Saturday, October 31, 2020
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Pearced Off! #10 – How Much Evidence To Believe in God Is Twisting Your Arm?

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I am running a series of the old podcast segments from my Pearced Off! section of the Skepticule Podcast (a British skepticism-based podcast now on hiatus) that I used to contribute to. Some of the earlier ones have some quieter audio. Apologies. They run at around ten minutes. Something to keep you company outside of Netflix and the news…

Please subscribe to my channel if you can be arsed. One day, I might get to 1000 subscribers when they allow monetisation. Until then, it’s a labour of love.

This segment is on the amount of evidence needed to make one believe something – very much concerning doxastic voluntarism as previously discussed.

Here’s the thing – we often hear that God wouldn’t put a cross on the moon as overwhelming evidence for his existence because it is just too overwhelming and doesn’t give people the “choice” to believe. But this is thoroughly problematic, as discussed in this video:

These and other questions and problems are expressed in my book The Little Book of Unholy Questions (UK). Please grab a copy.


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Solidarity with Victims of Islamist Fanaticism

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2020-10-17

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire

We express our solidarity with the victims of Islamist fanaticism, in particular Samuel Paty, the teacher from Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, who was brutally beheaded on the 16th of October, 2020 by a lunatic of Allah. Condolences to his family and loved ones.

We condemn all those who facilitated this act of barbarity, by their complacency in the face of the Islamist threat, by their affectation of sensitivity, by their implicit (and sometimes explicit) support for the criminalization of so-called “blasphemy” in France and everywhere that religious obscurantism is rampant or seeks to prevail.

Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists  Muhammad, a star is born




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Being Honest with your Moral Consequentialism: Single Issues and Trump Support

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We’re almost there, so a few more political pieces to go…

Trump supporters must really be careful now. He has moved into such open lying in his rallies and messaging now that he is swimming in conspiracy theories and nonsense. It’s dangerous. As I have said in many pieces, support for him amongst intelligent people really comes down to cognitive dissonance to cover up what is actually outright moral consequentialism. These are worth reading:

First thing’s first:

Lies.

1) Trump is now claiming at his rallies that doctors make money out of every COVID death.

2) Trump is claiming that the USA is “rounding the corner” when they have just had the worst week they have ever had for coronavirus stats.

3) Trump publicly ridiculed Laura Ingraham, of all people, for publicly wearing a mask. He excoriated someone for doing something that his own coronavirus task force in his own administration has advised for health reasons.

4) He is linking coronavirus to China to Biden in some weird and crazy conspiracy theory. Publicly.

And the list and lies go on.

But in a spat I have been having with someone else on Facebook and my blog posts linked above about support for Trump, I see a huge amount of cognitive dissonance. This was really exemplified yesterday in an interview on BBC 5Live. A Trump supporter explained his support and started off with just an entire tirade of nonsense and guff. He claimed that Biden is just a liar, and this in the face of the over 20,000 documented lies that Trump has made since 2016. So on and so forth. These were the mental contortions constructed to justify his support for someone who is otherwise morally reprehensible. Don’t cover up his sexual predation, serial lying, financial crimes and racism with the most dubious of post hoc rationalizations. Own it, and provide real arguments.

My question is always, what really underwrites their support? Why do they have to create these mental gymnastics that are essentially delusional in order to support someone like this? I have always maintained that there is some other reason that they attach so much value to that it overcomes all of the voluminous tomes of reasons to dismiss Trump.

And it came. As clear as day to me, though hidden in the guff, on this radio interview as it so often does.

He let slip, two-thirds of the way through his rant. “I’m against abortion, and that would my the primary reason for why I am voting for Trump. And I am a proponent of the Second Amendment.”

There is your moral consequentialism. Anti-abortion and the right to have a gun. But rather than admit that this upfront, as a value that overcomes everything else, the man simply made up or easily believed a load of absolute nonsense and lies and used this as his more public front for supporting Trump. It is that that I label as cognitive dissonance. I am open about my support (as a non-US citizen) for my Biden support: he was my least favourite of candidates in the Democratic primary, but he is still infinitely better than Trump.

As I constantly decry, be more upfront about your core reasons for your support of Trump. We can have a rational argument about an honest and at least somewhat rational position (such as anti-abortion being the “trumping” factor), even if I usually disagree with it. But don’t go about building up at shaky constructions of post hoc rationalizations, nonsense and lies that you would certainly not accept from the other side. It just looks like cognitive dissonance.

Just be honest with your support.


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FOX News’ Jeanine Pirro: Thanks to Trump, I Say “Merry Christmas” Louder Now | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist

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Silly you. You thought Republicans just wanted to be able to say “Merry Christmas” in public without feeling like they were making some kind of mistake by excluding non-Christians. Nope!

In a reminder that the (fictional) War on Christmas will never end no matter what happens, FOX News host Jeanine Pirro told a crowd at the Faith and Freedom Coalition voter rally in Texas recently that anyone saying “Merry Christmas” has to also “stare people down” in the process:

“I remember when Donald Trump was running and he talked about bringing back ‘Merry Christmas,”‘ Pirro said. “I live in New York. I’m like, ‘Yeah, nobody says it.’ You know, you try to be politically correct because ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ Kwanzaa, this, that, the atheists, the agnostics, whatever. And then I said, ‘He’s right.’ This guy who’s never been in politics, a New York City billionaire who builds buildings for a living, who fights the swamp in New York City, he’s got a better handle on it than I do.”

“And since he came in, I say, ‘Merry Christmas’ and I say it a decibel louder now,” Pirro declared. “And I stare them down and so should you.”

It’s not exactly shocking that a person who gets satirized on Saturday Night Live by someone who is constantly shouting would… get louder. But more to the point, being politically correct in this case is not a bad thing! Atheists, agnostics, and whatevers are people too!

It’s also a complete lie that Trump brought back the phrase. It never went away. President Obama said it all the time.

In any case, so much for wishing people well out of the goodness of your heart, right? Rather than bestowing a kind greeting upon strangers — and celebrating the birth of Jesus if you happen to be a believer — Pirro is yet another right-wing activist weaponizing Christmas and using it to further divide people.

(via New York Daily News. Featured screenshot via YouTube)





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COVID-19, Hurricane Zeta, and the Worst Halloween Ever

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witch's house

I was very relieved to hear from Donald Trump during the last debate before the 2020 election that the COVID-19 pandemic is basically over, that the U.S. has a vaccine ready, and that the military will soon begin distributing to anyone who wants it. But seriously, it sounds like most experts think we are going to be living with this pandemic for a bit longer. Here in Mississippi, the county in which I live is back under another mask mandate because so many people have been refusing to comply with the public health recommendations that COVID-19 rates are spiking again. That raises the question of what will become of Halloween this year. We just endured yet another hurricane (Zeta) in the midst of the pandemic, so I don’t imagine Halloween is a high priority for anyone around here this year. I can’t say I blame anybody for that.

So what will happen to Halloween this year? I suspect that the local responses will fall into one of three camps. Some parents will decide that the risk to their children that would come from participating in trick-or-treating outweighs the benefits and look for other ways to enjoy the holiday. This is the camp I would fall into if I had children. As much as I love Halloween, there are better ways to celebrate it in the midst of a pandemic than going door-to-door begging for handouts (could the characterization I am using here be why some conservatives dislike Halloween so much?).

The second camp still believes the “Chinese virus” is a hoax (not unlike climate change) or that the pandemic is over because the Orange One said so. They will attempt to treat this Halloween the same as every other. If they let their kids participate in it before the pandemic, they will do so again this year. My guess, after having talked to a few of the parents in this camp, is that they are likely to be angry at those of us who won’t be answering our doors this year. If they have a bad night, they will blame those of us playing it safe for ruining their night. “Muh freedoms” and all.

As for the third camp, they aren’t going to let their children participate in Halloween because…Jesus. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the pandemic except that some of them might decide that even JesusWeen should be off-limits this year. Of course, this group seems to overlap quite a bit with the second group, and that might mean JesusWeen would still be regarded as safe. Even if there was a virus, it isn’t like Jesus would allow someone to catch it from a bible, right?

I think most of us can agree that 2020 has been an awful year. I suppose it is fitting that Halloween 2020 would be pretty terrible too. I don’t envy the parents with kids who would otherwise be trick-or-treating. Hopefully, they will be able to find some safer alternatives that can still be fun. Perhaps this would be a good year to focus on other Halloween traditions or start some new ones. That would be about the most positive spin I could put on it: use this year as an opportunity to start a fun new tradition.

As for me, I don’t recall ever looking forward to Halloween less than I have this year. It feels like I’m just going through the motions. I think I reached the point where I started wanting 2020 to be over a few months ago, and that hasn’t changed. Try as I might to get psyched up about Halloween, I just find myself wanting to make it to the end of the year without another damn hurricane!

Assuming you typically enjoy Halloween (or JesusWeen), I hope you somehow manage to have a good one this year in spite of the circumstances. If you can figure out how to do so, more power to you. I hope I will be able to do the same next year.



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Anti-Abortion Activist Laughably Claims Trump “Cares for the Most Vulnerable” | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist

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Christian preacher and author John Piper wrote last week that he would not be voting for Donald Trump because Trump was too toxic for the country. Joe Biden wouldn’t get his vote either, though, because Biden is pro-choice. Still, the headlines were all about how a conservative Christian preacher was urging people not to support Trump.

Enter anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson (below), who says in a response to Piper, published in the Christian Post, that Biden is clearly the worse of two evils because he’s complicit in “killing… our most vulnerable human beings.” (That’s not accurate.)

Democrats keep touting the false line that under democratic presidencies, abortions are less because of democratic policies. This has zero to do with democratic policies and everything to do with state legislatures. During Obama’s presidency, the state of Texas passed a record-breaking number of pro-life legislation, decreasing abortion numbers across the state by 30 percent. Texas wasn’t the only one. Many states replicated these pro-life legislative efforts during his eight years in office, significantly decreasing abortion rates across the country.

That’s… not the whole truth. Johnson doesn’t link to any resources about this “pro-life legislation,” but she gleefully ignores any mention of affordable healthcare, access to contraception, investment in early childhood educating, paid maternity leave, and subsidized childcare, many of which are pursued under Democratic administrations and blocked by Republican ones. Her claim is also suspect because Texas has one of the highest mortality rates for pregnant women in the country.

Needless to say, those “pro-life” legislative efforts make it more likely women will cross state lines to obtain the procedure or resort to dangerous “back alley” options.

When people ask me about how I vote, I am not ashamed to tell them that I am a proud single issue voter. I vote on abortion. How someone cares for the most vulnerable among us tells me everything I need to know about every other issue.

Donald Trump does not give two shits about the vulnerable.

Let me say it again for those in the back: DONALD TRUMP DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE VULNERABLE.

It makes no sense to call yourself “pro-life” and support a president who openly ignores how his inaction directly led to the deaths of many of the 225,000+ COVID victims. You can’t be “pro-life” when your concern for life expires immediately after someone’s birth.

To me, there is nothing else as important as abortion. Nothing is as destructive. Nothing is as deadly. Nothing impacts us more. It impacts our economy, our social security, the morality of our society, our birth rate, and our overall humanity. If we are willing to violently kill the most innocent and vulnerable among us, why wouldn’t we be willing to abuse and harm others? If we are willing to dehumanize the most marginalized in our society, what makes us think that dehumanization wouldn’t spread to other marginalized groups? The elderly, ethnic minorities, the immigrant, the homeless? What we do to the least of these, we will do to all.

So much to unpack here…

Nothing is as destructive as abortion? How about refugee kids in cages? Families torn apart, perhaps never to be reunited? A pandemic that continues to ravage the country? It’s ludicrous that Johnson throws in the elderly and ethnic minorities at the end when Trump and the GOP have been excessively cruel to both.

Furthermore, what kind of quality of life will these babies have once they’re born? Fetuses don’t stay fetuses forever. Eventually, they will need to be fed, housed, educated, and treated when sick. They will also require clean air and water. Why is it considered more noble to prioritize the unborn over those whose lives are most at risk under Republican rule? I thought this was the “All Lives Matter” crowd. Isn’t it worth looking at political candidates who care about immigration, poverty, and environment as part of the pro-life platform?





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What Makes a Horror Film Fun?

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Halloween fun fair

It might strike some people as strange to refer to “fun horror” films. If a horror movie is really a horror movie, how can it be fun? Isn’t horror supposed to be horrific, and wouldn’t that be the opposite of fun? I suppose it all depends on what you consider fun and what kind of horror films you enjoy. Many horror fans think it is fun to watch all sorts of horror films, including those with horror credentials nobody would dispute. I’m one of them. “Fun” doesn’t mean “funny;” it means something closer to enjoyable. As someone who enjoys horror movies, I have fun watching many of them.

But yes, when most of us refer to “fun horror films,” I think we have something a bit different in mind. I love Hellraiser and enjoy watching it every time I do, but I’d never claim it was fun. In truth, I find it very difficult to define what a “fun horror film” is even though it is easy to think of examples of what I’d consider to be fun horror movies. Consider the horror comedy. A good horror comedy often manages to be fun while still being a horror film. The Evil Dead trilogy is often considered the benchmark of this sort of thing. While I thought the first one was somewhat scary the first time I saw it, the second went in somewhat more of a comedic direction, and Army of Darkness took that even further. All were what I’d consider fun horror films.

I also think it is possible for a horror film to be fun without piling on lots of comedic aspects. I thought Alien and The Thing were fun, but neither were particularly funny. If an action film or a science fiction film can be fun, and many are, I see no reason why an action-oriented horror film or a sci-fi-oriented horror film couldn’t be fun too.

I’m going to suggest we pause on trying to figure out how we might define “fun horror” and list some examples. Maybe that will help us figure out what, if anything, they might have in common.

Some of My Favorite Fun Horror Films

When I think of fun horror films, here are some that come to mind:

What Makes a Horror Film Fun?

So what makes a horror film a fun horror film? Obviously, you have to enjoy watching it. I suspect it also needs to be the kind of film you’d recommend to others with similar tastes (e.g., I’m not going to recommend Dead Snow to anybody who doesn’t love gore or refuses to watch films with subtitles). That would suggest that it is the kind of film many horror fans would enjoy (i.e., a cult film). It probably also needs to be the kind of film that would be especially fun to watch in a group setting. What else? The first time I watched each of the films on the list above, I felt like I was watching something different from the usual fare and something that surpassed my expectations. And when I watch any of the films on the list above now, it is not uncommon for me to find myself yelling, “fuck yeah” or something similar at the TV. I think that is because they are energizing in some way. They are also films I can’t seem to get tired of no matter how many times I see them.

I’m not sure this helps us set out specific criteria we might use to determine if a horror film deserves to be described as “fun.” Perhaps there is too much individual variability here so that we are each going to have our own distinct lists because “fun” in this context is really more about our preferences than anything else. Maybe “fun” doesn’t mean much more than “It is fun for me.”

This post contains Amazon.com affiliate links, and I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links. This is one of the ways readers can support Atheist Revolution.



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Jerry Falwell Jr. is Suing Liberty University for Ruining His Reputation | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist

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Jerry Falwell, Jr. is finishing the job the pool boy started — humiliating Jerry Falwell, Jr. — by suing Liberty University for allegedly damaging his reputation.

Let me put that another way: The guy who posted a bizarre picture of himself with his fly unzipped and belly out, and who “liked” photos of younger women in not-so-Christian poses, and who posted a racist tweet in response to the governor of Virginia mandating face masks in public spaces, and who called a parent “dummy” for asking why Liberty was reopening during the COVID crisis, and who censored the school’s own journalists, and who apparently fell down the stairs because he got hammered one night last month, is very angry that his former university made him look bad.

Falwell accuses Liberty — and, for some reason, the anti-Trump Lincoln Project — of defaming him:

In his Complaint filed in the Commonwealth of Virginia Circuit Court for the City of Lynchburg, Mr. Falwell claims that Liberty University needlessly injured and damaged his reputation through a series of statements, published in print and spoken in large public forums and streamed online, following his forced resignation from the University.

According to the Complaint, these statements had the effect of affirming false claims that an individual made publicly against Mr. Falwell after years-long attempts at extortion against Falwell and his wife Becki. Based on research and investigation, this individual appears to be supported financially by political opponents of Mr. Falwell in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, likely including the anti-Trump political action committee called The Lincoln Project.

The Complaint, which includes claims of Defamation and Breach of Contract, alleges that Liberty University officials accepted the false claims against Mr. Falwell without investigation to force his resignation, and then engaged in a campaign to “tarnish, minimize, and outright destroy the legacy of the Falwell family and Mr. Falwell’s reputation.”

Falwell added in a statement, “I must take the necessary steps to restore my reputation and hopefully help repair the damage to the Liberty University brand in the process.”

I don’t know how strong his legal case is, but there’s no way his reputation can be salvaged when Falwell himself is his biggest enemy. The reason everyone’s mocking him has everything to do with his own behavior, not some public statement from Liberty’s Board of Trustees. This is also happening despite reports that Falwell stands to receive more than $10 million from Liberty U. as part of his severance package.

The weird thing is that Falwell could likely regain a chunk of his reputation, at least in the Christian world, by just laying low for a little while before claiming he found Jesus again and doing some kind of rehabilitation tour. That’s a time-tested lie that always seems to work. Instead, he’s out for blood because his religion revolves around power and vengeance.

It’s a foolish decision. But it’s Jerry Falwell, Jr. What else would anyone expect?

I’ve said this before, but imagine how awful you have to be to be the “Most Embarrassing Falwell” when your father is the guy who blamed 9/11 on pagans, “abortionists,” feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way.





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Putting the Trumpian Cognitive Dissonance to Bed

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This is my second piece dealing with a comment from someone I know on Facebook. Yesterday, I went to town on the claims that, compared to Trump, Biden is a racist crook. This seemed to be one of the bases of this person’s support for Trump against Biden. I am incredulous at my interlocutor’s public support for him given he is a well-read and intelligent man.

I made claims about cognitive dissonance – what his brain is doing to harmonise the evidence against his position – both that Biden is the racist criminal out of the two, and that it is good and right to support Trump and not support Biden. I think this is more than amply shown in his comments, and subsequent ones to me today.

Yesterday’s piece caused a firestorm of Facebook with himself and another interlocutor, Guy, whom I have written a number of articles about and against. Let’s remind ourselves of what was initially said.

“Not that much cognitive dissonance… I mean, no more than it would to support the racist crook that Biden appears to be. If sifting through the good and the bad and supporting a president based on the good outweighing the bad means cognitive dissonance, then be dissonant. But there are a lot of intelligent people voting for Trump, so it shouldn’t be too surprising. I remember you hating Trump from the point when he declared his intention to run. You’ve only ever proven correct that initial assessment, and all the evidence you’ve gathered seems to support that view. Isn’t that strange though? Perhaps it was because I was open to Trump’s presidency, that my mind hasn’t been fogged by a persistent negative interpretation. The baying voices of the media and the smug self-assurance of people that condemned him from the start – people who seemed to know very little about politics in America – gave me enough caution to not pile in likewise, but to evaluate him on his actions.”

 I think I have put the idea that Trump is the least racist and criminal of the two to bed. The reason this was important was that this formed the supposed rational bedrock of why he supported Trump over Biden, that I must be the one to have cognitive dissonance to support Biden, given his racist criminality. I have shown this to be false.

Intelligence

But there are a lot of intelligent people voting for Trump, so it shouldn’t be too surprising.

We all know the stats connecting those who have college education being more likely to vote for Biden and those without being more likely to vote for Trump. If you can relate education to intelligence in any way, then you might conclude that there is a positive correlation to voting for Biden and voting for Trump, though interestingly, this correlation has lessened over the last four years as Trump has made inroads into the particularly white, non-college0educated male voters.

For aa pretty balanced statistical analysis of intelligence as pertaining to voting for Trump or not, please see the article “What’s the average IQ of Trump voters?“.

My point was never that clever people don’t vote for Trump, my point is pretty much evidenced in the response to my article yesterday: that intelligent people who vote for Trump employ a bunch of other mental contortions to justify their vote.

Moral consequentalism

As I have said many times on this blog, the only rational position to support Trump is one that is virtually never used: that Trump is a horrible individual and moral bankrupt in all the ways obviously evidenced, but that I still support him for the consequences that his administration might bring about.

This is pure moral consequentialism.

It might be this: “I am absolutely intent on the Supreme Court being filled with conservative judges because I am so interested in reducing pro-choice legislation that I will accept all manner of other ills to this country (including the Covid deaths of hundreds of thousands) because pro-life legislation is that much more important to me.”

Now this is rational. It’s accepting the evidence, all that hard data, that Trump is an egregious, narcissistic human who is enacting things to the exclusive benefit of himself and his cronies, and any other number of things, because this has less negative value than the pro-life legislation has positive value.

I have elucidated this before as pretty much the only rational approach I would accept to Trump support.

But this is what does not happen. My interlocutor, for example, makes silly claims – I mean downright silly – about Biden, racism and criminality and attempt to use these to justify Trump support.

It is THIS that makes me angry because, more often than not, they are better than that. They are deluding themselves. There is no other way of seeing it and that is why I had to set out the case so forcefully yesterday about racism and criminality.

Vagueness

Perhaps what grates the most is that such supporters never really elucidate and substantiate their claims. The post the odd meme, the odd link to a Hunter Biden story, but never really lay out a case for their support. This is weak and perhaps shows that they aren’t really PRO-TRUMP, they are merely anti-Democrat, or anti-left. So it doesn’t matter who the hell is running on either side, the support will maintain in such a vein, even if their guy is Trump. I remember the good ole days of Obama vs McCain where we could argue about policy and not who is the biggest criminal, when one is obviously more so.

And he is pro-Trump:

“I think Trump has been the best American President since Reagan.”

This is why the pro-Trump message leaves such a bad taste because I know damned well this guy isn’t really pro-Trump. He won’t admit it (to himself more than anyone), he is anti-left.

I am not pro-Biden, I am both anti-Trump and pro-Democratic policies. Biden is the last of the Democratic nominees I would have chosen. I’m open about that. I was Elizabeth Warren all the way. But I am honest about that. For me, this is about Biden being infinitely better than Trump and representing a politic that is healthier for the whole nation and world.

Trump isn’t even an old-school conservative, hence the swathes of fiscal conservatives who have left the GOP camp for this election.

So I think this vagueness is indicative of a lot more.

Post hoc rationalisation

This is perhaps my “favourite” part:

I remember you hating Trump from the point when he declared his intention to run. You’ve only ever proven correct that initial assessment, and all the evidence you’ve gathered seems to support that view. Isn’t that strange though?

Of course, the more obvious reading to me is this: I remember hating Trump from the point he declared his intention to run because I am a good judge of character and I had ample data to inform my evaluation. Subsequent data and evidence (Trump University ruling, groping pussies, at least 25  allegations of sexual assault, emoluments, Russia, Helsinki, John Kerry’s declaration etc. etc.) has amply proven my initial assessment absolutely correct. The evidence has not been gathered as an exercise in post hoc rationalisation – I rationalised this from the start using what I knew about Trump and he has proven me correct.

Isn’t that strange though? No. It’s inductive reasoning, well employed.

Pretty normal. Pretty un-strange.

Perhaps it was because I was open to Trump’s presidency, that my mind hasn’t been fogged by a persistent negative interpretation.

The problem is, he has shown absolutely no evidence of this. He has committed to a position and then merely asserts ridiculous things (Biden is the racist, criminal as opposed to Trump) without substance, and in a manner of post hoc rationalisation for an untenable position.

The baying voices of the media and the smug self-assurance of people that condemned him from the start – people who seemed to know very little about politics in America – gave me enough caution to not pile in likewise, but to evaluate him on his actions.

This is odd. Either he is genuinely having a go at media sources, such as CNN perhaps, and saying they have very little knowledge of American politics. In this case, so what. What does this have to do with me? Or he is saying that I have very little knowledge about politics in America, which is demonstrably false and rather insulting. I’m no college professor of politics but I basically spend about half of my waking hours watching and listening to American politics every day. I mean that. Every single day (the joys of being between jobs, eh!). And I write about it. A lot. Some people must appreciate it as I have been asked onto an election-day live stream podcast in the US.

But even if this isn’t a veiled insult, the fact that this intelligent guy has so carefully evaluated Trump’s actions – whether it be groping and harassing women, his love affair with dictators, the torrent of cabinet members and aides who have had to leave the White House on account of his egregious nature (wanting to gas or shoot immigrants), his terrible Covid response causing the death of tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands, his financial irregularities and probable crimes, the list is endless – and found him to be the man to support in this election shows why I found it necessary to react in this way.

Conclusion

I think this whole exchange (and most if it is not pasted here) proves my point, and my point is that for intelligent people to commit to being pro-Trump without expressing a very overt consequentialism is to delude themselves and employ an unhealthy degree of cognitive dissonance, which itself will involve huge amounts of confirmation bias. This bias is clearly on show when being “open to Trump’s presidency” without a “mind fogged by a persistent negative interpretation” and with “enough caution… to evaluate him on his actions”, my interlocutor still finds Biden to be the racist crook out of the two presidential nominees.

Case closed.

 


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Is the Law of Reciprocity Really a Law?

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Here’s another guest post from Dana Horton – thanks!

Is the Law of Reciprocity Really a Law?

(4 minute read)

This week let’s talk about the spiritual law of reciprocity.

What makes a law spiritual? It is hard to define a spiritual law. Because … it’s … spiritual. You can’t measure it or quantify it. But that in itself does not mean we have to dismiss spiritual laws as pure fantasy. Absence of quantitative evidence does not eliminate the possibility that spiritual laws are real. In fact, most of our staff kinda hope they are real.

Give us an example. The Law of Reciprocity. That’s a big one. Some of our instructors at the Centers for Spiritual Living seminary school would say the Law of Reciprocity is the basis for all the spiritual laws of the Universe.

OK, so what is the basic premise here? This ‘law’ assumes that there is a Me and there is a Universal Presence. Don’t call it God, because then you can’t not see the old man in the sky directing traffic. This idea of Universal Presence is not up in the sky somewhere. It is more akin to an impersonal, omnipresent, invisible power that responds to what we think into it.

Think into it? We admit that this is where things get a little dicey. But we’re not laying out a deductive logical argument here. We’re just outlining the spiritual law possibility.

Soooo, what is the Law of Reciprocity? Here’s the theory:

  • Spiritual energy is constantly flowing from the Universal Presence to the individual (i.e. Me) and back.
  • The individual takes that energy from the Universal Presence and focuses it for his own manifestation. It is called setting the intention.
  • Then the individual sends his intentions out into the Universal Presence. And this creates manifestations.

According to this Law, this reciprocal exchange of energy and intention is working all the time, whether we realize it consciously or not. Soooo, we are always setting some kind of intention even if we are sitting on the couch watching a football game.

The problem. The football game analogy points out a challenge here:  What does it mean when your team does not win? Were you not thinking hard enough? Were 51% of the fans watching the game setting intentions for their team? Is there some overarching purpose to the loss that will make your team better in the long run?

We have no idea. And that’s the challenge with all these spiritual laws; we can’t look under the hood to see what is really happening.

Which comes first— Me or Universal Presence? This is also a tricky one. Thomas Troward (a 19th century philosopher who was big on this) said we get intuitive hits from the Universal Presence. These hits nudge us in certain directions.

So we have another paradox: If the Universal Presence is impersonal and responds to what we put into it, why would It initiate any kind of intuitive hit? To me that sounds more like the anthropomorphic God that cares about what we think and do. So which is it — a Universal Presence that is impersonal but reacts to what we put into it, or a God that provides insights to us? We are not going to deal with that one today, largely because we would get wrapped around the axle quickly without anything productive coming from it.

Does Reciprocity work? No idea. Many of us would like it to be true, because that gives us a lot of power over our own lives. But proof? Some people back-cast experiences to ‘prove’ that some of their intentions ultimately manifested. But these examples are circumstantial at best.

Ultimately, embracing the Law of Reciprocity (or any spiritual law) requires something we wanted to get away from — a leap of faith.

Dana Horton is from Ohio, United States and is currently (though not for much longer) working full time as Director of Energy Markets a large utility company.  In August 2019, he earned his ministerial license through an organization called Centers for Spiritual Living based in Denver, Colorado. This is a New Thought organization following the principles of Ernest Holmes. He acted as interim minister at the Columbus Center for Spiritual Living and, after eight months, he decided to leave and has no interest in returning to a formal religious organization. But he enjoys investigating spiritual principles, how they originated, and how they might be applicable to everyday living. I also enjoy discovering the history of both the Old and New Testaments, and how it differs (greatly) from the traditional Christian interpretations.

 





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