Evil, Socially Explained

Here is one of the most interesting public poll results I’ve seen in a long time.

President Trump called the mass killings in Las Vegas last week “an act of pure evil” when many of his opponents were trying to blame the guns involved instead. Americans strongly agree that there is evil in this world but tend to believe society, not the individual, is to blame.

It is from Rasmussen Reports, Most Recognize Evil But Question If Some Are Born That Way. Two things stand out.

First of all, this is a left-wing perspective on environmental and societal influences on the individual. Even mainstream liberals, specifically of the economically comfortable liberal class, don’t tend to be this forgiving of individuals. That is why leftists can be as critical of liberals as of conservatives, as the two share a common worldview of post-Enlightenment individualism (in their preference of the egoic theory of mind over the bundle theory of mind).

The other thing is the source itself. Rasmussen is known for having a conservative bias. And that is in the context that no major polling organization has a reputation of left-wing bias. In general, polling organizations tend to be mainstream in their biases, which is to say they are more or less in line with prevailing ideology and the dominant paradigm. One would not expect any mainstream poll in the United States to put the thumb on the scale toward a left-wing worldview.

This is further evidence of the American public shifting left, even as the establishment shifts right. This puts public opinion more in line with the social sciences, especially anthropology, the most left-leaning of the sciences.

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Rasmussen Deception About Unions

Here is a Rasmussen poll asking people if they think unions are bad for business:

39% Say Unions Bad for Business, 31% Say Good

I know Rasmussen has a conservative bias. I’m fine with that if their bias only influences their choice of topics and such, but I’m not fine with it when it leads to overt deception and manipulated data.

The title of this poll is designed to show more people think unions are bad than think they are good. The problem is that his is misleading at best. Another 21% says unions are neither good nor bad for business. To be accurate and honest, Rasmussen would have to state that the majority (61%) don’t think unions are bad for business, almost evenly split between unions being neutral or positive in their influence.

If you compare Rasmussen polling to other polling organizations (something I often do), you’ll notice their polling results tend to be biased toward the right. I’ve never analyzed why this is the case, but I’d assume that they intentionally or unintentionally bias their polling questions in that direction.

As such, considering the inherent bias to their polling, it is amazing that they end up with results that clearly show that the American public doesn’t support anti-union sentiments. Their obvious attempt to hide this fact just demonstrates how important this is.

It’s one thing for the public to hold an opinion, but it’s a whole other thing for the public to realize the position they hold is a majority position. Once people realize they are in the majority, they gain a sense of empowerment because they no longer feel disenfranchised. This is the greatest danger the conservative movement faces.

Rasmussen & Gallup: Dishonesty & Disinformation

Voters Want Growth, Not Income Redistribution
A Commentary By Michael Barone

“He cites a recent Gallup poll showing that while 82 percent of Americans think it’s extremely or very important to “grow and expand the economy” and 70 percent say it’s similarly important to “increase equality of opportunity for people to get ahead,” only 46 percent say it’s important to “reduce the income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor,” and 54 percent say this is only somewhat or not important.”

This Rasmussen article is a simple but clear example of bad reporting, possibly intentionally misleading. Looking at the Gallup report, let me break it down:

First, reducing the income and wealth gap isn’t the same thing as redistributing wealth. The point is that the wealth was already redistributed which is why such a large and growing gap exists in the first place.

Second, it’s easy to manipulate the numbers. Why didn’t it get reported according to all Americans who support reducing the gap to some degree? 72% of Americans support it and only 28% are against it. This is either blatant dishonesty, propaganda even, or the person who wrote this is lacking in basic mental capacity.

Third, there is also the data about how many Americans support equalizing opportunity. The vast majority of Americans support this. This confirms the second point in that the gap of wealth can’t be reduced without reducing the gap of opportunity. The issue of redistributing wealth doesn’t even come up.

In addition, the Gallup report shares data on a related point. They put forth the following:

“Do you think the fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor . . . represents a problem that needs to be fixed or is an acceptable part of our economic system?”

The Gallup people are masters of propaganda. This is such a blatantly loaded question. Of course, there has always been poor people and rich people. Even in countries where wealth is spread very evenly, some people are relatively more poor and other relatively more rich. The issue isn’t the existence of a wealth gap per se, rather the existence of a large and growing wealth gap. I know the people working at Gallup know the difference. Their dishonesty is mind-blowing and heart-breaking.

I get so frustrated by this kind of thing. Instead of reporting on public opinion, Rasmussen and Gallup seeks to manipulate public opinion. I know Rasmussen has a conservative bias and apparently Gallup as well, but there is a big difference between a bias and outright dishonesty. Bias can be forgiven. Dishonesty, however, disqualifies an organization from being treated with respect. This makes all information from such an organization to be so untrustworthy as to be nearly worthless, except as being a comparison with more trustworthy sources.

O’Reilly Pontificates on Atheists and Christmas

I have e-mail notification for O’Reilly and Beck.  I don’t usually pay much attention to what they say, but I like to check out what their opinionating sometimes.

Here is O’Reilly’s most recent article which was posted on his website just today.  O’Reilly doesn’t like atheists.  No big surprise there.  The only reason I’ve posted this is simply to share an example of how religiosity (or rather conservative religiosity) is often paired with a lack of knowledge about one’s religion.

Have Yourself A Godless Little Christmas By Bill O’Reilly

Once again we are in the Christmas season, and the coal-in-your-stocking crowd is back at it. This year the American Humanist Association is putting up bus ads in selected cities that say, “No god? No problem! Be good for goodness sake.” The picture accompanying the text shows a group of young people wearing Santa hats. Ho, ho, ho.

A second front was launched by the virulently anti-God group “Freedom from Religion.” It is celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with ads that say, “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.”

Nice.

The question is, why bother?

Why does O’Reilly bother?  Why do Christians bother?  Why does anyone bother?

Why spend money at Christmas time to spread dubious will among men?

Why criticize (undubiously criticize?) others goodwill among men?

The reason, I believe, is that the atheists are jealous of the Yuletide season.

I truly doubt he honestly believes that.  Why make such inanely disingenuous statements?

While Christians have Jesus and Jews have the prophets, non-believers have Bill Maher.

Nope.  Non-believers have a long history of great thinkers who questioned conventional religious beliefs, and in it’s place sought a higher or more genuine goodness.  Some of the most brilliant minds of philosophy and even religion (such as many mystics) denied all limited notions of divinity and truth.  The history of atheism and skepticism goes back to the very beginning of Western thought.

There are no atheist Christmas carols, no pagan displays of largesse like Santa Claus.

I’m not sure about carols, but I have no doubt that there are plenty of songs out there written about atheism.  Just go to Youtube and I’m sure you’ll find more atheist songs and parody carols to entertain you through the entire holiday season.  Someone could be a pagan all the while being atheistic or agnostic about the fundamentalist Christian God or the Monotheist God in general.  Many pagans are spiritual without declaring any specific theist beliefs.  Anyways, how does the pagan origins of Christmas support the goodness of the Christian tradition?

In fact, for the non-believer, Christmas is just a day off, a time to consider that Mardi Gras is less than two months away.

Many people are just culturally Christian.  They don’t necessarily believe nor do they necessarily dis-believe.  They just enjoy Christmas either because it’s fun or they have good memories of it or they like to visit with friends and family.  The tradition of Christmas has been secularized largely anyways, and Christians don’t have sole ownership of Christmas as it originally was a pagan holiday.

But there is a serious side to this, and the American “humanists” should listen up. Christmas is a joyous time for children; that’s the big upside of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Actually, I’m willing to bet that if you asked children the reason Christmas is a joyous time is because of the presents… and the general festivity of it all.

Why, then, do people who want to “be good” spend money denigrating a beautiful day?

Why do righteous Fundies want to denigrate the entirety of the religion of Christianity with their bigoted and hateful beliefs every day of the year?

Could it be that the humanists are not really interested in good at all? Maybe.

Could it be that the righteous Fundies are not really interested in good at all? Maybe… or at least no one’s good but their own.

The head humanist guy, Roy Speckhardt, says the anti-God signs are worthy because they send a message that atheists shouldn’t be vilified as immoral. Well, old Roy needs to wise up. The signs actually create resentment and hostility toward atheists. Here’s a bulletin: Many parents don’t want their children to see bus signs proclaiming that God is a big hoax. That message may be constitutionally protected, but it is not going to engender much goodwill among believers.

Well, old Bill needs to wise up… and quit being a wise ass.  People like O’Reilly create resentment and hostility towards theists (and in the world in general).  Many parents don’t want many things.  The free speech of loud-mouthed pundits may be constitutionally protected, but their virulent ranting is not going to engender much goodwill among non-believers and open minded believers alike.

Of course, Roy Speckhardt knows that, and he is being disingenuous with the “just looking out for atheists” posture. What many non-believers enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace theology. I guess that makes some atheists feel better, because there is no other reason to run down Christmas. It is a happy day for most human beings.

 Of course, Bill O’Reilly knows that, and he is being disengenuous with the “just looking out for theists” posture.  What many believing pundits enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace intelligent thought.  I guess that makes some theists feel better, because there is no other reason to run down people advocating morality that applies equally to all people and not just Fundamentalist Christians.  It is a happy day for most human beings… until the Fundies get their panties in a bunch.

The latest Rasmussen poll on the season says that 72% of Americans like saying “Merry Christmas,” while just 22% prefer the greeting “happy holidays.” So the evidence suggests that, despite the ACLU, atheist groups, and a politically correct media, Christmas is actually gaining in relevance and, perhaps, reverence.

I just love how pundits like O’Reilly can take data out of context, misinterpret it, and come to an exaggerated conclusion.  I’m sure people have many different reasons for preferring the phrase “Merry Christmas”, but I’m absolutely certain that those 72% of Americans aren’t all Fundamentalist Christians.  People say and do all kinds of things simply because that is what they’ve always said and done.  People like traditions, but most people don’t worry about what a tradition means or if it means anything at all.  So the evidence suggests, depite O’Reilly, Fundamentalist Christians, and a politically biased Fox News, Christmas is a holiday that many believers and non-believers enjoy because it’s fun and not because of anyone’s righteous ideology.

Most folks know a good thing when they see it, and the converse is true as well.

Yes, most folks know a good thing when they see it, and that is why the Fundamentalist Christians of the far religious right represent a minute fraction of a percentage of believers in the world.  Most folks just want to be good people without shoving their religious beliefs into the faces of other people.  Christmas is about goodwill.  Christmas isn’t about attacking non-believers.

 That’s why they know these anti-God signs at Christmas time are dumb and unnecessary. Isn’t that right, Virginia?

It’s rather ironic that his last comment is the most dumb and it concludes an entire piece that is unnecessary.  Preach to the choir if it makes you happy, but don’t pretend you’re making an intellgent argument.  I’d love to see Bill O’Reilly post this to some discussion forums that were atheist, agnostic, non-fundamentalist and inter-faith.  This nonsense would be ripped to shreds the moment it was posted.

By the way, if Bill O’Reilly wants to argue that Christians are morally better than atheists, then he probably shouldn’t use a smug and snarky tone of self-righteousness in delivering that claim.  I don’t know about the specific groups he mentions, but most atheists and agnostics don’t claim to be morally superior to everyone who believes differently.  Yes, there are some atheists who are as bigotedly annoying as O’Reilly.  But, no, these atheists don’t represent all or even most non-believers. 

Most people who argue for an inherent goodness within human beings (rather than original sin) believe this potential exists in everyone and not just non-believers.  That is the difference.  The fundamentalist Christian, as O’Reilly demonstrates here, can only make their argument by attacking and dismissing the views of others.  If goodness was inherent to every person rather than being something bestowed upon us by a church tradition or dogma, then it would be absolutely true that “no God” would mean “no problem”.  Considering that only a small percentage of the world’s population believes in the Fundamentalist Christian God (and considering that even within that small percentage there is much strident disagreement), the apocalypse would already be upon us if goodness was dependent on our believing in such a “God”.

In conclusion, if someone wants to argue for goodwill, then they should try to express goodwill in the argument itself.  Otherwise, they come off as a hypocrite… as O’Reilly sounds in this diatribe.  Furthermore, if O’Reilly genuinely believes in goodwill, then he might want to stop his inciting violent people with phrases such as “Tiller the baby killer”.  Just a suggestion…

Happy Holidays!