Religion is Much Worse than a Sham
By Wayne Dunn
Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's controversial characterization of organized religion as a "sham" is both imprecise and an understatement. It would be like calling communism "inefficient," a serial killer "naughty," or public schools "troubled."
Religion, organized or not, is worse than a sham--it is evil.
To those for whom life is the standard of value, religion represents an outright assault on life and on values. A person can sustain life only by acting in accordance with reality. To do so he must use his mind, his faculty of reason. Religion teaches that man is innately depraved and, therefore, that his mind is impotent. Man's proper course, religion declares, is to renounce "this world" in favor of an alternate, supernatural world, accessible only by death. I can think of nothing more evil than a system that assaults reality, degrades man, assails reason, enshrines faith, and exalts death.
The results of religious faith can be measured by studying Medieval Europe or modern Iran. The history of religion is one of gloom, oppression, squalor, and stagnation. For centuries men had faith aplenty, but it did not generate one watt of electricity, produce one vaccine, build one automobile, fax one message, or free one mind. Only by applying reason have individuals accomplished such feats.
Bill Gates and Charity
by Wayne Dunn
Bill Gates recently announced that he will be donating a huge portion of his immense wealth to various charities.
I have no problem with charity; one can do as one pleases with one's own money. However, I think Gates mischaracterized the nature of his generosity by stating that it was his way of "giving something back." What has he ever taken from anyone that he should give back? The U.S. Justice Department and a pack of state governments are the ones trying to take something--from Bill Gates.
Gates' "crime" is that his company is continually innovating and aggressively marketing its software, thereby angering jealous competitors. People are buying Microsoft products, and yes, this is causing Gates to make tons of money. However, his enormous personal wealth is a pittance when compared to the incalculable benefits the rest of us continually receive because of the computer revolution that Gates helped spawn. Every time someone purchases a Microsoft product it is he who is "giving something back" to Bill Gates--- and that is as it should be.
Elian's Freedom Trumps His Dad's Desires
by Wayne Dunn
If a father wanted his child to live with him in prison --regardless of his genuine love, or the pleas of the other inmates and warden--people wouldn't stand for it. Yet some Americans, in the name of "family values," think Elian Gonzalez should be handed over to a father who's confined to an island prison called Cuba. It is grievous, they concede, that Elian's dad lives in a dictatorship, but a parent, they conclude, has a right to his own child.
The notion that biological relations trump individual rights doesn't promote values but, in fact, obliterates them. To value something, anything, you must first be alive. Your life, therefore, is a primary value to you; the political right commensurate with that value is: your right to life.
If you don't have the right to your own life, if your livelihood is subject to the arbitrary dictates of a tyrant like Castro, of what long-term value is it to be with a family member who's in the same boat? Elian's mother apparently understood that and died trying to free herself and her son.
If Elian stays in America, he will have the right to his own life; if he goes to Cuba, he will not. No amount of fatherly love justifies shipping a child off to a slave state where the master commands--and kills--as he pleases. Elian should have what his father never had and can't give him--freedom.
How tragically ironic if the nation founded on individual rights were to, under the banners of "family values," "parental rights," or "international justice," surrender Elian to a system of injustice that doesn't recognize his right even to his primary value--his own life.
[Elian was subsequently forcibly removed from his Miami relatives' home and sent back to Cuba.]
McCain's Views Antithetical to American Ideals
By Wayne Dunn
[Former] GOP Presidential candidate John McCain boasts that his campaign has "inspired young Americans to get involved in causes greater than their self-interest." Regardless of his supporters' actual motivations, the underlying premise evident in McCain's characterization is this: You are nobler for subordinating your self-interest to some "higher" goal.
This perverse but widely held view, that self-interest should play second fiddle to "loftier" objectives, is itself antithetical to the original American ideals.
America wasn't founded on the premise that the individual should set aside his self-interest for the sake of some "greater" good. The Founding Fathers didn't consider their struggle against the British to be a "higher" cause that trumped individual interests. Quite the contrary, each Founder knew that it was precisely to his own self-interest to live in a country where individual rights are cherished and protected. It was the British oppressors, not the Founding Fathers, who tried to rally support by touting a "higher" cause--i.e., don't be selfish, serve the King. And, earlier in the colonies, it was the Puritan leaders who buttressed their rule by lauding a "greater" good--i.e., don't be selfish, serve God.
America was the first nation in history to be based explicitly on the idea that the individual is an independent agent whose life and livelihood are free from the arbitrary dictates of the state, church, and other men. America was grounded in individual rights. And individual rights, like all rational values, are selfish--selfish in the literal sense of the term. There is no such thing as a "selfless" right to life, an "altruistic" right to liberty or a "disinterested" pursuit of happiness.
Perhaps someday America will have a presidential hopeful who actually champions genuine individual rights. Then, instead of being like Senator McCain who praises his supporters' selfless devotion to a supposedly greater cause, such a statesman could rightly proclaim the exact opposite: "A vote for me is a vote for your own self-interest."
The Businessmen who Attacked Microsoft were Wrong
By Wayne Dunn
The federal judge's ruling against Microsoft is a travesty of justice, made possible by the subjective and contradictory antitrust laws.
Given the nature of those laws, it is unsurprising that a business as aggressive and profitable as Microsoft would eventually find itself in the government's cross hairs. But if there's one thing worse than a government that targets a company, it's businessmen who help the government target a company. Microsoft earned a place in the market that unworthy competitors could not earn for themselves, so they resorted to using the government to "earn" it for them--by helping the Justice Department beat up on Microsoft.
Perhaps someday businessmen will wise up and realize that the greatest threat to business is not competition or even monopolies, but government involvement in economic affairs.
Selfish Entrepreneurs Made America Great
By Wayne Dunn
The author of a recent letter appearing in The Tennessean, a daily statewide paper, wrote that anyone who supports tax cuts is "selfish." That sentiment, it seems, is shared by many. Although the writer intended to insult, freedom-lovers should feel complimented.
You see, America was actually founded on a selfish idea: the idea that an individual has the right to his own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
America, the most generous nation in history, is a fountain of prosperity because here individuals are most free to advance their own interests. And it's the pursuers of self-interest, not the purveyors of self-sacrifice, who create the wealth that the sacrifice crowd is so eager to redistribute.
Suppose for a moment that "helping others" is your standard of morality. Even by that standard, who, then, is more virtuous---the bureaucrat who demands free medicine, or the businessman who develops the medicine? The activist who distributes canned goods, or the businesswoman who built the canned goods factory? And who's more "greedy," the guy who wishes to keep what he earns, or the "do-gooder" who wants to spend what others earn? Yet we are taught to coo at charity and boo the profit-motive, to cheer self-sacrifice and sneer at self-interest. Yet one Thomas Edison selfishly following his own dreams has incidentally done more to help the poor than a legion of Mother Teresas could do in a hundred lifetimes of selfless charity.
It is only because, and to the degree, that people are left free to think and act---to selfishly invent, build, produce, achieve, invest, and yes, benefit from their own actions--that mankind has advanced. Thank goodness for Americans who are selfish.
"Playing God" Saves Lives
By Wayne Dunn
A mother and father in Britain want God, not doctors, to decide the fate of their infant daughters. The twins, known to the public only as Jodie and Mary, were born conjoined at the abdomen. If this were not tragic enough, Mary was born without a heart and lungs, and lives parasitically off her sister's body. Both girls will die within months unless they are separated. However, since Mary is missing vital organs, making her own survival impossible, doctors can save only Jodie.
The parents, who are devout Catholics, object to the operation because it will kill the weaker twin. Doctors, they say, should not usurp God's role of determining who lives and dies. In other words, the couple prefers to let nature take its course. But it was nature's course that caused this mess in the first place. Unless doctors do play God, both girls are doomed.
The case was taken to the British High Court, which subsequently ruled that the twins should be separated against the parents' wishes. On September 22nd, an appeals court consisting of a three-judge panel unanimously upheld the High Court's ruling.
Unsurprisingly, various Christian leaders oppose the court's decision and have chimed in in favor of nature--that is, in favor of letting the twins die rather than separating them to save Jodie. The Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, was quoted in Reuters as saying, "...it [the court's ruling] amounts to the direct killing of an innocent person [Mary].'' Similarly, the director of The Christian Institute, Calin Hart, concluded, "It can never be right for doctors to kill one person to benefit another." If context-dropping were an Olympic event, these two religionists would get gold medals! In the name of ethics, they would rather that both twins die than have doctors rescue the only twin whose life is salvageable. This is just one more example of the moral bankruptcy of religion.
The British court correctly recognizes that Jodie's right to life trumps her parents' religious convictions. And while it is also true that Mary has a right to life, that right does not include destroying another person. Her rights end where her sister's organs begin.
"Playing God," i.e. interfering with nature's course, is precisely what humans do in order to survive. Scientists have mapped the human genome, cloned animals and created artificial organs. And if developments in these areas continue, eventually doctors playing God may be able to prevent twin embryos from conjoining in the first place, or else make surgical separation completely survivable. And in the case of these conjoined twins, doctors should not be prevented from "playing God" and saving Jodie.
[The parents did not appeal the court's ruling, and the twins were separated in November 2000. Mary, of course, died and Jodie's situation is delicate.]
You vs "Our Children"
By Wayne Dunn
"It's for our children!" When you hear that chant, you had better watch your wallet. Not a day passes without some politician or pressure grouper shrieking that something or other supposedly either hurts or helps "our children." By just mentioning children, the speaker seeks to insulate himself and his issue from critical evaluation. After all, who wants to oppose "the children"?
But don't fall for it. It's simply a ploy to separate you from your dollars. Apparently, to the children-chanters, the fact that you earned your money means nothing. To them, the parents who support their own kids are not doing enough---they must sacrifice for their neighbors' kids as well. In the name of "our children," they would tax you out of your last dime and insult you for wanting to keep it.
It's time people oppose the sacrifice-mongers who try to use emotions as weapons of extortion, who use children as compassion-fodder in a war against the wallet--and against liberty.
There is no such entity as "our children." Human beings are not a collective herd with common offspring; your kids are your responsibility and mine are mine. If you willingly help a person in need, that's compassion; if you have no choice in the matter, that's compulsion. But you do have this choice: don't support anyone--politician or otherwise--who regards your earnings as their property. Otherwise today's children will become tomorrow's adults only to find they are living in a country in which previous generations mortgaged liberty for some half-baked notion of compassion.
Children are relatively defenseless. So if you care about them, then you should be opposed to the government making life burdensome for those upon whom children depend: Adults.
To Judge or Not to Judge?
By Wayne Dunn
"Who are you to judge what's right or wrong?"
Most of us have heard one version or another of that question, which is usually uttered with a note of indignation.
Notice what the questioner doesn't ask: "How did you arrive at your conclusions?" or "What criteria did you apply?". He's not so much challenging one's opinions or ideas as he is the concept of judgment as such. Passing judgment, we have been taught, is wrong. Therefore most people think they stand on the moral high ground by opposing "being judgmental."
But everyone judges, and, in fact, can't escape it. (Though they can escape being conscious of it).
To illustrate, I'll share how I once answered the "Who are you to judge?" question. I first asked, "So you think I'm making a mistake by having such a definite opinion that something can be either right or wrong, huh?" He nodded and I continued, "Then you're saying, in essence, that it's your definite opinion that having a definite opinion is wrong--and it's your definite opinion that not having a definite opinion is right. Therefore, you judge it as right to judge as wrong those whom you judge to be judgmental."
He understood my point.
"To judge" means "to evaluate." A person survives only by--and to the degree--that his or her evaluations are objectively right, which means: are in accordance with the facts of reality. Therefore evaluation---judgment---is a requirement for living. So instead of trying to avoid passing judgments, one should learn how to judge-- learn exactly the rational criteria to apply--in order to make good decisions instead of bad ones.
So the question is not, "Who are you to judge?," but rather "Who are you not to judge?"
Vitriol from the Vatican
by Wayne Dunn
The Pope hates the best the West has to offer. That much he made clear in a message released to world leaders two weeks before the Roman Catholic Church's so-called World Day of Peace, which is on January 1.
The Pontiff urged people of non-Western cultures to reject the Western lifestyle, which he derided for contributing to "spiritual and moral impoverishment." What exactly does he mean by this? Well, he means that Westerners, instead of being focused on suffering and self-sacrifice, are focused on pursuing happiness and earning money, i.e., on creating the material prosperity Western culture now enjoys. And since the Church's ideas about morality and spirituality are divorced from "material concerns," since they are literally "out of this world," since they are based on man's ideal state being that of a disembodied spirit, there is little wonder then why the Pope laments the implications of the West's enormous prosperity, prosperity that was undreamed of when the Church's influence waxed only a few hundred years ago.
No Papal criticism of the West would be complete without taking a swipe at science and technology. In his message he warned of the West's "monopoly" on the "cultural industries" of instantaneous worldwide communications. These industries, he cautioned, have the capacity to diminish cultural distinctiveness. What exactly does he mean by this? First, notice the collectivist premise implicit in the Pontiff's pontifications. He thinks of media companies as cultural industries--as if Time Warner and AT&T, for example, are owned by the entire Western culture and not by individual shareholders. But a business does not spring mature in the garden of any random "culture." The seed of a company first germinates as an idea in the mind of an individual, and can grow only in the soil of freedom, can blossom only in a cultural greenhouse that nurtures individual rights. But the Pope apparently regards the businesses that comprise these industries as belonging to Western culture as a whole. His premise is consistent with the Christian notion that all property belongs to God and, by proxy, to all of mankind.
And what about his charge of the West having a "monopoly" on communications technology? Well, if such a monopoly exists, it is by default and not by Western coercion. In other words, it is not because we in the West prohibit people of other cultures from forming competing companies. The CEOs of CNN and Fox News are not the ones preventing a self-interested citizen of Afghanistan or North Korea from starting his own media outlet. Ask yourself who or what is preventing him from doing so. The Western governments of the US and Canada, for example, are not prohibiting some aspiring Jordanian or Rwandan entrepreneur from publishing a magazine or launching a commercial communications satellite. Ask yourself who or what is preventing her from doing so. The Pope is not merely way off base on this issue--he is on another planet reading Marx.
"Slavish conformity," charged the Pontiff, is what the West inculcates in any culture it touches. This is caused, he explained, by "powerful media campaigns" aimed at promulgating Western views. What exactly does he mean by this? He means that when non-Western people are exposed to Western culture via, say, advertising, news and movies, they are so impressed and amazed by the enormous bounty the West offers that they gladly dump their culture for ours. Can you blame them? Which is more inspiring--a society in which women are burned alive if they produce daughters but not sons? Or one in which a woman is free to study to become a doctor? Should the woman in the first example fret about preserving her culture's "distinctiveness"? Or should she run from it like hell? And which world is more desirable? One that has supermarkets with fully stocked shelves? Or one with three-hour-waits in bread lines? Is it "slavish conformity" to want freedom, to emulate what works and repudiate what doesn't?
So if the Pope wants us to believe that the Church does not approve of slavish conformity, then perhaps it approves of the opposite; are we to presume, then, that the Church now promotes rebellious individuality? Well, not quite. In his message, the Vicar of Christ bemoaned the West's "secularism," which leads, he warned, to "radical individualism." What exactly does he mean by this? He means that the Westerner is not obligated to lead the pious life of suffering and self-sacrifice that religion trumpets, but instead is free to pursue his own interests and desires. The Westerner is free to be a "radical individualist" rather than an obedient robot. On the surface it may appear as if the Pope contradicted himself by attacking both conformity and individualism? But that isn't the case. He is opposed to anyone conforming to a system that fosters individualism.
Material prosperity does not and can not exist in a vacuum. Wealth must be created. And only free people with free minds are able to create it. Freedom means the right to commerce in both products and ideas--including the freedom to air one's commercials, to print and distribute one's magazines, to sell one's goods, to promulgate one's viewpoints. Whenever an African, Indian, Russian, or Middle Easterner chances across a Cosmopolitan magazine or a Western commerical, and envies our prosperity, it is not merely Ralph Lauren clothes or a Honda Accord he desires--it is the freedom that those things represent, the freedom without which such goods would not be possible. And the Pope, on some level, understands this.
He fears that other cultures will embrace the best value the West has to offer--the value that's breath shattered the yoke of the Church some 500 years ago and ushered in the Renaissance-- the value that all religions are predisposed to hate: the freedom of the individual. If other cultures "conform" to the West--i.e., if they adopt freedom and individual rights--then the Church loses in the long run. It loses actual and potential religious serfs to "secularism" and the accompanying "radical individualism." But if non-Western societies maintain their "cultural distinctiveness" --i.e., if they reject freedom, and the free-markets that attend it--then they will remain poverty-stricken, right-less, helpless and hungry, sheep ready for a shepherd--or a wolf. But material impoverishment the Pope can accept. He has at his disposal packs of pious wolves in shepherd's clothing---battalions of bread-hander-outers, powdered-milk-distributors and fevered-forehead-swabbers ---that he is happy to send abroad to "ease the plight of the suffering" and "spread the gospel" of self-sacrifice. It is not material but so-called spiritual and moral impoverishment that concerns the Pope. And since religion defines morality and spirituality only in terms of faithful obedience, selfless giving and humble servitude, is there any question, then, why the Pontiff denounced a Western culture that promotes the exact opposite, a system of (relative) freedom, reason and self-interest and the material abundance such a system necessarily effects?
The Bishop of Rome understands what most of America's religious conservatives do not: that Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with capitalism. Self-sacrifice and material renunciation are the main ingredients in religion's recipe for morality, while individual rights and capitalism are not even on the list. Hence the Pope's principled (although totally irrational) condemnation of the West.
Acorns, Ashcroft, and Abortion
by Wayne Dunn
Imagine that you contracted a landscaper to plant oak saplings, but where you wanted trees, he buried acorns. You then noticed the motto printed on the company's truck, which explains it all: "Right-to-Grow Landscaping. To us, every acorn is an unsprouted sapling."
The conceptual distinction between an acorn and an oak tree is obvious, but when it comes to the abortion issue, recently revitalized by the John Ashcroft nomination, religious conservatives fail to distinguish the equally obvious difference between a fetus and a person. An "unborn baby," they say, sports the same right to life as we out-wombers. Therefore one who has or performs an abortion, they insist, commits murder. Let's examine that for a moment.
If they had to pick between either suffering a miscarriage or having their 10-year-old die, the parents who really believe that a fetus is a person would have to regard that choice as a moral toss-up. Clearly, even most anti-abortionists are rational enough to recognize the profound difference between their actual child and their potential one, and would act accordingly.
Now, if we were to outlaw abortion on the grounds that having one is murder, what do we do, then, with the woman found guilty of "killing" her "baby"? Do we treat her consistent with how we currently treat (actual) child-killers--by imprisonment and perhaps execution? No? Well, one can't have it both ways. One can't say, on the one hand, that abortion is murder, and then, on the other hand, say that any woman who "murders" should merely be "pitied," "shown love," and "counseled," as I've heard some cornered religionists sputter.
It is as much an absurdity to regard a fetus as an "unborn baby" as it would be to regard a baby as an "ungrown teen," a teen as an "undecrepit elder," or a senior citizen as an "undead corpse." A potentiality is not an actuality, and if human life is important then actual humans matter more than potential ones. This isn't an issue of conflicting rights. A woman has a right to her life and a fetus has no rights whatsoever.
As Attorney General, John Ashcroft will likely violate fewer individual rights than Janet Reno did. He insists he will enforce abortion laws, and, given the Republican combination of respect for the law and worship of compromise, I think he will. But I have to wonder about someone who equates abortion to murder, yet leaps at the chance to enforce laws he regards as murderous.
Blackouts: The Roosting Chickens of Environmentalism
by Wayne Dunn
The environmentalists' chickens are coming home to roost and, appropriately enough, the lights are out. That dark roosting place is Northern California, where state regulators recently imposed rolling blackouts that have periodically left many private residences, businesses, hospitals and schools temporarily without electrical power.
The hue and cry is that the power shortage was created by deregulation of the energy market. Capitalism, claim the media and environmentalist groups, is to blame. More regulation, those same voices insist, is the solution.
In reality, the reverse is true. Even with the minor reconfiguration (not the complete reversal) of a couple of California's regulatory statutes in 1996, energy remains one of the most highly regulated industries in America--and therefore is the only industry where supply increasingly fails to meet demand. Why? Because environmental crusaders have spent the past 30 years influencing ignorant, unprincipled or gullible politicians to pass new laws and create new agencies that affect everything from oil, to natural gas, to nuclear power, to electricity. The net result is that manacles have effectively been slapped around the ankles of power suppliers, creating a huge disincentive for them to construct any new (and what certainly would be more energy efficient) power plants. Daniel Dix, the deputy director of the California Energy Commision, admits that "Of the last five certificates we awarded [to build power plants], four were challenged by the Environmental Protection Agency."
When faced with having to negotiate a maze of existing environmental regulations, the state control of almost every aspect of their business, and the threat of unending litigation brought by such groups as the Sierra Club or Friends of the Earth, most energy entrepreneurs have just said no to new power plant projects. And the environmentalists, who put the earth first and people last, are content with this.
Hopefully, Americans will identify California's rolling blackouts for what they are: real-life, concrete consequences of state-imposed, anti-free-market environmentalist policies. Only by first accurately identifying the cause of these manmade energy woes can we then begin to implement an effective solution: smack down the environmentalists and unshackle the energy producers.
Creationism Amounts to Nothing
by Wayne Dunn
The Kansas Board of Education properly reversed an 18-month-old decision and will again allow the teaching of evolution in their public school science classes. Religious fundamentalists are, of course, against this, their latest favorite argument being that evolutionary theory is flawed and therefore not "good science." We all know how dedicated to good science fundamentalists are, right?
In fact, religious mystics are the historical enemies of science and reason. In practically ever step of mankind's progress, they tried to scare people by fearfully pointing toward the sky. They were originally against the world being round, the Earth revolving around the sun, cities, machines, factories, inoculations, anesthesia and birth control.
When a man of reason asserts, "There is a cause for this effect," the nearest religionist bleats, "Of course there is: God." But that answer amounts to nothing, advances knowledge not one iota. Believing that a God created the universe no more increases knowledge than believing that a committee of gods or a purple unicorn did. How would any such assertion help man, say, discover a mathematical principle? Or launch a space shuttle? Or cure a mutating (i.e., evolving) virus? There is never any reason to "jump" outside the universe in the search for answers.
So what "answer," what "theory" do religious fundamentalists propound in evolution's stead? The notion that the universe was crafted by a supernatural entity over the course of a week some ten thousand years ago.
That's their idea of good science?