Review of Buzzed Belief: Bass vs. Carrier

I had the honor and privilege of attending the first Buzzed Belief by the Mythicist Milwaukee.  The debate was about whether the sources for the resurrection of  Jesus are adequate to prove the claims.  On the affirmative side was Justin Bass, Ph.D and on the negative side, Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

Before I get to the review of the content of the debate, let me first give some props to Mythicist Milwaukee.  This was a really great event.  Well over 300 people attended on a Saturday night.  The audience was very respectful during the entire debate and the Q&A session.  Although the audience was overwhelmingly secular, there were some religious people there, at least judging from the questioners.  On the subject of “balance” the only thing I could say is that several atheists received shout outs during the Q&A session, including Melissa Pugh, president of the Atheist Alliance of America.  I hope that in future events there will be well known people from the religious community that will be deserving of shout outs as well.   I think the event was welcoming enough of all points of view and hope that people from all points of view will be curious enough to come and attend future events.

Now, on to the show!  But perhaps before you read the review, you might want to look at the whole thing, which you can do here.

First, let me say that in my estimation, Dr. Bass easily took the evening on style points.  He was charming, open, funny and quite impassioned.  He definitely seems like the kind of guy I could sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss religion and philosophy.  Dr. Carrier certainly had his moments as well, although I thought he made some tactical errors, which I will get to in a bit.  But for as charming and easy going as Dr. Bass was, most of what he said was so illogical and just baldly asserted that only a believer would think he made any kind of case for his position.  So, let’s start at the beginning.

Dr. Bass started his presentation by saying saying that he had recently baptised a former atheist and that we all should really consider the wonders of a “secular Jesus.”  You know the one of the Sermon on the Mount, the golden rule, turn the other cheek and all of that.  I don’t know who he thought he was addressing, but most skeptical atheists are well aware of the moral teachings of Jesus, but also his immoral teachings as well.  And why would we go to a “secular Jesus” when you are going to try and convince us there is good evidence for his literal rising from the dead.  If he really rose from the dead, we should worship that Jesus, should we not?  So before he even started his actual presentation, Dr. Bass was off to an illogical start.  But to give him credit, Dr. Bass was quite consistent in his illogic, more on that in a moment as well.

According to Dr. Bass, all the evidence we need for the resurrection of Jesus is contained in the new testament and we can trust it 100%.  It is as good as any evidence we have for any event in the ancient world.  Why?  Basically because he (and other believing scholars) said so.

For example, he started with the Gospel of  Mark.  He admitted that we have no idea who actually wrote Mark, but then went on to assume that whoever wrote Mark is exactly like the person that Mark is supposed to be, a sort of secretary to Peter, the disciple.  So, really, Dr. Bass asserted, Mark is really the eyewitness account of Peter.  Scholars agree, case closed.  What is the evidence for this?  Tradition! (Yes, you should here singing here.)  So., for Dr. Bass (and most believers) Mark is really an eye witness document.  And yes, you can find many believer scholars who will echo that.  But in reality modern scholarship rejects the Mark/Peter connection and maintain that it is anonymous and not an eye witness account.

He then tried to also use Luke/Acts as further “documentation.”  Dr. Bass sees Luke (or whoever, again, Luke is apparently not written by the claimed author) as authentic history, after all, “Luke” says he carefully checked his sources.  Which is exactly what someone writing historical fiction would say.  Also, Dr. Bass asserts that “Luke” must have actually traveled with Paul because of the “we” passages in Acts.  Evidence for this?  Again — Tradition! (even louder singing.)  Once again, modern scholarship says that the disagreements between Luke/Acts and the actual writings of Paul are so severe that it is very unlikely that Luke was written by a companion of Paul.

Dr. Bass then moved on to Paul himself.  It is generally recognized that Paul is actually a problem for the historical resurrection account.  The problem is that all of the historical detail is completely absent from Paul.  There is no arrest in the garden, no trial before Pilate, no stone in front of a rich man’s tomb, no discovery of that empty tomb, none of it.  All we have in Paul is the barest outline (Jesus was killed and rose again, basically.)  And where did Paul get his information?  Paul himself says that he got it from “no man,” from God and scripture.  But Dr. Bass painted this lovely picture of Paul sitting around with Peter (and Mary herself!)  Which, in Dr. Bass’s eyes also makes Paul an “eye witness.”  Except that once again, Paul has no biographical detail of Jesus in his writings.  None.  So why does Dr. Bass believe that Paul represents a reliable witness?  Because he does, and that’s all.

The final piece of “evidence” that Dr. Bass cited was the creed that is found in 1 Corinthians 15, which he claims (as do others) goes back to within a year or two of the supposed death of Jesus.  Now, it does seem that Dr. Bass is on more solid ground here with many scholars feeling that the creed is authentic and may date back to within a few years of Jesus’s supposed death.  Now, I am no scholar of ancient Greek, so cannot weigh in on the minutiae of the words to determine whether Paul wrote them, but here they are in their (modern) entirety:

 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For being a story about a guy who literally walked out of the grave, it seems to be missing a lot of detail, much of which was added to later, like it being Pilate that ordered the death, or the women that found the empty tomb and so on.  I understand that people think Jesus rose from the dead, but that does not prove that he did.   And even “appeared to” is problematic.  A flesh and blood guy, someone who had a glass of wine with all these folks?  Jesus the friendly ghost, a wispy immaterial being?  Or did he appear to all these folks between their ears — an idea, a vision?  Paul doesn’t say.  Paul seems to indicate that his encounter with the risen Jesus was between the ears — a vision that no one else could see.  If so, Paul’s testimony about Jesus being “risen” is no more evidence of Jesus’s physical resurrection than the testimony of Christians today who claim to have experienced the “risen” Jesus.

After all the biblical “proof” Dr. Bass went on to say that it all this must be true because Christianity “took over the Roman empire” and now is believed by billions of people.  Which proves nothing of course.  By this reasoning we have to believe everything in Islam is true as almost as many people believe that.

That was Dr. Bass’s presentation.

Before the debate, I thought that Dr. Carrier had the easier position to defend, but at the end of Dr. Bass’s presentation, I saw this problem.  Because Dr. Bass had presented so many bald assertions, Carrier was left in the position, essentially of having to prove a negative.  Unfortunately, at this point I felt that Carrier made a tactical mistake.

Dr. Carrier chose to speak from notes, as compared to Dr. Bass’s use of a Powerpoint.  Now, I was able to see the flow of Carrier’s  arguments as I have read his works and others from a similar point of view.  Most of his arguments, I have already included in my objections to Dr. Bass above.  I am sure that Dr. Carrier could have anticipated Dr. Bass’s entire presentation (I certainly did).  Carrier spent some of his presentation time doing rebuttle, which I also thought was a tactical error.  Carrier just didn’t seem as organized as Dr. Bass, although what he said was much more logically consistent.

In my estimation, Dr. Bass also took less defensible positions during the rebuttal and head to head sections of the debate.  His main position is that Christianity is utterly unique among world religions and that is a reason to believe it.  Essentially, it must be from god as it is nothing like what people made up for other religions.  For example, Dr. Bass asserted that Paul was the only person EVER to first persecute and religion and then to convert to it.  Dr. Carrier about fell off his chair and the audience hooted at that one.  Remember that Dr. Bass himself bragged about converting an atheist at the beginning of his presentation?  Isn’t that a tiny Damascus moment?  I thought that Carrier’s rejoinder that he would be more convinced of god’s intervention if the entire  Sanhedrien had converted to be quite a good comeback.

Also during the question and answer period Dr. Bass conceded that perhaps after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire under Constantine that maybe some mistakes were made and that maybe people were coerced into converting.  He said that he was really interested in what happened in the 280 years before that and he felt that the early time period was the genuine period of Christian growth.  Which of course completely undercuts his earlier assertion that resurrection must be true because believers “took over the Roman Empire.”  No, Constantine forced it on the empire.

Dr. Carrier wrote an entire book about that period and showed that the growth of Christianity was actually nothing special, probably less than the growth of Mormonism today.  It didn’t “take over” anything.

Dr. Carrier brought up Mormonism several times and at one point Dr. Bass snorted, “Yeah, I don’t know how that got started.”  But we do know exactly how it got started.  I am sure that both Carrier and Bass would agree that Joseph Smith made a bunch of stuff up and for a lot of complicated cultural reasons people found a reason to believe.  Now, will Mormonism be around 1800 years from now?  I have no idea.  But I think that one reason Christianity is still around is not the truthfulness of its claims, but rather its ability to morph it’s teachings and beliefs to remain “current.”  Even Dr. Bass, I think would concede that the church of today is not the same as that of the first “280 years.”

Which is where I think Dr. Carrier made a strong case that Christianity grew out of the cultural atmosphere of the first century Mediterranean area.  Greek, Roman, Persian and Jewish ideas that all mashed together into an interesting stew that people found interesting and useful, much like Mormonism over the last 150 years.  No need for a real demigod to rise from the dead.

Obviously nothing that Dr. Bass said is going to reconvert me.  I thought he made a couple of good points that perhaps the mythicists need to contend with, such as the creed from Paul and the actual relationship between Peter, Paul and James.   However, in thinking about this my atheism/mythicism has actually grown stronger.  Considering the percentage of believers who form the core of biblical studies and considering how much of the bible is not considered to be inaccurate, forged and so on, it really points out how bad a source it is to back up its claims.

So, Dr. Bass was not convincing to me in this debate in any way.  I can no longer take the believer’s position so I cannot say how I would have reacted to Dr. Carrier’s presentation, but I have to honestly say that it probably have not convinced me.  I find Dr. Carrier’s writings to be very persuasive, but I don’t think his presentation carried the same weight.  Actually, I think Powerpoint would have actually helped.  You need more organized evidence to move toward disproving the bald assertions that made by Dr. Bass.

Finally, I once again want to say that, overall, it was a wonderful, well organized event and I look forward to attending again in the future.

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An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

Or should I say, Hey Bernie?  It really has been an amazing run for you and it is great that you are raising the consciousness of young voters, we really need that.  If younger voters came out for every election, rather than just the Presidential elections the country would not be so full of regressive state governments as we are now.  But that is not what I think needs to be said right at the moment.  So, here it is:  Bernie, no matter what you do, don’t pull a Marco Rubio.

No, I don’t mean lose your home state, you already more than took care of that, no I mean much more than that.

Marco let his ego get so much in his way that he killed his own political future and his party’s chances in November.  Here’s how I see it.

Early in the Republican process, it was pretty apparent that Rubio and Cruz were simply splitting the majority of the Republican primary allowing Mr. One Third to keep “winning” primaries.  And I will say that I and many others thought that Rubio was the candidate that people might go to, so for a while it was unclear that it was he, not Cruz who should drop out to unify the non-trumped vote.

Rubio was sticking around because he thought that winning Florida would derail Trump and put him on the road to the Whitehouse.  One problem, Rubio never lead the polls in Florida.  Not even close.  A politician who cannot count the votes is pretty useless.  It is possible that Rubio not only killed his chances by not being able to read the tea leaves, he may have killed his party’s chances in November.  I think Rubio’s career is dead.

But Bernie, consider what could have happened.  After Super Tuesday, reading his lousy Florida numbers, Rubio could have suspended his campaign and thrown his support behind Cruz.  No longer splitting the vote, Cruz starts winning primaries and things look very different now.  Cruz probably goes on to win the nomination and surprise, surprise, picks Rubio as his VP.  If the pair went on to lose the general election, Rubio works hard on Senate campaigns and emerges as the shoo-in Republican nominee in 2020.  Or ends up as VP for a term or two and then a sure thing nominee.  Not bad.  But instead he promised something he could not deliver and is now dead as a doornail.

Which brings us to you, Bernie.  Your candidacy is certainly not dead yet, but with every delegate that goes to Hilary it becomes much less likely.  Surely you can read the numbers.  Before it comes to late, heed the lesson of Rubio and look to the greater good.

You don’t have to suspend your campaign, but I do think the time has come to pivot from distinguishing yourself from Hilary to talking about the dangers that lie ahead.  It is time to start energizing your base to not just vote for you, but for more progressive politicians up and down the slate.

You could be at the forefront of a movement that gets younger voters energized about voting for senators, congressman, governors and even school board members that better reflect their values.  As you well know, a great President without legislative backing is useless.  We need a progressive congress much more than we need a progressive President.

And you are the guy right now who can really do that.  Stop running so hard for President.  Start emphasizing where you agree.  Keep talking about solutions and that it will be Congress that actually implements those solutions.  Work hard to get progressive Senators elected.

Now, none of this will make you President.  But it will do something much better.  It will help to bring about the world you are working for.  Much more effectively than if you were actually elected President.

Finally Some Real Math

I fancy myself as a bit of a skeptic and try to keep a realistic view of the world.  I watched the Donald Trump “phenomenon” with quite a bit of bemusement.  I have blogged before about how I see nothing new here.

Nate Silver over at the 538 blog has re-analyzed the primary election results on the Republican side along with some exit polling data which asked who people would vote for in various head to head matchups.  What he found was not too surprising.

These figures estimate that Cruz would have won South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana in addition to the states where he already beat Trump. He also would have won Minnesota and Puerto Rico, which originally went to Rubio. Several other states, such as Michigan, Georgia and Virginia, would have been close between Trump and Cruz. Trump would be fairly dominant in the Northeast, however, and would still have won Nevada easily.

Silver found that using some assumptions, that if Cruz were running head to head with Trump, he would have the 100 delegate lead, not Trump.   Now, of course we can’t do a rewind at this point, Rubio looked like the more viable candidate early on, but first impressions didn’t pan out.  But I will point out that had there been a single candidate that appealed to the Cruzio voters (a little religion, a bit of outsider, not a complete whack job) with a bit more experience and popularity so that vote was not split,  it is pretty clear Trump would not be the “front runner.” Actually, had the non-Trump vote not been split early on, Trump probably would have dropped out after Super Tuesday, he would have to get out before getting labeled as a complete loser.

Cruz and Rubio were sort of victims of kind of prisoner’s dilemma.  Unfortunately for the Republican party both of them refused to check his ego at the door and cooperate earlier.  Had they done that, one of them would be heading toward the nomination and possibly the other going on to be VP.  As in the dilemma, continuing to complete left them both worse off.

To my way of thinking the country got a case of the DTs as a result of three simple factors:

  1. The mainstream media is most biased towards audience, not ideology.  More people tuned in to see Trump, so they kept him front and center.
  2. The Republican presidential field is extraordinarily weak.  Cruz and Rubio are freshman Senators with little appeal.  Most Republican politicians dislike Cruz personally and Rubio has shown himself to be a lightweight.  Kasich is pretty much your grandfather’s Republican.  Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee and Santorum were all from the delusional class.  Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Jeb!  looked more like they were running away from being president.  Frankly, Trump didn’t have much to contend with.
  3. Last factor, also no surprise, is that about one third of Republican voters care more about slogans and scapegoating rather than actual governance.  We have known this for years , the Tea Party “movement” was just a cynical exploitation of this fact.

So, now this question really is: What should the Republican party do now?  And the answer is actually pretty simple: Dump Trump.  trump-web

Some people freak out at the prospect of Republicans using convention rules to deny Trump the nomination.  Ben Carson, who endorsed the “more cerebral” version of Trump today said that going against Trump would be “thwarting the will of the people.”  Like most of what Carson has said outside the operating room, that is a crock of BS.

By a wide margin, Republican voters have voted against Trump.  I think the party would be well justified in listening to the two-thirds non-Trump majority of their voters.  Why should he get the nomination when he can’t get a majority of the party’s voters?  It’s only common sense.

And the idea that taking out Trump in some way at the convention will cause a revolt is an idea that only the ego of Trump sees as real.  Most Republicans don’t want him, getting rid of him will lead to greatly more cheers than jeers.

The party rules (which of course they made up and so can change) combined with unusual circumstances have conspired to make a loser look like a winner.   The Republican party has the right to nominate anyone they want.  If the Republicans really follow the will of their people, someone other than Trump will be their nominee this November.

Replacing Trump with a Cruz-Rubio ticket, or even better a Cruz-Kasich ticket (they probably can’t win the presidency without Ohio) would make both mathematical and logical sense.

Political Correctness: My Big Fat White Tukis

I will say one thing for the conservative types, they are very good at making up slogans and shouting those slogans over and over until they get their base to rally around them.

One example over the past 30 years has been the Republicans shouting over and over that they are the party of “small government.”  This, as Reason magazine has pointed out over and over again is patent BS.  In fact, the Republicans only want a different kind of intrusive large government from Democrats.  They want a huge military, lots of prisons and to tell women how to use their uteri.  Some might even argue that this is big government as its absolute worst — and Reason certain has.

They are doing exactly the same thing with “Political Correctness.”  The idea is that liberals are so thin skinned that certain words and concepts have to be watered down to the detriment of free speech and free thought.  Somehow the opposite of being PC is “telling the truth.”  This truth telling in the face of the forces of oppression is supposed to be one of the appeals of Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

So, let’s look at a couple of recent examples.

A few months ago there was a controversy at Harvard where Latino students objected to the phrase “House Master” to describe what at other universities might be called Residential Assistants (RAs), students who help keep order in the dorms. The Latino students felt that it was too reminiscent of a slave master.  Steven Pinker, the famous psychologist and linguist tweeted: “We should be teaching students: 1 All words have >1 meaning.. 2. Mature adults resist taking pointless offense.”

Usually I agree with much of what Pinker says, but in this case, I feel he was off base.   But the larger issue is, who was being “Politically Correct”?  I think a good argument can be made for saying it was actually Pinker.

Pinker himself knows full well that language marches on.  To my ears, if nothing else, “house master” sounds like something from a Victorian boarding school.  But (and I know I am putting words in Pinker’s mouth) he wants to say, “stop being children, words are words, we should keep doing it this way because we always have.”

Well, if words are words, why not change them?  Why shut down debate and cling to the past?  That is being politically correct!  “I get all butt hurt when things change, so let’s just keep it all the same so I can comfortably live in the past.”  Who is thin skinned here?  Also when the party in power (Pinker is on the faculty at Harvard) says, “It must be this way,” that shuts down debate more quickly than anything.

A similar, but more settled issue, was the move from “policeman”  to “police officer” and similar changes in nomenclature.  Some people still want to claim that this shift is simply one of “political correctness.”  But again, who is being politically correct?  The use of the phrase “police officer” is simply a reflection of reality. Not everyone on the police force is male.  “Police Officer” is a more accurate description of the members of our police force, it is simply the truth.   Those who would want to continue to call them “policemen” are doing so for a political reason.  They are the ones being politically correct — and often times use bullying and name calling (The PC Police!) to try and make their point, not reason and logic.

Another example arose in the Arizona legislature.  An atheist member of the legislature gave the daily invocation, but he (gasp!) didn’t actually mention god.  The butt hurt Republicans rushed a minister up front post haste to give a “proper” invocation, that is to say one that they approve of.  So, who is being “politically correct” here?  I’ll let you figure it out.  pc

Finally, I’ll get to Mr. Anti-PC himself, Donald Trump.  Trump’s followers, spurred on by the Donald himself, say that he is “just telling the truth” and the rest of us don’t like it because we are just too PC.  Hmmm.  Let’s see.  Now, I can’t evaluate every statement he has made, but here is a pretty typical one:

I think Islam hates us. There’s a tremendous hatred there, there’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us. … it’s radical, but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.

Now, if we parse this, it becomes pretty apparent there is not a lot of truth here.  Islam can’t hate anyone.  It is a religion, a philosophy.  People hate, not ideas.  It is also easy to see that whatever some Muslims might feel, the vast majority have no bone to pick with the US or the West.  The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, which is not exactly a hotbed of anti-American terrorism.  Ten percent of the Muslims in the world live in India, one of our staunchest allies.  Only 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries.  Looking down the list of the top ten Muslim countries, I see a lot of poverty, but not a lot of terrorism.

Are there terrorists who use Islam as their justification for their actions?   Undoubtedly.  But it does no good to identify all of the world’s two billion Muslims as potential terrorists, in fact it is extremely harmful to our anti-terrorism efforts.  How much time should we spend looking for terrorists in Indonesia?  How much time in Syria?  I think we can figure who is who.

The problem with Trump is that he is wrong, but he keeps saying these things for political reasons.  He thinks this is what his audience wants to hear, and he appears to be right.  Once again, it is Trump who is being “politically correct” as opposed to factually accurate.  Saying things for political effect in a way that shuts down debate is pretty much the definition of political correctness.  Trump is the king of PC!

Anyone who thinks that Trump is “not a politician” is out of their mind.

 

 

Pascal’s Wager And The Immorality of Christianity

With my eyes still not being what they should be, I have been spending more time than usual cruising YouTube and in particular episodes of the Atheist Experience, a public access TV show out of Austin, Texas.  One of the interesting things about the show is that the self described atheist hosts of the show take calls from, if not all comers, certainly a wide variety.

One question that comes up again and again is basically, “Aren’t you guys afraid of what will happen if you are wrong?”  Usually at that point, the hosts sigh and say, “Pascal’s Wager.”

20121218-002141

And it is not just every day Christians on a call in show, Christian apologist Peter Kreeft offers the following story on his webpage about Pascal’s Wager:

An atheist visited the great rabbi and philosopher Martin Buber and demanded that Buber prove the existence of God to him. Buber refused, and the atheist got up to leave in anger. As he left, Buber called after him, “But can you be sure there is no God?” That atheist wrote, forty years later, “I am still an atheist. But Buber’s question has haunted me every day of my life.” The Wager has just that haunting power.

Haunting power?  This just points up to me how immoral the “Christian” view of the world really is.

If god really is an all benevolent creature, it seems to me that the response of Christians to us atheists should not be, “Are you afraid of being wrong,” But rather, “You’ll be overjoyed when you find out you are wrong!”

I was a believer back in high school and have kept in contact with a very close friend from that period.  She is a very devout theist and we have discussed our positions many times.  I have often said that she has the advantage in our “argument.

If I am ultimately right, death ends our consciousness and neither of us experiences anything, I get no “I told you so!”  On the other hand if there is an afterlife, she gets the ultimate “I told you so!”  But to her credit, I am sure that deep in her heart she is not looking forward to that day so I get my comeuppance by a trip to Hell — and not back.

Without dealing with the philosophical weaknesses of the wager, I find it morally repugnant, on several levels.  First of all, I am supposed to predicate my belief in god on the results that will accrue to me — the cosmic carrot and stick.

Even worse the wager is about a thought crime.  The wager doesn’t say, “You should be a good person” to get the reward, but rather you have to believe in something.  And Christians, for the most part, are OK with this.

It never ceases to amaze me that people pretty consistently throw this at the folks at the Athiest Experience.  Seems to me that they are probably no worse, sin-wise than most Christians, they seem like very nice folks, but because of their thought crime, they are going to suffer the consequences.  This is morally repugnant to me.

The idea of a hell, for someone like Hitler, perhaps certainly has some emotional appeal, although the idea of infinite punishment for finite crimes is still a bit problematic.  But at least there is some idea of justice.  But Pascal’s Wager makes god out, pretty literally to be some kind of mafia boss.

If you kiss my ring and don’t speak ill of me, God seems to say in the wager, I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you.    Not only is the god of the wager immoral, but he is also petty.  You mean to tell me that the infinite creator of a universe with contains 100 billion galaxies is going to mete out infinite punishment to me because of what I didn’t do Sunday morning?  That I wasn’t a member of his little club?  Really?  And you are OK worshipping that kind of god?

Now, there are lots of logical problems with Pascal’s Wager, not the least of which that it seems to present a false dilemma, or, as Homer Simpson famously put it, “What if we are worshipping the wrong god and every time we go to church we are making him madder and madder?”

But logical problems aside, theists and especially Christians should stop using the wager as it makes god into an immoral monster.

And personally, I am not “haunted” by the thought that I might be wrong.  If god is as he is depicted by the wager, I wouldn’t worship him or even give him the time of day and would be happy to go to hell to get away from him.

The Faith Based Campaign of Trump

As a non-Republican, I have to love the delicious irony of this year’s Presidential primaries on that side, it really is a wonder to behold.  On the one hand, it really is not as crazy as it seems.  The mainstream media is just loving the Trump “phenomenon” so they keep reporting his “big wins” uncritically.  But, as usual, it is only the splitting of the more “mainstream” vote between Cruz and Rubio (Cruzio) that is keeping the Trumpster front and center.  If you look at Cruzio, they are actually winning the nomination.

In terms of delegates, Trump seems to be leading with 319, but Cruzio is actually ahead with 336.  If we adjust the Super Tuesday results to reflect Trump vs Cruzio, it looks like this:

Ala.

AK

Ark.

Ga.

Mass.

MN

OK

Tenn.

TX

VT

VA

Trump

43%

34%

33%

39%

49%

21%

28%

39%

27%

33%

35%

Cruzio

40%

51%

56%

48%

28%

66%

60%

46%

62%

29%

49%

Kasich

4%

4%

4%

6%

18%

6%

4%

5%

4%

30%

9%

Carson

10%

11%

6%

6%

3%

7%

6%

8%

4%

4%

6%

Suddenly our electoral standings look very different.  Instead of “sweeping” Super Tuesday, Trump would be scurrying back home with his tail between his legs.  Yes, he would have squeaked out a win in Alabama, and also won the irrelevant (for Republicans in the general election) states of Vermont and Massachusetts.   Not very impressive.  Now, it is not completely clear that Cruz and Rubio voters would automatically go to the other or would go over to Trump, but that is a fair assumption.

It really looks like the Trump “phenomenon” is really just the remaining rump of the Tea Party looking for one last pillage.  I mean, seriously, how far would a Trump/Christie ticket get in the general election?  It would be a wipe out.

What I find most interesting about Trump is his faith based campaign.  Trump is pretty clearly the least religious of any of the candidates.  And yet the way he talks is totally like a preacher, and his followers seem to eat it up.

Just watch any speech by the Trumpster and make a drinking game of it.  Take a shot every time he says “believe me” or “honestly.”  You’ll be in a coma if you manage to make it through the whole speech.  Most people will be on the floor in five minutes.  If you want to add to the pain, just add in the phrase, “I love you people.”

And this is where it all sounds faith based to me.  All you have to do is believe and good things will come your way.  The guy at the top “really loves you.”  This kind of rhetoric could only be effective among those who are used to leaving their critical thinking at the door and just believing what they hear.  That is the mark of Trumps campaign even more than the racism and xenophobia.  Believe me!  I am your savior!  Who needs evidence when you have faith!

Now, to some extent all political campaigns are faith based.  We want to believe politicians are really out to help us, which turns out rarely to be true.  Followers of Bernie Sanders are also imbued with belief.   But at least he has a long consistent career to base those beliefs on.

For example of a faith based  statement, here is the first political endorsement Trump received, from New York Congressman Chris Collins: “Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has both the guts and the fortitude to return our nation’s jobs stolen by China, take on our enemies like ISIS, Iran, North Korea and Russia, and most importantly, reestablish the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to attain the American Dream.”

Really?  Trumps builds hotels and golf courses:  how does that “clearly demonstrate” that he is ready to take on ISIS?  Would you really trust some guy in your community to fix the roads and balance the school budget just because he puts out a good buffet at his restaurant?  Collins clearly believes in something, but it is not the real Donald Trump.

In reality, Trump is just another mediocre business man who lets his ego run rampant.  Yes, he has apparently piled up some money, but so could you if you started with $300 million like he did.  Other than filing bankruptcy, Trump is best known for being a reality TV star where he played a parody of a real business person.

Wikipedia has this to say about the “success” of the show:  “Although the series was one of the most-watched programs on NBC in the advertiser-friendly 18–49 age demographic, the franchise’s total audience gradually dissolved, starting in late 2004, when it aired its second season that culminated in, what most Apprentice fans deem, an “overextended”[19] 3-hour season finale on December 16, 2004.”

I am not sure how growling “You’re fired” to people who were deemed lacking in setting up a celebrity car wash gave Trump the “guts and fortitude” to do anything really.  Somehow Collins and others shape the Trump smokescreen into something solid and real.

It certainly takes a lot of faith to do that.

Update March 8:

Over the last seven days, Cruzio has picked up momentum, they have picked up 110 delegates to Trump’s 54.  Cruzio now has 451 delegates to Trump’s 384.  Now, I don’t know how many of the remaining primaries are winner take all, but the only way Trump gets the nomination is to get 1189 delegates in the primaries.  If he falls short of that number Cruz and Rubio make a deal and we probably get a Cruz/Rubio ticket, which maybe the Tea Party types would not fully support and maybe Trump makes good on his threat to run third party.  Either way, good for the Democrats.