Sunday, December 14, 2014

p13 Atheism Question on Quora

On quora, the following question was asked:

Why don't atheists believe in gods? (https://www.quora.com/Why-dont-atheists-believe-in-gods)

This is an issue that bugs me, because of my personal path and history. I am never sure if my answer is registered there, so here, on my less used blog, is my answer:

Kind of an obvious point, but monotheists don't believe in gods either. Here is common ground with atheists. That is where it ends.

Imagine if school were optional. Kids could pull out in grade three, or four, or whatever and declare that they don't "believe" in knowledge. They would miss out on the entire heritage of humankind. All history, the hopes and dreams of all who have gone before us. All the discoveries made at great cost. They then would go through life with the same, stunted understanding of what they understood in grade three, or four, or wherever they were when they quit. 

If they are proud of their ignorance, and are fanatical, they will go about declaring it as a kind of belief, as opposed to something learned, understood and shared. They will try to convert more educated people to their fanatical limitations. These are atheists. If they have the humility to recognize their limitation for what it is, they are agnostics.

That is my understanding, speaking as a former atheist converted to belief in God. When I believed I recognized my ignorance, as did Socrates, a believer who even many atheists claim as their own. Then I learned a whole new language. The language of humility, the recognition that humans have limits and that God has none, but is willing to help. I saw the sacrifice that religious teachers and believers made through the centuries to advance this language of faith. This is the belief that sustains the poor suffering billions.

Mostly, I saw how elitist the atheists are. I call their faith "professorism." If you read Dawkins or any of the other new/old atheists, they are really saying, "I am a great mind, those who do not believe what I do are pathetically ignorant." The poor are suffering because they have not attained the summit of a professor. That, I must say, is a "grade one" level of religious understanding. Arrogance instantiated.

I encourage all my agnostic and atheist friends to swallow a little humility, recognize our inherent human limits, and learn a little religion.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Discussion of Anarchism Next Week (with prize)


I am offering a prize to those who can identify the guy in the illustration and say a fact about him that I do not already know.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Free Press Article about the next Philosopher's Cafe Meeting

I just submitted this article to the Dunnville Free Press. For those without access to that publication, here is the full text.


Title: Anarchy to be debated at the Wainfleet Library’s Philosopher’s Cafe Meeting in December.

By John Taylor, 29 November, 2014

This month's discussion topic for the Wainfleet Philosopher's Cafe is "Anarchism." Let me outline some of the ramifications of this topic here. If you have something to add or you oppose what I say, do come out to our next meeting, on the second Thursday of December, the 11th, at 6:30 PM. We want to hear what you have to say!
Anarchism is the belief that we do not need government. It comes from the Greek roots, "an" for not, and "archy," meaning rule, or more precisely, a public office or position. This idea is attractive because, on first blush it seems to express tolerance. An anarchist has faith in his fellow man, who he deems smart enough to rule himself without resort to bothersome outside laws and rules. This idea showed its face at our last Cafe meeting. I wanted to follow through on it in our next encounter.

As animator of our small but outspoken and opinionated discussion group for the last decade, I have gained expertise in anarchic rule. I am now a Laissez Faire anarchist in that, usually, I refrain from steering or even interfering in the discussion. I just sit back and watch as the participants go from order, each taking his or her turn expressing a moderate opinion, to disorder, breaking up into two or three separate, simultaneous, heated debates. Such anarchy, I find, rapidly burns up energy. One-on-one clashes of opinion flash out brilliantly but soon burn themselves out. After a few minutes of this, I find that exhausted members are happy to reunify into a common dialogue again. Rarely do they break up like this more than once.

That is not to say, though, that Philosopher's Cafe participants always cling to a single topic throughout the meeting. In fact, we do not always remember the given subject of discussion in the beginning. Even when we do, in the heat of debate it is soon forgotten. The real topic is what bothers the next speaker the most. As a result, our subject is up for grabs, minute-by-minute. Even if we remember what we are supposed to be talking about, it will change and transform with each new contribution. Everybody has to get a shot at redefining the question.

A more authoritarian mind than mine would feel nothing but consternation at such confused dialectic. For me, though, this is a good thing. It is a sign that things are as they should be. The real issue cannot be static. It is the speaker decides it is. If you cannot change the subject of debate, it is not really a debate, it is a circuitous lecture. How can you define the real issue beforehand? Without the ability to change the topic, what is the point of inviting everybody to speak? In that sense, I am very much an anarchist.

That is not to say that I approve of anarchism as a political philosophy. Like all "isms," anarchism is really a kind of idolatry. It is based on an unproven, in fact, an often-disproven assumption that if we leave things alone, everything will work out for the best. That may happen, but chances are, they will work out for the worst. Anarchism is a false faith that only continues as an option because it is useful to potentates seeking to divide and rule. Experience with anarchic rule shows that it leads only to disaster at worst, and weakness and violence at best. Generally speaking, those nations with strong governments, unafraid to intervene when needed, end up as the most just, prosperous and influential.

Thus, another word for anarchy is "power vacuum." As with a physical vacuum in the atmosphere, as soon as it is set up nature decrees tremendous, insidious pressure to break into and occupy it. Instead of rule by solid, fair, open and comprehensible laws and principles, anarchic leadership is immediately, explosively, invaded by the first windbag or thug close enough to break into the void. That is why the word "anarchy" is used so often as a synonym for self-destructive violence.

That said, it is always a mistake to assume that intelligent people will hold onto stupid, demonstrably false beliefs. No modern anarchist, surely, would hold onto an untenable position like what I just described. Perhaps they understand anarchy as a sort of autopilot for human governance. That is, just as automation has taken over most menial jobs in manufacture, eventually automatic processes will spread into management. Then, like the pilots who fly us around the globe, your boss or your prime minister will have an "autopilot switch" to run the government while they go off to the bathroom, or leave the controls for any other reason.

Actually, there is surely a switch for leaders already. How else could heads of state take time off from their work to chase every flood, hurricane, politically sensitive crime, or other disaster, in order to assuage our fears by expressing sympathy or "solidarity" with the victims? To me, though, that is crazy. If their job is important, how can they just drop it like that? How would you feel if your doctor suspended her practice to aid in disaster relief, or the teachers in your children's schools ran off to help out with every problem that hits the headlines? That would be anarchy indeed.


An anarchic government, then, would be one where computers and robots do most or all of the work of public office while humans relax, have fun and, when we feel do feel ambitious, take on less important and potentially dangerous tasks. It would be rule of the machines. If only science fiction writers had something to say about that, eh? Anyway, would you entrust your government to an automated leader? Are you an anarchist in this sense?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Philosopher's Cafe Meeting

Every month I animate a discussion group at a local library. This month's topic is volunteerism. Note the picture of a kleroterion in the poster, along with that word in Greek letters. I am learning woodworking in order to make one myself. The ancient Athenian invention of this device coordinated volunteers performing sortitioned governmental work, the basis of their democracy.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Special Guest/Local Author John Taylor

Thursday, October 23, 2014, 18:00 - 19:30
Come meet local author John Taylor. Mr. Taylor will do a reading from his book, Beyond Borders, with multi-media excerpts from a film biography of the life of John Amos Comenius. Copies of this book will be available for a special price of $15. There will also be a book signing. Don't miss this exciting author visit!


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Notice for LSA of Haldimand's upcoming firesides, by Betty Frost

The following is Betty Frost's report of our last event, as well as upcoming activity in the Haldimand Baha'i Community.


A LIFE OF SERVICE

by Betty Frost, for the Dunnville Free Press
This describes a talk given on behalf of the Baha’is of Haldimand recently in the Garfield Disher Room of Dunnville’s Library.  

Our speaker, Charlotte Letkemann, is a retired teacher. A member of the Baha’i Faith for many years, she has served in innumerable ways.  
We would all like to be of service.  Charlotte saw the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, as an example of a true life of service.  He was born in1844 and lived until 1921.   He was imprisoned, along with his Father, for many years but always served his fellow man. .  Upon His release, “though bent with age, and suffering from ailments resulting from the accumulated cares of fifty years of exile and captivity, ‘Abdu’l-Baha set out on a memorable journey...”   He visited Europe, Canada and the United States spreading His kindness, care and thoughtfulness for the whole of mankind whether they be rich, poor, knowledgeable, or ignorant. His was a life of service to all.   

He had a wonderful sense of humour.  Often, during the difficult days in prison, He would have each prisoner relate the most ludicrous event that had happened.  Laughter was inevitable. 
   
‘Abdu’l-Baha’s life shows him as an Exemplar of true service.  We pondered our own possibilities to reflect this capacity.  We need to become the best person we can be at whatever field we choose - curing cancer or teaching pre-school.  Some may have a lasting effect and others (such as cleaning up a river) only a temporary one. 
There is no higher goal then serving humanity.  The world is sick.  If we look at history, the cure is at hand: kindness and nonviolence.

Our next speaker is Nancy Flynn speaking on “Building a New World”, at the Dunnville Library, Wednesday, October 8th.  John Taylor will speak next on November 12th on “Universal Peace - a True World Government”.  
 


Friday, September 12, 2014

What part of "resignation" do you not understand?; An early objection by a Baha'i to my book on Comenius' Peace Plan

Dear Friends,

I think Comenius' plan for a democratic world government is the most brilliant plan to reform government, any and all forms of government, ever devised. This opinion often raises the hackles of my fellow Baha'is, who in my opinion have mixed their (mis)understanding of politics in with their religious beliefs. When I say, "There is no Baha'i peace plan, so there is no problem when I say that that of Comenius is the best put forth so far," they get all upset. But consider, the Book of Baha'u'llah's covenant starts off with this unequivocal declaration:

"ALTHOUGH the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage. Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail." (http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/TB/tb-16.html)

Lest there be any misunderstanding that His message is at all political, Baha'u'llah goes on to declare:

"O ye the loved ones and the trustees of God! Kings are the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God. Pray ye on their behalf. He hath invested them with the rulership of the earth and hath singled out the hearts of men as His Own domain."

So, when it comes to politics, the duty of a Baha'i is not to put forward some alternative plan to replace any government, local, national or world, but to stand back and pray. We are concerned, and love and pray for them, but we do not lift a finger to interfere in their affairs.

This policy, by the way, is identical with the Christian position, as laid out by Paul, that "the powers that be are ordained of God." (Rom 13:1) Comenius himself broke this teaching and paid a bitter price when most of his unpublished writings were burned at the order of a Polish king against whom he had spoken out. Later, in his letter to a peace conference, Comenius invoked this "powers that be" ordinance, admonishing them not to set royalism against aristocracy against democracy, but to accept all forms of government as "ordained of God" and live together without rivalry or subversion. How much blood and treasure would have been saved had politicos paid attention to this!

When I started on the work that ended in this book, the questions came in. I blogged the following exchange, from a blog entry made in 2010 (http://badiblog.blogspot.ca/2010/04/ridvan-ensaf-and-gods-peace-plan_22.html):

Let me close with a frank email exchange that I recently had with a rather conventionally-minded believer about the book I am writing. They wrote:

"There is something I saw in this blog and in others you have written which disturbs me somewhat.  You state that the world government proposed by Comenius "is the most insightful and appealing plan for a world government ever devised." Where does it leave the plan for world government which Baha'u'llah gave us now stand in your opinion? It sometimes seems to me that you have supplanted the Baha'i Faith in your book by idolizing Comenius..."

JET: Dear ----,

My book, People without Borders [now, Beyond Borders], will be a work of political science, which as you know, the Guardian encouraged young Baha'is to study. I am comparing Comenius's design of a world government with other plans made up by world federalists and political scientists.  I would not compare the Plan of God to what any man has thought up, if only because nobody knows how God's inscrutable Plan will play out.

When Baha'is speak of the Plan we do not refer to any detailed plan for a world government, since we are non-political. The Guardian was emphatic that we not advocate any scheme for a world government, nor are we to put forward a political platform. Nor did Baha'u'llah try to make up any detailed design of a world government, although He did advocate the attempt -- but he made it clear that it was to be done by kings and leaders, not by Baha'is. He forbids such meddling by His followers in the Kitab-i-Ahd.

Besides, since Comenius's plan is based on Biblical teaching, I'd say that his plan is to a large extent God's plan, and that he would presumably have submitted to Baha'u'llah had he lived a few centuries later. I am intentionally not mentioning Baha'i in this book, for several reasons. I may follow it with a book that does, I certainly have lots of material.

Thank you for reading along, and feel free to mention any further problems that occur to you.



Response: "Dear John, Thanks very much for your clarification. That will certainly help me to understand your future essays."

Brilliant Talk on Civics


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

my new book: Beyond Borders

Dear readers of the Badi' Blog,

Those of you who are my "friends" on facebook will already know that my book has been published and is now available on amazon, here:


In the acknowledgments of Beyond Borders I thank you, the readers of my now pretty much inactive blog, for the influence of your feedback in writing this book. Again, thank you.

Here is the blurb for the book:

"Worldwide, instantaneous communication at our fingertips is creating a global society before our very eyes. Whether we make it a heaven or a hell depends on how we conceive of world government. InBeyond Borders, author John Taylor presents opinion polls showing that the majority of people, in the majority of nations, believe we are in need of a world government. Taylor then offers up one of history's forgotten geniuses, John Amos Comenius, who in the mid-1600's made the first detailed proposal for a democratic world government. His idea starts with unifying the continents, rather than squabbling nations.
Beyond Borders explores Comenius's insight that the only global governance safe from tyranny is one where everyone is invested in the happiness for all, where all resources of humanity go to aiding each of us to become a balanced, educated and effective world citizen. However diverse our interests, this will take us down three paths of convergence: faith, science and politics. Comenius, one of history's greatest minds, solved the most controversial issues of our time, how to balance governmental authority and personal freedom, how to relieve tensions among science, religion, and politics, and how to blaze our own path to common prosperity and enlightenment."


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dopey Dad Man Show Video

Friday, February 14, 2014

Britannica article on democracy

Thoughts about the Encyclopedia Britannica article on democracy

My Encyclopedia Britannica, 1967 Edition, I am using as an end table beside our chesterfield.



Months ago, though, I dug out the volume with its article on democracy and went through it. Only later did the significance of the article, and its place in history, sink in. At first blush the article just seemed dated, written as it was during the Cold War. 

But then it struck me how our definition of democracy has changed in the decades since it was written. We think of democracy as one thing, but the author of this article distinguishes two breeds of democracy, constitutional and totalitarian, the latter meaning democracy under communist regimes.

Such was the influence of Marxism that the author of this Britannica article had to take its claim to democracy seriously. Its conclusion notes that democracy in the 20th Century had spread but it was still doubtful which of the two types, constitutional or totalitarian, would win.

"Democracy was in the ascendant everywhere, but only the future could tell whether the prevailing form of democracy would prove to be constitutional or totalitarian." (EB, Democracy, Vol. 7, p. 223)

Two major features qualify the totalitarian breed of democracy as a democracy: one, it includes a complete bill of rights and, two, its bicameral legislature elected by universal suffrage. However, the leading role of the communist party was unchallengeable, and it permitted no political action without its approval. Hence, totalitarian.

"In any normal sense of the word, democracy, a form of government which provides no opportunity for the legitimate expression of popular preferences and which confines the right of significant political action to a small minority of the population is the reverse of democratic. The communists insist, however, that the constitution of 1936 is the most democratic in the world, and that liberal constitutions by comparison are nothing more than facades masking the realities of a basically undemocratic society. This conclusion follows logically from the premises of the Marxist conception of democracy." (EB, Democracy, Vol. 7, p. 222)

The total might of the party did not interfere with democracy because, according to Marxist theory, everything human is derived from the material and economic. The communist party only made sure that the economic fountainhead was pure. As long as everything is informed by economics, how can the people not approve of the result?

The author of this article accepts the possibility of "totalitarian democracy" because, according to the definition of democracy, both liberty and equality of citizens are essential features, but if you cannot have both, equality is more important.




He cites the following quote from Aristotle in evidence,

"A democracy is a state where the freemen and the poor, being in the majority, are invested with the power of the state ... The most pure democracy is that which is so called principally from that equality which prevails in it; for this is what the law in that state directs; that the poor shall be in no greater subjection than the rich; nor that the supreme power shall be lodged in either of these, but that both shall share it. For if liberty and equality, as some persons suppose, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, it must be so by every department of government being alike open to all; but as the people are the majority, and what they vote is law, it follows that such a state must be a democracy." (Aristotle, Politics, IV, ch. 4, 1290b, 1291b))

Is a constitutional democracy open to the freedom and equality of all? Are its citizens allowed to vote in laws? Has that happened in living memory? Be that as it may, here is what this Britannica author says in defense of constitutional democracies against their rival school, totalitarian democracy.

"If democracy is primarily a question of political rights, the democratic claims of the U.S.S.R. are nonsense. Even if democracy is primarily a question of economic equality, those claims are still dubious since many other countries, including Britain and the United States, have gone a good deal further than communist Russia in equalizing incomes. In the special terminology of Marxism, however, the necessary and sufficient condition of democracy lies simply in the elimination of private ownership of the instruments of production. There is no private capital in the U.S.S.R. From this it follows that in the very special Marxist sense of the word, the USSR is far more democratic than any liberal state." (EB, Democracy, Vol. 7, p. 222)

This is the passage that made me do a double take. A week long double take. I finished reading and set the article aside for about a month. It kept bugging me, what it said about equality in constitutional democracies. Finally, I just had to go over it all again and set it down.

What the author says about economic equality progressing more in constitutional democracy shows that it was the competitive pressure of communism to beat them out at their own game, equality, that pushed the capitalists. As soon as Europe's communist regimes began to totter, that pressure went away and the present extreme wealth loosed its bounds. Now capitalism has become out and out plutocracy.