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Is There a God?

August 11, 2010 111 comments

Where Is God?

We can demonstrate that no god exists.  Certainly not in the Jewish/Christian/Islamic omnipotent father-figure image.  Notice the contradictions in observed reality with the image of the loving god that is aware of “every sparrow that falls” and “numbers the hairs of your head”.  Clearly, no such deity exists and there is no divine intervention in either a positive or negative sense.  If there were, at any moment the 27,000 children around the world  dying of malnutrition and starvation be permitted?  Would evil be permitted to exist?  Would people benefit from evil deeds and good deeds go unrewarded?

For that matter, it can be mathematically demonstrated that prayers are not answered, either.  Unless you consider a success rate of .01% to be “answered”.  That’s far below even the rate of random chance.  Even the behavior of religious groups when confronted with practical matters demonstrates that they do not believe in the “power of prayer” either.  If they did, they would simply pray to god to provide their churches with all that was needed instead of extorting money from their members.  If they don’t trust that, they must not have much faith in their “god” either.

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A Flat Tax

August 4, 2010 19 comments

A Flat-Rate Tax

I am in favor of a flat-rate system of taxation, a system that applies fairly and equally to all, regardless of income.  I include corporations and churches in this system as, in some aspects, they are legally regarded as individuals.

The tax rate might be as low as ten or fifteen percent, whatever is needed to finance the government.  There would be no deductions, exemptions, or exceptions.  This also means no tax credits for any reason.  By removing even the possibility of loopholes, all persons would pay their fair share.  Who would mind paying if they knew everyone else was paying, too?

There are groups who oppose such a plan.  Obviously, anyone making money from the present tax system is opposed to change.  The Internal Revenue Service, for example, could be almost eliminated.  Tax returns would be needed only for the self-employed and those having income other than wages and salary, such as tips or gambling income.  All others might send in a simple affidavit stating that they had no unreported income.  The IRS would have little to do, and could be reduced to a fraction of its present size and budget.

Employers would deduct and pay the flat-rate tax as they now do under the present system.  Because the percentage would be the same for everyone, it would be far simpler to do.  (No W-2 forms for openers).

High-income persons with tax shelters form another group opposed to tax reform.  Many of these people and corporations pay little or no tax year after year.  Because this group finances many political campaigns, they exert influence far out of proportion to their numbers.  Because many politicians are in this category, it is unlikely that they will bite the hands that feed them, or vote away their own favored tax situation.  With these groups and the IRS opposed to any real changes in the tax structure, I see little hope of reform, but it is nice to dream.

Flying Pharoahs

August 4, 2010 5 comments

The Pharaohs Could Fly

Much of what people have regarded as magic and “god” over the centuries have really been things they just didn’t understand so they attributed mystical significance to normal events.

A great example of this is a piece I read by Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions) who wrote that the ancient Egyptians could fly.  Obviously, we know that they did not.  They left us so many records in the form of artwork and writings that we would know if they had.

But, they had bamboo, papyrus, linen, and the thermals and steady winds of the Nile valley.  They could have built gliders capable of sailing hundreds of miles.  Unfortunately, they were ignorant of the laws of aerodynamics even though they were as much in effect then as now.  But they didn’t know, so they didn’t go.

It’s possible that there are laws of physics that we don’t know about today that, if we did, we would be capable of feats as astounding to us (including flying without planes) as flying would have been to the Pharaohs, who would have assumed that was supernatural, but was only the application of physical laws effective for anyone.

Even today, we see the same thing when people, observing anything they do not understand, assume it has a supernatural source.  “God cured me of cancer”  “The lord was with us.  It’s a miracle only 12 people were killed.  It could have been worse.”  “I don’t understand how evolution could possibly work, so it must have been god.”

Have Faith

August 4, 2010 14 comments

Let’s All Have Faith

If something cannot be proven, there is likely to be a reason for it.   If something cannot be seen, it can still be proven.  Gravity cannot be seen by of our current technology.  But its effects can be seen and measured.  Just try dropping an iron weight on your toe.  Or do you think that was a spiritual effect by god to punish you for being stupid enough to drop it on your toe?

Gravity can be measured, its actions observed and even predicted.  I knew that weight was going to hurt your toe.  You probably did too, so you decided not to drop it on your foot.

“But you must have Faith!”  OK, I am willing to test that.  Are you?

I invite you to the roof of my building.  It’s not too high, between 25 and 30 meters (80 to 90 feet).  I hand you a large belt and tell you to put it on.  As you are buckling it, I explain that it is an anti-gravity belt I have built.  I add that it repels gravitational force, just as ordinary magnets repel each other.

Like magnets, the closer it is to the earth, the more powerfully it works.  So, when you first step off the roof, you’ll fall fairly fast.  But as you near the concrete parking lot below, you’ll slow down until you stop just a short distance above the ground.  Way more fun than bungee jumping, right?

Now go on, step off the roof.  What? You want to know how it works?  The entire secret was revealed to me by a space alien in a series of visions.  He also told me that drinking too much alcohol was bad for me.  I know that to be true, so this has to be true, too.  It’s too complicated for you to understand anyway. You need me to interpret its action for you and for you to have faith.

Yes, I’ve already tried it, now it’s your turn.  Off you go now.  Take a leap of faith.

Land of the Free?

August 3, 2010 5 comments

Land of the Free?

America is not the land of the free and never was.  This is not limited to the USA, of course, it’s true of most places at most times.  It is only free if you profess to believe the “right” things, practice the “right” religion, support the “right” causes, and say the things that “everyone knows” are correct.  Now, it must be “politically correct,” too.

Dissent has always been not only discouraged, but punished, socially, legally, and often physically.  How many “hippies” of the 60’s were disowned, ostracized, and often physically abused for their views and lifestyle?  Is it any different today?  Isn’t “gay bashing” still practiced?  How about right of choice?  Is that also punished?  Even to the point of murder?

Anyone that opposed the Iraq War 2 was accused of being unpatriotic, unchristian, and possibly treasonous.  The fact that not one weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq and that it is becoming very apparent that the government, starting with the President and Secretary of State misstated or even lied about the intelligence excuses for the war has not lifted the mantle of hate aimed at these few voices of reason.  Some “friends” have even told me that, if I can’t say what they want to hear and stop criticizing the government to stop communicating at all.  I may have lost some acquaintances, but I have kept my integrity.

It doesn’t stop with false patriotism, it continues into every area of life; especially when you intrude upon religion.  Madelyn Murray O’Hare may have won a few battles, but at the cost of eternal hatred and enmity from so-called “Christians.”  The hate and threat-filled mail she received reveals the true level of “Christian love and tolerance” that exists in the USA.

Anyone that dares to express dissatisfaction with blue laws and protests anyone attempting to enact their personal religious beliefs into law is reviled and attacked, often physically.  Think about the number of bombings of abortion clinics.  Are these acts of Christian charity?  Whether anyone likes it or not, the abortion issue is a religious one.  Has any other argument been offered against it?  If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.  If you have a logical, provable, argument against it, state it clearly and reasonably.  Attempting to enforce your opinion with violence or making it a law with its implied threat of “legal” violence is morally wrong and contrary to the standards of a free country.

If America were truly free, anyone could express any opinion and live any way they chose without running the risk of social, financial, or physical danger.  This situation does not exist today and never will because there are two universal truths that forbid it.

The first is:  A person’s most precious possessions are his illusions.  People will sacrifice their homes, money, possessions, even their children as long as they can maintain their illusions of religion and what’s “right” and wrong”.  If you doubt this, think of parents watching their children go off to fight and die in a war because they refuse to surrender the illusion that “It’s a just war against a godless heathen.”  They cannot accept that it is to ensure the profits of oil companies and presidential pals.  They do this because very few are cognizant of a second truth.  Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.

One of the things I’ve learned is that most of our beliefs and attitudes are really an accident of birth.  If you had been born in another place, you might just as sincerely believe in Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, or some other religion and be convinced that your country was always right and that America was the “Great Satan.”  You would be just as wrong.

America free?  Think about these.  No-warrant wiretaps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, no-knock entries.  Search and seizure without warrants, rendition of prisoners, torture renamed as “intensive interrogation”, stop and frisk without probable cause, confiscation or destruction of cameras used to record illegal police actions, mounting cases of police brutality and even executions by police that are never investigated, much less punished, and finally, “managed news.”  Does this sound like a free country?

Do I expect to suffer for these opinions?  Most certainly I do.  There is no doubt there will be  hate mail and death threats (the religious reich is especially fond of those) but also financial, social, and personal loss.  But I still have my integrity.  That’s more than most.

 

Term Limits

August 3, 2010 18 comments

Term Limits

This was a Guest Editorial for the Arizona Republic, October 1990.  It seems more true today than it did then.
“Those who trade liberty for security will soon have neither.”– Benjamin Franklin
“When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them. When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.” — James E. Smith
“Governments need enemies to justify their existence.” — Edward Abbey
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the American Government needs a visible enemy. It seems to have chosen the American people to fill this role. When the government declares war on your rights it’s always “For your own good.” In reality, it’s only to increase that government’s power and to perpetuate itself in an increasingly larger form.
It’s time to make some fundamental changes in the American system if we are to preserve our traditional liberties. The founding fathers never intended that anyone would hold a public office for a lifetime. Today, we see politicians whose only purpose is to be re-elected. Everything they do, all the deals, compromises, and voting is to that end. If they were only permitted to serve one term, none of this could happen. In fact, a person should only be permitted one elected position in a lifetime. with a maximum term of six years. We could go even further and allow no one to work for any government in any capacity for more than six years. The military could be exempt from this restriction, as this is the one area where experience might be useful. Is there any other government job that the average individual cannot master in six months to a year?  Who is truly satisfied with a government “service”?  Is anyone happy with the Social Security Administration, the TSA (Terminally Stupid Association) or  Homeland Security?  (Hopelessly Silly)
Many would say that this plan would throw out the good with the bad. What good? Does anyone know of an elected, appointed, or hired government employee that couldn’t be easily replaced? After six years, they are no longer part of the solution but have become the problem. They need to get back into the work force and find a real job. If they knew they were going to have to rejoin the real world and live with the results of their actions, it might influence some of the decisions being made in government. The first monetary savings would be the elimination of the incredible retirement package they have voted themselves.
Who would serve under those conditions? Most Americans would do so. For some positions, it might be necessary to have a mandatory period of national service; not a bad idea in itself. Draftees could serve as lower-level public servants for two years, then be free to pursue their careers.
Private industries or groups could better provide many government “services” anyway. Two prime examples are the Tennessee Valley Authority and fire departments. The TVA is subsidized by taxpayers all over the country so that select consumers may enjoy electric rates far below the national average. The entire system could be sold to private power companies for billions of dollars. Resulting in a handy profit for the government and some relief for the taxpayer. The TVA customers have to become accustomed to the real world of energy costs where the rest of us have lived for decades.
Those who have fire protection from Rural Metro know that their service far exceeds what is usually available from government-run fire companies and at a surprisingly low cost. Local governments could vend fire protection to private companies. Firefighters deserve to be properly paid and the open marketplace is the only way to ensure this.
Most readers can think of many instances where a government “service” competes with private business. Vending these out or simply getting out of the business would help both the government and the commercial enterprises. The government would gain tax revenue while cutting expenses and the business would prosper. Taxpayers would receive better service at lower costs. This is a “win-win-win” solution.

James E. Smith

Universal Truths

August 3, 2010 6 comments

Smith’s Universal Truths
A universal truth is something that’s true at all times for all people.  Here are a few.

  1. Beware of any project that starts with the words, “Remove old finish.”
  2. True happiness is finding someone who will tolerate you.  The first step in finding that person is admitting that you need some tolerating.
  3. If you wonder why something is the way it is; learn who’s making money from it being that way.
  4. If it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert.  Banana cream pie, for example, is just another part of the meal like the green beans or asparagus.
  5. Whenever someone tells you they are doing something “for your own good,” you can be certain that you won’t like it.  Furthermore, they will expect you to pay for it.  If they’re “protecting your morals,” you’ll have to pay double.
  6. Not all lawyers should be shot.  Some should be hanged.
  7. Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.
  8. Nothing is so perfect that someone, somewhere, won’t hate it.
  9. Real knowledge is knowing where to find the answers.
  10. The world is run by the people that show up.
  11. Information is not knowledge anymore than loose ingredients are a cake.
  12. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.
  13. Intellectualism must not be confused with wisdom.
  14. A problem with doing anything right the first time is that no one knows how difficult it was.
  15. Few things in life succeed as well as a power-off reset.
  16. The difference between adventure and disaster is preparation.
  17. The most popular human pastime is denial.
  18. Forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission.
  19. Any solution proposed by a politician will contain more problems than it solves.
  20. Don’t worry, you’re not the first.
  21. You can have it if you’re willing to pay for it.
  22. Man’s most precious possessions are his delusions.  No power equals that of self-deception.
  23. An entity that cannot laugh at itself has planted the seeds of its own destruction.
  24. We earn our appellations by our conduct.
  25. Any statement containing the words, “if everyone” will be void of logical content.
  26. Excuses are easier than action.
  27. The most difficult human task is thinking before speaking or acting.
  28. To most people, personal convenience is more important than courtesy or respect for others.
  29. If something “goes without saying” you can be sure that someone will say it.
  30. Sometimes it’s harder to sell the truth than it is a lie.
  31. Local customs are not laws of nature. – Marcus Aurelius
  32. The human race will never be truly free as long as it willingly submits to the tyranny of religion.