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    • Rationality Is A Process, Not A Conclusion (Nuclear Weapons Edition)
      A lot of mistakes come from assuming rationality means “thinks the same way I do” rather than “reasons from premises I might not share.” Left than 1/1000 economists predicted the financial collapse, because they reasoned from assumptions like “the market is self-correcting” or “housing prices never go down.” (Sometimes both at the same time, which is rarely […]
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Reasons etc

It’s after Labor Day and we all know that new stuff gets rolled out after Labor Day. It’s time for some freshening up around here. I’ve been thinking about that for some time now, what with the Presidential Election *finally* really getting under way at the end of this year. Wait, when is Iowa? And why is it so important? Don’t we ask ourselves this question every four years? Anyway, I am still seeing a lack of something for people such as myself. You know, the tail-end baby boomers who aren’t anywhere near retirement age but are expected to make our way in the world like Millenials. You know, incredible job uncertainty, vastly reduced wages, the expense of everything just dropped like a steaming pile on top of our heads, Here ya’ go, you pay for your retirement, medical care, education. You know the spiel.

But I’ve got to think about restructuring a little more. On to what I did during my summer vacation.

The bright spots are that someone finally took out the Duggars. So, there’s that. It was one of the highlights of the summer. Maybe Josh Duggar will be the one to write the tell-all book. Or maybe it will be Anna Duggar. They’ve got to make money somehow. The show has been cancelled. It’s too late for Jill and Jessa. They done got married and knocked up. But their sisters might still have a fighting chance. In any case, the Duggars are toast. Oh sure, there will always be people like them and their fan base might not be ready to ditch them yet. But their golden halo is gone and now there is space to ask ourselves what the hell THAT was all about?? That whole “no kissing before the wedding” thing backfired spectacularly. So, maybe the rest of their schtick isn’t so wholesome either, eh?

In fact, it seems like the grip of authoritarian religions and cults is starting to weaken all over the place all at once. It’s like a tipping point. The Jehovah’s Witnesses also seem to be becoming unhinged in a relatively short period of time. Does it mean my relatives will start coming to family holidays? I doubt it. But with the BBC documentaries on them and the number of associations of the JWs to Scientology in culture and indoctrination, the Royal Commission in Australia looking into child abuse and the incredible increase in the number of YouTubers who are creating their own “How I got out” channels (Reaching Out, JW Survey and Katja Christian to name a few), it looks like there may be some kind of “Hey, we’ve been eating grass!” movement afoot.

(It’s ok, guys, Jehovah will not strike you dead if you start enjoying the rest of your family at birthday parties. For one thing, we’re not certain that that’s his real name anyway.)

The same phenomenon is happening to Mormonism. John Dehlin did not die after his excommunication. Nope, he’s alive and kicking and doing well in Cash Valley, Utah with his MormonStories Podcast. He just got his PhD in psychology and he and his family are thriving and forming a new community of ex-mormons who’ve had it up to here with prematurely decomposing old men posing as prophets and imposing 19th century rules of behavior on their wives, children and gay brothers in law.

By the way, if you want to know how I spent my summer vacation, check out Lindsay Hanson Park’s Year of Polygamy Podcast. Oh. My. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she started it. Sweet Mormon housewife takes it upon herself to casually explain this quaint Mormon legacy to the rest of the world and a year later, she’s ditching her garments and wearing halter tops in church. One of her best episodes was on Mountain Meadows, aka, the original September 11 terrorist attack and massacre by a fanatic bunch of violent religious extremists.  Highly recommended.  Start from the beginning of a Year of Polygamy and listen as Lindsay’s realization and horror grows week by week. She deserves an award for this series. THAT, my friends, is the way everybody should research their religion. If your religion can withstand a Lindsay Hanson Park treatment, it’s a keeper.

But the authoritarians are not done yet, folks. Nope, there’s a new Mormon extremist group out there started by Julie Rowe who claims to have seen visions of the end of the world during a near death experience. Right now, there are tens of thousands of her followers who are leaving their jobs, cashing in their savings and becoming preppers in the desert for the great tribulations that are about to descend on us at the end of September 2015. Or over the next year. She can’t be specific. Visions rarely have a time stamp on them, you know.

The most troubling aspect of the Julie Rowe following is that in some respects, it shares a lot of similarities to what lead to the Mountain Meadows massacre. There’s a lot of anti-government rhetoric, fueled by the media, a paranoia that the government is going to crack down, a lot of extremely twitchy second amendment types, doomsday prepping on a massive scale, some tacit approval from the church authorities and many religious zealots who fear they’re going to be under attack soon. Not a good combination. Somebody’s going to get hurt. In this respect, the more legitimate media outlets are not doing their duties, obsessed as they are with trying to knock Hillary Clinton out of the presidential race. The next Great Disappointment and the accompanying fallout isn’t even on their radar yet but the west is full of some very deluded people and some of them have guns.

The general sense I’m getting is that the Witnesses and the Mormons are starting to panic. It’s making them more authoritarian, they’re excommunicating and disfellowshipping left and right and demanding complete obedience to the authorized earthly authorities while at the same time, broadcasting about their even more urgent needs for money. As John Dehlin has observed from his interviews with academics who follow trends in religion, people are leaving these religions in droves.

I blame the internet.

They probably do too, which is why the faithful are told to avoid it.

Catholicism on the other hand seems to be having a bit of a moment due to the new pope. It’s still a patriarchal religion that is *trying* to be authoritarian but can’t quite pull it off anymore. Catholics are on to the church. For many Catholics, it’s a cultural affiliation, not a religious one. Catholicism is comfortable with evolution, the Old Testament as mythology and many other modernities. They’re not cracking down on your conscience for trusting Darwin or reading real history. Plus, Catholics aren’t into shunning like real authoritarian churches are. They do have an indoctrination regime but it’s not significantly worse than Presbyterians at this point.And yeah, you can read the bible on your own. At some point since the birth of the printing press, Catholics stopped fighting that losing battle.

That doesn’t mean it’s still not run by a insular band of red beanie boys in Rome for whom sticking to the script is part of some political pissing contest that has nothing to do with their worldwide constituency. But Pope Francis seems to be successfully changing the focus of the church from an obsession with sexual morality to global economic inequality. I’m sure his upcoming visit is going to get a lot of attention and make many people uncomfortable. Maybe the next Pope will see the light on women. This one seems to be channeling Occupy Wall Street. Pass the popcorn.

Finally, the 2016 Reason Rally has found a venue at the Lincoln Memorial. I went to the last one with my then resident atheist who surprised me with her Beatlemania reaction to the prospect of seeing Richard Dawkins in person. I had NO idea. So, I took her. It rained like crazy but there was a substantial mass of thousands of people. I expect that the one next year will be even more crowded.

You don’t have to be an atheist to go. I’m not. I’m more of a panentheist who doesn’t believe god is a supernatural being but I digress. All that is needed is that you believe that the people screaming about being oppressed over their “religious liberties” have been getting far too much attention and it’s time for them to grow up and realize they’re not the only people in this country who count.

I’m going to start saving my pennies for that one. It’s reasonable.

Finally, Happiness is former Jehovah’s Witnesses waking up and dancing for joy. Cue the music John Cedars:

White and delightsome??

Mr. Deity has a message about Mormonism.  Do Mormons running for political office really believe that dark skinned people were cursed by god?  Actually, you can apply all kinds of tests to politicians who also claim to be religious.  Is the Adam and Eve story true or is evolution true?  How should we evaluate people who believe that God cursed women to be in subjection to men?  This idea seems to be extremely important to a lot of Christians.  They need to be asked if that’s what they truly believe.  This is why I keep saying that God needs a major rewrite.  The old versions just don’t make sense anymore.

But anyway, here’s a message from Mr. Deity who was raised Mormon:

Ignoring the polls

Gosh, if you’ve been reading Digby, Paul Krugman or Charles Pierce (among many, many others) you’d think that Mitt Romney was Thurston Howell III born with a silver horse in his mouth.  He’s out of touch, insensitive and politically tone deaf.  And rich.  And his rich friends are arrogant, condescending, name dropping uber contributors of the 1% who think they are more equal than the rest of us.

There’s nothing to like about this guy.  Seriously.  He is very unlikeable.  Plus, he’s a Mormon.  Those damn Mormons.  I think they have some weird eugenics program where they only breed good looking ones that have outwardly perfect families and where the mother has a homemaking blog and does interior design in her DIY tiny house that she built herself while caring for 4 small children under the age of 3.  Don’t ask me how she does it but women like her make other women feel inadequate.

Mormons and scientologists.  I’m always disappointed when I run across a blogger or celebrity who is a believer of either religion.  I feel like they’ve let me down.  Like Elizabeth Moss who plays Peggy Olsen on Mad Men?  Every time I see her on TV, it’s like she’s got “SCIENTOLOGIST” stamped in spacey ultraviolet across her forehead.  I can’t get past it.  She might be the best damn ad copywriter in Manhattan but she still thinks she’s full of engrams and that’s where the careful constructed illusion of the brilliant writers falls apart for me.  I *almost* buy into her character and then, boom, there I am, thinking about Sea Org instead of her Heinz bean pitch.

Who in their right mind believes that humans who pass all their earthly tests may get their own planet someday, or are the re-embodied spirit enemies of an intergalactic overlord named Xinu?  Who really believes that stuff?  It’s like fairy tales and horror stories and the made up religion of a con man.  But whatever.  There are some mainstream people who believe in trees with magical fruit and talking snakes, so, you know, Mormons aren’t so far out there when you think about it.  Still, if you’re going to start a religion in the modern age, why wouldn’t you create a story that’s a bit more believable, unless religions have to be unbelievable to be believed in one of those weird manifestations of human psychology.  Maybe Joseph Smith would have been the first guy to think up the Nigerian bank scam email if he were alive today.  I think that’s why I get so disappointed when I find out a blogger is a Mormon.    I understand (sort of) why the Judeo-Christian religions took root.  They’re too old to have had a conman starting them.  They’re the aggregation of myths and histories and traditions over thousands of years. Sure, it’s time to retire them for an updated God v2.0 but I can understand why it’s harder to resist religions that are so entrenched.  But Mormonism and Dianetics? People should know better.

I wandered significantly off topic there.

Ok, so the topic wasn’t really Mormonism (or Thetans).  The topic is that despite the non-Mormon related glaring faults of the Republican candidate, and all of his lackeys, he is still in a statistical dead heat with Barack Obama.  Yep, you’d think with all that Obama supposedly has going with him, he’d be kicking Mitt’s ass all over Utah.  But that’s not what’s happening.

And if you look at the numbers, it’s not like the Republicans love their candidate.  They don’t.  It’s just that he is their instrument to score one against the Democrats.  It’s up to the political scientists to tell us why this is but my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Barack Obama doesn’t really stand for anything except persistant failure over the past four years.  It is because he is running on his “achievements” and his “achievements” were not transformative that he is having trouble.  If he’d done something earth shaking in the Democratic tradition, voters would have a more defined opinion of him.  They’d either love him or hate him. A Republican Town Hall meeting might end up going something like this:

But the healthcare reform act didn’t actually do much.  A lot of the ACA isn’t going to go into effect until 2014 so there’s no way to say whether it is a success yet.  And the ACA doesn’t really make any bold transformative changes anyway.  It’s not like the WPA or Social Security or Medicare that had a lot of popular support.  There won’t be enough personal testimonies before election day.  Instead, there is persistent unemployment and an unending drag on the economy as our jobs, wages and standard of living are eroded away.

Sure, the Republicans are standing in the way of progress.  But this president didn’t bother to differentiate himself.  When The Village repeatedly urged him to compromise bipartisanly against our better judgement, he did.  Well, Ok then.  Now that we’ve run that experiment and have shown conclusively that it does not appear to work with this group of Republicans, the White House should have grown a unibrow and gotten tough, not doubled down on a wimpy losing strategy.

I love how Paul Krugman keeps yelling at the Tom Friedman types to stop pining for a centrist because they already have one in Obama.  But in these poll numbers, that’s part of the problem.  The public doesn’t see Obama as the centrist that he is.  They see him as a liberal Democrat, which he most certainly is not.  If he were a liberal Democrat, promoting liberal Democratic things and rallying the Democrats in Congress with purpose to help homeowners and working people, he wouldn’t be tied in the polls with a clueless, wealthy Mormon.  He’d be eating the Mormon’s decaffeinated lunch.  I don’t think Americans think Obama cares all that much about them.  A lot of that has to do with the right wing noise machine.  But let’s remember that the noise machine and Congressional opposition was just as strong against Bill Clinton and he wasn’t tied with Bob Dole at this point in 1996.

You can blame racism on the tie but politicos who do that are only making it worse for Obama.  To blame the voters ignores the real, lasting effects of this prolonged recession on our society.  Everyone knows someone who doesn’t have a job or is losing their house or can’t afford their student loans.  There’s a lot of anger.  There’s a lot of confusion by the right wing about what the solution should be to fix these problems.  And there’s also a candidate who will be held responsible for not putting more effort into doing his job.

No matter how unlikeable you make his opponent, this election was always going to be a referendum on Obama.  That’s what the polls are saying and what we have been saying all along.