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.”

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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.

Ethics

August 2, 2010 9 comments

Enlightened Self-Interest

A popular theist argument for religion is “Without religion (god) we would have no morality or ethics.”  So without religion can there be morality?  Morality based upon fear of punishment or seeking rewards isn’t really morality at all.  Perhaps what they are saying is that they would be evil without fear of hell.  Then they project that lack of moral courage upon everyone else.  I say to them, “Don’t judge others by yourself.  Your lack of ethical backbone is not universal.”

People can practice what I term enlightened self-interest.  An individual’s self-interest is best served by doing no harm to others except in defense of themselves or those in their care.  This thinking does not need threats of eternal punishment to follow, It only requires thinking about what will ultimately yield the best results for yourself.  Treating others fairly and generously is always better for yourself, personally, financially, and socially.

Those that co-operate and adapt have always been more successful.  As such, basic ethics has evolved to improve the survival of species.  Indiscriminate killing, sex with close relatives, cannibalism, are a few examples of things that are contrary to survival of the group.  The most cooperative and adaptable species have the best survival rate.  Even animals conform to these “moral issues”.  That religions have attempted to claim these things originated with them and would not exist without religion is not just hypocritical, it is ignoring obvious facts.

There are more complex issues that apply more directly to humans.  For example, robbing a bank may yield temporary wealth, but at the expense of either a prison term or a life of fear, running from the law.  Similarly, cheating others in business dealings may increase profits for a time.  Eventually, your reputation will be so poor that your business may fail.  This is a simple principle that, “It’s always cheaper to make a customer happy than it is to make him angry.”  This same idea can pay dividends in ordinary human relations.  For reasons I don’t understand, few businesses or people appreciate this idea.  Maybe it’s because they operate on deist principles?  Everything is forgiven if you repent before you die. Although that wouldn’t seem to help those you cheated, treated badly, or even murdered.

So should nothing be discouraged?  Should everything be permitted?  Capable, informed individuals could engage in any activity that interests them even if it puts them personally at risk.

An example would be an automobile race.  It is certainly dangerous to drive at racing speeds and it is equally dangerous to stand near the race course to observe or record this event.  Two people may choose to do these things if they understand and accept the risks involved.

One question that arises from this would be, what if one or both of these people have a spouse and children that depend upon them for financial and emotional support?  Should they still do this knowing that if they are injured or killed it will cause some degree of harm to these dependents?  If they choose to do so, does anyone else have the right to prevent them?

Those are ethical questions that can and should be debated, but each person must be free to choose his own answer.  No other person, religion, or government should have the right to make these choices for us.  If you are keeping in mind that humans are often in error and thus prepared for all possible consequences, no matter how remote the possibility, you can do what you think best.

Knives vs Rocks

July 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Knives vs Rocks

Restricting knives is a good idea, but they ignore an even greater danger that has been going on far longer. I refer to that hideously vicious weapon, the rock. Here are just a few facts about them.

Rocks have killed a greater proportion of the human race than guns, bombs or knives. In fact, bombs have been used to cause rocks to be violently distributed in a killing wave of mass destruction.

From even pre-historic days, rocks have been used as killing machines. Even the Koran and the Bible contain accounts and advice to “stone people”, often to death. So the evil history of Rocks is well-documented.

Rocks can be obtained by anyone, even children, at no significant cost and are totally unregulated, much less registered or restricted. For far too many children, a rock is their first introduction to violent behavior. Who has not seen children practicing their accuracy with rocks by throwing them at targets or even into waterways?

Because children start so early with these dangerous rocks, it can be surmised that they are also a gateway device to even more destructive devices and behavior.

Modern man, not content with natural means of murder, has created artificial rocks and attempted to disguise their true nature by calling them “concrete” and “bricks” but numerous accounts with pictures and even video show people using these seemingly innocuous objects as they were truly intended, smashing and killing.

We and our children can never be safe and truly civilized until every rock is registered and rendered harmless by reducing them to sizes no larger than 10 grams. Even then, they may be a hazard to eyes, so everyone should be provided with protective goggles that are to be worn at all times.

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