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Comment: Re:Finally (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49721391) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

There has been zero correlation between health and religion.

False. A study in the 1996 (Kark et al.) has found that death rates for 3900 Israelis in religious and non-religious settlements over a period of 16 years were lower in religious communities.

Also: Church attendance has been found to increase life expectancy (Hummer et al. 1999) with a life expectancy at age 20 of 83 years for frequent attendees and 75 years for non-attendees.
I could do this all day, it is well established in the literature.

This contradicts your first point, as it might make me happier ( and it does ), to be an Atheist and it might make you happier to be a Christian, so if we sustain in our own areas of belief, then we will both see a correlation between mood and our actives.

That has nothing to do with my first point. If you want to be an atheist and find that works for you, go for it. But don't pretend that there isn't the possibility that Christianity has a positive impact on its practitioners, such that it is *entirely reasonable* to continue engaging in it, at least from a cost-benefit perspective.

It's a fact that the OT in The Bible, God tells man he can rape ltitle girls, and to show I'm not joking or making that up, check out this verse: Judges 21:10-24 NLT.

Reading comprehension: try it.

There are plenty of ethically troubling commands by the Old Testament God, but this isn't one of them. This is a group of tribal elders telling some people in the tribe to go kidnap women to be their wives. Yes, it is a bad thing, but nowhere is "little girls" implied, and it is explicitly *not* a command from God.

Finally, to sum this all up, there is no good reason to believe in religion, there is no good reason to believe in God, believing in an unproven, non-existent being who created the universe, wants to punish you, demands you give money other is not rational. Religion is now the security blanket of the adult who is to scared and worried to grow up and venture into reality.

In all areas you have completely failed to recognize the actual meaning of the words in front of you. Because, my assessment was that *belief* isn't the only thing defining rational behavior - it also matters what the impact on your life is. There are criticisms of religion to be made, but you've managed to completely avoid the good ones - all you're doing is manufacturing weak strawman arguments.

Comment: Re:23 down, 77 to go (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49721385) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

To set the record straight, the reason the early church was successful was the baptism of the Holy Spirit which empowered them to witness, helped change their lives by increasing good qualities (love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness and meekness) to quote the standard list as a baseline, and which gave them power to act and demonstrate the difference between Christianity and the other religions of the time through the gifts of the Spirit.

Do you realize that this kind of language is totally alienating to anybody who isn't a Christian? "The Baptism of The Holy Spirit" is first of all, not directly scriptural (the trinity is inferred from scripture, not explicitly stated. For fun - neither is the rapture mentioned anywhere whatsoever.)
So you aren't talking literal Bible truth here, you're talking elaborate constructs of theologians.

Either way, I think you've basically managed to dress up my original contention in churchy language that fits into your ideological framework - the early Church was compelling to Christians and non-Christians alike. The modern church is dwindling. I think that's because the modern church has gotten very far removed from following Christ's example.

Regardless of your assertions, it is the attitude of the heart that causes the difficulties with God. All things - nice or not nice - are just things. It is the attitude of the heart toward them that causes the issues.

You are asserting a problematic position that may be defensible through theological exercises, but which causes Christians to totally ignore the example of Christ. If the heart (and salvation) is all that matters, then certainly we are justified in torturing people to save their souls, yes? Consider: A tree is known by its fruit - it is not possible to have a good heart and commit terrible acts, nor is it possible to do Christlike things with a bad heart. As Christians, first and foremost we should be concerned with following Christ's example and loving our neighbors. Instead, the church has been most worried about battling gay sex. Strange, that.

Yes, church history is littered with problems. But it is also littered with truly good people and ministries.

Those good people get led astray by bad theology. Stop allowing manufactured theology to distract you from the most potent of Christ's words. Christians are called to sell everything and give to the poor, not create megachurches. Christians are supposed to be known first and foremost for showing love to *everyone*, not for launching massive political campaigns against the margins of society.

If Jesus was here today, who would he be hanging out with? I wager it would be the LGBT crowd and atheists, because those are the equivalent of the samaritans and tax collectors of his time, people who are distrusted and marginalized by entrenched institutional religion.

Comment: Re:Finally (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49698385) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

I'm probably going to regret engaging with a troll, but here goes:

Religious people are, on average, happier and healthier. This is supported by science. Participation in a religious community of any kind confers many significant benefits that are well supported in the scientific literature. So, it is not only rational to be involved, it is arguably irrational to abstain!

No, I'm not saying everyone should become religious. What I am saying is that a rational actor is someone who evaluates the impact of an activity on personal happiness and well-being, and continues to engage in those activities that increase personal happiness and well-being. A huge part of religion (of any kind, I'd warrant) can be appreciated with no belief whatsoever. Take an edict like "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" - this is a call to self-skepticism and forgiveness of the faults of others, which is a useful and beneficial message regardless of how you assess the reality attribute of the person who is recorded as saying it. I tend to value any activity that helps motivate me to be a more thoughtful/kinder/more honest version of myself, and religion regularly does that.

It is easy to ridicule an absurd strawman (I believe in a sky daddy because I'm ignorant of science), but it would be much more *rational* of you to realize that it provides meaning and value to the people who engage in it, and that perhaps there are reasons (hint: nobody REALLY goes to church because of fear of hellfire anymore) that all successful human cultures across history have accompanying religious traditions.

Comment: Re:Inconsistent (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49698263) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

No. Christians claim that there's a very specific condition. John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

There may be some debate around what what it means to believe in Jesus, but if someone claims to be a Christian but doesn't believe that, they're not really a Christian.

on the other they say if you don't love God and follow His laws you will go to hell. There is no logic to religion.

Again, no. It is not possible for a person to fully love God and follow his laws perfectly, which is what made atonement through Christ's death necessary. Hell is separation from God. As noted above, God gave a very specific way for people to spend eternity with him. If you don't want to believe in Jesus Christ, then you spend eternity separated from him. That seems perfectly logical to me.
 

You have a narrow view of Christianity, and Hell. Specifically, you are espousing atonement theology (we did bad stuff and deserve to die, Christ died instead) and a Hell of eternal conscious torment, neither of which is the only (or the historical, or most self-consistent) view of Christianity. You acknowledge some ambiguity about what "belief" means (judging by your other statements, I assume you mean some kind of cognitive posture is implied .. either a prayer that was said, or some kind of earnest mental/emotional commitment) but the biggest ambiguity in my mind lies elsewhere - what is meant by the "world"? What is meant by "perish"? What is meant by "eternal life"?

Here's the thing - the OP is essentially right - you've added some semantics to his paradox (how can unconditional love have conditions?) and basically talked some more about the condition, and ignored the original complaint.

So, some food for thought: many early Christian thinkers were not Creationists. Many of them have been (or allude to being) something along the line of Universalists (for ALL have sinned, and fall short of the glory of god, but the gift of god is eternal life). The Hebrews of Jesus' time didn't likely believe in hell (or even an afterlife) in the sense that modern theologians have defined it. Which means that Jesus and the people who wrote the bible likely didn't believe in those things either.

Really, the bulk of the theology you espouse can be tied back to the invention of fundamentalism in the early 1900's, this "Old Timey Religion" that was basically manufactured out of wholecloth: http://religiondispatches.org/... . Historical Christian theology has had very different views, and much of what people find objectionable about Christianity today is actually a product of this fundamentalism, not anything about Christ's message.

Comment: Re:surprised? (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49698119) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

The engines of media are actively working to tear religion* down: few films in the last 40 years (aside from those specifically built for sale to the isolated Christian demographic) have identified-Christian characters that don't prove to be motivated to evil thereby.

Have to disagree with you on this one. It is implicit in many, many films (and explicit in some) that the main characters are Christian. The Captain America films are a particularly obvious example, for instance. There is an immense pro-Christian bias in American culture and media, to such an extent that nobody notices it like a fish doesn't notice water. Watch exclusively Asian films for a while and note - how many times does a character go to a confessional, or go in to a church for a funeral, wedding, or holiday? When a character dies, do people cross themselves, ask a religious figure to say some words? These things happen constantly in all American films - the "persecution" of American Christians is totally illusory.

And at any rate - by your argument, you could make the case that Hollywood has been trying for decades to engender hate and distrust towards people with handlebar mustaches. Yet you don't see ranks of abundantly moustachioed gentlemen complaining about misrepresentation. Christians need to stop whining about this trivial stuff.

Comment: Re:23 down, 77 to go (Score 1) 849

by werepants (#49697999) Attached to: Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

Jesus taught wherever he could. Much of the teaching time of Jesus (and the early disciples for that matter) was done in the synagogues and the temple at Jerusalem. These were arguably "nice" buildings. They also did a lot of teaching literally in the "field". Jesus, however, didn't spend time teaching on matters of the physical church plant as I recollect. He dealt primarily with eternal issues.

I would also argue that even the early tabernacle that God specified himself was pretty nice, with many gold and silver features. If you translated the dollar value of the portable tabernacle into today's terms you'd be shocked. Solomon's temple was even more magnificent. The New Testament also makes it clear that those who work for the kingdom of God have a reasonable expectation of being compensated. So I am hard pressed to point to scripture that specifically condemns "nice" things. The problem arises when pride, envy, jealousy and the like start to get involved (particularly when things get too nice at your facility or too nice for a particular neighbor church and the people start wishing they could have those things locally as well). The attitudes of the heart are the real danger and not the things themselves.

Every Christian has enough means to give to both God (through His church) and to help the poor. Not all can give monetarily, but all can give something - whether time, money, or materials.

All of the theology in this post is absolutely terrible. I don't necessarily blame you for it, because you likely haven't heard anything else your whole life and likely your whole family believes similar things, but still: this is the path by which Christians manage to ignore the majority of what Christ himself said.

The reason that the early church was successful and grew as it did was because of two things: it challenged the assertion typical of the time that the poor and downtrodden were worthless, literally lesser human beings than the rich and powerful. It also backed up this assertion by providing food for the poor and help for the sick, etc etc. So much so that over several decades it overtook the entire Roman empire. It doesn't require any advanced theological constructs to explain this behavior either - people simply took the example of Christ (feeding the hungry, healing the sick, spending time among the outcasts) and enacted it directly.

The thing is, a lot of that stuff is difficult, because people LIKE to have nice things, they LIKE to make money, the LIKE to have a nice clean house where homeless people aren't stinking it up all the time. So over the centuries, as Christianity became entrenched, theologians went to work to construct elaborate rationalizations - e.g. "The attitudes of the heart are the real danger and not the things themselves." - that made it easier to ignore the difficult parts of Christianity.

The point is, Christ was known for reaching out to the outcasts. Early Christians were known for reaching out to the outcasts. Modern Christians are known for: Giant megachurches, sleazy televangelists, and hating gays.

Comment: Re:Laws of Physics were written before dark matter (Score 1) 416

by werepants (#49648157) Attached to: No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive

Correction to myself - I had millinewtons in mind, but I see that they in fact observed only ~50 micronewtons... my calculations (very well could be wrong) show that with a 30C temp differential and a 100cm^2 radiating surface you could get 7E-05 Newtons of thrust... or 70 micronewtons. So that very well could explain the effect.

Comment: Re:Laws of Physics were written before dark matter (Score 1) 416

by werepants (#49648055) Attached to: No, NASA Did Not Accidentally Invent Warp Drive

Similarly I would not be surprised to found out that this EM drive is simply getting hotter at one end and being propelled by black body radiation from the hot end, still looking for a good enough write up that says they factored that out.

Interesting thought, but was there much of a temperature differential there? Unless that thing had a lot of hot surface area (neighborhood of 1 square meter @ 100C) concentrated exclusively on one end, blackbody radiation isn't going to come close. No doubt it is worth investigating in a thorough review, but unless there's serious heat there (hard to imagine at the power levels they've been at) the impact would be far into the noise.

Comment: Re:...eventually put people on mars...my butt (Score 1) 136

by werepants (#49631379) Attached to: Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission

500 years? We didn't have Newtonian physics 500 years ago. Electricity and magnetism were understood about as well as a modern 5-year-old understands them. Phenomena that seem similarly mysterious now (gravity, entanglement) will probably be exploitable in 500 years much like electricity is today. 100 years ago, many physicists doubted that rockets or any form of propulsive movement was possible in a vacuum. Just 60 years ago, we hadn't sent anything into orbit, at all.

There are no technical problems precluding the establishment of a colony on mars, only economic and political ones. Granted, those tend to be the most intractable problems, but technology improvement also tends to bulldoze them eventually. To imagine that five centuries will not change the situation is completely obtuse.

Comment: Re:Root of failure (Score 1) 352

by werepants (#49569651) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

I'm not against paying teachers in poor districts more (provided you can find a way to pay for it), I'm against paying teachers in wealthy districts less - it's already a challenge to live and work in those areas on a teacher's salary.

As to firing teachers that consistently show they can't produce results, sure. That already happens the vast majority of the time. Fundamentally, though, you are operating under the assumption that motivation is the problem - that we need more consequences, and more rewards to make teachers try harder.

Here's the thing: a 10% bonus on 30k isn't going to make the difference between success and failure for a teacher who is already putting in 70 hours a week. You can't get that kind of effort out of people for that kind of money. And, a teacher who is content to do a mediocre job at 40 hours a week isn't going to kick it up to 70 (it really does take that much time) in order to get a small pay bump.

Our problem isn't financial incentives or a lack of consequences for poor scores. Our problem is crappy teacher training, flavor-of-the-month curriculum choices and instructional methods that are entirely unproven, and consistent "brain-drain" where people who have better options (the good ones) leave the field after a few years at most. What you're suggesting is a band-aid to cover up a bruise, where we need surgical intervention to fix deeply broken structure.

Comment: Re:sage (Score 1) 352

by werepants (#49569313) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

Maybe things are different where you live, but in my state you can choose any public school in your area to enroll your student in - the only caveat being you have to figure out a way to get them there. If you want a charter school, everyone there is equally subject to the same limitations, whether it is open enrollment, lottery, waiting list, or whatever. I fail to see the problem.

Comment: Re:This plan has holes (Score 1) 352

by werepants (#49562795) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

Between the stupidity of "leaders" in teaching, and zero tolerance insanity, homeschooling or private schooling my children looks better and better every day.

My wife and I are both ex-teachers, and we intend to homeschool. Many of the teachers do the best they can, but the truth is the U.S. is increasingly anti-intellectual and teachers are forced to spend more and more of their time focusing their attention on the bottom 10% of students. Very little of the time in a school day is spent on intellectual development, and as for social interaction, public school is among the least constructive social environments you'll find.

Comment: Re:sage (Score 1) 352

by werepants (#49562647) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

At least then the schools would have to compete and hopefully the bad schools that let bad teachers stay would
run out of business when they ran out of students.

I don't get this whole voucher thing, because currently, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING preventing you from putting your child in whatever school you damn well please. Schools can and do compete and try to get more students, because more students = more funding. Vouchers are a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Comment: Re:Root of failure (Score 1) 352

by werepants (#49562621) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

Your ideas have decent motivation, but they miss on a number of points:

Tying teacher pay to free-and-reduced kids - sounds great, but the places with lots of poor kids are generally impoverished places with low real estate values, etc - basically a low cost of living. It is cheaper to maintain buildings there, cheaper for staff to live there, etc. The inverse is also true - high-income areas have a high cost of living. On some level you DO need to account for cost of living in staff salaries and school funding. Currently this can get our of control, property-tax school funding means that poor areas get little funding and rich areas get a lot... we need some of that, but we could probably benefit from a more balanced funding structure that made the difference less extreme.

Tying pay to year-over-year improvement: it would be better than measuring against a fixed standard, but the problem I have there is: teachers are not car salesmen. There's a fair amount of research that indicates pay is a poor motivator for creative or intellectual tasks. The suggestion that incentive pay is the answer seems misguided... after all, it's no secret that teachers aren't paid well, so they are a group of people who have already decided to forgo money to take a low-paying but presumably fulfilling career. Why then would we think that the fundamental problem with education is that we don't have incentive pay?

The real problem is that our teachers aren't well trained, our methods aren't based on real research, and the pay as it exists mean that many teachers have far better options elsewhere. It isn't that they need annual bonuses for motivation - it's that a 2x pay differential eventually draws many people away.
 
Finland has had tremendous success with this basic approach - create rigorous teaching programs (the current ones just measure your capacity for BS and busywork), and pay the people who complete these rigorous programs a competitive base salary. This doesn't have to cost much more, because if you do it right (like Finland) you need fewer contact hours as well so you need fewer teachers. You also need patience, though... you can't reform an institution as lumbering and disjointed as U.S. education in a year, or presidential term, or maybe even two. It has taken us decades to get into this mess, it will take decades to get out of it. Which is why nothing will ever get fixed, because the public prefers fad policies that overpromise and underdeliver.

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