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Capitalism Theology: The Struggle Between Good and Evil, Capitalists and Anti-Capitalists

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

In America, almost every issue offers irrefutable biblical “proof” that God sides with whoever is making a point. Some stories, like the parable of the money changers, have become so standard they’re clichés. But Rev. Morgan Guyton of Virginia’s Burke United Methodist Church breaks the cliché with a fresh idea – capitalism has its own theology. The eternal struggle between good and evil becomes the struggle between capitalists and anti-capitalists.

But first, some review for those decades-removed from Sunday school or, like me, secularists.

In this corner, the capitalists – Matthew 25:14-30 tells the story of a master who gives his three servants money to invest on his behalf. Two of them get a ROI roughly equal to a possibly illegal hedge fund – 100%.  The conservative servant/investor buries the money for fear of  being over-leveraged. He makes zero for the boss, which is probably much more likely than a 100% return. The master gives the two “entrepreneurs” a hefty quarterly bonus for taking a big risk with someone else’s money and punishes the “victim” by closing the sandal factory the other two bought and outsourcing his job to the Romans. Everyone lives happily ever after…except the poor sot who feared exactly what eventually happened – he’d lose the boss’s money and end up begging alms.

Money Laundering Down at the Temple

In this corner, the anti-capitalists – According to Matthew 21:12, Jesus goes all biblical on the money changers’ asses and tosses them out of the temple. Their sin was money laundering – changing one more-valuable currency for one with less silver, but the same face value. They split the profit between themselves and a high priest (the dude in the Popemobile knows of whom I speak) at the expense of religious pilgrims. The good folk from Main St., if you will. Ironically, they did this to allow the pilgrims to pay a church tax. With a sweet deal like that, today’s capitalists would convert from anti-tax zealots into prophets singing the praises of higher taxes overnight.

Matthew meant the parables as a comparison between Old Testament Grouchy God and New Testament Chillaxin’ Jesus. The problem is that it’s a long time between 2012 and the year to 1 AD. Why, Earth was only 4,000 years old back then.

In Matthew’s day, capital was a mushy concept. You didn’t trade a camel for a goat because you intended to develop a bitchin’ new goat roping app for an iPhone made by Chinese prison labor. You traded because goats taste better than camels and a goat sandwich sounds pretty tasty when your stomach is growling like, well, a camel. Today, capitalists brunch on money and all the goats and camels they can stuff in their mouths. Unfortunately, the money, goats, and camels usually come from those who can least afford it. It’s a bit like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi telling a hungry customer, “No goat sandwich for you”.

Today’s capitalists aren’t much like Grouchy God either. He may have been a mean SOB, but at least he was consistent and had a certain brutal honesty and fairness to his tantrums. The same story today would show the same meanness, but from a different source. The hedge fund managers would’ve skipped town for the Caymans with the master’s money and mugged the third servant on the way out of Dodge.

The Bible Proves Evolution is True

Of course, the ancient hedge fund managers didn’t break any laws. They were totally unregulated. Today’s hedge fund managers conveniently forget that our regulations came from two centuries of hedge fund managers and their bosses acting just like the guys in 1 AD. Of course that doesn’t stop them from complaining. They can make 1000% ROI and float everyone’s arks if we just let them run rampant and rapacious. We know this because the ethical standards in today’s Economic Bible are a bit loose. If you don’t like the law, just ignore it, pay a money changer to rewrite it, or buy the vote of a politician even more craven that yourself.

Matthew, a devotee of Chillaxin’ Jesus, would be appalled. He supported Jesus in a big way. He even worked for Jesus’s campaign. But, Jesus just wasn’t delivering the goods. In fact, Matt heard rumors Judas and Jesus had thrown in their lot with a band of grifters running a Ponzi scheme. Their honcho was a Jewish guy, Matt thought his name was Bernie Madoff or something.

So here’s my proof of a much-debated biblical construct – evolution (or at least reverse evolution) – and I use these two Bible chapters to bolster my case.

The ancient capitalists, the ones with disposable income to invest, honestly promoted entrepreneurial risk-taking by little guys. They came out on top and got a share of the wealth. True, the third servant got his ass kicked, but that’s how the literal “free market” at the heart of the Sumerian Dream worked.

However, capitalists began to consume Main St. while offering other organisms nothing in return. In the end, they evolved a “free market” ecosystem that resembled, “If I make manna, I’m rewarded. If I ruin the manna, I’m still rewarded,” construct. They developed an astonishing virulence and line the pockets of their Brooks Bros. exoskeletons with huge quantities of manna. They’ll lie, cheat, steal, or fence their Mother’s KitchenAid Automatic Manna Maker to do it. Today, they are a huge organism that takes over all it can touch to eat every scrap of manna.

Their scientific name, if I actually believed in science, is Pondus Scuminus.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor.

God Particle: Science vs. Creationism

8:44 am in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland think they may have found the holy grail of science, the footprint of the Higgs boson or so-called “God Particle”. The particle is the theoretical model for what gives matter mass and, in turn, explains how the universe formed. It will be a world changing scientific discovery if the theory pans out. It will also stiffen the resistance of many Christians to the tenants of science.

The basic rub between modern science and creationist design believers is that modern science is simply wrong on many fronts. Scientific tools and conclusions, like carbon dating, are ignored because the Bible says otherwise. Biblical scientists criticize modern science as a bunch of unproved “theories”, a position that is a basic misunderstanding of how modern science works.

In modern science knowledge is theory repeatedly tested and reviewed before it is accepted as fact. Biblical science holds that the Bible is the font of all knowledge and must not be challenged, reviewed, or even questioned in any way. If something appears in the Bible, it is automatically correct – and they have their own “scientists” to testify to it.

But the Higgs boson discovery is one in which the two sides might not be so far apart. Many, probably most, modern American scientists are Christian and believe in the Bible and God. However, they can reconcile the apparent contradictions between the Bible and what modern science and experiments show by not taking either source as absolute. For them, there is room for interpretation and scientific ways to explain many of the “miracles” and other events in the Bible. In their minds, science and religion do not necessarily cancel each other, but compliment each other to form theories that, to them, make religion and science stronger.

The ultimate “proof” of God is to explain how He created the universe. Science and religion are both a little light in the proof department. Both suggest there was a time before, well, time and something happened. Science posits there was a Big Bang; Biblical scientists suggest God got things started.

But what if the God particle and God are actually the same? Or what if God used the particle as a tool to “create the heavens and Earth”? Is this truly anti-Biblical? And even if modern science finds the particle, the next logical question would be, “where did the particle come from” And neither source seems to suggest an answer to that. It is the classic chicken and egg question – a question that neither side can definitively prove because it is inherently unprovable. At the end of the day, you either try to prove the provable by constantly challenging accepted wisdom or accept there are some things for which there is no answer other than possibly God.

We’d all be better off trying a grand experiment, perhaps one with more impact on daily life than any other. How about we stop arguing? Let’s prove answerable theories and concepts through science and leave the answer to the ultimate unanswerable question a choice. Is there a God or simply the mother of all bangs?

The end result is surely the same.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor

John Hagee Doesn’t Like Pat Tillman…Or Me Either

7:36 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

Pastor John Hagee doesn’t like me. I know this because I’m an Atheist. He told me I don’t belong here. America is a Christian-only nation he says. He says if I don’t pray to the Big Guy, read the Bible, and dismiss all other religions I should just get the hell out, go back where I came from. Although, America is where I came from. He says I have no right to live in my own country which seems a downright uneighborly thing for a Christian to say.

But, it’s OK. I don’t care much for John either. His spittle gets in my eyes. And his Christian brimstone breath? Wooo, give that man an ecumenical Tums®!

John’s making a big hubbub on his website this week. It’s D-Day and he’s effusively thanking all those people who have defended this country. He should thank them. They’ve defended his contemptible ass’s right to launch hateful, bigoted screeds at the top of his lungs. God Bless America! Or in the case of we Atheists and other religious vermin…USA…USA…USA!

I know John is a little weak on American history, so I’d like to fill in some of his blanks. John, there were Atheists at Normandy and Salerno, Guadalcanal and Saipan. Atheists were in the skies over Germany and on the field with General Washington. They served in Korea, Viet Nam, the War of Error and the followup Wars of Even Bigger Errors that still dog us. So were Muslims and Catholics and Jews and probably even some Wiccans and Satanists. I hear you’re none to fond of those folks either, but they were there. So were gay soldiers, sailors, and airmen, but that’s another of your screeds and another of my posts.

I served John. I was a Cold Warrior. Got a medal to prove it and everything. I’m one of those guys who helped St. Ronnie of Reagan personally and single-handedly knock down the Berlin Wall. You remember Ronnie. Tall guy. Prayed a lot. But no need to thank me, being as how I’m an Atheist and all.

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The Story of King James and Richard Dawkins

5:39 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

Uber-Atheist Richard Dawkins recently did something quite unexpected – he came out in support of British education secretary Michael Gove’s plan to send free King James Bibles to every English school. Of course, his unconventional position has, not unexpectedly, exposed him to ridicule from both Atheists and Christians – to the detriment of both.

Dawkins, like many Atheists who know the Bible better than its adherents, is a serious Biblical scholar who believes the King James Bible is world-class literature. As he puts it, “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.” I’m an Atheist and heartily agree. If for no other reason than its overwhelming literary value it should be taught, along with a wide variety of secular and non-secular literature, in schools.

How Many Moralities Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

However, Dawkins goes on to say, “Whatever else the Bible might be…it is not a moral book and young people need to learn that important fact because they are very frequently told the opposite.” I don’t completely agree here and that position sometimes attracts the wrath of my Atheist friends.

On the contrary, the Bible is moral book in many ways, it just doesn’t always reflect the moral positions of Dawkins, me, or millions of others. I see it as one of a great number of books and philosophies that can provide moral guidance and I don’t have believe in a God to see that or be moral. It is easy to find inconsistencies in the Bible and support for positions that were more suitable in Jesus’s day, but aren’t so great for the world circa 2012. I recognize some people would say that’s exactly the reason the world is in such a pickle, but that’s an entirely different post.

The Bible is an important book and it provides some useful moral guidance along with many other sources. It just doesn’t provide all THE moral guidance everyone needs or agrees with. That is where I see a great need to teach about the Bible, which is distinctly different than teaching the Bible. There is an equal need to teach about non-Christian sources as well.

You may believe the Bible is a crock of stale communion crackers, but you can’t deny its power as a shaper of history. To fully understand the history, literature, and social mores of the world it is indispensable – just as other religious texts and secular philosophies provide context for the advance of mankind.

Religious texts could, and sometimes are, perfectly at home in an academic environment providing there is sufficient context. We need more study of diverse forms of literature, sociology, and history to heal the fractures that vex us all.

But in the end, Dawkins hits the nail on the head while revealing the hole in his otherwise very thoughtful logic.  He seems to want to emphasize only the bad of the Bible as something dangerous to be taught and to reveal the awfulness of the book. I happen to believe that teaching the bad as well as the good provides a better balanced and complete picture. The devil, if you’ll excuse the biblical reference, is in the details.

Tenterhooks Need to Become More Tender

Atheists and members of other belief systems are rightfully touchy about the overwhelming influence of Christianity, particularly in the US. All the whimpering about Christianity being under siege is nonsensical. The tiny numbers of non-Christians that live in the US are about as able to slay Goliath without the slingshot or the rock and with all his arms and legs tied behind him as they are to lay siege to one of the world’s most powerful religions. You want to see a siege, trying walking in our shoes. Heck, try even keeping your shoes.

For their part, Christians are often offended by non-Christians and are not shy of offending them, to defend their faith. They often see open theocracy as a way to circle the wagons against all the devils out there who they believe would undo their faith in a heartbeat given half the chance. However, Christians also do incredibly important work helping the poor and wretched of the world, advancing the commonly agreed upon moral tenets of society, and providing alternative views of sometimes misunderstood non-Christian morality.

Everyone is on tenterhooks about religion these days and that seeps into governmental actions and personal morality and behavior. We do this because neither side is willing or able to entertain the notion that the other isn’t wholly evil and that maybe we all have a vested interest in doing things together. That doesn’t happen without understanding and compassion, exactly the unbiased understanding and compassion students should learn about in school.

In the end, Dawkins is under no illusion that something so rational will happen and neither do I. He thinks the availability of Bibles will create Atheists. Except for the exceptionally weak of mind, I don’t think that alone will change anyone’s opinion. Knowledge will help people make an informed choice and that is where the chips should fall.

Perhaps too much blood has flowed under the bridge of humanity to allow it. But, wouldn’t the world be a better place we did.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture

A Hell of a Way to Rally People to Your Cause

6:22 pm in Uncategorized by Omnipotent Poobah

One man’s immorality is another man’s religion, even if the immorality of that religion is pointed out by atheists. It’s common for religious adherents to sometimes act immorally – and sometimes hypocritical – despite what their religions supposedly teach. The same is true for atheists and what they believe. People are what they are, sometimes inconsistent, narrow-minded, and  disagreeable.

But, there’s the message and then there’s the way you deliver the message.

Backyard Skeptics, an organization that bills itself as, “Where humanists, rational thinkers, atheists and agnostics have a place to explore the world without religious dogma,” plans this weekend to rip pages out of the Bible they believe portray immoral biblical law.

The message that the Bible has passages that are immoral is a valid topic for discussion. Some reasoned discourse on biblical questions like these would be welcome in an era when understanding one another is limited to how loudly you yell at your opponents.

Non-Desecration By Destruction
But Backyard Skeptics Director Bruce Gleason says, “We’re not there to burn the Bible or desecrate. There are plenty [of] verses in the Bible that if you did any of those things today, you’d be thrown in jail immediately.”

True, some of those things would get you arrested, convicted, and maybe even sent to death row. But, Gleason’s claim that he isn’t there to “desecrate” the Bible rings hollow. Most Christians would beg to differ that ripping pages out of their holy book isn’t desecration and they aren’t the only ones.

Muslims understandably weren’t so pleased when renown nutcase and “clergyman” Terry Jones thought toasting marshmallows over an open fire of burning Korans would be a fine thing. In fact, Jones’ justifications weren’t all that different from Gleason’s. “Jesus would not run around burning books,” Jones said last year, “but I think he would burn this one [because He disagrees with it].”

And interestingly, Gleason’s protest engages in what Christians might call evangelism, but with a secular twist. “We want to make this a better world for secular and humanistic values,” Gleason said. “We don’t believe prayer works. We don’t believe religion adds anything except a sense of false hope.”

I believe Christians often rely too heavily on martyrdom. It’s their constant screed they’re an endangered species being systematically rubbed out by the forked-tailed devils around them. That’s an outrageous debating point for a group that makes up 75-80% of the American population. It’s nothing more than needless antagonism toward people who don’t believe what they believe…just as atheists ripping pages out of a Bible make their motives suspect.

Jugheads Doomed to Hell

And it’s not that theists don’t engage in their own intolerance. Atheists are probably one of the groups most singled out by theists. At least Muslims believe in some God, even if many Christians believe Allah is a mere pretender to the throne of higher power. Believe in yourself and you’re some sort of jughead doomed to Hell and sucking the faithful right along with you – a sort of reverse Rapture.

This isn’t a Constitutional issue. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that desecrating books or flags, or almost anything else is free speech and on that I agree with them (as long as that freedom is doled out equally for all). After all, they only ruled the speech free, not that it wasn’t ill-advised or provocative.

No, this is a matter of communicating beliefs. Dueling billboards that promote God or atheism? OK. Handing out information about your beliefs? OK, as long as you don’t tag along trying to convert me when all I want is a nice walk in the park. Ripping, burning, pissing on, or otherwise disrespecting someone’s belief symbols is intrusive, insulting, provocative, and needless.

In other words, it’s a hell of a way to rally people to your cause.

The Omnipotent Poobah, aka Jack Koeneman, is an atheist.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!