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It's worth looking at non-religious social bonding traditions that have succeeded.

Saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings is a left-nationalist tradition a little over a century old. Singing the National Anthem before baseball games can be traced back to the late 19th Century, but first became common during World War I and then became universal during World War II, so it seems like another left-nationalist secular tradition from the "Casablanca" era. FDR approved.

My impression is that beginning meetings with an Amerindian land acknowledgment is a leftist quasi-religious tradition that began in Canada around the turn of the century and has spread south into America. It has the problem that it would be extremely rightist in Europe, of course, where it would seem pretty Nazi to acknowledge the rightful claim to this land of Teutonic ancestors rather than the rights to Europe of immigrants just arriving.

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The recently ubiquitous "In this house we believe" signs would appear to be a statement of faith by people of basically Protestant disposition who no longer believe in all that God stuff but desperately want to believe in something.

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All that stuff goes hard on sacredness though, which seems to be the key point. Sacredness is how human societies designate stuff that is actually important, so thinking that you're enlightened enough to discard it is probably ill-advised.

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Both of your examples if the first paragraph fall under the weird quasi-religion that the US developed out of nationalism under the pretense of the US not having an official religion - a concept so prevalent that it has a name, the "American civil religion" [1]

(I want to nitpick your use of "left-nationalist" here, since most on the modern left would be mortified at the suggestion of starting meetings with the PoA - it's very much an American Conservative thing. However, given who you are, I imagine your reference class for "left" here encompasses "median establishment liberals", so I won't push the issue)

As far as your second paragraph... in this context, this might be the most convincing evidence I've seen so far that American Social Justice(/Wokeness) is actually a religion - but it is specifically a protestant sect of American Civil Religion.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_civil_religion

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The left-nationalist thing is presumably in reference to who originally created the pledge of allegiance, not who uses it currently. It was a nationalistic socialist (not to be confused with National Socialist) who came up with it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bellamy

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Huh. That did not come up when I initially googled it to see if I was wildly off base. Fair enough, conceded in that sense

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

Interesting. The Wikipedia entry for Bellamy doesn't mention the earlier version of the Pledge written by Captain George Thatcher Balch in 1885, and popularized by him in a book on how to teach patriotism in schools. This article says Bellamy used Balch's original version as a model. I would be interesting to see how they differ.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

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Right, the Pledge of Allegiance was written by "Francis Julius Bellamy (May 18, 1855 – August 28, 1931) was an American Christian socialist Baptist minister and author. He is best known for writing the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892." -- Wikipedia

His cousin Edward Bellamy wrote the massive utopian bestseller "Looking Backward" and founded "Nationalist Clubs."

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Are the musical Bellamy Brothers any relation to those guys?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bellamy_Brothers

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>it's very much an American Conservative thing

It's very much an American nationalist thing, but hardly "conservative" in the modern political sense of the word. American liberals are by and large happy to say it, and the ritual is very often observed before meetings of American labor unions, including left-leaning (but not the point of anti-Americanism, obviously) ones.

Naturally, leftist groups that are revolutionary in nature wouldn't ritualistically pledge allegiance to the USA, but that should go without saying. And obviously, many liberals who are loyal to the United States and don't mind saying so are nevertheless uncomfortable with the "under God" bit, which was crammed in there in the 1950s as a sort of juvenile nanny-nanny-boo-boo to the godless Communists (and conversely, many right-leaning Americans in the 21st century get a special own-the-libs frisson from shouting "UNDER GOD!"). But none of that makes the PoA intrinsically an American Conservative thing, much less "very much" one.

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Nationalism was typically pretty left of center in the 1789 tradition, in part because the ancien regime was based around transnational dynasticism.

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The fact that nationalism used to be a left-wing ideology, and is now regarded as right-wing, or even far-right, is one of the more striking examples of how far to the left the Western world has moved over the centuries. (Another striking exmaple being capitalism.)

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Globalism is just one step further from nationalism. Presumably during the Ice Age, you only cared about your tribe of 20. Each single tribe may even have spoken languages as divergent from each other as Modern Chinese is to Arabic. With farming, you started caring about your village of 50. People started mixing more. Most languages started to die out. Then your world expanded to include nearby villages, whole chiefdoms. Then kingdoms, and empires. This process was not without a hitch. All these polities rose and fell, but people across the world have consistently became more similar in terms of their languages and ideologies.

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No.

Most closely associated with American public school.

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Oh, yes. I agree with everything you say. But I might add America is made up of feuding sects of civil religion. Luckily we're not burning each other at the stake — yet.

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

A "left-nationalist" tradition? Where do you get the "left" from? It dates back to the 1880s, and it was written by a former Union officer at a time when former Southern traitors were trying to weasel their way back into mainstream US politics. I suppose you could call the Republican Party back then as being vaguely leftist because it had a strong anti-big-business bias. But Marx disliked Lincoln and was disparaging of the Union's cause. I don't know if he actually said this, but I found this quote: "The way in which the North is waging the war is none other than might be expected of a bourgeois republic, where humbug has reigned supreme for so long."

The current incarnation of the Pledge with the "under God" codicil was instituted when rightwing communist witch hunts were just revving up. From my perspective, the Pledge is a nationalist ritual, and since nationalism has become one of the emotional crutches of the Right, it's become another ritual for them to symbolically wrap themselves in the flag.

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> "The way in which the North is waging the war is none other than might be expected of a bourgeois republic, where humbug has reigned supreme for so long."

You know, I can kinda see that applying, up until Grant was tapped. Why wasn't the most capable general immediately put in charge? Why didn't they even know who the most capable general was? In practice, they were more concerned with rank and internal squabbles, than winning the damn war.

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If you get a chance you should read Bruce Catton's _Grant Moves South_ and _Grant Takes Command_. I wouldn't say there are any simple answers to your question, though. Things to remember, though. Grant had left the Army under a cloud with the rank of Captain. After the start of hostilities, he used his political connections to wrangle a Colonel's commission in the Illinois State Militia. No one expected much of him, because his previous military career didn't indicate that he was a military genius. Even after he began to win battles, he didn't toot his own horn, and people tended to underestimate him. And Grant didn't have the tactical flair that Lee had. But Grant's talent was that when he went after an objective, he didn't give up. If it didn't work the first time, he didn't retreat to lick his wounds, rather he'd try another approach. He was stalled around Vicksburg for months and months, and everyone, including Lincoln, thought Grant was flailing and that Vicksburg was well fortified to take. But by sheer numbers, Grant was able to lay siege to it, cut off its supplies, and force its unconditional surrender. Lee was the artist. Grant was the dogged craftsman.

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Lee's battlefield victories were Pyrrhic victories that were far too costly in terms of soldiers and especially officers. For various reasons, Southerners dominated the historiography of the ACW for generations. This has given Lee an inflated reputation he really doesn't deserve. He wasn't terrible but he was no military genius.

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ACW definitely a good example of a time where history was not written by the winners.

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> Where do you get the "left" from?

I think one could make an argument that "nationalism" was something favored by Progressives as the wave of the future, roughly up until the interwar period when it became obvious that a) nationalism made large-scale industrial war easier, and b) there was a compelling alternative in "international socialism", aka communism.

I'd agree that it hasn't been a defining feature of the "left" since around the 1930s or so. Although for a while centrist liberals were making an effort to create a sort of holistic ideological version that eschewed "blood and soil", where nationality could be a matter of choice and conviction and shining ideals and all that good stuff.

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More charitably, nationalism appealed to the 19th-century left as a superior-seeming alternative to multi-ethnic empires with conservative monarchical governments, especially Tsarist Russia and Austria-Hungary. Most of the latter didn't survive WW1, so the environment in which nationalism appealed to leftists no longer really applied.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

In the 19th century it seemed obvious here in Italy, and in general on the continent as far as I can tell, that if you want to replace the monarchic order with a republican one you must redraw all borders to match ethnicities (or "nations" as they used to be called), which is in fact what happened over the course of a century; just compare the two maps of Europe drawn by the Congress of Vienna and the Treaty of Versailles.

I think the logic was that, on one hand, if the people is where the power lies instead of a powerful king, then you cannot expect separate ethnicities to work together, on the other hand, if you want a republic to be as powerful as possible, then ethnically compatible states that can merge, should.

That would have been the logical reasoning, I think, but it's hard to find a 19th century writer who states it clearly, so obscured it was by the irrational romanticism of that era. They'd rather wax poetic about the destiny of oppressed "peoples" to rise up against their oppressors.

Still, everyone back then gave it for granted that nationalism = liberalism = progress, freedom, democracy, political equality.

I've always wondered when exactly nationalism became right-wing.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

I suspect — and this is me talking off the top of my head — that once you've carved an independent nation-state that's ethnically homogenous out of an empire, and you've got everyone speaking the same language, and instilled the same romantic national identity in the populace — then the natural tendency is to worry about maintaining that identity against outside forces and/or elements within your nation-state that don't fit in with your national identity. Whereas creating that nation-state may have been a liberal impulse, preserving the identity of nation-state is a conservative impulse.

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The traditional ancien regime was based around dynasticism, which naturally tended toward the creation of a trans-national royal ethnicity. Hence a lot of famous revolutions revolved around nationalist opposition toward the foreign queen, such as Henry VIII embracing Protestantism to divorce his Spanish queen, Marie Antoinette in 1789, and Czarina Alexandra in 1917.

Over time, this became no longer relevant and thus forgotten, but it has a whole lot to do with what was considered Left and Right when the terms were invented during the French Revolution.

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Henry VIII doesn't really belong here, because his (first) wife was actually quite popular in England. Nationalism didn't become a factor until well into Elizabeth's reign, essentially when a whole generation had grown up hearing every Sunday that Catholicism was an oppressive foreign construct.

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With Hitler?

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(Tangent: I didn't think I was being particularly uncharitable? I admit the "wave of the future" thing was a mild potshot, but I didn't think a very bad one. And I'm actually in agreement with the point about large-scale industrial war being bad. And I think the appeal of communism to progressives is a simple historical fact? I'm not trying to pick a fight, either there or here; here I'm just wondering what exactly I said, that came out so badly...)

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Yes, I was thinking of the mild potshot. Your comment also focused on what might be termed the genre conventions of Progressivism, rather than engaging with the internal logic, which isn't inherently uncharitable but tends to go along with uncharitability.

I do agree that an awful lot of 20th century Progressives had a general sense that Communists were more or less on the same side. This has its roots in 19th Century radical movements which often put Progressive Liberals, Anarchists, Communists, Populist Nationalists, and Democratic Socialists together under one banner with very squishy borders between the different groups.

Since then, there have been waves of how much Progressives have felt themselves to be on the same side as Communists. There have tended to be scisms when either Communists or Progressives have achieved power somewhere, or at least have been in a position to become part of the respectable political mainstream. The biggest split was probably in the immediate aftermath of WW1, when the (Communist) Bolsheviks were in power in Russia and the (Liberal Progress) SPD was in power in Germany and each violently excommunicated their erstwhile fellow travelers; it should be noted that in both places, the Communists were very much the aggressors. It's also varied with organized Communists shifts in strategy between Accelerationism (trying to bring down Liberal institutions) and Popular Front coalitions (working with left-liberals to keep the right out of power) and with how salient the brutality of Soviet-style Communism has been in the sight of Western liberals.

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Jul 3·edited Jul 3

First off, I'm sorry that it upset you. I admire your restraint and general calmness and benevolence here, and I figure if this stood out enough for you to say something, then it came out much worse than I intended. And I've been worrying that lately I've been adding more of an edge to some of my comments than I, in my better moments, would wish, so I'm taking this as confirmation. Thanks. :-/

My impression is that the nationalism embraced by the early progressives was a modernist sort, of a kind with their support for eugenics and Prohibition and public education and taking children away from "backwards" people to be raised in the very best modern culture. It was part of an attempt to remake and standardize and uplift culture on a large scale, for ethical and philosophical (and aesthetic) reasons. (Lengthy criticisms omitted.)

As for progressives and communists, I suppose I was speaking more from an American history perspective. I'm not too familiar with the dynamics inside the left in other countries, except for a bit in interwar Germany. My general impression is, like you say, largely on the same side, at least in intellectual circles. I think America got more of the 2nd-International-style trade unionists, and that's what dominated the New Deal era Democrats, and that was compatible with nationalism. But 3rd-International-style communism seemed fashionable in radical and intellectual circles, and there were efforts by the USSR to infiltrate various groups. I don't think the internationalism and ideology of communism gained much traction with the unions, who were more invested in operating inside of a distinctly American capitalism, so there was some tension there. And of course even Democratic administrations (at least, the ones we had, not so much the ones that were too radical to get elected) weren't keen on the internationalism and revolution of communism.

I think the "progressive" label largely fell out of use in the 2nd half of the 20th century, and the main face of the left was a form of liberalism which embraced socialism, with communism lurking beyond it as what some people on both sides thought of as the inevitable next step. And of course there were independent parts of the left, like Chomsky.

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>But Marx disliked Lincoln and was disparaging of the Union's cause. I don't know if he actually said this, but I found this quote: "The way in which the North is waging the war is none other than might be expected of a bourgeois republic, where humbug has reigned supreme for so long."

Is that a direct phrasing from here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Address_of_the_International_Working_Men%27s_Association_to_Abraham_Lincoln

I don't think it's a completely fair characterization of Marx's views, he did criticize Lincoln for dithering on the emancipation front but also praised him when he e.g. fired McClellan. He doesn't seem to have expected the Union to conduct a Communist revolution, simply saw the Union's cause as a generally important and progressive movement in the world's history being hindered by the slave state remnant within the Union.

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I had that in my list of Marx quotations, but I didn't have a definite attribution for it. My note also says "Intro to Capital (?)". I never tracked it down. Marx is one of those people who's frequently misquoted.

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"The problem with quotations you find on the Internet is, it's so hard to tell if they're genuine or not."

— Karl Marx

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In this context I don't think left-nationalist refers to socialism but what evolved into civic nationalism in the US. Ie non romantic nationalism, intuitively the everyone is welcome but they have to integrate nationalism my grandma was espousing yesterday.

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Steve Sailer is a "human biodiversity" crank, by which I mean, he is a person who thinks racial categories are extremely important and meaningful.

And also that black people are worse on average than others.

So I don't know what he means by "leftist", but I'm also not terribly concerned about his opinions.

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Nice little ad hominem. I'm sure you support not oppressing black people by testing them for sickle cell because race is a social construct.

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Jun 26·edited Jun 26

I made no ad hominem. I didn't say that Steve Sailer was wrong about the definition of "left" because he's racist. There is no Definition God. It's impossible to be objectively wrong about the definition of "left".

I just noted that Sailer is a a "human biodiversity" crank. Usually, these people have definitions of "left" and "right" that are far outside normal usage. For instance, Curtis Yarvin considers everything since 1688 to be left-wing. So this doesn't surprise me, given his other views.

I do not think that black people are worse, on average, than the other four races, no. I think that's what you meant to ask, but you were trying to be cute and coy instead. I have little patience for this sort of thing.

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An ad hominem is when you say negative things about a person making an argument instead of saying their argument is wrong. For example, saying something like, "Steve isn't wrong but he's a racist", would be an ad hominem.

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And I didn't say Sailer's argument was wrong. So, not an ad hominem.

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Well, it was a mild ad hominem to call him a crank. But if the shoe fits...

But I agree with you that racial determinists (which I think is roughly what you mean by the human biodiversity moniker) and neo-reactionaries in general tend to distort left-right definitions for their own purposes.

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If human biodiversity thinking has much to do with what was considered left or right during the French Revolution (the prime origin point of contemporary ideological terminology), it's mainly that international dynastic marriages (e.g., Louis XVI of France and Marie Antionette of Austria) tended to create a transnational extended family of royalty that were widely viewed as having more familial loyalty to their relatives in other country than to their subjects in the nation they ruled.

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Why do you think there are exactly four others?

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Nicholas Wade’s "Before the Dawn" specifies that there are objectively only five distinguishable human races, from a DNA standpoint: Africans, Caucasians, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

This book got favorable reviews from various racialists so I assume that it is correct.

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You are engaging in childish name-calling, not reasoned argument.

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People saying Lincoln was left-wing...(there was a particular comment saying this that seems to have been deleted)...

Unless I am missing something, he was pro-capitalist and pro-Christian. Put all his statements and positions next to those of a modern Republican and those of a modern Democrat. Which latter category would they fit naturally with? This looks very obvious to me.

"Lincoln was actually a leftist" is an ideological reach that makes other ideological reaches look reasonable. You either have to say "ignore what he actually said, he was secretly a socialist". Or you have to outright adopt pseudo-Marxist relativism and say that a person with an ideology that in 2024 would be called conservative, somehow becomes a leftist if transported to 1860. Because, I don't know, the meaning of morality has somehow changed and the historical march of the revolution is at a different stage or something.

But you certainly can't analyse his positions as they actually were, for some reason.

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<i>Or you have to outright adopt pseudo-Marxist relativism and say that a person with an ideology that in 2024 would be called conservative, somehow becomes a leftist if transported to 1860. Because, I don't know, the meaning of morality has somehow changed and the historical march of the revolution is at a different stage or something.</i>

The West has drifted pretty consistently leftwards over the past three hundred years or so, so a position that would count as left-wing in 1860 would count as right-wing in 2024.

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Yes you're right*, I phrased that badly.

A 2024 rightist transported to 1860 would in most respects be a leftist *in 1860*. I don't know why I basically said the opposite.

What's ridiculous is calling that person from 1860 a leftist *now*. By 2024 standards an 1860 classical liberal is not a leftist in any sense. And I think we *don't* generally call such people leftists in most cases. But Lincoln is the exception: because the left wants to claim credit for his abolitionism (and distract from the uncomfortable fact that it was a Republican policy), they obsessively insist he's *really* left-wing.

What other historical figure is redefined like that (without it also suiting a modern political agenda)?

*nit: I don't think we can meaningfully speak of the left having any existence or meaning before 1789, so more like 230 years.

Second nit: I'd say "mostly" not "consistently" leftwards. In the US at least, immigration restrictions, free speech, and "under God" are examples of long term rightward shifts. And things like privatisation in Britain I think.

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> In the US at least, immigration restrictions, free speech, and "under God" are examples of long term rightward shifts. And things like privatisation in Britain I think.

The fact that people are thinking of issues that were considered "common ground" within living memory as "right-wing" today, I would think is further evidence for hard-left shifts within recent years.

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Hard left shifts within the last few years, yes definitely. I'm not sure if you're agreeing with Mr. X that everything has moved left over longer periods. But I find that both inaccurate and an unhelpful perspective. Among other things, it lets the left assume every one of their proposals is somehow inevitable, and to erase the evidence of the past failures. It's also more victim complex, this time by conservatives.

Another problem is it makes political change look like technological change: all going in one direction, and all positive and beneficial. Which it isn't (and not for technology either but that's another matter).

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<i>What's ridiculous is calling that person from 1860 a leftist *now*. By 2024 standards an 1860 classical liberal is not a leftist in any sense. And I think we *don't* generally call such people leftists in most cases. But Lincoln is the exception: because the left wants to claim credit for his abolitionism (and distract from the uncomfortable fact that it was a Republican policy), they obsessively insist he's *really* left-wing.</i>

Maybe my experience is unrepresentative, but I've certainly come similar arguments made about other people and things. E.g., not long ago some right-wingers were complaining about Star Trek going woke, and a common rebuttal I saw was "Star Trek had an interracial relationship back when such things were taboo, so it was always woke." I've also seen progressives try to claim the US Founding Fathers as their own, although that seems to have become less common now with the rise of "America was never great" style discourse.

<i>*nit: I don't think we can meaningfully speak of the left having any existence or meaning before 1789, so more like 230 years.</i>

The left as an organised and self-conscious political force dates to 1789, but the ideas that inspired the French Revolution had been in circulation for a century or more already, since at least the time of John Locke.

<i>Second nit: I'd say "mostly" not "consistently" leftwards. In the US at least, immigration restrictions, free speech, and "under God" are examples of long term rightward shifts. And things like privatisation in Britain I think.</i>

Maybe I didn't express myself clearly. When I said "drifted consistently leftwards over the past three hundred years", I didn't mean that there had been a monotonic shift, but rather that, if you compare the Overton Window today with that of 1700 (or 1800, if you'd prefer a post-French Revolution date), the acceptable position on everything is now further to the left than it was back then. Even the examples you list (not all of which, as Bob Frank says, were considered particularly right-wing when introduced) didn't involve returning to the pre-1700 (or pre-1800) status quo.

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"And things like privatisation in Britain I think."

I won't argue the others, but this is just a sign of exactly *how far* the long-term leftward drift has flowed. The concept of the government owning businesses such as hospitals and railroads *at all* is a strikingly leftist and 20th century proposition; the railways of Britain were nationalized in the first place within living memory, and in 1880 would have seemed like an outright insane proposition to a normal person. The US didn't even have a tax on income until 1913; try to repeal that now (it's the 16th Amendment, IIRC, if you want to have a go).

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Incorrect. Marx was anti-Confederate from the outset and became a fervent supporter of the Union cause after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Marx actively campaigned against Britain recognizing the Confederacy, which the British elites supported for crass geostrategic reasons. (The London Times responded to the Emancipation Pr. by more or less accusing Lincoln of inciting slaves to ravish white women).

In context, I'm willing to bet this quote about our "bourgeois republic" was an expression of frustration that we weren't defeating the rebels efficiently enough. And we weren't..

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I notice that all of those rituals started out as ways to pwn any outgroup members who might be present.

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That's certainly true of the PoA, and more so of the "under God" part that was added later. But surely you're not suggesting that it's true of land acknowledgements in North America? Who would the outgroup even be? Some people find land acknowledgements annoying/pointless, and people doubtless exist who actually think it's fine and dandy that indigenous people had their land taken from them, but it's difficult to imagine the people who came up with the idea of LAs thinking to themselves "What can we do to cheese off people who, in the future, will be averse to whatever ritual we're about to invent?" or "Hey, you know what would really rile people who don't care about the plight of the indigenous people of this area? Solemnly acknowledging that this used to be their land and stating that we feel bad about it!" And anyway, before these rituals made their way into the world of woke capitalism--that is, long before anyone on Twitter or ACX noticed and started grumbling about them--they were chiefly done among small groups of like-minded people, so there would be little need or purpose to "own" or troll outgroup members via ritual.

You may not be saying that, though. If you aren't, then forget I said anything.

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Much like the PoA, an empty gesture that signals allegiance to woke values is going to score you social points within the woke ingroup and let the outgroup know their values aren't welcome. The specific content of the pledge/statement doesn't matter much as long as it shows which side you're on. The maximally vague statement, "I pledge allegiance to woke values" would work just as well for "pwning" outgroup members.

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I........................guess?

The same could be said about quite literally any expression of any view about anything whatsoever by anyone whomsoever--that is, if we're going to make the maximally uncharitable assumption that no expression of any view X by anyone (or, let's be honest, by anyone in our outgroup) is ever intended to be taken at face value as an expression of X but is instead a signal of aggression against anyone holding any view not-X.

But who would ever make such an assumption, other than someone so entrenched in a culture-war mindset that they simply assume any action from anyone in their outgroup is incoming artillery--that nobody from the outgroup ever just does stuff?

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I don't think it matters what the hidden intentions of those saying the PoA or land-acknowledgement are. I don't think we should make uncharitable assumptions about people's motives. That leads to pointless conflict. For the purposes of this discussion, assume the people administering these pledges have good intentions and just want to make the world better.

That doesn't affect the problem I brought up though. Whether or not the speaker intended it, the LA/PoA is still going to score points within the ingroup and let the outgroup know their opposite values aren't welcome.

I think it's clear for LA that there's an ideological divide between the left (especially young people on the left) and the right on the issue.

No one ever thinks they're just virtue signalling. Ask a proponent of the PoA why they support it and they'll give you all sorts of reasonable sounding explanations. Maybe they'd say it's important for school children to understand American values, or that loyalty to one's country is important. But they won't say they just support it to show off how American they are and to make communists feel excluded.

On land-acknowledgements in particular: they're weird. You acknowledge that this land rightfully belongs to someone else, but that you're going to keep it anyway. You thank them for letting you use the land that was forcefully taken from them. (The specific words of land acknowledgements vary; some may omit this). You do this for each meeting, lecture, or course syllabus, even if there are no indigenous people present. I think that's fits the definition of an empty gesture about as well as anything could.

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They can be reasonably seen as attempts to subtly break people down by forcing them to verbally affirm things they don't believe, or to implicitly endorse them by standing respectfully as they are affirmed. Having this done day after day is a kind of humilation and symbol of subjection, and can have significant psychological effects. Why else do totalitarian regimes and militaries and religions invest so much effort in such propaganda and allegiance displays?

It's even scarier when people are being forced to affirm their own power and privilege while the people with the actual power and privilege (i.e. the ones doing the forcing) are being affirmed to be oppressed. Huge element of Orwellian doublethink involved. "Freedom is slavery" and all that.

If this all sounds like hyperbole, a simple question: what do you think happens if someone tries to consciencously object to participating in a land acknowledgement? Do you think they get the same respect as for a religious exercise or prayer? That they'd face no judgement, no retaliation, and be legally protected from job discrimination as a result?

Because there'd be no reason not to fully accomodate such objections if the sinister purpose described above was false. No reason at all.

But ask anyone in an environment with regular Land Acknowledgements how safe they would feel deliberately not participating...

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Were you under the impression that land acknowledgements are something that everyone recites in unison, like the Pledge? You literally just stand there for seven seconds while someone says "we acknowledge that this is the ancestral unceded land of the so-and-sos." How on earth would someone, practically, refuse to participate? By traveling forward a few seconds in time? By shouting loudly "ACTUALLY I DON'T ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THIS IS THE UNCEDED LAND OF THE SO-AND-SOS, DESPITE THE EXISTENCE OF AMPLE DOCUMENTATION THAT THE ANCESTORS OF THE SO-AND-SOS LIVED HERE AND THAT THEY NEVER CEDED IT, BECAUSE I AM A RATIONALIST!" and wait to be canceled for your bravery?

And yes, it does sound a bit like hyperbole to drag poor overworked Orwell into it, now that you mention it...

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The problem with the "documentation" in question is its conveniently short time horizon. It establishes that such-and-such people were living there at the point when European colonists took over, but it never tends to look back particularly far before that point.

Why? Generally because, if they did, they'd undermine the entire concept by finding someone else living there. The X tribe got the land they were living on conquered out from under them by the Y tribe, who then got run off the land when the Z tribe came in and conquered it, and so on for thousands of years, until the white man came in and conquered it *and managed to hold it.*

By any rational, even-handed application of the rules as they had existed since basically forever, that makes the European colonists, and their successors in the nations they established, the legitimate and rightful owners of the land. "Land acknowledgments" are pure nonsense, based on a fantasy of ancestral stability that bears no relationship to historical truth.

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Yes, yes, sure, sure. But the land either is or is not the ancestral, unceded land of the So-And-Sos. We've established that it is. If it can be documented that the So-And-Sos took it from the Whozits, it's fair to find whichever So-And-Sos weren't murdered (we already know where their ancestral unceded land is; that's a start!) and ask them to acknowlege that, too. Meanwhile, it remains factually the case that the land is the ancestral, unceded land of the So-And-Sos and the Europeans took it from them, so it's not inaccurate to acknowledge that.

But then, look, none of that matters to you, does it? You don't like land acknowledgements and don't want anybody to do them. If "but what about the Whozits" doesn't fly, you'll find another reason. Fair enough. You don't have to like things you don't like!

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"Were you under the impression that land acknowledgements are something that everyone recites in unison, like the Pledge?"

Perhaps I thought in some cases it was so. I certainly remember something out of California proposing that school children be directed to chant Aztec prayers. A few years earlier I would have dismissed that as an insane conspiracy theory or a joke, but Poe's Law has taken hold of the left as firmly as it ever did the religious right. If that can be even proposed, anywhere in the first world, with a straight face, then things are already long past the point of sanity, and mandatory chanted LAs would be utterly unremarkable.

But mostly I think you're supposed to just stand respectfully and not object? Well the same can be said of opening prayers. I guess there's nothing wrong with that? I guess all the people, all the Jews and Hindus and atheists, who've ever objected to a Christian prayer, who've asked to be excused from being present (because they feel their mere presence is an endorsement) and who've demanded protection from disctimination for doing so, were all being whiny babies? As long as they didn't have to actually recite the prayer, they have nothing to object to whatsoever?

If you do think that, then fine, you're consistent. We can repeal all such protections from religious establishment or bias, aside from making sure it's physically non-compulsory. I don't agree with that position, but I fully respect it as a consistent one.

If you don't think that, then I think you need to answer (1) do you think the institutional LAs have all of the same protections and accomodations as institutional prayers, just as reliably enforced and widely accepted? (2) Are you fully committed to zealously promoting and protecting those rights?

Your answer to 2 determines whether I object to your moral position. If you say yes to 1, I'll accept your belief but I think you'll find many, many people testifying that it's false.

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OK, I have to point something out at the outset, and I'm going to have to do so a little bit harshly: you have awfully strong opinions about a practice that you admittedly know very little about. I can't suggest strongly enough that you use the following system in the future:

1. Hear about thing

2. Learn about thing, doing research if necessary from the most neutral sources you can find

3. Form opinion about thing

In this case, following that system might have resulted in your being less mad about something online than you otherwise would have been, which is always a good thing.

>I certainly remember something out of California proposing that school children be directed to chant Aztec prayers

Eh, sorta. It was certainly reported that way.

In fact, a California ethnic studies curriculum included ideas for ways for teachers to energize students, promote "unity" (whatever that was supposed to mean), and get the kids' attention during times of "low engagement." Among these were various "Affirmations, Chants, and Energizers," derived from, broadly, the various cultures covered by the Ethnic Studies curriculum; and among those was something called the In Lak Ech Affirmation.

The In Lak Ech Affirmation was a highly modernized mishmash of Mayan and Aztec philosophy and theology (this is obviously where they fucked up), and included a translation into Spanish of a Mayan In Lak Ech incantation:

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

in lak ech, (feel empathy) panche beh, panche beh panche beh (think critically)

You can see what's going on here. Someone thought it would make Latino/mestizo students feel good about themselves if they chanted some feelgood stuff in class that was sorta-kinda derived from their maybe-ancestors. So far, so unobjectionable (not to say useful), but apparently this wasn't energizing enough on its own, so they added an "adaption of the Nahui Ollin, into poetic, rhythmic, hip hop song form," thus:

Tezkatlipoka, Tezkatlipoka, x2

smoking mirror, self-reflection

We must vigorously search within ourselves be reflective, introspective by silencing distractions and extensive comprehensive obstacles in our lives, (in our lives),

in order to be warriors of love, of love,

for our gente representin’ justice, (justice)

local to global global to local eco-logical, & social, (social), justice (justice).

Quetzalkoatl, Quetzalcoatl, x2 (etc, etc)

Whoops. In the rush to show kids how history can be dope, funky, AND good for the self-esteem, the authors of the curriculum overlooked the fact that the latter part of the chant involves giving a shout-out to Aztec deities!

Some Christian students understandably objected to this, and got help from a right-wing legal group who saw in the case an opportunity to issue a public two-can-play-that-game rebuke to California's nominally prayer-hostile school system. When the lawsuit was filed, California pointed out in press releases that the affirmations were not intended as actual prayers, and that anyway they were "optional", but knowing they had no case they struck the whole thing from the curriculum.

So, that's what that was. It was a specific part of a specific class, intended mainly to get Latino students to quit playing on their phones and engage, not a statewide proposal that all students offer a daily prayer to Quetzalcoatl, but it was dumb and needlessly violative of the rights of students whose religion forbids them to praise gods other than their own, and good riddance.

Anyway. What were we talking about? Oh, right, land acknowledgements!

To your questions:

>(1) do you think the institutional LAs have all of the same protections and accomodations as institutional prayers, just as reliably enforced and widely accepted?

No, of course not. First of all, LAs, institutional or otherwise, are a very recent practice compared to public prayer. It would be shocking if a practice so new did have "all of the same protections and accommodations as institutional prayers, just as reliably enforced and widely accepted," don't you think?

More to the point, as I keep trying to explain to people who are mad online about something they've never actually seen, a LA as usually practiced is literally just a person taking a few seconds before or during a public speech (defined very broadly to include such as "before I hand out the maps for this bike ride, I want to take a moment to acknowledge...") to point out that the land they're standing on used to be held by indigenous people. Being a simple statement of fact, it differs from a public prayer or even a Pledge of Allegiance in that nobody is professing or demanding belief in a god that others may think is imaginary, nor is anyone swearing fealty or demanding that others swear fealty to a nation or flag that others may not be so loyal to, or declaring that said nation is indivisible and full of liberty and justice when others may think that it's oppressive and unjust and totally divisible.

Granted, there is usually a subtext of "and we feel bad about it," although in the handful of LAs that I've personally witnessed nobody ever said that explicitly.

And that takes us to the question of rights. What right is it, exactly, that you want me to defend zealously? The right not to be present when anybody under any circumstances makes a statement of fact that one does not wish them to make, or makes a statement of fact that one believes to lack important context, or expresses any opinion that one may disagree with, or says or does anything the vibes of which one finds offputting? All of those things? Just one or two of them? Because if that's what you're saying, then I think we're going to have to start zealously promoting and defending, e.g., the God-given right of an employee to excuse herself from a company meeting where the chairperson is opining that although the company's performance in Q1 was disappointing, there is every reason to believe the company's performance in Q2 will be better, if she sincerely believes that the company's performance in Q2 will be even suckier, no?

I'm admittedly putting words in your mouth here, but I don't see how I'm very far off from what you're actually getting at. People really have an unalienable right to be excused from the portion of any otherwise mandatory attendance at any function, public or private, where the person in charge, as an aside, says "people who didn't have metallurgy used to live here but their land got taken, seems kinda unfair"? I don't buy it.

Thus my answer to your second question:

>(2) Are you fully committed to zealously promoting and protecting those rights?

Nope.

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It's not a mentality of saying, "What can we do to cheese off people who, in the future, will be averse to whatever ritual we're about to invent?" It's just the simple human equivalent of dogs peeing on things to mark their territory. Slap some American flags on it, play country music, and it's a right-wing version. Gangs do the same thing when tagging places with graffiti. It's largely instinctual, and so is the reaction against it.

It's like, oh, your boss at work coming by and tidying up your desk for you, except that most bosses have enough self-awareness to know that this would create hostility and not accomplish anything worthwhile. Or better yet, some guys telling off-color jokes in a way that makes the women around them feel uncomfortable. They're not consciously thinking "I want to cheese off the women around me". They're just doing what they think is appropriate, but the subtext is always "We have the power to do this and you don't have the power to stop us."

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What does the word "pwn" mean?

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I believe it's a misspelling of "own" (in the sense of "thoroughly win against") that originated in a video game joke & has become a meme. The connotation is of a somewhat immature person issuing a put-down. If I understand correctly.

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Thank you

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Land acknowledgements are a big deal in Australia right now, and have become a requirement at the beginning of any public event or work meeting.

They absolutely have a religious flavour to them. For me it feels similar to saying the morning Our Father in Catholic school, or saying grace before a meal. I get the same feeling of being engaged in a ritual, and it now feels wrong to speak or doing anything else while the person leading the 'prayer' is talking. And it seems to serve the same purpose - to bind everyone in a communal commitment to a particular religious (political) position.

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It’s worth noting that the words “under God” were added in 1954 in a reaction to secular communism.

Also, that Bellamy was in the business of selling flags to schools, and the pledge was part of a magazine promotion.. it’s very American.

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It's kind of weird how there's so much effort to build a secular countertradition to Christianity when there already exists an ornate ritualistic structure that is, at least in many countries, only barely adjacent to religion if that and has served as a home for secularists for decades. You have to accept a "Supreme Being" but, again, at least in many countries, my understanding is that this is mostly a mere formality.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemasonry

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A mere formality... which goes against the core tenets of secularism, rationality, etc.

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You can easily be a secularist, at least, and acknowledge a Supreme Being.

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Sure, but that wasn't my objection. The problem is the attitude that words don't matter, it's fine to say nonsense as long as it fulfills some social purpose.

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Yeah, phatic communication is a long-standing phenomenon. And language more generally is kind of primarily a social tool - if I'm the only person around language becomes much less useful (although not to zero, there's still some use for markers of ideas and suchforth)

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True, but have you considered that lying about your beliefs because you want people to like you is cringe?

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I share your gut feeling, but I also think setting it aside in some contexts makes for a happier life.

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There is nothing anti-rational about belief in a supreme being. Rationality is a process of making sure that your conclusions follow validly from your premises. Beginning from a spiritual axiom rather than a materialist one is just a different premise.

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Correct. I've already addressed this in a sibling comment.

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Choice of premises isn't arbitrary, and some choices can be irrational. A premise of "there is a spiritual world" does not have the same logical basis as the conclusion that there's a material world (given the fact that we exist - I think therefore I am)

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On the contrary, given the fact that materialist attempts to figure out just what it is that's doing the thinking always tend to produce more questions than answers, there's plenty of room indeed for a logical basis for the premise that there is a spiritual world.

"A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." — Francis Bacon

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Well what's your definitions of the "material world" vs the "spiritual world"? My definition is that the material world does not leave room for some additional spiritual world. My definition is that the material world is everything, that everything that is real is material. There can be an imaginary world, where the only aspect of materialism it has is in the form of brain structure and activity. So my definition of "spiritual world" would be an imaginary world that involves the belief in spirits and magic. But if any aspect of that imaginary world were to actually exist, it would exist as part of the material world, not a separate "spiritual world".

So you must have different definitions for these things that make a separate make more sense. So how do you define them?

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> My definition is that the material world is everything, that everything that is real is material

Isn't this explicitly circular logic/argument by definition? You're assuming what you want to prove, that there isn't a (real) spiritual world by defining that any spiritual world would have to be imaginary (and thus not real). That's not rational, that's...fallacy.

Personally, I firmly believe that the material and spiritual aren't truly separate worlds, but both facets of a larger system. Effectively, everything we see and experience and can conceptualize is but shadows on the wall, a projection of higher-order truths down onto lower-order (metaphysical) surfaces.

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Two problems with this comment.

1. The standard conflict is between "There is a spiritual world and a material world" and "there is only a material world". Dualism vs monist materialism. Your claim "there's a material world" is accepted by both of them and doesn't resolve anything.

(It's denied only by the much rarer monist idealists who aren't relevant to the (normal) theistic debate).

2. Actually "I think therefore I am" does NOT demonstrate the existence of a material world, you've got that backwards. It's the clearest statement of the undeniability of the mental world. The most parsimonious conclusion is idealism: the mental world is all there is. The co-existence of a mental/spiritual world and a material one is next (with some additional premises). The claim that the mental can in fact be *reduced* to the material (i.e. materialism) is less parsimonious again, and requires even more premises.

I'm not advancing any particular view, but I wish rationalists would reason better.

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Good catch! I missed that yesterday, but... apparently Billy *completely* missed the point on this one.

Descartes coined the phrase as part of a mental exercise searching for base-level truths. If it was theoretically possible that everything around him was some sort of delusion, is there anything he can be certain about? After doubting everything he could doubt, he came to one undeniable conclusion: there is an active, conscious mental agent doing all that doubting, therefore he must, in some nebulous but definite sense, exist as a distinct being.

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Not all premises are equal. Not going to have the whole argument here in the comments section, but there's plenty of rationalist writing on this which should convince you.

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By definition, an axiom is a starting point that neither requires nor admits of proof.

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This definition hides a lot of what's going on under the hood. An axiom is a part of an object definition. A straight line in geometry is something that corresponds to its axioms, that's why light rays, tense rope, a trace of chalk and an equation of y=x can all be considered (almost) straight lines in their own domains.

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Some more thoughts on this: it seems to me that religious folks have a weird blind spot where they don't buy that atheists for real don't believe in *any* supreme being. It's not just a small quibble over what your preferred supreme being thinks about butt play.

Similar blind spot: just earlier this week, I ran across a thread on DSL where a christian was claiming that since most atheists in the US are "culturally christian atheists", they should be perfectly happy about the 10 commandments being hung up in classrooms. After all, modern secular morality is heavily based on christianity and pretty much everyone agrees with most of the commandments... yeah, except the part where they were handed down from above, and the first third of them is *very* preoccupied with that claim.

Another classic along those lines is when believers can't even conceptualize morality and goodness in the absence of god. Says more about them than the atheists IMO.

Sorry for the rant, I'm just thoroughly fed up with christians having their heads up their asses on these topics.

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It is a natural human mistake to believe that other people must be deep inside just like me. (And there is an opposite mistake to believe that if they differ in some detail, they must be completely alien.) It is difficult to model people who are similar to you in some things, and different from you in other things, because then you never know whether some specific trait is one where they agree or one where they disagree.

https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/typical-mind-fallacy

This is off-topic, but recently I realized that perhaps woke people are genuinely distressed about the idea of their friends talking to people with different political opinions, in a way that I probably couldn't imagine. I always assumed that this was just a rational blackmail tactic, to threaten people "if you talk to the heretics, we will declare you a heretic, too". But now I think that maybe there is a genuine emotion behind that, some actual feeling of horror or revolt at the idea of talking to a person who just recently talked to someone who might have said a horrible thing. Like if you saw someone hugging a zombie; even if they still looked like a human, you would want to avoid them, because you would feel that they are already contaminated no matter how much they deny it.

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that's a good analogy. I don't have any special insight, but I suspect that there's a certain type of scrupulosity involved as well. If your beliefs say that words can hurt people and society is this huge looming thing that has lots of power over everyone, then it's not such a big leap towards "silence is violence" and similar things, which would amply cover "associating with the other party" as a terrible thing that directly hurts your friends.

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It's also a function of general powerlessness. Plenty of progressives perceive, accurately, that they can actually do very little about all the injustices they feel strongly about. (Genuinely strongly, not as a signalling manoeuvre to get sex, or bolster social standing, or other modes of poseurhood they're accused of.)

But hey, if you can play tiny little purity commissar inside your group of friends, or toward people already inclined to your point of view, then maybe, like a butterfly flapping wings, you can generate a small part of a breeze that bolsters a gale that builds up into the storm that sweeps away the old and leaves space for a better tomorrow. It's cope in the face of a fiendish coordination problem – but it's very human and very understandable.

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The problem is that all too often they're not micro-coordinating in a way which could ever plausibly converge on useful object-level action.

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Having discussed this emotion with a person who experiences it, I'll try to remember how they described it.

You know Singer's argument that if you'd go out of your way to save a drowning child right in front of you, you should also go out of your way to save a drowning child on another continent? Basically, the claim that physical distance may have practical but no moral relevance.

The chain-of-heretics phenomenon is the social version of that. If you wouldn't be friends with a racist, why would you be friends with a friend of a racist...? Why would the chain of responsibility stop with the person who did/said the bad thing?

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> If you wouldn't be friends with a racist, why would you be friends with a friend of a racist...?

As an explanation of someone else's perspective, thank you, that makes sense.

But I think that someone who feels that way must be... uhm, let me put it this way: How many moral opinions you have? How many people share *all* of them? Unless you have almost no moral opinion, or you live on an island of clones, it is virtually impossible to avoid people who differ from you in one moral opinion or another.

Someone is a racist. Someone is a communist. Someone is a liar. Someone believes that animal suffering doesn't matter. Someone never donates to a charity. Someone enjoys attacking lower-status people verbally. -- I think I may have already described over 99% of humanity here. Should I shun all of them *and* everyone who interacts with any of them? That would leave me alone... or maybe with a friend or two, until I find out that they sometimes interact with a family member who is imperfect in my eyes.

If you believe that all your friends are morally perfect, most likely you are ideologically brainwashed. You mistake your ideological beliefs for morality, and you interact with the people who share the ideology. Or you are too afraid to have an opinion of your own, and you are afraid of some ideological group around you, so you agree to never contradict them and to never interact with anyone they disapprove of. You are either a fanatic, or a coward.

Also, practically speaking, unless you are a member of a small group that is isolated from the rest of the world, you have no chance to know who is a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of one of your friends. So maybe you already are a recursively-horrible person, you just don't know it.

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I'm reminded of a slogan I saw going around the Internet a few years back: "no enemies to the left of us, no friends to the right of us." The idiots repeating this apparently never thought to analyze that notion for five seconds or they'd have realized that, applied consistently, it makes anyone they would wish to have for a friend refuse to consider them as a friend in return.

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But this is obviously correct? In the West Christianity is the water we are culturally swimming in without noticing how wet we are.

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> they should be perfectly happy about the 10 commandments being hung up in classrooms.

Why not hang up Kent M. Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments?: <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kent_M._Keith&diffonly=true#The_Paradoxical_Commandments>. They seem a good basis to build a rationalist community. And, as far as Christians are concerned, Mother Teresa seemed to like them.

> pretty much everyone agrees with most of the commandments...

Do they? Are they against killing, stealing from, lying to, raping or desiring to do such things to anyone besides members of their ingroup, particularly members of their outgroup? (<https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/>). The natural thing to do is to treat those as competitors to be wary of, livestock to farm or game to prey upon.

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If you meant to comment specifically from the perspective of atheism, you should have said so in the first place, instead of talking about secularism and rationality.

If one is a committed atheist who doesn't want to make a reference to a Supreme Being they don't believe in in any context, sure, Freemasons won't be a match, but there's still going to be a lot of people who are neither committed atheists *or* Christians and want traditions and rituals.

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Right. Freemasonry has been around for centuries and even has a great movie in "The Man Who Would Be King." In 19th Century America it gained all sorts of spin-offs like the Shriners and Elks. I used to live a couple of blocks from the national Elks club headquarters on the Chicago lakefront, which looks like a vastly larger version of the Jefferson Memorial.

But nobody much cares anymore.

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I can't speak for Europe, but I don't think American Freemasonry has recently functioned as a "home for secularists." it's more of a pan-Mainline-Protestant social club. The guys in the fezzes and little cars were in Methodist and Presbyterian pews on Sundays. It is declining largely for standard "Bowling Alone" reasons, but also because it needs Protestantism as a substrate.

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On the Continent, Free Mason lodges tended to serve as refuges from the secret police of the Emperor, King, or Sultan. Learning all those secret handshakes made it time-consuming for undercover agents to infiltrate the lodges. For example, the New York Times reported in 1908 that the Young Turks revolution had been hatched in the Masonic lodges of Salonika.

In the United States, however, where Ben Franklin and George Washington had been Masons, the Masons were the big winners, so Masonry wasn't very radical or subversive. Similarly, the great romance of British Masonry, the 20 page short story "The Man Who Would Be King," was written by Rudyard Kipling, who was the epitome of pragmatic conservatism.

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Why was the early US so anti-Masonic then? The Anti-Masonic Party got 44% of the vote in the 1828 election!

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My Mason friend told me members are strongly discouraged from talking about Jesus in the lodge/temple.

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...which suggests that Freemasonry comprises people who are inclined to talk about Jesus..

My argument is that (American) Freemasonry is not built to be (or at least hasn't been) a substitute for church for the irreligious, allowing them to reap the benefits of community, purpose, and what-have-you without making any specific or controversial metaphysical commitments. It is mostly functioning as an adjunct to, not a substitute for, Sunday church services -- most obviously because they're not meeting on Sunday morning and no women or children are present.

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I'm fairly positive about Freemasonry. But the kind of structure my friend mentioned seems like it would be pretty off-putting to a devout Christian, if not abhorrent. I didn't ask him how old this structure is. I wish I had!

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In small towns, the Elks (and Moose down south) are still relevant because they are likely the only place in town with a bar that isn’t frequented by criminals and people who start fights. If you’re an elected official or school teacher or someone of that stature in rural America, the only place you can safely go out drinking and be socially accepted is the Elks, unless you have a country club nearby.

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After strong-arming some Girl Scouts selling cookies, killing a woman delivering a free meal, robbing Little Leagues' and Habitat For Humanity's equipment, and carjacking the mayor, Tucson's clever low-lifes stole the go-carts from the Shriners.

No more oversize men in fezes scooting around in parades. Nothing is sacred for some losers.

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Freemasonry has kind of a bad reputation, along the lines of being a social club for corrupt police officers to meet the kind of people who are interested in meeting corrupt police officers...

If the Freemasons were just nerds like D&F players, no-one would care.

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Well, evidently EA, at least, is developing a bad reputation as well, at least in media circles - it's a match!

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Probably better not to say these reputations are “bad” or “good” just that these are reputations. These two reputations are not nicely compatible with each other, and so each is likely to see the other reputation as a “bad” one.

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In the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, deputies tend to get leg tattoos in a sort of Fascist-Aztec aesthetic to indicate membership in a surreptitious gang of cops.

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I wasn't aware that Scotland Yard bobbies tend to join the Free Masons, but, offhand, that sounds highly respectable by Southern California law enforcement standards.

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I have a specific story about my Entered Apprentice rite (1st degree Masonry) which for obvious reasons I cannot share, but suffice to say that you can respond as an 18th century deist would have and they will roll with it. The question is even kind of phrased that way in the ritual.

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The Unitarians, at least to my Catholic sensibilities, seem to do a decent job of filling the „it‘s Church but secular“ niche, and have been hanging on for over two centuries. Maybe it’s a New England thing, not sure how big Unitarians are elsewhere.

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I'm not intimately familiar with the group - I'm working off half-remembered third-hand gossip - but haven't the Unitarians basically adopted progressivism as their dominant ideology to a basically religious extent?

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Basically yes. The modern group, the Unitarian Universalist Association, formed in 1961 by merging the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association, which were liberal Congregationalists groups that can trace their origins back to the Puritans. Obviously they changed a lot in the intervening three centuries, both in terms of theology (dropping Calvinism/original sin doctrines) and general temperament/politics (becoming standard New England liberals). Universalists are pretty much definitionally fluffy big-hearted liberals, but historically Unitarians came in all stripes.

Modern Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion, so you can be hold be a practicing UU and also a Christian, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Sikh, Odinist, or whatever. But the UUs did evolve out of Christian churches, which is definitely a big reason they're more successful than the New Atheist groups that tried to start secular churches from scratch.

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FWIW, some groups of "Friends Meeting" are also non-creedal in that sense. (Though I expect an Odinist would have severe doctrinal clashes...but they wouldn't be based on which god it was, but rather on the properties of the god. And I expect a traditional worshiper of Kali would have trouble with the Unitarian beliefs.)

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<i>Universalists are pretty much definitionally fluffy big-hearted liberals, but historically Unitarians came in all stripes.</i>

You say that, but in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox circles some of the most belligerent members are universalists, at least in my experience.

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You're talking about small u universalists, of which Unitarians are a small subset.

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They didn't so much drop Original Sin as replaced it with various forms of "Privilege," chief among them "Whiteness."

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You forgot Pagans and Wiccans in the list of practices, otherwise a great summary. Come be who you are. Very accepting of LGBT+..

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Yes, so if you're secular and not leftist, it might be pretty obnoxious, but it's also worth noting that unitarians are very much love-thy-neighbor leftists, not you're-banned-for-not-agreeing-with-us leftists, so it's still a welcoming place.

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Oh good, I wanted to mention UU's for anyone looking for a more left leaning* religion. I grew up UU and loved it. (Suburban WNY mostly, small membership ~100, but I lived in Nashville for several years and the UU church there was awesome! Great people and music.) Traditions and the sacred are important in that they are what bind us together.

*as with many things in the US the UU church (at least in WNY) has fallen to the political divide, last I looked they were still flying the BLM flag in front. Too much for me.

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A possible counterexample is Raise Candy - but this (1) is more personal than interpersonal, and (2) was not deliberately invented but came to someone in a dream.

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What is "Raise Candy"?

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I think it depends on what you are doing for reasons of community building and friendly association. For instance, a great many gaming groups for boardgames, community golf, beer league hockey games, etc meet regularly and are completely aware that they are doing this for the social aspect of the activity, and not because they expect to excel to any large extent. Maybe the Sunday Assembly people found out there was nothing much they liked doing with each other, and 'not being religious together' isn't particularly fun? The atheists I knew who ditched atheism for Effective Altrusim suddenly had more things to talk about and make spreadsheets for and try to measure, which is a nerdy sort of fun for people of a certain mindset. If your religion says that G-d will send you to hell if you aren't in Church on Sunday, then you have a compelling reason to be in Church even if it is not much fun at all. Otherwise, your community building is limited by the fact that there are so many interesting things to do on Sundays, and so very little time.

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I empathize with the neurodivergent gamers who think the main point of a RL gaming group is to play games, when the main point is to socialize and build friendships. This must cause no end of frustration.

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This makes more sense, thanks for the clarification.

A point where I found myself agreeing with the prior post but wasn't sure where it fit in with your overall thesis: even when (3) is a competitive strategy, the surprisingly short history of so many "traditional" practices supports that the secret sauce lies in the *aesthetics* of a connection to the past rather than the historical reality. Pointedly, "actual" tradition can't get much mileage out of (3) being useful as an argument for its own usefulness. And going a step further and pulling out my own axe to grind, this argues against an over-reliance on Chesterson's Fence and undercuts most attempts to cobble together a theory of cultural evolution.

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It could be that rationalists don't do aesthetics all that well anymore. Rationalists used to have the Greek/Roman tradition of aesthetics to draw upon (e.g., Brunelleschi and Palladio). But now that seems pretty racist, so what are you going to do instead? Steel and glass modernism?

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There's four or five implicit assumptions there that I strongly disagree with but that aside: you still need a viable aesthetic, and you have to commit to the bit. Buying an abbey for two years ain't going to cut it - give it a full generation, minimum.

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Le Corbusier definitely committed to the bit. But that was a full century ago. What's new?

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Art Deco is having a bit of a comeback, for one. Steel and glass modernism indeed.

But more broadly if you're asking for something that simultaneously codes as new and as traditional to your own satisfaction I'm not sure you haven't over-constrained the problem. The point is getting it to code as traditional, actual age be damned.

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

Did you ever see the 'Art Church' on Geary at Fillmore (I think) in San Francisco before it burnt down? I forget what it's real name was, and this was 25 years ago or more, I think. I think it nailed 'new and traditional at the same time' with extra helpings of 'awe'.

If somebody can remember the real name of the place, maybe we can still find pictures on the internet somewhere. But you really had to stand in the place to get the complete effect.

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Aside from Brunelleschi being racist (huh?) what are the implicit assumptions?

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The racism angle is just Sailer being Sailer. I disagree ofc, but better to ignore the bait and move on.

"The rationalists" is as poorly-defined as ever, but for just about any casual use I disagree with the notion that it's meaningfully Greek/Roman. Maybe a solstice celebration here or there, but that's really thin.

But there's a richer critique to be made regarding the very notion of "Greek/Roman" in use here: the American tradition of Neoclassicism - which probably *is* old enough to be a tradition in its own right! - is distinct from the Greco-Roman aesthetic it draws upon. And going even further, "Greco-Roman" as a category is the result of explicit attempts by Roman artists to draw upon those Greek predecessors. It'd be a bit harsh to call it "fake tradition all the way down", but it's definitely a case of flattening a whole chain of cultural inheritance!

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Thanks for explaining, but I disagree.

Sailer's comment said "Rationalists used to have the Greek/Roman tradition of aesthetics to draw upon". I don't know what ideological assumptions he's bringing into that (and if they're race-related I probably disagree with them) but I think that's a very important observation that points towards the fundamental problem with this community's "rationalism". It doesn't situate itself in an existing intellectual tradition, and it doesn't build upon such a tradition in any clear way.

Or maybe it does, but if so I'm not at all clear what it is. It's not analytic philosophy: there's little formal training in that around here and there isn't a whole lot of obvious respect for it. It's not natural science: there's a contempt for the "credentialism" that like it or not the scientific community operates on, and there's a total absence of reluctance to make philosophical pronouncements far beyond the reach of the scientific method. The closest seems to be Bayes. Admittedly I'm not familiar enough with probability and the philosophy of mathematics to say for sure, but it certainly seems to me like Bayesianism is only a small part of a huge edifice of beliefs that make up "rationalism" and that have been hacked together from all sorts of places.

So what is rationalism? For the most part it looks too much like a group of mostly programmers who have collectively said "we know the answers to all the difficult problems of life" where those answers are just a bunch of disconnected facts and ideas that feel right to them, and were cobbled together by some people on the internet over the last fifteen years. If that's all it is, I fear it's destined to soon die and achieve almost nothing, because that sort of thing has undoubtedly been done thousands of times by different groups throughout history, and almost all of them vanished without a lasting trace.

Now maybe I'm wrong and the community really does have a clear intellectual tradition (but I've been here for a few years and you'd think I'd be able to summarise it by now, and I don't think I can). EA definitely does, but that's only a small part of rationalism. If rationalism *doesn't* have such a tradition, though, if it really is just a collection of beliefs and attitudes that a community of online people decided seemed true and useful...can it be saved (from the irrelevance of other such groups)? Yes, maybe! But it needs an aesthetic. It needs to make itself part of a tradition, "true" or not. (Which as both these posts of Scott argue, is a largely meaningless distinction).

So, bringing this overly long reply back around: Sailer didn't actually say rationalism IS that Greco-Roman tradition. (Which is how you've interpreted it). But rather, rationalists could be (and should be, I think) *drawing upon* that tradition. Or on another one. But on something, some clear aesthetic and some clear philosophical lineage, which of course can be transformed and improved upon but has to be acknowledged.

If that were the case, at least I'd be able to summarise rationalism to the uninitiated better than "some people on the internet with some confident opinions".

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Have You Read The Sequences?

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> But now that seems pretty racist

why is that?

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My best guess: There's occasional hand-wringing about whether official pushes for more neoclassical architecture will have the effect of coding European traditions as normative, to the implicit exclusion of non-Euro traditions. (Source: some half-remembered thinkpieces about Trump's executive order (1) on federal architecture.) This is kinda sorta maybe associated with "trad" aesthetic appreciation for classic (or specifically European classical) architectural modes, and the attendant accusations that trad types lionize atavistic or chauvinistic European values.

The term "problematic" is probably more appropriate than "racist", though Sailer may be obliquely commenting on the perceived tendency of certain social justice types to fling poorly qualified accusations of racism at things they don't like.

(1) https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-promoting-beautiful-federal-civic-architecture/

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The vast majority of American state capitol buildings have Greek temple facades and/or Roman domes. This is a reflection of Renaissance, Baroque, and/or Enlightenment ideals of rationality. There is a sizable literature condemning the Western architectural tradition as racist for emphasizing styles that are A) superb and B) indigenous.

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Doesn't (3) also sometimes fail because it's "too utilitarian" in the relevant sense? For example, meetings of the Sunday Assembly involve singing and dancing (https://www.sundayassembly.org/about), which seems like it's imitating singing hymns or worship songs in church. More generally, to regard something as sacred is explicitly to not regard it as fungible *or* merely instrumentally useful, so there's an inherent tension in adopting sacred traditions for the sake of utility, since whatever is adopted for the sake of utility is both fungible (other routes to getting the same utility can replace it without regret) and instrumentally valued (obviously). The philosopher Paul Katsafanas has had some interesting things to say about this (https://www.paulkatsafanas.com/papers.html): see his papers "Fugitive Pleasure and the Meaningful Life" as well as "Fanaticism and Sacred Values".

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Btw the Atlantic article is paywalled (well, free-trial-walled)

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stick the link into https://archive.is

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

Would the invention of new sports fall into #2? Alfterall, at least some modern sports started as doing something fun. Basketball, hobbyhorse, ...

Or maybe sports is off topic and does not count as tradition.

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If the new sport is actually fun I think it falls into #1, for a reasonably broad definition of "practical." And if the new sport isn't fun I'd expect it to fail for the same reasons most #2 things fail.

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

Fair, but if #2 only covers things that are not practical AND not fun AND not by habit, little is left: mischief, propaganda, publicity stunts... ...and virtue signalling

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I think #2 mostly captures attempts to build a community without a very clear active purpose to focus it on, which I agree is tricky to manage.

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With the exception of Roman chariot-racing and the Greek Olympics, sport as a thing to watch rather than to participate in is relatively new - the only team sport in the modern sense (codified rules, teams selected on the basis of ability, and most people watch rather than participate) that dates back much before 1850 is cricket (which goes back to at least the 1690s). Golf and horse-racing are of similar vintage (again, as spectator sports). Running races (as a spectator sport) obviously date back to the Olympics, and "pedestrianism" was an eighteenth century English craze.

There was this huge burst of innovation between the 1850s and 1900 or so that led to the codification and creation of a host of sports - various footballs (association, two rugbys, Gaelic, Australian, American and Canadian), basketball, baseball, hurling, shinty, (lawn) tennis, probably more than I can't think of at the moment. All of these were being played either professionally, or by full-time amateurs (rich people who played and trained full time but were not paid to do so; several sports had rules prohibiting paying players so as to keep out the riffraff) in front of paying spectators by 1900.

And there are plenty of newly-invented sports. Perhaps the most recent to have reached a reasonable level of prominence is quadball (the adaptation of quidditch into a sport that doesn't require magic, doesn't infringe on a trademark, and has the various non-functional rules from the books fixed).

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Quidditch has been more recently invented, but Pickleball seems to be the sport that is having a moment right now. (I hadn't heard of it until recently but apparently it was invented in 1965.)

And why not? The problem with the professionalisation of so many sports is that it leaves so few to be played satisfactorily by normal people without athlete-level skill or fitness.

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Most contemporary spectator sports originated in the Anglosphere in the second half of the 19th Century, probably because English speaking countries were out front in rail transport. So teams could go on the road, which necessitated national rules, which tended to be hammered out in post-season conventions in hotels next to railway terminals.

That's why most of the big sports not originated in Victorian England, such as baseball, American football, Australian Rules football, and Canadian ice hockey, were also worked out in English-speaking counties.

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The only Olympic team sport that doesn't have an Anglosphere origin is handball, which is German-Scandinavian, from the early 20th Century. It was originally an outdoor sport, but is now played in indoor arenas, taking a similar niche to basketball.

If there are Americans here who like basketball but haven’t seen handball, see if you can watch a bit at the Olympics - it has a lot of the same rhythms and skills as below-the-rim basketball; if you like pre-1980s basketball, then you might find that handball is a game you enjoy.

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what about

4. Doing something for aesthetic/ritual/community-building reasons, with a story of how it relates to completely practical reasons.

Example: "giving 10% of income to charity pledge"

Really, the "practical" thing is to "give the most that you can personally afford to give that aligns with the relative value you personally place on charity versus your own needs and wants".

But we say "everyone should give 10%" as that helps create a communal norm around giving. But the story is that it's practical to give that much.

I think this kind of story works because having a story that relates to practicality makes the tradition more self perpetuating (i.e. people are motivated to do the thing more if they can tell themselves a story about how the thing is actually good)

Another example: I'm a practicing Jew and This is also the way all of traditional Judaism works.

For instance, Jews require a prayer quorum of 10 to pray. This is tremendously beneficial for community-building since it forces the community to get to together regularly and engage in a cooperative activity. But the story is not "we will do this to create a community" the story is "God is more likely to grant our prayers if we do it this way" i.e. a practical reason.

Now, I guess it can seem hard to operationalize this since people might not believe the "practical story" if it seems far fetched and is obviously just a justification of the fun tradition we want for community reasons.

But I think it can be done. Especially since stories about how strange looking traditions are actually utilitarian are more interesting and thus stick out in our mind more than boring old "we do this to make a community" reasons. So even if we know the stories are on some level not the "real reason" we are doing things, our mind sometimes starts treating them that way and then they become the real reasons, even if they weren't to begin with.

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> This is tremendously beneficial for community-building since it forces the community to get to together regularly and engage in a cooperative activity.

Hm. If EAs required an in-person quorum of 10 to engage in consequentialist reasoning, that might have prevented as much association with SBF. /joke

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technically you can pray without a quorum but certain ritual parts of the prayer need a quorum. The parallel to EA would be if you needed to read selected passages from The Most Good You Can Do with 10 people

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I propose a rule that for group of EAs to be maximally effective, there needs to be at least one person concerned with curing malaria, one person who cares about insects, one person who worries about x-risk, etc. (Cannot be the same person; for each category there needs to be one whose #1 concern is that category.) Only if all these people agree on something, we can assume that it is properly rational.

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That seems like a decent, if person-heavy, approach to solving the problem of bias and motivated reasoning by using viewpoint diversity.

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To what extent is it permissible for someone to, for ritual purposes, adopt the formal role of advocating for some area of concern which is not their genuine personal top priority?

I'm not expecting an immediate answer, that just seems like the kind of thing elaborate traditional restrictions would end up accumulating around if it worked.

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I guess, for ritual purposes, you should send $10 to the selected cause and try passing the ideological Turing test; that allows you to role-play the believer in the cause for 1 week after sending the money.

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the ritual should be required every time you want to spend over a million dollars.

Additionally, all EAs must take part in the ritual at least once a year but preferably 3 times a year.

If you don't have money to spend on an intervention, you must still preform the ritual. In these cases, one of the people involved must be primarily concerned with media so that they can communicate the proposed intervention to people with money.

If no one has media experience, a person whose concerned with memes will suffice.

The ritual is required, not just before spending money but also before instituting new rituals. The first ritual to be instituted via this method is the method itself.

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Ten percent is the traditional tithe going back at least centuries. Maybe millennia?

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I think that Scott and the author of the original article are talking about different parts of the elephant. Scott is saying "It is fine to adopt the aesthetics of a tradition without endorcing the rest, and it will probably work better too, its Lindy". I agree, I'm not a Christian but I very much enjoy the commercialized secularised version of Christmas celebrated in America. However I suspect the original article was objecting to over indexing on chesterton's fense that leaning on tradition can cause. Conservative arguments often take the form of "Doing X has worked for thousands of years, we shouldn't risk changing things now". In that case it is a very reasonable objection to say, "wait a minute, this tradition only goes back to the 70s. Why don't we try and figure out why they started doing this thing in the first place? Does it still make sense?"

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"I agree, I'm not a Christian but I very much enjoy the commercialized secularised version of Christmas celebrated in America."

And a lot of those traditions come by way of Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert, who brought with him Christmas traditions from Germany, and these getting adopted by the rich trendsetters and filtering down to the masses. The Queen is having a Christmas tree? We must have one!

Charles Dickens is interesting as well, because he really helped popularise the secular Christmas notion with "A Christmas Carol" and descriptions of English customs of the time, but not anything based on religion. The festive goose and plum pudding for the meal, the Fezziwig's Christmas party - these are secular celebrations of generosity, community and joyfulness.

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Catholics argue that the especially-British secular traditions were a way to stamp out the catholic traditions - that is, in 1200 or so there was no people-group more dedicated to the blessed virgin Mary than the English, and at some point this became problematic.

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My impression was that a lot of the overt conflict had died down by the 1700s, and by Victoria's time it was largely over?

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Yeah exactly. The point is that Dickens wasn't close in time to the origin of the secular English Christmas. It later adopted other elements (for instance from Germany), but it started as a top-down psyop.

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Some things were indeed repressed as being too Papist, but a lot of traditions managed to hang on as they could be repurposed to be secular, such as well-dressing and beating the bounds, and May poles.

Hallowe'en was more of an Irish and Scottish tradition, so it didn't get 'big' in England until the influence of American culture; the Brits had bonfire night in early November to be the fun start of winter festival, and that developed with bonfires and fireworks and the like.

Which is not to say that there weren't rural and regional English traditions, but unmoored from the patronage of the Church, they went their own way - like soul cakes and sin eaters:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_cake

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin-eater

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You could argue also that religion is so well established because of all-consuming terror for generations. Fear of hell, fear of the Saxons if you were a Slav in 1100. Atheist church won’t work without that. How to operationalize it tho…

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Many religions didn't/don't have a clear heaven and hell, or even a clear conception of the afterlife. Often, the dead are just visualised as wandering around in a shadowy spirit realm, vaguely wishing they were still alive.

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Many earlier religions seem to have been based on the fear of bad consequences in this life rather than the next. If you don't do the correct rituals and sacrifices then the gods will be angry and some great disaster will befall you.

Bret Deveraux keeps coming back to the theme that ancient people actually really did believe their religions https://acoup.blog/2019/10/25/collections-practical-polytheism-part-i-knowledge/

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...And those religions have failed to spread and survive.

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They survived tens of thousands of years into historical times.

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...When there was far less competition and opportunity for competition. Any new attempt at tradition/religion/culture will have to compete for influence with highly optimized modern-day religions.

And when even those religions are falling apart, what hope is there that anything can replace it? Society is fracturing, crumbling, its members only united in their estrangement. It needs something more powerful, something even more rooted in fear and hatred.

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Or alternatively, some new, categorically different thing against which fear and hatred are ineffective.

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Which ones? Hindus have hells, many forms of traditional Buddhism have hells, Egyptian paganism had a hell, Roman paganism had a hell, Norse paganism had the original Hel, Chinese folk religion had a hell...seems like hells come pretty standard.

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My understanding is that most ancient pagan religions of Europe people lived by a moral code more for the sake of their communities than for their immortal souls. Within the Greco-Roman religion you had the Elysian Fields, Hades, and Tartarus. The vast majority of people were destined for Hades, the legendary heroes, blessed by the gods, went to Elysium, and the really horrible people who offended the gods went to Tartarus. As I understand Norse paganism, all you had to do to to get to Valhalla with the gods was to die in battle and not be especially horrible.

By contrast, the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Ancient Egyptian have all had specific moral codes which affected your afterlife, and all but the last have kept going (and even Ancient Egyptian stuck around for quite a while).

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For the Norse Hel was the destination of those who died without honor, but within Hel was the hall Nastrond which is a place of punishment reserved for oath-breakers, perjurers, murderers, and adulterers. Note that "murderer" for the Norse meant someone who killed by sneaky means, like poison or stabbing someone in the back, or who killed someone straightforwardly but then tried to hide it instead of announcing his killing to the community so that the victim's family could seek a wergild compensation from the killer.

The gates of Nastrond are heavy, and those who pass in can never get out. The hall is woven from snakes, whose heads drip venom from the roof on those within Wolves tear the punished to pieces, and Nidhoggr chews up the corpses. The venom that falls collects and is deep enough that you have to wade through it.

Seems pretty hell like to me! The Norse may not have had as detailed organized a moral code as the Hindus and Jews, but they did very much have a code and one they expected would be enforced in the afterlife.

I am less personally familiar with the Tartarus and how much fear of it influenced Romans and Greeks, but what I do know is that all the dead go to Tartarus to be judged by Rhadamanthus, Aeacus, and Minos. Those whose crimes in life were not too bad would be punished in Tartarus until they were purified, at which point they could leave. Those whose crimes were really bad had to stay and be punished forever, like the famous Sisyphus and Tantalus. The "uncurable" crimes included murderer and those who steal from temples according to Plato, while manslaughterers or second degree murders who regretted their actions could leave after serving their sentence. Plato also wrote that soldiers who kill many, traitors, and those who sold their countryman into slavery would be punished for 1,000 years, while those who did good deeds would be rewarded for the same amount of time. Seems to me to be pretty hell like, with some purgatory thrown in.

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Fear of environmental catastrophe? Fear of the Wrong Person getting elected? Fear of ostracization?

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Roko's basilisk? 😆

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Maybe that would be better kept as an Inner Mystery, like Lord Xenu.

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#1 is similar to my theory of fashion trends.

Someone does something that is different from the norm but fills a practical need for them, if they are "cool" then other people copy them even though the practical need often doesn't apply to them. After a while people revert to practicality and wonder why they ever did it. Repeat.

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A successful secular tradition building was done in the Soviet Union, where people had to be offered an alternative to church-based rituals like weddings and funerals. These secular rituals are alive today: at least in the more secular post-Soviet societies* most folks get married and buried in secular settings. Church-marriages are perceived as more romantic though: many new couples claim that they consider marriage in church because it looks pretty, feels sacred, and also that's how they do it in the movies. However, they then learn to their disappointment that to get the church to do it they need to have themselves not only Christened but also attend a series of lectures about God and Jesus to reach Conformation (or what it's called). This is too much for many. The church ritual has good and bad sides and so far the secular one is a winner.

* We should abandon the term Post-Soviet as outdated: in these societies the generation that has no memories of the Soviet time has now reached middle age.

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> attempts to reinvent “church, but secular”

As an Italian (former) Catholic, I tend to get baffled by such things -- to most of us, going to church mostly felt like a chore¹, and many a teenager's journey to atheism started largely as a search for a pretext not to.

___

¹There was a church near my grandparents' that people would drive to from other parishes because the priest there would say Mass in only half an hour.

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As an Australian Catholic, precisely the same deal.

Maybe some American protestant churches have a "community", but I got dragged to church every week for my entire childhood, and we never talked to anybody apart from the compulsory "peace be with you/and also with you" to the neighbouring pews. Just keep your head down, sit through the service, and go home.

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As an Australian ex-Catholic that's an interesting comment. In my rural Queensland parish we were always pretty involved - I was an altar boy, dad sang, aunt played organ, we helped at all the functions and big event services, hung around chatting after services for up to an hour or so etc. Neither of my parents were intensely religious and both drifted into agnosticism later in life, and I declared atheism at around 16, but I still have faint ties to that community even 40 years later. The community was a much bigger deal than the religious aspect.

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Was there no coffee hour afterwards? Or children's programs, to occupy them while the adults did various things to help out the church? (Choi practice, altar guild, etc.) No social programs sponsored by the church, such that subgroups would be meeting up at various times over the week?

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I don't think it is possible to replace church with something secular. The fact is, that there just isn't anything else out there that will hold people together so strongly.

Here is the thing about church (or synagogue or mosque or temple or whatever). It is ALWAYS there for YOU. If you have a problem in your life, you can go there and there is a system setup to help you, and everyone cares. No matter what problem you have, you can go there and you will find people who believe it is their duty to be there for you.

I can't think how you would setup a system where people have that kind of devotion to each other, where you all get together, share stories of how your life is going, help each other and have a good reason to keep it going for decades on end. Oh, and if you leave town or country, you have an equivalent that you can just drop into and people already know what you are about and welcome you. Democrat, Republican, Capitalist, Communist? Doesn't matter, because you are part of our book club and are devoted with all your heart to the same thing we are, welcome!

As much as I wish something like the EA community could do the same, or that my local board-games club would organise for people to bring me food every night if there is a death in the family, it's just not going to happen.

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The food thing, at least, you might be able to get by asking.

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

> Oh, and if you leave town or country, you have an equivalent that you can just drop into and people already know what you are about and welcome you. Democrat, Republican, Capitalist, Communist? Doesn't matter, because you are part of our book club and are devoted with all your heart to the same thing we are, welcome!

I'm not sure to what degree the original line is is supposed to be serious or sarcastic, but yeah, fan conventions are very frequently *exactly* like this, whether they're themed around anime, gaming, horror, superheroes, Star Trek or other sci-fi, My Little Pony, or even BDSM.

https://www.noahpinion.blog/p/weebs?utm_source=post-banner&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=posts-open-in-app&triedRedirect=true

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

Oh yeah, I am not denying that there are loads of wonderful supporting social groups out there. But I guess in my mind your use of the term "fan convention" is kind of my point. Sure, there are times when they are there for you. But is it ALWAYS there for you? Any time of day or night? In your local area, where you can literally go to someone's door and knock and you will be let in? And you actually need to make no effort yourself? Just being you is enough?

Because, for example, I lost my faith during my adolescence many years ago now. But I KNOW that if I ever needed, I could go and knock on my old pastor's door and be invited in. And I could say that I don't believe in God anymore, and nothing he says could make me change my mind, but that I had no where else to turn and I really needed someone, and they would take care of me. And I just don't feel I would get that from anywhere else. But perhaps I am wrong, obviously I have a very specific perspective on this topic based on my upbringing. But I do think that it is not obvious how I could offer my children a similar resource that they could rely on 20, 30 years from now outside of a religious group.

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Hi Mallory!

I'm touched by your note. It sounds like you were raised in a good church. I'm curious, though, if this aspect of your former pastor's Christianity doesn't lend some truth to his worldview. I mean, my conversation from agnostic to believer was along similar lines. There's still plenty of church dogma I question/reject, but I couldn't deny that Jesus's morality is the greatest that humanity has ever considered. Whatever leads to the kind of saintliness you described, to me is true in a way that's higher than mere rationalism.

Kind regards,

DB

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Thanks David.

Well, I have obviously kept Jesus' morality. The idea of tithing and Jesus' instruction to "sell all your shit and give it to the poor" has led me to effective altruism and giving 10% of my income to those who need it most, and I believe very strongly in the core tenets of forgiveness, understanding and the importance of loving those who persecute you and praying for your enemies, which I try to carry out in my daily life.

But the simple fact is, I do not believe there is a god, and if there is, I do not believe that he sent his son to earth 2000 years ago to die because that was the only way to save humanity from an eternity of torment for some reason. And unfortunately that is pretty much what 90% of what the church wants to talk about. If that was 10%, and the other 90% was how can we help those less fortunate than ourselves, it would be a different story.

As to whether there needs to be higher power for that kind of "saintliness" to manifest, I would simply point out that there seems to me to be very little correlation. There are plenty of non christians who are extremely loving and altruistic. They clearly do not need Jesus to understand how to be moral.

And you don't need to look very far in America to find christians who do not believe in loving their enemies, and a fundamentally opposed to helping the poor and the needy. Where is their divine blessing of compassion? My personal belief is that anyone who doesn't give at least 10% of their wealth to help the poor has no right to say they follow the teaching of Jesus, although, again, that doesn't matter, as everyone gets to go to heaven as long as they believe in Jesus, no matter how poorly they treat their fellow humans while they are down here on earth.

No, for me what it really comes down to is that organised religion provides wonderful benefits from depriving you of your liberties. Creating the duty of regular life-long get togethers with like-minded people, with threat of eternal damnation for non-compliance creates extremely strong groups. I would love to setup a "church of EA" kind of like was mentioned in the top of the original post, but the fact is, people might come for a while and discuss things, but after some time they would have a conflict and find better ways to use their Sunday morning, and soon the group falls apart, and I can't see any way to avoid this. There is a reason that religions last so long, and philosophy clubs do not.

I am very glad I was raised Christian, I feel it has been very beneficial to my life, but I don't consider those benefits to be evidence of a divine being, but rather a interesting emergent property of the importance of faith and discipline.

Anyway, sorry if that was a bit of a downer. I am not trying to change any minds or project my perspective on others. This is just my thoughts on the matter.

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Hi Mallory!

Thanks for sharing your perspective! I don't think there's anything you said that I disagree with. I get frustrated by the same things that frustrate you... that many in the church lean on Paul's words about salvation by faith rather than trying to live out the parable of the sheep and the goats. And yes there are many many people outside of Christianity who are good altruistic people. No argument there.

I guess what I keep coming back to is something like Jefferson's take on Jesus. Where else do we find a call to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, give all that we have to the poor, judge not, cast not the stone, forgive those who are crucifying you, treat the least of us as if they were God Himself, become at-one with those abuse you, etc.? This calling is what strikes me as sacred, the most sacred thing I've found in this world.

So many Christians fixate on the crucifixion, resurrection, or virgin birth, but to me that misses the point. If someone told me about a miracle-worker, in, say, Thailand who was allegedly born of a virgin and rose from the dead, I don't think I'd give it more than a few minute's thought. It's the moral teaching that's the essence of Jesus. That's the thing that can't be faked... I mean, in the sense that the water-to-wine could be an illusionist's trick or just a made-up story. But "forgive my executioners... they have been torturing and killing me, cutting my ministry of love short, but they don't know what they're doing, and I don't want it held against them"... What is more agape than that? Where else would I go? These are the words of eternal life.

Kind regards,

David

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I do agree. I will admit I haven't seen the philosophy of Jesus really repeated anywhere else. I mean, EA obviously covers the idea of helping those less fortunate than yourself, you say, forgiveness, compassion and love are not part of EA's mandate.

I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that such a philosophy is extremely difficult to practice in reality. I think given Jesus was jewish I am entitled to invoke Godwin's Law to point out that Jesus' philosophy would have performed very poorly against the Nazis. Jesus never talks about when you need to take up arms to stop your persecutors. He would have loved and forgiven the SS officers all the way to gas chambers. While Jesus never advocated for armed resistance, I think he would have agreed with the Allies resistance in WW2. But I am not a biblical scholar, so I don't know what the consensus on this was.

While I do believe very strongly in the separation of church and state, it would be incredible if the US truly embraced the Christian doctrine, and saw their duty to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, see it as their duty to help the poor and heal the sick but also to defend the weak and persecuted. To me it is somewhat incredible that in a country with a >60% christian population, it is not official US government policy to eradicate poverty worldwide and to bring an end to malnutrition and illness not just in the US, but worldwide. Surely that is what Jesus would advocate for?

Anyway, this has been a great discussion David, thanks.

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I agree. One of my children had to go through major surgery. I mentioned it to one of our church elders who I don't even know the name of (they had done their usual after service "if you need prayer about something, one of our elders is at the front to talk to") and he asked me if we needy any help with childcare, or meals, or finances, or a place to stay near the hospital. Fortunately I didn't need anything like that because I have a lot of family resources, but if I didn't then the church was eager to help.

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