Welcome to the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival at The Secular Frontier, the official blog of The Secular Web. The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities,” such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or other spirits, “or at least none that actually exercises its power to affect the natural world.” And without miraculous interventions into nature from a spiritual realm, neither prayer nor magick are more effective than a placebo.
So what is a Biblical Studies Carnival? Prof. Phil Long explains:
In the early days of blogging, people would collect blog posts on a particular topic and call it a carnival. I have no idea why a carnival (as opposed to a yard sale, a circus, or a monthly index… it’s an internet thing). There were psychology carnivals, sociology carnivals, etc. In March 2005, Joel Ng posted the first Biblical Studies Carnival at his now defunct blog, Ebla Logs. But nothing is really dead on the internet. You can still read that first carnival on The Wayback Machine. The first link is to Jim Davila, at PaleoJudaica.com, a remarkable blog still going strong after all these years. I notice the one-time keeper of the Biblioblog Top Fifty list, Peter Kirby (although his blog Christian Origins is now gone). Jim West hosted in November 2006, although that version of his blog no longer exist (as far as I know). Some of the older blogs have (sadly) been taken over by spammers.
Prior to 2012, Jim Linville kept the list of Biblical Studies Carnivals. When Jim retired from this role in August 2012, I volunteered to be the “keeper of the carnival list.” This means I try to draft (harass) people into volunteering to host the Biblical Studies Carnival. I keep a master list of Carnivals with links here on Readng Acts (in the banner, or click here).
Blogging has come and gone, and maybe come back again. Some bloggers moved into podcasting or producing YouTube videos. Others remembered they had a real life beyond blogging. Sometimes students blogged for a few years then graduated and got jobs that took them away from regular posts. Nevertheless, some have persisted. Even though I would love to see the return of N. T. Wrong, there is a new generation of biblical studies bloggers.
Our Sections This Month are
(A) Hebrew Bible
(B) New Testament
(D) The Bible And Current Affairs: Dueling Reactions To SCOTUS Overturning Roe v Wade
The Bible makes the grand claim that the creator of our planet is perfect in all its aspects including morality, and loves the innocent preborn and children, a view believed by billions. But the testaments make no mention of the fate of the souls of humans who die before they have matured enough to decide whether or not to worship God in its flawless heaven. That’s because some 50 billion children have died, and a few hundred billion preborn, due to natural causes no creator has put a stop too. My ground breaking 2009 Philosophy and Theology study was the first to calculate the shocking death toll of the young, and show how it wrecks classic Free Will Theodicy, and the possibility that a prolife God exists.
(c) [For the Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism paper Pt 1]
The Philosophy and Theologystudy disproving the existence of a moral creator was ignored by the theologians who continue to push the false concept, while paying no attention to the mass death of kids and the preborn, as well as the news media that failed to cover it. And even atheists have not caught on to the implications of the Children’s Holocaust. So I did a follow up study in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, updating some of the analysis, and adding a section on the Brutalization of the Animals that a creator if it exists has been callously fine with.
(d) [For the Essays in the Philosophy and of Humanism paper Pt 2]
Part 2 of my Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism studies starts by continuing to discuss how it is not possible for the good God of the Bible to exist because it set up a planet so toxic to children that it has killed tens of billions of them, while imposing immense suffering on the other innocents, the animals. It goes on the describe how worship of such a cruel creator in search of boons is deeply immoral, and poses the Moral Challenge to theists to either at long last confront the Megadisaster of the Innocents, or admit they are wrong. It concludes by describing what atheists need to do to get the word out about the premature death of most humans and the vast suffering of animals, and how that doing so has the potential to accelerate the decline of theism here and abroad.
Keith Augustine selected articles from the Secular Web Kiosk and Library
Ever wonder how you can be saved? Christians can’t agree, and the confusion is embarrassing. A survey of sixteen major denominations proves the point.
It should be noted that my reasons for writing this article were as follows: (1) A response to well-meaning Christians who try to reconvert me; (2) a way to deal with my own church-indoctrinated fear of hell (and possibly help others deal with their own fear); and (3) to get both Christians and non-Christians to examine Christianity. The article also has the ancillary intent of casting doubt on the truth of Christianity as revealed by the Bible, but this was not my main intent. Nor should this article be seen as a formal proof or technical essay for the nonexistence of God.
Is the Bible the work of God? Is it a valid guidebook? How can we know? This introduction serves as a very basic preface to the makeup of the Bible and to how the Bible came about, as well as to some basic kinds of possible biblical problems–especially the kinds of problems inherent in a fundamentalist/literalist approach to the Bible that views the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and plenary “Word” of a perfect, omnipotent, and loving God.
Is something good because it is pleasing to God, or is something pleasing to God because it is good? Is something good because God commands it, or is what is good inherently good regardless of what God or anyone else happens to think about it? If “the wages of sin is death,” how does the death of an innocent satisfy such an obligation? How one answers these questions has profound implications.
Almost all evangelical Christians believe that the writing of the Bible was divinely inspired and represents God’s main revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. Furthermore, since a divinely inspired work must be true, those features are thereby also evidence of the Bible’s truth, and thus can be used in support of Christianity as the one true religion. When expressed that way, the reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible.
There’s a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus’ disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus’ post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn’t necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it’s inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke’s Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson’s direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press’ rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.
In this highly original and challenging essay, Raymond Bradley develops an argument that all religions are probably false inspired by David Hume’s famous discussion of the ‘contrary miracles’ of rival religions. According to Bradley’s argument from contrariety, any one of the vast numbers of religions ever conceived (or to be conceived) makes factual claims contradicted by the claims of all of the other religions. Moreover, the claims of any particular religion are generally as well-attested as the claims of all of the others. Consequently, given the “weight” of the “evidence” of all of the other religions, the probability that the claims of any one religion are true is exceedingly low. From this it follows that all religions are probably false.
“I want to give thanks to the Virgin Mary because today the unborn in our country are little more protected; this is the work of God,” @bpdflores at Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.
·The SC decision today vindicates every Christian who voted for Trump despite their understandable concerns about some of his personal behavior. Life and death policy always trumps personality. Millions of babies will now live because enough people voted policy over personality.
·Twice yesterday, I heard @CNN hosts ask “but what about all the unwanted children that will be born?” Can we please retire that talking point? 1. There are long adoption waiting lists; 2. Even if a child will be unwanted that isn’t a morally sufficient reason to kill it in utero.
~ Sean McDowell
ROE is overturned. Amazing. I honestly never thought I would live to see the day.
Pray for those, many, in fact, who undoubtedly are angered over the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. A heart that is convinced it is justifiable to murder an unborn child is a heart that is in desperate need of transformation, which only God can accomplish.
~ Lee Strobel
·On all levels, Roe v Wade was an abomination. Thank God it was overturned today by a courageous court. Pray for safety of pro-life centers that are already being attacked by domestic terrorists. Now this becomes a state-by-state struggle for the lives of the unborn.
·Big thanks to @JohnBlakeCNN for including me in this article that is currently on the @CNN homepage. I hope many people will read it and see why, not just Christians, but any reasonable person should support legal protection for the unborn:
‘A LIFE IS A LIFE’: @kayleighmcenany blasts the Left for framing abortion rights around bodily autonomy only.
·Praise God and thank you President Trump!
~ Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸
~ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
“Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”
·As a woman, as an American, and as a Christian, I am mourning today’s devastating SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs case. I look with dread at what the future might hold for the health and welfare of women, for our individual rights and liberties and for equality under the law.
~ Michael Moore
·Make no mistake: The Supreme Court — 2/3 men & 2/3 Catholic — today forced its religious zealotry and bigotry upon an entire nation. We are now all told we must adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Jerry Falwell. A fertilized egg is a full blown human being! SHAME!
~ Andrew Copson
An excellent point by the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief. In addition to all its other horrendous aspects, the end of a right to abortion is a massive violation of women’s freedom of conscience.
~ Ahmed Shaheed
·A huge setback for freedom of religion or belief of women and girls. There should be a renewed effort to reclaim equal rights for women & girls!
~ Barack Obama
·Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.
Catholics on the right spent decades reducing church teaching to a single issue and linked arms with a conservative movement that is hostile to the church’s teachings about a consistent ethic of life and the common good. This ruling is the culmination of that misguided campaign.
~ Andrew L. Seidel
·Please listen to the brilliant @LeahLitman @kateashaw1 and @ProfMMurray break down this absolute trash opinion. No law, no rule of law, just vibes. Stay until the end, especially to hear Prof. Murray’s last lines.: see Episode 56: Roe is Dead. Now What? https://crooked.com/podcast-series/strict-scrutiny/
~ Michael Shermer
·I’m disinclined to catastrophize but I know religious conservatives well so believe me when I say that overturning Roe is just the beginning. They absolutely want it banned in every state. Some (a minority) would also like to ban contraception & same-sex/interracial marriage.
·For those senators who feel hoodwinked by the justices who lied to you in order to get your vote, please remember that YOU ARE THE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT THAT LITERALLY MAKES THE LAWS. You CAN do something beyond just clutching your pearls for the cameras.
~ “But these historical facts don’t matter to Alito and the antiabortion movement because they undermine the version of American history they subscribe to what sociologist @GorskiPhilip calls ‘white Christian nationalism.'” (via Nick Fish)
~ Perspective by Samira K. Mehta and Lauren MacIvor Thompson
The Supreme Court’s abortion decision is based on a myth. Here’s why:
-The messaging needs to be clear, consistent and true. “Congress can override what the Supreme Court did and pass a law to legalize abortion. To do that, we need to elect 2 more Democratic Senators and to hold the House. Pres Biden will sign a law codifying Roe if that happens.”
~ Pastor Zach W. Lambert
I really wish the Christians who are celebrating the overturning of Roe could see the anxious and fearful messages I’ve been getting from women in our congregation all day. Maybe take a break from your online victory laps and listen to people who are really hurting right now.
~ Rev. Dr. Charles Allen on why the Supreme Court decision effectively establishes religion:
And while the Justices are at it, may be they can relocate the Supreme Court to Kabul, Tehran, Riyadh, Moscow or the Vatican. As a father of three girls, I take any assault on women’s rights & gender equality both a personal & professional challenge.
~ United Nations
“Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human rights law” @mbachelet says Friday’s US Supreme Court ruling is “a huge blow to women’s rights and gender equality.”
~ Kyle Griffin
Clarence Thomas writes, in a concurring opinion, that the Supreme Court should reconsider Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell — the rulings that now protect contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.
~ –JL Martyn “History and Theology in the fourth gospel.
One thing, at least, is shared by all New Testament authors…none of them merely repeats the tradition. …everyone shapes it, bends it, makes selections among its riches, and even adds to it.
&, if personhood starts at conception, then what about identical twins? Do they split one & the same “personhood”? If not (as seems obvious), what do we call that thing that existed prior to it splitting? Terminating it cannot be terminating a human *person.*
“In the 18th century, abortion was completely legal before what was called the ‘quickening’ of a fetus – when a woman could first feel fetal movement, or roughly four and a half months through a pregnancy.”
– Law Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone
There was a push in the last century by postmodern philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas that Ethics, not Metaphysics, needed to be first philosophy. Some have extended this to the idea that Ethics needs to be first religion as well. Clearly, it is possible to come up examples, analogies, etc to illustrate contradictory positions like pro-life vs pro-choice, so obviously we need to do better in our ethical reasoning than just endlessly throwing examples at one another. In many ways, the debate seems odd. Being alive doesn’t carry with it a right to stay alive, and so we kill carrots, mushrooms, insects, chickens, etc. If the debate is to be framed in terms of the right to life of the human baby trumping a woman’s autonomy over her own body, I suppose a beginning point would be for conservatives to show, say, at 6 weeks that an unborn is not merely alive, but a person, however you’d like to define person. Conservatives are the ones making the positive claim, so the responsibility is on them to clarify in what sense the unborn is a person.
Why would someone equate being an embryo with being a person? …
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Certainly, a human embryo becomes a lot more sacred if it is viewed as endowed with a life plan by God, rather than a human just being a evolutionary member of a DNA group that includes rodents (rats and mice) and rabbits. Still, it’s hard for me to watch 2 year old children dying of starvation and cancer, and still entertaining the possibility that despite this there is nonetheless a benevolent creator with a divine plan hidden in such horror. Human life seems to be so obviously not lived according to a plan of a loving creator, that claims we can’t terminate pregnancies because God intended the embryo to be the next Einstein seems absurd. So, let’s talk …
Thanks For Stopping By THE JUNE 2022 BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL!
This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival
Just the Stat’s Ma’am
I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.
The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates.
The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.
To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.
The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.
For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).
Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.
That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.
Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.
The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0
The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.
And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.
Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie
The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.
To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.
This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.
The Great Evasion 2.0
After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.
It’s the Animals Too
To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.
The Great Moral Challenge
The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.
Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.
If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.
Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.
The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.
The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.
So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.
As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.
On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.
Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World
Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.
That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.
It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?
And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.
The prochoice movement opposed by the religious right has been making an enormous mistake. We know that because it is experiencing disaster. That when a solid majority of Americans favor abortion rights Roe v Wade included. It is all too clear that what it has been done in support of women being full class citizens has been gravely defective. It follows that it is time to move on to a more effective strategy.
Defunct RvW rested largely upon the 14thAmendment principle of privacy as a legal and societal expression of individual freedom from invasive state control in favor of personal responsibility. The thesis is valid, but it is a defensive posture that has proven insufficient to fend off assaults from a dedicated forced birth campaign. The situation is so bad for the sovereign rights of American women that even as Catholic heritage nations like Mexico, Argentina, Columbia and Ireland place their trust in the gender to make the best choice, the USA is reverting to the paternalistic misogyny of the early 1900s.
The women’s right movement must go on the offensive to regain the legal and moral high ground over the force birthers. Doing that requires utilizing two interrelated lines of argument.
The Big Medical Lies
One issue that has for reasons obscure long been oddly underplayed is women’s health as per maximizing it by avoiding pregnancy. The ant-abortion conspiracy promotes the anti-scientific disinformation that first trimester feticides are artificial and therefore bad for mothers, while child birth is natural to the point that the government must force all pregnant women to do what is good for their health physical and mental. Law enforcement must protect an apparently gullible gender from a diabolical abortion industry that is so clever that it somehow seduces many hundreds of thousands of each year — a quarter of the national female population over time – to commit a dangerous unnatural act that is against the wise ways of God’s benign creation. That when not getting an abortion is as easy as simply not going to a provider. Yet many go to great lengths to get to such, sometimes traveling long distances if necessary, knowing exactly what will happen when they do so, yet only a small percentage report having significant post procedure regrets (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/01/416421/five-years-after-abortion-nearly-all-women-say-it-was-right-decision-study).
The cold truth is that nature is not always the best. Modern medicine is the artificial practice that has saved billions of lives from the deadly side of the biological world, including the many risks of pregnancy. Early term abortions surgical and medicinal are over a dozen times less lethal than going through the months long complexities and risks of pregnancy (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271) which kills 700 women each year in the US (and the death rate is rising — https://www.npr.org/2021/04/26/990980242/as-pregnancy-related-deaths-rise-in-the-u-s-experts-say-expanding-medicaid-is-ke). And because the latter pumps lots of mood altering hormones into mothers, they are highly likely to experience serious mental distress before and especially after birth, post-partum depression being very common and often serious. Early pregnancy does not involve such hormone loads, and mental trauma is much less frequent after termination. That is why the regrets are rare, of the many women I know who have had abortions none was gravely upset about it. Which makes sense since a woman is making the safest decision when ending a pregnancy as early as feasible. Legally sentencing a woman to bear her pregnancy violates her core medical rights. It’s like preventing someone from taking say statins, or forcing them to smoke or use mind altering drugs.
But there is another major right that the anti-abortion project violates big time. the one that the pro-choice forces have been resisting despite its potential potency.
Forced Birth, it’s a Religious Thing
Here’s the fact that is as screamingly obvious as it has irrationally been paid much too little attention by the body politic. Almost the entire movement to render women second class citizens by making them reproductive slaves of the state once pregnant, stems from one source. The religious right. That is a historically rather novel entity formed by a once unimaginable collaboration of conservative evangelical Protestants with the Church of Rome. The anti-abortion project is the core engine of a brazen attempt by one religious clique that constitutes about a third of the population to impose their hardline faith-based beliefs on everyone else. Outside of the Christoright who opposes abortion rights? Nontheists against women’s full reproductive rights are as scarce as hen’s teeth, I personally know of only one. Polling suggests that one in ten atheists are forced birthers, but the sample is small and the figure appears inflated. Many if not most Christians — Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. of the center-left — favor reproductive choice, along with most Jews and other theists. That alliance of nonrelig0ious and believers form the solid majority who want broad abortion rights to remain in force in all 50 states.
The overwhelming and narrow religious basis of mandatory birth differs strikingly from other conservative causes such as limited government size and power regarding guns and economics, and heavy law enforcement against crimes and drugs. Those secular theses enjoy substantial support outside theoconservatism, including many nontheists — advocates of laissez faire capitalism for instance have included such prominent nonbelievers as Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, Milton Freidman, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer.
The Grand Lie – Why No God Opposes Abortion, It Being the Natural Norm
That feticide has become such a fixation of the religious right is remarkably ironic for a reason too few are aware of. The startling fact is that forcing women to bear pregnancies to term lacks theological justification. The central motivating claim by theoconservatives that they are sincerely merely obeying the dictates of a prolife creator is patently false both on real world and scriptural grounds.
While forced birthers like to go on about how pregnancy ending in birth is natural, what they do not say – in part because most do not know – is that pregnancy ending in abortion is even more natural, by a factor of 3 to 1 or more. Not that many prochoicers know that either, the population at large is perturbingly ignorant about the hard statistics.
Most conservative Christians are creationists of one sort or another who believe God literally intelligently designed our marvelous species, and that he considers the lives of every one of we special creations to be sacrosanct. There is a big problem with this thesis of the pro-like God. Our often lovely but chronically child toxic planet provides the proof that a life defending creator cannot exist. In the academic journal Philosophy and Theology I was the first to calculate and publish the telling and unsettling statistics that remain scandalously neglected (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf). I further detail the problem in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf). The human reproductive complex is in truth remarkably inefficient and indifferent when it comes to generating new lives. The stats start with how it is well documented that about 100 billion people have been born to date. To that add how medical analysis indicates that about three quarters of conceptions normally fail to come to term — about half or more failing to implant in the first place usually due to rampant genetic defects, the rest are later term miscarriages, many of which go unnoticed (which is a reason why fertile couples may take months to achieve noticeable pregnancies; https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/ivf-roe-v-wade; https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-lifespandevelopment/chapter/prenatal-development; additional refs. in my above papers). The human reproductive complex is a Rube Golbergian mess that usually fails – far from the womb being a safe refuge for fetuses, most inhabitants do not make it out alive because they come to a natural early end. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction) — ergo, the violence that is abortion is even more natural than is that of birth. That means something like 300 billion pregnancies have been spontaneously aborted to date. Currently, somewhere in the area of 30,000 spontaneous abortions occur every day in the US, over ten times more than those that are induced. There have been around 60 million abortions in the half century since RvW, the number of spontaneous prebirth deaths has been two thirds of a billion to a billion over the same period in the US. The noninduced abortion rate can be tamped down some by pregnant mothers living in benign modern circumstances, but not dramatically because little if anything can be done about the core dysfunctions of human reproduction – which ironically appears to stem from our genetic complexity tied to our intelligence and the like, mice do not have a high bioabortion rates. After birth half those born have died as children from a vast array of torturous diseases that infest our biosphere, so some 50 billion kids have not grown up. It is the artifice of disease fighting medicine are other aspects of modernity that has driven juvenile mortality down to a few percent, less can be done about our deeply dysfunctional reproductive system. As I detail in the P&T and EPH studies, it is demonstrably impossible for a supernatural creator that allows hundreds of billions of preadults to die to be prolife.
With just a fifth to a quarter of observed pregnancies deliberately stopped, while three out of four pregnancies failing naturally, spontaneous terminations are around ten times or more numerous than women having abortions. That means that the wide belief that it is mothers that are most responsible for preventing little souls residing in genetically unique bodies from enjoying earthly, potentially Godly lives is far from true, it is Mother Nature that is doing almost all of that job. Yet theocons — some of whom burst into tears when thinking about all those babies murdered by abortionists and/or mothers, or yell murderer/s at the latter – rarely or never express the slightest moral concern much less outrage about the vast wastage of the preborn their creator they hope to get boons from is good with, much less oppose the mass death allowed by the deity, while they condemn humans doing the same thing as murderous and evil and demand it stop under the severe threat of law. That is called out and out duplicity. That theocons will cite their inability to oppose the actions of God serves to reinforce the religious nature of their FB project.
Of course the government mandated birth crowd does not want folks to know about the scale of the natural loss of the preborn. They don’t want to know about it themselves. There is no mention of the statistics in the SCOTUS majority opinion. That would not help the case. It would risk aborting it. Not that it is in the minority opinion either.
The mass loss of immature humans that no creator puts a stop to helps explain a stark scriptural truth that birth enforcement adherents evade as much as they can. Neither the Jewish nor Christian texts come anywhere close to proscribing abortions. The ancient texts instruct that if someone causes a miscarriage involving a woman who is not their wife, then the negligent party can be sued by the father who owns the fetus – feticide is a civil financial property matter, not criminal murder of a human being in the Holy Bible. There is nothing about if a father causes the wife he owns to experience an abortion, or even if the mother terminates her pregnancy. Nothing. On the abortion actually has its positive uses side as long as it constitutes the misogyny theocons favor, there are instructions that when a pregnant wife is suspected of adultery a priest can administer an abortifacient potion – if the pregnancy continues she was not an adulterer. The written entirely by traditional values males Bible does not condemn abortion, it endorses its use to examine the guilt of women. That after all these decades that that direct disproof of the myth that God hates abortion is not common knowledge is a stunning exposure of how slack the does not wish to offend the religious women’s right movement has been. A day after abortion provider George Tiller was gunned down I found on my car a forced birth pamphlet that cited all the Biblical lines that opposed his work. Of which there were actually none, all the quotes were regarding the protection of undefined innocents. That’s high hypocrisy because in the same book God liquidates all the pregnant women and blameless children in a global flood, does the same to those in cities, and orders the ethnic cleansing Israelite warriors to slaughter enmass guiltless captive kids as well as women even when pregnant. The Gospels of Jesus and subsequent texts have nothing to say on what is now alleged to be a matter of immense divine import. Pro-life is faux theology invented out of whole cloth by right wing theists for entirely earthly ideological cultural and political purposes.
The abject absence of scriptural condemnation against abortion illuminates why most Bible believing Protestants, including the most popular evangelical of the day, Billy Graham, had no comment in the immediate wake of Roe v Wade. Then famed Southern Baptist leader W. A. Criswell did opine that he had “always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” That was in line with SB resolutions in the early 70s, two after RvW, in favor of abortion rights in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity and the health mental included of the mother. Governor Reagan had liberalized abortion access in California in the late 60s. During a major 1980 campaign speech to evangelicals he did not bring the subject up, and his forced birth speeches to the anti RvW protests when president were not done in person. The strict sanctity of preborn life back in those days was largely a Vatican thing — it cannot be overemphasized the degree to which the Roman and Lutheran churches despised one another and to an extent still do: a few years ago a couple of evangelicals standing right in front of me bemoaned how a relation who had gone Catholic was now worshipping the clergy, not Jesus.
So why the ensuing and incoherent great evangelical Protestant switch — Graham and especially Criswell evolved into staunch forced birthers — to sociopoliically weaponizing abortion as murder that requires harsh punishment via a new found alliance with the heretical Catholic clergy? That when the evidence that there is a creator power that gives a hoot about conceptions making it to birth is zilch, and mass abortion is more natural than birth, meaning that the all the claims otherwise constitute one of the very biggest falsehoods of our times – the Grand Lie. First a little history.
A Little History
Elitist theocons like those on the Supreme Court live very privileged, cloistered lives in an isolated right wing academic, pseudointellectual bubble that leaves them astonishingly and dangerously ignorant of and/or unsympathetic to things outside their narrow worldview that is indifferent to objectivity. And uninterested in the real world consequences of their archaic ideologies. Thus the incompetent, callous and lying Alito and company in their opinion overturning Roe v Wade that reads as though much of it was written by White male misogynists from the 1200s and 1600s. Which it to a great extent is because the astonishingly archaic thing cites ad nauseam the retro opinions of ye olden times Henry de Bracton and Matthew Hale who back in the day thought along the lines of how witches should not be tortured lest they die before being incinerated, described how to investigate women to determine whether they were still virgins or not, were skeptical of rape charges, and contended husbands owned and could rape their wives.
Many – you know, people who are decent and modern and mainstream – are perplexed by why the opinion that rerendered American women 2nd class citizens went to the lengths of being such a primitive document that expressly insults and denies the sensibilities and liberties of so many, that even after the draft was leaked and widely derided. But that folks was the point. The snarky Alito wanted to take the grand opportunity to put women in their proper place as they were in those olden times and they must be today under the aegis of hardcore Christianity. That such would anger many is not a problem for him and the other four on the court, they are delighting in having the power to impose their will and that of the Christoright on a nation that needs to understand it must be under the thumb of their Godly dominion. The only people they care about are those who agree with them, to hell with everyone else that being their destination if they do not get right with the Christ of the Bible anyhow.
Funny thing. Alito in his brilliant cynical bias makes is out that Bracton and Hale were staunchly anti-abortion. But even they were clearly OK with it early term. Which makes sense in that so is the Bible they and the populace adhered to. Abortion was the societal and reproductive norm in largely Protestant colonial and early independent America — for that matter, early term feticide has always been very common in societies whether legal or not. The Puritans of yore were not as super repressive and chaste as usually thought, oops pregnancies outside of marriage were fairly frequent. And there were women who after having birthed a bevy of babies did not want to go through that yet again. All the more so because childbirth was very dangerous, about one out of fifty pregnancies killed the mother, which when you work out the fertility rate math means that about one out of ten women who had kids died from the natural event. “Mother” nature is not much kinder to mothers than their young ones. Early term termination with herbal toxins had its dangers, but to a lesser degree. Such abortions were not a concern to the authorities if it was done before quickening. When the all-male founders, nearly all Protestants and Deists, were assembling the Constitution that instituted separation of church and state they never imagined considering feticide, that being a women’s affair outside their manly concerns. The only faction that might have been interested in the issue were the few Catholics. That they made no attempt to mention much less ban abortion was logical because the rest of the patriots would have slapped that down as an attempt to subvert the intent of the 1stAmendment to keep specific religious cliques from seizing control of governmental policies and vice-versa. Duh. I am not aware of any cases of women being arrested and charged with having an early term abortion in colonial America or the early USA.
There was a set of American women who absolutely did not have any legal access to abortion in the early 1800s. Enslaved Blacks. Their preborn being the property of their owners. Who were fond of raping the women in their possession for sexual enjoyment on their way to financial gain.
In the 1800s going into the early 1900s repression of sexuality and women reached a peak in tune with Victorian culture, often as part of the reaction against the suffrage movement. Also of growing concern was that abortions were killing women, albeit less often than pregnancy. At the same time the all-male and White profession of medical doctors wanted to suppress competition from midwives who often aborted the much bigger money to be made from full term pregnancies. The years after the Civil War saw a general criminalization of ordinary activities such as loitering and vagrancy in order to jail lower class men with a tilt towards blacks to discipline the population (and return to generating create cost free labor). And the nativist eugenics — based on agricultural selective breeding — favored by Protestants (but not Catholics) called for WASP women to bear as many children as possible to prevent the others from dominating the population. As part of this White male power movement laws banning abortions appeared for the first time, and quickly became the national norm (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-american-history/376851).
The result. A little over a century ago the Christoright owned these United States. Well over nine out of ten were Christians, nearly all conservative. It was a popular culture of imposed Judeo-Christian “virtue.” A pious, dour repressive hyper misogynist, racist Christian Dominion patriarchy in which women were second class citizens required to wear heavy clothing even at the beach, and mandated to remain nonsexual until marriage in which husbands could legally rape their wives and she had no legal choice but to bear the child – that by the way helps elucidate why modern forced birthers are often not concerned about if a pregnancy resulted from nonconsensual sex. The draconian Comstock laws banned mailing information on contraceptives in flagrant contradiction of the Bill of Rights. This Christofascist equivalent of Muslim Sharia culture of severely repressed sexual liberty had to have a heavy government hand to it. Lacking the force of law to keep people in reproductive line, most folks feel free to have way too much fun for the likes of the power craving forces who enjoy imagining they know what it best for all of us, feckless women especially. Note that the Dour Culture was to a fair extent a White matter, Black culture was less uptight, as reflected in the advent of the “sex music”, jazz that quickly gained a following among a frustrated White youth.
The rather Taliban like mainstream Christian scheme began to unravel what with women (mainly White) getting the vote, and the first sexual revolution of the Roaring Twenties. That unprecedented loosening of sexual habits was never entirely beaten back by the right, but as late as the 1950s women were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights who then became stay at home housewives, access to contraceptives remained limited, and abortions forbidden. With blue laws keeping most retail closed on Sundays three quarters of American were church members according the Gallup, as virtually all professed a belief in God.
Since then it’s all gone to theocon hell. Even in the 50s the hot black culture continued to infiltrate the White majority via the first wave of rock-and-roll – previously black slang for intercourse. What was Elvis doing up there on the stage with his pelvis? Seeing the way things were going Billy Graham started his mass crusades to try to restore America to its righteous ways.
That did not work.
Nowadays, with women being emancipated, first class citizens free to have sexy fun, sinfully tempting females strut down streets in minimal clothing. Sex outside marriage is actually the accepted societal norm. Marriage rates are down while divorce rates are sky high – that started with the WW 2 generation in the late 60s BTW — including among conservative Christians. Birth rates are below replacement level – that when many on the right oppose the immigration of nonWhites that’s needed if an expanding population is to help grow the economy. On the networks people can say screw when not talking about hardware. Then there is cable and the web. Most women have careers. The great corporate project to convert pious frugal church goers into hedonistic materialists and digital social media addicts has succeeded spectacularly as Gallup tracks church membership plummeting from 70% at the beginning of the 2000s to 50% today (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx; Gallup also observes that belief in God is going into a nosedive https://news.gallup.com/poll/393737/belief-god-dips-new-low.aspx) as White Protestants are a fast shrinking minority, the religious right that once ran the country has been reduced to a widely disparaged subgroup, and the nonreligious balloon by an amazing tenth of the population each decade (for a look at that see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Even Republicans are becoming less religious for Christ’s sake — listen to how the Trumpites swore like sailors as they stormed the capital, and denounce Biden with vulgarities Richard Pryor style.
Their Real Goal
That is what the forced birth movement is really about. A return to Christosharia. Having lost the mainstream culture big time over the last century theocons have no viable means to recover it by persuasion, and deep down they know that bitter fact. All those Graham et al. crusades, religious TV channels, megachurches, and Christian rock are getting nowhere with the mainstream. What are they to do in their desperate power trip to return the country to the good old days of largely White righteous Christian domination?
It’s obvious. Try to do what worked up to the 1920s, and see if reapplying governmental coercion will get America back to its straighter laced Godly ways. There is nothing else for them to do. This invidious strategy to employ laws to achieve religious aims requires the high grade hypocrisy of theoconservatives who love to proclaim individual liberty while decrying government power when the latter promotes what they see as ungodly secular-liberal values, but to without batting a cynical eye deploy said government power to lever America back to something like it was in the 1950’s. When father knew best and the good and subservient women properly behaved themselves sex wise and raised their many kids whatever number their husband desired and heaven forbid could not terminate their sacred pregnancies and the churches were packed on Sunday mornings rather than folks hitting Walmart and Home Depo.
It has not been a meticulously hidden secret, occasionally the truth has been let out. The president of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Jose Gomez has railed against secular liberal movements such as social justice, wokeness, intersectionality, and critical theories that have arisen in recent years as part of an effort to “suppress any remaining Christian influences” and replace “traditional Christian beliefs.” How about the Louisiana lawmaker whose new government enforced birth bill describes human life as “created in the image of God” and to hell with that 1st Amendment separation of state and church thing. That’s a clear enough clarion call of the dire need to try to recapture the culture by as desperate means as necessary.
That’s the FB leadership. What about those on the street? The ultimate aims of the movement are further exposed by what mandatory birth advocates say when they are not reading a script. During what proved to be the final Washington DC annual protest against RvW, an antiabortion demonstrator told NPR’s Morning Edition that, after denouncing some for getting abortions to afford a trip to say the Bahamas, that he thought “at the end of the day, we should trust in God and trust that taking someone else’s life isn’t worth [it] – we should rather live in poverty,” and people should not have sex outside of marriage. Among Whites of those who wish to see abortion fully outlawed about two in three want to see American declared a Christian nation based on their invented Biblical principles (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/05/20/white-christian-nationalism-buffalo-abortion — interestingly, a substantial chunk of those who favor a Christian America are not practicing Christians in this fast secularizing nation, but they think Christian identity and heritage is a good thing).
That those cynical Christofascists go on about the dire danger of Muslims imposing Sharia law in the US– absurd when there are so few Muslims in this nation – is a classic example of projection in that it is they who want to impose Christosharia on the population, and they are in much better position to do so, at least in red parts of the country.
So. How to get the government back under the blessed control of the theocons? You used to have to be fairly sneaky about doing that. Think Charles Boyer. Openly admitting that the ultimate goal is to use the state to bring back the good old theoconservative days by banning abortion et al. would intensify majority opposition, while undermining the legal case for making a private procedure that the Puritans were OK with into murder.
To try to rewin the culture wars via the law they have smartly gone on the sociopolitical offensive by putting a peculiarly lethargic prochoice side on the public relations defensive, to the degree that even many liberals agree that the feticide that has always been common should somehow become uncommon. That abortion should be a hard and sad and infrequent choice consistently avoided by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, rather than by barring terminations. It’s the abortion should be legal but rare line, rather than rare because it’s illegal. Both are naive fantasies – and lies — that have never been achieved and never will be. Early term abortions are the norm in all societies because they involve a modest collection of cells whose humanity is problematic and mainly propounded by extremist theocons, they are fairly easy to do, in secret if necessary, and are not as dangerous as is pregnancy to the mother. At least a fifth of observed pregnancies are terminated, whether that being in advanced democracies with the excellent safe sex education and child care programs that the center-left wants to see operative here in the US, or where the procedure is illegal and riskier (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343147586_Unintended_pregnancy_and_abortion_by_income_region_and_the_legal_status_of_abortion_estimates_from_a_comprehensive_model_for_1990-2019). This is in stark contrast to murder, which is rare in many nations including most democracies — that these gun laden United States are the exception is pertinent because most who claim to be prolife support the widespread distribution of firearms that is the primary people killing device (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-real-murder-inc-americas-killing-fields-courtesy-the-gun-industry-that-cannot-get-by-without-the-rampant-murder-they-create-and-the-enthusiastic-help-of-the-religious-right). Because murder involves a patent human being, can be difficult to do, produces an awkward corpse that is hard to secretly dispose of, and those who have been born are usually noticed to have gone missing, outlawing intentional homicide is correspondingly practical because only it renders only a tiny fraction of the population criminals while keeping the event highly atypical – there are under 4000 homicides in western Europe per annum for instance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate), many dozens of times less than feticides. Whatever success is or is not achieved by criminalizing the latter, it does not make much actual difference because the great majority of conceptions will continue to naturally abort, so what is the point? That when making abortion illegal means turning a fifth or more of knowingly pregnant women into lawbreakers each year, and a quarter to a third of all women over their lives, while saving only one in ten of the preborn who will die anyhow, but injuring or killing a number of pregnant women in the punitive process. It is probably not possible to drive yearly American abortions below a few hundred thousand whatever the methods used. Prohibiting abortion works about as well as banning alcohol, and we know how that turned out. A basic legal tenant is that all legitimate laws must be reasonably practicable to implement — the stop the abortions folks like to compare themselves to the abolitionists, but mass enslavement can be ended simply by eliminating all laws that enforce bondage, leaving all slaves free to up and walk away from their masters — birth enforcement does not meet that feasibility criterion. Prochoicers, use that fact.
The theocon Grand Godly plan to try to overturn modernity is simple enough. Having concocted the notion that abortion is against the will of a prolife Lord Creator contrary to all worldly and scriptural evidence, make the private procedure illegal. Killing off RvW was by no means the end of the journey, that step being about half way up the FB ladder. The top goal is ban the procedure nationwide when the Repubs next control the Federal government, and/or as a form of outright murder by extending personhood to conception or fetal heartbeat perhaps via SCOTUS – that such is the ultimate Forced Birth aim is now obvious despite the gas lighting claims otherwise by some but not all prominent anti-abortionists – with RvW out of the way they are becoming quite open about their ultimate aims (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/02/roe-abortion-congress-fourteenth-amendment). The day of the glorious ruling former VEEP and hopeful POTUS Pence among many said that continuing on to a nation of forced birth is the new splendid target. Don’t imagine that the FB movement will keep up the pretense that they don’t want to see women who have abortions, or are suspected of such after having a natural abortion, while not be subjects of arrest – that makes no sense if induced abortion is murder.
That doing so is not likely to actually protect enormous numbers of preborn is not the critical necessity. That would be very nice if it happened in the opinion of many theocons, but with miscarriages already the norm in God’s nature saving the little preborn is not really such a major deal. Some of them admit it – GOP state representative Andrew Sorrell said even if abortion is illegal that it would not stop them, that not being “realistic, anything you make illegal there’s going to be a black market for. There’s a black market for drugs, there was a black market for alcohol during Prohibition.” Exactly. The true activism driving societal hope of most forced birthers is that by making those who terminate pregnancies into criminals and/or at least subject to financial suits, that fear of having abortions will help tame wanton American women to be less willing to be get it on with men outside of holy matrimony. The idea is to deter, discipline, punish and subjugate women into being both more chaste and fecund as the arrogant power hungry theocons want them to be. It’s the fear and shame factors of the rights massive national social engineering project. To that add putting strictures on contraceptives to further boost the righteous mission to reChristianize America – Catholics especially like that. That doing so may well increase induced abortions due to more unintended pregnancies is not the theoconservatives driving concern (with supreme irony, yet another side effect of protection reduction is a great increase in the rate of natural abortions because the latter are so much more common than successful births – but they don’t care). But trivia of that sort cannot be allowed to get in the way of the majestic design to renormalize the Christofascist sexual tyranny of yore. There is always some diversity in a movement, and some socially less extreme force birthers are realizing they have been duped by the crusaders (https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/05/11/karen-swallow-prior-abortion) — it is similar to how some of the “moderate” Taliban who were promising that they would not mistreat women again when they took over Afghanistan have been swept aside by the core of the extremist group now that they have returned to their misogynist power. There are those who are very against abortion on grounds theistic, but because they are also against big government think that the state should stay out of the matter (my Goldwater fan father was like that). But those folks (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/25/abortion-opponents-celebrate) don’t count to the hardline FB crowd.
The schemes of Christofascists to push women into being proper theists are not just aspirationally hopeful via making compulsive birth a deterrent to women not being divinely virtuous. There are growing efforts to set up mandatory birth enclaves in which single pregnant women who cannot get legal abortions and desperately need maternity help will be pressured by their circumstances to retreat to (http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx). There they are and will be the target of heavy duty theocon propaganda designed to make them into women of God. State power will be used to boost church power. love
In 1900, 1950 and 1970 if a wife was impregnated against her will by her husband she had no legal option other than to give birth; why would the religious right want that to be true again in this century? As well as cut back access to contraceptives?
The prochoice side often wonders – often with breathtaking naivety — why those opposed to abortion want to also cut back on the use of sex education and protection that can suppress said abortions. That is because abortion reduction is not the real point, lifestyle alternation is. Get that? That women will be injured and killed by unsafe outlaw abortions and by mandated pregnancies is not a great concern of the birth forcers — those wayward women should have known better than to get pregnant out of wedlock in the first place, and if raped oh well, the growing soul inside them takes priority to its reproductive vessel who needs to understand their Godly prolife duty yet again never mind that the conception is at far greater risk of a natural death. The fear of getting pregnant without abortion as a readily accessible and safe solution is meant to deter doing the sex thing for the fun of it thing. If raped by her husband well what is the problem in the first place, why was she not doing her wifely duty – like in Pakistan, or in England in 1700 or 1300. If a woman who would have gotten a legal termination if she could because it is safer than not having one happens to die from what seemed like a normal pregnancy oh well that’s too bad, it’s God’s Will anyhow, and if she was right with Christ she is in a better place so what is the big problem. That the forced birth laws are going to make it intrinsically harder to deliver proper prenatal care even to those women who are fine with being with child and thereby increase mortality rates of both the person who has the womb and its contents is acceptable because such side losses are well worth the larger project to bring women to pious compliance. The wastage of pregnant women is well worth the glorious aims of the prolifers.
Prochoicers also often ask why those promoting forced birth do not seem all that interested in dramatically improving the level of government assistance to mothers to make them less interested in pregnancy termination in the first place. Dear reader, not providing such aid is an integral part of the great project. Which is to push all American sexually active women to be virtuous dependent wards of their pious husbands. Handing new moms aid from the feds and states would only serve to encourage them to stay single or if married not be sufficiently in control of the hubby in direct opposition to the ultimate goals of government mandated birth, while expanding the power and reach of the secular government. And it lures women away from the religion based charities designed to instruct the gender to be obedient wives – that is why there are efforts underway in red states to increase government support for privately run pregnancy crisis centers that are operated by conservative Christians. For the same reasons, abortion banners are delighted that forcing women to bear children whether they like it or not has been shown to seriously degrade the income earning potential of the gender – all the more reason for females to get hitched. The keeping of women dependent on bread winning male providers is one of the reasons a big chunk of the religious right favors small government over big, and free markets over socialist policies, lest the latter degrade the religiosity of the population as it has done in the developed democracies.
When the forced birth crowd waxes about how they want to shower those with unwanted pregnancies with their support and love, it is the manipulative cloying “love” and aid of a hyperpaternalistic and arrogant right wing Christians who think they know what is the Godly best for everyone and are itching to use the law to impose their societal authority and will on all who disagree with them. It is the pseudo love of forced obedience and compliance. It is about controlling self-righteous power that dismisses the feelings of those who do not comply as sinful, not truly caring.
That the Christoright is not doing all that much prep for an explosion of births when abortion is banned does have a perverse logic in that most who want to terminate their pregnancies will find a way to do it, so why bother.
The Race and Minorities Factors
The Christoright project to return America to Godly traditionalism of the type when Ike was president is accompanied by a host of other schemes designed to try to reassert the toxic White Christian Dominion over the nation. It is about sex and race. Thus bashing those, mostly Black, who have taken a knee during the National Anthem (which was written by an advocate of slavery and trashes Black rights which is a reason it was not made the NA until Lost Causers succeeded in the 1930s but that is another subject), evicting views on alternative sexuality and Common Core and liberal social-emotional learning out of public schools and libraries, is sending state investigators to inspect families with trans kids, is going after corporations for standing up for nonconservative social values, and denounces Woke Culture, the 1619 Project, BLM and intersectionality in an effort to protect the delicate sensibilities of White theocons from the history of Ameroracism. Of course LGTBQ lifestyles and rights gay marriage included is in their sights as they are making clear with their heavy duty red states campaign to harass and suppress nonhetero lifestyles. It is a vast campaign of picking on and bullying vulnerable others to help intimidate a dismayed center-left into irrelevance and compliance under the thumb of the ChristoWhiteRight. The combined assault on sexual and racial minorities is why reproductive rights are widely supported by White supremacists and advocates of replacement theory, including some who are not all that Christian in their beliefs and lifestyles. That returns us to the eugenics factor that has long been a motivator of government mandated birth for White women at a time when American Whites are reproducing at a rate well below replacement level as nonWhites rapidly expand their portion of the population by reproduction and especially immigration.
The Rape Nonexception Factor
This is a good place to further explore how the callous indifference of the hard right to rape that has a yet again ingenuous center-left wondering what the hell is going on with these ethically retrograde Christofascists fits in with their traditionalist plans. In their twisted logic a woman who is truly Godly and virtuous cannot be raped to pregnancy because she will not dress or be provocative or intoxicated in a manner that entices a man to sexually assault her, and if one does he will not be able to achieve penetration because of her not being sexually aroused. In that theory only a woman who is sufficiently loose and in some way desiring the assault can be impregnated – remember if you will how during the 2012 election cycle some GOP pols made statements to this effect (https://www.politico.com/story/2012/08/akin-legitimate-rape-victims-dont-get-pregnant-079864 — and these people are now in charge of the show). The slander of women as the foolish temptresses is not at all novel, it goes back over millennia as per the story of sinful and seductive Eve and the apple. As vile as this deep patriarchal attitude appears to today’s ethical westerners, the traditional misogynist opinion was the norm in many societies until the modern feminist movement, and used to be used by defendants in rape cases. In some current societies a woman who was and claims to have been raped risks harsh penalties for her wantonness. At the theocon Liberty University female students who file a sexual assault complaint with school authorities are likely to find themselves charged with violating strict school rules banning sexual and related activity. It is the intent of many forced birthers to revive the legal concept that rape that can and does lead to impregnation is always a false claim. It follows that it is never justified to allow an abortion that resulted from a “rape” – incest included – that never truly occurred because she really wanted it.
The (White Baby) Adoption Incentive
FB advocates note that 2 million couples say they would like to adopt children, but not enough are available, and preventing abortions in favor of forced birth would solve both problems at the same time. The trick is that there already are over 100,000 children who cannot kind find new parents, so in real world terms there already is a surplus. Many of the couples who say they want to adopt but are not willing to take who is available are Whites looking for White babies. So banning abortion is yet another example of White privilege via a form of eugenics enabled by government enforcement, in this case enslavement of White mothers as reproductive vessels of the state. And the even supposedly vast pool of couples waiting to adopt would be tapped out in a few years if the frequency of the procedure is dramatically cut back.
Liberty for Godly Theocons, Ascendency over Secular Liberals
So do not be fooled, coming even close to actually stopping abortions is not the end goal of the forced birth agenda, making it legally and physically hard to do being part of a more important greater scheme. In concert with weaponizing the induced abortions that are dwarfed by those accommodated by any creator as an act worthy of criminalization, they use the sacred theme of All-American Religious Liberty to facilitate discrimination against those the religious right does not approve of, especially all those who are not life time monogamous heterosexuals, and allow theocon medical providers to deny reproductive services they do not sanction – do note that conservative calls for liberties religious and otherwise are carefully crafted to most favor their liberties, for others not so much. Specific to the issue herein, SCOTUS has ruled in favor of red states that force abortion providers in violation of their free speech and religious rights and medical autonomy to inform clients of often false antiabortion information, while overturning blue state regulations that compel under handed mandatory birth clinics to openly inform their clients that they are expressly anti-abortion in nature because that breaches their free speech and religious rights. Got that one? And make divorce more difficult and less frequent. And don’t you pay any mind to how evangelicals denouncing masking and vaccines to protect schoolkids from covid yet further reveals how “prolife” Protestants do not truly care about young lives. And how the right demanding the liberty to not protect themselves, their children and others from covid as a prochoice position is directly contrary to their no choice about pregnancies.
Do observe that bringing deadly viruses to heel does nothing to bring back that old time culture. Banning abortions just might in theocon minds.
Not wanting to overly spill the theoproject beans when it comes to their true aims, birth enforcer theists I chat with are prone to start out saying they just want to save all the innocent preborn. When I ask why, they often claim it is murder. When I ask why they think that, they proclaim it a sin against God. After I point out the reasons that cannot be so – including how a million or so unborn naturally die off every day on the planet, and how the Bible is abortion friendly when it is misogynist — they then resort to vaguely complaining about the decay of society and the need to bring the majority back to the good solid and sound traditional morals that are good for them. Exactly.
Up at the level of the theocon power elites the protestations by Thomas, Alito and Barrett that the conservative wing of the court does not have a larger sociopolitical agenda in mind were proven to be prove to be PR window dressing designed to mislead with comforting false assurances while they proceeded to do what they needed to do to get rid of that pesky RvW and move on to bigger fish. We know that because with the winds behind their SCOTUS sails there is increasingly open talk from the justices and the hard right about overturning judicially and by legislature just about anything center-left when it comes to privacy and sexuality and speech about such – maybe some of those Comstock Laws were not such a bad idea. About time red states can be in charge of contraceptives use. And whatever happened to that wonderful Hayes Code? Do we really need movies coming out celebrating the gay lifestyle for instance? Do we?
This giant sociopolitical power play centered on making abortion illegal got underway as the feminist movement inspired successful EPA opponent Phyllis Schlafly to proclaim that “feminists were promoting abortions instead of families” in 1972, and the Dem presidential candidate McGovern was labeled the “Triple-A candidate: acid, abortion and amnesty. While evangelical views of and actions against RvW were initially disorganized, by 1976 the practical political weaponization into a wedge issue was underway with the GOP convention inserting government mandated birth into the party platform, and passing the Hyde amendment. Matters really ramped up as the Feds starting cracking down on funding racist private religious schools. The first born-again Baptist POTUS Jimmy Carter proved much too liberal – he backing stopping federal funding for theocon colleges practicing racially discriminatory policies to the fury of the Christoright, but they could not complain too much for that — for increasingly fearful and enraged evangelicals. To their growing horror and bitter anger they realized that the second rock and drug driven sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s they so loath/ed, plus the similarly odious new wave feminism, were settling into being the national norm and their permanent sociosexual nightmare. Roe v Wade being a big part of the problem which is certainly has been.
Also firing up the evangelical forced birth movement was the spectacular rise in the percentage of pregnancies being terminated, in the early 1980s it would peak at a third which is atypical by international societal norms. Likewise, STD infections soared in America even as they remained much lower in other sexually progressive nations. That was happening because American youth was not being taught the in-depth sex education that is the standard in other western nations, so teens and twentysomethings were overly using early term legal abortion as a form of contraception.
That actually worked out very well for the right. By pushing against sex-ed and protection use on the pulpit of traditional values they got the very high abortion rate that while they denounced them, they could exploit as ungodly murderous immorality and proof of societal decay – along with all the STD infections — boosting their political fortunes. It has been a strategy as clever as it has been effective.
But for the crafty scheme to operate the evangelicals and hardline Catholics had to suppress their age old acidic theological enmities to ally under the united banner of Muscular Christianity in order to better face the growing cultural and political secular threat, and with the aid of strategists such as Paul Weyrich and his born again buddy Jerry Falwell, turned to their great grandfatherly hero and divorcee Reagan who rarely attended church. But was the first POTUS candidate who took a hardline for forced birth. Then the mediocre preppy Bushes. And now their manly man Trump who as their misogynist, racist, hard talking and chronic lying King Cyrus does their God’s will never mind his boorishly indecent, adulterous, dump the old aging wife in favor of the new babes persona. “Manly” Christianity is not pretty.
After all, God works in mysterious ways.
To sum up what theocons are up to, being a minority the largely White religious right is trying to force convert the nation into a theocratic autocratic Christian Dominionist republic in which the once traditional and dismally normal, and now retro radical and drearily oppressive, hard right mores are imposed on the majority for their own good. It is a classic and anti-democratic Tyranny of the Minority that cares not one wit about the opinions and desires and well-being of those they desire to bring to societal heel. That they are a minority striving to dominate the majority means nothing to them. Nor do they truly care about the legitimacy of SCOTUS among the American majority that theocons believe should all become theocons, and those who do not need to be under their wise thumb – what they do fear to some extent is a backlash of the majority that may for instance expand SCOTUS to negate a hardcore bench. But they had to sink RvW so they must run that risk. They cannot care because if they give any ground their project of national domination is moot. All the sincere stories by women who have had to obtain abortions often at great effort, or not been able to obtain one sometimes with terrible consequences, mean little to ardent abortion opponents no matter how trying the circumstances up to rape and incest because what happens to nonconservative women has no import to them and threatens their success (such stories are important for swaying fence sitters and rallying the troops as they work to normalize the procedure). The women’s marches? They mean nothing to them. The heartbreak, dismay, anguish, anger, outrage, fury, fear, anxiety, that the majority of American women feel in the wake of being stripped of their right (as per https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w5tH902MFw). Means nothing – other than sadness of those too willful to follow their dictates — to the dedicated FBs who know what is true and best based on their supernaturalistic speculations. Persuasion is not their modus operandi because that does not work the FB argument being barren, raw power is their means of control. There is therefore no compromising. And to be fair the prochoice side cannot give any ground from their side when it comes to early term abortion — either women are full class citizens, or they are reproductive wards of the state once sperm merges with egg inside their suddenly no longer sovereign bodies.
(Some note that abortion regs are not as open in some other democracies as they are in principle under RvW. In those nations a major religious right is not using forced birth laws to convert the nation, and many Christofascists are against FB laws. And those tight regulations are problematic in any case.)
The incredible, reckless extremes to which the theocons will cheerfully go have been laid bare by the Texas et al. stratagem that employs citizens as cash collecting birth enforcers, forming a snitch society out of Constitutional grounds characteristic of the authoritarian regimes theocons pretend to despise as they work to set such up.
Are You Kidding? The Rank Immorality of the Religious Right
It is as incredible as it is galling the degree to which those who pretend to be deeply moral belong to institutions that are all too often the opposite. It has long been proven that the Catholic priesthood was extensively involved in sexual assaults on children, that the higher echelons of the church protected them from criminal prosecution for decades, and the Vatican has yet to fully address the issue. It is now known that the Southern Baptists clergy has long been engaged in the same blend of extensive sexual criminal activity followed by cover up (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/southern-baptist-abuse-investigation-houston-chronicle-sbc.html).
This when the hard right is inventing tales of liberal Democrats being involved in a mysteriously hidden pedophile/cannibalism cabal – and clear case of evasion via projection.
That the super arrogant people involved in these profoundly corrupt institutions dare to even consider lecturing others on issues of morality, much less use law to impose their Godly views on the rest of the population, is appalling, outrageous, and never should be allowed. To that add that two of the Christocon justices have had serious charges of sexual impropriety thrown against them, with both denying with angry charges of unfairness against them. Yet here they all are having stripped women of their intimate reproductive rights and 1st class citizen status.
How Theocons Did It
A very big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far pushing the Grand Lie they invented out of whole scriptural and biological cloth to the national forefront with shocking success is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty of all citizens it is. Young adults who are prone to be progressive are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once after 1988, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans. The one thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
How We Blew It
In contrast to the theocon’s methodical and effective, offense-based operation to deny sexual and reproductive rights as part of a relentless, mammoth cultural war, the center-left has treated abortion as an important but not really extremely urgent issue that had been largely left to a weakening SCOTUS minority to take care of as best it could thank you, using the same justification utilized in RvW half a century ago without producing additional logical legal arguments. That being such a bother what when ancient and correspondingly reckless Ginsberg who refused to preserve the legacy of her seat by resigning in 2013 and her liberal court comrades would take care of matters. Right? Compare that to how a younger Sandra Day O’Conner strategically retired when she knew she would be replaced by a theocon. When Ginsberg was balking at getting out when the getting was good did the reproductive rights community lean on her to put the ability of women to not be forced by the government to continue their pregnancies to birth over her desire to not be a retiree? No. Why was it that while abortion opponents regularly harassed clinics and patients, the prochoice folks rarely showed up in similar much less bigger numbers to counter demonstrate? (Kudos to the volunteers who escorted patients into the clinics.)
The amazing failure of a less organized and too defensive women’s right movement to push religious rights as a key need for protecting the gender from forced birth has been as illogical as it is remiss to the point of being disastrous. A basic strategy of a movement is to go on the offensive by turning a core argument and the language of the opposition into a weakness that now hurts them more than it helps. But, like most factions, liberals like to live in a comforting cultural bubble within which such internally reinforcing progressive clique code terms as personal autonomy and sexual freedom are deployed to defend reproductive rights. Such speaking to the choir dialectics, while they have a lot of truth to them, have obviously not done enough to undercut the theocon argument, a new direction is badly needed. Yet in the only major opinion journal article looking at using religious freedom to defend abortion rights I know of, a brief news commentary in The Atlantic in 2016. the reluctance of the pro-choice side to utilize the Establishment Clause of the 1stAmendment due to cultural discomfort was covered, and the ensuing improbability of such ever being done observed. Liberals just don’t like all that chat about religion and liberty, that’s right wing stuff. Which is a reason that the astonishing and potentially crippling to the FB’s fact that the Bible actually endorses abortion is barely known. That would be fine if abortion rights were secure. But they are not. Just repeating the same old same old to the masses and to the courts is hardly likely to recover the situation. Time to adjust tactics and talk 1stAmendment. Take the right’s terminology such as their favorite word liberty, particularly religious liberty, and throw it right back at them. As per how gays used the conservative themes of family values and marriage to seize the legal and public relations high ground. And things are changing on an informal basis – I have been noticing of late that prochoice advocates are starting to ad-hoc state that having the intimacy of their reproduction coming under the control of the religious right as a gross denial of their religious rights – liberal Christian Joy Reid on MSNBC has been prone to doing so — something I had not heard often before if ever. It was that combined with the deteriorating national situation, the rapidly approaching SCOTUS cases, and my work on the natural mass losses of the unborn, that caused me to produce this piece.
That abortion as a 1stAmendment religious right was not inserted into Roe v Wade from the get go is as understandable as it was a long term mistake. A half century ago the illegality of abortion was seen as a relic of old fashioned Victorianism mixed with male MDs having wanted to knock midwives out of business. Most mid 20thcentury doctors were in contrast horrified by the constant stream of women into the health care system suffering from botched abortions, with some 200 dying each year. And among religious sects only the Roman Church was consistently government mandated birth, Protestants being all over the map even among the evangelicals. So there was little or no thought given to addressing the religious issues back in the day. Since then mandatory birth has moved to front and center to the CathoProtestant theoconservative struggle to reorder the national society, and it is nearly entirely their thing. And the reliance on one section of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment, has proven dangerously narrow. So hitting back by going on the attack when it comes to the religious and health aspects of the confrontation has become obvious and imperative.
A factor in not citing religious freedom has been a legal oddity. The theory is that while having an abortion may not be forbidden by a woman’s non/religion, ending a pregnancy is not required by her worldview, so she is not protected by the 1st Amendment from being forced to continue on to birth. Odd. Should that not mean that while praying in public may not be forbidden by a person’s theism, doing so is not required by their faith, so s/he is not protected by the 1st Amendment from being prevented from praying in public? Anyhow, countering that legal sleight of hand, makes it all the important to formally demonstrate that the stop abortions movement is a part of greater religious scheme to massively remake the nation into a Christoright dominated country in which the power of the government to pressure women as individuals and culture at large to conform to the mores of the religious right.
How to Win
I am not a lawyer, but one does not have to be one to know that a basic legal strategy when presenting a major case is to make it as broad-based and multi-faceted as possible. For one thing, that maximizes the possibility that at least some or one the arguments seals the legal deal and wins the day. Even better, multiple lines of argument can reinforce one another, making the entire package more difficult to dismiss. Consider the following. A possible fear of citing religious freedom as a defense of abortion rights is that theocons could then use that precedent to promote religious freedom as justifying discrimination against the LGTBQ, and those seeking reproductive services. But that premise is weak because of the lack of harm to the bigot. When someone does not want to provide service to a person who is not a monogamous heterosexual, they are not actually physically harmed if they are compelled by law to do so. For example, if — as once was very common — a person holds a sincere belief that blacks or Jews are in some manner defective in the eyes of God, and that justifies their refusal to treat the latter equal to Whites, then having to do so because of the Civil Rights Act does not result in real damage being done to the bigot. So the CRA is constitutional. If a pregnant woman is forced to go through her entire pregnancy, then she may die or be badly injured as per the stats previously detailed. Medical exemptions that allow those threatened with injury or death to terminate pregnancies is far from sufficient because such often do not manifest until late in the pregnancy, when an abortion is itself risky to the mother. And her risk of serious mental distress from a long term pregnancy is many times higher. The medical risks of pregnancy alone are sufficient to ban forced birth. But the combined religious, privacy, and medical rights of persons to not be pregnant (however they became so) are most powerful when they are used to support one another.
If theists proclaim it is their religious right to not aid reproductive practices they think a God rejects, then by that criteria a pregnant woman can proudly declare that as far as she can see any overseer of a planet that has with no apparent concern of that entity terminated countless billions of preborn is fine with her doing the same. Or there is no creator in the first place. Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to be religious as one wishes the way one wishes, it is the freedom from theism theoconservatism included. It follows that the state and/or snitches preventing her from controlling what is happening inside her is moral and legal madness and barbarity that violate her Constitutional rights in enormous spades. One advantage of advancing abortion as a religious right will be to force theocon judges to reveal the extremity of their quasi legal inconsistency if they so tilt the scales of justice in favor one set of theorights over the other, exposing their rulings as bad law. That sets up the legal brief for constitutionally overturning forced birth laws.
Late is better than never, and time is a wasting. So what needs to be done to recover the situation in court and voting booths? Along with the standards of full citizenship via autonomous reproductive privacy rights for women, begin to focus on the religious and medical liberties of handling one’s own pregnancy without interference from hardline theoconservative based government edicts or Christoright empowered vigilantes as a key Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Do that by building the following case. And use it now that RvW is overturned.
The Founders who wrote the Constitution did not consider the issue, and had an abortion ban been raised by Catholics it would have been rejected at some point as an obvious contravention of the 1stAmendment. Nowadays government mandated birth laws are an unacknowledged insidious conspiracy from one religious world view designed by right wing Protestants and Catholics to above all else to try to massively reformulate the national culture to fit their traditional faith-based image. Although they won’t openly admit that, there is abundant public theocon discourse to present as evidential exhibits. The religious nature of antiabortionism is directly exposed when they say that their – i. e. theocon – values concerning preborn life are behind the laws they advocate. As for the narrow religious view of birth enforcement a few scholars such Barbara Pfeffer Billauer (https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmjowl/vol23/iss2/6) are documenting how forced birthism is limited to a narrow set of religious doctrines, while many others have disagreed, going all the way back in history, rendering forced birth laws a violation of Constitutional religious right (in contrast to murder which is condemned by all mainstream cultures). It is time for the women’s right cause to get off its liberal sensibilities duff and pay close attention to such meticulous academic work.
So, when and where the Muscular Christianity birth forcers win their case, then only one religious opinion on the matter becomes legally operative on all fertile women to the exclusion of all others regardless of their a/theist opinion on their pregnancies. That when imposing that extreme hardline view on women of differing a/theologies denies them control and maximal safety of their bodies for extended periods. Such theologically idiosyncratic laws lack practical secular justification on the following grounds. The status of a zygote or an early term fetus as a human being is very dubious and held nearly entirely by theoconservatives, and aborting them does not have significant adverse impact outside the body of the woman. Emphasize the sheer impracticality of enforcing a feticide ban, and actually suppress abortion rates to low levels even via draconian decrees. That means that birth enforcement is a waste of law enforcement resources that will make millions of women miserable and/or criminals while maximizing their medical danger from either pregnancies gone bad or the numerous illicit abortions that will inevitably ensue, all the while massively interfering with the deepest privacy of persons. Far more so than the mask and vaccine mandates most theocons are out of the blue rejecting as outrageous violations of personal liberty. This when there is a major effort to relieve an already overburdened law enforcement and court complex.
The deeply disingenuous and misogynist nature of government paternalism on such a colossal scale is all the more true because the persistent claims by anti-abortionists that their reproductive regulations are intended to serve the interests and safety of pregnant women regardless of her opinion on the matter, are the opposite of actual medical truth, and violate their religious and medical sovereignty when their religious views are compatible with ending pregnancies. Making this yet all the truer is that mandatory birth for “alleged” victims of rape/incest is part of a depraved project to decriminalize rape by legally rendering it something that cannot happen to a proper and chaste woman who does not want to have her virtue sullied, much less be impregnated. Racism is also involved in the forced birth movement because minorities are more opposed to and afflicted by abortion restrictions than Whites. So is eugenics in that preventing White women from failing to reproduce remains a goal of some forced birthers. Then there is the sexism of targeting the commonly discriminated against female gender with such draconian restrictions that no man has to put up with and many men which to impose. Because abortion banning laws are evidentially imbedded in a large scale religious sociopolitical agenda they blatantly violate the Bill of Rights on multiple fronts. Core rights that cannot be trumped by the religious right via government authority to force those who are prochoice nontheists or theists to give birth, just as the state cannot force women to abort their pregnancies.
As explained by Aaron Tang (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/26/middle-ground-abortion-that-originalists-should-embrace) the original Constitution, and the 14thAmendment in association with how most state laws at the time did not ban abortion before quickening, support the right to early term abortion. That abortion is an nonenumerated right contradicts the majority SCOTUS thesis that the courts should stay away from the issue.
The profoundly theistic nature of the criminalize abortion movement is not being entirely ignored. Some atheosecular organizations filed amicus briefs explicitly to that effect in relation to the Mississippi case this December (https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%2C%20SCOTUS%2C%20Dobbs%20v.%20Jackson%209.20.21.pdf; https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/192717/20210917120823669_Dobbs%20Final%20Brief.pdf). These petitions do a good job of detailing some of the clear cut religious statements and court briefs by forced birth theists. They not expressly detail how antiabortionism is part of a greater open conspiracy to remake the nation. In any case the religion factor must not be a legal issue raised just by nontheists, it must be mainstreamed. (A large number of center-left entities have submitted briefs to the top court, whether any cite religious freedom and how I do not know.) Pertinent to that need, one of the briefs very notably cites a 1989 opinion by Justice Stevens that has gone little noticed noting that government bans of abortion violate the Establishment Clause, that is an important mainline legal precedent by a SCOTUS jurist without an a/theistic bias to build upon.
Another legal angle that should be considered is that a woman who is required to carry a fetus for months against her will is a reproductive slave of the state as was the norm for enslaved Blacks, which violates the 13th Amendment. And there are the equal rights for women issues.
In tandem, cite the mass death of youngsters to disprove the theocon pretense that they are merely doing the urgent bidding of a life loving creator. Same for the absence of compulsive birthism in scripture. Their real aims are much more theosocietal. And further seize control of the rhetoric war by saddling the prolife cause with the stark term forced birth, as well as mandatory, compulsive, etc., on a regular basis. That is exactly what they are trying to enforce. For a rare and especially eloquent example of a woman who deliberately says forced birth see Kate Manning’s detailing of the odium many women have for government mandated pregnancy and why see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/31/antiabortion-laws-are-forced-birth-laws. Manning equates being sentenced to give birth to the cruel and unusual punishment it is for many.
Very importantly, Jews in Florida are the first to officially and explicitly take on abortion bans as denying their theological religious rights as being persons who are not Christocons. They must just be the start to present such court cases – atheosecular groups should join in the effort by one means or another. What is missing from the Florida suit is an explicit description and opposition to abortion limitations being part of an explicitly theistic movement with intentions of religiously altering the nation. Such should be the norm in such legal petitions.
That the minority dissent to the overturn of RvW (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf) makes no mention of the religious bias of forced birth laws was seriously disappointing, all the more so because Justice Sotomayor brought up the issue during the oral arguments. I may be missing something but that seems a big mistake not to introduce the issue in a major way when the opportunity arose. It looks like the Florida and other suits that directly confront the courts with the subject will be needed to get this legal ball rolling towards the highest judicial levels – perhaps the liberal justices were presuming that will provide the opportunity, but one fears that the theocon majority will avoid the awkward problem by simply refusing to hear the cases.
Also remiss has been the mainstream news media that has been negligent in investigating and exposing the deep, extremist motives driving the opposition to legal abortion, and from that informing the nation of what they are up to. Do not, for example, merely ask an anti-abortion activist or politician if they do not want an exception for rape and why, and when they issue the standard line that they think the fetus is precious take that as a complete answer and move on to the next query. That is exactly what they want. Example. The day RvW was overturned NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly interviewed the long term forced birther former governor of Mississippi (https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1107531593/former-governor-whose-bill-was-at-the-center-of-roe-ruling-reacts-to-scotus-deci). In the process he made it blazingly clear how he saw banning abortion as a religious matter, opining that any woman considering a pregnancy termination not banned in the Bible must “kneel and pray to God, who is the God of everyone.” He had handed the reporter the perfect exceptional opportunity for her to press the Christoright politician by asking if he and allies were not then violating the 1st Amendment by denying the religious rights of nontheocons. Instead, Kelly in standard interview mode moved on to the regular line of how many pregnant women are in circumstances that are difficult, allowing the former governor to gladly come back with the usual FB theme that adoption is an option. Big opportunity missed. So. At long last pin the FBs down by asking if they think rape and abortion laws need to be revamped as part of a greater scheme to remake society along traditional lines. That will put the forced birth advocate in a bind — if they say yes then they will reveal their real plans and provoke harder opposition, if they say they no they may turn off their base, and if they dodge the question they risk doing both. Do not simply ask an FB is they think women who have an abortion either by their own hand or by the actions of another if they think women should be jailed for homicide. They will do a gaslight dodge. Follow up by asking the person if they will entirely oppose the criminalization of women, or if they will be OK with such if and when that happens. Same for the nationalization of abortion bans. The media needs to get on the coverage ball and do their jobs.
Is going on the offensive by bringing true religious liberty to the forefront of the pro-choice argument, going to abort the forced birth campaign in the next few years? That by compelling abortion stoppers to realize that they – seeing as how they claim to put such high priority on religious liberty and therefore should respect those who claim to be expressing such when they have an abortion — are manifestly and erroneously violating the theoliberty of theoliberals and nontheists? Considering their boldly self-sided view of liberties to date best not to hold one’s breath. But do not wave away the medium and longer term potential to seriously damage and perhaps someday sink antiabortionism in legal venues and public opinion. Consider how pushing marriage rights for all couples worked for gays over years, not long decades. There are theoconservatives who deeply oppose abortion, but see banning it as big government imposition of a religious belief on citizens that strip women of their liberty. Reinforce that opinion. Most critical is for the solid majority who favor women being full citizens to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who want to use reproduction to remake American women into unsullied subservient theocons. That can render forcing birth into a fundamental violation of a pregnant woman’s religious liberty and medical needs.
Appendix: Will the Force Birth Scheme Work?
For all the fondness the religious right has for the 1950s, it was actually a massive failure for their movement. The 1950s were not even traditionalist. The White flight of Caucasians living in nuclear families in detached housing out the burbs was radical. Prior to then most lived as extended families in rural or urban settings. The decade was actually highly sexualized what with the likes of Marilynn Monroe, Jane Russell, the Miss America contest, Playboy, the sex thrusting of Elvis the pelvis and salacious lyrics of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. The Comstock laws were on their last legs and the Hayes Code was on the way out. It was the 50s parents that raised a large chunk of the baby boomers that would go wild in the 60s, as their parents initiated the divorce boom that is still running. The secularization and social liberalization forces of corporate consumer modernity were well underway and the right wing churches under the Aegis of Billy Graham and Cardinal Sheen could not prevent.
That abortion was illegal in the 1950s did not preserve traditional cultural, social and religious values over the long term — the 2nd sexual revolution was already well underway when RvW came along. For that matter the Comstock Laws et al. did not stop the 1st sexual revolution of the 1920s, and Prohibition actually helped promote it. It is very possible if not probable that reimposing forced birth laws and other legal rollbacks of nontraditional mores will fail to reconstitute the deity fearing, old fashioned, prudish society the theocons so want to impose on the country as the American Majority thumbs their noses at the prigs.
That is the optimistic view. The pessimistic alternative has the Christoconservatives proving able to impose autocratic minority rule on the nation. In that case they may be able to use harsh government power, even beyond that seen in the 1800s going into the early 1900s, to subdue the opposition.
“I’d have to say look, there’s always a plan. I believe God has a plan. Life is short
no matter what it is.”
Comment on the Uvalde mass school shooting by pro-gun Republican
Texas State attorney general Ken Paxton
God, guns, and the Bible. It’s the old motto going back to frontier days when gun toting Christian colonists and early Americans were ethnically sweeping the continent nearly clean of the aboriginal peoples as part of divine Manifest Destiny. And Bible endorsed enslavement applied to Blacks kidnapped from Africa and kept in line at the end of the gun. Followed by the firearms enforced lynchings and destruction of Black neighborhoods. These days the gun industry, backed by the religious right, has succeeded to the benefit of its bottom line into making the USA the only developed nation which is armed to the teeth with rapid fire weapons.
Which brings us to a grim fact too few realize. The gun industry and its gun rights allies proclaim that the best way to drive down the extraordinary rate of murder in this nation is with a citizenry even more heavily armed with their products than it already is. What they have kept under wraps – with the inept aid of the rest of the population — is how the ongoing financial success of the gun industry literally can continue only as long as the USA perpetually suffers the high rates of murder that could not exist if not for all the guns in a horrendous feedback system of death and profits.
It is a matter of sales and violence in a pernicious feedback scheme. Mixed with belief in the pugnacious side of the Jesus of the Gospels.
More Guns, More Murder — It’s the Statistics Driven by Firepower
There are about 400 million privately owned guns in America where 330 million dwell, 1.2 per person, with under half of households possessing guns. In all other peer democracies the gun/people ratio is far lower at 0.03 to 0.35. The US suffers an epidemic of over 20,000 homicides per year, about 6 per 100,000, all but a small fraction by firearms. Less than a percent of those deaths are mass shootings that occur on near daily basis. In the rest of the first world homicide rates vary from just 0.3 to 1.8, with the great majority not by guns, and mass shootings far less frequent. To look at it another way, homicides not by firearms is broadly similar in advanced nations, being about the same in the US and Canada.
It’s the guns that make the horrifying difference.
It is a very straightforward situation. Averaging some six times as many firearms per capita America has around six times as many murders as do peer nations. That there is a fairly good correlation between levels of gun possession and murder in a given country reinforces the more guns results in more murders relationship.
Rates of homicide total (Capital letters) and not by gun (indicated at ends of lines projecting down from former, except by lower case U for USA) as a function of private gun possession in the developed democracies; the Pearson correlation of 0.905 is very high. Data from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/murder-rate-by-country and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate, values are averaged over last few years for US.
That makes a sick sense. Gun advocates like to say that guns do not kill people, people do. The glib cliché is beautifully designed to disguise how rapid fire guns – revolvers and especially semi-automatics — are deadly potent, user friendly force multipliers that boost the ability of people to kill by a factor of about six. It is semi-auto pistols that are the primary American killers, rifles account for less than a tenth of homicides. But the AR-15, its design (devised in the 1950s) maximized for killing humans enmass, is more prominent in mass shootings. Americans are packing so much heat that police have to be similarly heavily armed – to the benefit of a pleased gun business – and are prone to shoot first and deal with the legal consequences latter especially when the suspect is a minority. In other countries police do not need to regularly carry firearms.
The USA is a war zone. Most gunfire aimed to kill others does not do so because about two thirds of those hit survive, and even more so because the great majority of bullets fired miss. Hundreds of thousands of rounds are fired illegally each year in America, it is like a low grade battlefield.
Say there is a guy intent on murdering others on a street corner. He has a knife. His chances of achieving his aim are limited, any near him can flee, or fight back, he will not be able to stab that many, and the victim’s chances of survival are relatively good.
Same guy has a Glock. With a laser pointer. With a few pulls of the trigger the killer can gravely wound and probably kill a good number of nearby people who cannot outrun bullets or fight back. Perhaps a bullet misses, sails down the street and smashes through a window and takes out a little girl trembling in fear from the sound of gunfire under the table as her mother holds her.
Can’t do all that with a knife.
The bogus claim made by gun advocates is that guns make for a polite society. Why a culture driven to politeness by fear rather than ethics or kindness would be a good thing is not apparent. So how is that right wing fantasy working out? Are folks peacefully polite to one another these days? Hardly. The real world fact is that hundreds of millions of personal weapons make for a fearful, angry, murderous country – a terror state of dread — in which people are blowing one another away over road rage incidents at a rate of about 500 per year – a 19 year old distant relation of mine suffered that fate — domestic disputes, work place discontents, mass shootings at schools and places of retail, entertainment, medicine, worship et al., targeting minorities, and most commonly petty street gang tiffs leading to revenge cycles that kill thousands each year.
Canadians are known to be a generally polite population. They don’t have nearly as many guns per person. Same for Norwegians. Japanese. Just why is it we Yanks need to be gunned up to be nice to one another?
Believe that yet more guns are the way to tamp down on gun deaths? Please name the nation where that strange idea actually works.
So. Really want to get murder mass and individual down to first world norms? Bring gun possession rates down to first world norms. That is the only proven way to do it.
Yet gun production is three times higher than in 2000, and now exceeds cars. Blacks and women are arming themselves at levels never seen before. The national reward? Firearms have become the leading cause of child death. And that is a very good and very necessary thing for the gun makers.
Why Murder and Lots of It is All Important for the Gun Business
The gun industry is in a delicate financial state perpetually teetering on disaster. The need to find a way to gin up sales is always very intense. Venerable Remington went bankrupt during the “Trump Slump” when gun sales fell as is usual when a firearms friendly Republican occupies the White House and fear of gun control retreats. With hundreds of millions of weapons already sold, the firearms industry is desperate to sustain sales in a gun saturated society – and that when the business has a product problem. Unlike other merchandise that needs to be rapidly replaced as they obsolesce, wear out, or are consumed — cars, digital devices, alcohol, tobacco, food, etc. — a well maintained gun lasts for decades. A target shooter can send thousands of rounds down range over the years without trouble if they give the gun a little loving care. And it is not like a given semiauto is a huge money earner, most sell for hundreds of bucks. Nor are guns the deep brain addictions like tobacco, alcohol and legal opioids that generate big volume sales. That when Americans into hunting – a cohort getting smaller all the time — sports shooting and collecting are under one in ten. Women tend to be more gun averse than men, minorities more than Whites. Fact is that most folks are not gun enthusiasts and have no desire to possess one of the deadly devices – people get killed cleaning the damn things. All the more so because the research indicates that possessing a gun or more is more likely to harm the owner, family or friend than protect them.
So how to evade industry collapse by further boosting the percentage of households that are gunned up and thereby sell the hundreds of millions more guns needed to keep the business humming in coming decades?
Fear. Fearing the financial failure that looms before them, gun producers have to use the powerful motivating factor that is fear to save themselves. The main reason four in ten households are already gunned up is because the residents think they need the weaponry to protect themselves from other Americans with heat. What is needed is yet more alarm in more citizens to get them to gun up.
The gun trade that enjoys tens of billions in annual revenue would collapse if not for all the mayhem. That dread that drives most sales brings us to why murder — the more of it and the more spectacular the better – will always be a key necessity for the firearms industry. It’s a perversely lucrative financial feedback cycle running on the combined factors of perceived fear driven by actual deaths.
Imagine if the homicide rate in the US dropped to what it is in say Denmark. Or Australia. Or France, or Canada. Gun sales would nosedive, gutting the firearms industry. Browning, Colt, Springfield, Savage, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Kimber America, Ruger, and the Daniel Defense that sold the gun used in the Texas school massacre would all be in severely diminished if they survived at all. And they know it even as they will deny it. The dependence is as obvious as it is being swept under the rug.
The private weapons industry has more riding on murder in the five figures than anything other business. More than the outright criminals individual and organized who could not be committing murder wholesale if not for all the semiautos around and about in this strange gun crazy – crazy for guns, or crazy about what they are doing to our society – country. Those pushing illegal drugs would do just fine without murder, all they want is more addicts to sell product to.
This relationship cannot be exaggerated, yet it remains amazingly hidden. On 6/1/22 on MSNBC Joy Reid and her pundit panel just did not get it in the wake of the Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa shootings. They kept wondering if the progun people, makers included, did not realize the destruction that the weapons were creating!? The doctors who have to deal with the massive wounds created by bullets ask the same questions. Would not revealing that terrible truth to gun producers and sellers get them to back off?
No it won’t. They can’t if they want to keep their industry thriving rather than becoming financial road kill. It is not just of matter of piling up the profits, it is one of company survival. Both in the short term – sales typically rise just after the big shootings – and more importantly the long term. Even as they proclaim the guns they churn out are the way to protect individuals and society from murder enmass, the reduction of murder to first world norms would correspondingly reduce the American gun business to what it is in Canada, Europe and Australia. Which is not a whole lot.
In their narcissistic process of surviving and thriving through more murder, the GI has not only done more than has any other factor to kill over a million Americans over the last 50 years – in the area of those lost in all US wars combined. A business whose yearly cash flow of tens of billions makes up just a fraction of a percent of a national economy of trillions, has made an enormously outsized contribution via pursuit of its financial self-interests to inciting and polarizing the nation to the degree we have become the most dysfunctionally operating democracy among the prosperous nations. It is a quite an achievement.
The Christian Factor
Many Christians believe guns to be Godly because the Biblical Jesus comes across as pro personal weaponry. That is correct in that the Jesus of the Gospels is clearly a man comfortable with weapons and willing to use them to commit violence.
Returning to MSNBC’s Joy Reid, being an openly devout mainstream Christian often chastises progun Christians for being hypocritical. That is probably because Reid like most center-left Christians has not carefully read the Gospels she claims to adhere to, and bases what she thinks about the character on the sanitized version of the Son of God promoted endless from mainline pulpits by ministers who know their flocks are not particularly Bible literate. By focusing on the talk of brotherhood and turning the other cheek. But the brotherhood item rests on the conformity of adherence to the dictates of the one God. The turning the other cheek thesis is not consistently applied even by God’s divine son.
The Prince of Peace line is not actually about Jesus, that is Old Testament prophecy of the Jewish warrior king who will bring peace to Israel by expelling its enemies. In the Gospels Jesus says he came to earth not to bring peace, but to bring the sword, fire and division, and turn relatives against one another. As he and his entourage enter Jerusalem he is asked if they have enough swords – the AR-15s of those days – and says yes. While those two items are rather obscure and known only to those who take the time to read scripture, it is well known that Jesus fashions a whip, a device of terrorizing pain and fear, and uses it to assault the people and animals at the temple. The Jesus of the Bible is no Gandhi or King who disavows the carrying or use of weapons in favor of strictly pacific tactics. Those who try to portray the Christ character as some sort of radical person of peace are folks with an theoliberal agenda doing so by cheery picking the Bible lines they like and ignoring or explaining away the rest.
So telling a gun totting conservative Christian that they are not in accord with the ways of Jesus whose disciples bore swords and used a whip to commit a hate crime at a religious site will backfire because it just causes theocons to roll their eyes at the liberal who does not actually read the inerrant Word of God. And Jesus is God in any case, and the Old Testament God orders the Israelite warriors mass execute errant Jews such as after the golden calf business, and to wage a genocidal war of conquest on nonJews including dispatching all the enemy women and children infants and preborn included. Trying to use the Jesus character as a great promoter of societal peace sans lethal devices is not going to fly, so time to drop it, and admit that the Judeo-Christian scriptures are a big part of the problem, not the solution.
America is God blessed, more so than any other nation according to right wing Christians. America was built on the gun, from the divine liquidation of the native opposition, to the breakaway from the British Crown, to the many wars of freedom and justice – including seizing vast tracts of Mexico – we have had to engage in. The Constitution is inspired by that righteous God whose Son who is God was fine with personal arms, ergo the gun is Godly and any effort to use government power to regulate the devices in against the Lord Creator and patently un-American and downright unConstitutional.
It is no accident that theocons label gun rights sacred and therefore divine in origin. The Christoright did not used to be so big on firearms, they are now gun mad. Semi-automatics have become a thrilling fashion statement and lifestyle choice for the American religious right to the financial delight of those who make and sell the dangerous devices. This is made brazenly apparent in all the campaign ads in which Christoconservative candidates proudly display and use assortments of high power weaponry to blow away targets of various types, normalizing the idea that the God ordained way to deal with problems is violence and firepower and the more of that the better. So they voted for gun rights promoting hardly ever attends church Trump who is careful that the crowds at his rallies are not bearing weapons in his presence. He’s not dumb enough to allow that.
But not all gun promotion is a theocon thing. Libertarians are big on the liberty to own and carry firearms, and a lot of them are atheists in the tradition of key founders such as Ayn Rand. Most Christians, those of the center-left, and good with some degree of controls, as is the Catholic clergy.
In no nation is murder kept in check primarily by popular religion, it is always via major, practical secular limitations on gun possession and use that does that trick.
About the 2nd Amendment. It is quite peculiar. Few know that the original 12 Bill of Rights were not all about personal rights. The first two clauses concerning mundane issues of operating Congress were bumped during the effort to get the states to ratify them, reducing the amendments to 10 by pushing 3 up to 1 and 4 up to 2. None of rights that are specifically assigned to individual persons in the BoR is predicated by a government need as is the 2nd because they actually are about individual rights. The 2nd Amendment begins with the necessity for states to be able to maintain a well-regulated militia for the security of a free state because that is what it really concerns. Some of the original 13 states initial constitutions (https://gun-control.procon.org/state-constitutional-right-to-bear-arms-2) include a clause maintaining the right of the state to have a militia, and some (MA, NC, PA, SC, VA, VT) go on to warn against the formation of a central government military because of the risk it could be used to establish a nationwide tyranny. Because the new federal government would be able to raise taxes to sustain an army, the firearms amendment was designed to get nervous states to go along with the new Constitution by assuring said states they could continue to arms themselves against the federal government (DE, GA, MD, NJ, NY had no gun rights clause). There is not a record of serious discussion of individual gun rights at the convention, which is why the clause discusses the rights of the “people to keep and bear arms,” people being a collective word, and bearing arms a military term. Had the writers actually meant individual rights and wanted to be clear about that there was nothing stopping them from dropping the business about state militias, and/or saying something along the lines of the “right of persons to possess arms” shall not be infringed, or the “right of individuals to possess arms for their defense” as did some of the first states (AL, CT, NH, PA, VT; among states that have a firearms clause MA, ME, NC, RI, SC, VA did not mention an individual right). As it is the configuration of the amendment indicates it was either not intended to be a personal right, or was a deliberately ambiguous compromise on the matter – the latter would not be surprising in view of the differences in views in the states). In any case the writers of the document had no clue that guns would evolve from being able to fire once every 20 seconds via an easily disrupted intricate reloading process on a good day, with minimal accuracy, to a few rounds per second with precision accuracy. By citing American traditionalism as a justification for loose firearms regulations SCOTUS, aside from brushing aside the well-regulated line in the 2nd Amendment, while down playing a long history of regulations, greatly hinders the country from adjusting to the radical modernization of modern weaponry.
Thus courts including Supreme were ruling that gun rights were collective not individual, until a SCOTUS with new hardline conservatives on it nominated by presidents who had ascended to the White House on minority popular votes, and a Senate skewed conservative by demographics, appointed enough radical right justices who ignored the actual language of the amendment and the views of those who devised it to invent an individual right to own an assault style weapon with a high capacity magazine at age 18. That’s worked out amazingly well for the domestic tranquility of the nation the Constitution mentions, don’t you think?
Here is a question for those who cherish the 2nd Amendment. What if there was no such clause? Would you then be fine and OK with guns being tightly regulated like Australia which imposed a drastic national reduction in personal weapons of mass production awhile back and enjoyed a drop in homicides as a result? Or like how Canada is moving to ban new acquisition of handguns in part as a response to an influx of such from the gun saturated USA?
I thought so.
The Tyranny Con
The gun adoring right goes on about how they need to be armed to the teeth as per the 2nd Amendment to be able to prevent the imposition of a tyranny. What they specifically mean is a tyranny by the left. What they do not say so much is that that many of them are bent on using their AR-15s et al. to help impose a tyranny of the right. If not for the strict gun laws of the District of Columbia, the January 6 seditionists would have assaulted the capital with semiautos (although it is possible that had the crowd been so heavily armed, Capital security may have been much heavier, as it will be in the future when any big crowd with possible violent intent meets in DC).
The Personal Responsibility Con
Conservatives and libertarians like to go on about personal responsibility. Which does little good for the kid who has just taken a bullet in their gut and is bleeding out.
This con is similar to that operated by the plastics industry as it became apparent that their product was causing a bunch of environmental problems. Instead of taking responsibility for the difficulties they were creating the PI mounted a long term ad campaign that urged consumers to save the situation by recycling plastics. It was a scam because the industry knew and knows recycling is not a practical solution for used plastics for a host of reasons, but it diverted attention away from the corporations while making it seem that it was up to consumers to take care of the issue. No nation with low homicide levels pretends that gun violence can be handled at the level of individuals because only a very small percentage of those who have firearms need to go bad to create an enormous death toll. The only practical way to keep murders rare is by collective restriction of guns.
We Don’t Need More Science as Much as We Need Fewer Semiautos
There is an argument being offered up these days by some on the center-left that we need to do more scientific research to better address the mass slaughter of Americans by fellow Americans. Being a publishing scientist I concur that more science is a good thing. But when it comes to the gun/murder connection the core science has already been done. It is the epidemiological science of comparing rates of gun possession and total homicides in democracies of broadly similar prosperity and seeing what shows up. If there was little or no correlation between the two factors, then there would not be a solid reason to argue for gun control and libertarians would be right. If more firearms were associated with less homicide then the theocon case for guns and more of them would be verified.
As it is the massive data set accumulated over decades leaves no doubt that a population packing many tens of millions of semi-automatics is a population that is going to kill off often via agonizing pain and terror a lot of one another, and when death does not result often leads to long term disabling and painful injuries, while traumatizing survivors and relations, as well as the nation as a whole, all that while degrading its image on the world stage. With so many super lethal devices around and about they are so easily obtained by means legal and illegal that it is inevitable they will be misused often enough to dispatch many thousands. Lots of rapid fire guns around and about simply make murder too easy. No nation with such high gun density has a low murder rate. None of the nations with prudent, pragmatic gun policies that keep rates of gun possession on the low side has a high murder rate. There you go. Alternative theories are reckless and wild speculation and propagandistic misdirection.
It is similar to how population demographics were used to firmly establish that higher rates of consumption of tobacco products resulted in higher rates of premature death. The tobacco industry enjoyed a good amount of success countering that for three decades with bogus counter claims. A difference, however, between the weed and heaters is that the first dispatches adults who can avoid the adverse effects by not smoking or chewing, the latter kills off victims by the hands of others, with firearms now being the leading cause of death of children, which are starting to wipe themselves with the blood of other kids to try to avoid being targeted by school killers. Which inspires many to promote the or participate in the acquisition of more firearms to better protect the children while further enriching the firearms industry while more kids die.
About doing more science, the idea is that by carefully studying the problem we can devise better means to cleverly suppress murder by bullet to at least some degree. Such as doing a better job of preventing those who appear to be at high risk of going gun lethal from acquiring firearms, or by seizing those they already have. Or further hardening locations packed with large numbers of vulnerable targets – such as would locking all but one door at so that it cannot be opened without a key in either direction (to prevent a door from being unknowingly left unlocked as at Uvalde) result in fewer school children being lost when doing so violates basic fire codes and students would be incinerated in fires enmass. And what if the shooter wipes out the main door guards and students cannot flee? How about banning assault style rifles? Doing seems to have suppressed mass shootings, which rebounded after the ban was lifted with 20 million AR-15s sold since – that is approaching 20 billion in sales FYI. Would that work again? How about open carry states compared to those who ban the practice. Gun licensing? Would requiring gun owners to have firearms insurance work? Of course there is the question of high capacity magazines. Universal background checks seem like a good idea. Same for waiting periods. Tamping down on straw sales and trafficking. And raising the minimum age for owning certain classes of guns.
Doing some of the above may have some impact. Especially on the endless mass shootings that are freaking the country out. But it is likely to be a peripheral effect. And such efforts risk diverting attention from what we know will work – the weak Senate compromise is a practical political example of taking what one can get under the circumstances, but it is unlikely to do much to improve the situation, and may be misused by gun advocates as showing the futility of gun restrictions. That the likely to be not very effectual legislation is being hailed as of landmark level, merely because it is the first to be passed in decades, shows just how poorly the nation is running in part because of the GI’s efforts to politically weaponized the weapons that they sell. If the American majority actually truly wants to drive the intentional homicide rate down to 2 per 100,000 or less, then that will almost certainly require that the gun possession level be dropped to below 0.4 per person, an extreme national dearming of the country that would greatly exceed that in Australia in the 1990s.
That would do it. The gun adorers like to say that the bad guy will always be able to get a gun or an alternative weapon even if firearms are heavily regulated and largely banned. They contend that would leave law abiding citizens unable to protect themselves if legal gun possession is strictly regulated. If that is so then why is homicide so rare in all other nations with low levels of gun ownership? That when their overall rates of crimes are not necessarily much lower than in the US (it is inherently difficult to compare crime rates between countries aside from homicide because of differing definitions of, and public and police attention to, nonlethal crimes). When the general pool of legal guns in on the small side, then criminals do not have a sufficient supply base and pipeline courtesy the gun manufacturers to work from via theft, or buys with illegal intent – to put it another way, the American gun trade benefits from the illegal sales that so often result in the murders than keep gun purchases high in the nonvirtuous cycle. If legal firearms become a lot less common, then illicit guns become much scarcer too, and with market forces operative much more expensive. Many career criminals cannot then afford them. Same for otherwise law abiding citizens who want to go rogue, but are unable to readily do so if bullet firing devices are too hard to obtain by means legal or illegal. A virtuous cycle ensues in which fewer guns results in less murder which drops demand for firearms so there are fewer homicides which decreases gun sales……
With guns so abundant that they are easy to acquire, a dysfunctional gun culture has built up in an unvirtuous cycle in which a quite small yet much too large minority of folks get the idea that the way to deal with their personal problems is to inject bullets into others, from one on one in a living room, to spraying machine gun rounds into an outdoor concert crowd. With guns not abundant in more sensible countries the Cult of the Gun does not exist, with much better results.
The Gun Industry Propaganda Myths
While doing serious science to try to alleviate the American homicide crisis has its limits, it is far superior to the tobacco industry style disinformation deceptions devised by the firearms concerns and gun cult adherents to shift the primary blame away from the guns they make money off of.
One alternative they offer up proposes that as Americans have lost their belief in a moral God – church attendance has nosedived from over 70% when Reagan and Bush 1 were president to less than half and heading down fast, while the nonreligious are growing by a tenth of the total population every ten years (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf) — we have become more lethal. But the homicide rate was a super high 8 per 100,000 in the 1980. The Bible Belt states have long been prone to having high killing rates. And all the other democracies with much less murder are less religious than is the USA (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305; http://www.gspauldino.com/Healthofnations.pdf).
How about all the divorce and single parents leaving their kids prone to go rogue? Countries with similar family issues endure far less homicide. And a number of mass shootings are by kids from two parent homes, or by adults. Digital tech driven social isolation? Folks have the same hi-tech devices everywhere.
Our hyper violent media? That too applies across the prosperous democracies. Some relations of mine went on about how family TV shows in Father Knows Best days used to be little morality tales that taught kids how to be respectful citizens. Those shows helped raise the too often murderous baby boomers that moralists complain about.
One of the most cynical efforts to evade responsibility by gun makers and sellers is to fob off solving the problem on already put upon mental health care system (that conservatives keep trying to cut funding for). No other nation dumps the task of keeping murder individual and mass primarily onto psychiatrists because it cannot be all that effective, reliably sorting out the tiny percentage of those with mental issues who that are at serious risk of killing others out of the many millions of those with mental illness who are not not being practical. Relying on the mental care community to take the lead in dealing with this calamity is insane.
Especially rich – as in money grubbing — is how the gun industry and supporters are saying how we need to harden soft targets such as schools by turning them into mini-forts with security and already over worked and stressed teachers armed with semi-automatics — I remember how I could enter my schools through any door I choose, and the notion of the faculty bearing heat was beyond thinking. Those benign days are long past as the gun business makes the big bucks militarizing our fearful society as it pushes to address the school shooting problem they did the most to create by having school staff purchase yet more revenue generating product from that same industry. Money that could otherwise be used to say better educate kids. Quite the clever trick that one.
The list of myths perpetrated by the gun producers and sellers in their search for profits over bankruptcy is a long one.
The Mythos of the Law Abiding Citizen
The good guy with the gun versus the bad guy with gun is dangerously simplistic thinking that ignores basic psychology. Humans are complicated.
The vast majority of legal gun owners of course never do anything seriously inappropriate which is a reason a lot of them get ticked off at the idea of gun restrictions. And there are indeed people who are serious criminals willing to kill for their aims.
Problem is that it is not always viable to tell who is who, and the GGWTG can swiftly devolve in the BGWTG.
You can have a person who has abided by the law their entire life. Never caused trouble. Never threatened anyone much less attacked others.
But then things go south. Maybe a brain tumor that seems to have driven the U of Texas tower shooter that was the first campus mass shooting back in 1966. Maybe they lost their job and saw their career ruined for reasons they feel are not justified. They think their mate is cheating on them. The doc is not giving them enough pain meds. Perhaps they turned 18 after years of being bullied and could legally purchase an AR-15. Or there is an incident between drivers and they confront one another.
In Australia, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Norway not so much a problem because no one is likely to be armed. Here in the USA the armed has been a good guy until now can — and too often does – go very bad. And pull the trigger. Once, twice, thrice……
The Mythos of the Skilled Good Guy with the Gun
We all, or at least a lot of us, end up imaging that we are the one, the GGWTG happening to be carrying a semiauto pistol, that we are reasonably well skilled at using, that John Wayne style when the bad guy with the gun shows up at the school, or workplace, or retail outlet, or church, is the one who before the police can arrive uses our heater to bravely and skillfully take out the shooter before he can deal out yet more damage and death.
Some contend that it is the duty of all capable adults to be constantly armed by the GI and ready to defend themselves and others in public against the criminal shooter. Never mind that is what the industrial gun complex that has created the constant danger by packing the nation with their product.
Sometimes the armed citizen defender thing works. Other times it does not. Had the crowd in Las Vegas all been sporting semi-autos it would not have done them any good against the automatic gun wielding sniper from his high rise nest. How does a kid, or adult, walking how from school or work, or sitting in their living room, get protected from a stray bullet by a GGWAG? There is the problem of confusion. Some with guns who were expected to intervene in a mass shooting have told how they could not locate where the shooter was — gun shots can echo, and if the shooter is in a large building, or there are a number of buildings, the good person with the firearm can end of going to the wrong place. The GGWTG may mistake another GGWAG for the shooter and take out the wrong person. People fleeing the shooter may get in between the GGWTB and the BGWAG preventing bringing down the cop from firing at the killer – at the Texas school students directly behind the shooter seems to have prevented the latter — or one of those fleeing can end up being hit. When police arrive they may have trouble sorting out the GGWGs from the BGWGs, hindering their efforts.
A citizen GGWAG is not a trained professional. They may be inept. Even if they have spent considerable time at the firing range, under the sudden pressure of an actual event they may find themselves overwhelmed with nerves, unable to operate their weapon properly, or not able to draw a bead on the BGWAG. Then there is the fear factor. Imagining and training going up against a rogue person with a rapid fire gun is one thing. Hearing the real bullets supersonically cracking past one’s head, or seeing the bodies of those already hit and in agony or dead, can cause the best intentioned to balk at the presence of sudden death or painful maiming. Or, the GGWTG is not especially afraid, but cannot bring themselves to kill another human being. Saying that people should be courageous and resolute is fine, but not reliably realistic as a defense strategy against BGWGs. It is well known that in combat newbie soldiers trained for months on how to kill often prove unable to cope with the real deal and fail to engage the enemy – there’s a scene in the European front version of Band of Brothers on that – and mass shootings are always newbie situations for civilian GGWTGs. It is easy to demand that armed first responders be brave and capable, but many GGWGs will panic and shy away, and that does those being shot at no good. They can’t be counted upon.
As shown at Uvalde, even the professional GGWTGs can screw up.
But say — as does occur — that the civilian GGWTG coolly and calmly, tamping down their fears and following their training, has a clear shot at the shooter, pulls the trigger, and lands a shot right on the chest of the murderer. But gosh darn the latter had armored up, and unhurt and hearing the shot sprays semiauto return fire at the GGWTG and blowing out her brain continues on his rampage, leaving her children motherless.
Oh well, that is the hellish nation the GI has left us with. But not to fret too much. Eventually a GGWTG will save the day. They always do – at some point. With up to 60 dead and hundreds wounded in a single incident.
What if a person is blind, or otherwise too disabled to wield a weapon to defend themselves and others? Would it not be better to keep the possibility of gun violence to a minimum from the get-go?
The core idea pushed by the GI that has ladled the country with high power weaponry is that when the bullets they produce start flying it is time for the GGWTGs to step in. That is of course madness in the sense that it is far far far far better to prevent the death dealing projectiles from flying in the first place. Which all other advanced nations do a much better job of by simply by limiting gun ownership.
Many modern Ameroconservatives are radical zealots who have forgotten the wise and prudent old adage of a pound of cure is not worth an ounce of prevention.
The Mythos of the Skilled Gun Owner
One way to better see how the gun interests have fooled almost all of us into buying into their line without even gun control advocates fully realizing how gullible we are, is their mantra that if one does have a gun or more, that such persons should of course be well instructed and trained in their safe and effective use.
That seems to make sense, right? But does it? Who does not know without instruction that guns are lethal. And if someone someday is pointing a Glock or AR-15 at you and is good and ready to take you out, would you not prefer they be an idiot when it comes to properly maintaining, loading and aiming their gun? I know I would. A heavily armed citizenry well practiced with their arms in not at all a safe citizenry, as the stats are showing all too well.
The Problem with Keeping Guns Safely Secure
A basic part of best gun education and practice is the advice and need to store weapons in a secure location that kids cannot access, all the better with the ammo not with the gun. That might work in a household in which guns are for sports rather than protection, but most purchase firearms partly or entirely for protection, including against home invaders.
Assume that a resident is awakened at 2-3 AM, and realizes there is a criminal or more inside their residence, and they are in serious danger and have to act FAST. Still foggy from just being asleep adrenaline driven fear and anxiety flood the brain. Going to the gun storage and unlocking the weapon takes time, perhaps all the more so as the shaking resident tries to find and work the key, or worse the combination, if they manage to get the gun out now they have to obtain the ammo, it too perhaps locked up, and having done that properly load the device which can be tricky in the dark and with trembling nerves, by then it may be too late.
So what was the point of having the gun?
Many realize this. Which is why many keep their gun loaded and ready to go, in the bed side drawer. Good for being ready to blow away the intruder if necessary – but FYI pointing a gun at a bad guy with a gun pointed at you increases the chances that the intruder with the unmoral criminal mind will take you out in their own defense. And a family member in a fit of rage gets it out and blows a relation away. Or a kid thinks it is a toy with dire consequences. Or decides to use it to finally deal with the bullies at school. You get the drift. I hope.
The Middle Class Gun Death Problem
Until of late it has been to the great advantage of the gun makers and sellers that most murder by personal weapons of mass destruction has been an item of the impoverished, often minorities, much of it in the inner cities. So the White middle class, especially rural, has not been so upset that they advocate for gun control. But the risk of pushing a lethal product too far is that its impact can spiral out of control, until it begins to damage the interest of its promoters. That is happening as firearms misuse increasingly edges up into the White middle and upper middle classes with mass shootings at well-off establishments including schools – you may remember when slaughters were called “going postal”, but that minority/working class moniker has become obsolete – and road rage incidents. Those living in say the boonies of the Dakotas did not need to worry all that much about firearms deaths. That was then, this is now with their school kids having to go through mass shooting drills. That has the advantage of boosting the fear factor that boosts firearms sales, but it also risks a shift towards gun regulations as it becomes apparent that the GI cure-all of citizens buying more and more of the guns they churn out is producing increasingly bad results.
A Question for the Conservatives
You call the USA the best nation on Earth. And it certainly is exceptional in being the most Christian, socially conservative, gun friendly and heavily armed, school hardened, highest prison population, least socialistic, smallest government, most free-enterprise of the developed democracies. Has been that way since its founding, and still is.
And America has always been suffering exceptionally high rates of murder (as detailed in L Beeghley 2003 Homicide: A Sociological Explanation).
You theocons keep saying that something is wrong with our culture. That is true. But exactly what is it that we are doing so wrong, while the other advanced nations are doing so well? Enough is enough. At long last please tell us, in a comprehensive explanation that actually makes sense for once thank you very much, why this greatest of nations has perpetually suffered the worst homicide rates, and do so without resorting to the tropes of us being too Godless, under gunned, lacking in family values, lenient on criminals, liberal, socialistic, and the rest when those nations that are such are doing so much better at not having the civilians rub one another out. Cite the problem/s that causes hundreds of thousands of bullets to be shot towards intended victims in this most God Blessed of Countries?
To put it another way, if going to church enmass, traditional family and media values, more meritocracy driven free markets and rugged cowboy individuality, mental care and police interventions, private gun possession and carriage, and hardening targets are the ways to minimize murder, then how and how is it that no nation that enjoys low rates of murder are utilizing those proposed theocon and libertarian solutions?
(Be careful deploying the notion that ethnoracial division is at the core of the American problem, other peer nations being as diverse as the USA or more so these days.)
Not holding my breath on that one.
The South of the Border Mass Death and More of it Equals More Guns Sales Connection
Gang violence in Mexico and Central America is screamingly high to the point of they are failed states to varying degrees, fueled by guns, which are largely illegally imported from the USA in exchange for the drugs many citizens of this greatest nation are addicted to. The extreme level of societal violence is a major reason so many are fleeing Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to here.
This works very well for the GI. With so many guns heading south it increases sales in the US to supply the illicit trade. All the ensuing immigrants, most escaping the dysfunctional societies the gun trade contributes to, some arriving with ill intent having been gang trained with the guns we send them, increase many American’s fear of the other, resulting in more gun sales. The large scale immigration also fuels the right wing politics that promote gun possession. It’s yet another sweet financial feedback deal for a delighted GI.
Yet More Guns and More Death
The SCOTUS packed with theoconservatives is broadly expanding the facility of people to carry firearms in public cross the nation, in turn severely limiting the ability of the government to well regulate gun deployment in order to minimize the resulting carnage. So far the left and minorities have not gunned up as much as the White right in the hope that gun restrictions like those in the rest of the modern world would take care of the lots of guns kill lots of people problem. Meanwhile White conservatives, many of them racists, have been proudly toting their beloved semis to demonstrations, sometimes occupying state capitals while the largely white police stand by. Heavily armed Whites have been confronting minority and leftist protestors, leaving the latter feeling intimidated. But how long will that disparity last? Now that White conservatives know they can shoot and kill protesters they disagree with on the street and get a free pass if they claim self-defense – both when police tend to not immediately arrest white shooters and they are later judged not guilty at trial — there is growing talk in an increasingly outraged and fed up left that they will have to resort to using armed guards and protestors to protect their side while maintaining their rights to protest under the 1st Amendment. And rising crime is encouraging minorities to get their guns.
With both sides armed to the teeth it is tempting to say it will be the wild west all over again. But frontier towns tended to have strict gun regulations — events near the OK Corral were sparked when lawmen tried to disarm outlaws. The town of Deadwood was so violent because it was illegally in Indian territory and there was no law.
Gunned up Deadwood, not firearms regulated Tombstone, is the modern national model for the GI.
Death, Death and More Death by the Gun, It’s What the Gun Industry Runs On, So How Do They Get Away with It?
Far from offering a workable solution to the American homicide nightmare, no other business is as dependent on premature death of adults, teens, and little kids. Tobacco, alcohol and prescription opioid interests produce products that kill a lot of people (including children in car drunken accidents). But that is a nasty side effect that does them no financial good – liquidating chunks of your consumer base is a bad business model if it is not vital to keeping up sales in the first place. For the addictive products it only makes it worse that the premature deaths scare off a lot of potential customers from even trying their offerings, or being sure to be moderate in their use (while the alcohol industry pretends to be very concerned that consumers drink responsibly, half their sales go down the throats of over drinkers [https://www.newsweek.com/americas-heaviest-drinkers-consume-almost-60-all-alcohol-sold-1520284] – so if all drinkers actually did so moderately then the alcohol business would contract by half, the booze producers and sellers have a situation that parallels that of gun manufacturers). But gun sales are unique in that they can only be sustained at high levels by the fear factor generated by the high rates of chronic death caused by those devices.
The last thing the firearms people want is for the populace to realize how deeply dependent their business is on high rates of murder. If that ugly immoral truth finally comes out and becomes widespread knowledge, it has the potential to finally outrage enough voters to institute the heavy duty gun regulations that keep murder in check in the rest of the west. Just as bad is if the populace decides to allow large scale suites against the industry for being reckless and actually dependent upon a massive death toll to avoid financial collapse.
That the homicide produces profits connection is rarely explicitly made is a national scandal. And national obtuseness the correlation being so screamingly obvious as it is dreadfully immoral and unethical as well as reckless. But how have they pulled it off? The firearms business is by far and away more responsible than anything else for making the USA the murder capital of the developed world while making major profits off it. Yet hardly any even their opponents go directly after the gun companies. That is because the private weapons industry has been amazingly successful in diverting attention away from they, the actual producers and sellers.
The Brilliant Diversion – the National Rifle Association We All Know and Love
Perhaps you have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the NRA. I have referred to the gun industry, or gun business, and the like. That is because not only is the NRA not the actual problem, but the lobbying group has served as the industries deceptive dazzling diversion from the actual source and creator of the actual crisis our nation finds itself in, the people who actually make and sell rapid fire guns.
It is a strategy that has been marvelously successful. All that folks chat about, even the gun safety advocates who should know better, is the damn NRA this and the damn NRA that. With particular focus on its leader Wayne LaPierre, back in the day Charlton Heston, and currently the financial scandals afflicting the organization that has served its purpose spectacularly well to the point of packing SCOTUS with their people.
What you hardly hear about is what should be the main focus, the Browning, Colt, Springfield, Savage, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Kimber America, Ruger et al. that actually produce the deadly devices, and those who sell them. Can you name the head of any of those companies, most of which are not public investor entities? Of course not, because they use the NRA as their diversion away from themselves. It is similar to how folks rant against the prime time personalities on FoxNews, and used to about Roger Ailes, when it is Rubert Murdoch that owns and runs the entire show that among other items promotes gun rights. Rupert is laughing all the way to the bank. So are the folks running the gun industrial complex.
The let-em-point-to-the-NRA-not-us-gun-makers-and-marketeers-who-are-actually-providing-the-critical-tools-needed-to-generate-the-horrendous-murder-toll-that-is-necessary-for-us-to-make-sales-targets has been fabulously successful. So much so that the very gun concerns that have over armed our population that is slaughtering one another kids included, is not being regularly laughed at and condemned for saying – with a tone of being Ted Cruzian shocked, shocked that any would think otherwise – things along the lines that of course the way to solve the school shooting problem is by having school security and teachers purchase yet more revenue generating product from the industry that already made money as it created the damn problem. Over the decades the firearms business has cobbled together a very shrewd cash generating scheme that has all too well, and all too easily. To the extent that the industry that garners tens of billions in cash flow cannot be sued for the deadly results of their recklessly selling hundreds of millions of personal weapons of mass destruction to a nation that is a chronic hell of constant mourning and kids who are afraid to attend school and churchgoers are at risk.
Back in the day the tobacco producers and sellers enjoyed a good deal of success in diverting attention via the Tobacco Institute that promoted the notion that the industry products were not as bad as claimed. But even so, the tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, R. J Reynolds, Ligget and Brown and Williamson were household names that were regularly condemned for growing and selling a toxic product. Culminating in a notorious testimony in front of Congress in 1994 when company heads obviously lied through their teeth that they did not think their product was addictive while under oath. A reason the companies were well known was because they advertised their brands bigtime in mainstream venues including television and major magazines, so they were not able to better hide themselves behind a diversionary lobbying screen. That the gun companies have not been advertising in mainstream venues for a number of practical reasons has helped them go under the radar of societal awareness to their tremendous benefit. (The attempt by Daniel Defense to raise the public profile of the industry by placing a hardball gun ad during the 2014 Super Bowl was correspondingly not the best idea).
There is the claim that the gun industry did not control the NRA, that it was the public relations craving NRA that effectively controlled the and radicalized the industry. What the exact synergy between the two was is not critical. It is the homicide rate that has done far more than the NRA could to get Americans to gun up, and it is the firearms trade that has benefited the most from the disaster of death, with the GI and the NRA doing all they can to keep that under wraps.
It’s the Gun INDUSTRY Stupid
Stop going on and on about the NRA which is to a fair extent passé anyway, with new information showing that Wayne LaPierre is rather a wimp who can barely shoot a gun straight (https://reason.com/2022/03/27/less-a-powerhouse-than-a-parasite) while he has lived high on the hog of membership dues and contributions by the gun interests that have made a superbly effective investment in the diversionary bobble that is the NRA.
That the mainstream media, center-left politicians, and even gun safety advocates have for decades obsessed over the spectacle that is the NRA while pretty much ignoring the gun companies as it with little attention manufactured and distributed vast numbers of guns is a major failing. One due to a startling degree of unprofessional gullibility mixed with the wild and wacky stuff going on at the entertaining NRA being a way better story than taking an in-depth look at what a set of dour firearms CEOs are up to. This mishandling of where the real story needs to stop.
Focus like a laser on those who profit from making firearms, and/or sell them. It is time to put the persons who run and profit from Murder American Style on the spot for selling a product so toxic that the industry cannot thrive without epidemic homicide. The news media needs to start to approach the head of the gun companies and press them on the issue. If they refuse to reply tell the nation that they are dodging legitimate questions as their products make it easy to kill tens of thousands each year. If they agree to interviews ask them up front if it is not true that if murder, the great majority of via the gun, becomes uncommon their companies will be going to way of Remington, and that therefore far from a gunned up populace being the cure for homicide, the survival of the industry depends upon mass premature death. Make them squirm
But don’t necessarily stick to the gun industry elites. Ask the owners of the mom and pop gun stores what would happen to them if murder were rare like it is in the rest of the west. They’re a big part of the problem too.
To better get why holding the gun trade to account over the public relations bobble that is the NRA is important, consider what would happen if Wayne LaPierre were asked if gun sales are dependent on the rate of murder. He would be able to dodge the point by stating that the NRA represents gun owners, not gun producers and distributers, so he does not have the information to answer the question. Those running the companies cannot utilize that mode of evasion.
As for the political, the number of people killed by firearms per annum is probably similar to those who are dying from inappropriate use of prescription opioids, which has long been a matter of public outrage and Congressional action involving hearings in which the commercial entities who are alleged to have knowingly profited from the calamity are dragged in to appear at hearings. So bring those who own and run the firearms trade to Congress and ask them is it not true that if murder implodes so will their companies?
Turning to advocacy groups get your strategy in gear and make how the gun people profit on murder a lead talking point of the debate. I know you are not doing so on a regular basis because I keep up on your material. Enough with the NRA, go after the industry,
Will it Work?
No doubt many of you have been thinking well Mr. Paul even if what you say is correct about how the only way to drive down murder rates to the level seen in Canada or lower requires trashing three quarters or more of the guns out there, that such is just not going to happen for a whole lot of reasons. So what do I have to say to that?
It may well be true that a big chunk of Americana is so hooked on guns that the nation will not be able dramatically reduce the number of semiautos by the needed amount. If that is true then the country is condemned to continue to suffer from atypically elevated rates of homicide for decades to come.
Isn’t America a great nation, or what?
That said there is some hope. If the rise in the middle and upper middle class shootings where White parents are increasingly afraid to send their children to fortress schools where the students are chronically scared, can be combined with the center-left getting its act media-political-act together and exposing the more murder produces more profits correlation then it may just be possible to tip the balance against the American right and its love for the gun. Maybe.
It is even possible that some of those involved in making guns and selling them may not realize how dependent their financial success rests upon murder being common. And upon realizing that some could decide to get out of the business and promote tighter gun regulations. There have been some in the tobacco and opioid industries who got disgusted with what was happening, got out and went public and some case activist about it. Ryan Busse has gone from being an industry insider to a gun limitations activist.
Most of the gun companies are privately owned and not subject to shareholder objections to what they are up to. Sturm Ruger is an exception and shareholders have voted to force the company to study the lethality of its product and issue a human rights report on the issue (https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/investors-call-human-rights-report-gunmaker-sturm-ruger-2022-06-01). Smith and Wesson and Winchester may be subject to such shareholder efforts.
A major goal of those who wish to make murder American Style as uncommon as it is in most countries needs to be to make the GI as vulnerable to large scale lawsuits has have been the tobacco and opioid industries. That could bankrupt the manufacturers and sellers and permanently preclude large scale gun sales. At the same time require that those who own guns have to be insured the same way as those who own cars. Also good would be very large federal taxes on semiauto pistols and rifles to help make them too expensive for most to purchase legally or illegally. Even better would be bans on at least sale of such. As functioning guns become scarcer homicides should fall, further decreasing demand for the killing machines until we are a normal, more pacific democracy.
No point in not trying.
A big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far pushing the Big Gun Lie with shockingly deadly success is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty of all citizens it is. Young adults who are prone to be progressive are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans bent on keeping the GI financially fat and happy and to hell with the sky high murder rate while establishing a Christian Dominion Republic. One thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
If you think we really should and need to do something about the country being awash with heaters, then realize that protests as exciting as they may be and lobbying only do so much. Most critical is for the solid majority who more firearms restrictions to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who adore and live by the gun.
Do that and maybe we can crash the gun business into mass bankruptcy. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Compare Gun Possession Rates to Total Homicide Rates
It’s common for opponents of the bloated firearms industry to casually compare levels of gun possession to gun murders. Mistake. That allows the gun rights crowd to claim that if people cannot get guns to fulfill their murderous ways they will use other means, and being killed by knife of poison or strangling is no better than by gun. The way to abort that argument is to compare all murders regardless of mode. That shows that the vast majority of homicides in the USA are by the bullet, and that the latter are entirely responsible for the extraordinary level of deliberate killings compared to other peer nations.
Are You Kidding?
About comparing American murder to peer countries, those who favor whether they know it or not keeping the GI in the big money are prone to instead compare our level of homicide to “civilized players like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Jamaica” (https://www.newsweek.com/were-not-outlier-targeted-solutions-will-make-america-safer-gun-control-opinion-1711251). Really? Seriously? You progun folks think that we should aspire the match the death rates of 2nd world societies that citizens are fleeing from? Gosh, silly me, I thought it would be a vastly better idea to try to achieve the marvelously low levels of murder seen in the rest of the advanced democracies. But what do I know?
That gun believers are pushing that line is a sterling example of how they are striving to define that nation downwards by normalizing the slaughter. I would be ashamed to sink to such a level.
Suicide by Gun
I do not discuss suicide via firearms — which kills somewhat more persons than are murdered by the same – in the main text because lots of self-killings by bullet does not significantly boost sales of the weapons. Some may instead be deterred from acquiring guns because the risk of suicide is one of the reasons forearms are more likely – along with accidents, guns being used by angry relations, guns grabbed and used against the owner, etc. – to harm an owner than protect them (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0373-z).
Not long ago the USA was typical among developed nations in suicides, now it is the worst off exceeding even Japan that used to be the most suicidal. Both because self-death rates are rising in America, and because they are lessening in some other nations. Because half of US suicides are by firearms, which are much more efficient in resulting in death than other commonly used means, it can be concluded that guns are the primary cause of the increase. Bringing suicides in the USA down to first world norms will almost certainly require sharply reducing the number of households that contain firearms.
Mass Murder Via Bump Stock
The Las Vegas shooter used bump stocks attached to about a dozen AR-15s to main and slaughter a large portion of an outdoor crowd. This led to questions of why bump stocks, which convert a semi-automatic rifle into an even faster firing automatic, were legal up to then. One reason has to do with recoil. Firing a gun full auto is not easy, the constant recoil makes it hard to stay on target. Adding a BS to the back end of the original stock of the gun degrades the proper balance designed into the weapon, so it is harder to aim an automatically firing AR-15 with a BS compared to the military version, the M-16 (which was designed to minimize the recoil problem, each round only being a little over 0.22” in diameter).
The other reason is heat. Civilian semi-autos AR-15s are cheap and mass saleable because the firing chamber is designed to cope with the blast and heat of a round detonating only as fast as the trigger can be humanly pulled. If the rate of fire is boosted by a factor of four or more to full automatic with a BS then the speed at which bullets are going off is so high that the chamber gets hotter than it is designed to handle and the gun will fail when auto fire continues beyond a magazine load or two. M-16s have higher quality firing chambers crafted to better resist the heat of full auto, and are more expensive to produce.
The Las Vegas shooter knew the above. So he did not use just one or two AR-15s with a BS and load it with a series of magazines because he understood the gun would quickly be ruined and jam. Therefore, he had a number of AR-15s each fitted with a BS ready to go, used one until the magazine was empty, dropped that rifle, and went to the next.
I just wanted to conclude this small series of posts that began with movedness/presencing and provide a little ancient philosophical context.
“Being” for the Greeks basically means “presence,” and so Plato says with the beautiful thing beauty is “present.” Similarly, with the piece of chalk materiality is co-present. Before I said presence means presencing, and so Aristotle makes the point that with the beautiful mansion beauty is presencing through it, it is Beauty incarnate, the universal presences through the particular. Heidegger, commenting on Aristotle’s Physics 193 a 31-b3, says
Aristotle begins the demonstration in a wholly extrinsic way with a reference to a way of speaking, one that in fact we still use. For example, we may say of a painting by Van Gogh, “This is art,” or, when we see a bird of prey circling above the forest, “That is nature.” In such “language use” we take a being that, properly considered, is something by virtue of and on the basis of art, and we call this very thing itself “art.” For after all, the painting is not art but a work of art, and the bird of prey is not nature but a natural being. Yet this manner of speaking manifests something essential. When do we say so emphatically, “This is art”? Not just when some piece of canvas hangs there smeared with dabs of color, not even when we have just any old “painting” there in front of us, but only when a being that we encounter steps forth preeminently into the appearance of a work of art, only when a being is insofar as it places itself into such an appearance. And the same holds when we say, “That is nature.” (Heidegger, 277).
So with the mansion being is experienced in terms of movement, presencing beautifully for one person, gawdy for the next, and mere presencing for the average house (houseness is merely present in the average house)..
Being allows beings to step forth as what they are, and so already having seen “quality” allows the being to step forward in its yellowness. Similarly, the prior to production idea of “table” in the craftsman’s mind is what allows the final produced table to stand forth
Similarly, in order to be able to intelligibly encounter this being as the being it is, it must already be “recognized” generally and in advance as a being, i.e., with respect to the constitution of its Being. Plato gives the example in the Sophist that the dog is not just a “this here,” but is already being made intelligible by an understanding of Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself. I encounter the dog as a “not me,” for example. To be particular is clearly a universal characteristic of things Also, we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc.
Aristotle said the being-true of beings, the true beings (in the sense of “true-friend”), were of course the most proper beings (the on alethes are the kuriotata on). We don’t usually intuit “houseness,” but rather understand it. Similarly, when I go to the grocery store, I have grapeness invisibly before my mind’s eye, which is the basis of successfully completing the shopping trip. What we have perceived is the range of possible appearing as such, or, more precisely, we have perceived that which cultivates this range, that which regulates [rules and regulations] and marks out how something in general must appear in order to be able, as a house, to offer the appropriate look.
The universal is what allows the particular to stand forth as what it is, so we never simply sense the individual “something” (a sound), but “something as some” (the sound as violin music). Similarly, experience is a “taking-as,” in the sense we hear a living thing at our feet in the forest, only to look down and see dead leaves rustling in the wind. This mis-taking shows regular experience is “taking-as,” “something as something,” of that which is presenting itself:
We are able to address a present thing as a house or a tree only insofar as we have already beforehand, and without words, addressed what we encounter i.e., have brought it into our open field of “vision” as something standing-on-its-own, a thing. Likewise, we can address a garment as “red” only if from the outset and without words it has already been addressed in terms of something like quality. Standing-on-its-own (“substance”) and quality (“of-what-sort-ness”) and the like constitute the being (beingness) of beings. (Heidegger, 252)
ON THE ESSENCE AND CONCEPT OF Physis IN ARISTOTLE’S PHYSICS B, 1English translation by Thomas Sheehan Published in Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998pp. 183-230.
For the sake of being able to evaluate the second DILEMMA in Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of four dilemmas, I am going to temporarily set aside the serious problem of the historical UNRELIABILITY of the Gospel of John, and pretend (assume for the sake of argument) that the historical Jesus actually spoke the words attributed to Jesus in quotations from the Gospel of John presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of the view that Jesus claimed to be God.
The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus whether Jesus meant these statements LITERALLY, and whether in making them he was LITERALLY claiming to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):
According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
In Part 6 of this series, I argued that John 8:12, John 8:46, and John 8:58 FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. In this current post, I will argue that the remaining three verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli also FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.
EXAMINATION OF JOHN 10:30
Kreeft and Tacelli point out that Jesus called God his father:
Jesus called God his Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30)…
Clearly, calling God one’s “father” is NOT a LITERAL statement. God does not have male sexual organs, because God, according to Christian theology, does not have a body. So, God cannot engage in sexual intercourse and God cannot ejaculate sperm in order to cause the fertilization of a human egg in a human female. Therefore, God CANNOT be a LITERAL father to anyone. (There are things that God CANNOT DO because God lacks a body. For example, God cannot eat a cheeseburger or cut his finger.) Calling God one’s “father” is necessarily a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement that requires interpretation.
Kreeft and Tacelli seem to think that Jesus calling God his “father” means that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God. This inference is clearly INVALID and ILLOGICAL because Jesus also said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father! Jesus did NOT believe that each one of his followers and disciples was LITERALLY God. So, calling God his “father” was NOT a claim to LITERALLY be God.
Kreeft and Tacelli, for some reason, FAIL to mention that Jesus frequently said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father. So, either Kreeft and Tacelli have never bothered to actually READ the Gospels, or they are IDIOTS. It is simply not possible for a person of normal intelligence to READ the Gospels and yet FAIL to notice that Jesus frequently says to his followers and disciples that God is THEIR father. Only an IDIOT would miss this constant refrain in the words of Jesus found in the Gospels:
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
(Mark 11:25, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:36, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, may your name be revered as holy. May your kingdom come.
(Luke 11:2, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
29 And do not keep seeking what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that seek all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(Luke 12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:16, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
44 But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:44-48, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
If Kreeft or Tacelli had actually READ Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, they would have to be MORONS to fail to notice that Jesus repeatedly said to his followers and disciples that God was THEIR father:
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be revered as holy. 10 May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 16 “And whenever you fast, do not look somber, like the hypocrites, for they mark their faces to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:1-18, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
Here is another passage from verses near the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matthew 6:25-33, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
Even in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his followers that God is THEIR father:
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
(John 20:17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
Once again, Kreeft and Tacelli have revealed their incredible ignorance about the contents of the Gospels. They have almost no ability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.
There is a second important point about John 10:30, which is that Jesus claimed to be “one” with God (“the Father”). Does this statement amount to a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God? It is fairly obvious that this is NOT a claim by Jesus to LITERALLY be God.
The idea of being “one” with God is VAGUE and UNCLEAR. It might mean that Jesus is the same person as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. But according to standard Christian theology, God is THREE PERSONS, not one person. Jesus is, supposedly, one person in the Trinity, and “the Father” is another person in the Trinity, so Christians reject the interpretation of this verse as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, because there are three different persons that constitute God (the Trinity). Most Christians reject the interpretation of John 10:30 as Jesus claiming to be the SAME PERSON as “the Father”, but they do so because this contradicts traditional Christian dogma.
Being “one” with God might also mean that Jesus was “one team” with God, meaning that they both worked together for the same purpose, according to the same plan. This interpretation fits well with the other things Jesus says in the same passage:
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me, 26 but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, in regard to what he has given me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”
(John 10:24-30, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)
First, notice that Jesus asserts that “My Father…is greater than all…”. In this context, Jesus means that “God is more powerful than anyone else.” But this implies that “God is more powerful than I am.” If God is more powerful than Jesus, then that means that Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, and if Jesus is NOT OMNIPOTENT, then Jesus CANNOT be God because omnipotence is one of the basic divine attributes. Only a person who is OMNIPOTENT can be God. Thus, in the verse immediately before John 10:30, Jesus makes a claim that clearly implies that he (Jesus) is NOT God. Somehow Kreeft and Tacelli failed to notice verse 29. Once again they reveal their inability to intelligently read and interpret the Gospels.
Second, Jesus clearly believes that he and God are both dedicated to working together to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus. They share that same goal and are both working to make sure that goal is achieved. Jesus is confident that he will be successful because he believes that God is on his side and that it is God’s goal, as well as Jesus’s goal, to give eternal life to the followers of Jesus: they are one team working for the same goal.
This interpretation of this passage from Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation, even if it is not the only plausible interpretation of this passage. But on this REASONABLE interpretation, John 10:30 does NOT amount to Jesus claiming to LITERALLY be God, to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe, and the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good ruler of the universe.
A third problem with the interpretation of Jesus’s claim to be “one” with God as meaning that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God, is that Jesus also implied that his disciples would be “one” with him. So, if Jesus was in fact God, and his disciples were “one” with Jesus, then that implies that his disciples were ALSO “one with God”.
But according to the interpretation of Kreeft and Tacelli, being “one” with God MEANS LITERALLY being God. Thus, based on their reasoning, they would logically have to conclude that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. But Kreeft and Tacelli obviously REJECT the idea that each of Jesus’s disciples was LITERALLY God. To avoid this conclusion, one must either (a) reject the view that being “one with God” means being LITERALLY God, (b) reject the view that Jesus was LITERALLY God, or (c) reject the view that the disciples were (or would be) “one” with Jesus.
Being “one with the Father” or “one with God” is a VAGUE notion. What does Jesus mean by this? When Jesus asserts “The Father and I are one”, his Jewish audience becomes angry. Jesus then provides a big clue as to what he means by being “one with God”. He defends his claim by pointing to his (alleged) wonderful miracles (“good works”):
30 The Father and I are one.” 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” […] 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
(John 10:30-32 & 37-38, New Revised Standard Version, updated edition)
Notice that the reason Jesus points to his miracles is to persuade his audience that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (see verse 38). Jesus clearly believes that showing that God is in Jesus and that Jesus is in God amounts to showing that he (Jesus) is “one with God”.
Although Jesus does not directly and explicitly state that his disciples are “one with God”, he does imply this to be the case, or that it will be the case, by saying that his disciples will be in God and Jesus and that God and Jesus will be in them:
11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. […] 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word,
21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
(John 17:11 & 20-23, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
Jesus asks God to make sure that his disciples and followers will be “in us”, that is to say in God and Jesus. And Jesus also asks God to make sure that Jesus is “in them” and “you in me”, that is to say, God is in Jesus and Jesus is in his followers.
If God is in Jesus, and Jesus is in his followers, then that implies that God is in the followers of Jesus. Therefore, this alleged prayer of Jesus shows that Jesus believed that at some point in time Jesus and God would be “in his followers” and his followers would also be “in Jesus and God”. But that means that Jesus believed that at some point in time the followers of Jesus would be “one with Jesus”. Therefore, as explained above, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, they must logically conclude that each of the followers of Jesus is (or will become) LITERALLY God.
So, they either have to REJECT Jesus’ belief that his disciples would become “one” with Jesus, or they have to REJECT the view that Jesus is LITERALLY God, or they have to reject their own interpretation of what it means for a person to be “one with God”. There is clearly an ERROR or FALSE ASSUMPTION in their reasoning.
The most REASONABLE interpretation of Jesus’ belief that his disciples would be “one” with him, is that he meant they could be “one team” with him, that his disciples could work together with him to achieve a shared goal in accordance with a shared plan. That is the most REASONABLE interpretation of what Jesus was saying. So, given that it is very likely that Jesus spoke of his disciples being “one” with him, and meant this as being “one team” with him, it seems likely that when Jesus spoke of being “one” with God in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, that he also meant being “one team” with God, and did NOT mean a claim to LITERALLY be God.
Because there is a PLAUSIBLE and REASONABLE interpretation of John 10:30 in which Jesus does NOT claim to LITERALLY be God, John 10:30 FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Because the reasoning that Kreeft and Tacelli use to conclude that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God in John 10:30 implies that Jesus also claimed that his followers would each LITERALLY become God, it is clear that there is an ERROR in their reasoning about this verse, so John 10:30 does NOT show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.
EXAMINATION OF JOHN 11:25
Kreeft and Tacelli provide another quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:
Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.”
The (alleged) words of Jesus here come from John 11:25. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus really did say these words.
The statement “I am the resurrection and the life” is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement. It is a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement. “The resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that many Jews in Jesus’ time believed would occur in the future. Most Christians have believed that “the resurrection” is a dramatic worldwide event that will occur in the future. But Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, and Jesus was NOT a dramatic worldwide event. So, this statement is clearly NOT a LITERAL statement.
However, the statement that “He who believes in me will never die” is a LITERAL statement that can be understood in a straightforward manner. This statement tells us that Jesus believed that one day there will be a resurrection of the dead and that when God raises people from the dead, some people will be granted eternal life because they believed in Jesus and were followers of Jesus. In other words, Jesus believed that God sent Jesus to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life. OK. But this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the eternal creator of the universe. And this has NOTHING to do with whether Jesus is the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
Clearly, if God sent a particular person to provide a way for human beings to obtain eternal life, then that person whom God sent is a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. So, if Jesus actually believed that God sent him to provide human beings with a way to obtain eternal life, then Jesus believed himself to be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings. But there is an OBVIOUS difference between being a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, on the one hand, and LITERALLY being God.
Clearly, one could be a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, and yet NOT be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. For example, Moses was a great prophet according to both Jews and Christians, so Moses was a Very Important Person in God’s plans for human beings, according to both Jews and Christians. But NOBODY believes that Moses was LITERALLY God. NOBODY believes that Moses was the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Therefore, John 11:25 CLEARLY FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.
EXAMINATION OF JOHN 14:9
Kreeft and Tacelli provide one more quote from the Gospel of John as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:
Jesus called God his Father: …”Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
As I pointed out in my examination of John 10:30, claiming that God is one’s “father” is NECESSARILY a METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC statement, not a LITERAL statement. So, this statement requires interpretation.
More importantly, Jesus repeatedly said to his disciples and followers that God was THEIR “father”. So, based on the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, each of the disciples and followers of Jesus must LITERALLY be God! But, of course, Kreeft and Tacelli don’t believe that.
Furthermore, according to the Gospel of John, some Jews in the first century other than Jesus also spoke of God as being their “father”:
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did, 40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God, and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
(John 8:39-42, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
Since Jesus believed that God was the “father” of his disciples and followers, and since Jews in the first century other than Jesus sometimes referred to God as being their “father”, the fact that Jesus “called God his Father” FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.
A second aspect of this verse is that Jesus says that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father”, so Jesus asserted that seeing Jesus amounts to seeing God. This statement is also NOT a LITERAL statement. God has no body, and God is invisible and intangible according to Christian theology. Therefore, God CANNOT LITERALLY be “seen”. Invisible beings cannot be detected with physical eyes that rely upon light reflecting off of physical surfaces. So, this statement is also METAPHORICAL or SYMBOLIC and thus it requires interpretation.
If you read John 14:9 in context, Jesus gives us a big clue as to what he means by this:
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe because of the works themselves.
(John 14:8-11, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)
As when we looked at Chapter 10 of the Gospel of John, Jesus links his performance of miracles “because of the works themselves” with his being “in the Father” (i.e. “in God”) and with “the Father” being in him. So, what Jesus MEANS by saying that seeing him amounts to seeing “the Father” (i.e. “seeing God”) is that Jesus is “in God” and God is “in Jesus”. But, as we saw in our examination of John 10:30, Jesus also believed that his disciples and followers would be “in God” and that God would be “in them”. But Jesus did NOT believe that his disciples and followers were each LITERALLY God, so God being in a person, and that person being in God does NOT mean that the person in question is LITERALLY the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
Therefore, when Jesus said “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” he was speaking METAPHORICALLY or SYMBOLICALLY not LITERALLY, and what he meant was that God was “in Jesus” and that Jesus was “in God” and this, as we have previously seen, does NOT MEAN that Jesus was claiming to LITERALLY be God.
CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT AND TACELLI QUOTES FROM JOHN
NONE of the six verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli (at the beginning of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics) as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God actually show that Jesus made such a claim. Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospel of John provides historically accurate information about the words and teachings of Jesus (it clearly does NOT do so), the evidence from the Gospel of John FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
“Homer talks about the gods not appearing to everyone in their fullness (enargeis), with the example of Odysseus experiencing the full radiance of the goddess presencing through a woman, while the next person wasn’t experiencing her that way. Or, of a beautiful mansion we say “Now that’s a house!” though the next person may experience it to be presencing in a gawdy manner: The universal appears or manifests through the individual/particular.”
This has interesting philosophical implications for the foundations of religious life, specifically the experience of the holy (sometimes called the numinous). If, for instance, you feel the presence of God while listening to some gospel music, there is no reason to think this really is contact with God, but rather just the mind acting on itself, because if the same gospel song is played 30 times in a row, it goes from presencing as holy to presencing as irritating. So, it is something our mind is doing to itself, analogous to us experiencing boringness as a trait of the book, though we know the next person need not experience this stretching out of time in relation to the book at all. Nietzsche called this the death of God, the destroying of the bridge between God and humans. We may be experiencing God, but there is no reason to think so. Analogously, you can suppose LSD give you access to another reality, but the more likely explanation is the mind is playing tricks.
As Nietzsche pointed out, beings lose their luster simply as a functions of our spending time with them, like a worn out recording of a favorite song. We experience time as eternal return of the same, experiencing beings as though we’ve experienced them countless times before. Some examples are from (1) Ecclesiastes, (2) Seneca, and (3)Schopenhauer:
(1) “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes)
(2) “26. Some people suffer from a surfeit of doing and seeing the same things. Theirs is not contempt for life but boredom with it, a feeling we sink into when influenced by the sort of philosophy which makes us say, ‘How long the same old things? I shall wake up and go to sleep, I shall eat and be hungry, I shall be cold and hot. There’s no end to anything, but all things are in a fixed cycle, fleeing and pursuing each other. Night follows day and day night; summer passes into autumn, hard on autumn follows winter, and that in turn is checked by spring. All things pass on only to return. Nothing I do or see is new: sometimes one gets sick even of this.’ There are many who think that life is not harsh but superfluous. (Seneca ep. mor. 24. 26).”
(3) “He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once; and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive,their effect is gone.” (Schopenhauer, “Essays on Pessimism”)
For more posts on this see my 2 blog posts from my previous blog here:
ALSO, see the other posts in this series on this blog here:
Edward Babinski has also spoke to the phenomena of beings losing their luster through spending time with them, although I don’t know if he formulates the problem in terms of a Nietzschean repetitious experience of time as eternal return.
“Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be (Protagoras, On the Gods)”
Protagoras was a proponent of either agnosticism or, as Tim Whitmarsh claims, atheism, on the grounds that since he held that if something is not able to be known it does not exist. This reflects my own position of theoretical agnosticism but pragmatic atheism, since life clearly does not seem to reflect the hand of a responsible God (eg., hurricanes, three year old’s dead from cancer), but since an immaterial, supernatural being is unfalsifiable, who knows? I live my life as though immaterial goblins aren’t the cause of quantum gravity, since to live otherwise would be odd.
By God or theos Heidegger has in mind the notion of an arche that we find with the PreSocratics rather than the later Christian notion of a supernatural entity of faith. This is why Heidegger says
“Faith has no place in thought (Heidegger, Anaximander’s Saying in Off The Beaten Track, 280).”
Exploring what Heidegger “faith-less-ly” understands in terms of theos (God) and theology, we read:
“In its formal meaning, pantheism means: pan-theos, ‘Everything – God’; everything stands in relation to God; [this means] all beings are in relation to the ground of beings. This ground as the One, hen is as ground what everything else, pan, is in it, in the ground. Hen kai pan. The One is also the whole and the whole is also the One … Hen kai pan, this followed Heraclitus’ fragment hen panta einai, Fr. 50, and was according to the spirit of the time the chosen motto of the three young Swabian friends, Schelling, Hegel, and Holderlin. (Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom, 68)”
So, for the Greeks theos is understood in terms of the event, movement. Motion is characterized by a changing away from something, toward something else, which, as Aristotle sees it, need not involve a change of place, since the quality of something can change without it going anywhere. We say, for instance, the supremely beautiful woman is like Aphrodite incarnate, like Aphrodite presences through her. Homer talks about the gods not appearing to everyone in their fullness (enargeis), with the example of Odysseus experiencing the full radiance of the goddess presencing through a woman, while the next person wasn’t experiencing her that way. Or, of a beautiful mansion we say “Now that’s a house!” though the next person may experience it to be presencing in a gawdy manner: The universal appears or manifests through the individual/particular. Modern Analytic philosophy ignores the foundational concept of movement/presencing and so creates for itself the imaginary problem of transcendence when trying to understand how the universal applies to the individual. This doesn’t mean there is an extant goddess Aphrodite existing somewhere, we are just describing what the experience feels like (Phenomenology). This is the sense in which Aristotle understands God in terms of movement as arche or originating principle, not in the later way Christian philosophers appropriated Aristotle.
Characterizing the Greeks and gods, we read from Calasso:
But how does a god make himself manifest? In the Greek language the word theos, “god,” has no vocative case, observed the illustrious linguist Jakob Wackernagel. Theos has a predicative function: it designates something that happens. There is a wonderful example of this in Euripides’ Helen: “O theoi. theos gar kai to gigno’ skein philous”–“O gods: recognizing the beloved is god.” Kerenyi thought that the distinguishing quality of the Greek world was this habit of “saying of an event: ‘It is theos.'” And an event referred to as being theos could easily become Zeus, the most vast and all-inclusive of gods, the god who is the background noise of the divine. So when Aratus set out to describe the phenomena of the cosmos, he began his poem thus: “From Zeus let our beginning be, from he whom men never leave unnamed. Full of Zeus are the paths and the places where men meet, full of Zeus the sea and the seaports. Every one of us and in every way has need of Zeus. Indeed we are his offspring.”
So for example Holderlin speaks of the blueing of the sky after the storm where the contrast phenomenalizes that the sky is always blueing, just that this becomes conspicuous in contrast with the grey stormy skies. Similarly, when I turn down an unknown street looking for the yellow house, when I see it the yellowness leaps out at me, yellows, which it does so normally too to a lesser degree though we don’t usually notice the appearing.
It’s amazing that so long ago Protagoras basically summed up what we know about the divine, which we are now still struggling to catch up with.
In this series of posts, one side issue I tried to argue was the idea of Jesus as a mythical entity who was crucified in outer space as Richard Carrier argues for doesn’t make sense of the evidence, primarily because the crucifixion is trying to arouse guilt to inspire repentance and this theme doesn’t fit with sky demons executing Christ. But there is another related issue.
Carrier argues original Christianity was just another dying-rising God cult that were numerous at that time. The problem is that if original Christianity was just another one of these, it would make sense to the Gentiles. But, Paul says the gentiles found the idea of the religion centered around the cross to be ridiculous:
“23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23)”
The idea of an executed deity as a object of worship in the ancient world was looked upon as ludicrous, hence the parody of Christian worship from around the year 200 with the The Alexamenos graffito (also known as the graffito blasfemo, or blasphemous graffito):
Ben Witherington comments:
The gist of this graffito is ridiculing the idea that a God could get himself crucified. The inscriptionspeaks of Alexamenos worshipping his God, and the one of the cross has a donkey’s head. Theimplication is that this is an assine practice, so the graffito is strongly pejorative. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2022/07/23/the-graffito-about-the-crucifixion/
So, the first Christians were not just trying to sell another dying-rising God that were plentiful in the ancient world, because we have from multiple sources that the gentiles saw such ideas as silly.
My solution is that the gentiles would have been familiar with the idea of a personal and societal transformational death such as that of Socrates, but would have thought it foolish to think such a death would have the ability to have as profound personal and societal transformation as Jesus’ death was supposed to have. To overcome this unlikelihood, people would have to come to see Jesus as the specially chosen by God Davidic heir who was wrongly humiliatingly executed as a criminal. The more one sees Jesus as the specially and profoundly favored one of God, the more individual and societal hidden vileness is disclosed and hence the opportunity for repentance.
The Secular Frontier blog is happy to announce we are hosting the June 2022Biblical Studies Carnival
So what is a Biblical Studies Carnival? Prof. Phil Long explains:
In the early days of blogging, people would collect blog posts on a particular topic and call it a carnival. I have no idea why a carnival (as opposed to a yard sale, a circus, or a monthly index… it’s an internet thing). There were psychology carnivals, sociology carnivals, etc. In March 2005, Joel Ng posted the first Biblical Studies Carnival at his now defunct blog, Ebla Logs. But nothing is really dead on the internet. You can still read that first carnival on The Wayback Machine. The first link is to Jim Davila, at PaleoJudaica.com, a remarkable blog still going strong after all these years. I notice the one-time keeper of the Biblioblog Top Fifty list, Peter Kirby (although his blog Christian Origins is now gone). Jim West hosted in November 2006, although that version of his blog no longer exist (as far as I know). Some of the older blogs have (sadly) been taken over by spammers.
Prior to 2012, Jim Linville kept the list of Biblical Studies Carnivals. When Jim retired from this role in August 2012, I volunteered to be the “keeper of the carnival list.” This means I try to draft (harass) people into volunteering to host the Biblical Studies Carnival. I keep a master list of Carnivals with links here on Readng Acts (in the banner, or click here).
Blogging has come and gone, and maybe come back again. Some bloggers moved into podcasting or producing YouTube videos. Others remembered they had a real life beyond blogging. Sometimes students blogged for a few years then graduated and got jobs that took them away from regular posts. Nevertheless, some have persisted. Even though I would love to see the return of N. T. Wrong, there is a new generation of biblical studies bloggers.
So, if you would like to contribute to the June 2022 Carnival, please email or tweet me a link to your post along with your name and a brief description by July 1: