Archive for January, 2016

Response to AnCap vs. the World

January 21, 2016

Over at AnCap vs. the World, Nick Martinez responds to my article pointing of the flaws in anarcho-capitalism. He took the time to write down his thoughts, so I’ll do my best to address his rebuttal. I genuinely enjoy being challenged with new ideas, and having incorrect ideas corrected.

The author proposes that I don’t understand what AnCap is all about. I propose that it is he that doesn’t understand what AnCap is all about. The joke in conservative circles is: “Liberals can read the Communist Manifesto; conservatives understand the Communist Manifesto”. Perhaps he sees himself as some sort of all-seeing eye. So in presenting my understanding of AnCap and where it diverges from Conservatism, he can clarify where I am wrong.

To wit:

  • The fundamental aspect of AnCap is the idea that the initiation of force is morally wrong.
  • This leads to the conclusion that all governments, which universally use force to impose their will upon the people, are morally wrong.
  • AnCap philosophists propose eliminating the state altogether, and replacing it with responsible individuals who make their own choices for themselves, living the best they know how.
  • However, individuals, acting alone, cannot, on their own, combat organized evil. Thus, a wise individual will selfishly choose to associate himself with like-minded individuals and stand in their defense against others who initiate force. This association will be codified perhaps with some form of agreement.
  • The fact that everyone will not agree to one organization is no problem, since similar organizations will likely cooperate together, forming a loose federation of sorts.
  • Thus, we can, without the initiation of force, replace governments with new pseudo-governments that are really federations of individuals built on mutual respect and non-aggression. We can have moral “governments” that are not really governments at all.

I think up to here, AnCap philosophist are nodding their heads in agreement. Let me continue the story, which has been repeated thousands of times in history, and is being repeated here today in our own country.

  • Over time, the pseudo-governments gain trust and respect in their respective communities. With trust and respect comes power.
  • Some people, who do not believe in or act according to non-aggression, may find themselves in positions of power in these organizations, and thus pervert their power and begin initiating aggression. In fact, I predict such evil people will seek such positions of power.
  • While in most cases, other pseudo-governments and individuals may work together to combat the corruption, they will not be able to completely eradicate all corruption. That is, suppose in the year 2115, we successfully dismantle a rogue pseudo-government. That does not preclude another rogue pseudo-government in 2116, nor does it predict that the people will always be able to overthrow or dismantle such corruptions.
  • And now we’re back to where we were, coming full-circle. No longer are all pseudo-governments honest and virtuous. Some of them are not, and they begin using the initiation of force once again to get their way, and since they are strong and powerful, they are difficult to contain and combat.
  • Next thing you know, you have a neo-Hitler who stands up, telling the people, “Give me all your power, and I will give you unending happiness” and we all know what happens next!

Don’t get me wrong: I agree with AnCap philosophists that the initiation of force is wrong. I agree that governments should not have a different set of morality than regular people. I absolutely agree that all governments (even the US!) are corrupt, evil, tyrannies that we would frankly be better off without!

In fact, in my religion, I look forward to the day when Jesus Christ rules the earth in perfect justice and compassion, without any moral contradictions, when evil simply no longer exists. Not because of government, but because people simply act like angels should. I believe the government that Jesus Christ will set up will be built on voluntary associations rather than the initiation of force. In other words, if you want out of the world-wide Jesus Christ government, you simply have to ask and you’re out. In fact, I believe that after the millennial peace, people will ask to leave and will be obliged, and they will form their own government of evil and there will be the last battle of all battles in mortality, between those who choose to be part of Jesus Christ’s government and those who do not want to and would prefer not living according to the principles of non-aggression.

This is where AnCap and conservatism diverge: I do not believe that it is useful to spend time thinking much of how things would be if people simply acted like angels. The reason is because people don’t act like angels. We are better off seeing each other as demons wearing angelic clothing, and we should think hard about what kinds of chains we should all wear together.

In short, the problem of Hitler was not Hitler! There are always Hitlers among us, and we should each see a little of Hitler in ourselves. The problem of Hitler was people being blind to the fact that there were Hitlers. They thought that someone who preached peace and love and oh-by-the-way-tyranny could be trusted. No one can be trusted, not even myself. I don’t even trust myself, if you’re wondering. It’s when we misplace our trust and respect and give it to governments that is the heart of evil and what allows governments to get away with so much.

We should, instead, view governments as entirely evil, perhaps necessary, much as martial arts and handguns, but evil nonetheless, an evil that maybe the world would be better off without. And in that context, we should ask, “What should be done now?”

Sure, let’s set AnCap as the future, as a utopic possibility. But it’s such a faraway place that it has little bearing on what we do today. Maybe AnCap is doing one thing good: it’s explaining to people how we don’t need to use force and how our governments are corrupt, so that is a good thing.

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Our Best Days Are Not Behind Us

January 21, 2016

At the end of Carter’s term, America was in an emotional depression. We thought the world was ending, that America had a good run, but all good things must end. Here at the end of Obama’s second term, it seems we’re feeling the same feeling.

America, your best days are not behind you. They are right in front of you. All you have to do is choose to seize it.

I’m going to list reasons why I have great hope for the future. Perhaps you can add some of your own to the list.

  1. Thanks to the internet, conservatives have a voice. Liberal ideology is quite literally on the run, and you can tell by the increasingly irrational behavior of them. A good example of this is the backlash against feminism that is Gamergate. A group of boys and men who wanted nothing to do with politics suddenly find they have a voice and they are not scared of militant feminism, and are beginning to embrace their manhood.
  2. Thanks to the internet, we’re looking at a future when education is literally freely available to all. The only thing that keeps one from being educated nowadays is a lack of motivation. One day, we’re going to realize that all the money that government spends on education is simply unnecessary. That last bastion of socialism in our society will fall because it will become irrelevant.
  3. Liberalism spreads in fear — fear of the economy, fear of the future, fear of the enemy, fear of the “other” — rich or immigrants or whatever. Conservatism spreads with hope, hope that people, when given freedom, will choose to live rightly, and hope things will get better as long as we keep working at it. We are looking at a future where there are simply no enemies in sight, save comparatively small groups of terrorists. War with China is becoming increasingly unlikely. Russia is a minor player on the world stage, and all of their shenanigans don’t add up to much. When I was growing up, we were always thinking about the upcoming Russian and Chinese invasion. Movies like Red Dawn spoke to my generation. Today, movies like that are just plain silly. The biggest threat people fear now is the Zombie Apocalypse. When we have to turn to fantasy to find something to fear, it shows how far we have come since our founding.
  4. Although Atheists are proclaiming victory, the truth is Americans and people worldwide are rediscovering religion. The history of the world shows that things like that run in cycles. People are just as likely to move closer to religion as away, and no victory in either side is permanent. Recently, I had an experience where I realized that in my office room of 4-5 engineers, all of them were deeply devout in their own religion.
  5. Jobs are disappearing, that is true, but new opportunities are arising. For instance, YouTube is home to several hundred if not thousand successful videographers. Uber is quietly employing all of the out-of-work people who are on the margins of the economy, and they are making good money that can support their family in their communities. The only thing standing between our current state and even more employment and production is government regulation and people’s limited imagination.

America will succeed, and continue to succeed, as long as there are Americans who look to God, themselves, their families and communities before reaching out to big government. Government has no power that the people themselves do not have. It is a false god, one that promises everything but delivers less than nothing, meaning, it makes things worse rather than even maintaining the status quo. The thing about false gods, though, is people stop worshiping them.

Add you hopes for the future below.

Muhammad is the Last Prophet? A Mormon’s View

January 8, 2016

I’m continuing my series of investigation into Islam as a mormon. I think before continuing, I should describe my understanding that Islam, like Christianity or Buddhism, is a big religion with a very large number of believers. As such, one particular person’s beliefs are not representative of any other persons, although many people might share similar beliefs within Islam.

A kind reader directed me to this document on the web: http://www.understanding-islam.org.uk/images/stories/pdf/islam_a_comprehensive_introduction.pdf It is entitled “Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction” and the author is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. This is obviously a translation into English and the translator is Shehzad Saleem.

I should note that the intent I believe is honest and true. The author and the translator both admit to the possibility of human error on their part and others, and their intent to achieve understanding through critical examination. This is what I consider a pure motive and honorable in God’s eyes.

The first paragraph reads:

Religion is the guidance which was first inspired by the Almighty in human nature and after that it was given by Him with all essential details to mankind through His prophets. Muhammad (sws) is the last of these prophets. Consequently, it is now he alone who in this world is the sole source of religion. It is only through him that man can receive divine guidance and it is only he who,through his words, deeds or tacit approvals, has the authority to regard something as part of Islam until the Day of Judgement.
The first sentence is a basic belief shared by mormons. In fact, when missionaries meet with investigators (those who want to learn more about our church), the first thing we explain is that God wants to teach us about Him and so he sends prophets. The only point of disagreement I can possibly find is that God does not reveal everything to man, not even all essential things. (Indeed, can anything God does be considered inessential? Does he waste effort or time?) He instead teaches “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”. In other words, he teaches us the same way any teacher teaches anything — bit by bit, carefully laying  foundation before attempting to build the tower. While our church claims to have the “fulness of the gospel”, we certainly do not claim to have all knowledge about religion, even all the essential bits. In fact, we look forward to future revelations and more understanding.

The second and subsequent sentences I find disagreeable and logically inconsistent. It seems Islam is predicated on believing that God has changed, that former prophets were imperfect or incomplete, but Muhammad was complete and perfect. Yes, if there is any hierarchy at all, there must be one above another, and one that judges them all, second only to God, but if God is to be an impartial God, he would not send prophets to ancient mankind and then decide never to send more.

Even Christians struggle with this idea. They suppose that Jesus was the last prophet, to borrow the terminology here, and that there can be none after. But here, the Bible clearly disagrees with that idea, teaching and showing that after Jesus there would be more prophets. Indeed, in Amos 3:7 it reads, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.” This echoes a sentiment found throughout the Bible of God not acting to destroy or bless a people without first sending prophets or messengers. For instance, God sent Jonah to warn Ninevah. He could not destroy them without first warning them, and having been warned, they repented. If God intends to destroy us, he must first send prophets to warn us, in our language, in our day.

Indeed, as the document begins, it mentions how imperfect our understanding of perfection is. Can a man describe God or his religion through intellect and study alone? Of course not. If we are to learn about these things, it must either be through God himself (making us a prophet) or through a prophet who communicates directly with Him.

Now, God cannot contradict Himself. Indeed, that would make Him a liar, which God cannot be. So we must know what God has already said on a subject through his prophets, and if any suppose they are a prophet, then we would expect that his words would conform. But here, too, we are prone to error. Wasn’t it the Jews who were blessed with God’s word but rejected the living prophets in their own day? Such a people would fain live in the age of dead prophets, but not in the age of living prophets. We are human like the Jews, and so we are prone to the same error. We can be just as stubborn as they were, at the same time imagining ourselves as paragons of virtue and humility.

What would a prophet teach? I think the first thing a prophet should teach, if all man is alike in the eyes of God, and we are all truly equal, is that others can be prophets too. The famous story of Moses saying “I would that all could be prophets” is relevant here. A prophet, having connected with God, should thus teach mankind how they can connect with God too. Indeed, isn’t that the purpose of prayer, to express your mind and will to God so that he can express his to you? If you connect to God, can you then not also hear the voice of God and be commanded to do right just as the prophet was? And wouldn’t those words be just as sacred as any other?

If Islam is defined by the religion that Muhammad taught, then it can be nothing else, and no prophet can ever change it, and indeed, Muhammad is the last (and really, only) prophet of that religion. What a limited religion that would be though, because it would demand ignoring all the other times that God has spoken, the times he will speak, and the words he is speaking today! Such a religion would be dead the moment Muhammad died, unchangeable until Muhammad rises from the dead and speaks again. I suppose some people believe that Islam or religion should be limited in this way, just like there are those who believe that once Christ died and was resurrected and ascended to heaven, he would never, ever have anything to say. To these people, though, Christ was not resurrected, anymore than a stone statue is alive. In essence, rather than worship a living, breathing, speaking God, they worship a God limited to the words in the Bible. Is this the religion that muslims truly believe in?

This idea of idolatry is more relevant today than most realize. Sure, we do not worship stone and wooden idols, considering them to have power to heal or to bless or curse and destroy. Our idols are not made of wood or stone. They are often made of words in a book. Rather than worship the living God, we worship the words in a book, setting them higher than the inspiration God gives to all mankind. We suppose that words in a book, dead and unchanging, are somehow capable of intelligence and life. It is foolish to think this. At best, those words can only represent ideas, and those ideas can be from a Divine source. Even those ideas, however, are not worthy of worship. An idea, expressed in wood or stone as a statue, or in a book as words, is just an idea. An idea is limited by the imagination of the thinker. God is not limited to anything, and his ideas far surpass our own. I think mistake number one most religious people make is to try and limit God, and this is a common way of doing that.

Since I cannot accept the teaching that Muhammad is the only prophet, or rather, the last prophet, I cannot be considered muslim or a follower of Islam if that is the prerequisite. However, just because I do not consider Muhammad the last prophet does not mean I must reject him as a prophet. Indeed, even if he weren’t a prophet, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I felt inspired to study Islam and so I shall continue. I expect to find more truth. In the words of the 13th Article of Faith, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, we seek after those things” and I have already found Islam and the followers of Islam to contain virtue, loveliness, and to be of good report.

Marriage Levels

January 5, 2016

An interesting article at Touchstone reminds me of what marriage means to a Christian. (link)

I want to add a few words.

I suppose you can list various “levels” of marriage.

Level 0 would be no sexual relations, no marriage, no commitment whatsoever. No children, no responsibility as well. This is the default level that every man shares with every woman.

Level 1 would be sexual relations, without any form of commitment. Sometimes the woman bears a child, but if she does, then the man is not there to help in any form whatsoever. In this scenario, the woman bears a tremendous burden, one that if she can’t fulfill (and the chances are low), society will surely have to support. If not, then bad things happen, namely, children are raised improperly and grow up to be delinquents.

Level 2 would be what I could call “civil” marriage. The man and woman commit to each other but only in body. They take responsibilities for their kids but do not give absolute fidelity to one another or their offspring. While the chances of their children growing up into a healthy adult increases significantly over Level 1, it is still not optimal.

Level 3 would be what I could call “religious” marriage. The man and woman not only commit to each other physically, but in every other imaginable way as well. This is the Christian ideal of marriage. Not only do you save your body for your spouse, but you save your heart and soul as well. Just as Christ laid down his life for the church, the husband sacrifices everything for his family. And just as the church serves Christ, the wife should serve the husband. I can’t imagine any higher form of marriage than this.

Since people chance, relationships change, too. A Level 0 relationship can turn into a Level 1 or a Level 2 relationship. Relationships need not progress through each other. You can go from a Level 0 directly to a Level 3 relationship. It’s also possible for there to be asymmetry. Perhaps the woman is not as committed as she could be, and so she is living a Level 2 while the man is living the Level 3.

The point is that there is a good-better-best, even among the good.

The other point is also that we, as a society, as individuals, as parents, must teach that the only worthy form of marriage is the Level 3 marriage: complete fidelity in every aspect of one’s life. You simply cannot compare people who can only sacrifice a part of their life for their family with those who give it all up for their family.

There is no higher ideal than the ideal of Christian marriage. There is no greater good than the good that can be accomplished in the home. It should be the goal of every man, woman and child everywhere. Any goal less than that is a lesser goal which will achieve lesser good. It is, in fact, a choice for evil, since it would replace the greatest good with something else.

I saw a clip from Sean Hannity where a man lectures a woman about what will make her happiest: Being a mom at home with a loving husband, and dedicating her life to her family rather than her career. She gets really upset and bitter about this, I guess because he had the audacity to voice such a simple truth. Her hatred became clear at that point. Meanwhile, he was relaxed and happy. She said something like, “Why would I want to come home to you?” and he responded, “Don’t come home to me. I’m already taken. Go find someone hunkier than me, someone who you want more than anything else in this world.” He demonstrated by his attitude that he knew what he was talking about. His life revolved around his wife and his two-year-old daughter, and that gave him meaning and purpose and joy.

Folks, it really is this simple. Find a spouse. Dedicate everything to him or her. Raise a family. Make it the #1 priority. You will be happy. It is guaranteed. It is when we fail to achieve this ideal that we find sorrow. No one regrets giving their life to their family.