims do commit crimes, it is important to recognize each of those groups are just violent gangs and not representative of the majority of Indians.

For anyone still asking why they should trouble themselves with this task or who believe their community’s religious beliefs will never change because you’ve lived like that since ancient times; know that Native Americans, true Tasmanians, and the Celtics all believed that too before their societies were wiped out, their gods defaced, and their culture destroyed by Christian missionaries.

You must be the hope that you wish to see.  If you still question why you should make this commitment, I can only say this: We pursue these things so that others can have what we did not. 

What you must have:

  • A recording device of some kind (camcorder, camera phone, or other recording device).
  • A friend or relative to record the conversation that you have with the Christian Missionary.
  • A printer to print out some of the sources I’ve provided in the last chapter.
  • Internet access to post these videos online on popular video websites such as Youtube or other video websites.
  • Resolve and willingness to protect Indian culture from these predatory missionaries.

Some questions are written in sequence and others are stand-alone. For sequential questions: Start with 1, then ask question 2, and then 3. Questions such as “4A” or “4B” means you choose which you prefer will be more effective. Noticing the stand-alone and sequential differences should be obvious. This is a guidepost for skeptical inquiry; ask questions that you believe will be effective in discrediting the Christian missionaries. If you feel you’re not making progress with your own questions, then you can always use these questions. Be sure to print out the “sources” and hand them out appropriately when asking specific questions. I hope this book provides value and an effective response to these predatory missionaries. I sincerely hope you are successful in your endeavors. I recommend teaching these questions and their contexts to people in rural areas or better yet, providing food and money for construction so that you prove that Hinduism is a genuinely positive force on earth and diminish the likelihood of predatory Christian missionaries taking advantage. Please seriously give my suggestions some consideration. Thank you.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Original Sin

Chapter 2: Christian Heaven

Chapter 3: Christian Rape crimes, the Holocaust, and The United States wars

Chapter 4: Transgender People and God

Chapter 5: The end of the world

Chapter 6: Sources

Chapter 1: Original Sin

This line of questioning pertains to the Abrahamic concept of Original Sin. Christians believe that every human being on earth is born sinful and can only escape sin through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Remember to have someone record the conversation.

Politely introduce yourself and tell them that you have some questions.

1.) “Do you believe in Original Sin?”

If they say “Yes”:

2.) “Then, do you believe that people who don’t accept Jesus will murder, rape, and torture others?”

If they give an affirmative (or evasive) “Yes”:

3.) “So, do you believe the majority of us Indians are murderers, rapists, and torturers? Do you believe we are capable of all that because we don’t accept your God?”

If they say “No” to #1:

“Then you have no reason to believe in Jesus Christ. He wouldn’t have died for anyone’s sins because there is none.”

If they say “No” to #2 or #3:

“Then there is no reason to believe in Jesus Christ and you have no reason to try to convert us. We’re living proof that your faith is wrong. Is that why you proselytize here and not in your own country?”

After that, ask them #4. Begin by asking them politely. Such as: “One more question, please! I’m just curious to know more about your faith.”

If they act rudely, point it out to any crowd of people nearby who are watching but don’t holler it across the area. Just say enough so the crowd understands that the Christian converter sees themselves as superior to Indians because they just admit that.

If they accept your next question:

4A.) “So, if I understand this correctly, your belief in Jesus Christ is the only thing stopping you from rampantly assaulting, murdering, or raping us?”

Or

4B.) “So, if I understand correctly, you believe that Jesus Christ is the only thing preventing you from assaulting, murdering, and raping your own family?”

After that, politely bid farewell and say that you find their morals to be repulsive, evil, and that they just admitted to being a psychopath who is willing to kill innocent Indian children or their own children and that Indians are living proof that Christian morality is evil. Be sure that you’ve copied this conversation on a camera or phone and to upload it online on popular video websites mentioning that it’s about Christian conversions in India. Gaining more views for these conversations will spread more awareness of this issue and make people pay more attention to the conversions happening in India, thus causing political leaders to be more engaged with this issue. Always remember to maintain politeness in your questions and not smug superiority. Explain in your video why you asked these questions and what concerns you about Christian conversions.

Chapter 2: Christian Heaven

Jesus Christ is seen as the only way to heaven by Christians. These lines of questions will be especially damning for Evangelicals because it will make them confront a rather horrible idea that they never knew before. US citizens and British citizens have grown up viewing the Holocaust as the worst genocide to ever happen. It was certainly a horrific event, but all genocides are equally as horrible as any other. These questions will force them to confront a sinister aspect of Christian theology that they probably never considered.

1.) “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven?”
2.) “So, you believe our ancestors, and the ancestors of Christian Indians, are all in hell?”
3.) “Do you believe that the Jews who died in the Holocaust are also in hell?”

If they say “No”, try to evade or backtrack, or try to ignore question #1:

“So people can go to heaven without believing in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior? Then nobody needs Christianity.”

If they say “No” or continue to try to evade questions #2 and #3:

“Well, it looks like your religion can’t handle a few basic questions. Maybe you should think more about your faith because it doesn’t seem true to me and I don’t think that you really believe in it. I see no reason to believe that those who died in the Holocaust are in hell or purgatory for the crime of not being Christian like you do. Such a belief seems insane and would mean more suffering for innocent Jewish people who suffered and died in one of the worst genocides in human history.”

Bid farewell politely. Make sure to videotape or have someone record this conversation on a phone to upload it online on youtube and other popular and public video websites to spread the awareness of the issue and to show the weakness of Christian theology. Add your own opinions on why you think Christian theology is a failure.

Chapter 3: Christian rape crimes, the Holocaust, and US wars

You’ll probably only be able to use one of these conversations numbered “1,2,3” respectively because they’re likely to stir resentment from the missionaries but be sure to video tape these events. Have a printed copy of Source 1, Maze of Injustice, to show them. Should the Christian missionary be an American, politely introduce yourself and ask them if they are. Then ask the following:

1.) “If Christianity is peaceful, then why are there massive rapes of Native Americans in Alaska and other parts of the United States – the greatest Christian country in the world?”

If they deny or evade the question by trying to throw a question back at you:

“I’m only asking because you refer to them wrongly as Indians. Christians rape them every day in the United States and it is never talked about. Is that what you intend to do to the Indians here? Children have suffered rapes in the United States, for simply being Native American and your people constantly refer to them as Indian. Why do you refer to them as Indian and how can Christianity call itself peaceful after destroying their culture and continuing mass rapes every day?”

If they get angry or try to walk away then show them your Maze of Injustice copy.

“Sir, I’m not trying to start an argument. I just have questions! I want to know why you Christians destroyed Native American culture, rape their children, and continue to do that today? Your denial shows your inability to accept criticism.”

If they ask for proof, show them the copy of Source 1, Maze of Injustice, that you have printed out and hand it to them.

“See! Christians are raping Indians to this day! Christian churches throughout the world have raped people in India too! Why do you continue to deny the problems of your religion? You proselytize that it’s peaceful but you run away when confronted with the truth of Christian crimes throughout the world? That doesn’t sound like a peaceful religion to me!”

Be sure to film this conversation and have an explanation for the Source material, Maze of Injustice. Explain that Christians continue to deny rape atrocities in the United States and try to make third world countries look like the only perpetrators and that you thought the Christian nations were better than third world countries but the evidence says otherwise – Christians just deny their rape crimes of people they refer to as “Indians” and you fear for your fellow Indians.

If the Christian missionaries are Jehovah’s witnesses, show them a print out of source 3. If they’re another denomination of Christianity then source 2.

For this next one, briefly introduce yourself and say that you were reading the news about terrorism and it made you think about Christianity.

2.) “How can you call Christianity peaceful when Christian countries always bomb Muslim countries and call themselves humanitarian for causing massive deaths?”

If they deny the accusation or ignore or evade the question:

2A.) “The greatest Christian country in the world, the United States, is bombing Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, the Philippines and who knows where else and your people call bomb droppings on innocent Muslim civilians humanitarian?”

Ask this one more loudly. You can even ask it after asking question 2A.

2B.) “Do you believe that all Muslims are going to hell because they deny Jesus Christ is the Son of God?”

If they say “Yes” to 2B then speak this loudly:

“Then how is your religion peaceful, if you condemn so many innocent Muslims to hell? How can you condemn innocent children to bomb droppings that kill innocents? Christian morals don’t seem to have any sense of empathy or responsibility! You just throw all your responsibility and compassion away by telling yourself that Christ will take care of it! That is completely delusional!”

If they deny 2B or evade the question:

“Well, if you believe they’re not going to hell then why are you trying to convert them and others? There would be no reason to believe in Jesus Christ and that’s the reason that you’re doing this. So maybe you should think more about what you’re doing?”

After that, tell them their morality is self-centered and arrogant; tell them they have no humility or compassion for non-Christians because they believe that everything is evil and presuppose evil intent upon everyone through their belief in sinfulness and thus allows them to do deceitful practices that go against the commandment about lying. Tell them that they forgive themselves of any crime they do upon others through Christ and therefore have no true moral values.

If you are confronted by non-Christians about this line of questioning, just point out that you’re honestly concerned with the forced conversions that Christians are trying to do on so many people and that these practices seem to be everywhere in India.

Christian Europe and certain parts of Christian America have a history of persecution of the Jews. By contrast, Hindus and Jews have lived in peace and harmony for 2400 years. Christians believe that they need to convert all the Jews to Jesus Christ because they believe biblical Jewish prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. They see Jews as misguided and want them to convert to Christianity to await the end of the world so Jesus can fight the Anti-Christ as the world is destroyed.

3.) “If Christianity is the most peaceful faith, then why did Christians persecute Jews throughout Europe’s history while Hindus never did for 2400 years?”

If they try to make-up a reason (it’s most likely going to be bogus or a non-answer):

“Doesn’t that prove that Eastern Faiths and Judaism are more peaceful than Christianity? We never persecuted or warred with our Jewish Indians and are proud of our mutual respect for 2400 years. Why should we convert to a faith that tries to force them to convert? That seems anti-Semitic.”

If they deny the persecutions being part of Christianity:

“Miss/Sir! The Nazis wore the belt buckle stating ‘God with Us’ and the Pope at the time made Hitler’s birthday a national holiday. The Holocaust was a Christian genocide of Jews. In fact, the Goa Inquisition of Catholic Christians burned down Jewish synagogues in India because they believed Jews were evil because that’s what their faith in Jesus led them to believe. That proves that believing in Jesus Christ doesn’t make people more peaceful. If you’re trying to convert Jews and believe they have the wrong faith, then you’re just the same as the Nazis! You have no respect for Jews, unlike Indians/Hindus!”

If they get angry or try to evade:

“Sir, your faith is anti-Semitic because you believe Israel needs to be destroyed so that Jesus can fight the Anti-Christ after some mass world genocide of Jews. Your bible says Jews will be sent to hell to be judged by Satan in Revelations. So you want a bigger Holocaust than Hitler so that you can go to heaven! That’s evil and selfish!”

If they get angry, leave, or deny your accusations:

“Miss/Sir! You’re proving how little faith you have by running away! It seems you cannot confront the evil of Jewish persecution in your religious faith and so try to preach to others through dishonest means! Your religion isn’t peaceful; please stop wishing for the genocide of innocent Jews with your crazy belief in the end of times! It makes your morality no different than the Nazis! You must realize that the idea of Jews in Israel being slaughtered would be a worse Holocaust!”

If they attack you, be sure that you have someone recording and have it posted online for other Indians throughout the country to see how Christians react to skeptical inquiry. Remember, if you truly care about Hinduism or any other religious faith in India, then you should be willing to take assaults peacefully. I know that doesn’t sound ideal, but Gandhi and millions of other Indians, including your own family I am sure, peacefully took British beatings as a protest against colonialist occupation. If you truly want Hinduism to continue, you need to make peaceful concessions and not react in violence. I know it’s hard, but please seriously consider this, these actions are the true teachings of Hinduism.

Again, be sure that you have all this filmed. Explain that your motivations for questioning the Christian missionaries were to spread freethinking and that you honestly believe Christians should confront the problems in their Bible and their strange desire for Jewish genocide which is not in the Eastern faiths and which you find morally appalling. Say that Hinduism and Judaism are the most peaceful faiths because they never warred or persecuted each other in 2400 years and that Christian history has proven the spreading of Christianity leads to persecution of Jews – just as the Portugal colonists did to Jewish Indians. Which is, in fact, the honest truth of the historical record and as such you’re highlighting Hinduism’s peaceful nature because Hindus and Jews never warred with each other or committed acts of religiously motivated violence upon each other. Neither Judaism nor Hinduism proselytizes.

Chapter 4: Transgender people, Blasphemy, and God

There have been mass killings of Transgender people in the United States. Comparatively, India has none. Question the Christian missionaries about this by asking their views on transgender people. Bring any news article of Source 6 and the article about India’s superior treatment,  printed out to show them what you’re referring to.

1.) “Do you believe that transgender people are sinful?”

If they say “Yes” then show them the news article about US violence upon Transgender people.

“Then how can your religion be peaceful? We don’t commit violence upon Transgenders and there have been mass killings of Transgenders by Christians in the United States. How can you allow such violence and call your religion peaceful? You seem very hateful of everyone different from you. I’m glad that Indians aren’t as hateful to the transgender people of our society.”

If they say “No” then show them the two news articles.

“But there are mass killings of transgender people in the United States! Here’s an article I found in my research! We Indians don’t want to commit killings and it’s proven that Christians are more likely to kill innocent transgenders. How is your faith more moral when it allows such disgusting murder sprees in a first world country? I think you are denying the clear moral failures of your religion! Why do you hate transgender people? How can you allow such hatred for others? How can Christians go on murdering whoever they want?! What is wrong with you?! Please leave, you seem to be a committed force of evil and deny your religion’s moral failures which lead to deaths of innocents in the United States and I don’t want Indians here to suffer your violent ways.”

2.) “Is it okay if I call your God by his name, Yahweh?” (pronounced “YAH – WAY”)[1]

If they say “No”/Get offended/Say you should only refer to Jesus Christ/or try to leave.

“Miss/Sir! I am only asking because you say that your religion is more moral but how can that be when you can’t say your God’s name? Blasphemy is fundamentally against democratic belief! It is no different from a thought crime! How can you believe in thought crimes and blasphemy which are against democratic principles and have only led to mass death in Christianity’s history?”

If they continue to argue with you:

“The Goa Inquisition that came from Portugal during the 1800s sliced off the body parts of peaceful Hindus in front of their families to force them to convert. They brought mass death through the belief in blasphemy and I feel that we Hindus have a right to question you to make sure that you won’t hurt us like you did back then. The Goa Inquisition, the British systematic genocide, and Christian Corporations that don’t provide safety regulations and allow factories to explode and kill Hindus are proof that believing in Jesus Christ doesn’t lead to better moral character or moral behavior. So I feel I have a right to ask you to make sure that we’re safe from any violence. Your reaction just proves you’re close-minded.”

If they argue those examples aren’t “True Christianity”:

“But all they have to do is ask Jesus for forgiveness and they can forgive themselves of any crime. How is that moral or just? In fact, it shows that being more attuned to Jesus Christ is completely meaningless. It leads to destruction and mass death, and not good moral character. Have you seen some of the forced conversions that Christian missionaries are doing? That proves that Christianity lacks good moral character!”

If they say “Yes”, which would be bizarre and against their faith.

“Okay Miss/Sir, I will tell everyone that we should refer to the Christian God as Yahweh and Jesus Christ because both are equally valid names for your religion’s Holy Trinity.”

3.)For this next one, print out source 4, an image of Jesus Christ with signs of the Christian devil on him. Be sure to have someone with a camera to videotape the exchange. Politely introduce yourself to the Christian missionary and hand him the image.

“Do you have a problem with this image?”

If they say “Yes”

“How can Christianity be about freedom and peace when you have problems with a bunch of silly pictures? That goes against democratic freedom of expression. Why is Christianity against freedom of expression?”

If they say the image is offensive/that Christianity is not against freedom of expression/or get angry.

“Miss/Sir! Your angry reaction over a silly picture is proof that Christianity is against freedom of expression! Which is exactly my point; you shouldn’t feel offended over silly pictures but clearly you don’t believe in democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought!”

Regarding blasphemy defense when on camera for news stations, your own videos, and filming after confrontations use the following lines or something similar to these statements:

“In a democratic country, we have a right to free speech and a right to question ideas such as blasphemy and thought crimes in religion. Christians who arrive here have threatened, assaulted, and attempted to bribe Hindus into conversions and target children in particular. These Christian fundamentalists from the US and Britain insult us by calling us devil worshippers and profess to wanting the destruction of Israel for the sake of Jesus Christ as is described within Revelations in their so-called peaceful holy book. They defend their insults through freedom of speech. We don’t want anti-Semitism in our country and we are concerned for the safety of our Jewish, Transgender, and Muslim populations by these people covertly entering the country to target and harass us while they say Jewish people are evil for denying Jesus. They’re doing this everywhere when there are no cameras. We know these extremist Christians aren’t the majority of the West but there are enough of them to cause social and political instability with their violence. If they wish to insult our gods, then we should have the right to question the ethics of their religion because it is clear to us that they will continue their violence and coercion upon our people and especially our children. They deny their anti-Semitism on camera and are very careful when people are recording them in public but they have said some horribly anti-Semitic remarks about the Jews of Israel and India. They honestly believe Jews will be sent to hell to be judged by Satan because it is in the Christian Bible for the Coming of Jesus.”

“We apologize for any offense this image is causing, but what else can we do but question Christianity when they continue to harass, assault, and threaten us and our children with beatings, rape threats, and constantly insult us by saying to our children that they’re devil worshippers? If they wish to use violence, then we will question the legitimacy of their religious faith. It doesn’t seem like Christians want to live in peace with anyone and the genocide of Native Americans in the US and the Holocaust of Europe is a clear indication what happens to passive innocents in Christianity’s blood-soaked history.”

“We are trying to be peaceful! We are trying to have rational discourse! But I’m sorry to say that none of these Christians want rational discourse and get violent when we try to talk to them peacefully. I know some instances of Hindus being violent exist, but these people are threatening our children by telling them they’re going to hell for not believing in Jesus or trying to trick them into converting. They say they want to kill or convert all the Jews in India. They say they have US corporations giving them billions to wipe out all the Muslims, homosexuals, transgender people and Jews. They say that our way of life is backwards, evil, and then threaten us with violence when we try to talk it out when it’s away from cameras. These people don’t want peace and have shown no signs of legitimate peaceful talks. We’re afraid for our minority population. They say they’re going to finish what the British started and cleanse us of devil worship so that we can await a mass genocide of Jews in the holy land so the Coming of Jesus can happen.”

“They say that they’re funded by Evangelical billionaires and that they intend to destroy Hinduism and Islam from existence just like they did the Native Americans and Tasmanian Aboriginals. We are concerned by the horrible comments they make about transgender Indians and homosexual Indians. They say that homosexuals and transgender people are damned to hell and that they will receive God’s punishment when the Jews in Israel are slaughtered by the Muslims in Islamic countries so that Jesus can come down for the rapture.”

4.) “Do you truly believe that everyone who comes to Jesus Christ will be forgiven for their sins and go to heaven?”

If they say “Yes” then ask this question.

“Do you believe that even a serial killer or serial pedophile will go to heaven, if they seek Jesus’s forgiveness?”

If they say “Yes” then ask 4A or 4B.

4A.) “Do you believe that any serial killer or serial rapist who kills or rapes Indian children will go to heaven if they sincerely ask for Jesus’s forgiveness?”

4B.) “Do you believe that a serial killer or serial rapist who kills or rapes your family including any children you may have will be going to heaven, if they sincerely seek Jesus Christ’s forgiveness?”

If they say “Yes” to either 4B or 4A then say the following:

“Miss/Sir, that sounds like an evil God to me. What sort of moral person could see serial murderers or serial rapists going to heaven after killing innocent people? That is absolutely an evil doctrine and I believe you’re wrong for preaching what are clearly evil beliefs.”

If they say “No”, to any of the above then say the following:

“So then, there are certain conditions in which seeking the forgiveness of your God is useless and Jesus Christ doesn’t forgive everyone. Therefore, the doctrines that you preach cannot be the absolute truth and you cannot know otherwise.”

If they try to argue that it is ‘up to God’

“So then, certain conversions to Jesus Christ are meaningless and you cannot know if your God forgives everyone or not and it is arrogant of you to assume that you do know. So you cannot know if your conversions and your beliefs are completely meaningless or not but you pretend otherwise. You seem like a very arrogant individual to presume to know God’s will and to call it humility.”

Chapter 5: End of the World

1.) “Do you believe in the Coming of Jesus?”

If they say “Yes”, which they should otherwise they’re not Christians.

2.) “So, you believe there will also be an apocalypse in which non-Christians will be killed?”

If they say “Yes”/if they say they believe it’s inevitable.

3.) “So, you believe that Jewish people who don’t convert will all be slaughtered in a worldwide genocide that is worse than the Holocaust and you look forward to it because you believe Jesus will return?”

If they try to evade/say “No”/try to talk to someone else/or they try to walk away.

“Miss/Sir! Are you evading my question because you secretly desire to finish what the Nazis did because you selfishly desire Jesus’s return? I’m only asking because your beliefs sound anti-Semitic!”

If they get angry/if they say you’re taking it out of context/evade the question/or try to walk away

4A.) “Can you not see that wanting the Jews to either convert to your faith or die is anti-Semitic? Your belief in Jesus Christ is making you anti-Semitic and blaming Jews for Jesus’s death is proof of Christianity’s anti-Semitism.”

Or

4B.) “If Christianity is true and Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then you’re saying the Jews who died in the Holocaust will be sent to hell. If they’re not in hell, then there are conditions in which Jesus Christ is not needed to go to heaven and if they’re in hell then your God is fundamentally evil and immoral. To argue that Jews who died in the Holocaust are in purgatory or that it is up to God still doesn’t change this fundamental problem with the evil in your religion!”

Chapter 6: Sources

If you have a computer, then please copy and paste these links to read or view all materials to better understand where Evangelical Christians are coming from, their objectives, and the abuses of modern Christians that remain hidden from the public.

ALL LINKS ARE CAN ONLY BE READ IN ENGLISH

One of the places where Christian missionaries are gaining their finances from:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2012/09/18/david-green-the-biblical-billionaire-backing-the-evangelical-movement/

Source 1: The mass rapes of Native Americans ongoing in the United States even after their culture was destroyed and they were forced to convert to Christianity under false promises of a better life. 80% of the perpetrators of these massive rapes that the Western media hides come from US citizens and the perpetrators are overwhelmingly US citizens that have no affiliation with Native Americans. Statistically speaking, it’s highly likely that all or most of the perpetrators of these rapes are Christians.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/MazeOfInjustice.pdf

Source 2: There are mass killings, rapes, and assaults on Christian women by their Christian husbands in South Carolina. They use the Bible as the primary guide for living. Many Christian missionaries who come to India are from South Carolina and might have a criminal record of abusing women. Christian men from this specific part of the US feel they have a right to assault, rape, and murder their wives because of the Bible’s teachings of men being in charge of the household as if they’re God.

http://www.postandcourier.com/tilldeath/title.html

http://www.postandcourier.com/tilldeath/partone.html

Source 3: Jehovah’s Witnesses have been found to have hidden massive child rape cases throughout the United States and the world. They continue to deny the mounting evidence and allegations of their pastors forcibly raping their own children and using their religious organizations to hide the events.

https://www.revealnews.org/article/jehovahs-witnesses-use-1st-amendment-to-hide-child-sex-abuse-claims/

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jehovahs-witnesses-sex-abuse-scandal-4422943

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/18/jehovahs-witness-child-sex-abuse_n_6705852.html

Source 4: This is considered a blasphemous image to Christians and is clearly against the idea of freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and democratic principles.

http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20060425134008/uncyclopedia/images/0/07/Evil_jesus.jpg

Source 5:

A documentary on the objective of Evangelical Christians and their beliefs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNvtA_q0e20

I suggest copying it, in case it is removed. They explain, in detail, that they wish for a massive Holocaust worse than Hitler’s genocide of Jews so that Jesus Christ can come fly them to a new world after all non-Christians face doom in some apocalypse. That is the primary motivator of Christian conversions.

Source 6:

News articles of transgender killings in the US.

http://time.com/3999348/transgender-murders-2015/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/14/transgender-killings-on-the-rise-this-is-just-so-crazy/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/21/us/explosion-of-transgender-murders-contrast-with-growing-acceptance.html

News article proving Indian tolerance of the Transgender community in India, which is superior to the US:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/29/india-has-outlawed-homosexuality-but-its-better-to-be-transgender-there-than-in-the-u-s/

Recommendations: If you can fluently read English I highly recommend obtaining the following books to improve your communication and critical thinking skills to more effectively deal with these predatory missionaries.

“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman: For more effective ways of understanding how Christian missionaries trick people psychologically.

“Influence: Science and Practice” by Robert A. Cialdini: For more effective communication tactics and how people are psychologically influenced by their environments.

“Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals” by Heidi Grant Halvorson: For more effective tips on improving your own performance on your personal life goals.

 

[1] I deeply apologize if this offends anyone, but I sincerely believe that free thought and skeptical inquiry of Blasphemy beliefs should occur to create a better society. Blasphemy is fundamentally against the preconditions of democracy and fairness.

For more on the theological failings of Christianity

Critical Analysis: Chris Hedges, A True Christian in Principles and a Complete Failure

In the posts labeled “Critical Analysis”, I will be giving my opinions on public intellectuals that I feel have influenced my opinions on politics, socioeconomics, and religion. The first person on the list is Chris Hedges, former NY Times journalist and Bureau Chief of Middle Eastern Affairs. I hope that these articles provide some value to readers and that you enjoy them.

I first learned about Chris Hedges during my Bachelors degree courses in Political Science. One of his books, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, was required reading. The book was one of the most thought-provoking, deep, insightful, and intelligent books that I had ever read and probably will ever read about war, terrorism, and State power. Hedges has lived a very difficult life and I sincerely believe that we should appreciate his opinions on the matter of wars. He was a war correspondent for the New York Times for fifteen years and observed some of the most heinous, cruelest actions committed by human beings and he admits that he eventually lost his faith in Jesus Christ because he couldn’t rationalize the barbarity of seeing innocent children slaughtered on the streets while he and other journalists lived through the horrific experiences. Journalists are trained and conditioned to handle negative effects of warfare just as soldiers are but Hedges could no longer be satisfied with the Christian religion’s explanation for evil in the world. He considers himself a theist but he doesn’t believe in an anthropomorphic metaphysical being as a God. He just couldn’t after seeing such bloodshed and he makes it very clear that Christianity only helped to create a convenient self-fulfilling answer to death and destruction that was more about appeasing our narcissism than explaining the horrors of the world. In one incident, he writes about being captured by terrorists and how he managed to survive as a hostage.

Hedges explains that the reason soldiers go back to war is because war can be a drug during the mayhem. Fighting for survival, killing or being killed, and being able to pull the trigger are aphrodisiacs that give soldiers a rush of adrenaline and a desire to fight. The stories of a “test of wills”, fulfilling obligations to past “heroes”, and defending the divine worship of the nation-state are illusions from corporate and governmental propaganda. The truth is that many of the soldiers that he met and interviewed in Latin America and Eastern Europe enjoyed killing and enjoyed fighting for their lives. They call themselves noble self-sacrificing people, but it is to increase their narcissism. In truth, they enjoyed having the power to kill and fighting for their lives in constant danger. Another unvarnished truth is that civilians – including innocent children – always die in prolonged wars. Hedges cites many examples of mass slaughters and war rape campaigns upon civilians. One of which is a soldier who shot at a door that suddenly opened at an apartment building when soldiers were marching in streets to fight enemy soldiers that they were afraid would ambush them. After the shot was fired, under the belief that an enemy soldier tried to ambush them, the shooter discovered that he had shot and killed a 9-year old girl who had opened the door in a panic. The soldier broke down on the street and vomited right there, because it reminded him of his own 9-year old daughter at home and he was too distraught to continue fighting when he got back to his military camp. Those sorts of events happen all the time and soldiers can never talk about it with their families. It’s one of the focal reasons religious extremism always increases after prolonged wars. The State and Corporate media’s never report such incidents or try to hide them to continue supporting the idea of heroics and humanitarian interventions in wars. The childish belief of good versus evil is a seductive way to find meaning in mayhem and destruction. Hedges writes, these sorts of horrible events that soldiers experience are the driving motivator behind soldier suicides. People take their own lives because of the shame in being unable to talk about these events and guilt over pulling the trigger.  In that sense, some of them – who are devout in their faiths – may believe that they deserve eternal torment in hell. War utterly destroyed them; State and Corporate media in all countries have a vested interest in never reporting this part about warfare. Nationalism – the collective narcissism of a people in Hedges’s own words – prevents any deep insights into the real effects of warfare on soldiers and civilians.

Hedges went on to point out how the US had become similar to the nationalistic fervor of the Balkans during war-time and how he recognized they were being led astray by nationalistic propaganda regarding Iraq. He attempted to give his opinions at one college conference a few weeks into the War in Iraq but was shouted out of the building by angry college students who viewed him as unpatriotic. The New York Times warned him that the US news media needed to show solidarity for the war in Iraq and Hedges resigned because the company was conducting actions that went against his ethics. In his book, he pointed out that the news media covered “our boys” referring to the US military and how they had to deal with weather conditions while the US were conducting bombing campaigns upon Iraqi civilian homes en masse for the initial invasion. He notes how religion is used to give flimsy meaning to the anecdotal experiences of soldiers throughout war. How it helps ease soldiers inhibitions. Near the end of the book, he finalizes his point by stating that war is not a force that gives people meaning and that people need to follow better paths but acknowledges that sometimes war is sadly necessary. Yet, too often arguments of “self-defense” are just manipulative methods to rally people into warfare with foreigners for economic objectives.

Now, by that point in my life, I had been familiarized with some of Sam Harris’s arguments from youtube videos since high school. I had really liked his arguments in favor of a secular world but my initial enthusiasm from my high school days but had misgivings after reading Hedges’s book. Hedges pointed out too many flaws that couldn’t and shouldn’t be ignored but always seemed to be when rallying the public into warfare or for nationalism. I began reading some of Hedges’s truthdig articles and much of his content seemed to be verifiable through legitimate sources although – depending on which country was giving the info – they had Republican and Democrat or even US biases. Yet, that is a truth in journalism – there is no real objective journalism; it is all a matter of perspectives by reorganizing the facts and opinions of social events for a favorable view of your side. I still enjoyed Sam Harris related videos and some content in his blogs but Hedges points couldn’t be ignored and the more I learned from my Political Science classes, the more concerned I grew with how Harris systematically misrepresented political events and socio-political issues. I searched for his sources as well and I found them to be dubious. I began to wonder whether he honestly believed some of the arguments that he was making about Muslims in particular. There are certain political topics that even US academia will be hesitant to write or deeply immerse themselves in. For example, the genocide of the Native Americans and the constant misrepresentation of the facts regarding the genocide is one of them. Sadly, the US academia focuses strictly on the initial contact period but ignores the systematic sterilization, land grabs, and State/local governments financing militias that would slaughter the Native population throughout its history. To both men’s credit, they’ve both highlighted the grotesque incidents of abuses of the Native population. Hedges has investigated the systemic poverty and racially motivated police aggression upon the population and Harris has pointed out that during the 1600s Christian missionaries would baptize Native American babies to Christ and then kill them immediately by smashing their heads in with stones to send them to heaven. Sadly, if anything, the genocide is understated and not overstated. Despite whatever similarities they had, the differences were many and I wondered who would be more convincing in a debate.

I decided to google Chris Hedges and Sam Harris to find that they did know of each other. I recall being briefly excited at the possibility that they had debated together against another group of people similar to Hitchens and Harris debating Christian groups. My enthusiasm left me when the first title I read from Sam Harris’s own website read “Dear Angry Lunatic”, I promptly began laughing at what I felt was irony. I began to read Harris’s fairly angry tangent against Hedges. I immediately searched for their debate to watch what had happened. Despite the moderator’s lack of impartiality, he did allow Harris repeated attempts to counter both men and Harris’s arguments were less than convincing. Any further debate will never be had because Harris refuses to ever debate Hedges again or be anywhere near him in public discourse (he says as much in his final blog post about Hedges which can be seen on his website and truthdig). The fact was that Hedges did have more convincing, factually verifiable arguments. Most Harris fans are also all too willing to argue that anyone who proves Harris wrong is an angry charlatan looking for some anonymous career advancement, that the other person is deceitful or lacks any true credibility ( an argument made against all Harris’s detractors), and that the other person is being a jerk and taking Harris out of context. While I found the arguments between Hedges and Harris entertaining, amusing, and chalked up the controversy as both men having incompatible personalities despite their similarities – I’ve noticed that Harris has now repeated this very event with Greenwald, Aslan, and Affleck. The childish insults and ad hominems don’t just come from Harris’s extreme fans, but rather from Harris’s own blog and he’s subtly encouraged the behavior as a result. Much like his interaction with Hedges, Harris noticeably ignores the content of the arguments and goes onto repeated character assassinations and derogatory insults. In regards to Hedges’s content of arguments, he was proven right. Harris’s last blog post on truthdig doesn’t explicitly say that he wants to nuke the Muslim world but he heavily implies it. For that matter, why did he even suggest a nuclear attack as a viable option? His fans seem to be unable to understand the nuance of Harris’s detractors. Hedges arguments about Harris being a fundamentalist for Atheism and American foreign policy apologist became more credible years after their controversy.

I began to read Hedges truthdig articles fairly regularly but I began to feel deeply depressed after reading through them after several months. One particular article, about the Israeli-Palestine conflict as it was happening, about how international law was being waived seemed to show Hedges own failure in understanding most of the laws. Nation-states are allowed to interpret and pick and choose which laws to follow. I doubt even Security Council resolutions can ever truly be enforced fully. During Occupy Wall Street, Hedges seemed to offer a slimmer of hope but after Occupy failed, it was apparent that most of his blog posts were repeated articles highlighting doom and gloom. I had always felt objections to Hedges’s socialist leanings because Socialism has failed in every format that it has tried. I felt that Hedges should have been able to do far more as a journalist. Perhaps something similar to The Intercept or Wikileaks but his talks, blogs, and so forth would always go on discussions about the evils of technology and how he felt that religion’s more pacifist and kind nature was thoroughly eroded due to corporate power, anti-gay bigotry, and ubiquitous American greed. I had come to a stunning and depressing epiphany after Hedges stated that nothing we could do now could really stop military-corporate power and the destruction of the earth from global warming.

Most fans of Hedges seem to wonder why someone like him can’t ever truly get airtime or why people don’t listen to him; it isn’t because he doesn’t lie – which I’ve begun to doubt – but rather that he really doesn’t have any solution to these issues. It’s always evil people in power and the poverty stricken – the age-old childish narrative that we’ve been exposed to in cartoons. The rich are always evil, greedy, and hateful while the poor are kind, honest, and hardworking. Hedges seemed to espouse this narrative up until people actually do accomplish good actions against self-centered corporate interests. When they do, Hedges changes his tune and speaks of the greed and evil within all of us – even the Occupy Wall Street protesters who, Hedges has written, seek the same greed and lavish lifestyle as the rich before going on about how heroic they are. His arguments began to seem less cogent and his negative tangents began to make me feel detached from any kind of positive thinking. Hedges has no solution to these issues; when people point out scientific research into solar powered alternatives, algae powered buildings (Yes, algae powered!), or other alternatives; Hedges will list arguments about nuclear wars and horrible atrocities that science causes. It creates feelings of depression and possibly even ubiquitous nihilism about the future of the human race. It is always doom, failure, and utter despair in the framework of Hedges’s articulate, intelligent, and very biased arguments. I realized the reason politicians are in charge and not people like Hedges was because they can give you assurances – even lies that sound like assurances – to make you feel good about yourself, your community, your country, and give kind platitudes of encouragement for the public. That gives hope, hope that seems veiled and with ulterior motives but hope nonetheless. People need to feel safe and comforted, not just for themselves but for their loved ones sake too.

It isn’t simply the message, Hedges’s actual arguments lack substance in regards to scientific alternatives and he obsesses over the negative impacts of corporations while ignoring the positive effects of the overwhelming amount of charity works. Billionaires are giving away more money than they ever have before in history as of now. But in the world of Chris Hedges, rich white people can only do evil to the average American. He actually makes a racial distinction and makes such a racist argument about affluent White Americans. In the world of Chris Hedges: All technology everywhere is evil and will only hasten the inevitable self-annihilation of our species while he lives a safe life within one of the most advanced first world countries and has had another child. All corporations are super powerful, monolithic, and work to commit the worst evil except the massive charity drives, relief aid given to people suffering from natural disasters, and cancer research. He has a point about the funding of wars and war equipment to maximize profits and Evangelicals being funded to commit cultural genocide in India, Thailand, and several parts of Africa, but otherwise his claims seem unsubstantiated.

Chris Hedges is a kind, honest, and hardworking person but he has his flaws and his flaws are truly detrimental. Both he and Chomsky can outline and elaborate upon many issues with US foreign and domestic policies but they don’t really have clear, logical, or legitimate solutions to these issues. Socialism and Anarchism will never work and they seem blind to the ill effects of their social beliefs while categorically highlighting the abuses of capitalism and the US government. They’re not entirely wrong, but they do exaggerate. Hedges is a true Christian in his values and I would argue that is his fundamental flaw. When Christianity removes heaven, hell, and Jesus Christ as real and instead perceives them as helpful guides to life and good moral character then a disturbing and vile form of living can be observed. I had suspected it when interacting with Christians in forums and reading Christian blogs but Hedges serves as a confirmation. That is not to say that belief in metaphysical Christianity isn’t also detrimental, but placing importance upon Christian values are the fundamental flaw. Chris Hedges has utterly destroyed himself because of his Christian values. Hedges father was a minister and he had a Presbyterian upbringing, I understand that giving up on it completely would be excruciatingly difficult for him but keeping to the values of the Christian faith show its true ugliness. It was only confirmed later when I read and reread some of his other blog posts on New Atheism and especially capitalism.

This probably sounds insulting and I suppose it is insulting in some respects but I think it is accurate: Chris Hedges is the epitome of Christian nihilism. A socialist with Christian values praises nihilism as a human good. At his core, he has Christian values and those Christian values seductively preach the ubiquitous hatred of all human actions. Christians are taught, by Jesus Christ himself, to point out hypocrisy everywhere and to celebrate poverty as an achievement. Hedges does both of these in his blogs about socioeconomic issues and human greed. Evil is everywhere, greed is innate, and Hedges himself has cited original sin as the true nature of humankind when rebuking New Atheism. Thus, because it is a human action; it is steeped in evil, sin, greed, and hatred. Nothing a human being does can ever be good because Christian values teach you that all you can do is your wrongness in sinful behavior and that seeking Jesus’s salvation will exempt you of your crimes upon other people. There is no sense of responsibility in Christianity because of the forgiveness doctrine. But for Hedges, he emphasizes the hypocrisy and the evil of humanity. Everything human is wrong, humans – once they do evil – can never stop or make anything positive. It is just the most detrimental and stupid form of circular reasoning that I’ve ever observed. Chris Hedges has thought-provoking criticism but he has no solution and all he can provide is this self-abased worldview that heaps nihilism upon nihilism ad infinitum. I sometimes wonder whether he just wants to commit suicide because his articles are so self-deprecating. What is the point without a solution? There can be none. It is almost literally Nietzsche’s warning in genealogy of the morals about the Will to Nothingness. While I haven’t really lived up to any Nietzschean philosophy and don’t agree with some parts of it, I am so happy to have read it because it provides such a wonderful counterpoint to Christian theology and Christian philosophy. Within the context of the Christian lifestyle, everything is loser logic that one must accept with humility. Egoism is always evil, wrongful, and stupid while doing nothing and celebrating the “do-nothing” attitude is the greatest achievement in Christian theology. It is no wonder Evangelical tycoons use cognitive dissonance to rationalize their actions. Christian theology goes nowhere without death as a reward. I’m afraid that’s exactly the path that Hedges has chosen.

I still respect him, his insights, and that he highlights ignored issues; but he has no real solution and he is far too nihilistic about life itself to be taken seriously. He will disingenuously argue about science and positive civil events just to continue a diatribe of ubiquitous nihilism in a Christian moral worldview about every social and political topic. He is mostly wrong about capitalism, the reason it has increased in power isn’t solely because of the money issue but also because workers gained more control of the decision-making of the business. Middle managers were cut across the board and managers are empowering their workers more than ever; those that don’t are slowly losing their business. It’s a detail that he completely ignores to project a monolithic conceptualization of capitalism as a malignant entity.

I’ll conclude with a quote from Nietzsche, that I think, really highlights the problem of Hedges’s content:

      Doing Harm to Stupidity. It is certain that the belief in the reprehensibility of egoism, preached with such stubbornness and conviction, has on the whole done harm to egoism (in favour of the herd instinct, as I shall repeat a hundred times!) , especially by depriving it of a good conscience, and by bidding us seek in it the source of all misfortune. “Your selfishness is the bane of your life “so rang the preaching for millenniums: it did harm, as we have said, to selfishness, and deprived it of much spirit, much cheerfulness, much ingenuity, and much beauty; it stultified and deformed and poisoned selfishness! Philosophical antiquity, on the other hand, taught that there was another principal source of evil: from Socrates downwards, the thinkers were never weary of preaching that “your thoughtlessness and stupidity, your unthinking way of living according to rule, and your subjection to the opinion of your neighbour, are the reasons why you so seldom attain to happiness, we thinkers are, as thinkers, the happiest of mortals.” Let us not decide here whether this preaching against stupidity was more sound than the preaching against selfishness; it is certain, however, that stupidity was thereby deprived of its good conscience: those philosophers did harm to stupidity.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I apologize for not getting into too many political topics as promised

I apologize. I read all of the articles that I put on Twitter but I can’t help but feel a sense of helplessness after reading most negative news. Part of it is due to allocating time for my books but I don’t feel that is really a good reason. I honestly feel very angry after reading about so many horrible things in the world and also, I realize that my opinions are pretty meaningless in the enormity of events. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel utterly helpless. I think a lot of atheists may feel this way too. Helpless because human apathy is truly the most awful, shameful thing to observe about the world.

Part of my disgust with certain groups of people is their utter apathy and ignorance of anything that doesn’t happen in their own small towns. The small town becomes the “world” to them and events on the news are just soundbites, white noise, and trivialities. Celebrity culture is more important than taxpayer funded drone bombings that result in the deaths of school children in a third world country. Thinking about these real life issues is “negative” so we try to focus on “good” things like small towns helping alleviate poverty or what the next young preteen celebrity is doing to embarrass themselves. I am so sick of human ignorance but it’s ubiquitous and even I have it. What is the point?

Speaking of which, these thoughts make me disgusted with socialism all the more. For example, I use to read Chris Hedges thoroughly but I’ve come to be disgusted by what he has become. But that’s a blog for another time. I’m going to try to do more with writing about political and social issues across the world and in the US. So expect some of my insights, I hope you enjoy reading them.

A Man For All Seasons: A Will to Nothingness

“Be on thy guard, also, against holy simplicity! All is unholy to it that is not simple.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spake; Zarathustra”, Commons translation.

The film A Man for All Seasons, like all religiously motivated films, depicts the religious main character, Thomas More, in a sanitized light. His day-to-day activities only detail the expected norms of a stereotypical Catholic family. The filmmakers didn’t go into his barbaric actions regarding beheadings during his time and attempt to normalize the raving stupidity of his time period by implicitly expressing the false idea that it was normal during his time period in the 1400s for religious figures to go around slaughtering people of other religions for crimes of blasphemy. Very few people seem to acknowledge the fact that life was actually more prosperous and less barbaric for Asian regions before Christianity. In fact, Mesoamerica and Asia were some of the most highly technological countries in the world with golden eras before the Abrahamic faiths; specifically Islam and Christianity began wars in their regions and spread their diseases. When Christianity gained a foothold, there began a mass genocidal crusade against people for not believing in Jesus Christ as their savior under the argument that non-Christians souls were eternally damned so there needed to be forced conversions or death. Christians of the ancient era later justified their genocidal tendencies by arguing that the foreign countries were full of savages because they weren’t white skinned and never believed in Jesus Christ. More himself burned at least six people alive at the stake and apparently oversaw this as a holy duty as Chancellor. It is extraordinarily likely that he oversaw beheadings similar to his own.

In the film, Thomas More represented an ignorant stance within the politics of the United Kingdom during the 1400s. The simplistic belief system that he held, often admired and idolized by religious teachings, proved to be a worthless sham. Dynastic blood feuds are the hallmark of European political struggles during the medieval times. If the King wasn’t allowed to remarry then his Kingdom would have massive feuds over a rightful successor to the throne. Even given the supposition that this wouldn’t have happened, it is still true that it was significantly more likely to happen should the King not have an heir and that dynastic blood feuds occurred in times periods prior so he had sufficient reason to be worried. Christian doctrines proved to be unsuitable to keep the people safe from civil wars and without drastic action the King’s legacy would have meant a total failure of the system. Defending the Church’s doctrines is implicitly argued to be the highest virtue, yet the King’s authorized beheading and killings of dissenters wasn’t anything new before that time period. Catholicism demanded people be beheaded, burned at the stake, and slaughtered for crimes of heresy, for the crime of using English words instead of Latin, and conducted a massive amount of beheadings and other forms of brutal slaughter. During the 1800s, the Catholic church’s genocidal tendencies increased in intensity and magnitude against foreigners and foreign faiths that they decried as devil worship. Yet, people think this was normal across the globe, many people don’t realize that the level of violence has, and remains to be, unique to the Abrahamic faiths. Genocide in the name of Yahweh supersedes any other deities. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the Bible is full of stories celebrating genocide in the name of Yahweh.

Thomas More’s “sacrifice” for his belief, that the King didn’t have the right to remarry, proved to be a moot point after his death. Despite the attempts in the film to make his death seem honorable and holy, the underlying reason for his death didn’t foster any continued religious debates that the King should be subservient to the Church, and his death is rendered thoroughly meaningless in modern contexts because we have no concern for how people remarry in our secular lives or what Kings do in their personal time anymore. In fact, religion will never hold such an importance in ruling over us as a government entity ever again because it has been so thoroughly discredited. Does this perhaps seem too cruel of an answer? I would make the counterpoint that “dying for the faith” in order to argue its “truth” is a bizarre and pathological argument. I would strongly make the argument that it isn’t heroic, there is no reward in the afterlife for dying in such a manner, and this viewpoint of dying for the faith – so cherished by many religions – is proven to engender insanity because it asks you to die. If religion truly gains fellowship by self-sacrifice of one’s life then that religion is proven to celebrate death and give sanctity to death worship. After all, can we name another social system that asks people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of living under supposedly moral teachings for the sake of a reward after death? In the end, beyond just being a history of ignorance of science, a history of systematic cognitive biases, and having a history of bloodshed; religion is also just a positive way of saying death cult.

The Man for All Seasons expresses the death cult aspects of religion quite well. First, purposefully ignoring Thomas More’s barbaric tendencies, the film attempts to depict a holy and self-sacrificing figure. This cult of human sacrifice is celebrated and justified by this simplistic, childish, and fairytale notion of heaven and hell. Heaven, representing a good death, is thoroughly celebrated as the positive motivation to do moral actions. Hell, a bad death, is where the unchristian-like are condemned. In all respects, this is a celebration of death and not of life; life is perceived to have less significance for the sake of a higher purpose after one’s death. Heaven, however, is just a sanitized and largely fictitious notion to celebrate death itself. Hell, by contrast, is to give a sense of self-exaltation so that Christian morals are made to feel unique, special, and superior to other belief systems. It is nothing more than an insidious attempt at demonizing other people for living for their own values outside of Christian schools of thought. It is important to understand that this is exactly how Christianity existed in ancient times by people who believed in its literal translation. People believed in talking snakes, Adam and Eve populating the world, Moses and Noah’s Ark, and it was only secularism and capitalism that allowed for Western prosperity after Christianity had finally weakened enough to no longer impede economic progress.

It is important to understand that capitalism, by its very definition of valuing principles of self-interest, has thoroughly discredited Christian teachings. We live in a secular capitalist society and socialism came into a theoretical framework by ardent Christians or former Christians who believed in doctrines of pity and giving to others. While Socialism does have a veneer of secularism, its teachings were still Christianity in origin. However, even disregarding that, Christianity itself has gradually become more impotent because of its harmful effects on society. Society has become all the better for this shift in power because, after all, we don’t behead people for heresy as a spectacle unlike more religiously motivated societies. ISIS is probably following Christianity more truly than Christians in secular countries because they have a more literal slant on their interpretations of religion; besides which, Islam is just another version of Christianity since they value the teachings of Jesus and consider him an important prophet equal to Mohammed. The only reason Christianity and Islam try to distinguish themselves from Judaism and don’t consider themselves a sect of Judaism is because of their historic hatred for Jewish people throughout their history. Yet again, a verifiable indictment against the Abrahamic faiths: Hinduism doesn’t consider Buddhists or Sikhs as “non-Hindu” because they have different interpretations of faith and different concepts regarding God. They’re celebrated as having origins in Hinduism, many Hindu scholars argue that Buddhism is just the teachings of Hinduism re-interpreted for export into other countries.

Apart from extremist groups, there is little to no animosity between these subsets for religious reasons. While violence certainly has erupted in the past and present, it was almost never because of “blasphemy” like the history of the Abrahamic faiths under the time of Thomas More. The violence was usually due to Caste roles or Sikh’s wishing for better representation. Despite that, religious violence still does exist within Sri Lanka between Buddhists and Hindus because of Britain’s dismantling of their lifestyles during their genocidal and imperialistic periods since the 1800s. Most other cases are due to Islamic terrorist groups attacking civilians and Hindus attacking Islamic civilians in reprisal. However, once better education and economic opportunities aid in helping the lives of the people then we will see a shift to the positive; it may take ten years or longer like China but it is a worthwhile endeavor and thankfully secularist organizations like the Gates Foundation and secular Christians have done more to help decrease infant mortality rates in impoverished regions than any religious organization in the history of the world. The Gates have argued for humanitarian and secular reasons, not because of their religious faith and have denounced the Catholic Church’s efforts to curb condom use when it could stop the spread of HIV infections. In other words, capitalism – once religious factors creating imperialism were removed – has done nothing but save the lives of millions of innocent children throughout the world and reduced world poverty to the lowest standard imaginable. That will be the legacy of secular capitalism comparatively to the violence of Thomas More’s time and later imperialistic genocides that engendered more violence under the sanctity of the Christian faith.

I’ve heard arguments in which people have said I should be ashamed of ridiculing such religiously motivated sacrifices because of their importance; but this argument struck me because of its need for thoughtless obedience. Look at it from my perspective as my background permits me to view More’s sacrifice more impartially: If, for the sake of argument, Judaism was proven to be true then what use is More’s sacrifice or any Christian sacrifice? If any other religion is proven to be true, then what use is the pro-sacrifice argument? Furthermore, wouldn’t an apologist only ridicule this counterargument because they need to believe that the lives of these people had a meaning beyond dying pointlessly? Wouldn’t such a high standard for this belief system require people to unquestioningly obey because they need to believe there is meaning in those deaths despite the overwhelming contrary evidence? Therefore, the only argument for pro-sacrifice is the cognitive bias of the sunk-cost fallacy. That is, because there have been sacrifices for 2000 years, it needs to be true and there needs to be more self-sacrifice because otherwise the sacrifice of those in the past will be rendered meaningless and if that is true then all that meant is that the religious belief was not truly divine and Christians don’t have a unique relationship with the one true God. In the end, it is a very pernicious circular reasoning that keeps religion afloat in modern times. Thomas More’s death was meaningless; his arguments against the King remarrying are no longer of any interest or of any significance to people today.

Incidentally, The King’s breaking away from the Catholic Church began the rise of Monarchies and was a small step towards a more secular world. The fact that a Queen took over after him was inadvertently the greatest act of Medieval serendipity because the Catholic Church was forced to acknowledge that a woman could be just as intelligent and command just as much political power as any man; therefore, women’s equality was elevated and the Catholic Church’s arguments regarding women’s roles as inferior in intellect and needing only to be home caretakers was thoroughly discredited. Secularism’s dominance today against religiously motivated violence has given us a conscience understanding of why women deserve equal rights and how we still haven’t fully bridged the gap even among first world countries.

It is imperative to understand, Thomas More’s barbarity was sanitized and explicitly ignored just as Christian imperialist genocides have routinely been ignored throughout history; here is a better understanding of what Christianity has done to the world and continues to do to the world today:

India suffered a genocide of 30 million people during the British’s imperialistic rule and the lives of Indians were thoroughly ignored and facts regarding these genocides were destroyed by British officials; only fact-checking by Indian scholars who published their works in 2009 have given us the full depictions of how far the British’s systematic mass famines from the 1770s to the 1940s had been conducted. Approximately, 10 million Indians died during every century and the British still continue the narrative of civilizing the savages. These genocides were conducted through systematic starvation of the population. The British have a history of starving people to death by keeping food under military control zones; they did the same thing to the Irish. Incidentally, ancient Hindu women only burned themselves on funeral pyres as a last resort to get away from British soldiers as British soldiers are known for conducting crusades in war rape:

http://www.oldindianphotos.in/2009/12/bengal-famine-of-1943-part-1.html

The British committed the only known successful genocide in history. They killed all the men in the Island of Tasmania, raped all the women, and forced these raped women into labor camps where they died of exhaustion and exposure. The crimes of the Tasmanian people were that they weren’t Christian and that they were black skinned:

http://www.massviolence.org/List-of-multiple-killings-of-Aborigines-in-Tasmania-1804?cs=print

The British were found culpable of destroying most of the evidence of their mass genocides, most of the records today only detail their skinning alive of Mali peoples for being black skinned. The British conducted systematic rape and systematic potato famine of the Irish for the crime of having a different interpretation of Christianity and went so far as to enslave 20,000 Irish people to send them to South America:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/apr/18/britain-destroyed-records-colonial-crimes?newsfeed=true

To this day, the British lie, deny, ignore, and downsize the actual figures of what they did in so many countries:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/british-empire-crimes-ignore-atrocities

It is important to understand that this will be the legacy of Christianity because Christianity significantly promoted or ignored these human rights abuses throughout the British rule. The British still thoroughly deny these human rights atrocities and argue they only civilized “savages” by giving them better rules of law. This isn’t even bringing up the Christian motivations for the Holocaust; in which Hitler convinced Germans to kill innocent Jewish people under the argument that Jews deserved to suffer for killing Jesus Christ. Whether or not Hitler was Christian himself is irrelevant, he still successfully committed genocide under the argument that Jesus Christ’s death needed to be avenged. Also, most Nazis were proud Christians, their belts all had the term “God With Us” in the German language as they were killing Jewish people and others:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/view/1069962/

Christian attempts to rewrite or ignore this history only prove the following: The lives of these people matter less than the need for an accurate interpretation of the Christian faith. Yet, Christianity now claims to be openly interpretative, so how can there be open interpretation and yet wrong interpretations that lead to genocide? Answer: people are still attempting to justify this argument from ignorance because their families and forebears, who have had far less ability to learn information and less education than them, believed in these superstitions.

 Lastly, I’m not particular sure why Christianity gets so much praise as a force of goodness. I begin to wonder whether people truly understand what Christianity really means if it were true, so for the sake of my last argument regarding why More’s sacrifice was irrelevant, let’s assume that Catholicism is true. The major tenant of which is that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. Now, if believing in Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation then doesn’t that mean every Jewish person who died in the Holocaust went to hell? If they were in “purgatory” and were asked to accept Jesus then doesn’t it seem pernicious that the very belief system that committed genocide upon them is what they’re being asked to accept? This is also true for the long dead Tasmanians and for my own ancestors in India who suffered under British rule. Yet, this is the sort of thinking that led to savage killings like the ones More conducted during his lifetime and all they would really require is Jesus’s forgiveness for the sin of murder to go right back to killing without remorse. These killings were conducted upon Christians of a different sect of the faith too.

There is no rational justification or reasonable argument for these religious justifications. Thomas More was a crazed fanatic who died for his death cult and it’s best not to lie to ourselves by making him out to be a hero or to celebrate anecdotal aspects of Christianity that thoroughly ignore the extensive damage of the wider impact. I don’t, of course, think ill of any Christians today who have nothing to do with the history of religious violence but it is important to understand that secular values, not religious values, have improved humanity and not vice-versa. A Man for All Seasons simply argues a historically discredited lie and tries to ignore the barbarism of religion to the extent that they ignore relevant facts about Thomas More’s life and actions. People are led to value the myth and not reality; that is a dangerous precedent that people should no longer tolerate from any religion. Finally, these questions and lack of argument against religious beliefs need to stop impeding scholarly discourse because they can and do determine the lives of people and sometimes – rather tragically – their deaths. We must, collectively as a society, be willing to honestly scrutinize religious values as we have evaluated political, social, and educational institutions.

5 Myths about Black America that the Corporate media peddles to divide people by “race” in the United States

Myth 1: The majority of Black Americans are in poverty.

Fact: Black America makes up 25% of welfare recipients. By comparison, White Americans make-up 40% and Hispanics 10%. It’s important to note that absolutely none of this has to do with racial background; it has to do with the numbers of the population and how the government chooses to codify people by racial ancestry.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/28/food-stamp-demographics_n_6771938.html

Myth 2: Black on Black crime is unique among crime statistics.

Fact: Every racial background except one has a higher crime rate within their specific racial background than having violence outside of it. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are all astronomically more likely to be assaulted, raped, or killed by a member of their own racial background than people outside of it. One might wonder why this is, it’s because you’re more likely to be killed by a jealous family member (i.e. people with the same racial background as you) or friend than anyone else in life.

As for the racial background that’s unique in this? Native Americans; they’re more likely to be killed, assaulted, or raped by people outside of their racial background. This is because up until 2012, they had no right to sue their rapists in US court and the media has helped the government ignore the mass rapes happening to them by ex-criminals of all racial backgrounds.

Source: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls

Source: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cvus08.pdf

Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/maze-of-injustice

Myth 3: Black America is more likely to have fatherless children.

Fact: This is a problem for people of all racial backgrounds in the US. Even the highly praised Asian community is seeing the nuclear family slowly erode; the problem seems to be American culture rather than a specific subset of the American people.

Source: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/Tables/107-children-in-single-parent-families-by-race?loc=1&loct=1#detailed/1/any/false/36,868,867,133,38/10,168,9,12,1,13,185/432,431

Myth 4: There are more Black Men in jail than in college.

Fact: This idiotic bile has been espoused by Liberals – including President Obama to speak of how the US still needs changes and Conservatives to condemn Black America as more prone to crime for their own political schemes via portraying the majority of Black America as some sort of criminal class. This is a completely disgusting and racist perception that has no bearing in reality whatsoever.

The Justice department of 2001 evidently failed in their counting of the actual numbers of Black Americans in college by ignoring the institutions where Black Americans most frequently go to college. Political Scientists have examined the numbers and conducted their own examination to find that for the past 15 years, from 2000 to now, there have been an overwhelming amount of Black Americans in college than there have ever been in jail. The difference in number is approximately 300,000.

Meaning, there have always been at least around 300,000 more Black men in college than in jail.

Which begs the question, why did the US government lie to the public about this? This would have been the perfect success story of what it means to be an American and have American values. Could it perhaps be to continue political controversies for their own agendas?

Source: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/23/178601467/are-there-really-more-black-men-in-prison-than-college

Myth 5: There are more issues with Black poverty than other people in poverty.

Fact: Native Americans have the worst circumstances in poverty on average. The overemphasis on Black America is to peddle racist narratives and try to make people believe that only Black Americans are poor. Essentially, it’s not one racial group in the poverty zone that is somehow a problem; it is the media focusing on this one particular demographic of lower income Black Americans, ignoring the middle and higher income Black Americans that outnumber them, ignoring the poverty issues of White people in poverty who are facing worsening issues and the grotesque level of apathy for the rape crimes against Native American women, and essentially trying to distract people from the militarization of the police force, weakening hold on the Middle Eastern wars, and the weakening economy.

Inherit the Wind: A juxtaposition of modernity and religious ignorance

The film Inherit the Wind is a trip into the past. A place of not-so-olden times in which people living in a fairly modern environment believed in talking snakes, two people populating the earth for 900 years, demons, witchcraft, and the apocalypse. Excuses such as context of time no longer abound once we observe people like us, relatively modern human beings, who emasculate themselves by proselytizing their honest beliefs in Christianity.

Conviction is shown its bitter conclusion once logic is removed and strong feelings influence a large swathe of public discourse. A town of hateful, ignorant, and shallow bigots who have circumvented their own potential, weaken the State they live in, actively destroy the educational future of their children, and present a blight to human progress. People actually believed in the literal interpretation of their religions. Modern discourse postulates some unique aspect of Asian culture that has allowed it to swiftly bring itself to the 21st century in a very short span of years. Yet, here is a possible answer: The lack of the Abrahamic faiths hampering economic, social, and political prosperity. The lack of hatred of Science and of scientific theories because it doesn’t mesh with original sin, talking snakes, a genocidal God, and the idea of a Second Coming.

The end of the film, in which Drummond is shown to be a Christian, and the reporter a lonely shrew is telling. The Abrahamic faiths make one believe that it has to have similar characteristics to it or it is alien and evil. The implication being that Science must be some new way to the Abrahamic God because . . . because it just has to be because a holy book made by a bunch of violent ignoramuses during an age when cannibalism and heresy offenses were common had to have some grain of truth because so many people far less educated than I am believed in it. And yet, we are shown the past in all its glory in a fairly modern depiction that still has strict adherents today with Creationists. We see exactly what true faith does to people. We recognize that science, education, culture, and modernity have brought us out of a laudable pit of ignorance and bigotry; but the majority of us continue to profess faith as if it is goodness.

Ah, but what if it is real and the secularists are sent to hell? After all, if it’s real then we don’t have to worry about eternal damnation or “the absence of God” or a “meaningless” life. But has anyone posed the opposite and scrutinized these beliefs objectively?

Does anyone realize how pernicious such a belief truly is? People are led to believe that being “perfect” in the image of an ancient wise man will afford them eternal life . . . after they die. They somehow don’t see the self-contradiction.

People are encouraged to follow these rules – except they’re openly interpretative now so contradicting them is also fine – so that their “soul” will be sent into a heavenly bliss where all their loved ones will be reunited with them for eternity.

Meanwhile, the “non-believers” – and basically anyone who rejects the Abrahamic God because of their own religion or because they’re a non-believer – will be sent into hell where they will face justice for their transgressions of forming their own opinions and disagreeing with a violent God that teaches it’s believers to be hostile to them. As was shown by depictions of the town.

Ah yes, those secularists will face punishment and the believers will bask in the glory of God’s Kingdom. All technology, advanced medicine, luxuries like homes and sanitation, human knowledge itself, and the wonders of the natural world shall all be obliterated so that God can fight the Devil in an epic mass war and the true believers will be whisked unto heaven while the non-believers rot and die because the world is evil. Those secularists, what a nasty bunch of arrogant people for not being in any similar version to what my God deems as fit, yes?

But what if, hypothetically, a bunch of ancient people wrote stories to give their lives fanciful meaning because they didn’t understand the science behind earthquakes, lavas, hurricanes, and thus set-up a bunch of rules to blame their own societies because they thought it was all connected to their own actions due to cognitive biases? What if, all these mystic visions by these prophets and apostles were just self-delusions that people couldn’t make sense of because they didn’t know what a dream actually was?

What if, you are wasting your life on rules, expectations, and “traditions” that are followed because people are first led to believe they’re sinful because a holy book says they’re sinful and then make them wish to die a good death by forcing these rules: what women can and cannot do, what you must do on Sunday, how you must make love to your partner, what position you must make love, and fear the possibility of going to the wrong part of a dual mystic world that has absolutely no scientific credibility whatsoever? Who is being deceived and who is really damning themselves with their beliefs?

Inherit the Wind arguably shows that selfishness isn’t always wrong or sinful or evil. It is, at times, the best source of freedom from people bringing the utmost misery upon you because they have to go through that same misery. Being an individual above being “chosen” by God.

Incidentally, the Second Coming supposedly already came and went:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Disappointment

Waiting for Armageddon: Evangelical Christianity’s influence on modern US politics and the Middle East

This film left me with feelings of detachment and disdain. 50 million people in the USA, attracting an audience of 200 million across the world, to project evangelicalism in the world. They have a concerted effort through US Congressmen, corporate CEOs, a disproportionate amount of the US military, and have a significant influence on US foreign policy. In fact, the shuttles to Israel are paid at US taxpayer expense but they never mentioned it. The US media basically ignore it. Millions pour into the evangelical groups every year; they raise 75 million in charities to give to Israel and are allowed evangelical centers in Israel as a result.

The film makes it clear that the Evangelicals do have significant political clout in Congress, financial backing through corporations (they’re still trying to evangelize Israel, Africa, and India), and I’m wondering if some US soldiers would even fight without close ties to Israel and Israel being surrounded by enemies. In fact, they’re a significant reason that there is no peace treaty between Israel and Palestine – they see any peace treaty as the sign of the Anti-Christ so they want Israelis and Palestinians to continue killing each other. They actually say as much in the film itself. In the end, what matters is the fact they believe it and will use as much influence as possible to continue the bloodshed between Israel and Palestine for the sake of Christ coming down from the earth. They’re by no means inactive in politics and encourage a large portion of their population to vote.

US power has simply been squandered on a crusade and enflaming violence in Israel and its neighbors. There was no reason for any of this bloodshed; yet I’m left seriously considering Sam Harris’s arguments about actions having consequences – it’s too bad his atheistic arguments are simply a reformatted version of holy war doctrine. Even if I am wrong about his use of it, which I don’t think I am, his vitriol against Muslims is no different than the Crusader logic of the Evangelicals against Islam. These people aren’t a harmless bunch of crazies; they’re part of the NSA, CIA, federal government, hold corporate wealth and run massive charity drives to preach their bile, and feel veneration on all acts of wars and climate catastrophes as the sign of Christ’s return. They see peace between Israel and Palestine as the coming of the Anti-Christ and want Palestinians annihilated or expelled by using Israel as a pawn to do it. They openly say it themselves and even if they didn’t, their actions speak of such intentions. These people build weapons, fight our wars, serve as our Congressmen, and are appeased to because they work hard to have such influence. Yet, most people don’t understand this and willfully ignore its implications and consequences.

The level of savagery, genocidal intentions, exacerbation of genocidal actions, and so forth are disgusting to behold. It’s as if these people treat Jews and Muslims as their playthings to send to kill each other and the majority of Americans are simply apathetic to the consequences of these people’s intents to bring forth total holy war – an effort that seems to largely be succeeding at the moment.

A brief ramble

I feel like such a fool sometimes. I should probably be doing more to promote myself and this website, and there are indeed several factors that I simply haven’t done that would improve my position, but I feel so pressed for time recently. I had hoped to undertake all challenges, but it just freezes me hope and makes me feel immobile. Even attempting to take it one at a time isn’t truly helping. Beyond random life events happening – as is the usual for everyone, I’m sure – there is also the fact that to fully concentrate on actual book writing, I need to close myself off from the worldwide web. But then, self-promotion suffers as a result. Perhaps I should be utilizing youtube, but to be perfectly frank, I really don’t like most commercialized attempts on youtube anyway.

There seems to be a relentless slew of things that one must do for self-promotion; I’m feeling quite frustrated with it and with personal annoyances occurring in my life. My brainstorming and desire to expand the length of both of the books I’m working on makes me wonder: Will any of it truly have value? I suppose in some ways, value is given by other people instead of just made by ourselves by what we choose to do. For all the successful authors out there, there are a hundred million more that will never be successful and fall into obscurity. This fact, at times, makes me question whether the quality of a book matters. All I’ve really learned so far is that I should appeal to a more educated crowd because those without education tend to view psychological factors like in-groups and out-groups as conspiracy theories . . . despite the fact this is largely how people have conditioned themselves in terms of socio-economic differences such as class, racial differences, and national borders. It’s actually quite odd to see people argue against such notions while living under them.

Yet, regardless, I often wonder if it’s really possible. For the most part, blogging is suggested to be limited. People make automatic judgments about blogs and the more simplified and to a specific focus that it is then it’ll be easier and people have a specific – generalized – expectation of what to expect from your blog such as if you’re writing for a particular fictional genre or about car parts. I’ve chosen to put film reviews, video game reviews, and occasionally talk about politics. I would write more about politics but then I’d be writing lengthy essays and giving enough focus on my actual book writing. The myriad of things that I try to do is actually a detriment and its also why I decided to delete some of the things I had hoped to do but realized I couldn’t really write about.

All I’ve really learned is that I shouldn’t bother with web forums, which I should have just read about earlier instead of bothering to engage – in fact, I should’ve known beforehand from my experiences with gamefaqs, and really, what use is trying to engage with a largely apathetic world that seems to like religious forms of nihilism over empowering their own lives? I explain more concisely in my book regarding religious norms but would people even value my insights? I honestly have to wonder. And if not, then what would be the point? So many people seem to have a martyrdom complex thanks to the self-esteem movement and I’m just getting tired of not finding a decent audience for a niche. It seems like finding early adapters are definitely harder than at first glance.

Limits of Discourse: Is Sam Harris an Atheist Crusader?

Source: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-limits-of-discourse

In a bizarre email exchange with Noam Chomsky, Sam Harris avoided ethical questions about President Bill Clinton’s bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical building, which resulted in a massive death toll and refugee crisis, to frame the discourse in terms of President Clinton’s intentions for the bombings. While Chomsky was pointing out the facts of the case, such as the irrefutable fact that President Clinton never presented any factual or credible evidence of his claims about the company having terrorist ties after the bombing, Sam Harris continued to speak of President Clinton’s intentions and how we should evaluate those actions based on his intentions. Chomsky rightly pointed out that we couldn’t ever possibly know what President Clinton’s intentions were – moreover, it reduces human rights atrocities to the personal feelings and preferences of leaders. Under this bizarre moral framework, a leader in a predominately Muslim nation could bomb a Western nation and his predominately Muslim population could justify it as the leader having positive intentions while ignoring the death toll, massive injuries, damages for needing the buildings rebuilt, and the enmity created from such an attack.

I decided to research this because Harris’s viewpoint seemed vaguely familiar and I discovered the basis and history of his argument: the Papal arguments encouraging the Christian Wars in the Holy Land that later became part of the Christian Crusader rhetoric. Evidently, Harris’s moral paradigm for international relations is exactly Christian Crusader viewpoints but without the religious element:

Difference between Augustinian “just war” and “crusade”:

The standard for a Christian “just war” as developed by Augustine (c. A.D. 400) is: “rightful intention on the part of the participants, which should always be expressed through love of God and neighbour; a just cause; and legitimate proclamation by a qualified authority.” (Quoted from J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Yale University, 1987.)  The doctrine of holy war/crusade added two further assumptions: 1) Violence and its consequences–death and injury–are morally neutral rather than intrinsically evil, and whether violence is good or bad is a matter of intention. (The analogy is to a surgeon, who cuts into the body, thus injuring it, in order to make it better/healthier.)  2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man, and intends for his agents on earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that was a “single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the lay and clerical magistrates he endowed with authority.

Source: http://usna.edu/Users/history/abels/hh315/crusades_timeline.htm

A work-in-progress chapter of my pro-atheist book

Chapter 1: Conventional Religion

Religion has commonly been defended by our personal experience. People who don’t take an in-depth look into their respective theological texts will often use anecdotes to defend their beliefs and usually say that they have faith. Favorable perceptions are argued as reasons for why a particular religious faith is true and the majority of people use faith as a guidepost for certain everyday activities. This creates a convoluted and harmful standard that people live under but don’t recognize. As a consequence, many people don’t give much consideration to this issue because they feel it is normal. It is not dissimilar to observing the harmful effects of believing in the lucky chance of winning the lottery. For example, people who play the lottery and have faith in the belief of good fortune often don’t give any consideration to the detrimental effects of their gambling habit nor the mathematical chances involved in determining the winner. Typically, there are several false assumptions made by the purchaser that cause this problem. The most notorious – and wrong – belief is that purchasing more tickets increases the chances of winning. This assumption isn’t true and it is proven on the very ticket sold; to explain further, let us say there are 60 different possible combinations of numbers on a combination of ten numbers in a ticket and the winning combination is 1234560789. What are the chances of winning the lottery by that combination of tickets?

Shocking as this may sound, the winning chances is determined by the number of possible combinations of each digit. Thus, because there are sixty possible combinations at the start, the actual chances of winning are 60 x 59 x 58 x 57 and so forth. The only winning ticket is 1234560789 so every other combination from 1-60 will lead to waste of your money. A lottery ticket such as the Powerball has an approximate chance of 1 in 70,000 years and the odds of the Powerball are around 1 in 900 million for any set of combinations. Which means that every U.S. citizen – from child to adult – must buy three tickets each and among those people only a single person can win the lottery; a single person buying more tickets won’t change this fact or strengthen the odds because each ticket has a 1 in 900 million chance of being the winner. For those readers who purchase lotto tickets, please compare the combinations of real life tickets that you know of. Count the possible combinations of each sets of numbers or – in some cases – just look at the back of the ticket where it explains the chances of winning. Usually, the lottery ticket combinations exceed the amount of people living within the country by a wide margin. In some cases, due to the combinations being 3 times the number of actual citizens in the country, the chances of actually winning the lottery can be greater than 1 in 70,000 years. This is because the amount of times you play, how old you are, and what special meaning – such as a birthday that a particular combination has – is absolutely inconsequential to the total combinations of numbers that are possible. Lottery players are simply being duped and using irrational thinking to waste their savings on gambling. This means that millions of people both within your country and across the world who strongly have faith that they will win the lottery believe in an utter falsehood; it means that people who play the lottery out of habit are still squandering their money away on a useless and detrimental pastime. It shows that millions of people can be utterly wrong despite the popularity of a belief and defensive arguments that lottery purchasers make such as statements similar to “You never know” only display arguments demonstrating a basic ignorance of how lotteries function. This can be proven on a demonstrable mathematical level, if need be. Lottery gamblers have been duped by their faith in the power of luck and good fortune. Scholars have privately regarded the lottery as a stupidity tax.

This duping is largely because they use personal experience – their own anecdotal events in life – and selectively focus upon the lottery winners who won millions. They have not considered the millions of people who have played the lottery throughout their lifetime and never won. Even if small rewards such as $3000 is won by a lottery player, it wouldn’t be a gain because they would have to compare the amount won with the total amount lost during their lottery ticket purchases throughout the years. Their purchasing power was diminished on every ticket that was not a winner. A community of lotto ticket purchasers only serves to normalize this self-destructive gambling habit. So, why does this matter and what does it have to do with religion? It shows that millions of people can be utterly wrong about assumptions regarding the normal activities that they partake in, it shows that despite repeated behavior they don’t realize the negative consequences of wasting money that could be saved for their future, it shows that using a large population size to justify a belief isn’t a good reason at all to argue in favor of that belief, it shows that people can have positive beliefs used against them and harm them both emotionally and financially without them recognizing the problem, and that relying on “luck” through arguments from their own lack of knowledge of the odds can cause people to waste years of their life on a harmful belief. All of this is a consequence of using only personal events – anecdotes – and a belief in a metaphysical “luck” as a way to justify ones choices. A community that helps reinforce the normalcy and treats the lottery as a positive activity can only serve to harm the individual. Lastly, highly educated individuals don’t fall for the lottery trap and recognize the personal experiences and faith of the lottery gamblers is a falsehood despite the amount of lottery players who strongly believe in these fanciful qualities about the lottery.

Anecdotes            

A focal problem with anecdotes is that they can be argued in favor of any position; no matter how contradictory, racist, homophobic, or even positive. Anecdotes are a logical fallacy because they don’t account for the actual statistical figures of a given subject and instead argue in favor of a position through personal events or isolated incidents. Some of these anecdotes can be inferred from viewing events on television. An example to understand this would be the statistics on wars. Despite what is displayed on the news, wars have been on the decline since the 1960s. After World War 2, there has been a huge drop in the ratio of violent conflicts throughout the world, but this sounds ridiculous in the face of war stories that occur on the news virtually every week. Evidently, the only reason that the majority of people perceive that humanity has become more violent is the easy coverage of violent conflicts as they are happening. During the era of newspapers, this was not possible. The modern media has allowed people across the world to gain insight on conflicts far removed from their location and NGOs have allowed people to give aid to suffering refugees to a greater extent than in the past. A greater awareness of these violent events has actually allowed better responses for the people who are suffering. Yet, the erroneous perception that humanity is becoming more violent still remains because of people’s repeated exposure to news about different wars across the world. The 19th century accounts for the most violent of times throughout human history in terms of wars and mass genocides.

Religious anecdotes are just as problematic. If, for example, a child is suffering from cancer but is cured either through medical treatment or the cancer disappears because their immune system successfully fought it off then religious believers often say that God has cured the child of cancer. If, however, the child regrettably dies of cancer then religious believers are most likely to – after giving honest condolences – say the child is with God in the afterlife. Thus, what changes aren’t the horrible circumstances of the events but rather the interpretation of the events to make the observers of the event feel better. It is the same for children in third world countries; the majority of people in first world countries ignore the issue of starving and dying children in third world countries under the basis that it has nothing to do with their personal lives. People often tout that the dead children are in heaven and no longer suffering. However, what changes aren’t the horrific circumstances of innocent children dying from the world at large having failed them, what changes is a religious believer’s perception of the event and only to the comfort of the religious believer so that they don’t have to think or feel horrible from knowing there are children dying from starvation in third world countries. Sadly, this creates another problem, predatory missionary groups use anecdotes to their advantage on unsuspecting and uneducated people to argue in favor of their religion by holding people hostage such as pretending a transport vehicle is broken down until impoverished people living in a third world country pray to the religion of the missionary group to get the bus “working” again. Worse still, some missionaries are known to refuse health services until impoverished people pray to their God. The level of apathy for the plight of the third world has prompted wealthy families to create public works projects like the Gates Foundation to combat these continued issues.

Anecdotes and Symbolism

Anecdotes often require symbolism in order to maintain the state of normalcy. Religious symbols are often displayed to instill feelings of hope; especially during harrowing times. Religious symbolism is often utilized in books, films, and sometimes in court proceedings to create a veneer of God defending the rights of the people for the sake of equality and to further symbolize moral goodness. Flag symbols in the background of a superhero character, religious symbols such as the cross, and of course the statement “In God We Trust” behind the court judge serve as common examples of these symbols. Symbols help facilitate the pattern recognition bias within humans; that is, perceiving a correlation between two different events where there is none. Instances of justice failing or unfair laws are often ignored and people gain a fallacious understanding of what the law is really meant to be. Laws are dependent upon interpretation; juries are to determine if a particular incident broke a set of rules. Yet, when instances such as the failure of the law are displayed then it is argued that humans are imperfect. So what good is the symbolism in the first place? It is a deception and one that is used against individuals who harbor such perceptions.

An example of this nefarious deception, the faultiness of symbolism, can be shown by the following: most US citizens believe that US police officers have a lawful duty to protect them from any harm. This is legally false; a Supreme Court decision in 2005, Gonzales V. Castle Rock, determined that police protection was not a protected entitlement under the 14th amendment and that the protection of private citizens was not part of the public duty doctrine. In the context of the case itself, Gonzales noticed her children missing from her front yard and called the police to inform them that her estranged husband had probably taken them. He wasn’t allowed to take them during that day because of the custody rules in place for when he was could spend time with the children. The police didn’t take the claim seriously; Gonzales then tried calling the police at several times during the hours and even went to the police station to show the legal document whilst desperately asking for help. The police refused to do anything, the police officer at the desk took a lunch break after hearing her pleas, and the next day her ex-husband committed suicide by cop and the officer found the dead bodies of Gonzales’s three young children in the trunk of the ex-husband’s car. The trial went to the Supreme Court and the case was dismissed on the basis that Gonzales’s children and by proxy all Americans had no legal right to police protection within the United States. According to the ruling, the police don’t have to help you, even in instances when you are being robbed, assaulted, raped, or murdered. The Castle Rock police department was quick to reframe the event in order to blame the grieving mother and politicians hailed the decision by focusing strictly on how police had to make tough decisions when on the field of duty. What wasn’t mentioned was how the US government, from the local to federal level, no longer had to pay any damages to victims who suffered from the police failing to uphold their supposed duty in protecting the citizens from harm. The Supreme Court of the United States had determined that the lives of children were less important than the government losing sums of money.

If you are a US citizen, you may have feelings of disbelief upon reading the aforementioned paragraph. After all, you’ve likely grown up with an entire culture of police dramas like Law and Order, NCIS, and other American TV shows with a plethora of episodes depicting valiant police officers doing their utmost to aid rape victims, children, and the wrongfully accused. These depictions usually consist of a main character having a strong personal connection with the victims to help them cope with the horrible events. The reality of the law seems ridiculous in comparison to what you might believe about the justice system; what you may not have realized is that you are using aspects of fiction to fill the gaps in your understanding of reality. You have used fiction as a substitute to fill in what you didn’t know because we humans feel safe when we have a coherent understanding of the world. These stereotypes have been formed by shortcuts that you have developed regarding the world around you and your ignorance of the real law could be utilized against you. You may have formed a coherent story and expectations based on what you knew about the law but the fact remains that you probably didn’t know about the actual laws governing you. Psychological studies have found that, due to our increasingly complex societies, people use shortcuts to quickly determine what different subject matter represent and mean. This is natural because as human beings, we cannot make deep insights about every single subject matter that we are confronted with even in a single day. As a consequence, stereotypes about certain jobs, organizations, and different types of people abound and will probably always exist. These psychological shortcuts are only worsened by our human bias to see pattern recognition but more on that in later chapters.

We humans need to use shortcuts in our increasingly complex societies and so we use them without even realizing it. Whatever you thought might be credible laws depicted on television shouldn’t be trusted. A repeated marathon of episodes in which fictional police only act positively towards the general public would cause an obvious bias with an implicit understanding that police are legally required to protect the public; it follows along the lines of the motto “protect and serve”, it is what young children are led to believe when meeting friendly police officers during their time in school, it follows the norms of what we expect when we see TV shows like COPS that selectively show favorable police chases, and the fact remains that it isn’t legally accurate. US citizens don’t have the right to police protection. What people have done is let the belief in symbols, the repeated exposure to favorable police shows, and the popular opinion of the public give them a misrepresentation of the actual law. Neither the fact that the majority of the 300 million people living in the US believe that police are legally suppose to protect citizens nor the fact that 300 million people are bombarded with imagery, symbols, and stories of police heroics make the law any less valid or impactful upon people’s daily lives. If you believe that this is a lie then I encourage you to independently verify the lawful impact of “Gonzales V. Castle Rock” for yourself. The fact is that we humans have a tendency to go by the information and repeated exposure to what is most available to us. It is known as the availability bias within psychology and it is a psychological factor that governments, police organizations, the national media, and psychologists are well aware of.

How does this apply to religion? It shows that millions of people can wholeheartedly have an understanding about the norms of their society, harbor an overwhelmingly positive outlook on an organization and what it is perceived to do based on implicit understandings, and be completely wrong. The fact that millions upon millions of people believe that police officers are legally required to protect them and this belief is what they consider to be a normal aspect of their everyday lives doesn’t make the belief true. If you were in a similar position to Gonzales and lost a loved one through police failure in doing their duty, your ignorance about this ruling would serve as a detriment to you; the police wouldn’t need to pay any damages for failing you or your loved one. At best, they would simply be forced into retirement. Your ignorance, created by an obfuscation of the real facts through positive cultural imagery, will be used against you. It is also important to consider how many of us come to these beliefs. We often observe and consider what other people think or do and copy that behavior in order to remain in a favorable view to the majority of people; that is social proof. Therefore, the majority of people being confronted with this law would probably be skeptical and may view such a legal fact to be a conspiracy theory. After all, it doesn’t follow any coherent understanding about their beliefs regarding American society and it doesn’t fit a coherent expectation about the law itself. Yet it is a real law, but accepting that would require a drastic change of perception regarding what most Americans have come to expect regarding their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Christians make up the largest population in the world. In almost every country, there is at least a minority Christian population. For all the speeches about how India and China have a majority Hindu or majority atheist population, it remains true that Christianity – as a whole – has the largest population size. Yet, this is not a valid argument favoring Christianity. This is what is known as the appeal to population fallacy. Consider this hypothetical argument: what if Judaism turned out to be the one true religion? If that were so, then it wouldn’t matter how many people across the world believed in Christianity, it wouldn’t even matter if every country in the world outside of Israel believed in Christianity or even if every person in the world believed in Christianity while Judaism was no longer believed in. It would be meaningless in the face of Jewish people being the chosen people of God. You can substitute this proposition with another religion or reverse it; if Christianity is true then Jewish people have suffered throughout history for a meaningless cause or – worse still – they have endured suffering to be killed en masse for some apocalyptic prophecy. Now consider this: according to most polling data, Islam will be the world’s largest religion by 2050. If that prediction becomes true, then what value can there be in Christians making up the majority of the world population currently? It has no value and on closer inspection, it is less meaningful than most Christians might realize. Christianity has long been divided into Protestants, Catholics, and East Orthodoxy; in other regions of the world Christianity has blended with local religions in the regions that it has spread. For example, Christians of India follow a Caste system just like the Hindus. In the Philippines, books of local religious witchcraft have been blended together with Christian teachings. There is no, and there probably will never be, a uniform Christianity; but this is not a unique problem to Christianity. It is the natural occurrence of any belief spreading; it is why India has had a tradition of Hindu heterodoxy, why Islam has differences in Sunni and Shia, and intrinsic differences in several Buddhist schools of thought. In the context of the United States, liberals and conservatives have diametrically opposed views of Jesus Christ’s teachings and expectations. What use is the term Christianity, or indeed any religious identity, when it has belief systems that conflict with each other on fundamental levels?

In the following chapters, I will extrapolate on the faultiness of open interpretation and how each of the major religions suffers from being unable to grapple with modernity.

Convenience

Religion has often been used to suit our conveniences. In the previous section, I mentioned how people living in first world countries ignore the circumstances of children in third world countries as having nothing to do with them and how religion helps ameliorate the immorality of such a position by the presumption of a positive afterlife for the children who have died. This is a regrettable truth that we should confront because it takes away the easiness and simplicity of religious answers. Religion, for the longest period of time, has helped facilitate apathy to problems of child mortality in third world countries but the apathy and convenience of religion doesn’t end there.

The majority of people in any first world country don’t give much thought to the problems of countries outside of theirs. Beyond selective media portrayals that create negative stereotypes, there is very little about foreign countries that residents of any given country understand and why should they? After all, it has little impact on their lives. As a result, due to our increasingly complex world and the shortcuts we use in understanding foreigners, we create negative stereotypes about other regions of the world and their people. Religion implicitly creates differences of in-group and out-group conditions and according to psychological research; the grouping of people into these different codifications is instantaneous. We humans are “groupist” by instinct. Race, religion, age, gender, political affiliation, citizenship, and other aspects of our personal identity have consequences for how we are all viewed by society. People codify us into groups, we codify them, and stereotypes are soon formed because of these rash generalizations from our “shortcuts” about other people. This societal reality has a pernicious and demoralizing effect upon entire groups of people.

In my discussions with fellow millennials on facebook, in college clubs, and among friends; I would ask whether they noticed an implicitly racist codification conducted by the generations before us. Almost unanimously, the millennials that I spoke with – among different social classes, having different racial backgrounds, and coming from different political affiliations – agreed with the strange behavior of the generations before us. What we all agreed on was thus: the older generation would assess the quality of an entire racial group by comparing the good and bad people of that racial group that they personally met. For my group of friends and I, this seemed both fundamentally absurd and stupid. By defining people by their racial group, you are erroneously attributing negative qualities to people who have nothing to do with each other beyond being born with the same skin pigmentation. This is fundamentally unfair and racist. To the keen observer, the argument from followers of this belief attributing these distinctions from the “good” or “bad” qualities of the racial “community” does little to obfuscate the underlying racism. A disturbing implication from this viewpoint is the ignorant idea that skin pigmentation is linked to bloodline. In online forums, people will speak of how racist family members of theirs will demand that certain other racial groups be kept out of their family line. However, if people believe that “race” has to do with one’s familial blood then what these racists are advocating is incest. If they truly believe that skin pigmentation determines similarities in blood then this is an advocacy for certain degrees of incest. Fortunately, ignorant racists are entirely wrong; skin pigmentation was determined by people adapting to their specific climates in their environments and skin pigmentation is a phenotype and not a genotype. In concise terms, skin color has nothing to do with how genetically close you are to someone else. For example, if you’re white, you may be closer in genetic relations to your fellow black members of society than your fellow white members. This is primarily because skin pigmentation is just one small part of our genetic make-up; these racial boundaries are a cognitive illusion fostered by misapplied cultural history and historic racism. Examples of this fact can be seen across the world: Northern Indians of India are genetically closer to British people than Central and Southern Indians in genetic make-up, most Europeans can trace their roots to the Near-East, Iraqis are classified as Caucasian and in fact have a significant percentage of people who typical Westerners would generally classify as being “white”, and Mexico has more diversity among different racial backgrounds than at first glance. These distinctions are worthless anyway because the generalizations of each group are based on either racism or ignorant cultural discrimination. Generally speaking, racists have a difficult time classifying anything that isn’t their expected similarity. The predominance of incestuous beliefs seems to be the root of most racism; this provincialism seems to be true of each country that practices it. I’d make the argument that US citizens are criticized for it because it is inconsistent with the championed diversity of the US and shows a failure of the education system of the US; furthermore, government codifications via racial background may be a double-edged sword because it promotes these implicit divisions by the evaluation of society through skin pigmentation.

During a news panel on Fox News in 2014, Megyn Kelly received a wide amount of criticism for openly saying to any possible children watching that Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were white. After the public’s derision of Kelly’s statement, politicians ignored the part about Jesus Christ and shifted the focus to Santa Claus being a diverse cultural icon for children of all skin pigmentations. Virtually no politician or social media critic confronted the quirk about Jesus Christ being a white man and the backlash quickly died down. The educated members of the general public pointed out historical inaccuracies in social media regarding Jesus’s skin pigmentation, groups of Christians stated that the skin color of Jesus Christ obviously didn’t matter because his love for humanity is universal, and discussions about a black Jesus were largely met with an equal possibility to a white Jesus. This type of controversy over the racial background of a religious figure isn’t unique to Jesus Christ or to religious discourse itself. Ancient stories about Cinderella, Ali Baba, and the 16 labors have changed a multitude of times to the renaming of the characters, the changes to the skin color of the characters, and the sanitization of the more morally dubious aspects of the stories that don’t fit with the moral guideposts of the cultures that adopt the stories. In the context of religion, the Buddha has faced similar issues of cultural appropriation; his racial background has changed from Indian to the race of the majority population of each country that adapted Buddhism. In Korea, his appearance is reshaped to that of a Korean and in Taiwan, he looks Taiwanese; this is a blatant historical inaccuracy but these types of iconography persist throughout history and persist within each country where the majority population is of a different racial background from the revered figure. For the most part, within each country that Jesus and the Buddha are revered, their racial background changes to the majority population of that country. So, if the racial background of Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha don’t matter then why does this form of cultural appropriation overwhelmingly persist throughout the world? A pernicious and unpopular answer could be our psychological biases; psychologists have found that human beings prefer to associate with others who are similar to them. Psychologists have coined the term “relatedness” but from my studies in political psychology, I would argue that this terminology skims over the true impact of the meaning. A more appropriate term might be “narcissistic impulse” and each racial group’s desire to praise their revered figure only under conditions in which the figure is depicted to have the same racial background as them – while wholly ignoring the historical inaccuracies – reveals each individual’s narcissistic desire for their racial background to be the most important in the world. I suspect that it is an explicit and irrational form of religious convenience that isn’t challenged because it would engender a plethora of racism and hate speech from any group that faced such a challenge to their religious worldview because the iconography is more important to satisfying their narcissism than historical facts. While the socially progressive religious adherents are willing to acquiesce to the legitimate history of their religion, it would be more challenging to convince the more ignorant groups in any given country to do the same. This religious convenience reveals a depth of difference and fracturing beyond the multitude of religious denominations that just isn’t discussed. People remain silent about this global racist phenomenon throughout their religious practices precisely because challenging the issue would harm the convenience of the majority of religious people.

Convenience and Coherence

In his best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Psychologist Daniel Kahneman unveiled the multitude of biases and cognitive shortcuts within the human psyche. The human mind has a bias to frame events in the manner of storytelling. We create stories and form a coherent understanding of the world through this biased framework. As a result of this, we create a coherent framework of the world through our own biased assessments and formulate our own causal relationships for why events happen. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gods or God itself is a concept of convenience for humankind as a result of looking for the causes of events. These examples can be seen in every religion. In polytheism, different Gods serve different aspects of human convenience from concepts such as a fountain goddess of luck in Rome, to a goddess of love in Hinduism, to a God of trickery in the Norse religion, to goddesses of death in Celtic religions, and to a God of either love or torment who helps people in mysterious ways in the Abrahamic faiths including the dualistic concept of God and the Devil. They are depictions of the human mind, the justifications for our actions, and the human biases that we have.

We use this framework of coherence in our understanding of history and the attachment we place upon historical figures that are similar to us; they help serve our desires for inspirational storytelling and our narcissistic impulse with how we draw similarities to them. An example of this is the stories of the Crusades. Depending on whether you are Christian or Muslim, you may attach yourselves to some of these heroic depictions in films, books, or television shows about the Crusades and liken yourself to one of the so-called heroes. But, were you aware that both the ancient Christian and Muslim warring factions practiced cannibalism and ate the people that they killed – including children? This wasn’t simply one side; it was both religious groups and the censoring of this significant historical fact displays a chief problem with religion. Similar to the apathy of first world peoples to the plight of the third world, religious people ignore the horrific acts in the name of religion for the sake of their own convenience. They ignore the barbarity for the sake of their own coherence to defend the view of religion being morally good for people. The negative history of their religion on the world is argued to be causes other than their religious teachings: the evil nature of humanity, the evil of politics, the instigation of the enemy, the mysterious will of God, and a multifarious amount of other causes. Typically, the popular justification is that false interpretations of the faith occur and cause violence; it is an appeal to purity, that is, an attempt at defending some perceived special and unique goodness of the religious faith. Apologists are willing to downplay, disingenuously misinterpret, and vilify attempts at highlighting horrific acts in the name of religion; to the extent that they ignore ongoing human rights crimes, ignore the victims of the past because they harm the positive coherence of religion, and may even come-up with a convenient notion that the victims are in a better place in the afterlife regardless. The lives and deaths of others become an abstract concept instead of a real event that has hurt real life people. The notion of victims finding peace in the afterlife only serves the convenience and narcissism of the religious believer.

Criticisms of the religion itself can be obfuscated and ignored through the cognitive dissonance and convenience of certain religious principles. The argument from ignorance that God’s plan is unknowable serves the convenience of the religious adherent to ignore human rights abuses. Some religious believers try to dispense with their previous religious identity from their religious faith; often by arguing that their faith isn’t truly a religion and that they’re simply spiritual without identifying with the religious identity because of the negative connotations associated with it. This is consistent with the psychological act of substitution, in which people find alternative reasons to justify their beliefs or actions because of unwillingness to change and an apathetic disposition for the victims because victims are part of the out-group. To that end, people are self-centered because they are far more willing to ignore the victims for the sake of arguing for the purity of the religious faith. People simply don’t care because they’re unwilling to inconvenience themselves by examining their own beliefs.

The obfuscation and self-centeredness doesn’t exist strictly for religion; it can exist in lesser known cultural forms but it is most damaging in the context of religion because of how easily people ignore human rights abuses because it doesn’t fit into the positive image that they have about their own religious beliefs or those of their loved ones.

The Convenience of Good and Evil

The dualistic concept of Good and Evil creates a limiting and damaging worldview that ultimately harms people who believe it to be the truth; even the idea that there are small gray areas in a mostly good and evil framework is harmful because it is also an oversimplification. The concept of good and evil – above all other concepts – leads to extremism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred, and mass murder. This is primarily because the dualistic concept of “Good versus Evil” is a framework and promotion of extremist ideology; this concept isn’t a safe and carefree ideology for children as is often touted via mass media and popular parenting ideas. It is a concept that compels people to hate and murder under a veneer of justice. The reason for these issues is due to our groupist mentality intermingling with the extremist ideology of absolute good and absolute evil. The idea of mostly good or mostly evil is self-damaging because people have anchored their viewpoints on an absolutist concept and given small concessions to what is still largely an absolutist disposition. When we apply these dual extremist ideologies to our fellow human beings that are different from us then we will always be generalizing them with a simplistic worldview. There are different degrees of how pernicious this concept is but the problem is the concept itself being flawed and instigating hatred toward others.

Apologists of the dualistic concept of Good and Evil are quick to point out truly horrific crimes as proof that the concept itself has merit: the Holocaust, an anecdotal account such as the gruesome death of a child at the hands of a pedophile, or terrorism. Yet, upon a deeper look, these show a shallow understanding of the consequences of believing in good and evil. The Nazis committed a mass genocide after a voluminous amount of religious and political propaganda condemning the Jews for being evil people throughout the history of Christian Europe; they used the economic crisis, the belief that the Jews were responsible for murdering Jesus Christ, and anecdotal stories to argue that Jewish people were a villainous and hateful group that ruined their country. The narrative of doing what must be done to protect the innate goodness of the German people were used to instill the idea, for German soldiers, that they were heroically going through hell and committing these atrocities to protect the goodness of the German public. A violent pedophile who made a child suffer probably emphasizes their other actions, perhaps such as giving to charity, to ameliorate themselves from their horrific sexual tendencies; they vindicate themselves of responsibility by telling themselves that they are a mostly good person. How can we know this? Because that is exactly what the national media does to protect their image and many pedophiles wearing religious garb had defenders who blamed the victims or found examples of a priest being a “good person” to vindicate their rape of children. Psychologists have found that terrorists, by and large, aren’t insane extremists but rather people who turned to violence after seeing their efforts through more peaceful means being ignored or violently crushed – such as peaceful protests or the judicial system being purposefully ineffectual. A terrorist would argue the innate goodness of their actions or possibly highlight how the foreign country that they’re trying to destroy committed more egregious acts of violence upon their people to justify their behavior. In fact, that has been done in the case of Iraqi insurgents; they justified the beheadings by blaming President Obama for beginning an initial bombing campaign that Wall Street and the US’s Gulf allies demanded of him to protect global economic interests.

For the most part, Good and Evil thinking seems to lead people to believe in a “Good Person Syndrome” to self-exalt themselves and other people that they believe to be their in-group. Unsurprisingly, they ascribe villainous characteristics to a perceived hostile out-group. People living under the belief system of good and evil typically perceive themselves to be a good person; they thoughtlessly purchase cheap consumer commodities such as clothing made from Chinese sweatshops, jewelry that was found from child labor in India, the latest electronic gadgets that were made from factories that have long hours while paying their workers pennies a day, oil from dictatorships in OPEC, and when confronted with any of these realities then they argue that they’re a good person because of the positive relationships that they have in their personal lives. They argue that they’re a good mother, a good father, a good spouse, a good friend, and give to a few charities and that evil is just part of how the world exists. They don’t try to inconvenience themselves or admit to profiting off the suffering of the third world because it enriches their lives. Attempts at pointing this out lead to a backlash of calling out hypocrisy from those pointing out these issues, or blaming the out-group by arguing their governments and therefore they themselves are responsible despite the fact that some of these groups live under authoritarian rule or have no means of defending themselves. Once blaming the victim is accomplished, the Good Person Syndrome, makes itself content by arguing perspectives of self-worship via arguments such as how they treat their in-groups civilly, how their in-group is more civilized and open than the out-group through anecdotal evidence presented in the national news media to promote jingoism and confirmation bias used from the media to continue self-celebrating jingoism, and ignore or distance themselves from these realities by arguing that they are a humble folk who have nothing to do with the complexities of the world. Evidently, once there are moral questions that cannot be answered, a believer of good and evil will always argue that they are less than the complexity of the world and that these issues are “greater than themselves”; they ignore the fact that these questions would require them to rid themselves of their convenient, enriched lifestyle and they attribute negative qualities to vilify the people who point out these challenging questions. This isn’t because they are secretly horrible people or because of some evil nature in humanity; it is because they wish for their lives to have a coherent and largely positive narrative. To effectively have a positive worldview when believing in the extremist ideology of good and evil, they need to ignore or find “causes” for what their belief system teaches them is evil in the world. We humans have a negativity bias and negative information is more difficult to get rid of than positive information. Yet, it remains true that this dualistic and extremist teaching serves to create impotence towards complex problems in human affairs and leaves young people unable to deal with the real world.

The psychological effects known as the contrast principle and the consistency principle play a significant role. Psychologists have noted, and national news media has taken advantage of, the fact that people put more emphasis on contrasting characteristics than what is necessarily there when we observe two different subject matters; this can apply to people, expensive items, political ideologies, and many other things. Psychologists have also noted that most people don’t have the time or they’re disinclined to take the effort in assessing each event respectively and instead choose to automatically respond with their prior behavior to the particular issue. An example of the news taking advantage of these two psychological principles would be Piers Morgan, a US news reporter, interviewing Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist, when his viewership was low on CNN. Morgan’s arguments would obviously look more favorable compared to that of a conspiracy theorist and comparing Morgan to a loudmouth who wasn’t making much intelligible sense would further emphasize Morgan’s positive qualities by a comparison of the two. Unless the viewership is predisposed to Alex’s views, they would overwhelmingly see the positive aspects of Piers Morgan because of the contrast to someone perceived to be a worse person. Incidentally, the contrast principle is probably why Godwin’s law, reductio ad Hitler, is used in so much in Western social media to defend poor arguments or to emphasize the bad qualities of an opponent’s arguments; virtually any action or argument looks better in contrast to a mass genocide by a genocidal and racist maniac.

It is imperative to understand that good and evil itself is an extremist concept to the core of its very definition because it creates a grotesque oversimplification and anchors good and evil caricatures from cartoons onto real human beings. Instead of assessing events, peoples, places, or opposing arguments as their own individualistic concept; good and evil creates an anchoring effect, framing individual concepts with a favorable or antagonistic predisposition, which typically describes out-groups as mostly good or mostly evil compared to the in-group that is making the assessment. Good and evil leads to generalizations of entire peoples and these generalizations serve to create fanciful narratives similar to children’s fantasy books about the real world. We, as a culture, give ourselves narratives of self-exaltation of good and championing the good of the world, while presuming villainous or evil intent from all others different from us. We would be predisposed to assume evil intent on the part of other countries and peoples; this is especially true when the rational reasons for events are absent. When we have no rational basis for our understanding of why events happened – such as war, police taking down protests, or terrorist attacks – then we presume that the other side has an evil intent because that is the coherent framework of good and evil. Worse than that, good and evil is a concept that is averse to listening to rational discourse; the basic premise of the concept is that we must stand for the good and that means celebrating our peoples and cultures as morally or economically superior to the evil Other. The need for coherence in our minds would presume evil intent on the part of others for their actions and the externalizing of evil then compels us to frame racist, bigoted, and hateful narratives. The lack of a rational basis for events makes it easier for people to hate others under the framework of good and evil. The inculcated framing of entire groups of people as “the other” through nationa news media then compels us to conduct war or mass violence. It isn’t just bigoted framing, but distancing to create a gap between the “good” people and the “evil” people, terms such as “foreign nationals”, “Hajis”, “Dykes”, “illegals”, “aliens”, and other such terms create this distance to form dehumanization campaigns. An important part of this, one that politicians, journalists, and psychologists understand about the general public, is that when you aren’t given rational reasons for why an event happens then you will find your own “causes” to form a coherent narrative because every human being needs a coherent understanding of the world around them to both maintain a sense of control and to reduce personal anxiety over dangerous events.

The 2015 Baltimore riots serve as an important example; many detractors blamed the “thug culture” of young black Americans as the basis for the riots. This is an erroneous claim for most open-minded peoples; rap music isn’t going to compel people to act differently than what they already were inclined to do. The true cause of the riots were Baltimore police’s brutality of the civilian populations; there were mass settlements amounting to 5 million per year to settle cases of police brutally assaulting civilians – in one case, the police assaulted a pregnant woman. Baltimore citizens were appealing to their government and demanding legitimate change for over five years but absolutely nothing was done. Upon agreeing to the settlements for family members who were hospitalized from police brutality, the civilians were legally obstructed from bringing these instances of police violence to the national news media. As a result, the national news media was able to frame a very one-sided narrative. While it is true that crime is a problem in Baltimore, the local government and the national news media have simply obstructed and ignored the suffering of the residents. But do you see how shallow framing this issue in terms of good and evil is? The national news media isn’t entirely wrong about gang violence and the crime rates of Baltimore but they ignored the average citizen being brutally attacked by police officers to give a slanted view of what was the true cause of those riots. The burning down of shops, more often than not, is because of opportunistic anarchists from outside of the area coming in to destroy property; this was true for both Ferguson and Baltimore but the belief in “thug culture” created a racist predisposition that made people believe that black Americans just wanted to burn down their own cities to riot.

Apathy and Silence towards Warfare

One of the greatest challenges, and least discussed topics, against religious faith is how shallow these so-called moral convictions truly are when jingoism sets in to begin war against a foreign entity. The sad fact of life is that war propaganda is successful at instilling hatred, racism, bigotry, and a desire for warfare against foreign countries. If morality truly was an important component of our existence then why does it become drowned away when a government prepares itself to launch a war campaign? This is essentially true for every country in the world; at some point, your country went to war and morality went to sleep. Notice that religious organizations of countries launching wars will always become silent about the morality of killing during times of war; they will almost unanimously grow silent in any moral objections. Worse still, average citizens will ignore the war crimes, bombings of foreign civilian homes, and largely create a fictitious understanding of warfare to praise their soldiers as humane when they conduct night raids, bomb houses, kill civilians, and – in some cases – rape civilians. The narrative of good and evil takes a strong hold to make the other side similar to the boogeyman to justify war – i.e. to justify organized mass murder. Foreign civilians are always caught in the crossfire; through two sides shooting at each other or through bombing campaigns. A nation-state always ignores or drowns out the civilian killings committed by their soldiers. The afterlife, the idea of a Higher Power’s plan, and other abstract concepts become excuses to ignore such barbarity.

How can we explain this nigh-universal cognitive dissonance in morality? Why do citizens of all countries have apathy towards their country committing war crimes? Where is the moral condemnation when it truly matters? It is simple: it suits our convenience as an in-group; when people aren’t being forced into conscription and aren’t personally affected by something then they simply won’t concern themselves with the issue. For the most part, people pay attention to their immediate surroundings and daily routine – soldiers committing war atrocities upon innocent civilians in another country is equivalent on the news to changing weather forecasts. People simply don’t care; religious beliefs – when they are truly needed – are met with intense social apathy and usually ignorance of the political events in question. That is the reality of how most people practice their religious faith; jingoism wins. Usually religion blends with racial or cultural jingoism to defend wars and ignore war atrocities; what use is morality in these repeated scenarios?

Consequently, we differentiate killings during war versus murders within our countries. This isn’t simply true of soldiers battling combatants, this is also true in the case of soldiers slaughtering an entire village of civilians – such as in the Haditha killings. Why? A possible utilitarian reason is this: the nation-state differentiates killing in the name of obtaining a political or economic objective (which maximizes State power) versus killing people within the country. Killing people within the country is an act that weakens State power because the murdered individual is useful human capital and further weakens the strength of a nation-state should such acts go ignored because people of similar ethnocentric, gender, sexual orientation, or political background will want equal treatment for their group and demand punishment for the murder committed. Incidentally, in the case of Haditha – and almost all other instances in which soldiers have massacred foreign civilians – the Good Person Syndrome takes full effect; the murdering of children, the handicapped, and other foreign civilians are wholly ignored whilst news media runs stories about how the soldier, usually a man, is a family man with children and a wife. The paradigm of good and evil sets in and the most inconsequential displays of the abstract “goodness” of the soldier are trumpeted while the heinous deed is ignored. Thus, the soldier faces no jail time. Usually the story is never editorialized again because it hurts the coherence of their country being a force of good that the majority of people believe about their country.

This is not meant to be snarky and I didn’t single out an example from the United States to insult it; I’m simply pointing out a modern example of a realistic fact about all nation-states. The late 19th and earliest 20th century was the worst periods of war, genocide, and human rights crimes in terms of scope and scale. This example is simply meant to convey an evident fact: good and evil doesn’t work and results in ignoring morality over providing positive moral answers to the most important questions. It is limiting, shallow, and makes people confused and disoriented in understanding real life events. In Part 2, I will elaborate my contentions on specific religions and why they cause pro-war narratives that result in mass death. However, before that, there are still other mostly universal issues of religious faith that need to be covered.

For a friend: http://www.gofundme.com/xa8zkqg

A friend of mine recently had to deal with his car exploding. Luckily, he got his daughter out of the backseat before it exploded. At the time, he was taking the car to a mechanic to get it checked-up because he and his wife are moving to a new place. If you can spare anything for the couple, even a few dollars, then I thank you.

http://www.gofundme.com/xa8zkqg

Fortunately, nothing serious happened; but he did lose most of his belongings in the car fire because he was moving to the new apartment. Mostly video games were lost but it’s still awful that it happened and I sincerely wish the best for all three of them.

Breaker Morant: A glimpse upon human apathy

The only reason that war criminals aren’t effectively punished is because of this pitiful argument within movies that soldiers killing innocent people aren’t ever truly guilty of their heinous crimes.

The moral of the story in these shameful movies? A soldier isn’t responsible for killing people. The implications that nobody will focus on? The value of human life only extends as far as our country’s borders, the value of human life is of no consequence for those who don’t hold the same citizenship that we do, and the value of human life is meaningless to us who don’t have to deal with the questions. We devalue the innocents and show the true apathy of human existence in all its splendor.

But why should this ever be a surprise to us as human beings? After all, we ignore our own transgressions when we buy into corporate products that use child slavery, sweatshop workers, or facilities that force people into the most heinous of conditions.

Why should this be any different? The only thing that defending the actions of soldiers who kill civilians prove is that our moral horizons are limited and that we don’t honestly care whether civilians get killed or not. We are American, it is what we should expect from our aggressive and war-like society. We are tribal people decorated in modern nuances to sanctify our wars for our economic prosperity upon the backs of people we condemn as uncivilized barbarians. After all, we are a nation that has Iraq War 1, Iraq War 2, and Iraq War 3 under its history in such a short span of time. However, we are not fully to blame nor are we unique in this aspect.

We humans always look for an enemy to kill and justify our violent impulses as a group. It is who we are as war-worshipping peoples. We are unashamed to always throw away guilt and we harbor no shame in saying that soldiers killing civilians in war shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions . . . unless those civilians are us because we are unique among other human species by virtue of being who we are. But of course, all first world countries function in this manner.

For all the suggestions that these movies “raise serious questions”, nobody has ever found an effective solution because every single human being can offer an excuse unless the barrel of the gun is physically pointed at them. However, we, the privileged peoples, do not ever consider that option. What if the soldier pointed the gun at you during a warzone? We would all be singing a different tune then simply blabbering: “this raises serious questions!” or “it’s very hard to tell because it’s a warzone!” as we do when we have the privileged third person point of view? If the gun was pointed at us, we would consider it a human rights crime? Would it be a murder attempt? Perhaps would it instead be regarded as one of the most heinous and inhumane crimes imaginable? Would we immediately demonize the other side attacking us and regard them as a bunch of savages who need to be put in jail or be administered capital punishment because our lives are in jeopardy?

Why do we not have this attitude for non-americans in warzones? The answer is simple: We implicitly consider their lives to be inferior to our own; being a non-American is synonymous with being of lesser value as a human being. It would be the same whether we were British, French, Russian, or any other nation of peoples. It is how we as human beings function. Morality only goes as far as our own borders but beyond it is of no concern to us unless the effects harm one of our own citizens. We humans do not value love above all else; we value apathy and ignorance as our highest virtues. It is what motivates all the terrible crimes in the world, after all. Our suggestions that these issues are complex and the soldiers should be given more leeway when killing innocent people is just the revelation of our own apathy for human life.

Look at the Holocaust as a prime example, Jewish people slaughtered outside of Germany was considered a human rights crime but it took a arduous human rights campaign to convince European powers and the USA that the genocide of Jewish people within Germany should be a human rights crime too. That was how little the great powers valued the lives of Jewish people; not just because of the pervasive anti-semitism due to the belief that Jewish people were responsible for the killing of Jesus Christ but because the lives of German Jews were of no consequence to people outside of Germany since the belief that a country under the belief that nation-states had no right to interfere with each other’s laws.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

By far, one of the greatest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Daniel Kahneman goes into such details for biases in availability, to substitution of hard questions to how we feel about such difficult questions, and how we try to find causes where there are none.

There is a plethora of riveting, academic, and simply phenomenal information that one can gain from this reading. Not only would a reader feel less worry about abnormal events such as terrorism, but may even gain a better understanding of mathematics too.

Kahneman’s book is divided into 5 parts that range from our cognitive biases such as biases of heuristics, to our biases of stories that we tell ourselves, our narrow focus and overestimation on abnormal issues without a proper understanding of probabilities, and the shocking difference between our actual experiences and how we remember them.

Examples include the overestimation of terrorist events because they’re far out of the norm compared to statistically more likely dangers such as car crashes, how we choose certain activities based on our recollection of how pleasurable or painful they ended instead of the length of time of the activity, and how we make financial decisions based on reference points from our previous socioeconomic status.

I probably sound like a fanboy but I think it might be accurate to say that I am a fanboy of this book. I highly recommend it to anyone. It is lengthy but the information is worthwhile. I cannot truly go into the depth of what this book covers. Try a free sample if you have a kindle.

Listed below is my understanding of certain aspects of cognitive biases that the book covers; understanding the issue is the first step to preparing defenses against it:

System 1: utilizes intuition.

System 2: Effortful/contemplative and lazy.

Base-rate fallacy, ignoring the percentage of people because the story sounds consistent with our automatic biases.

Anchoring: Moving slightly above or below a set standard that has been set. For example, realtors being given the price of 70,000 for a 90,000 dollar house and moving slightly above or slightly below the initial starting price despite it being far below the actual value of the house. Anchoring doesn’t work in circumstances in which the price or subject matter is immediately considered unreasonable such as asking 10,000 for a 90,000 dollar house.

Framing: How we set-up questions to get the answers we want. For example, food being described as 1% fat free versus 98% Fat.

Understanding talent: Talent is consistently performing an action, having constant feedback towards that action, and learning mini-skills to eventually raise their ability up to a higher level. A “talent” is a set of several learned mini-skills.

Cognitive ease: filling the gaps of what we don’t know with what we expect to be reasonable information. For example, believing that police officers are lawfully bound to protect the public despite this lacking legal basis. (More on that here: US Supreme Court declares police don’t have a constitutional duty to protect the public)

Cognitive ease usually consists of the following:

People being unable to understand how they previously defended arguments before they changed their mind.

Theory-induced blindness: Being unable to see the flaws of a theory until after one’s mind has been changed.

People try to find causes where there are none such as rural areas that have low populations having extremely low or extremely high cancer rates. Events are in a flux and life sometimes has a regression to the mean in just about every circumstance in life.

We have trouble distinguishing rumors from factual evidence because our system 1 absorbs them as if they’re equal.

We tend to have a planning fallacy, ignoring how many others are doing the same thing that we are and we try to ignore how statistics apply to our behavior and the behavior of people we know.

Overall, 5/5 stars. It has been a great pleasure to read. I cannot recommend it enough!

Regarding Web Forums: Elitism is everywhere; we just moralize our own bigotry

Over the course of these ten days, I’ve dealt with some rather annoying events. Most are fairly minor events but the most vexing moment of this week was purchasing a $500 Swash electronic ironer only to receive it broken. After calling the company, and repeating several start-up processes for over an hour, the machine never worked. The person on the phone then informed me that they could send a repairman to check it out but if nothing is broken then I would be billed $140. Perhaps they were being genuine but I grew immediately suspicious and asked for a refund. They informed me that I would have to take it to Best Buy, after going through the annoying process of repackaging it; I drove to my local Best Buy the next day and received a full refund with no problems. Admittedly, I expected some type of no refund policy despite the Best Buy website specifying full refunds within 15 days of purchase. I had felt increasingly negative as the week wore on. I suppose those two examples serve as examples of good and bad customer service. The Swash product was for my father as a father’s day gift and instead I ended-up wasting my time whilst my father’s happy mood was crushed.

I’ve noticed, in both web forums and small town communities, bigotry is everywhere. Web forums are probably the worst of the bunch and it isn’t just the fact that people can use anonymity to make stupid comments. Basic group psychology seems to show that forums become toxic hive-minds; echo chambers where the “correct” opinions are praised and the “incorrect” opinions are “troll attempts” because you disagree. Reddit is, by far, the absolute worst offender. All upvotes will be seen as experts, or intelligent community members, protecting the integrity of the community and all downvotes will be looked on with derision – because we are already predisposed to believing it is a troll post – and the downvoted person will be regarded under a negative lens before their opinions/arguments are ever fairly evaluated.

Does this seem like a minuscule problem? It shouldn’t. This issue is facilitating extremist viewpoints. For example, what if people went into a subforum called “r/anarchy” and politely contested anarchy with their own personal views or facts that they wished to bring up regarding the negatives of anarchy. The hypothetical r/anarchy subreddit, due to the framework of how subreddits function, would immediately begin downvoting (usually without even considering the argument) and would then begin to say that such material were clear evidence of “Troll posting” and then user would likely be banned. The prevailing argument being “why should they be posting on such a subreddit at all, if they disagree?” would be the foremost contention and the integrity of the rules would hold paramount importance. But that is the kind of mentality that creates extremism. To downvote, devalue, degrade, and despise every opinion that is anti-anarchy or shows the problems with anarchy being advocated would be seen as “trolling” in such a forum. The only opinions that would be accepted would be pro-anarchy opinions and thus extremism becomes the reality of that subforum because of the repeated exposure of viewing “outsiders” under a negative lens. Now, switch anarchy with r/redpill – a subforum that celebrates misogyny to the point that they had huge upvotes on videos of women being beaten by men. Any pro-woman opinion, including what the majority of first world country inhabitants believe to be sensible norms like a right to fair trials would be downvoted as “trolling attempts” by dissenting users. Now, switch it with any other forum within reddit and you will see the same problems because of the framework of the website.

Granted the degrees of extremism differ from subreddit to subreddit but the endemic problem is the structure of reddit itself. But again, all forums on the internet have this issue. And, for the most part, more people lurk than post content on web forums. In the end, forums are just a breeding ground for extremism and bigotry. There is also an attempt at using morality to obfuscate this bigotry. When we disagree with people, we generally apply negative characteristics to them despite the fact that we have no way of knowing what the person on the other end of the screen is like. Worse than that, moderators let their forum powers get to their heads. Many of them act like experts because of their roles as bringing moderation but they’re not exempt from these biases and often “protecting the community” can be synonymous with erasing dissent because it offends the feelings of the majority. And it isn’t just them, normal forum users do this too, usually using ad hominems, spurious generalizations, or social proof to feel this self-pleasuring righteousness. This leads to arbitrary rules, arbitrary enforcement of the rules, hypocrisy, bigotry, and angry tangents. The crux of this defeatist system is thus: fact and opinion become misapplied as equal to each other. Forum users act as if “fact” and “how this makes me feel” is equal in arguments. This is especially true for facts that we disagree with or know very little about. I had to explain the definitions of “probability”, “worldview”, “interest rates”, and the events of Operation Cyclone for people to appropriately understand what I was referring to when I used such words or explained the negative effects of US foreign policy in Afghanistan. Most people who don’t know these terminologies or don’t know the history of US-Afghan relations generally seem to view college degrees, higher education, and wealth as negatives. Although, that is purely anecdotal observations on my part; yet it just pushes me more into believing in elitism. Ignorance is just ugly to look at.

Generally speaking, I’ve realized that I really can’t change anyone’s mind should they come from a lower economic background – for the most part, it’s increasingly more difficult to find open-minded individuals from lower educated backgrounds. I just have to tell the lower income people what they want to hear because of their own predisposed views on life, economics, politics, and religion. I’ve tried, I’ve tried for years, and it never worked. I was a fool for trying in the first place. From now on, I won’t bother. This is true for both people in real life, outside of my educated friends and professors, and especially for people online. There just isn’t any point in trying to have discussions on complex thought with such people. For anyone reading this, do yourself a favor and don’t waste your time. Only the higher educated classes will ever truly give you the time of day.

Why New Atheism imploded . . .

Why New Atheism imploded . . .

It seems that after Hitchen’s death, it became far less focused on debating religious groups about their beliefs. Comparatively, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the organizers of Skepticon and TAM have completely wrecked the Atheist movement for followers of New Atheism and for other Atheist movements.

TAM and Skepticon organizers probably share the brunt of the blame. They didn’t make any changes on sexual harassment policies back in 2011 and did little to enforce such policies. Women brought complaints about sexual assault only to be rebuffed; the first President of the TAM convention had stupidly asked for a concession on the part of the victims by saying that he wanted to reports to be balanced. Why was this stupid? Because he had just implicitly claimed that some of the victims were lying and he was clearly trying to do damage control on the organization’s image. Shocking as this may sound, CEOs and organization Presidents have to accept blame when their organization fails at security concerns otherwise the public will go elsewhere. The importance of this can’t be understated; instead of dealing with this issue or having a community of sympathizers who tried to help, the Skepticon/New Atheist community went on a pathological hatred for all things regarded as “feminist” and who was this vilification toward? Feminist – many of them Atheist – bloggers, vloggers, and writers. From Youtube, to podcasts, and sometimes on television; the intense misogyny was for all to see. Slews of condemnations, disingenuous misrepresentations, ad hominems, and a disgusting level of vitriol were thrown upon women who either identified themselves as feminist or brought to light the problems of the convention. One vlogger, Thunderf00t, even said that sexual assault at atheist conventions wasn’t a major issue and went on to say that feminism poisoned everything. This hateful vitriol served to obfuscate the message of the victims of sexual assault and atheist conventions began to dwindle in the numbers of female participants over the years.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Thunderf00t/videos

This type of behavior was utterly shameful from an organization that claimed to be about social progress and support for science. But, of course, even that slowly changed. Soon the message became wearing t-shirts that lambasted so-called “feminazis” for the crime of bringing up issues of inequality and sexual harassment. Most of these anti-feminists would bring up small anecdotes from Tumblr, twitter, or some personal interaction that they had to condemn every woman who considered herself a feminist. Some of these vloggers, like TJ Kirk – known as The Amazing Atheist, would repeat anti-feminist videos and constantly use anecdotes from tumblr to justify his misogyny. At one point, every third video that he made was an anti-women rant and he never mentions his messages on reddit where he told a rape victim that he hoped she was raped again; the message which set off the disgust for him within the feminist movement.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheAmazingAtheist/videos

Richard Dawkins was no better than these juveniles. His infamous “letter to Muslima” in which he made light of an encounter that Rebecca Watson – known as Skepchick – had on an elevator. This wedge only grew worse as Dawkins refused to change his views. The time when he began to show changes, Sam Harris added his own sexist message on his blog and Dawkins was back to insulting feminists and ignoring the sexual harassment complaints at conventions that he was invited to. Both he and Harris have remained silent on the rape allegations of Michael Shermer. But unlike the juveniles, he did eventually apologize for his distasteful joke letter.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2014/08/07/richard-dawkins-apologizes-for-dear-muslima/

Sam Harris seems to like using half-truths to make his political objections. He has supported an openly discriminatory anti-Muslim movement in the Netherlands; going so far as to back them and he has been selective in his objections against Islam in particular. Yes, it is true that the Taliban seek to create horrible conditions because of puritanical religious beliefs but the Taliban were trained by the US military and our government aided Saudi Arabia in teaching a puritanical version of the Islamic faith in Afghanistan to brainwash these people into fighting the Soviets. The Bush family went so far as to use U.N. school books to teach an extremist Islamic ideology to school children during the time of President Reagan. Harris either purposefully leaves that out to make his argument look better or he doesn’t know the full facts. Either way, he is not giving his viewers or readers a truthful version of the events that took place. Regarding Iraq, he never brings up Clinton’s sanctions which resulted in the deaths of 500,000 innocent people – most of them were children as young as 5 years old. Where is the moral condemnation for those events and why does Harris never speak of them? I think it’s more accurate to say that Harris is outright vindictive because he has written arguments to support Islamic dictators. If you try bringing this up to Harris’s fans then they’ll say that you’re being disingenuous but the truth of it is in his very books:

“There is no doubt that our collusion with Muslim tyrants – in Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere – has been despicable.  We have done nothing to discourage the mistreatment and outright slaughter of tens of thousands of Muslims by their own regimes – regimes that, in many cases, we helped bring to power.  Our failure to support the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991, which we encouraged, surely ranks among the most unethical and consequential foreign policy blunders of recent decades.  But our culpability on this front must be bracketed by the understanding that were democracy to suddenly come to these countries, it would be little more than a gangplank to theocracy.  There does not seem to anything within the principles of Islam by which to resist the slide into sharia (Islamic law), while there is everything to encourage it.  This is a terrible truth that we have to face: the only thing that currently stands between us and the roiling oceans of Muslim unreason is a wall of tyranny and human rights abuses that we have helped to erect.  This situation must be remedied, but we cannot merely force Muslim dictators from power and open the polls.  It would be like opening the polls to the Christians of the fourteenth century.” – Sam Harris, page 132 of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.”         

Bringing this up to Sam Harris fans will only get you accusations of quote-mining, disingenuous misrepresentation, and arguments that Harris is being taken out of context to the point that there is no context in which one can evaluate such statements. It’s a willful denial of the meaning of these statements and an attempt to obfuscate Harris’s sheer ignorance regarding these political topics. It is both shallow and deceptive in order to protect this heroic image of Harris and others. In all honesty, it’s no different from how religious adherents protect their demagogues.

For more on this and other issues pertaining to the New Atheist movement’s growing problems; please read my ebook. The Fallacies of New Atheism is on discount from now until June 5th. Thanks to the Kindle Countdown deal, it’ll be available for 0.99 cents today, $1.99 tomorrow, and $2.99 on the 4th – 5th! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you choose to read my ebook, then I thank you for your time!

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http://www.amazon.com/Fallacies-New-Atheism-discrimination-pseudo-intellectualism-ebook/dp/B00U5010MC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1425233260&sr=1-1

A change of perspective . . .

First, I would like to apologize for having gone AWOL so quickly after forming this blog. I’ve been delving into an assortment of different literature and I was unable to fully commit to a blog when going through a re-evaluation of my own beliefs and goals.

Although, I am sure that certain negative presumptions can be made about this change; I have decided to no longer stand for secular humanism to the degree in which I used to. I still like certain aspects of secular humanism but it’s inasmuch as political policies that don’t cause undue suffering or outright harm upon innocent people and that falls along the lines of common sense than the precepts of secular humanism.

The reason for my change in perspective is for multiple reasons. After delving into certain psychological factors and concepts regarding social groups, and attempting to question these norms to no avail, I’ve realized that there really is no avoiding the inescapable horror of moralizing detachment from world affairs. That is, the inescapable fact that we’re largely apathetic to the events of the world around us. Genocide, war, factory explosions killing innocents, and so many other issues. They’re largely treated the same as different weather patterns. The only world scale issue that this doesn’t apply to is natural disasters. Charities have shockingly increased over the number of years and more is being done to aid people in such crises than ever before. But the point is clear: the majority of people don’t care for others if they have a different culture, speak a different language, live under different socioeconomic circumstances, and aren’t observed within the periphery of what constitutes “normal life” for the majority of people. As such, there really is no point in hoping that people change.

Arguably, there is a contention to be made about how globalization is slowly supplanting this or that ignorance can be overcome but it doesn’t change the fundamental factors of why this apathy exists: it isn’t just because of “Otherness” but the fact that people don’t concern themselves with anything outside of their state of normalcy. Anything outside of their small community, whether a city; a village; a town; or an equivalent of those; is of no importance to the majority of people. Unfortunately, there is no changing this because most of these people just don’t have any goals in life. What do most people say is their purpose? Generally, it’s raising a family and getting a good job. To most people, a job is a commonplace circumstance because of the need to have an efficient economy to satiate needs and wants. While raising a family can be considered a goal; it isn’t your life’s work and the way in which people describe raising a family as a goal seems to be misapplied. I’ve noticed that many people carry this disingenuous notion that choosing to have a family is more important than having a successful career. And yet, the overwhelming majority of wealthy people across the world have families. Working on their career goals didn’t interfere with their family life and it is a myth that the majority of the wealthy have dysfunctional families. Celebrity children like Paris Hilton are the outliers and not the norm. People, more often than not, use their families as excuses to not follow their own dreams in life. I know that sounds terrible to say but it seems to be how people functionally describe what a goal is suppose to mean. I don’t see this issue with college educated people though.

Another reason, just as strong, for this change in my perspective is that I realized my value judgment was just plain wrong. I had presumed that because I could understand intricate social contexts about the world that the rest of the people in the world were just as capable and willing. Oh sure, they’re capable but they’re unwilling because they have put no value outside of the state of normalcy that is their daily lives. I’ve noticed that most uneducated people won’t value or even consider anything outside of the depiction of their country being a pristine and benevolent country of justice. But that is a normal development of human psychology through inculcated depictions in the news media, the film industry, and the gaming industry. Humans are groupist by nature and it occurs instantaneously.

My final contention, and this portion is largely based on my own anecdotal evidence but I strongly suspect that it’s more than just my personal observations, despite how conceited, bigoted, arrogant, and possibly spiteful I may sound . . . I believe that we, as a country, have made too many excuses for the absolutely disgusting behavior of lower income Americans. Some people might assume I mean minority groups who purportedly make-up a large percentage of welfare checks. I’d like to point out that such a claim is utterly erroneous to start with: the majority of welfare check recipients are white and my disgust is not about anyone’s skin pigmentation or a generalization against any specific minority group. Such stereotypes are false and only structured around racist codifications to begin with. The majority of any “racial group” in the United States is actually fairly well off except for Native Americans (Native Americans in certain areas still suffer from racist laws prohibiting their ability to have a quality lifestyle but that’s a topic for another time); what I find disgusting is specifically what I just said. The majority of lower-income people of any background are rude, racist, use magic thinking to explain the events of the world or just don’t pay attention, demonize wealthier people as whores or scumbags, play lottery tickets as if they’re actually going to “win big” because their family member’s birthday is the chosen sequence of numbers for the lotto ticket, and they’re more prone to physically threaten your life because they can’t get their way. Would they keep their promise of harm after threatening you? The correct answer is that they shouldn’t be threatening you to begin with.

To be clear, this isn’t unique to any specific skin pigmentation. This is just something that I had to endure from all backgrounds by people whose only similarity was that they were lower-income people. In my mind, I couldn’t help but juxtapose these numerous events with how wonderfully polite, amicable, open-minded, and intelligent my college friends and classmates – of all racial backgrounds – were. In college discussion and in my college clubs, everyone had a profound and insightful perspective or opinion to give on the subject matter pertaining to either the class or the club respectively. It was thoughtful, empathetic, and just so wonderful to be part of. Yet, I feel this shows what the actual reasons were: education from the desire of self-betterment. I always understood, to some degree, that Republicans were correct about how one’s economic circumstances were determined by one’s choices in life but it didn’t truly sink in until I had actually begun working. The visceral understanding is what made me realize that the conceited nature of Republicans wasn’t entirely wrong. As far as people in first world countries go, unless you’re a foreigner who can’t speak English well (a circumstance that should be given more sympathy as English is one of the most complex languages to learn and the history of English’s complexity is something most Americans seem unaware of) or in a high crime area, then you don’t really have an excuse for your economic position in life. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to children of lower income families but adults really don’t have an excuse. They chose how to live their lives.

Worse than that, we seem to give excessive excuses for their behavior. “They’re being duped by the corporations”, the “poverty trap” is getting them, “they were deceived by the banks”, and so many other excuses. But these apologist statements aren’t altruistic. In fact, they are patronizing because the implicit argument is that poor people are too dumb to think for themselves and make their own choices. People who self-identify as socialist, liberal, or Marxist should reconsider what they’re arguing regarding those contentions and understand that it isn’t true. They had the same opportunities as everyone else in a first world country; they were given benefits to make the leap into the Middle and Upper classes but they never did. The underlying reason, I’d argue, is that these people just don’t have a goal and this is what truly disgusted me: they have the potential to do better, to make everything in their life better, to rise above these fictitious shackles and they don’t try to. Poverty is a state of normalcy for them and they’re perfectly fine living this way. They’re content with reciting the phrase “I’m alive” when I asked how their day was. What truly shocked me, horrified me to the core, was the realization that Nietzsche wasn’t exaggerating when he predicted the coming of the Last Man. The Last Man is here and it is the everyday poor of American society. Yet, even this had a juxtaposition, speaking to CEOs at a seminar class in my college, I realized that some of Nietzsche’s ideas about a Higher type of people was basically fulfilled by the roles of passionate CEOs.

Do I still sound bigoted? The final nail in the proverbial coffin was this: I had been in a third world country, I had met and spent almost a week’s worth of time with third world country poor in India. To be perfectly frank, they’re actually quite pleasant and treated me congenially. You usually here about rapes in India through Western media sources but what I found was not a savage culture but a lack of resources, a lack of taxation, a lack of healthcare facilities, a lack of jobs, a lack of woefully needed infrastructure, and a virtual invisibility of these people’s plight from the broader public view that created a terrible crime rate and apathy to their circumstances. Similar to how Americans view Baltimore and Ferguson; problems seem to be “over there” in that troublesome city/village and the majority just go on with their daily lives without a care in the world. It seems socialist ideologies do serve a need and do help bring awareness to the plight of the disadvantaged; yet the poor in the part of India that I visited still try to be happy. They’re not happy with their lives but they desperately try to be whilst maintaining a difficult agricultural lifestyle. I couldn’t help but recall my late grandfather’s words about the U.S. being the best country in the world. I had asked him why and expected some remark about democracy or freedom. Instead, he stated quite plainly, that it was because nobody starves to death.

So why have this bigoted notion? Because the third world poor are nothing like the first world poor. The first world poor pretends to act like the third world poor by suggesting that they have no opportunity to move up in life. That is false; they have neither drive, nor dedication, and have no ambition to move up. We act like the poor in America have it the worst but that is absolutely false. If being “preyed upon” is getting them to smoke too much, drink too much, and gamble too much then we’re just trying to excuse their idiotic habits. The poor in third world countries really don’t have any opportunity to improve their lives. It’s disingenuous to say the poor in America have it so bad when people in actual need of charity in third world countries have it so much worse and yet get less attention from us because we think of them in a abstract and not as real people. You could argue that their own country should be helping them but that’s just a patronizing and self-centered viewpoint made to alleviate our own guilt for our inaction and thoughtlessness. We can actually do more for third world country poor because of the exchange rates of first world to third world countries.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the validity in it anymore; we just give too much leeway to the lower income of society. Even if you were to argue that certain zones in the United States were similar to third world countries, it still doesn’t change the fact that the majority aren’t living under such standards. Socialists and advocates of the poor may serve a positive purpose in society by highlighting issues that people should be aware of but that’s really it. Their solution is bogus because they’re not defending some hardworking, honest, kind, and brave group of people. I can believe that some lower income people are like that but the vast majority are xenophobes, racists, ignorant of economics yet acting like experts, ignorant of mathematical computations yet acting like luck is true, use pattern recognition to judge things too often, and have no self-control over their terrible habits.

The majority of the rich – regardless of political affiliation, religion, skin pigmentation, gender, and so forth – are the kindest people that I have ever met. Even if they have racist inclinations, the majority will try to hide it – not out of secret hate but out of respect for you as a human being – and you know what? I prefer that. Which would you rather have as your typical social setting? A bunch of strangers shouting obscenities, racist slurs, and threatening to attack you or people who respect your opinion, listen to you before giving a rebuttal to where they disagree (and doing so respectfully), and still like you as a person despite the fact that you have completely different viewpoints about important social views like the value of religion? As an atheist, I can make friends with Christians and have no yelling contests over debating religion with them. Do you think that’s possible with the less educated people of society? Good luck. You’re more likely than not going to be called a conspiracy theorist once you start talking about any abstract complexities in economics, philosophy, science, or politics. I stand by that statement after various amounts of trial and error yet I never had that issue with my college friends or professors. College friends, if they feel like they have an ignorant question, usually ask to excuse their ignorance before they politely ask a question about foreign countries from people who live in foreign countries or have family there. Yet, these interactions were always pleasant for me.

You can gain so much from social settings in college and gaining an education. I don’t know how I got the notion that people are equal regardless of education in high school but I am so glad to have been wrong when I was younger.

There is just no point in feeling discouraged by the masses being apathetic to human suffering or ignorant of how corporations or the government act in certain ways that people may not realize are detrimental. When we know better, it’s because we have put in the time and effort to make it our business to be aware of those respective issues. If you really want to make change, you have to stop treating power as some abstract evil and making excuses for your life goals. One contention that Zarathustra had in Nietzsche’s novel was that if the majority could do otherwise then they would have already done so. I couldn’t see how this statement was false. I cogitated over it and I just couldn’t see a flaw. Maybe I’ve become too biased but I think it holds true. The majority just don’t want to get out of their habitual lifestyles. What else can be said? They’re to blame for their choices in life and nobody else in a first world country. They’re not victims either. Unless they’ve suffered psychological damage from neglect or some form of abuse, I don’t see how they can’t be argued to be living perfectly healthy and emotionally stable lives.

Why have the value judgment of defending the poor of the first world? You’re better off by improving your own life. If you really care about issues of poverty, then help the third world because they’re the ones who are suffering. Go to Bangladesh, the poor regions of Africa, of India, or South America. Those people are the ones who truly need help. By the measures of countries around the world, our poor would be considered either middle class or rich.

From now on, I’m a Secular Elitist and I’m going to be proud of my elitism because it is earned.

Discover Your Genius by Gerald Sindell

This 11-step guidebook is a complete disappointment. I had foolishly considered the notion that perhaps a book that didn’t use statistical evidence or clinical psychological trials might hold some kernel of wisdom. After all, philosophers and Eastern religious texts offer interesting insights that I find worth consideration. To off-set the chance of disappointment, I had opened the book to a random part and read a bit. It seemed good enough, but I was proved to be thoroughly foolish for taking a small part and thinking the greater whole would offer just as much in terms of interesting insights.

That portion I had opened-up to read at the store I bought it from was the only interesting aspect. Everything else was garbage. I find the ideas too vague and poorly formed to apply to anything meaningful. The concept of raw ideas is just so groundless and ineffectual in conceptualization. A major flaw in this book is that the author assumes knowledge of various fields as examples and then presents his ideas on how they could work purely from his imagination. No attempt at reading or learning about these particular fields that he has no knowledge of but uses as examples and no attempt at understanding how to apply the specifics of what he’s talking about before posing these vacuous generalizations on fields that he’s ignorant of.

To add to the folly of this book, he sometimes goes into off-topic rants in the middle of certain chapters. It really feels as if this book was a rough draft of ideas that he didn’t pay any clear attention to or even think hard about distinguishing.

0/10. A complete flop.