It works like the lottery, basically

If people really understood how vanishingly, impossibly small their chances of winning the lottery are, nobody would play. But they do: year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation. Human beings are just no damn good at thinking probabilistically – it’s a fact.

For my money, a startling amount of chavismo’s appeal rests on the same mechanism: on this illusion that you too can win the Chávez lottery. Stick by him long enough and he will personally step in and save you somehow. As a governing strategy, it’s utterly unworkable, but if you’re able to maintain the illusion, it can help sustain the mass’s acquiescence. And they know that. And they prey on that.

The decision to take in 26 flood-hit families to live in Miraflores is a perfect case in point. Tens of thousands of others will be left to fend for themselves, finding new housing God-only-knows-how. But taking in those 26 families fuels the sense that, one day, it’ll be my turn, it feeds the hope that Chávez will one day step in personally and make it all better for me, and the intimate conviction that he would if only he knew how much I need it.

It’s nonsense. But it works. And it sustains him.

Chávez has spent considerable resources keeping the illusion alive. It’s why people are still, 12 years on, more likely to blame his ministers and bureaucrats for their problems than the president himself. It’s why his Twitter feed is such a vail of tears. It’s why people who are well aware chavismo is corrupt still vote for Chávez.

They’re not voting for an ideology, or a movement, let alone a governing program: they’re buying a lottery ticket.

Of course, some academics contend that buying a lottery ticket isn’t really irrational at all, because what people are paying for is the right to day-dream about winning. The day-dream, presumably, has some positive value – as a diversion, I suppose, from an unbearable here-and-now. Value that day-dream high enough and buying a lottery ticket comes to look like a reasonable proposition.

It may be that, in voting for Chávez, people express a particular kind of jaded nihilism. “Nobody’s going to solve my real problems,” the thought goes, “so I might as well stick by the guy who at least keeps alive the fantasy of deus-ex-machina salvation.”

Faced with competing offers neither of which you believe, why not?

91 thoughts on “It works like the lottery, basically

  1. Dear Quico:

    Good post. Will God will protect us if we believe hard enough? Well… the statistics are warped by survival. History is written by survivors. For example, God stood firm with Isaiah even as “thousands languished and fell beside him, and tens of thousands around him perished “. For all those thousands – mostly prophets of God – one or two survived, and one could even write. He made no mention of what the rest thought about God, but only 0.01% of them survived to tell how wonderful was his protection (or in this case Chávez) . That man owned the media.

    Stalin famously noted that “One death is tragedy; a thousand deaths is a statistic”. So if you save a few and make a publuic fuss, you can kill 10,000 without much press coverage. ….Well, at least for 50 years or so…

    Cheerfully,

    Deedle

    ps.
    I love your new blog-site. It even talks to my graphite Mac running OS 9.1.

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  2. Quico, I agree with you, but you are only seeing one side of the coin here. There is the anti-lottery side for the opposition, who pray everyday that Chavez will not call their number with the “EXPROPIESE!” cry.

    Most of the opposition have the illusion that Chavez will never touch what they own, and they keep quiet while he takes over the businesses or farms or whatever others own, hoping and praying that if they keep quiet and with a low profile Chavez will leave them alone.

    Its crazy but with one side praying that he comes and the other side praying that he stays away, Chavez just runs around doing whatever he pleases.

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  3. Way to go Quico! Way to turn what most reasonable people would deem to be a
    “good thing”… That a nation’s president is willing to personally sacrifice to help people in need in a way that is unheard of among most national leaders… and turn it into a “bad thing”!!

    And the notion that you have to be “personally” helped by Chavez to benefit from his government (poverty has been halved, need I remind you?) is pure lunacy. On top of that, the notion that people support Chavez because of this illusion that someday he will “personally” help them just shows how severely disconnected you are with the normal folk in Venezuela that support Chavez. You haven’t the slightest connection to those people do you Quico??

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    • Do you?
      Imagine a company of 10000 people and imagine the HR apprentice and the engineers in R&D, the manager of any one division and the cleaning ladies of every single unit had to write to the CEO just in the hope that they get the salary that they deserve or the security or the vacation time or whatever.
      Imagine now not a company but imagine a nation of 30 million people.

      You have no bloody contact with real people. If you had, you would see how public hospitals are crumbling down, how people are only given pills and more pills by “doctors” who are not doctors but some sort of “medicine technicians”.

      Venezuela, even if the regime is manipulating all kinds of statistics, is lagging behind more and more in Latin America.
      If you care to look at the position on the human development index for America, you will see that since 1998 Venezuela has been passed by Panama, Mexico and Peru…even if the average price for the oil barrel went from 12 dollars in 1998 and under $20 in the previous 8 years to over $80 now.

      Chávez and his boliburgueses are criminals, they are criminals who one day will be behind bars. They can talk so much rubbish about how they represent the poor when in reality they have been stealing more than the most disgusting adeco…which is to say a lot.

      You are the one who has no bloody connection with Venezuelans.

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    • I think that you are totally NOT reasonable. Tell me exactly what Chávez, as you put it, “is willing to personally sacrifice to help people in need in a way that is unheard of among most national leaders”? It’s the GOVERNMENT or PDVsA who will be funding the bill for this latest ridiculousness. Oh, and if you really don’t believe that most of chavistas truly expect him to personally intercede for them, then just check out his Twitter account. You’re such a tool.

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    • Interesting response NicaCat. Let me see if I get this correct:

      1. Taking multiple families into your place of residence, or place of work, requires no personal sacrifice.

      2. Providing shelter and basic necessities for flood victims can be characterized as “ridiculousness.”

      3. Your only connection to average Venezuelans is through Chavez’ twitter account.

      This must be a joke, because I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a blatantly ludicrous comment on any blog anywhere. And you’re calling me a tool?? Ha!

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    • InOtherWords,

      It depends on what your place of work is. Hugo the Small won’t ever sacrifice any of his comfort. He talks a lot and that impresses useful idiots, but it does not change things. He will very likely be very very far away from the pueblo. He has enough with El Pueblo, which means himself. Why doesn’t Hugo send people to La Chavera? Why is it so hermetically closed?
      Why did Hugo the Small not send his children to public schools like most Venezuelans do? Why don’t Boliburgueses do it?

      And again: how dysfunction is a country that the caudillo – as we have no president but a military caudillo – is supposed to deal with telling Tared or Ajuá through Twitter from time to time that someelse else is asking for a job, for medicine, for anything? And mind: those are the people who have access to twitter and know how to use twitter.

      Oh, yeah, you are so close to the people (not The People, i.e. Chávez) that you know how well they use twitter. Will Hugo the Small be able to answer to the millions of Venezuelans who get crappy health service, who get crappy education?

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    • Wow! You are so totally incorrect. You obviously didn’t really read what I wrote, did you? And I guess you would recognize “blatantly ludicrous comments”, since that’s all you seem to write.

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    • Whether Chavez is a nice guy, or a not-so-nice guy, I believe has nothing to do with the argument. Whether you like him or not, or whether or not I or you or whoever is or not in touch with the venezuelan reality. All this is bull.

      You are missing the point. And, in that way, actually making francisco’s.

      While Falcon State is diluted away, a state which has nearly a million inhabitants, 26 families are moving to miraflores… and that is supposed to comfort me?!

      BTW: are you telling me that chavez chambers are so big that could actually fit 26 families in there?! or that there is so much empty room in the offices?! one way or another, 26 families is a lot of people and it just doesn’t fit. Either the guy is currently living like an arab sheikh, or nobody is working in miraflores, or they are building a new palace…

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    • I personally love how InOtherWords did not reply to Kepler’s comment. That says a lot more than his/her usual tirades of idiocy.

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  4. Here’s a question: where are these people staying? Inside the Palace itself? Has the Palace been modified to accommodate these folks? And if it has, isn’t this a violation of a norm somewhere about historical buildings?

    I bring this up because I read somewhere (Simon Romero’s piece?) that Chavez had suggested modifying the Consejo de Ministros room to transform them into apartments.

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    • Virtually everywhere in the world, in times such as these, various public facilities are converted into temporary shelters. Schools, stadiums, bus terminals, etc., all provide sufficient covered floor space and have sanitary facilities for large numbers of people. Municipalities have contingency plans for this, and (in modern countries) the regional and federal governments have emergency supplies (food, water, sanitary supplies, cots, blankets, etc.) stored. In this manner, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dislocated people can be temporarily sheltered and cared for until the emergency has passed.

      So, with all the resources of a national government to work with, the best Chavez can do is help a few tens of families by allowing them to stay in the basement of Miraflores, in what is clearly nothing more than a public relations ploy.

      It is just pathetic…

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  5. Explaining the seemingly paradoxical predicament that Venezuelans are forced to endure is not interesting to me anymore. What interests me now is how long it can last!

    Nevermind the irrational electorate. How about the stark economic reality on the ground? An airplane can only fly so long on fumes!

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  6. will hugo abide by his own rules? you can’t evict tennants so how will they be able to live there forever? Landlords won’t rent to families with children or babies because the government will not allow them to evict them for nonpayment, damage, etc.

    since these families have children will they protest when it is time for them to leave? Will they be able to stay there forever?

    what about my baby? where will I go? what is the government going to give me?

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    • They will also be the first ones to get the next tranche of free housing. (Given how few houses get built, they may be the ONLY ones to receive that benefit.) These folks really DID win the lottery.

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  7. Actually, people do win the lottery, else why would anyone (including me) pony up their dollars? Regardless of the odds against it, the dream of winning the lottery is not a 100% pipe dream.
    That said, those 26 families won their “lottery” so good for them, but the fact remains that it’s nothing more than a PR stunt and it’s only the (paid) kool-aid crew that will trumpet this act as yet another fine example of the munificence of ‘el lider’.
    It might be interesting to keep track of those families over time to see how they end up, once this little dog and pony show loses traction.

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  8. chavez is probably going to use the floods as a justification to expropriate many more properties, and come out like a saint, rather than a mediocre leader that did help not prepare the nation for anything like this (on the contrary, made the nation less prepared). Like a true populist he will make it seem like he’s frantically helping during emergencies, instead of having done what’s right in preventing them, or making them less severe. tens of families out of tens of thousands in the presidential building; talk about emblematic of bad planning!

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  9. Autocracy for Dummies. From the beginning of time to XXI Century “Socialism”. This was old when Job was a kid:

    Suck up hard enough. Maybe He will notice and favor you someday…

    Lay low and say nothing harsh. Maybe He will NOT notice and not disgrace you…

    If only He knew of my sufferings…

    Wish it were nihilism. Honest nihilism and honest cynicism will disbelieve everything and work alone. Dishonest nihilism will disbelieve privately and play the system for what it is worth. I am sure that were we Venezuelans cynics, or rather skeptics, honest or dishonest, Venezuela would be a thousand million times better off right now. If I am not sickened, it’s because I believe the PR stunt will not have the desired effect now, and Socialism is well on the way of making skeptics and maybe cynics (in a good sense) of Venezuelans.

    And of course, there’s the dummies, and there are the Gustavo Cisneros’s, the Diosdado Cabello’s, the Fernandez Barruecos’s, the Arne Chacon’s et al. These are pros.

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  10. Hola, Francisco. Tu punto es completamente cierto: Chavéz representa la esperanza para un pueblo que no tiene ninguna esperanza racional. Sin embargo, fallas al no darte cuenta que el mismo fenómeno ocurre en la acera del frente: Sacar a Chavéz, por los medios que sea, para poner a quién sea parece ser la solución de todos los problemas; haciendo a la administración roja rojita responsable de todos los males de la sociedad venezolana, lo cual es completamente falso e irracional. El factor común es lo que nos lleva a una carrera política completamente insana de lado y lado, que trata poco o nada los asuntos urgentes de la nación y verdaderas fuentes de nuestras miserias.

    Es una pena que no escribas todo esto en castellano, así llegaría a mas personas en casa, donde tenemos que resolver nuestro problema.

    Saludos,

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    • And you are right. The Roja Rojita Era is just all that Venezuela can be… when our worst habits and our most outrageous beliefs are taken to logical extremes.

      Taking Chavez out because we have to and it’s the solution to all our problems… is just as bad as keeping him there because… and more likely conducive to Hugo forever.

      A departure from what we have done and believed that was completely out of target in the past is necessary, if we want to get our sorry situation as a country. Chavez and XXI Century Socialism and autocracy are not causes, they are symptoms.

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  11. Francisco,

    I think the lottery analogy is how we got to the current point. Starting from the October elections, in which it became clear that power does not lie with “el pueblo”, I would say that a better analogy is that the entire nation is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

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  12. I think more than the lottery mentality it comes down to class warfare and plain old envy. It’s not so much that individuals believe they will receive some kind of windfall. It’s that they enjoy Chavez sticking it to the rich.

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  13. Chavismo uses the exact same techniques that religions use to subdue and control people: creating illusion (if you are a good Christian/Muslim/Jew, you go to heaven; if you are a good chavista we will give you free stuff…eventually, and we will not harass you like we do with oligarchs and squalid people), manipulating (if you don’t believe, you are never going to get the benefit, so you better believe!), intimidation (God will punish you if you misbehave; Chavez will annihilate all squalids, you better convert to chavismo), an so on… it is primitive, but it works. Besides, do you know how many people still believe that God made humans from clay? You’d be surprised…

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    • So all of us who believe in God and practice a religion are “primitive” just like chavistas?

      Stay classy, virtok!

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    • Así que tu crees que los chavistas son “primitivos”… Madre de Dios!, por eso estamos como estamos. Pués a lo mejor tu te consideras muy avanzado, pero te apuesto que ninguna de tus contribuciones a la humanidad no han sido ni lejanamente comparables a las de unos cuantos científicos creyentes. La cosa es que la gente no siempre actúa con las misma racionalidad en todos los aspectos de su vida. Particularmente hay tres campos en los que la irracionalidad tiende a dominar: relaciones amorosas, religion y, como no, politica. En la politica venzolana la racionalidad brilla por su ausencia, por eso tenemos a brillantes Doctores e ingenieros aplaudiendo y siguiendo consejos de analfabetos como Manuel Rosales o Freddie Bernal.

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    • Juan, I agree. Calling all Chavistas primitive won’t bring us further.
      One of the problems is to define what a “Chavista” is.
      Is it Aristóbulo and Britto García and the comandantes in every region?
      Or are you going to say Yubilinda Pacheco from Quíbor is a primitive?
      Well, I tell you: many a María de los Ángeles Giuseppi Aristigueta, with “studies abroad” and very very oppo is just as “primitive”…she is just on another side.

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  14. Ehem… well, it is a long discussion, but I am afraid that those of you who practice religion are indeed falling for those tricks. Yes, the tricks are primitive and as old as there are history records. I believe I did not go as far as to call all chavistas (or you for believing in God) primitive. Having read your intelligent opinions about many subjects, I suspect that you do not believe all of what’s in the Bible (I am assuming you are Christian, I hope I am not offending you again). I think believing in God and following a religion are two different subjects, somehow related, but different. In any event, my intention was not to offend anybody, but to raise a point about mass manipulation and subduing by both religious and political leaders.

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    • Sorry virtok but if you don’t intend to offend anybody you ought not to write massively offensive comments!

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  15. Wait a minute Quico, you are being sarcastic here, right? You don’t really believe that calling current religions (which have been around for thousands of years) primitive is offensive to anyone, or that by saying that religions use manipulation and intimidation tools to convince followers I am saying anything new or even controversial, do you? If I am not wrong, you have said this before…and probably got in a lot of trouble for it! I am sure you don’t think calling chavismo primitive is offensive since you, in a subtle way, just did in your post. You also use the word “massively” which seems out of place here…. hmmmm

    I got it! You are messing up with J.C.!

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    • Whatever your judgment about the merit of the statements, you have to be catastrophically naive not to realize they’ll offend people, chamo!

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    • I stand with Virtok here, although I’d rephrase it thusly: the tools that chavismo uses are not that dissimilar to those used by religion, in as much as they appeal to our most basic needs to understand the world and are meant to eschew critical thinking. In that regard, the tools themselves are primitive whereas the people are not. I wouldn’t say that JC or anyone else is primitive unless I see them actually being a dim-witted, brain-dead oaf.

      Offensive as those words may be, they are not false. I sincerely doubt that JC or any other Christians here actually believe word for word what’s in the bible… they don’t believe in magical solutions even though their belief in a deity might give them some comfort.

      That’s precisely what makes fundamentalists so worrisome even for liberal believers: They are idealists, incapable of accepting nuance, be it out of fear, resentment, ignorance or what have you. Exactly the same goes for chavistas: the more recalcitrant they are, the more worrisome and dangerous. A liberal leftist will accept the need for an intelligently regulated free market (cf. Quico) and a reasonable right-winger will recognize the need for some state regulation as long as it is not suffocating (cf. JC).

      As I see it, the whole “lottery ticket” way of treating Chavismo is not dissimilar to those going to Lourdes: most will feel better for a while, others will see some mild economic malady, illness or disease go in natural recession and others will remain with their severed limbs or with their ruined ranchos. And still… the miracle maker, be it the virgin Mary or the almighty Comandante Presidente will continue to be considered beyond any criticism or debate.

      I guess that what I’m saying is that Chavismo seriously needs a Reformation… for everyone’s sake.

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  16. Well, it seems I am…catastrophically naive. I will give you that what I said can be considered controversial, but I sustain it should not offend anybody. The fact that modern religions have been around for so long is a statement of how effective those “techniques” (to call them somehow) are. Spirituality is a human characteristic. Religions are spiritual traditions created by humans to fulfill a need, a societal spiritual collective need. One of the great manipulative tools used by those humans that created religions and have managed to preserve intact for centuries is the concept of sacrilege. In other words, thou shalt not question religion, just believe and obey. The fact that you are so offended (I still have troubles figuring why) or consider the really mild comments that I made offensive fall perfectly within the manipulative strategy of religions. If you dare to criticize the obvious, you will be ostracised.

    I just want to finish this by saying, again, that my intention was not to offend religious people, but to make an analogy of the psychological manipulative tools that most religions use (except for Buddhism, perhaps) which have been incredible effective over centuries despite being ancient (and therefore primitive) and the tools that Chavez uses to subdue and control the population. That’s really all I wanted to do.

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    • Virtok,

      You are not incorrect… but you are still out of line.

      I once offended our hosts for much the same reason. When it was pointed out that I had offended, at first I was defensive. However, when I thought about it, I realized that I was in “their space” and should respect “their sensitivities”. So, I apologized and have made sure not to to repeat the offense.

      Note: You will find Daniel’s Daniel Duquenal’s blog more open to your opinions on this matter.

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    • Ojo, I substantively agree with much of what you had to write. The issue here isn’t whether you’re right or wrong, the issue is that you’re making the kind of argument that can be expected to send conversation veering wildly off-target and pissing people off in the process.

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    • My better instincts tell me to shut up and simply not intervene in this discussion any more, but there is so much bunk being parroted that I’m going to chime in.

      Virtok, I’m going to respond piece by piece to your ludicrous, mistaken, and ultimately offensive statement, taking just the last one:

      “Religions are spiritual traditions created by humans to fulfill a need, a societal spiritual collective need.”

      That’s where you and I disagree. You are stating this as if it were fact. My belief is that, when Jesus said to Peter “on this rock I will build my Church ” (I’m paraphrasing), religion becomes much more than something “created by humans.” It is something created by God himself, administered by humans with God’s guidance. When the Holy Spirit descends on that house where the Apostles have gathered and they go out and start speaking in tongues, modern proselytism begins – you can say that was the first Comments forum – and, notice, it does so with the direct intervention of God himself.

      I know, I know, all this sounds like a fairy tale to you. And that’s basically what you’re saying, that a central belief of mine is a fairy tale, one which you state as if it were fact. And on that we simply can’t agree. I believe in something, and you think I’m an idiot. So fuck you I guess.

      Next:

      “One of the great manipulative tools used by those humans that created religions and have managed to preserve intact for centuries is the concept of sacrilege. In other words, thou shalt not question religion, just believe and obey.”

      That is not what sacrilege is. Sacrilege is a violation of a religious object. For example, for Catholics, when one goes to Communion in full knowledge that one is not in a state of grace, that is considered a sacrilege. What you erroneously call a sacrilege is nothing more than a blasphemy.

      But even there you’re wrong because, you see, Catholics question their religion all the time. Nowhere does it say that you have to accept every single of tenets of Catholicism. There are plenty of issues outside of the very clear dogmas of the Church where Catholics can and do disagree. Case in point: the death penalty. Saying that religion means “just believe and obey” is not only wrong, it is a malicious, uninformed, ultimately banal reduction of something many people hold very dear and, in fact, constitutes a central part of their lives.

      So fuck you again.

      “The fact that you are so offended (I still have troubles figuring why) or consider the really mild comments that I made offensive fall perfectly within the manipulative strategy of religions. If you dare to criticize the obvious, you will be ostracised.”

      First off, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority in this comments board, as most of our high-brow readers share your particular disdain for religion. I’m cool with that, seriously. Hell, I married an avowed atheist, so I’m used to being treated as an uninformed nincompoop. So don’t play the victim here, ok? Nobody is ostracizing you.

      Now, when you say that my offense proves religion is manipulative, you are being tautological. Let me put it this way: you probably love your mother, right? If I say that your mother is a fucking whore, and you get offended, would you like it if I responded by saying “I don’t know why you’re offended by me stating the obvious fact that your mother is a fucking whore. It just proves that your mother was a manipulative whore and manipulated you into simply not questioning her whoreness.”

      Your original comment – which, by the way, you repeat again and again – was not simply a discussion of religion. It was a throwaway, completely unwarranted attack on religion and people who believe in religion, in the middle of a comment section that had nothing to do with religion. If you still fail to see why that can be offensive, well then fuck you again.

      Look, I don’t expect to convince anyone here of my beliefs, in part because I don’t welcome that discussion and, frankly, most of you don’t have a clue of what those beliefs are. But as long as I’m participating in this forum and someone is going to start throwing ad-hominem attacks against people of faith, you’re going to hear from me. I happen to like my faith, and it holds a special place in my heart. What kind of a faithful would I be if I didn’t defend it when it is being wrongly attacked?

      Sorry, it’s my Achilles Heel. Quico, go ahead and delete this comment.

      Oh, and virtok: fuck you.

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    • JC
      Next time go with your better instincts.
      Virtok never intended to offend you personally, he has been nothing but courteous with you even after you told him to “F… You!” three times.
      And all because of what? Just because he expressed his opinions on religions in general.

      BTW, he never called you primitive or an idiot. You did that in your head and used it as justification for the first “F… You!” After that you’re on a roll.

      “What kind of a faithful would I be if I didn’t defend it when it is being wrongly attacked?”
      There are defenses and there are defenses. This wasn’t a good defense.

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    • Si no van a borrar el comentario de JC por qué borraron el de virtok y el de in other words? acaso no tienen derecho a responderle? yo llegue a leer sus respuestas y no son tan ofensivas como las de JC

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  17. In an short online essay Paul Graham wrote:

    “I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.
    As a rule, any mention of religion on an online forum degenerates into a religious argument. Why? Why does this happen with religion and not with Javascript or baking or other topics people talk about on forums? …
    I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people’s identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that’s part of their identity. By definition they’re partisan.
    Which topics engage people’s identity depends on the people, not the topic. For example, a discussion about a battle that included citizens of one or more of the countries involved would probably degenerate into a political argument. But a discussion today about a battle that took place in the Bronze Age probably wouldn’t. No one would know what side to be on. So it’s not politics that’s the source of the trouble, but identity. When people say a discussion has degenerated into a religious war, what they really mean is that it has started to be driven mostly by people’s identities. … What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people’s identities. …
    If people can’t think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible. … The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you. … (There may be some things it’s a net win to include in your identity. For example, being a scientist. But arguably that is more of a placeholder than an actual label … because it doesn’t commit you to believing anything in particular. A scientist isn’t committed to believing in natural selection in the same way a bibilical literalist is committed to rejecting it. All he’s committed to is following the evidence wherever it leads.)”

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  18. Quico warned me (I now understand the use of the terms “massively offensive” and “catastrophically naive”). Then Roy warned me that I was out of line. Seriously, I did not mean to offend anybody, but I catastrophically did. I still think we should be able to discuss this in a civilized way, but I will not insist anymore. Only one thing: everybody is entitled to believe in whatever they want.

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    • Virtok,

      When we discuss religion with believers there is no way to have a rational discussion. The starting point “givens” are different, and so we arrive at different conclusions. But, what is worse is that it is a waste of time. No amount of logic or discussion will alter the starting point assumptions of either party.

      So, I try to simply stay away from the subject. It has been argued that my strategy is a form of moral cowardice. I am not sure. I do know that “tilting at windmills” rarely accomplishes anything useful. In the future, when you want to make the same point, I suggest using “cults” and their belief systems and charismatic leaders as the comparison. It still gets you there but doesn’t offend anyone.

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    • virtok,
      Thanks, I’m willing to bury the hatchet on this one too. I apologize if I went too far with my comment.

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    • JC, if you went too far with your comment, you should also be apologizing to all readers, but only if you went too far. If you didn’t go too far, you shouldn’t apologize at all. Be sure to let us know when you decide if you did go too far.

      Also, let us know when you bury the hatchet, if you do decide to bury it; I’m very glad to read that you are willing to.

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    • Virtok, proper format, expanding optional:
      1) You’re right.
      2) I did wrong.
      3) I’m sorry.
      4) I won’t do it again.

      JC, you too.

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  19. Guys, I really appreciate you.
    But here you are way off your usual selves. I can understand your anger, but this is beyond the civil discourse that you support. Telling to somebody to fuck off because they do not agree with you is exactly the kind of discourse we get to see every day on Noticias 24 or Aporrea.

    Please, chill down. And anyway, if your God is so allmighty he can defend Himself without tantrums.

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  20. And now guys, please know that the trolls will be using this to get you out of your mind and ranting. Don’t give them that power.

    And Virtok’s argument works even _assuming that God exists and He is like your religion says He is_. Because the mechanisms of reward and punishment and of random and mysterious rewards to the true faithful are the similar, because Chávez and his ilk copy what they know produces obedience and closing of the mind, as seen here. It’s no coincidence that the response of the Chavista radical is quite similar to what Juan did when the authority of Chávez is questioned. Even if God exists, it is a fact that His believers can behave in that way, and Authoritarian governments try to copy that mindset.

    I wish there would be a hell for such a crime. No, I do not. Eternal punishment is too much for any crime.

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  21. I’m sure JC regrets the insults he issued. As to Virtok, I agreed with his first comment and (obviously wrongly) thought that the only ones that would find it offensive would be rigid fundamentalist types who take the Bible literally. On the other hand, when Virtok wrote, “You don’t really believe that calling current religions (which have been around for thousands of years) primitive is offensive to anyone?” I thought he was either being simultaneously disingenuous and offensive or, if to really take him at his word, incredibly naive. Perhaps to Virtok the word “primitive” has a totally neutral meaning, but he surely knows that in common usage this word has a negative connotation. In addition, when Virtok wrote “despite being ancient (and therefore primitive)” he seemed to say that the words ancient and primitive are either synonymous or that one entails the other. That’s not the case. Ancient and primitive are two different things that do not necessarily entail each other. Religions change and evolve through time. For example, Judaism is an ancient religion, but you will find plenty of rabbis (even Orthodox ones) that do not dispute that many of the beliefs and practices of the Hebrews during the times of, say, Moses or David were indeed primitive. Despite the long continuity of the Jewish tradition, there has been plenty of change through the ages. Christianity is more bound by dogma, but Christianity, another ancient religion, has also evolved–even the way certain dogmas are interpreted have evolved.

    (In any event, I think that Paul Graham, in the excerpt I quoted in my previous comment, is correct: the reason it’s so hard to have a reasonable back-and-forth argument about politics or religion is that they are often integral part of our identity. If something is part of our identity we cannot help but to be partisan about it. BTW, in reading some of the infantile arguments between Croats and Serbs, Turks and Armenians, Russians and Georgians I would also add nationality to the mix–politics, religion and nationality.)

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    • It is true that religion, some forms of it and every denomination, have been used time after time and are used right now everywhere for political purposes, even if there are also many people – more in one denomination than in another – that try to stay away from politics.

      I agree with Kolya here in most, although I would say Christianity is way too varied to try to compare it monolithically with Judaism. Some forms are more attached to dogma and some others are way less attached to it. For instance: Lutheran Christianity as known today in Germany or Scandinavia is much less attached to word-by-word-interpretation than Judaism or Catholicism. It has to do with the spirit of free discourse, promotion of education with analysis and freedom of thought as first basis and the evolution of the countries in which it was evolving.

      If you try to define that very difficult concept of what a “Jew” is and try to use history and science, you will get into trouble with a lot of the community, as you would find out those “Arabs” who have been living there for centuries are actually as much if not more descendants of the “original” Jews…if there was ever such a thing. No wonder many turn away from religion.

      Catholicism, on the other hand, has adapted more than probably many forms of Judalism in some aspects and in some others not AT ALL. In some it has even gone against what those precepts of the Bible said (adding a prohibition for women to preach, adding a prohibition for priests to marry, etc).
      In others, it was faster to adapt to the findings of science as in the case of evolution. And even within Catholicism there are fighting tendencies. There are the ones who support the status quo of some privileged as they supported the “divince grace” of kings for centuries and then there are the ones who take more to heart the teachings about supporting the poor. Among this you have the ones who do it within the church and some others who then completely turn against it.

      And some evangelical Christian groups have probably not only clung to some dogmas but even become more dogmatic in intention than the groups of mixed Canaanites in the X-VII centuries that were developing a new set of beliefs out of some myths, stories and histories. In both cases, politics is indeed playing a strong role (interesting book on this, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_Unearthed).

      When saying this I am aware I make some conservatives of all those religion subgroups uneasy. Victor is not even aware of this, he should.

      In any case, it is not secret the most evangelical groups in the US often support anything the government of Israel does now as if they were helping the second arrival of Jesus, including ethnic cleansing. After all, Joshua was supposed to have done it. And thus the often European looking and often genetically more European than anything Jews arriving to that land have billions of dollars of support for them to expand in a land because they are supposed to be the only true inheritors of some people they just to some extent derive from two thousand years ago. And the others are thrown out of it.

      Interestingly, the most Catholic groups in Venezuela as well as most Baptists (and Baptists form very independent churches) tend to be very anti-Chávez.

      Jews tend to be more anti-Chavez…but then again the eternal question: defined as a religion, as an ethnic group, as both, as what?

      The Pentecostals, the Charismatics and some other groups very attached to “sensations” and “speaking in tongues” and the like, who have been targeting mostly poor people, tend to have more Chavistas.

      The Maronite Christians are definitely almost all rejecting the Chavez regime.

      The Muslims are mostly supporting it. Islam is probably more linked to religion than any of these other religions. Islam has also a particular issue: the Quran evolved rather rapidly in a couple of generations (even if it is not really what Mohammed wrote or as most Muslims believe, had dictated as he was supposed to be illiterate). It still has a very tribalistic, vengeance-anti-woman attitude as in some early parts of the Bible, but there was no opportunity of “softening”. Most of the hadiths that came, a mix of traditions and even “copy/paste” (OK, copy) of other religions, were selected primarily to support the power of some groups.

      I know those “Catholic” believing more in “mal de ojo” and stuff like that tended at least for some years, to be more pro-Chavez. Case in point: a couple of aunts of mine who were pro-Chavez until about 2006-2007.

      If you analyze US politics nowadays, specially strong positions towards the Middle East or some other regions, try to find out the religious backgrounds of those guys. The same for almost any other country.

      By the way: I read a recent article about population genetics for Libanon. I know I have a haplotype very often found among Italians, Jews (or “Jews”), Greeks and Lebanese. Within Lebanon itself, those with my haplotype were much more bound to be Christian Maronite. That sounds very crazy but you see religion can become tribal and tribalism can foster some religions.

      Among the Jews now people talk about a proven “Semitic background” in genetics. It is indeed there. What they don’t mention, when they are from the conservative right, is that the European component is at least as strong and that Palestinians have a stronger Semitic component. Very curiously, the ones who tend to be more conservative speak Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent and influence, which is incredibly influenced by German (mind the gutural r).
      The ones who tend – just tend- to be less conservative were living side by side with the Arabs for centuries.

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  22. You don’t need to be a practicing christian to realize that when you go to the most deprived areas of Venezuela – or almost any country – the people you find doing the hardest work with the most oppressed people are – 9 times out of 10 – missionaries. You don’t need to be a practicing christian to realize that civil society works far better the more people take on Christ’s message of universal humility, equality, and duty to service.

    I’m not a practicing christian, and these things are perfectly clear to me.

    I don’t recognize the idiotized, one-dimensional cardboard cutout of Christianity the New Atheists peddle – and I’m amazed that y’all can’t see how offensive it is.

    To take a sharp, critical but balanced sensibility to the church is one thing. But that’s not what you’re doing. What you’re doing is railing against a strawman version of one of the cornerstones of our culture.

    Count me out.

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    • Virtok in a way attacked religions in general, not christianity in particular.
      But, what actually constitutes an attack? Virtok’s statements can hardly be construed as an attack, unless they’re twisted. For example: JC picked the words primitive and religion and constructed an offensive statement that wasn’t in the original comment, thus derailing a debate on politics, not religion.
      Does this mean we shouldn’t talk at all about religion? Should we call it a Taboo subject? Lest it divide us and distract us.

      Which brings me back to politics, Virtok also, when comparing religions and chavismo, attacked chavismo (which is typical in this blog) but not many here seemed offended, although I’m sure many would be as offended as JC was if they read the blog.

      So my question is: why are chavistas free game? Don’t they deserve the same defference as christians/jews/muslims?

      How are we supposed to debate with chavistas/communists/etc if people get offended? Should ideology discussions be Taboo as well? What would constitute fruitful debate with people that think so different from us?
      Just some questions.

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  23. You summed it up in so few lines. Mysterious, ineffable; unanticipated reward and punishment. Capricious, random and chaotic if you are not a believer. It keeps all but the most hardheaded unbelievers in line. Particularly effective with the merely supersticious, which is what most Venezuelans are, regarding chavismo and populism. For instance, there was (and is) a risk for “signing” (the Revocatorio petition), which has become sure punishment with time and a warning for us blasphemers who signed the devilish sheets.

    However, for the initiated (the Boligarchy, I mean) it’s not quite that random. Make the right offerings, pray (suck up) to the right people and you bathe in gold (er… preferential-rate dollars). Have a direct line to the Comandante (God) and you are a demigod.

    And by the way, again you make a valid point. Eternal punishment is by definition infinite, however light the day-to-day might be. I suppose that short of killing God and/or destroying the whole of the Universe and of Time (like the Dogma movie angels), there are no infinite crimes. You would have to be infinitely cruel to devise an eternal Hell; or quite oblivious to reason, to conceive of it or believe in it.

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  24. Here’s the point: all Human Beings have a will to power. In exercising it, many – in all kinds of historical and cultural contexts – have come to recognize that some of these mechanisms – Fear of Retribution, ineffability, Rewarding absolute loyalty – are effective in sustaining power.

    Some of those who have come to these conclusions and applied these principles have done so from inside the institutions of Christianity.

    Many, many more have done so from outside those institutions – (or is there any part of this argument that wouldn’t apply to the Japanese emperor in the 1930s? Or, say, Attila!?)

    Yet in your analysis, this critique of the Will to Power morphs into a merciless attack on a particular religious institution…one that, it just so happens, also preaches absolute love for all human beings and unconditioned respect for human life, a life of service to the poor and holding yourself to an exacting moral standard…but *that* part of it somehow never features in your analysis.

    Erm…this isn’t some penetrating new insight.

    This is just a way of dressing up anti-catholic bigotry in fancy pseudo-intellectual clothes.

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    • Anti Catholic?
      That is a straw man! Mere criticism is not being anti anything. The thing is, Quico, that when you have an institution claiming to be the Moral Authority and to represent the Allmighty Creator of The Universe, you have to hold it to a higher standard, and sir, the message of love is noted, however, that an institution that thinks I am a twisted individual because of what I think and who I love, that loves to claim that I am “moral relativist”, while it never excommunicated Hitler, but they excommunicate doctors performing an abortion on a 9 YO kid to save her life, that kind of institution deserves a lot of criticism, hard and often. But the fact that I criticise it does not means I am against your right to believe whatever flavor of Catholicism you want, or that I want to overthrow it by violence. Again, we see here an ugly mindset where every criticism is an attack.

      And anyway, I do not think that you have answered my argument about mechanisms. Whether God exists or not is irrelevant to that discussion, since Chávez and others use the same reward/punishment methods: random, arbitrary, lottery-like, punishing those who oppose and claiming universal love.

      As for the new Atheist thing: It does not matter how good your Church/cult/religion is, that is irrelevant in the debate if God exists or not.

      And, as for “You don’t need to be a practicing christian to realize that civil society works far better the more people take on Christ’s message of universal humility, equality, and duty to service. ”
      Hey, that message is older than your Christ, and you can believe in similar principles and have a good life and a sane society without believing in Christ. Christianism hasn’t the monopoly on goodness, wisdom, charity, or humilty.

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    • And, making my point:

      http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.epjournal.net%2Ffilestore%2FEP07398441_c.pdf&rct=j&q=The%20Chronic%20Dependence%20of%20Psychosociological%20Conditions&ei=uYH6TM2eJYS8lQeQ4eyPDA&usg=AFQjCNGD-E_P1MLoEXOyK7UqcSqXZHI5dA&sig2=fJasNEQ55tDYmw1IZqV6Jg&cad=rja

      Really good article about religion and uqality of life among different countries. What it proves isn’t that religion is bad, or causes bad behaviour, but it proves without any hint of doubt that you can have societies where people does not believe in God or gods and still behave in a civilized way, and help each other. The message of your Christ might or might not help to get along well with each other and have a functional society, I do not know and I am not going to give my opinion on the subject. What is clear is that the message of the Christ is not necessary, even if it might help.

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  25. I’m just surprised that the idea that all the flooding is clearly a message from above to wipe out and start anew (because the current direction is not desireable) hasn’t hit the waves.

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  26. I agree with Quico’s last two comments. The New Atheists types distort and caricature religion, especially theist religions. Hitchens, for all his brilliance, was always a disrespectful goader, but it’s disappointing that Dawkins and Dennett, who have done very interesting work, became such anti-God crusaders.

    Kepler, for what is worth, when I wrote about Judaism I very specifically referred to Judaism as a religion, I did not refer to the genetic make up of the Jews or their ethnicity in general. And, of course, I’m aware that there are various forms of Judaism and Christianity, and that even within those forms there are various strands of interpretation.

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    • Kolya,

      For what’s worth: the problem is that Judaism has more often than not got linked to ethnicity and that also by practioners themselves.
      What I am saying here is that politics (and with that economics) visits religion and forms religions which influences politics and economics and so on…all the time…with some more than with others. This we cannot simply ignore.
      Some people are, for instance, pulling on Christian/Jewish/Islamic strings for political purposes all the time.
      We need to speak out about this.

      This does not mean atheists (and I am a Christian) or anyone is less or more primitive just based on their belief – it is always about belief- about the ultimate origin of us all and the space for a superior being.

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    • Kolya, I wish you had one argument as sound as any single one in Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ books. It leaves me flabbergasted that JC, in denying that religion is a millennial manipulative scam to control people, reacts just as he would be incensed to see Chavistas act in an analog situation.

      I would argue that his reaction is precisely proof of Virtok’s statement.

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  27. Wow JC!

    After all the insults to Virtok you wrote “I apologize if I went too far with my comment” IF being the key word here

    Please tell me under what fanatical scenario you did NOT go too far

    Very uncatholic comments JC

    As a penitence for your sins, I urge you to read your insulting comment over and over again until you understand what is wrong with it.

    Amen!

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  28. Kepler, at my end for some reason there is no reply button under your comment, so I have to send it as a general comment. The question of the ethnicity of the Jews was irrelevant to the point I was making. Instead of Judaism I could have used Buddhism to make the same point, which is that ancient and primitive are two different things that do not necessarily entail. In an ancient but extant religion you will find continuity with the ancient practitioners, but you will also find that practices and interpretations have evolved from the more primitive to the more modern (I’m not sure whether “modern” is the right word.)

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    • But in the original comment of Virtok, he used the word primitive referring more to the indoctrination methods (not the religions themselves or their followers), common to most religions, because in essence they haven’t changed that much for centuries (the methods), yet they remain as effective as ever. Seems evident to me that “primitive” in that context wasn’t meant as an insult to anyone but as an adjective to describe a method that works precisely because it targets basic, therefore primitive, areas of human psyche.

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  29. Guido wrote:

    “Christianism hasn’t the monopoly on goodness, wisdom, charity, or humilty.”

    Who here stated (or even implied) something else?

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    • “You don’t need to be a practicing christian to realize that civil society works far better the more people take on Christ’s message of universal humility, equality, and duty to service. ”

      That’s close enough to me.
      A Christian society is not necessarily better than a non-Christian one, and too often very Christian societies have made very nasty stuff.

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  30. When I saw that this particular entry had more than 50 comments I was sure a powerful troll had intervened. Surprise! The most powerful of all.

    Ever since I was a little boy my mother taught me, as a dogma, that there are 3 themes you do not discuss about: Religion, Politics, Sports (pretty much in that order). The reason? These are the most likely to derail into violance. Thankfuly not in the internet.

    Now, I do find it funny that the very courteously written posts of Virtok are the offensive ones but JC’s needs to be framed?

    Kolya’s point on Identity hits the nail in the head. Because wether you’re Caraquista or Magallanero, Chavista or Oposición, Believer or Infidel it’s usually the result of circumstances: where you were born, who raised you. Yet people are willing to die (but mostly kill or harm) for those circumstances. And the more you confront it the less reasonable people become, the more irrational they turn.

    So the more you touch a touchy subject the more cemented and polarized the positions become. Which is very relevant for venezuelans and for this political blog because how is it that venezuelans are going to mend the deep divisions created by Chavez without touching the subject? Virtok’s message that chavismo uses primitive but effective methods to indoctrinate and polarize (my addition) their subjects, is still true, and if we’re going to heal as a nation, (and even just to defeat Chavez) we’re going to need to reverse somehow that great rift that has divided our society.

    If among ourselves, (who talk about Habermas and whatnot) cannot address intelligently a touchy subject like Religion without falling into attacks and confrontation and finally into silence. How are we going to have constructive discussion with Chavistas about Venezuela?

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    • “If among ourselves, (who talk about Habermas and whatnot) cannot address intelligently a touchy subject like Religion without falling into attacks and confrontation and finally into silence. How are we going to have constructive discussion with Chavistas about Venezuela?”

      THAT, I would frame

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    • I really disagree: I think Juan’s super-vituperative post loses something crucial if you edit out the insults. It loses the sense of urgency, it ceases to communicate the depth of offense, it whitewashes and sanitizes a debate that is, by its nature, deeply emotive.

      Personally, I have no problem with the judicious use of an F-bomb here or there when strength of feeling demands it. I mean, what are we here, Victorian tea ladies?

      Obviously, I’m a bit of a catholique manqué: I’d love to have faith, and deeply respect those who do. I’ve always approached my lack of faith as a small personal tragedy. Too much church doctrine strikes me as just too crazy to swallow – and I’m not talking about the theologically peripheral stuff that populates the headlines, I’m talking about the theologically central stuff that journos never touch. Transubstantiation. Original sin. That stuff…

      What makes me sadder, though, is to realize that people I respect really haven’t the first, slightest smidgeon of a hint of a clue of a whiff of what it is about catholic doctrine that could impel people to live heroically virtuous lives. Ojo: Not that all, or most, or even many catholics will live heroically virtuous lives – mind you – not that catholicism is the only path towards such a life. But that in accepting the Call to Sanctity as an ideal to be striven for, people set themselves an extraordinarily – in many ways, inhumanly – high standard. And many devote their lives to trying to reach that standard.

      That a society devoted to self-fulfillment and “the pursuit of happiness” can’t begin to grasp the Call to Sanctity isn’t really all that surprising, though the outright hostility towards it is.

      Particularly so coming from people who – ahem – devote their lives to public service through, say, a dogged pursuit of advancements in rugged, cheap, DNA-based diagnostics technologies for neglected tropical diseases and thereby, without realizing it, end up pursuing a peculiarly secularized version of the Call to Sanctity – one that may be stripped of the metacosmic mumbo jumbo but retains the ethical core more or less intact.

      ¿O no?

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    • Quico
      What I find sad is that for whatever reason you cannot see that the visceral response of JC is the kind of non-debate typical of ND that’s conducive to non dialog. It hardly makes judicious use of the F-Bomb, I say it was completely desproportionate in relation to the original posts, both in tone and personal attack. Funny, because JC started saying ‘keep it classy Virtok’, and then showed what he meant by classy.
      Paraphrasing, the response went like this:

      ‘I believe in XYZ, you don’t, Fuck You’
      ‘Next’
      ‘It’s not sacrilege it’s blasfemy. Religion is not just blind obedience so Fuck You’
      ‘Nobody is ostracizing you. I have to defend my religion, is important to me. Fuck you.’

      No arguments, or real defense, just insults with justifications. The result? One promised not to touch the subject again, the other will bury the hatchet (until next time).
      Taboo.
      Now we know.
      Don’t voice negative opinion about religions. It’s a big no no.
      Which is okay, this is your blog and is about politics not religion, I don’t think there is space for both subjects and Religion easily turns into a troll. But it would be better if it was posted as one of the rules of the comment section, that way there wont be a rant next time.

      Now, you don’t need Religion or Higher Being to live a life of ‘Sanctity’. No one needs to be encouraging you or directing you from above to do what’s right. You just need to find out on your own what is the path you want to follow and make the decision to follow that path. That will fill your life with purpose and meaning.

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  31. Guido, I agree that “a Christian society is not necessarily better than a non-Christian.” And I didn’t see Quico anywhere disagree with that, neither did I see him imply that Christianity has a “monopoly on goodness, wisdom, charity, or humility.” If he indeed holds such views, then I disagree with him, but I certainly don’t read any of that in what he wrote. If I’m wrong he can correct me. From this thread I surmised that Quico is not a practicing Christian (and neither am I.)

    For me the essence of what he wrote is that “civil society works far better the more people take on [the] message of universal humility, equality, and duty to service. ” Yes, I took out the “Christ’s” because it could be substituted with “Buddha’s”, “the Dalai Lama’s,” or even keeping a very secular “the.” The world has extraordinary individuals who dedicate their lives to serve others with compassion and humility and although more and more of them are people with no religious affiliation, it’s not a coincidence that most of them are committed Christians. (By saying that I’m by no means denying that plenty of evil has been done under the flag of Christianity, nor I’m absurdly claiming that Christians have a monopoly over goodness and wisdom.)

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    • You are right. But I get tired of hearing the old cliche that society or people are better when they believe in god/God/gods. No, they are not by default. You can still believe quite sincerely and do hideous stuff.

      And let’s not nitpick either, Christ said some quite outrageous stuff too.

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  32. You gotta love this tweet, from an apparatchik that keeps insulting Panfletonegro:
    “@josep0512: Jueguet pa los niños, un bono $ a lo damnific, cocina, tv. TO lo q perdiste a causa de las lluvias n Falcón chav t lo dara”.
    3:46 AM Dec 4th via TweetDeck
    Quod erat demonstrandum…

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  33. Again, Quico, what you call “Call to Sanctity” is not a Catholic trait, neither limited to Catholics, neither created by Catholicism. It is a human trait that Catholics admire and pursue, as many others do, but in the end, it’s nothing more that a form of empathy. That was precisely why I posted that Catholicism hasn’t the monopoly on goodness, wisdom, or empathy.

    You do not need a religion to feel empathy and try to change things. If you have one, fine, as long as you don’t go on preaching other how to behave on their private lives, which is exactly my beef with the Catholic church. What many of us are critic of is not of the “Call to Sanctity” but of the sanctimonious people.

    And again, this is way off the original debate. Electricity is good, right? You can use to kill people on a barbaric way too, right? Does it follow that using electricity for illumination or heat is a bad thing then? No, it does not. Same with God, His principles/modus operandi and what Chávez/Fred Phelps do with them, even if He exists. The rant was completely uncalled of, and there is no hostility but criticism. Hell, if’d be hostile to Catholics or Christians I could not live here or visit the US so frequently.

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  34. [My apologies for not being aply to reply right under the comment I mean to reply to.]

    Okay, Guido, I think I pretty much agree with you. Perhaps our difference is that in my own life some (by no means all!) of the people I came to admire the most as individuals happened to be committed Christians.

    “Christ said some quite outrageous stuff too.”

    Well, I agree. There are passages in the New Testament that sound outrageous. It’s interesting that the apologetics of those passages vary according to the times and the denomination.

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  35. Guido said:

    “I get tired of hearing the old cliche that society or people are better when they believe in god/God/gods. No, they are not by default. You can still believe quite sincerely and do hideous stuff.”

    But in getting tired he is forgetting that answers usually lie in both yes and no, depending on the individual.Unfortunately the majority of people are not evolved enough to be moral without a religion.Then on the other hand,lots of folks follow God’s laws out of fear, not out of understanding.If we understand, then we do not need religion to practice morality.

    Of course anybody theoretically can , and there are many who are morally and spiritually good people who are atheists, but the typical person needs religion to tow the line……yet of course there are many religious people who do not practice morality.

    So the question “does society need religion to behave well ?” or, “Is religion good for society?”

    I doubt anyone could answer this with certainty…but I think it might possibly be true based on the lack of understanding of your typical person.

    The other important role religion might play is when people need a way of gathering their impulses to express a higher form of love, than just what they are capable of in their day to day existence.

    If material reality becomes an end in itself, many might not have a venue to express this inner need and sooner of later, the need itself might dwindle.

    But each person is unique in this sense.

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    • Well, it is a fact that people as a whole behave much worse under religious and religious-like beliefs. Granted, it may be another matter with individuals. You may not like it, but history confirms it all along…

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  36. Would like to add, that while I am not a religious believer, and have no belief in God whatsoever, I do respect those who do very much.

    I find it ludicrous and dangerous that some atheists pretend that their way is more rational ( enlightened?), more modern and more open minded, when most atheists I have known are just as opinionated and ‘irrational’ as any, and quite arrogant in their appreciation of the religious.Actually in my opinion atheism IS a form of religion in itself.
    Agnosticism however is a different story…but then why would an agnostic attempt to criticize a religious? Makes no sense.

    Primitive basically means uncorrupted by the influences of civilization.Religion hardly fits that description.
    I would like to know in what way some people here think that Chavez uses primitive methods, and what exactly they are.In what way are they primitive?

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  37. Speaking as a complete non-believer, I find the arrogance and ignorance of many outspoken non-believers remarkably offensive. “Virtok” equates chavismo with religion (all religion, though he clearly means Christianity). He does this knowing that the authors of this blog are passionately anti-Chavez, and then seems astounded that any of them are offended.

    His analogies are in any case false. Christianity does not promise to grant material boons or punishments in this world at all. Nor in the afterlife, either – God does that. No one can point to any good thing (or bad thing) and say “God gave me that,” except in the sense that God is responsible for everything. (Well, people do, but it’s not actual Christian doctrine.)

    Chavismo elevates el Jefe to a god-like position as dispenser of boons and punishments in this world.

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