Living the Humanist Life

In the past, I’ve written much about the philosophy of humanism and how it offers a transcendent, spiritual view of life’s purpose that is at least as appealing as anything offered by religion (and in fact, is superior – at least in my opinion).

Well and good, but I’ve been thinking lately that what we need is a set of practical guidelines for living life as a humanist. Holding this lofty view in moments of deep reflection or contemplation is one thing, but how does the humanist philosophy affect what we do in everyday life? What difference does it make in the way we interact with the world? This post will propose some answers to that question.

To derive these guidelines, I take two principles as primary. First, in the humanist view, this life is primary; it is the only one we can know for sure that we have. To that end, it’s important to live to the fullest extent possible – not just to live as long as possible, but also to fill life with as much richness and diversity of experience as it can reasonably sustain. To do this, we must be in a position to live independently, able to pursue our desires and take advantage of what life has to offer.

Second, in the humanist view, we exist as part of a community of individuals. Our interactions with our fellow human beings increase the depth and meaningfulness of life and suggest avenues for fulfillment that could never have been attained by individual effort. A humanist, therefore, does not withdraw from the world but seeks to enter fully into it and take part in it.

With these principles in mind, I offer nine guidelines for living the humanist life. They’re divided into three groups – one for the body, one for the mind, and one for the community. Though they may seem mundane, I speak from experience when I say that they can make a dramatic difference in your well-being and your mood.

Eat healthy. Our appetites evolved in a world where fat and sugar were rare treats that provided a much-needed burst of concentrated energy. Small wonder that our Paleolithic brains crave them whenever they’re available. But in the modern world we’re drowning in junk food, and our palates haven’t changed to match. It’s small wonder that Western societies have seen skyrocketing rates of obesity and all the health problems that come with it – diabetes, circulatory ailments, stroke, and even cancer.

But this can be avoided, if we carefully and rationally oversee our eating habits. The ideal diet, it seems, is one rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans. Eat meat and dairy in moderation, preferring reduced-fat dairy products to whole milk and fish and poultry to red meat. If possible, buy locally grown produce (such as at a farmer’s market), and prefer free-range or sustainably harvested meat to factory farms. As much as possible, avoid sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup), white flour and saturated fat.

Most fad diets, in my experience, work by requiring a person to eat only one thing; when they get sick of it and stop eating, they lose weight. But this is unsustainable in the short term and unhealthy in the long term. A balanced diet is healthier and much easier to stick to.

Exercise regularly. In a busy modern lifestyle, this can be difficult, but that makes it all the more important. Even with a healthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle can leave you vulnerable to weight gain and all the health problems that come with it. Even a light exercise regimen pays dividends in health and continued fitness throughout life, and it’s an incomparable stress and tension reliever. I try to work out for at least 45 minutes to an hour three times a week, mixing weights with aerobics.

Get enough sleep. Our chronically overworked society often views sleep as a luxury. I understand this temptation – I’ve often wished I could go without it myself. (I’d be far more productive at my writing, if nothing else!) But it can’t be done. Trying only makes you miserable and irritable, and leaves the door open for all the ailments that come with chronic stress. Different people need different amounts of sleep, and there’s no set number of hours that works for everyone. I do fine with seven hours, I find. Other people may need less or more. The rule I go by is that if you have extreme difficulty getting up in the morning, or if you’re constantly drowsy throughout the day, then you’re not getting enough sleep.

Read every day. The mind, no less than the muscles, needs exercise. Research has shown that mentally stimulating activities – even something as simple as doing a daily crossword puzzle – improve mental acuity and recall and may protect against neurodegenerative disease later in life. Even beyond its health benefits, reading has many obvious advantages: a well-informed, literate person can better understand the issues of the day, is better able to express themself, and has a broader base of information to help them learn and comprehend new things. I keep track of the books I’ve read, and I try to read at least two per month – more if possible – on a broad range of topics.

Don’t watch too much TV. The benefits of reading are numerous, but by contrast, I don’t know of any proven advantages to television. I try to watch as little as possible, and I think that (with a few rare exceptions) it’s a bad way to absorb information – for more reasons than one. For one thing, it’s slow, limited to the speed at which people talk, whereas I can read at my own pace. This factor also means important issues are rarely presented in depth. It’s also cluttered with ads that distract us and create desires for unnecessary things. It’s a one-way medium, denying the audience an opportunity to respond; and it far more easily produces a visceral, emotional response than reading, which discourages rational consideration of the message being presented. I watch TV for entertainment or recreation, but to be informed about what’s going on in the world, I find that it’s manifestly inferior.

Learn a hobby or a craft. The essence of humanism is that each of us has something unique and important to offer. What better way is there to express that truth than by developing skills that reflect our individuality? Like reading, they offer the benefit of keeping the mind active; they also give us something to offer to others in the spirit of generosity. If you’re musically or artistically inclined, there are plenty of possibilities. Personally, in the last few years, I’ve taken up cooking. It’s surprisingly easy to learn and to get good at, and it’s a practical skill that offers a very tangible sense of accomplishment.

Follow politics, vote and support organizations that advance your interests. Every humanist who has the privilege to live in a democratic society should vote and participate in politics at every reasonable opportunity. As humanists, we should care deeply about the direction our world is taking, and voting is the mechanism by which we guide society along the right path. I consider it not just a privilege, but a positive moral obligation to follow political news, to seek out and critically compare candidates’ records and platforms, and to cast informed votes. In addition, every humanist should join and support interest groups that advance the causes we hold dear – freedom of speech, separation of church and state, equality for all people before the law, and all the rest. If you don’t vote, not only have you surrendered your own right to representation, you have contributed to a general sense of apathy and cynicism that actually encourages waste, corruption, and poor governance by elected officials. Our only chance to live under good government is to send the message that we will hold our representatives accountable.

Volunteer and give to charity. In addition to steering our society through the democratic process, humanists who have reasonable opportunity should engage in volunteer and charitable work. As long as there is suffering and need, it is the moral responsibility of every capable human being to work for its alleviation. Even small individual donations to worthy causes – non-profit humanitarian organizations, medical research, humane societies, environmental conservancies – can have a great impact, if many people choose to contribute. If possible, it’s even better to contribute effort and time by volunteering.

Live a richly simple life. Our society has whole industries dedicated to fostering the belief that consumerism and the acquisition of material goods can bring happiness. This belief is a mirage. Once a person can provide for their basic material needs, additional possessions bring no further happiness, and may even diminish it. A humanist should recognize this and avoid the folly of becoming trapped on this hedonic treadmill, with its consequent burdens of stress, debt, overwork, and waste.

Instead, what brings happiness is participation – interaction with the world and exploration of all it has to offer, our relationships to friends and loved ones and a larger community, and selfless labor for the good of others. This rich tapestry of experience, even in a life of material simplicity, is what brings true and lasting contentment. This, in my opinion, is the most fundamental lesson that any humanist must grasp, and I think most of the rest of this list flows from it.

Do you have any others I neglected to mention? What other guiding principles are there for humanist living?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • K

    I have to completely disagree with volunteering and charity work. Absolutely with vehemence.
    I grew up poor. I could make a bouillon cube last 3 days because it was so salty, as in, that’s all there was to eat. Our living room chair was an old tire my mother found and covered with a sheet. We slept on the floor. Clothes? Oh please, my mother gave me her hand-me-downs which were clothes she stole from the boyfriend du jour or bought at Kmart.
    Not only did NO ONE from any of these agencies to help the poor EVER help us in any way, every single day I vowed that when I was a grown-up and had a choice, things would be different. Every stupid choice my mother made, I vowed I wouldn’t make. Because no one gave me a hand-out and because my childhood was so horrible I actively decided to NOT be poor which is why I went to college. People talk about not being able to afford college and woe, it’s impossible for the poor to go to college. More nonsense. I had a Pell grant and student loans and couple more grants and I worked. I went to college and I made something out of myself because I knew what I didn’t want to be.
    Do NOT give to the poor. They don’t need hand-outs and charity, what they need is to be forced to make the decision to wallow in filth and squalor or to pick themselves up and make a better life for themselves and their children. Hunger is a great motivator. And don’t be fooled, people are poor because they decide to be poor. It’s not like those Lifetime Channel movies where a perfectly wonderful and highly educated person suddenly ends up living in a car. You know those kids you went to school with who decided to not pay attention, to mock the teacher, to not do their homework? Uh huh, they passed anyway. They learned that if they do nothing, hey! They’ll still move forward. Someone will be there to give them what they need. Do not give. Make people earn what they have.

  • velkyn

    I think you hit the important principles. I am feeling rather content with myself at the moment because I find myself following these principles and I wasn’t even particularly trying. I will strongly support the “eating healthy” part. I have recently started eating whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, beans and just a little animal protein (my particular methos is the GI Diet) and I’ve never felt better.

  • Eric

    Ebon,

    You hit it with this one. I think the underlying gist here is K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid!

    This is how I have fashioned my life for the last seventeen years. I have never bought a new car, do not have cable or sattelite TV – I do have a Netflix subscription however! – and I do not accumulate material goods just for the sake of “having”. I manage a fairly healthy diet which is very rich in foods from my local area- salmon, halibut, moose meat, caribou meat and other wild game.

    I have been very active politically on a local and state level, and try to give back to the community I live in (although that has become difficult since I brought this issue of a cross on municipal land to the attention of our city council).

    My career is one which keeps me in the backcountry and wilds on an almost daily level, and during my off season, I am outside skiing and recreating near everyday.

    And that brings me to the only thing I think is important, but you left out, STAYING IN TOUCH WITH THE NATURAL WORLD.

    I am fortunate where I live and what I do for work, but so many people in our world have lost touch with the natural world. Go bird watching at your local park, run outside, take you kids for a hike. Just remember our natural heritage and understand how special and wonderful it is! Hell, take the kids to a dairy farm so they can see where some of there food comes from. Grow a graden. Just do something to keep you in touch with the natral world. Sunshine is better than neon and fluorescent lights!

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Eating healthy is definitely a good one. I’m still struggling to get there, but simply reducing my soda intake (replacing the lost soda with, preferably, water, but diet soda works too; I prefer the ones sweetened with Splenda) and eating smaller portions (using the smaller plates instead of the larger ones helps a lot here) along with a 30 minute walk nearly every day helped me lose around 35-40 pounds. I’ve still got another 20-30 to go to reach my goal, which will require more changes to what’s actually in my diet (that is, getting more of the junk out and good stuff in) along with a more rigorous work out than a walk, but this was a good stepping stone. I’ve found that it’s also okay to “cheat” a little bit too; the occasional (maybe once or twice a week) fast food burger or chocolate malt didn’t do much to slow me down. Heck, I think I actually appreciate those things more now than I used to. They’re no longer some bland every day thing, but a special treat!

    I’d also second cooking as a great skill to learn. When I was sharing an apartment with friends even relatively simple dishes could impress them. There’s also that sense of accomplishment when you make something that tastes good… well, ok, not as good as mom’s, but still good! I’ve even found sewing to be useful on occasion.

  • Captain Skeptic

    I’m sorry, but the first six sound like my mother nagging me when I was teenager. The rest sound so ‘worthy’ as to turn me off completely. It’s that slightly embarrassed feeling when someone offers you a book to read that alledgedly changed their life. For me, it’s simply a matter of freedom of choice and the responsibility of the consequences of that choice. I do not need a new guide book – I write my own (and constantly revise) as I learn about the world and I do not suggest anyone follows them.

    As to your suggestion of the ‘spirituality of an athiest’ this is a complete oxymoron. Please do not redefine the English language and go sucking up to theist sensibilities.

  • Trung

    This was a great post. I especially like the one about reading. However, I think that there is one principle that you should have included, which is “Be kind to everyone and anyone.” Because what’s living such a good life without having good friends to live it with?

    Unfortunately, I am still a little too young to get involved with politics just yet. Personally, I have begun learning to use C++. And in the past few years, I taken up model building and painting. It’s a good pasttime.

    I can’t wait for your book.

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    Yeah, I have to disagree on this one. There’s nothing wrong, per say, with any of the things on this list. But saying that these are “moral principles” ignores the reality of a lot of daily life. It is good to eat healthy and exercise, it’s not always possible. Sleep is treated as a luxury as a matter of survival, not because people are anti-hedonistic.

  • nowoo

    Eating healthy was summed up nicely by Michael Pollan in his book “In Defense of Food” where he wrote:

    “Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

    Exercising regularly works best if you find a form of exercise that you really enjoy doing, then make an effort to schedule it often enough and for a long enough period (at least a month) so that it becomes a habit that you really miss if you can’t do it.

    Volunteering to donate blood regularly is easy and very beneficial. You can save lives from the comfort of a chair, and read a good book while you do it.

    I’d add that we’re social beings, so joining a social group can be an important part of living the humanist life. I belong to my local humanist organization, go to their weekly Sunday brunches, and I organize a monthly Skeptics in the Pub social event.

  • javaman

    My additions to the list, would be, reconnect with nature frequently, dayhike in the wilderness or better yet spend several days in the backcountry traveling with only the bare essentials needed to survive with. When you live off the grid, sleeping on the ground in the forest the way we evolved for thousands of years and walking 15 plus miles a day, it restores the true human within. Also be in a long term relationship that includes frequent loving sexual bonding (I have been married for 30 years, to the same woman!) and she still rocks my world! Also have a method available to change your consciousnes periodically, such as any action adventure sports like rock climbing, distance running, or skydiving, anything that involves a controlled risk,and requires you to step out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself. with a real gut check. I also include periodic entrogenic drug use on this list. I know this last one will be questioned by some (it’s not for everyone). However, in my opinion, periodic drug use is an integral part of our natural evolutionary psychological makeup and can be considered a basic need/drive. I am an advocate of cannabis use for a multitude of physical and emotional afflictions. I do have some expertise in the above area; I am a registed nurse with a background in emergency medicine and cardic rehab. I was a police office back in the day, and have been a H.S. health education/psychology teacher for last 15 yrs.

  • Eric

    javaman,

    I like your style!

  • Dawn Rhapsody

    Excellent post, and an excellent list, Ebon. I think these nine guidelines work well as the general framework for a humanistic lifestyle. Beyond these, the guidelines become more individual.

    For example, my tenth and eleventh items would be to meditate regularly, preferably just before and after sleep and after exercise, and to regularly make contact with nature, outside of home and urban soundscapes. Mountaineering is fantastic; it provides every kind of physical exercise, fantastic places to breathe and reflect, and a bit of the solitude that every human being sometimes needs.

  • yoyo

    I would add, be honest in your dealings with other people, ethical in your business deals, sceptical of unsupported assertions and loving to your friends, partners and others

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I love C++ Trung; I’m just starting to get back into doing it as a hobby after not really doing anything with it for a few years. I’m a bit rusty, but actually spent all day today working on it and got my window all set up. I actually cheered when I saw that everything lined up correctly :-)

    I’ll also second everyone’s comments about nature; my walks have always taken me around the local park or down the odd back roads that no one ever uses. You can find all sorts of neat things out there! Then again, I am probably kind of odd… I don’t personally know anyone else who stops to admire the way a tree’s branches split (even on perfectly ordinary looking trees), or to examine the details on a flower or leaf more closely.

    Just to clarify on the smaller portions thing in my first comment, before someone misinterprets it: I was eating way too much, probably enough in one meal to cover most of an entire day (now add another meal and several “snacks” on top of that…). I’m not promoting starving yourself or anything like that! nowoo’s summary fits pretty nicely here.

  • hb531

    I’ve been a dad now for 4 years and I must say that it is extremely challenging yet profoundly rewarding at the same time. To see your actual offspring growing up is like witnessing evolution at work. To see the mixture of your qualities and your partner’s come together in a new human is fascinating. This is the pinnacle of our natural lives, all else is gravy.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Also have a method available to change your consciousnes periodically, such as any action adventure sports like rock climbing, distance running, or skydiving, anything that involves a controlled risk,and requires you to step out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself.

    Improvised theatre belongs on that list :-). And yes, I agree. You could consider things like that a way of practising being courageous. You could also consider them an important elaboration on the principle that it’s important to give yourself a variety of experience in life.

    I’ve always thought of this as a purely personal thing, but one of my favourite principles is learn to think in as many different ways as possible. Learn to think methodically. Learn to think intuitively. Learn to express the way you feel. Learn to think fast and react instinctively (I suggest fencing or table tennis for that one). Learn to problem-solve in a logical setting. Learn to empathise with as many different types of people as possible. Learn to picture things in your head. Et cetera, et cetera.

    One thing we could definitely add to the list is advice on how to implement those principles. I suspect the best way varies between people, but I’d suggest trying to make things habitual, being creative in your approach, and not being too hard on yourself if you have trouble. It helps if you look for methods that maximise your enjoyment in what you’re doing. Learning to cook well and learning to eat well, for example, definitely go together. It’s much easier to eat good food if you know how to make it taste good! I also find it a lot easier to get exercise by dancing than by running, say; it depends what you enjoy. The idea that it’s worth more if you’re martyring yourself in the process belongs in the dustbin.

    There’s nothing wrong, per say, with any of the things on this list. But saying that these are “moral principles” ignores the reality of a lot of daily life. It is good to eat healthy and exercise, it’s not always possible. Sleep is treated as a luxury as a matter of survival, not because people are anti-hedonistic.

    See, I think that’s a fair point. Maybe ‘advice on how to implement these principles’ also has to include acknowledgement and advice for those for whom some of these things are impossible or much more difficult from a purely practical point of view. But I also think there’s a lot to be said for the idea of ‘ethics’ in the Ancient Greek sense of how to live a good life, rather than in the more modern sense of things you must do to avoid censure. I suspect the latter view owes something to Christianity. It’s not entirely a good thing. I would take this list as being much more in the former sense of things.

  • Alex Weaver

    I’m pretty sure keeping one’s work hours reasonable should be in there somewhere.

  • http://www.alisonblogs.com Alison

    These are fine suggestions for living, but I’d hesitate to make them absolutes. I’m a compassionate atheist, but I wouldn’t call myself a humanist. Humanism seems to be more likely to carry a code for good living like this than I personally like. (I’ve never been good with rules and authority, ya see. . .)

    I’m not disagreeing with you, Ebon, because you always seem to have given so much thought to what you write, and there’s always rationality and reason behind it. However, I’d like to just poke at one thing you said about the Television. Now, clearly, the majority of what’s on the tube is crap, and people spend altogether too much time in front of it in general. However, as a parent, I can say that it can serve as a valuable tool for family bonding and child-rearing. From the very beginning, I’d let the kids watch a little TV, just so I could occasionally take a shower or cook dinner, but I always knew what they were watching. At one point, they were hooked on something I considered absolutely inane, but when I discovered that I could persuade them to do something I needed them to do by repeating certain lines from the show (about cleaning up, brushing teeth, treating the pets gently, etc.) I realized that as a parent I could make the TV a good experience or a bad one. As they got older, they would make up games, imaginary play, based on characters from certain shows, then started learning to draw by making the shows’ characters and creating their own. Bit by bit, they began to take an interest in some of the shows my husband and I watched, few as they were, and we would discuss the situations in fictional shows and the people and issues in the non-fictional ones.

    They are now 13 and 14, and better informed about local, national, and world news than their peers (we also read the papers, follow interesting stories around the internet, and so on) because we talk about what interests and concerns us over dinner, in the car, waiting in lines or doctors’ offices, etc. Our Netflix queue has all kinds of movies they can watch with us (or not) as they please. We’ve previewed and decided not to show them only about three movies because we thought the content would be too much for them. They’ve seen classics, cult movies, foreign films, the whole gamut. And as for TV, we even make something as inane as “Survivor” a family event. From discussing the show afterwards, they’ve learned a lot from us about how to treat other people, about honesty and forgiveness, about how to bounce back from nasty surprises. You can teach your kids a lot about critical thinking skills if you watch TV critically.

    We still spend much more time in front of the TV watching movies than watching shows, and there are definitely some things my husband and I just can’t watch with them (They love those Japanese cartoons. Ugh. I’ll read through some of their Manga to keep track of it, but the cartoons make my brain hurt.) At this point, though, I know that their judgement skills have been developed to the point that they’re not just vegetating in front of the boob tube. They have too many other things to do.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Thanks, all, for your suggestions! I think Eric’s is particularly good – staying in touch with nature should be an essential part of living a humanist life. Being out in the wilderness, at least periodically, is an unsurpassable way to find serenity and clarity of mind. Even a walk in the park is far better than nothing. (Remember those studies about how convalescing hospital patients recover more quickly if their window looks out onto trees.)

    I also like Lynet’s suggestion of learning to think in as many different ways as possible. I’ve always thought that intelligence isn’t so much a matter of inborn talent as it is knowing how to use the tools that we have. The mind is plastic and tends to adapt to whatever comes its way. If you continually challenge yourself with a broad variety of intellectual tasks, you’ll be training your brain to have the best general-purpose intelligence it can. We know my feelings on that.

  • Nita

    I am very curious about humanism. It sounds so much like Christian principals that I am a little confused. What makes your idea of how life should be different than Christian ideas? At least from what I have heard/read. Also, it seems to me that anyone can pick apart any book and use it for their own ideas even if the author did not intend it that way. That is why I am confused. I mean no disrespect nor, do I mean to sound as though I am attacking you. I really am just curious. Thank you.

  • jack

    I would add this: Tread lightly on the earth. This follows from the recognition that this life is all there is; this planet is our only home. The idea is implicit in some of the other suggestions in the list (simple living vs consumerism, spend time in nature, etc.), but I think it deserves special mention and prominence in the list. Its ramifications are broad and deep. The single most destructive thing our species is doing is our uncontrolled population growth. So at a personal level, this means don’t have too many kids. There are many other practical things you can do, of course. One of my favorites is using a bicycle in place of a car. This isn’t an option for some people, of course, but for those who can do it, it’s a great way to tread lightly on the earth while getting your enjoyable exercise.

  • Jim Baerg

    R

  • Jim Baerg

    It seems I hit the wrong button & submitted my comment when I had barely started it. Is there some way for me to delete such mistakes?

    What I was about to say was:
    Re: getting in touch with nature. I live in Calgary & get out hiking or XC skiing in the mountains almost every week. In this I am fortunate. Someone who lives in the slums of Calcutta would find it much harder to get in touch with nature. Even someone who lives in a prosperous part of some European city such as Paris or London would have a harder time getting in touch with nature than I do.

    Making it possible for most people to get in touch with nature requires some collective action. The establishment of the National & Provincial parks I enjoy being only part of that.

  • Eric

    Jim,

    I agree that for some it does require a little bit more action to stay in touch with our natural heritage. I am fortunate in that I live in southeast Alaska and get to see bears, whales, seals, eagles and more almost daily. I am always in the Mountains (I am a professional backcountry guide and expedition leader) or on the water and when not working, I am skiing, trekking, running, Mountain Biking or more.

    But for those in areas where it is not feasible to be like you or I, I say go to the park, take one weekend a month and drive to the country and hike or go to a farm and visit, or even within the city – go to something like the Aquarium, or natural history museum. Something, ANYTHING, that keeps you in touch with the natural heritage of the planet.

    Even going to the local SPCA and playing with a bunch of dogs or kittens can accomplish this. I mean, who can’t feel better after rolling around with a bunch of puppies?

  • Alex Weaver

    I mean, who can’t feel better after rolling around with a bunch of puppies?

    Someone horribly allergic, I suppose.

  • Desmond

    Have to say that a lot of the objections of the post are making me laugh like hell. For instance, Captain Skeptic:

    I’m sorry, but the first six sound like my mother nagging me when I was teenager.

    And…that’s some kind of an argument against them? Okaayyy.

    The rest sound so ‘worthy’ as to turn me off completely.

    And again, is that supposed to be a reason to dismiss them? Is that supposed to be a reason at all? ‘Wah, you’re telling me that some things might be good for me! Wah!”

    For me, it’s simply a matter of freedom of choice and the responsibility of the consequences of that choice.

    And to make informed choices, you need information, which you get by talking to people and reading books and magazines and even blog posts. Like this one.

    I do not need a new guide book

    But you do feel the need to announce that you don’t need a new guide book?

    I write my own (and constantly revise) as I learn about the world and I do not suggest anyone follows them.

    See, that’s actually a pity. If you have an insight of some kind that you find valuable to your life, it’s quite possible other people might find it valuable and want to hear about it.

    As to your suggestion of the ‘spirituality of an athiest’ this is a complete oxymoron. Please do not redefine the English language and go sucking up to theist sensibilities.

    It’s not an oxymoron, nor is it merely a “theist” sensibility. “Spirituality” is a very vague word, one reason I generally avoid using it. But plenty of people–including atheists, agnostics, and people who just don’t care about the subject–describe themselves as wanting some kind of “spirituality” in their lives. By “spirituality” they do not mean anything supernatural that a freethinker would reject. That makes it a concept worth investigating and grappling with.

  • Jeff T.

    Re: K

    I also grew up in poverty and worked very hard to get where I am today. When I was in grade school, I could not even afford a Coke during recess periods. Today, I like hard work and difficult work projects because it makes me feel like I am doing what I can to prevent ever being in that situation again.

    I can understand your resentment at charity organizations not actually doing anything to help the poor. This is true of most organizational institutions. Many groups make promises, few groups deliver.

    However, I agree with Ebon’s desire to establish a moral baseline for humanists/atheists. Personally, I combine martial arts, exercise, and the parts of the Tao that I find applicable to reality. These help me find a sense of spiritual fulfillment in the cosmos.

    It is important to understand or at least to acknowledge that not every poor person will be able to move up the social ladder. There are numerous studies that demonstrate this point. You did and that is great, but I recommend to keep in mind that others who try just as hard and desire it just as much will not be as successful.

    The fact that we live in a universe that is cold and uncaring about our success or failure is the reality of things. There is no ‘invisible big daddy in the sky’ who cares about us and writes down our moral 10 commandments on stone tablets. That is why Ebon is suggesting that we form our own moral code…

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I agree with K, but for a different reason. I also grew up poor – my family were political refugees, so I know what it is like for a family of 4 to call a 2-person tent a “home.” I remember vividly how it was a huge deal when my school asked my parents for money for a school lunch milk program – they couldn’t afford to buy us milk. Flash forward 15 years, in the Marine Corps to make some money for college, and I remember the truest words I have ever heard spoken in my life, by a Sergeant Major during our graduation from combat training: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need to donate your money to some cause. Anyone who says that is lying through their teeth. You men are Marines. You don’t owe anyone anything, what the Marine Corps pays you is yours and your family’s alone because no one else has earned it as much as you have. And trust me, you’ll need it all cos it’s not much.” I’ll never forget that moment.

    Charity is for those who need to give, not for those who need to receive.

  • http://www.wordsthatsing.wordpress.com Lirone

    Some really interesting thoughts – if you add in Lynet, Eric and Jack’s suggestions you’d have a pretty good recipe for an interesting and fulfilling life.

  • velkyn

    “I am very curious about humanism. It sounds so much like Christian principals that I am a little confused. What makes your idea of how life should be different than Christian ideas? At least from what I have heard/read. Also, it seems to me that anyone can pick apart any book and use it for their own ideas even if the author did not intend it that way. That is why I am confused. I mean no disrespect nor, do I mean to sound as though I am attacking you. I really am just curious. Thank you.

    Comment by: Nita”

    Well, there isn’t any damnation to eternal torture for not doing what a imaginary being says. Nita, your “Christian ideas” aren’t that at all. They are human ideas that have been around much longer than your religion/faith/personal-relationship with-God. You seem to think that only Christians can be good. The Bible is filled with “not good” ideas, advocating the killing of those who don’t agree with you, genocide, rape, intolerance, willful ignorance, etc, all perfectly accepted by your God. You, like many many Christians are so sure that they have the “right” way to read the Bible, somehow magically knowing what how to “interpret” it and which parts are “literal” and which “metaphorical”. So, until you can show that you are the only “TrueChristian” out there, why should we believe your personal interpretation? Why do you think that you *know* what the “author” meant and I or someone else doesn’t?

  • Prof.V.N.K.Kumar (India)

    Adam,
    This deserves some space, a section of a chapter if not an entire chapter, in your forthcoming book. Please consider it.

  • Christopher

    I found most of the article to contain usefull advice to people in general – not just Humanists (even I, as a Nihilist, follow many of these principles). However, there are some points I care to contest…

    “Follow politics, vote and support organizations that advance your interests.”

    While I do keep abreast the nation’s political situation, I find that voting does nothing to advance my interests – as my intersts include weakening government power and allowing individuals to settle disputes without society’s arbitration. As of now, niether party is in favor of anything remotely similar to these interests (and don’t say “vote for a third party” – they’re a joke).

    I find it more fitting to solve my problems by myself rather than getting Washington involved in them – all those politicians do is fuck things up.

    “Volunteer and give to charity.”

    I believe in letting people find the solutions to their own problems – and giving to a charity just makes people more reliant on others to provide that solution for them: contributing to the cyclical dependence of the weak upon a helping hand from a stronger party. Others may wish to allow their resoucres to be wasted in such an endever, but I do not…

  • Marty

    Ebon,

    I would suggest adding ‘be responsible in your sexual behavior’. By that, I mean: If you have a regular partner, treat him or her respectfully and keep your commitments to them. If you do not have a regular partner, employ responsible practices to prevent the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancy. Don’t be exploitative in your sexual relationships. Don’t mess with people who are in committed relationships.

    I think a lot of unhappiness follows from missing on this principle.

  • Captain Skeptic

    Desmond

    I’m glad I made you laugh (although why hell should get the best laughs is beyond me). If I had such a list of ‘life’s little intructions’ laughter and making people laugh would be well up in my top ten.

    It appears I have been a little flipant in my comments – for that I apologise. When I rid myself of religion I had no guide book or list of commandments to fall back on when I was in doubt. This was a most liberating experience for me. Every descision had to be argued from a new perspective, the very process of which made feel alive and in touch with the world. Sometimes the descisions were wrong – but I learnt. Yes, I do listen to other’s opinions and read blogs from all sections of society. As to contributing my insights – I thought I had: Make your own descisions, if you want;-), based on the available information.

    Talking of which:- has the definition of spirituality changed?

    Sensitivity or attachment to religious values, or to things of the spirit as opposed to material or worldly interests. (from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed, and Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed)

  • http://www.kellygorski.com Kelly

    I have to disagree with you, K (first noter). I don’t think anyone here is thinking of charity work of volunteering as a “hand out.” We are a genetic family, and as a result, we do have moral responsibilities and obligations to one another, and that begins with empathy. Charity work is a catalyst for empathy, and empathy is the basis for humanism.

    However, I do agree with your implication that pity is not a virtue. It certainly is not. Pity promotes a superiority feeling, sort of like how I often hear Christians pray, “Thank you for giving them limbs because there are quadriplegics” or some asinine arrogance like that.

    But no, I don’t think what Ebon is talking about here is arrogance of hand-outs.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    For bbk:

    …I remember the truest words I have ever heard spoken in my life, by a Sergeant Major during our graduation from combat training: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need to donate your money to some cause. Anyone who says that is lying through their teeth. You men are Marines.

    …Charity is for those who need to give, not for those who need to receive.

    Given that mission statement, bbk, you’d expect that the Marines never perform humanitarian and charitable missions. Is that expectation correct?

    http://www.defenselink.mil/photoessays/2005-01/p20050109a1.html

    Helicopters from the USS Bonhomme Richard and sailors and Marines assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group 5 are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia.

    http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2007/March/20070306101755MVyelwarC0.5818292.html

    Local humanitarian missions are so common for the U.S. military that they often are viewed as routine occurrences by everyone but the communities involved. In a given year, U.S. troops undertake humanitarian projects in nearly 100 countries.

    Since you sneer at the idea of charitable work, why did you choose to join an organization that devotes so much time and effort to it? And how do you reconcile your dismissive views of charity with the obviously different views of your military superiors?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Ebon, let’s be clear to define the mission goals of our military versus what’s in the best interests of service members. You may from time to time come across the 2 primary goals of military leadership: mission accomplishment, followed by troop welfare. The Marine Corps makes a very clear distinction between these two principles.

    So let’s be clear about where the humanitarian and charitable missions of the Marine Corps fit into. These are military missions, paid for by taxpayer money, serving the demands of the American public. Even Toys For Tots, which asks Marines to volunteer their time, doesn’t ask Marines for money – they ask the public to donate what they can. And even the charity has a secondary mission – clearly stated in its mission statement – to server the Marine Corps’ military missions by helping the public empathize with the overall mission of the Marine Corps. If you read Sun Tzu, the message is very clear – when you lost the support of population back home, you’ve already lost the war.

    When Marine Corps leadership finally turns its attention to troop welfare, rest assured, nobody else, and I really mean nobody, comes first. When Marine leaders give advice to their men about how to lead their lives, their goal is to make sure that the individual Marines take care of themselves first and foremost. Remember – mission accomplishment comes first and ensuring troop welfare is fundamentally about mission accomplishment as well. It’s a pretty tight loop. If it’s something else that’s not somehow related to the military mission, you can wax poetic about wonderful it is but it’s irrelevant to what being a Marine is about.

    Marines are as selfless as it gets when it comes to the troops in their charge and doing whatever it takes for mission accomplishment. But let’s not forget that this is all made possible by their willingness to work within a totalitarian system. And yes, it works very well within that framework. Oddly enough, it does fit in perfectly with the original vision of what altruism was to entail – persons willing to give up personal freedom to serve a totalitarian regime for the benefit of all. This is how Auguste Comte envisioned it. Isn’t it ironic that the Marines are the best example of Comtean altruism, yet Comte’s definition was changed several times over time to be more acceptable to humanist principles?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    If you read Sun Tzu, the message is very clear – when you lost the support of population back home, you’ve already lost the war.

    This makes no sense. The Marine Corps, as well as other branches of the military, perform humanitarian operations during peacetime and in countries with which we are not currently at war. You appear to be suggesting that the only reason the military does charitable work is so the public will continue to support its existence, and if not for that, the public would lose interest and permit the military to wither away. If so, I can assure you that this is very far from the case.

    Oddly enough, it does fit in perfectly with the original vision of what altruism was to entail – persons willing to give up personal freedom to serve a totalitarian regime for the benefit of all.

    This makes no sense either. All aspects of the military are “totalitarian”, in the sense that once you volunteer, you temporarily surrender your freedom to act as you wish. If you’re against this form of altruism because it’s totalitarian, then to be consistent you should oppose the very existence of the military and all the forms of totalitarianism it entails. On the other hand, if you’re not against that, then altruistic work should be no more objectionable to you than any other activity the military does.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the most obvious response: the military does humanitarian work to build good will and ensure that people around the world will have a positive view of the United States and its people. If you were going to make that argument, I’d point out that it applies to private charity every bit as much as it applies to the military. That being the case, isn’t it a good, rational idea for private citizens to do humanitarian work as well?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    This makes no sense.

    It may not make intuitive sense to the layman, but it makes sense. Maybe it’s the scope of the problem that’s so hard to grasp. Military leaders are charged with raising armies as well as marching those armies and the jobs are actually equal in importance. Raising a military is a monumental task that can easily be measured in generations. Raising a good military, with a strong fighting ethos – that may take hundreds of years of ongoing effort to get just right. The US Marines admire the warrior culture of the Samurai. The Samurai didn’t come to be overnight and neither were the Marines.

    So it’s not a self serving form of survival, but an active maintenance of military culture in our society in so far as it’s pivotal to us being able to wage effective military campaigns. Politicians may give the military moments’ notice when launching the war du jour, but they certainly expect their forces to be in the ready. They also want a military that conducts itself in a manner that’s pleasing to the civilian population in order to receive its support. This can also take generations. There was a major, military-wide effort to recover the public image of our military after the Vietnam conflict and it took the better part of 30 years to get to the point that we were at on March 18, 2003. (On several occasions I used to have people at the gas station go inside and pay for my gas when I wore my uniform – you won’t find so much of that anymore with the public disapproving of the President and against his war.)

    All aspects of the military are “totalitarian”, in the sense that once you volunteer, you temporarily surrender your freedom to act as you wish

    I’ve got a few buddies who would beg to differ on the temporal aspect of their service. That aside, nothing about the Marine Corps philosophy is about temporarily giving up anything. Once a Marine, always a Marine, you know? You willingly accept the totalitarian regime and if you’re not willing to do so potentially for the remainder of your life then you haven’t got everything quite worked out yet. And even though the Marines are quite proudly a volunteer force, military service is historically obtained through conscription. It’s pretty much all-around totalitarian.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with totalitarianism per se. It works splendidly for military organizations and even corporations, schools, and other vital systems. I think Comte had a benign view of totalitarianism for this very reason. I simply didn’t think that my whole life was worth spending on military purposes, but some people do and that’s their prerogative. I make much more than twice as much money as a software engineer today, but the discipline I learned in the Marines is a continuing reward in my daily life.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the most obvious response:

    If it were really obvious, I’d try not to mention it. But in this case, it’s only a minor, secondary fringe benefit of military activities that really didn’t even occur to me as being important enough to mention. Let’s never forget what the Marine Corps really trains for: killing people. The Samurai liked to raise flowers and meditate, but they didn’t stake their reputation on that.

  • Alex Weaver

    I’ve got a few buddies who would beg to differ on the temporal aspect of their service. That aside, nothing about the Marine Corps philosophy is about temporarily giving up anything. Once a Marine, always a Marine, you know? You willingly accept the totalitarian regime and if you’re not willing to do so potentially for the remainder of your life then you haven’t got everything quite worked out yet. And even though the Marines are quite proudly a volunteer force, military service is historically obtained through conscription. It’s pretty much all-around totalitarian.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with totalitarianism per se. It works splendidly for military organizations and even corporations, schools, and other vital systems. I think Comte had a benign view of totalitarianism for this very reason. I simply didn’t think that my whole life was worth spending on military purposes, but some people do and that’s their prerogative. I make much more than twice as much money as a software engineer today, but the discipline I learned in the Marines is a continuing reward in my daily life.

    …um, that doesn’t address his point, it simply seizes on one word and builds a spiel around it in a fashion at best tangential to what the original speaker was attempting to convey by it. Here is a similar but perhaps more blatant example that sticks in my mind. I’m certain that there’s a name for this kind of fallacy (“red herring” isn’t quite right) but it escapes me at the moment.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Alex, Ebon’s own response to mine can best be described as tangential to the point that I made and goes so far past the original purpose of me leaving a comment that it blows my mind. Don’t even get me started. And just because I didn’t quote every line that was said does not mean that I wasn’t responding to something that was said. Please, it’s these silly arguments about argumentation that end up being used on this blog to try to obfuscate the arguments of anyone who wishes to disagree.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Even if you don’t want to give to poor people, you still have plenty of opportunities to contribute charitably. Donating blood, for instance, or writing letters for Amnesty International, or — heck, is it being too nice to people to give them some access to medical care via Doctors Without Borders?

  • Eric

    bbk:

    If the arguments foundations are flawed to start, then it follows that the tangents of the arguments will be flawed (garbage in, garbage out – you are a programmer), so while it may seem like sophistry, it is very important we get our “argumentation tool-box” out and properly used when discussing and debating.

    So it isn’t “silly arguments about argumentation that obfuscate the arguments”, it is trying to establish a baseline for rational, logical discourse.

  • OMGF

    Thank you Lynet.

    Might I also point out that giving to charity could mean giving to cancer research or AIDS research or other ventures like that.

  • heliobates

    Might I also point out that giving to charity could mean giving to cancer research or AIDS research or other ventures like that.

    [sarcasm]Ah, but people who develop cancer or get infected with AIDS are either irresponsible or lazy. Donating to causes that seek to find cures for diseases like these is just making sick people reliant on others finding a solution to their problem, contributing to the cyclical dependence of the sick upon a helping hand from a not-sick party. Others may wish to allow their resources to be wasted in such an endeavor, but I do not.

    Health care research is for people who need to give, not for those who need its benefits.[/sarcasm]

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Nita,

    I am very curious about humanism. It sounds so much like Christian principals that I am a little confused. What makes your idea of how life should be different than Christian ideas?

    Humanist morality tends to be based on what is good for people generally. Morality as described by most religions also contains an element of trying to be good to others (and, preferably, yourself) in between the silly restrictions on what you are allowed to do, eat, say on what day, etc. There is, I think, a general (although not absolute) convergence with regard to morality between all religions and philosophies, not just Christianity and humanism.

    The strongest difference between humanism and most religions is that humanism is unequivocally a freethought philosophy. Humanists are in favour of thinking for yourself and trusting your own reason rather than that of religious authorities. We also don’t consider religious texts such as the Bible or the Bhagavad Gita to have any special authority. We tend to be in favour of science.

    Secular humanism has the added difference that we don’t believe in God. Many Christians would consider that to be a fairly significant difference (as would we, here, on this blog, looking from the other side! The blog is Daylight Atheism for a reason).

    Also, it seems to me that anyone can pick apart any book and use it for their own ideas even if the author did not intend it that way. That is why I am confused.

    Okay, now I’m confused! What are you referring to here?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Health care research is for people who need to give, not for those who need its benefits.

    I’m glad you had your laughs, but his is a flawed analogy. Research is not for the sick, it is for everyone. Giving money to research is the same as giving money to an insurance policy. The only difference is that one is a positive risk while the other is a negative risk. Humans are irrational when it comes to assessing risk, which may explain why you choose to frame research as a charity in this case.

    Let’s look at the converse: an individual chooses not to get health insurance when he otherwise could. This is not selfless, this is a way to ensure that the individual will be dependent on the altruism of others in case of an accident. Likewise, a person who does not contribute to health research and preventative health care today is only being abetted by those who will be willing to provide even more care for him later, when the risk could have been mitigated in the first place.

    Which is why the sensible solution is to make contributions compulsory via the government – to get us to a much better equilibrium, where instead of having a balance of cheaters getting a free ride from altruists, we can mitigate the problems to begin with. Lest you say that oh, the poor cannot afford to pay as things stand so they can’t be cheaters – realize that employers, the rich, the currently healthy, they all cheat in ways that makes health care in-affordable for everyone else because the contributions that are made through altruistic means just aren’t enough.

  • heliobates

    I’m glad you had your laughs

    Yes, I’ll admit, that was uncharitable of me. I live in one of the 13 most “at risk” neigbourhoods in Ontario and therefore am cheek-by-jowl with both the “poor” and the “working poor”. I sense such a weird hatred of the impoverished in some of these comments and it got under my skin.

    However, you offer this insight…

    Which is why the sensible solution is to make contributions compulsory via the government – to get us to a much better equilibrium, where instead of having a balance of cheaters getting a free ride from altruists, we can mitigate the problems to begin with. Lest you say that oh, the poor cannot afford to pay as things stand so they can’t be cheaters – realize that employers, the rich, the currently healthy, they all cheat in ways that makes health care in-affordable for everyone else because the contributions that are made through altruistic means just aren’t enough.

    I’ve misread you, bbk and owe you an apology. Now if I could just convince you that the same reasoning applies to other areas of the social contract ;o)

  • Jeff T.

    It seems to me that some here are insisting that the poor are poor because they deserve it or want it. No one promoting this view has offered any statistical or sociological studies to support this idea.

    Each person who posts here seems to be very intelligent so it is hard for me to believe that not one person has done a simple web search to research this assumption. Social upward mobility is not gaurantee in America and to assume that the poor simply deserve it because they were born that way is irresponsible.

    Here is a web page which supports my position: http://www.economicmobility.org/assets/pdfs/EMP%20American%20Dream%20Report.pdf

  • OMGF

    Giving money to research is the same as giving money to an insurance policy.

    Being male, when I give money to breast cancer research, I don’t really see it as insurance. Point of fact, it’s money that I don’t have to give away and that isn’t done for my benefit, hence it is charity. Now, I could perhaps get cancer in the future, and I could perhaps end up benefiting from my donation. Also, the guy I give money to on the street could win the lottery and then recognize me and repay me plus a large bonus too, so maybe we should call all charitable giving, “insurance.”

  • spaceman spif

    Jeff

    It seems to me that some here are insisting that the poor are poor because they deserve it…

    You’ll have to explain this to me a bit more, as I must freely admit that I know a great number of people who are lazy and refuse to work, and therefore they do “deserve” to be poor.

  • Jeff T.

    My point is that they would probably be poor regardless of their laziness and refusal to work. This is the finding of numerous studies on social upward mobility.
    Americans believe that hard work and education will lead to success while many studies indicate this is not the case.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    OMGF, being male you should realize that women already outlive men as it is. Have you considered donating money to prostate cancer research, instead, or to heart disease research? Besides breast cancer, there’s also a number of other research for diseases that by and large become a problem only after most men already die, so the research mainly benefits women as well. Because of the chivalric sense of altruism that men have in western societies, men are being cheated out of an equal longevity in 1st world nations. I think it’s a bum deal, personally.

  • Christopher

    Spif,

    “You’ll have to explain this to me a bit more, as I must freely admit that I know a great number of people who are lazy and refuse to work, and therefore they do “deserve” to be poor.”

    The poor don’t “deserve” to be poor, they are simply poor because they are predisposed towards being so – and all the charity work in the world isn’t going to solve this problem. Why? Because there will always be a group of people somewhere that live below the standards established by the exisiting society (which is the ultimate standard of wealth – or lack thereof – anyway…), thus some members of the society will always be poor due to the fact that economics is a zero sum game.

    Only so many resources to go around – so somebody is going to be left out sooner or later…

  • Christopher

    OMFG,

    “Being male, when I give money to breast cancer research, I don’t really see it as insurance.”

    Do you have any female relatives or companions? Could it be that you are subconsciously motivated to support this cause as it could affect them (and, by extension, you)?

    Think about that – if you are motivated by a selfish interest, then it’s not an altruistic move but rather one that can be viewed as a form of insurence.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Christopher, my greater problem with charity is that it’s really just ineffective in the grand scheme of things. When economists say that charity causes inefficiencies, I don’t think people really understand what an economic inefficiency really means. It means a sub-optimal equilibrium, i.e., the overall utility created by a charitable economy is lower than economies based on self interest.

    But also, the numbers just don’t add up. If we count all the contributions from 1st world nations to 3rd world nations, governmental and private, we’ve contributed some small amount like smallish value like $500 per capita in the 3rd world over their lifetime. So when things finally go right and economies such as South Korea approach western standards of living, can charity rightly take credit for having made any difference at all? Absolutely not. It’s nothing but a feel-good crusade that doesn’t actually create results on a global level. Christianity is similarly flawed – people claim that it’s good for the world because there exist some individual examples where the belief seems to have helped. And I don’t care if people think it’s unfair to compare altruism to Christianity in general – the parallels are there.

    So I don’t really take the angle that the poor are “predisposed” to be poor, but just that the rich are predisposed to waste their own money and not actually give the poor the opportunity to get out of their predicament. But on the other hand yeah, so there are some countries where the standard of living is what we’ve had 100 years ago… does that mean we are obligated to give charitably to those countries? Not really… when backwards economies are given the chance to compete in global markets, they grow at 20% a year… something no 1st world nation ever had the benefit of experiencing over the 100′s of years that it took them to get to where they are. Charitable giving just ends up looking silly and condescending… like you give someone $500 no questions asked buy now you expect them to turn their life around and be just as rich as you. The only real opportunities lie in market based economies.

  • spaceman spif

    I tell you all what…this discussion on charity might be able to be tested and proven by applying parts of the scientific method. I suggest all of you send me some money. I will generate a plethora of graphs and charts based on my resulting standard of living and how I feel.

    If anyone feels my data is insufficient, just send me more money so the resultant data can be more conclusive and verified.

    I think it’s a great idea!!!

  • Eric

    I support spiff’s idea as long as I am on the peer review panel. Of course this will mean a large grant needs to be given to me to create, over-see and manage this panel. I see it as taking up to, but not limited to, three years. Since this will be my primary job during these three years, in addition to the grant, I will require a salary 17 percent higher than my current salary. The reason for the increase is due to transitional stress, vocational retraining, and a membership at “Costco” so I can buy chepaer office supplies and reduced cost, bulk electronic goods.

    I eagerly await your answer.

  • OMGF

    bbk,
    The reason that we believe we should raise up the standard of living of others is because it leads to better life for all of us. Do you really think the main reason that terrorism is breeding in the MidEast is because of Islam, or is it because of economic factors? These people live in squalid conditions, but there’s just enough money around to cause trouble (due to the oil) and a violent religious philosophy with which to galvanize the warriors. If we give of our resources and our time to help them become successful like us, then we have less to fear from them reaching out to take from us or to attack us and bring us down to their level.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s rather short-sighted to take the view that you are the top dog and that you will always be the top dog. You might make a good living as a SW engineer, but be careful because there are a hell of a lot of SW engineers coming out of India and China that will work for far less than you, and your job could get shipped out. Maybe you’ll land on your feet with a new job or maybe you’ll be able to do something else. You sound like you’re educated and relatively smart (although you have no empathy) so you might be OK. You can’t know that though. There’s always someone bigger and badder than you.

    Also, to Jeff T’s point, he’ correct. There isn’t as much social movement as one would expect in this country. We do have pretty well defined classes, and it might be the case that some people can never rise up, no matter how much help they get. It’s simply not true, however, that all poor people are lazy or deserve being poor. Some work rather hard and still don’t get ahead, and that’s the seedy underbelly of the economic system of this country that no one likes to talk about.

  • Christopher

    bbk,

    “Christopher, my greater problem with charity is that it’s really just ineffective in the grand scheme of things. When economists say that charity causes inefficiencies, I don’t think people really understand what an economic inefficiency really means. It means a sub-optimal equilibrium, i.e., the overall utility created by a charitable economy is lower than economies based on self interest.”

    I agree with you here: charity doesn’t solve anything, it only makes people less self-reliant than they were before. However, even if it was capable of producing the “world-changing” effects it claims to have I still wouldn’t contribute to it – the reason being that I have no incentive to “change the world” or make it a “better place” for people I neither know nor care about. I know there’s people living in conditions we find terrifying, but how does it affect us?

    We’re better off spending those resources finding solutions to our problems, not attempting to solve theirs. After all, it’s the struggle that makes people strong – not hand-outs.

  • Christopher

    OMFG,

    “Do you really think the main reason that terrorism is breeding in the MidEast is because of Islam, or is it because of economic factors? These people live in squalid conditions, but there’s just enough money around to cause trouble (due to the oil) and a violent religious philosophy with which to galvanize the warriors.”

    I will happily admit that economics plays a role in terrorist development, but this doesn’t explain nearly all of it: it doesn’t take into account that people in general are sheep that can be easily manipulated by a charismatic figure (notice how terrorist leaders tend to possess lots of charisma) or that there are violent tendencies imbedded into the culture or that religion and state aren’t separate entities in these nations. Even if charity could restore a balance of economic resources (which it can’t), it can’t fix the other factors.

  • Jim Baerg

    Do you really think the main reason that terrorism is breeding in the MidEast is because of Islam, or is it because of economic factors?

    I suspect that the religion makes the economy far worse than it would otherwise be.

  • OMGF

    I’m not saying that religion plays no part, it plays a huge part. Without religion, it’s much harder to recruit. And, Christopher, you are right that the relgion helps make the economic reality worse. That said, I’m not talking about hand-outs, but real efforts to bring those people in line with the rest of the world. Stability is a lot easier to obtain when we aren’t peering down at them with loads of riches and telling them, “No, you can’t have them because you are lazy, and I know you are lazy because you are poor and if I give you anything or try to help you out, then it’ll just be bad for you.” We recognize these things because we have the intelligence to understand that disparity and desperation cause ugly results. We also have the ability to empathize with our fellow humans and understand that bad things do happen to good people and that bad things can happen to us and it might be nice to get a helping hand sometimes to get us through a rough patch.

    I’ve heard of a service that somebody started to help get homeless people back on their feet. They take suit donations and use them to help the homeless person get cleaned up and looking nice for job interviews that they also help the person to get. This is charity work, and I wonder how many of you will scoff at it saying that it does no good and doesn’t help.

  • spaceman spif

    Aaargh! Politics!

    Based on the last 100-200 years of history, it seems that capitalism (a few are wealthy, a lot are middle class, a few are poor) does a better job at elevating the overall standard of living than does communism/socialism (everyone is equal because everyone’s life sucks). I always cringe when I think of the government deciding to step in and start deciding who deserves what in order to provide “equality” by playing Robin Hood. I know you guys don’t mean it, but it sounds like you’re saying the solution to poverty is just to throw money at it. And if that doesn’t fix it, just throw more money at it.

  • OMGF

    SS,
    That’s not what I’m saying at all, nor is anyone else (that I can tell).

    Also, I’d point out that we don’t have a purely capitalistic system. Our economic system uses elements from capitalism and socialism, so if you are using the prevailing system as the model for elevating the overall standard of living, then you should advocate including some socialistic ideas as well. Although, I do have trouble with how that conclusion was reached, the truth is that neither system works better in toto. As with most things, the best solution is somewhere in the middle.

  • spaceman spif

    Oh My Gucking Fod,

    That is true, that we don’t have pure capitalism, as we have some necessary restraints in place. But it is much more capitalistic than it is socialist. And if you compare the majority of countries of today that are more capitalist to the ones that are more socialist, which ones tend to have the overall better quality of living? Hands down, the more capitalist ones do. So you can see why I think more tilting towards socialism doesn’t strike me as a good idea.

  • OMGF

    Really? Have you checked the Northern European countries? They lean more towards socialism than we and their standard of living is higher than ours in most measures.

  • spaceman spif

    I do know that some of the northern European countries rank well, but when I last looked at such a list (some time ago), once you get past those few countries you see few socialist countries again until way down on the list.

    I’d like some links with more info if you can post them, please, for me to look at. I tried googling a few and the first few I looked at where very politically biased, and I am skeptical of the UN’s lists, as I am skeptical of the UN in general (too political for my tastes).

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Christopher, the qualifier that I still have to add to your comment is that if it’s a good investment to help some far off people who I don’t know, I’ll do it. I’d rather give someone a loan than a hand-out, but if I was a government looking 50 years into the future and hoping that improving a distant economy will bring increased trade, strong allies during war, etc., I think it would be a completely rational decision to invest in programs in their country that will bring results.

  • Eric

    spiff,

    I have to disagree with you on this. Of the westernized, industrial nations that have a form of socialism (and their are different forms of socialism) you see they actually enjoy a higher standard of living than the good ol’ USA. Need examples? Iceland, Norway (recently ranked as the “best” standard of living in the world), Finland, Canada, Aurtalia, New Zealand.

    And we can break it down into smaller sub-sections, like medicine/health care, and what you find is that the good ol’ USA, that bastion of good-will, has one of the WORST health care records for its citizens in the industrialized world. OUr infant mortality rates are abysmal, our health care costs are astronomical, and there are defiantely caste-systems to what health care you get/your social status (read income level.) Sorry, but that is a big gross balck-eye on the face of the USA.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Eric, lets not forget that those countries are also much more secular than the USA. The public officials that they elect are an order of magnitude more rational than the politicians in the USA who pander to Christians. For every measure they pass to ensure universal health care, the USA manages to pass a measure to support faith based charities. We just care that it’s a charitable cause instead of if it actually makes people better off. That’s why we’re so backwards. We like to call them socialists but in reality they are pragmatists – they have figured out the economic usefulness of the commons. We don’t even like to entertain the concept of a public commons, even if it’s firmly established in economics. We just like to proclaim that morality is for people to take it upon themselves to make random sacrifices for others.

  • Eric

    Regardless of reasons, they are defiately more “dialed in” (for lack of a better term) than the USA.

    Perfect example is stem cell research. Germany and S Korea are leading the charge, with I believe Germany annoucing they are doubling their research money in that department. And Germany has a state sponsored tax that goe to the church! But, when you look at it, yes there are huge pragmatic reasons for it. One is the fact millions will potentially be relieved of their suffering and disease, and guess who gets to market the cures and drugs to make money? The USA, that stronghold of capitalist enterprise? No sir, the Germans and Koreans get those monies!

    I lived and worked in Iceland, and was amazed at how they legitamately take care of their citizens. Pragmtic reasons aside, they have it going on. And I lived in France. And they too had a pretty nice system for taking care of their countryfolk as well.

    And Iceland, while claiming the Lutheran Church as its official church, pays little heed to its dogma. France is an amazing case study in having clear cut divisions of church/state as well.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Eric,

    Of the westernized, industrial nations that have a form of socialism (and their are different forms of socialism) you see they actually enjoy a higher standard of living than the good ol’ USA. Need examples? Iceland, Norway (recently ranked as the “best” standard of living in the world), Finland, Canada, Aurtalia, New Zealand.

    Uh . . . sure, Australia and New Zealand are perhaps slightly to the left of the rather uniformly rightward U.S. of A, but Australia have had their centre-right party in power for years up until very recently. Neither country’s government wants to call itself ‘socialist’. Apart from the obvious religious difference, I wouldn’t have thought there would be a strong philosophical dividing line between the governments of either country and the US government; the US is just slightly further to the right on the spectrum (and has less breadth in the politicians that have a chance of getting into power).

    The diagrams on the Political Compass website put things into perspective somewhat. Here’s one from NZ in 2005, one from the recent Australian elections, and one from the American Primaries. The current parties in power in Australia and New Zealand are Labor and Labour respectively. New Zealand has a bit more breadth because we’ve got a proportional representation system. We’re also the most left-wing, economically, which is interesting, because we’re still slightly to the right of the middle as defined by this measurement.

    So I don’t think you can say we’re socialist — unless you mean ‘socialist’ as defined by the more argumentative sort of libertarian. We certainly do have social policies to help those in need, though; but then, so does the US.

    bbk,

    I’d rather give someone a loan than a hand-out . . .

    Speaking of which, have you heard of micro-loans?

  • spaceman spif

    Yet many of the best physicians and specialists in the world practice here, and I’m sure the fact they earn a darn good living here has a lot to do with that. Can we move towards a socialized system and keep that intact?

    OUr infant mortality rates are abysmal…

    I can’t help but wonder how much of that is due to drug and alcohol abuse among the mothers.

    …our health care costs are astronomical…

    They’re in line with the astronomical lawsuit settlements, though! I personally know some primary care physicians who quit because they could not keep up with malpractice insurance costs.

    and there are defiantely caste-systems to what health care you get/your social status

    No one in America can be denied health care because they can not afford it or don’t have insurance.

    I guess my biggest concern is I’ve seen (especially looking at Welfare over the past several decades) that there is too large a number of people in this country who will take advantage of the system and milk it dry. And that would result in a lowering of the quality, and the dreaded “waiting lists” would expand without ceasing.

    If we can implement socialized health care, and ensure the quality stays high, the system is not abused, and the costs to taxpayers don’t crush the family budget, then I’d be for it.

  • spaceman spif

    Okay, I’m done hijacking this thread! Back to the topic!! ;)

  • Eric

    I hate to keep contributing to the hijacking as well, but from everything you just said above spiff, you are working from your own personal confirmation bias. Almost all of what you claim is either correlation without causation, or has been shown to be false.

    As for the concern over the wages of doctors, they are incredibly over-paid in this country. I view it much the same as the American view on how gasoline should be priced. We have very sewed values and visions in regards to the rest of the world. If we could get a form of health care for all citizens (and you saying no one can be denied health care regardless of their ability to pay, it may say that on paper, but just try to get it in reality) I would glady allow for a decrease in doctors wages. And the arguument that they would stop giving as much quality work has yet to be proven. I don’t see that happening. People will always need to be healthy, and there will always be a need for that service. That said, medicine should not be looked at or treated as business. It simply doesn’t work properly in a captalist sense.

  • Christopher

    bbk,

    “Christopher, the qualifier that I still have to add to your comment is that if it’s a good investment to help some far off people who I don’t know, I’ll do it. I’d rather give someone a loan than a hand-out, but if I was a government looking 50 years into the future and hoping that improving a distant economy will bring increased trade, strong allies during war, etc., I think it would be a completely rational decision to invest in programs in their country that will bring results.”

    Ok, I can see how your logic works on a scale of nations (I’ve always been under the impression that foreign aid was just a bribe exchanged between governments anyway). However, I tend to think more in terms of individual relations (as I hate the notion of collectives) – and I know that such measures are impractical on that scale.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Eric – take Germany. I went to grade school in Germany for 3 years and attended public schools where the class went to mass once a week and we made little nativity scenes in art class for Christmas… yet they certainly taught evolution and ridiculed the church for condemning Galileo. And then they have Berlin as their capital, which has the most atheists of any city in the world and one of the best places to live that I can think of.

    Same goes about calling them socialist… they have excellent programs to take care of their citizens. The way they take care of military veterans and their families puts hyper-nationalistic America to shame. But does that mean they run their economy in a socialist manner? Absolutely not. Germany is a heaven for capitalism and they have the corporations to prove it.

    So there are elements of both sides in Germany, but it’s almost as if they pick the best of both worlds while America chooses the worst of all. America elects religionists into high office and attempts to subvert science in schools. America denies social programs to its citizens, instead choosing to promote altruism in their society. Meanwhile, America provides massive socialist-style subsidies to its corporations in hopes of helping them stay “competitive” in global markets. At it’s root, you can pretty much blame the nationalistic religionists for what’s going on in America.

  • OMGF

    No one is saying the Germany is a socialist economy. What is being said is that Germany incorporates elements of socialism into their economy, along with elements of capitalism. That they happen to be slightly more socialistic on the sliding scale than the US only goes to show that the idea that the more capitalistic you are leads to higher prosperity and quality of life is fallacious. As I said before, the trick is to find the middle ground that works.

    This, however, presents problems for the people here who want to disparage all charitable giving, etc. It’s pretty evident that it works to some degree, as evidenced by the success of governments that institute social programs.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    OMGF, it seems that you are confusing the definition of capitalism with the Republican/Libertarian styled Laizzes-fare. Capitalism does not imply that controls have to be removed from markets, that collective bargaining is evil, or that the public commons has to be sold off at bargain basement rates to well-connected private stakeholders. That’s only what conservative ideologies purport. There is no such thing as a perfect market outside of introductory economics classes in high school… which is where most of our Republican friends seem to get their understanding of economics. Capitalism entails markets which may be inherently inefficient and various mechanisms and controls to keep those markets efficient. It’s kind of redundant to say that something is a mix of socialist and capitalist ideas, although I agree that to a layman this helps it make more sense.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Speaking of which, have you heard of micro-loans?

    I sure have. I spent a couple weeks modeling them in a developmental economics course. You must be specifically talking about the Grameen banks, because other forms of micro-loans have been attempted for years without much success. What makes Grameen loans different is that they let the lender asses a “credit rating” by taking features of social networking into consideration. They help fill a gap in rapid urbanization when full-fledged financial and governmental institutions haven’t been formed to take up some of the roles that were once played by extended families. As altruistic as they are, the real reason why they are so successful is because they let lenders asses risk correctly and they have a very good repayment rate.

  • OMGF

    Yeah bbk, and it’s a capitalistic idea to give away health care to people as is done in most European countries, and it’s capitalistic to have welfare and free schooling, etc. etc. etc. Please spare me. You are pretty transparent here. You are so dead set against certain things like socialist programs that whenever they arise and it threatens your view of the best way for things to work, you either try to explain them away as not really the thing you despise or you simply ignore. Not everything is black and white, however, and you would do well to learn that.

    The closest we’ve come to a true capitalistic system didn’t work. The workers were exploited, monopolies were formed, etc. We’ve since instituted laws and regulations to keep us from going too far in the capitalist direction.

  • Eric
  • MisterDomino

    As for the concern over the wages of doctors, they are incredibly over-paid in this country…I would glady allow for a decrease in doctors wages. And the arguument that they would stop giving as much quality work has yet to be proven. I don’t see that happening.

    First of all Eric, most doctors pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical malpractice insurance per year as a legal requirement to practice medicine. My father has practiced Orthopaedic surgery in the state of Ohio for nearly forty years, and these premiums keep going up. Just a few years ago it was something to the tune of $200,000 annually, and the doctors must pay these fees out of their own pockets.

    Secondly, most doctors have 11+ years of schooling after high school, so I don’t think that a six-figure income is unreasonable given the extensive amount of education and training they have received (this is, of course, to say nothing of the massive debt that medical students accumulate as a result of all that education and the high level of stress involved in their work).

    Because of all these disadvantages, there are many less dedicated people going into medicine, and those that do only wish to work part-time or limit their practices severely in order to be able to make a decent living. If these doctors could help everyone, I’m sure they would, but they are simply financially incapable of doing so. You obviously have a very poor opinion of doctors, but at the end of the day these are people that need to eat, too. So when you say:

    People will always need to be healthy, and there will always be a need for that service.

    A day may come when there are no more doctors to provide that service. There are many problems with the American medical system; doctors getting too much money is not one of them.

    Shifting gears now, this one’s directed at spaceman spif:

    They’re in line with the astronomical lawsuit settlements, though! I personally know some primary care physicians who quit because they could not keep up with malpractice insurance costs.

    Glad to see someone knows the score. The following is an excerpt from Randy Cassingham’s The True Stella Awards, a book all about real frivolous lawsuits and their consequences:

    According to Newsweek magazine, U.S. docors order up between $50 billion and $100 billion of unneeded tests, consultations, and other “defensive medicine” to protect themselves against lawsuits – which is enough to provide medical insurance to all of the estimated forty million Americans who have none. Worse, the magazine points out, studies show that the vast majority of medical malpractice cases don’t result in lawsuits, while about 80 percent of medical malpractice cases that are filed are bogus (152).

    My personal feelings on this run quite deep, but let me just say this:

    Shame on anyone who wants to belittle, scapegoat or exploit a person who has taken a dedicated oath to preserve life.

    Whether a system is capitalist or socialist, communist or fascist, democratic or totalitarian, they all share one common characteristic: a crippling, extensive bureaucracy. One may want to start there if any real reforms are to be made instead of perpetuating an antiquated blame game.

  • http://deleted MisterDomino

    Note: in the quotation above, “U.S. docors” should read “U.S. doctors.”

    Though I’m sure everyone figured that out. ;)

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    OMFG, the words capitalism and socialism both have incredible emotive value, so maybe it’s wrong of me to rile you up so much. But consider that for everything you’ve pointed out about capitalism, the same can be said of socialism 10 times over. It’s really conservatism that’s the problem in either case. Consider the fact that the very first group to overthrow Communism were labor unions – I have lived in a refugee camp for 3 years because my parents were union organizers. Second, consider that capitalism is more than just about hoarding currency. It’s about creating worth. That’s why it makes just as much sense to talk about investing in human capital (education, health care) as it does about the stock market. Contemporary socialism as practiced in Europe is really just capitalism focused on human capital. You were onto something when you said we have to use a mix of capitalism and socialism together. But it’s only necessary to think of them as such when one assigns a very strong good/evil dichotomy to these words. I think you’ve shown that you do that.

  • OMGF

    bbk

    But it’s only necessary to think of them as such when one assigns a very strong good/evil dichotomy to these words. I think you’ve shown that you do that.

    Nice projection, but I do no such thing. I’ve said that the best system uses elements of both, which means that I don’t view them as evil or good (else I would stand against the evil). Nor did I say that Capitalism is about hoarding currency; wherever did you get that idea?

    On the contrary, you are the one whose comments border on “We are capitalist (yeah) not socialist (boo) and we are the best, and those other countries are the same as us with different political structures because socialism is handouts and all handouts are bad.” You are the one who presents black and white situations where all atruism is bad, all handouts are bad, etc. Take the log out of your own eye before you try to criticize others.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    What you’ve said that I was referring to, was this;

    The closest we’ve come to a true capitalistic system didn’t work. The workers were exploited, monopolies were formed, etc. We’ve since instituted laws and regulations to keep us from going too far in the capitalist direction.

    I wouldn’t say I was projecting in light of what you said right there. You do have an anti-capitalist bias. Saying that we need a mixture of socialist and capitalist concepts is sort of just dressing up that bias to be more acceptable to others.

    So has capitalism failed? Go tell that to someone in the middle ages who lived in a fief. Society has come a long way thanks to capitalism. Saying that it’s been tried and failed seems rather simplistic to me. Saying that capitalism today is better than ever, but could be better yet, that is more like my view.

    But I don’t hold onto a strong emotional attachment to the words. Rather, I tend to see socialism as an inferior word its historical grounds. It wasn’t created by economists or philosophers, but rather by rabble rousers. Socialism was always heavily ideological. Emotive phrases such as “Capitalist sins” and “law of love” were printed in magazines with names such as Mother Earth, commune towns with names such as Altruia were formed, you could go on and on. Tolstoy even went so far as to accuse scientific progress of being a ruse used by oppressive governments to trick workers. And by oppressive governments, he meant capitalist governments. Reading through American socialist tracts, it’s also evident that most American socialists considered the early USSR to be a great ideological success, fully ignorant of the injustice happening behind the scenes.

    One of my primary objections to early socialism is how entrenched it was in concepts of class warfare. It pitted the worker against the owner and rationalized socialism in terms of taking from the owner what rightly belonged to the “producer” of the wealth. This created situations where a production line worker who dropped out of high school was supposed to make just as much money as the engineer with a PhD who designed the products being produced – something that at its root is what was responsible for the eventual downfall of communist economies. It’s quite literally the physical labor of “making” things which was seen as the primary source of all wealth, with little or no emphasis given to either scientific research or capital. This was largely an ideology of the uneducated masses protesting against their low standard of living, and fundamentally just about the immediate self interest of those workers.

    I still contend that none of this early socialism exists in modern social-democratic societies. There is none of that irrationality. Especially gone are the crypto-Christian concepts of altruism that plagued early socialists, being replaced by pragmatism and common sense. You don’t see too many people decrying science as a tool of the capitalists anymore, or decrying ownership itself as a means of robbing the worker from the fruits of his labor. Everything that is left of socialism in those nations can be classified as either an efficiency of scale or an investment in human capital.

  • OMGF

    bbk,

    I wouldn’t say I was projecting in light of what you said right there. You do have an anti-capitalist bias. Saying that we need a mixture of socialist and capitalist concepts is sort of just dressing up that bias to be more acceptable to others.

    Quit trying to put thoughts in my head that simply aren’t there. I don’t have a bias against capitalism and my sentence doesn’t imply that at all. You, do however, have a bias against socialism and socialist practices, which is why it is projection. Pointing out the horrible abuses that factually happened doesn’t make me biased.

    So has capitalism failed? Go tell that to someone in the middle ages who lived in a fief. Society has come a long way thanks to capitalism.

    I’m not denying that the system we have in place today is better than fiefdom. What gave you the idea I would disagree?

    Saying that it’s been tried and failed seems rather simplistic to me. Saying that capitalism today is better than ever, but could be better yet, that is more like my view.

    Then perhaps you should actually read my comments for what I’m saying and not what you think I’m saying.

    One of my primary objections to early socialism is how entrenched it was in concepts of class warfare. It pitted the worker against the owner and rationalized socialism in terms of taking from the owner what rightly belonged to the “producer” of the wealth.

    And a lot of this stemmed from the de facto class warfare that already existed, which capitalist business owners taking advantage of workers and abusing their rights.

    This created situations where a production line worker who dropped out of high school was supposed to make just as much money as the engineer with a PhD who designed the products being produced – something that at its root is what was responsible for the eventual downfall of communist economies.

    That would be true if the communist economies hadn’t already been crippled by the oligarchy that took the place of the overthrown rulers in the power vaccuum that ensued.

    This was largely an ideology of the uneducated masses protesting against their low standard of living, and fundamentally just about the immediate self interest of those workers.

    Which makes some sense from the standpoint that a society needs lowly workers as much as higher workers. If everyone had a Ph.D. and was designing new trinkets, who would make them? Who would clean their offices? Who would serve/make their food? Etc. You can’t simply look down on those who have less education with disdain and wish they would shut up and go away, because our society requires their services. If you take advantage of them to the point where they cease to be able to make a living, society will fall apart.

    I still contend that none of this early socialism exists in modern social-democratic societies.

    You can contend it all you want, and you can make divisions between “early” and “later” socialism, but you’d still be wrong. The practices and regulations that were put in place to protect the lowest workers were a direct result and consequence of socialist movements. Capitalism on its own didn’t bring about anti-monopoly laws, regulations, etc, nor would it.

    Especially gone are the crypto-Christian concepts of altruism that plagued early socialists, being replaced by pragmatism and common sense.

    Again, altruism is not the same as Xian, nor is Xianity based on altruism. It is based on self-service to god and self-salvation through belief in god. That you continue to conflate the two does not speak well of you.

  • Alex Weaver

    Personally, in the last few years, I’ve taken up cooking. It’s surprisingly easy to learn and to get good at, and it’s a practical skill that offers a very tangible sense of accomplishment.

    Somewhat of a late reply, but remind me to harrass you for recipes next open thread. O.o

  • lpetrich

    bbk has a very idealistic, utopian view of capitalism; I remember someone once claiming that if capitalism was a religion, then the libertarians would be its fundamentalists.

    Furthermore, a lot of government regulation of various businesses is liked by other businesses — they may not like being regulated, but they might like others being regulated. This circumstance has caused some libertarians to come up with conspiracy theories to explain why some of their heroes are so willing to betray them. Conspiracy theories like claiming that big businesses are essentially government agencies or some such.

    Furthermore, bbk is wrong about Communism. It is anything but egalitarian in practice, and it has a rich ruling elite, the Communist Party.


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