Monday, March 30, 2015

Kindness, Take Three: Love Everyone

Hi! Happy Monday!

All you need is love! Zoom zoom!

A couple of news items in the news lately have dovetailed nicely into my third take on kindness, love everyone.

  1. Indiana's bait and switch tactic of passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that goes beyond protecting a person from government religious oppression, but instead calls a business a person and then allows civil, person-to-person religious oppression. But hey, the law has the same name, RFRA!
    The problem with this statement [is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes.  If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.
    The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.
  2. Phil Roberts of Duck Dynasty on atheism:
    "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson delivered a bizarre speech in which he created a hypothetical scenario about an atheist being forced to watch his "little atheist daughters" get raped and then having his penis hacked off and shown to him.
Both of these stories share a common love thread: a lack of empathy. In both cases a lack of empathy leads to misguided morality.
  1. Anyone who thinks that sexuality is a choice has a problem with understanding empathy.
  2. Anyone who thinks fear is the only reason for morality, in this case fear of God, has a misunderstanding of morality.
So what is the right understanding of morality, love and how do they fit together regarding kindness? How do we love everyone?

The scientific answer is we don't know. Better stated is that we don't know with great confidence but we do know some things. Here  is what we know:
  1. Education is tightly coupled with religiosity.
  2. Cognitive dissonance is tightly coupled with religiosity.
  3. Instinct was replaced by emotions and empathy and this is a very recent evolutionary adaptation.
Education and religiosity

I am an anti-theist and not just an atheist. Christians and other religious folk have a fundamental misunderstanding about what this means. Christians think that us anti-theists are out to pass laws making religion illegal, as with communism. Uhh, no. That would be stupid. Why? Because religion is ignorance. Religion is ignorance. We know this because we have decades of research showing that the more educated someone correlates directly to less religiosity.  Scientists with PhDs are least religious group going with only 17% being religious. Religiosity is not just ignorance.  Ignorance is a very great part for most of us. Since it is impossible to outlaw stupidity then you cannot outlaw religion, ever. The best we can hope to do is to reduce religion's status to that of pop culture, like a favorite TV show.  So the job of an anti-theist is not to be against religion but to instead be for the very best education possible.

Cognitive dissonance and religiosity

Religious folks have doubts about God. The religious commonly have doubts about God answering prayers where some prayers are answered and then other prayers are completely ignored. Why! God! Why! These are not doubts. No, they are not. These are cognitive dissonance pains. Cognitive dissonance is when you try to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. This causes brain-freeze type stress and pain that the religious then often refer to as "doubt". God doesn't answer your prayers. We know this because the laws of physics have never been shown to be broken, not ever. No one has ever prayed a missing leg to grow back and supernatural forces don't exist. At some level of their brain every  religious person runs into this reality and when that reality runs afoul of a belief in prayer then "doubt" occurs.  To whit, prayer for healing has about as much effectiveness as a rain dance does for bringing rain here in California: that is to say none. Too bad! ha!

I, personally, have a very low natural threshold for cognitive dissonance. Again, this is something that happened to me at a very young age where I was taught the story of Noah's Ark like all children who go to Sunday school. Here was my take on Noah as a child: "God killed everyone on the planet. The ultimate evil act is to kill everyone on the planet and therefore God is the ultimate evil." I came to that conclusion on my own.  No cognitive dissonance. None. I have little capacity for believing evil can be defined as good. I was born that way. I just have no desire or capacity for much cognitive dissonance.

Instinct and religiosity

Humans have hardly any instinct like most animals, instead we have empathy and emotions. We look at rotting flesh; we feel disgusted and we feel so bad we cannot eat it. Blech! That's how it works. Or rather, that's how it is suppose to work. It is not just empathy and emotions either, our brains also seek patterns. For hundreds of years people did not eat tomatoes because red fruit usually meant poisoned fruit.

So here is a question for you: why do people like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty feel that it is fear and not empathy that informs our morality? Well, the answer  in part stems from the fact that empathy, emotions and pattern matching are recent in the evolutionary time line and therefore are not "mature" enough in being uniform and constantly applied amongst humans. A wide variation exists in our capacities for empathy, cognitive dissonance and intelligence and this means a wide variation in moral capacity.

Religion was our first worst attempt at trying to "mind the gap" if you will in empathy. Everyone alive has an empathy for self-preservation, an empathy for themselves. There are people who have limited empathy beyond self preservation. For these people one can imagine perhaps that a false sense of agape empathy could be forged and substituted for missing agape empathy. That's where fear comes in. And religion. People with limited empathy for others do need fear of law breaking as a stand-in for agape empathy. What I find interesting about Phil Robertson twisted scenario is that he completely leaves out fear of the man-made laws. I'm sorry but if you get caught raping and killing then human laws are going to send you to jail and maybe even death.

In fact, we don't need religion's fear of the afterlife any more because in the real world we are good enough at punishing criminals that most everyone believes they will go to jail.

Love Everyone

Can you command everyone to love everyone? No. That's why the Bible is ineffective. It doesn't work and hence you end up with  Indiana and Phil Robertson. What you can do though is *manage* love of everyone. We need to manage folks who are of limited group empathy, help the sociopaths and psychopaths wherever possible. As people together we can all look in ourselves, admit our own empathy limitations and then rely on others with the better kindness skills and abilities to lead us.

And that is kindness take three, love everyone.

We love everyone not by artificially pretending to induce an empathy you don't have, but rather to manage the empathy you do have. Recognize your own empathy limitations and those of others. Recognize the kindness factors in others of 1.) education, 2.) cognitive dissonance and 3.) emotional empathy and then promote those folks with combinations of kindness factors as the kind of folks to lead us all in life.


The future is coming!

Well come! and well met!

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