Monday 30 September 2013

Mind the Doors

Next April will be interesting down at the dole office. From then, the long term unemployed will either have to do community work or go to the Job Centre every day. Now I have been to many a Job Centre, and I wonder what the long term unemployed are going to do. Presumably they are going to stand up shoulder to shoulder and shuffle around a bit. I don't suppose that any staff will be employed as a result of this announcement, so the existing security staff will have to presumably deal with the compacted people shuffling about doing nothing but standing for the working day. There aren't enough computers, if any at all, in Job Centres, but to accommodate the numbers they'll probably have to rip out the seating and remove chairs anyway. As for others signing on (such as on the misnamed Work Programme - no work, no programme), how are they going to negotiate themselves around the crowd of long tem unemployed shuffling about as they stand up in these places shoulder to shoulder?

During the Labour years the unemployed had to work 13 weeks and then only 4 weeks for the dole. But they could never find enough places for them, which is why the Work Programme didn't have to find work for people. A charity shop I visited had 35 people waiting for a 'placement' from the dole, and these people weren't exactly volunteers. Many businesses won't want to handle people only receiving benefits. It's why the 13 weeks were reduced to 4 weeks, and on the basis of cost, when the 'Work Programme' came in, nothing. So what is the stupid idea now?

I curse the day I voted Liberal Democrat, and it won't happen again. I hope the party is effectively destroyed at the next election, and that enough is done to put the Tories out of power. They've given the nod to this stupid piece of victimisation, where the Tories always need enemies to motivate their greed politics. Unemployment is not caused by people who won't get jobs, but by an inadequate amount of economic activity: by capitalism that does not work. Of course people need assistance and help to look for available work, but they need work to look for. There are only so many occasions when someone can be told how to make a CV and how to look up web pages for job lists. But how the hell the thousands of long term unemployed are going to get into Job Centres each day baffles me: it'll be like Japanese underground trains where the staff are going to have to force the people crushed into the places through the entrance doors.


Apparently the newly signing on will also have to attend Job Centres five days a week from 9 am to 5 pm for six months. That's even more people then to bung in, to shuffle along shoulder to shoulder. There might be a better life to be had in prison, where at least there will be more space, as well as paid meals and overnight stays. The unemployed will perhaps learn what crimes lead to prison sentences so that they can avoid the community service punishment that, er, the unemployed will have to do (or shuffle up in the Job Centres).

Sunday 15 September 2013

Nigeria: Gravity Proves Economic Oppression

A leading University of Lagos postgraduate researcher, Chiltern Alloa Clack, of Oh No State, has demonstrated that the class system is proven due to the existence of gravity. Furthermore, the use of imperial measurements before metric measurements shows a class system working in Africa first on imperialist lines of foreign elites but later followed up by a class system on rational grounds as demonstrated in the origins of the metric system. Any object such as an economy produces its own forces that pull into itself and this is consistent with both Einsteinian Space-time and Newtonian object motion.

Asked to explain the difference, for your humble reporter and you the reader, the researcher said Einstein is more of a whoosh in sweep-around and Newton more like a ker-plunk into snooker pockets

On how the economy could be oppressive, the researcher showed his experiment where he took out different piles of children's bricks of varied densities and added them together in a big pile where the bricks get heavier but smaller on top, although this uses the "negativity principle" because as, he explained, attraction is larger closer to the object. "In other words, the oppressor is closely tied into running the economy as if below, but in a flipof virtuality appears to oppress from above. And like a black hole, the density rises below, as flipped about." However, the flipping can only take place "because we have a God who intervenes, like in the Bible, such as in the reverse ethic of Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father."

Chiltern Alloa Clack is expected to receive a doctorate for his work as academics at the university are very impressed with his methodology. It is pretty impressive stuff for local journalists too. Recently he claimed that it was he who did the ground work with magnets to show that homosexuality wasn't natural, but this was taken up experimentally by his colleague. He describes the groundwork that is multidisciplinary.
In physics there is what is called electrostatics, so that when you rub two gay people together they don't attract but add some gel and they do. Or one of them can be charged up erotically and the other not. It's like, if you use your biro and rub it on your hair, after rubbing, the charged one attracts in the uncharged. But if both of them are charged they don’t attract, which means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. Unless there is a gel. Thus physics proves gay marriage wrong. Or you can use chemistry where a woman on top of a woman will have no reaction - unless they use a gel or unbalanced electrodes. In biology the male of a fowl is called a cock. In mathematics A + B will give you B + A, and you see that there is a change. In A + B, A started the journey while in B + A, B started the journey. Commutativity obeys that a man should not marry a man and a woman should not marry a woman. If you use idempotency, it’s a reaction in mathematics where A + A = A.

Research-sharing is a feature of the University, graded A* for its collaborative work, and so another researcher is learning to count and showing further that pi is a transcendental number rather than a rational number, and yet another researcher has found that watching television in the dark not only hurts your eyes but can make you horny.

End of All Our Teathers

So the Liberal Democrat Annual Conference has opened in Glasgow. I managed to see, I think he is called, Tim Fallon speaking. Apparently this was a left of centre delivery, though all I could manage during his speech was a series of expletives.
Sarah Teather has obviously come to the end of her teather and is going to step down as MP but remain a member of the party.

Why? What does it stand for, other than a right wing appendage to one of the worst Tory governments ever in its attack on the poor? He talked about a manifesto, but people who voted Liberal Democrat on the basis of its 2010 manifesto had their votes stolen as the Liberal Democrats never had any intention of keeping any of its direction never mind policies. Sarah Teather would have more credibility if she resigned now or at least sat on the opposition benches (resigning her membership). Apparently the Liberal Democrats are on about 7% in the national polls, surely too low to sustain even loyalty votes to existing MPs.

We need an election and for the current malaise in politics to be ended and the political scene refreshed. Cameron is now a mouse as a leader of the Tories and we need a fresh direction in recognising Britain as a community of people.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Cyril Smith

Above is a picture of my late mother and the late Cyril Smith MP (from 1972). It was taken on June 22 1986 when the said man took a service and mingled with the people. About two years later he was knighted. Whilst the Unitarian publication The Inquirer for 14th September 2013 asked what would Unitarians do if a Jimmy Savile walked through the door, the Dispatches programme for Channel 4 broadcast on 12 September had reporter Liz MacKean presenting her investigation of Smith's paedophilia and that although police officers locally wanted to prosecute, Security Services, politicians and the Crown Prosecution Service (the latter in 1970) allowed Smith to continue to abuse for decades. In other words, such a person wasn't just coming through the door but was opening churches and taking services. Unlike Jimmy Savile there were pages and pages on Smith. He didn't just whack the bare behinds of boys sent to him, but went into institutional homes of boys (Cambridge House and Knowl View School) and "the fat man" had a liking for the "young and tight" and other delicacies as well as delivering punishment - some of it quite violent.

Not mentioned in the programme is Cyril Smith's connection with the asbestos industry, and he didn't even write his own speech when it came to his final one at the House of Commons defending the asbestos industry.

I have written to The Inquirer that it's not what is done about absusers straying into Unitarian churches (or any other for that matter) but that here was one who actually opened churches and preached in them and spouted an old fashioned Unitarian Christianity. His election broadcast in 1974 emphasised Christian-like values and honesty in public life.

And material (from the police!) was published locally in the Rochdale Alternative Paper, The New Statesman and in Private Eye (e.g. 1979), without Cyril Smith suing them.

The point is, of course, we were taken in; but I remember at some point asking Cyril Smith and being told he believed in One God, No Devil and twenty shillings in the pound. This isn't in my account of his service at the time, but my account shows how he could dupe everyone.

Friday 13 September 2013

So What I Think About This Is...

This relates to the previous entry, which should be read first. I have submitted this reply to the Fulcrum Forum under How We View the Bible.

You are correct, Bowman, about my view of symbols: that their meaning is to be found in the finder, in some collective dialogue however. So why would I be concerned about selectivity of texts? Because I think it is too easy to use a text out of context: like having what are called, in worship, say, 'Buddhist beatitudes' from I don't know where, that are said to be 'like the Christian ones' and often put within a context of theistic worship. I suspect that these texts, whatever they are from, are distorted and used beyond their intentions and put into a changed context. I am here recalling experience of some Unitarian worship in the past.

Whilst the Bible and New Testament has several narratives and in conflict too, and we are entitled to use them, all I am saying is to give proper place to their origins (as far as we know) and not to twist them out of original context for resuse. I want to be a bit of a careful historian and social anthropologist through time in this matter.

There is nothing I find particularly sacred. I regard Paul as something as an equalitarian radical, with much that is more authoritarian put on to him in his name by others (e.g. the later pastoral texts). He was that radical in his cultural ambivalence across from the Jewish to the Gentile, in creating a salvation faith for the Gentile and part of the escalation of Jesus's titles and status. But I am still wary of dragging out the more popular and palatable texts like 'the greatest of these is love' because it gives a warped view of Paul as a whole (I suggest) as some sort of philosopher of the good rather than a rather complicated and mixed-up person doing a task.

My view is something like this: that all documents are primary documents of something. A current schoolbook (sections) on the history of the Civil War are primary documents not of history but how we do education: facing pages, bullet points, pictures, simple statements, all reflecting lesson plans and assessments that can be quantified. In the same way, the New Testament is a primary document (somewhere buried) of the condition and beliefs of early Churches - their leadership, legitimacy, expectations, cosmos and so on, many beliefs of which are utterly strange to us today, such as say the expected (and begun) rising of dead bodies. So there is nothing particularly sacred about any of them but rather a need to act with care and to be clear when a text is being used for a consumption purpose that breaks its context. But then, well, people (not least evangelicals) do this all the time.

Thinking about This...

How Do We View the Bible? I wrote in response to the title as below. I've since been issued with a response and challenge and wondering how to respond.

Posted by: Pluralist Monday 2 September 2013 - 01:06am

I have some sympathy for those who complain about selective use of the Bible, but as I can do no other I'm careful as to how I refer to it and do so less and less. It is a variety of writings, but comes within mythology, there is very little indeed that passes the test of history. The New Testament is a document by and for early Churches, and probably in origins without long term intent in the way that the Bible became a continuous canon. In being selective I'm just as likely to use the Gospel of Thomas or others, and indeed happily use the scriptures of other faiths, again selectively, again with caution about selective use that might misrepresent other parts.

Posted by: Roger Hurding Saturday 7 September 2013 - 10:42am

Thanks for your post Pluralist. I certainly respect your use of a wide range of scriptures, including and beyond the so-called canon of Jewish and Christian sacred writings, and understand, too, your doubts about the historical veracity of much in the Bible. These are still hotly disputed areas.

For me, though, I find the metaphorical, literary and historical integrity of scholars like Ellen F Davis of Duke Divintiy School on the OT, and Tom Wright of St Andrews University on the NT, stimulating and, ultimately, convincing.

Posted by: Bowman Sunday 8 September 2013 - 05:05am

Sometime, Adrian, I hope that you will share your view of a bit of text that you find to be 'almost sacred' and how you find it to be so. Your concern about selective misrepresentation of a text surprised me into thinking that I had perhaps, despite all of your efforts, badly misunderstood what you have been trying to say all this time. Let me explain why this was such a surprise.

If you think back on our past conversations-- religions of both Jerusalem and Varanasi; the (in)dependence of ideas and worldviews; the boundaries(lessness) of canons, churches, and the Anglican Communion; the soul's (lack of) a need for community with a stable symbolic system, etc-- I have come away with the impression that you practise and propose a sort of bricollage spirituality, no better nor worse than the practitioner, but certainly entitled to the respect that we owe to any subsistent being that God has endowed with an independent existence, especially one who has really seriously tried to actually be. And I have not thought of persons with that sort of spirituality as caring much at all about a meaning subsistent in a text that is objectively discoverable by those who are not attuned to it.

C17 Quakers, for example, believed that the Truth was in the Bible over against the 'steeplehouses,' but they plainly did not believe that Oxbridge philology could find it. A fortiori in the C19-20, apart from some research by Henry Cadbury, they were almost entirely indifferent to any higher criticism of scripture. For them, the Light was within and nowhere else, and if a tradition mattered to them at all, it was that of 'seasoned' friends testifying to 'younger' friends in meetings, generation after generation.

I have read your own negations of symbols that are still quite vital to others as analogous to that, if even more radical-- to you, I thought, symbols have no integrity of their own, nor referent beyond themselves that makes them meaningful. It's always in the finder, never in the found. So I was surprised to find that you cared how a symbolic text-- even a canonical biblical text-- is represented. Sometime, when you have a chance, help me to understand this.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Religious Conversation in My Car

I gave a friend a lift today and part of the conversation went something like this (the purpose of which is to here address the question of Jesus and Qumran and give my view).

My passenger had Dead Sea Scrolls and associated Jesus with them. No, I said, Jesus wasn't associated with the Qumran community. If anyone was, it was John the Baptist, and he came out of the community and didn't stay with in it. Jesus followed John in order to set himself up, he wasn't one of John's disciples like Jesus had disciples. But both believed in a Messiah and a the world coming to an end and replaced by a new reality. If Jesus didn't fight the Romans it was because he thought God would just sweep them away when bringing in a new reality. She though Jesus was "special" and different from others. I said the gospels make him special but he's more alike than different. There were lots of people going about preaching in the same way to the same end, but the difference is Jesus had a Paul. Jesus didn't know Paul nor did Paul know Jesus: think about it that if Jesus was killed around Passover then Paul was in town and completely ignored him - it's only when he got the shakes that he changed his mind. Paul was going about synagogues telling them either to follow the Law or a Messiah and not both, first favouring the Law and then the Messiah as he also believed in the end time. We don't get the Jewish Church perspective in the Bible - it was destroyed by the Romans. These were the people closest to Jesus and would have been his successors, who believed he was coming back as the Messiah. There may have been some Jews who spread out but with destruction it became a Gentile Church.

[I also think there wasn't that much disagreement on the central issue of Jesus as Gentile salvation figure of Paul and Jesus as the transformed Messianic figure, both concepts being subject to believers' escalation of his titles and status: the difference was around secondary identity issues like diet and circumcision.]

I said of a church person who did a theology degree and realised what he'd been told by Baptists was just wrong. I said what puzzles me is the number of mainstream people who go to higher education and know all this and just carry on. I was asked about Baptists; are they born again Christians? Not all of them, no; it's just about adult baptism and self-governance. But in Hull three Baptist churches (via becoming one) merged with the Hull Unitarian church. The General Baptists and Particular Baptists split in 1802 and many General became Unitarian.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Atonement - there isn't any

Surprise surprise. I have had nothing to say about atonement theory and have not debated the matter to any purpose. I have not debated subordinationism either (they are related), where some trinitarians think it essential that the Trinity and not Arian heresy asserts equality - funny then that the heteretical denomination in Britain, the Unitarians, along with Quakers, has consistently been the most equalitarian. The stress on unity for longer has had a longer impact, I suggest, whether this is divine unity or human unity.

I don't care how Steve Chalke changes his mind (I do care that he's involved in British school education). I read a blog entry like Rachel's, done in the form of an academic essay, arguing about penal substitution as atonement theory, and it fails to address never mind answer the simple question: just how does all this work?

I live in a world view that demonstrates evolution. Evolution is what by accident turned big reptiles into birds and gave space for mammals to become humans; evolution is always and everywhere local and specific. It's  based on comparative advantage and death in the particular. I also have a world view that explains scientific causality in general, and it's very complex, with technical materials now ever more incredible as a direct result of understanding the very small and the transformative. I understand mass research in figures and deep research in words (meanings). The world is mathematical, it is also chaotic in generation but systemic in relation (as is evolution). History is important, and has many schools of historiography, but identify primary sources as necessary and special whatever the craft of the story telling, just as the craft of writing is necessary to summarise a thick research of the anthropologist.

And thus I have not a clue how atonement works. I do know about exchange and gift theory, but that works around ritual between people as we have them and binds them together stronger as a group. Exchange theory is part of economics, part of social contract, sex, art, part of religion. A relatively worthless token can be exchanged where material loss brings spiritual benefit, where the binding together comes. So a eucharistic ritual is like that, and the Roman Catholics strengthen it by claiming real presence, and by its ahistorical ritualistic participation in the crucifixion of the deity. If you believe its ridiculous pseudo-science, or you can have a faith-view that requires ever more mental effort, it necvertheless still requires a ritual to happen and to bind the group giving it identity and purpose - in this case, Christians.

But the gift-exchange of Christ for sin is nothing but mental effort. There is no objective basis for it at all, no method by which there is any transmission.

We need to be historical to look for what happened, and need to be scientific for mechanisms that do actual work. The history is that the Romans extended their empire around the Mediterranean. The edge of empire was a cruel place and irritants received short shrift. One of the end-time preachers (and healers) went to Jerusalem to preach the end of the world as we know it and preparation for a new reality, using the biblical sources like the suffering servant, nudging his God by self-importance to bring in the expected end, and was (like many) put to cruel death. A small group expected him to return from heaven as the actual messiah, a process of escalation of titles that didn't stop, and this group was fortunate to have an associate of talent from outside who created a salvation faith of Gentile appeal through what the Jews had as a messiah. First he favoured law, then he favoured messiah. But all these ideas are culturally relative and no longer explain how the world works. Jesus was wrong, they were wrong, but they thought as they did at the time. For a historian, the biblical sources are all secondary: they are primary only in regard to the beliefs of early Churches or communities. My history is reconstructive, it's all that is available, and is open to challenge but not more certainty.

What we have now are ethics, and we think Jesus was a good ethical type of person, but it is historically impossible to say he was supremely ethical simply because we don't have the information about him or others. As for him being sinless, it's only theological because as a human being he presumably had to grow up and learn. And any human is as fully human as any other. The notion of atonement is that either a God has to die or a purely sinless full human (or both - indeed the sinless human is as God). But it is simply a belief, a mental act, and one without historical back-up. Nor is there any applicable history or science to him being as the opening of the resurrection (the first) where bodies rise up. Death involves rapid brain damage, and there is no continuation of consciousness, and resurrection that follows death ought to be subject to the 'energise' test in Star Trek where all who energise must utterly perish, the people who then reconstruct are but carbon copies with memories. If you perish, the rest is copying.

Some might accuse me here of literalism or stupidity, but I am accusing the Christian of overt objectivity and more than can be claimed. There is no such thing as atonement, except as a kind of subjective mental act, a kind of delusion.

Furthermore, the notion that we are saved and changed, or the world is being restored, might have truth in it in places but is far more likely that people are more rational, more sympathetic, because of course at the same time we remain having hideous conflicts and wars and tribalisms. The saddest sight of recent times is the Buddhist monks of Burma showing nationalist and violent tendencies and wishing to ban marriages of Buddhist women to Muslim men. The viciousness of the war in Syria goes without saying.

Christian theology, like whether it is substitution or penal substitution just talks to itself. Recently I read some material about the younger James Martineau and others in Liverpool and the introduction of the Unitarian domestic mission there for people who hadn't the clothes to wear to go to church. The cultural assumptions about the necessity to hear Christianity show that they lived in a completely different worldview to our own, even from the 1830s onward. Martineau was later to revise his ideas, though he never enacted the implications of them away from Christianity as he retained a more conservative liturgical output. But it's as if the whole explanation of reality has simply collapsed: Christianity is now a mythology and nothing different from any other mythology. Argue this way or that way, but it does not connect with the ways we explain things today, ways that produce results and repeat the results.

Religion has now to be different: to be reflective, to be an overview, a pause, yes with rituals to bind, but not an alternative universe unless, of course, one fancies fantasy.

Simon Schama presents The Story of the Jews - not, we note, an ongoing history of the restoration of the world in transit. It is a story of ethnic identity with rituals. The Reformed in England even wear top hats during their ritual. He points out that there is no evidence for Moses (and none for Abraham, of course) and that the biblical writing was more recent. Archaeologists find the Bible a distraction, he points out. Quite, because archaeology has its method too, and one that has causal impact. Time Team on Channel 4 used to explain things and made corrections. And that's the difference. Story is important to shaping lives, and the Christian story can shape Christian lives, but please don't be self-fooled by arguments that have no anchorage in anything other than story.