Magi Mike's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Humanity

The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death

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Heaven may not be what you imagine

Because every one of us will die, most of us would like to know what—if anything—awaits us afterward, not to mention the fate of lost loved ones. Given the nearly universal vested interest we personally have in deciding this question in favor of an afterlife, it is no surprise that the vast majority of books on the topic affirm the reality of life after death without a backward glance. But the evidence of our senses and the ever-gaining strength of scientific evidence strongly suggest otherwise. Until recently emotion and emotional processing have been largely neglected by experimental psychology and neuroscience more generally. Emotion has adaptive and biological value for humans and other animals, and substantial psychological and neuroscientific evidence suggests that each emotion is localized in specific neural structures, and so souls or spirits are not needed to explain emotions or emotional processing held to be distinctive of a soul.

In The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death, Michael Martin and Keith Augustine collect a series of contributions that redress this imbalance in the literature by providing a strong, comprehensive, and up-to-date casebook of the chief arguments against an afterlife all in one place. Divided into four separate sections, this essay collection opens with a broad overview of the issues, as contributors consider the strongest available evidence as to whether or not we survive death—in particular the biological basis of all mental states and their grounding in brain activity that ceases to function at death. Next contributors consider a host of conceptual and empirical difficulties that face the various ways of “surviving” death—from bodiless minds to bodily resurrection to any form of posthumous survival. Then essayists turn to internal inconsistencies between traditional theological conceptions of an afterlife—Heaven, Hell, karmic rebirth—and widely held ethical principles central to the belief systems undergirding those notions. In the last section, authors offer critical evaluations of the main types of evidence for an afterlife.

Fully interdisciplinary, The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death brings together a variety of fields of research to make that case, including cognitive neuroscience, philosophy of mind, personal identity, philosophy of religion, moral philosophy, psychical research, and anomalistic psychology. As the definitive casebook of arguments against life after death, this collection is required reading for any instructor, researcher, and student in philosophy, religious studies, and theology. It is sure to raise provocative issues new to readers, regardless of background, from those who believe fervently in the reality of an afterlife to those who do not or are undecided on the matter.

The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death, Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds), Rowman & Littlefield (2015)

Written by mikemagee

13 April, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Whatever happened to the Prince of Peace?

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The UK Election and Defence

’Mark Ferguson of LabourList wrote that today several papers had splashed on a particularly unpleasant and personal attack on Ed Miliband, the contending Labour Leader, from Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. Fallon’s claim that Miliband would get rid of Trident, Britain’s US controlled nuclear defence system, to do a deal with the SNP (the Scottish National Party) is nonsense. He has said on numerous occasions in the past two weeks (in his Paxman TV interview, in an interview with the People and in his leaked debate notes) that he favours continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.’

Surely this is another example of Miliband making the less principled choice—the same choice as that offered by the right wing Tories! The cost of these four u-boats, as Fallon significantly called them, and their accompanying nuclear armed rockets for the UK is enormous, and it is money the social services and the NHS could do with. I do not budge from my preference for Labour rather than five more years of Tory robbery, but Miliband needs to find some principles from somewhere, preferably from the British working class. Labour will not bring in the socialist millennium, but with Labour in power there is more probability of a determined push from working class activists and institutions moving us and Labour in the preferred direction. In the words of Robert Griffiths reporting to the CPB Congress:

The period up to, during and immediately after the general election is likely to prove decisive in helping us to assess whether the labour movement can and will reclaim the Labour Party or whether major sections of the movement will have to consider what steps should be taken to re-establish a mass party of labour, one capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting far-reaching reforms in the interests of the working class. In order to create the most favourable conditions for resolving this question, and to advance the immediate interests of working-class people, an upsurge is needed in mass activity and action. That is why it’s so important that we discuss the priorities and line of march of the trade union movement, the People’s Assembly, the women’s movement, including the National Assembly of Women, and the peace movement.

The electorate have been duped into believing democracy is a five yearly cross on a ballot paper, but it took centuries of mass struggle to get that far, and it does not mean the struggle has ended. As the General Secretary says, it is time to renew it, and that means working class families demonstrating on the streets what they expect of the party they have elected, and that they will not tolerate any more of the BS we have been given by parties of both complexions over the last 40 years.

Let us stand up for ourselves! We can begin now by demanding the waste of our taxes on pointless but hugely expensive “defence” systems should cease, or we shall be canvassing for a new socialist party not merely a new Labour Party leader.

Written by mikemagee

9 April, 2015 at 2:52 pm

What is the Incentive for People under Communism?

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We have to realise that capitalism has distorted our humanity. Social Darwinism is utterly mistaken so “survival of the fittest” is not how evolved societies work. Darwinism applies to solitary animals competing for resources, but society is one way in which animals can evolve so as to have better chances of surviving through co-operation, sharing, caring, empathy and altruism. Capitalism pretends that humans within society are equal to solitary animals outside it. On that basis they establish that the least human (the most greedy and selfish) will do better than the ones who stick to their social instincts to help others and care for them.

In the primitive communistic phase envisioned by Marx before there was any surplus to exploit, society still had different tasks to be done, and those that did not do their fair share were punished by the community, almost certainly by expulsion in serious or persistent cases. That will have meant death, and will have been the way the prosocial genes were increased in the genome relative to the anti-social ones, the latter over several million years being culled out (a process not completed). What though made someone agree to take on an onerous job like say the group leader? A leader was necessary because there is no time nor inclination to hold a conclave when we are attacked by a pride of lions, say. A leader shows the way, but why should anyone accept such a job?

There are no perks in terms of surplus value but what there is is prestige, the esteem of others in the group. Once we have had a few generations of socialism—which will need to guard against lapses back into capitalism meanwhile (“dictatorship of the proletariat”, would you believe), the instinctive kindly, sharing, helpful nature of people will return and the attitude will be one of wanting to do risky and unpleasant things for others, to have the regard that comes with it. Wanting to be admired is another natural instinct, complementary to sharing and caring. When we return to natural behaviors, helping each other because we like it and want to, the state can whither away.

Milton quotation: Gratitude

Why are Christians so Ignorant of when Human Life Begins?

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First Breath

Christians are sorely mistaken about when human life begins, yet the bible tells believers in several places when a fœtus becomes a living being. It is not at the moment of conception as the pro-lifers have insisted for the last thirty years…, though not before!

The bible does not support the idea that God makes a human being at conception. Conception is when a living sperm from a male penetrates a living ovum in a woman forming a living fœtus, but it is wrong to think that, from then on, the fœtus is a living human being. The bible says a fœtus must draw a breath to become a living person with a soul.

It is clear. God formed the first man in Genesis 2:7, but Adam was not a living being until he had taken a breath. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became the living being” whom God named Adam.

There is nothing in the bible to indicate that a fœtus is considered to be anything other than living tissue and, according to scripture, it does not become a living being until after it has taken a breath. Thus Job 33:4, says:

The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Plainly, life is conferred not by the union of a sperm and an egg, but God’s breath. No one can be alive until they have gasped God’s breath—taken a breath. How does God revive the dead bones in Ezekiel? It cannot have anything to do with conception. Not at all, Ezekiel 37:5-6 states:

Thus says the Lord God to these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.

It is absolutely clear that God instils life into dead matter by His breath. Exodus 21:22 adds that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined, but, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. The death of a fœtus is not equal to the death of an adult woman because the punishment for the abortion is merely a fine, whereas the death of the living woman was its equal—death! The bible does not class the death of the unborn infant as a capital offense.

The bible does not equate destroying a living fœtus with killing a living human being, even though we know the fœtus has the potential of becoming a human being. One can not kill something that has not been born and not yet taken a breath because it simply was not considered alive. Equally, a stillborn child could not be considered to be a living human being either. Of course, a mother will feel the loss because a fertilized egg has the potential of being born and therefore of becoming a living being. But sadly, not all of them do! Indeed, every living sperm has the potential of becoming a human being, although not one in a million will make it. The rest die, but it is absurd for a mother to grieve over all the potential children she could not have.

The Christian has to accept that God has provided for around a third of all pregnancies to be terminated by a spontaneous abortion during the first three months of pregnancy, and that some more will be terminated even after the first three months. Like it or not, God does not regard the loss of a fœtus any differently from the loss of a placenta or a foreskin, both of which were living tissues which grew from conception.

On the other hand, God made it plain that murder of a living being, one which had breathed a breath of air, was wrong. It was wrong to sacrifice one’s infant son, like Isaac. The Commandments say it is wrong to murder, and a judicial murder is justified only in particular circumstances that are far from common, and indeed Christ’s plain instruction is that such judgements should be left to God.

US Christians particularly get terribly exercised about abortion but have a psychotic inclination to condemn adults all too freely to often cruel deaths. They take a line diametrically opposed to the teachings of the bible, particularly the teachings of Christ, whose unmistakable message was one of love of others. Needless to say, murdering people is not loving them, though US Christians cannot see anything wrong in it.

In contrast, tissue that has no soul, until God breathes life into it, according to the bible, is defended as if it were Christ himself facing crucifixion anew. They really ought to discard their wicked pastors who teach them what suits them rather than Christian morals, and start to read the bible, especially, as Christians the New Testament, for themselves. Aborting a fœtus is not pleasant or optional, but it is not an equal sin to killing a living, breathing human being.

Written by mikemagee

3 November, 2012 at 1:20 am

Hindus/Moslems Have Less Pre- and Extramarital Sex than Christians/Jews

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Christian/Jewish and Hindu/Moslem Attitudes Towards Sex: Which is Stricter?

A new study, co-authored by Amy Adamczyk, associate professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Brittany Hayes, a doctoral candidate, analyzed data on premarital and extramarital sexual behaviors in over 30 developing countries around the world. It was inspired by Amy Adamczyk’s earlier work where she observed the differences in HIV/AIDS infection rates between predominantly Christian and Moslem nations in which Moslems had lower infection rates than Christians. Differences in sexual behaviors may help explain why Moslems tend to have lower prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS than residents of other countries. Adamczyk said:

One of the most surprising findings was that religious affiliations have a real influence on people’s sexual behaviors. Specifically, Moslem and Hindus are significantly less likely to report having had premarital sex than Christians and Jews. One of the novelties of our study is the analysis of behaviors rather than attitudes. While a lot of research attention has been given to understanding differences between the major world religions in adherents’ attitudes, much less attention has been given to understanding differences based on behaviors.

Moslems’ lower likelihood of premarital and extramarital sex is related to their commitment to, and community support for, strict religious tenets that permit sex only within marriage. But Islamic cultures influenced the sexual behaviors of all residents, even people who were not Moslems. Religion tends to have a more powerful effect than restrictions on women’s movement in many Moslem countries.

Written by mikemagee

27 October, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Biblicists Identify an Unidentifiable Seal as Being Samson Killing a Lion!

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Beth Shemesh: the "Samson" Seal

Archeologists from Tel Aviv university led by professor Shlomo Bunimovitz, have declared a tiny stone seal, just 1.5 centimeters in diameter (a little more than half an inch), found while excavating Tel Beit Shemesh to have an image of the biblical Samson killing a lion on it! Really! Can this animal really be a lion? The seal has an image of an unidentifiable animal, it is so badly depicted, possibly with a rider—faint, perhaps partly erased or unfinished—being controlled by an apparently human handler with something like a rope attached to its muzzle—unless it has a long tongue! It suggests a horse rather than a lion.

The seal was discovered with other finds on the floor of an excavated house, dated by the archaeologists to the 12th century BC. Along with the seal, two structures were discovered, which were apparently used for ritual purposes during the same time period. In one of them researchers found a kind of table, resembling an altar, next to which a large number of animal bones were found. Prof Bunimovitz believes the animals may have been used for sacrifices. Or maybe they were simply the remains of feasts, or both, as feasts usually accompanied sacrifices.

The stories in Judges have no known connexion with real history, and are more likely to be myths adapted to events of a much later age, namely the period after the victory of Cyrus the Persian when the Hill country was sparsely populated by native Canaanites and a few hopeful colonists from Persia. Samson is the same word as Shemesh, a Semitic sun god, the equivalent of the Greek Herakles, and beth (“house”) ususally meant a temple when associated with a God’s name. So Beth Shemesh was the place where the sun god was worshipped.

Sun Gods from sometime in the first half of the first millennium BC at least have had twelve legends associated with them one each for each constellation they pass through during the solar year. Samson depends on his long hair for his strength, the hair representing the power of the sun’s rays. The stories about Samson may be an abridgement of the full solar cycle of myths, many possibly lost when worshipping all gods other than Yehouah was forbidden. Thus, Samson, according to the story in Judges, fought a lion on his way to marry a Philistine woman. Hercules too fought a lion in what is usually listed as his first labor. Eventually Hercules is betrayed by a woman, just as Samson was.

Written by mikemagee

18 August, 2012 at 9:41 pm

The Religion of Sensible Men

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The historian, J A Froude, told this story in his essay, A Plea for Free Discussion (1863):

“What religion are you, Mr Rogers?”, asked a lady once.
“What religion, madam? I am of the religion of all sensible men.”
“And what is that?” she persisted.
“All sensible men, madam, keep that to themselves.”

Would that Christians were sensible men, like Mr Rogers.

Written by mikemagee

8 July, 2012 at 12:53 am