Is the Stock Market Evil?

August 12, 2011 at 9:09 pm (By Amba)

Idle thought:  I’m just wondering whether the wealth-creation twist that the stock market adds to the straightforward transactions of the economy—folding a froth of gambling fever into solid value, like beaten egg whites into a soufflé—might not actually be the devil’s work.  Whether someone writing a bible today might not ban it the way the original banned usury.

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87 Comments

  1. chickelit said,

    Amba:

    I don’t think that the stock market is evil, but I do believe that modernity has corrupted it:

    401(k) retirement plans opened the door to more widespread indirect participation in the market. People like me could “buy shares” via proxy holders like Fidelity who offered mutual funds. (I don’t mean to single out Fidelity, I just want to use them as an example).

    When a guy like me buys shares in a mutual fund, a company like Fidelity actually holds the shares and repackages/recombines them for sale in a mutual fund. Shareholders are supposed to exert pressure on corporations-go to board meetings, sound off, get dramatic, hold them responsible, etc. Does Fidelity do that? I sure don’t. I just pay a yearly “fee” to Fidelity and like I said-they actually hold the shares.

    In the not so “olden days” only a single person (or persons) at small or even large companies would interact with mutual fund brokerage houses. They in turn, turned corporate investments into paid pensions for the average man. In those bygone days, stock market “signalers” were fewer (and maybe savvier). They acted like a buffer between the aggregate and the individual. Before that time, the stock market truly was only a rich man’s or a savvy investor’s game.

    This trend towards individual retirements allowed individuals to reap (or lose) the fruits of savings. Could the trend towards individual exposure to market ill winds parallel any religious trends in the Western world viz., individual salvation?

  2. chickelit said,

    LOL I missed your first words: Idle thought:

    These days, how do idle thoughts and ideal hands differ? :)

  3. chickelit said,

    12:45 (amended)

    LOL I missed your first words: Idle thoughts:

    These days, how do idle thoughts and idle hands differ? :)

  4. amba12 said,

    The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?

    (“ideal hands”)

  5. A said,

    Or ideal thoughts and idle hands?

  6. chickelit said,

    The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

    Max was a proto-electronic quilter, wasn’t he? :)

  7. joared said,

    Is evil a religious construct? What’s honest, straight forward, just and fair comes to my mind, so if evil does not apply, do these terms?

    I certainly like the thoughts as you’ve expressed them whether or not evil is an issue, especially — “—folding a froth of gambling fever into solid value, like beaten egg whites into a soufflé—”.

  8. amba12 said,

    There’s a place in life for the devious and indirect and clever — that leavening of the mercurial and hermetic, an archetype associated with trickery and theft. It seems like it’s out of place though — like we have thieves where there should be kings.

  9. Rod said,

    Most of us are in the stock market (through 401Ks) not in a frenzy of greed, but as a hedge against inflation. Saving for retirement is a 40 year effort, or longer. If I stuck some of the dollars I made in 1975 in a mattress, they would be worth less than 25 cents today. A reasonably educated person in 1975 would have come across one commonplace observation: The stock market had outperformed real estate or bonds over the long term. So, when pensions went out of style and 401Ks became the rule, mutual funds were a way for the upper middle class to avoid erosion of savings.

    The gamblers are far more likely to target individual stocks. I decided to dip a toe into that after 9/11. I looked at the huge stock drops and concluded they reflected a reaction of fear and panic, not a realistic assessment of the value of the companies. So, I picked two hard hit stocks: Boeing and United Airlines. I eventually sold one at triple my purchase, and rode the other down to nothing. (I didn’t understand the inherent problems facing commercial airlines.) That seemed like a risky way to play with retirement money, so I don’t do it any more.

    I think the stock market plays an important role in our society, permitting the funding of business enterprises. The wild swings in stock prices are what have people unnerved. The recent 600 plus point one day drop in the market represented a six percent drop in the market as a whole. If you invested for retirement and had accumulated $1M, you lost a hefty $60,000 that day. Moreover, if you are approaching what used to be retirement age, you cannot retire, because there is no sense of how much money is enough to pay taxes on your house, cover what will either be higher taxes or higher medical costs in the future, and cover everyday living expenses.

    Those of us over 55 seem to be divided into two camps: unemployed or scared.

  10. realpc said,

    “There’s a place in life for the devious and indirect and clever — that leavening of the mercurial and hermetic, an archetype associated with trickery and theft. It seems like it’s out of place though — like we have thieves where there should be kings.’

    No, it isn’t out of place Amba. The Trickster is what we are made of.

  11. realpc said,

    The stock market was a reliable fountain of wealth for at least 20 years. It was Old Faithful. Everyone said it goes up and down in the short run, but in the long run it ALWAYS goes up. How can anything always go up? That is a fundamental error of our crazy civilization, and now it’s killing us. There are no limits, real estate value always increases, stocks always go up — that is the American fantasy.

    So based on the very obvious principle that everything has limits, I can say with almost certainty that Old Faithful has dried up.

    So people will have to find some other way to get rich effortlessly.

  12. Icepick said,

    So, I picked two hard hit stocks: Boeing and United Airlines. I eventually sold one at triple my purchase, and rode the other down to nothing. (I didn’t understand the inherent problems facing commercial airlines.)

    A story has it that Richard Branson was once asked how to become a millionaire. He replied, “That’s easy. Start as a billionaire and then buy an airline.”

    Even Warren Buffett lost money with an airline.

  13. chasrmartin said,

    Does Fidelity do that?

    You bet. Even more importantly, insurance companies do, and major endowments like Harvard and CALPERS. Institutional investors are a big factor in how corporations are run.

  14. chasrmartin said,

    So people will have to find some other way to get rich effortlessly.

    Real, if you think people doing major stock trading get (or got) rich effortlessly, it simply demonstrates you’ve never actually dealt with those people. I worked with successful traders when I was working Wall Street and you’ve never seen anyone who worked more or harder.

  15. amba12 said,

    Rod, it’s been a long time. I still regret not meeting you in North Carolina that day.

    What I was trying to say was that the speculators and short-term traders distort the behavior of the market as a bet on value. I don’t know what the proportion of speculators to more conservative value investors is. Maybe it’s precisely the “irrational exuberance” the stock market is prone to that makes it a good hedge against inflation, most of the time. A hope springs eternal kind of thing. The stock market is so emotional, so hope-and-fear driven. It behaves like a manic-depressive in Vegas and off lithium. It is to the economy as a severe mood disorder is to a household. And there are people who batten on the volatility.

  16. amba12 said,

    The Trickster is what we are made of.

    Yes, but not only.

  17. mockturtle said,

    Futures trading, derivatives and other edgy markets have infected the stock market, as well. Greed is the only player now. My early New England ancestors who lived the true Puritan ethic would have been appalled by the naked lust for money rampant today. This is NOT what the American dream is all about. Conditions today are somewhat reminiscent of what Teddy Roosevelt took steps to curtail in his administration. And he was a Republican!

  18. Icepick said,

    The stock market is so emotional, so hope-and-fear driven. It behaves like a manic-depressive in Vegas and off lithium. It is to the economy as a severe mood disorder is to a household. And there are people who batten on the volatility.

    It has been said that in the short-term the stock market is a popularity contest, but in the long-term it is a weighing device. I am sure that still holds true. However, in the short-term going broke is a real possibility for most investors.

  19. Icepick said,

    I worked with successful traders when I was working Wall Street and you’ve never seen anyone who worked more or harder.

    Yeah, and what did they actually produce for the rest of us as a consequence? Increasingly it just looks more and more like skimming off the top. I’m also certain the HFTers work their asses off too. BFD.

  20. mockturtle said,

    It used to be all about investing. Now, it’s all about trading. It’s a game [or an illness]. I met a day-trader once who was clearly addicted to his ‘hobby’. This type of frenetic activity changes the playing field for the rest of us by manipulating values.

  21. amba12 said,

    Yes, that’s pretty much my point. It becomes about making money in a way that’s far removed from actual value—profiting from lurches of hope and fear themselves, the bigger the lurch the more profitable. At least, there’s a toxic froth of that on the top of the market that’s poisoning the life deeper down.

  22. Randy said,

    Odd thoughts:

    There is nothing inherently evil about a stock market. It is merely a forum to provide easier access to liquidity for those who invest in corporations. Over time, the daily gyrations fed by momentary fear or over-enthusiasm are largely irrelevant but they do attract a lot of attention.

    The average day-trader goes broke, or close to it, pretty quickly. Others, convinced that they can get rich day-trading because of one or two lucky bets, step into the shoes of those who fell by the wayside and repeat the process. It is just another form of gambling. Anyone who claims different is lying to themselves (or you). The only way an active day-trader ends up with a small fortune is by beginning with a large one.

    The vast majority of professional traders aren’t much better – the difference is that they are invariably using other people’s money so their day of reckoning is usually delayed. The best professional traders manage mutual funds. Over any significant period of time, the average actively-managed mutual fund under-performs such market averages as the S&P 500. IIRC, the percentage is 70%+ under-perform, and the 30% that didn’t are entirely different depending on the time period chosen. IOW, today’s vaunted hero is tomorrow’s vanquished loser. And, since most don’t retire, yesterday’s vanquished loser lives on to be hailed as today’s hero. I could name one or two who are getting the hero treatment now that were widely derided just a few years ago, but it isn’t worth the effort.

    The problem we do have seems to be a result of computerization and the creation of derivatives and other instruments that it turns out no one (least of all, those who create them) actually understands. Everyone continues to pretend they do up until the inevitable blow-up, at which point the creator, seller, buyer and regulator all shout in unison, “Who knew?” None of them seem particularly interested in doing anything any time soon about their collective irrational and intentional ignorance.

    Haven’t got a proposed solution, but this largely non-productive financial industry reportedly now accounts for a record high percentage of profits in this country (IIRC, twice its historical norm) and continues to grow despite the ongoing economic disaster caused by it.

    I’d suggest considering bonds, but one of our political parties has adopted as official policy the idea that threatening default on our national legal obligations is a legitimate option in pursuit of partisan political objectives. Having loudly engaged in such brinksmanship right up to eleventh hour, it is unlikely we shall not revisit that line again soon, particularly as the other political party will now feel free to engage in such unprecedented behavior as well. (IMO, anyone who believes politics isn’t a big game of “tit for tat” is deluded ;-) Therefore, the next game of “chicken” (or the one after that) may well be the one where we actually succeed into turning ourselves into the banana republic we appear to be becoming, or Argentina. When that happens, your bonds will be worthless.

    BTW, if you take comfort in holding municipal bonds, you might want to revisit them. The unfunded pension liabilities of municipalities and states nationwide are ticking time bombs.

    Enough of my happy talk….

  23. mockturtle said,

    IMHO, you are spot on, Randy!

  24. Rod said,

    I agree with Randy that the volatility of the market is, at least part, computer driven. My 401K offers a selection of a dozen or so mutual funds with differing investment strategies. I can go online and switch funds, which, I suspect, generates movement in the stocks and securities in those funds. So, we may also have a great many people switching their investment mix. In a panic driven market a sudden move can be like yelling “Fire” in a theater.

    In ’08, I took the long view, leaving my investments where they were and hoping for the slow upward march to resume, which it was doing until two weeks ago.

    For an interesting perspective on whether investing in the market is sinful, you should consider Matthew 25:

    14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

    15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

    16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

    17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

    18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

    19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

    20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

    21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

    23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

    25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

    26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

    27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

    28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

    29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

    30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    The above is a parable about using your abilities for the Kingdom of God, so it should not be taken as financial advice, but it is an interesting perspective. My take is that modern Christian thought would support a prudent investment strategy, followed for the reason of remaining financially stable and being able to give charity, instead of just taking. At a certain point, putting money in the market, especially into a single stock, is a lot more like gambling.

  25. realpc said,

    “Real, if you think people doing major stock trading get (or got) rich effortlessly, it simply demonstrates you’ve never actually dealt with those people. I worked with successful traders when I was working Wall Street and you’ve never seen anyone who worked more or harder.”

    I was talking about middle class people with their retirement accounts in mutual funds. They didn’t have to work hard at saving, because their accounts were always growing faster than inflation.

    And besides, I have read that indexed funds do as well as managed funds, so what exactly are those guys working so hard at?

  26. realpc said,

    “The Trickster is what we are made of.”

    “Yes, but not only.”

    I think it’s the foundation. The rest is illusions built on the sands of irony.

  27. amba12 said,

    Rod, that’s quite a chilling parable, taken literally.

  28. amba12 said,

    Very Jewish, too.

  29. Rod said,

    The speaker to whom the parable is attributed, Jesus, was very Jewish.

  30. mockturtle said,

    Investment in companies for their benefit and our gain is not inherently evil and I don’t think anyone here was implying that it is. Just as television and other media are not inherently evil but have become increasingly so in their product, greed and corruption have made the stock market a venue for sinister activity to predominate.

    The usury comparison is interesting. As I understand it, it was forbidden only among the OT Jews but was allowed when lending to Gentiles or ‘strangers’. I think this was carried over to the Christian Church as well for a time.

  31. realpc said,

    “The usury comparison is interesting. As I understand it, it was forbidden only among the OT Jews but was allowed when lending to Gentiles or ‘strangers’. I think this was carried over to the Christian Church as well for a time.”

    Jews were not allowed to charge interest on loans, and neither were Christians. But Jews decided they could charge interest when they loaned money to Christians, and that is how the Jews became rich bankers. If not for this loophole in religious law, we wouldn’t have capitalism. And some Jews became extremely rich and powerful because of this.

    However, Jesus was way before all that happened. I really don’t understand that parable. I really don’t understand most of his parables. But I think they usually have something to do with turning things upside down. And I think Jesus is just another example of the Trickster.

  32. mockturtle said,

    Jesus was applying the investment analogy to our use of spiritual gifts, rather like the ‘light under a bushel’ metaphor. Gifts not used are gifts wasted.

    realpc, C.S. Lewis aptly stated that every individual must define Jesus in one of three ways: Either a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God [Mere Christianity]. I’m assuming ‘trickster’ comes under the first definition.

    I was not raised a Christian. Ironically, it was only after reading The Passover Plot, Schonfield, 1965, that I began to wonder if there was, in fact, something of substance to the story the book intended to debunk and later came to believe in Him. ‘Many are called but few are chosen’.

  33. mockturtle said,

    Sorry, I lost control of my italics. Again. :-(

    EDIT: Fixed now!

  34. Callimachus said,

    The 401(k) and the subsequent decline of the pension plan — whether intentionally or not (and I begin to suspect intention, in spite of myself) — made EVERYONE an investor in stocks. That was a terrible idea. Because the market still is driven by the rapacious gamblers. Who found ways to twine their bets with our investments, so that they knew the government would not let the market fail or even slip very far. Which made them more reckless with their gambling. Which made … well, look around you.

  35. karen said,

    “I worked with successful traders when I was working Wall Street and you’ve never seen anyone who worked more or harder.”

    Haha.

    Sorry, Charlie- but, i don’t believe that and kinda take ice’s view and loved his BFD.

    Awesome to ~see~ you again, though, Charlie:0).

    Amba- had you not heard that parable before?

  36. amba12 said,

    Of course I’d heard it before, even read it before. It’s just that read literally in the context of capitalism, read as being about money, it’s so brutal. Of course it’s saying that you will be punished for not risking, which is a rather marvelous idea.

  37. realpc said,

    “realpc, C.S. Lewis aptly stated that every individual must define Jesus in one of three ways: Either a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God [Mere Christianity]. I’m assuming ‘trickster’ comes under the first definition.”

    Not at all. If you ever read anything about the Trickster, you would know it is an extremely common type of god, an intermediary between the human and spirit worlds. The Trickster speaks in riddles because it is impossible to communicate directly about the other worlds. Jesus was trying to explain what can’t be explained in words. I think Jesus was a typical shaman / healer / trickster / prophet. All those things are similar and related.

    I do not agree with C. S. Lewis. I do not think Jesus was an exception. It’s just that his life was recorded by the literate pharisee Saul, who became Paul. And then Christianity was spread all over by the Roman Empire.

    Jesus was special only in the sense that any prophet or shaman is special.

  38. realpc said,

    And by the way I consider myself a Christian, even though I don’t think Jesus is God (and he never said he was, by the way). I can be Christian and yet tolerant and non-judgmental towards other religions, because each religion has a little glimpse of the truth, mixed in with a lot of mythology and nonsense. I can worship Jesus and think of him as a spokesperson for the human race, an unfathomable trickster who points out the way for us.

    Anyone who says they understand everything, or even anything, he said must be kidding themselves. Because his words point to a higher level which is infinitely beyond our conscious understanding.

  39. mockturtle said,

    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” John 14:6. Words of Jesus–definitely NOT tolerant.

  40. mockturtle said,

    even though I don’t think Jesus is God (and he never said he was, by the way)

    He also said, “I and the Father are One.” John 10:30.

  41. realpc said,

    mockturtle, it is a mistake to take these things literally. When Jesus says “I” it probably means whoever is speaking through him. We have to admit we really don’t know what he meant. And if they insist on taking it literally, then Christianity will gradually die out. The central truths of Christianity can’t be appreciated when people get lost in details and literal interpretations.

    The intolerance of some Christians is directly opposed to the message of God’s love and forgiveness. God is tolerant of US, and He does not want us to be intolerant and judgmental of others.

    Taking little things out of context and interpreting them literally will destroy Christianity, and deprive new generations of the message of hope and forgiveness.

  42. mockturtle said,

    Christianity will not be destroyed nor will it ‘die out’. But we have gotten rather off-topic, haven’t we? Mea culpa. :-)

  43. realpc said,

    [Christianity will not be destroyed nor will it ‘die out’.]

    Intolerance and over-simplifying and trying to interpret Jesus literally will kill Christianity. Young people who go to college are taught to reject Christianity. Not all, but many. And it’s because too many Christians have always been intolerant and literal, ignoring the central messages and focusing on trivial differences. The central message is that we need salvation, and that we can be saved. That God loves us and forgives us, as long as we recognize that we need to be forgiven.

    It doesn’t matter if you call God Jesus or Buddha or the Trickster or the guiding spirit or the Higher Self. They are all just words and words are not adequate for understanding the great mysteries.

    If you want to waste your life arguing about whether homosexuality, or abortion, is a sin, go ahead. I think it’s tragic that people get lost in these things.

  44. amba12 said,

    Did mockturtle say anything about homosexuality or abortion? Or did I miss something? Assumptions are a feature of intolerance.

  45. amba12 said,

    Like the assumption that “all Christians are intolerant.”

    That said, I agree with you, real, that taking “no one comes to the Father but by me” literally is a problem. (Though maybe in the time and place it was uttered, it was true.) That can lead to anything from dismissal to damnation at one end of the spectrum to Inquisition at the other.

  46. realpc said,

    No mockturtle did not mention homosexuality or abortion, but that is what you mostly hear about from conservative Christian organizations these days. They should just forget about it, but they won’t. It isn’t what mockturtle specifically said, it’s an example of how literal and trivial the debates have been.

    [That said, I agree with you, real, that taking “no one comes to the Father but by me” literally is a problem. (Though maybe in the time and place it was uttered, it was true.) ]

    We can only guess what it meant. Whenever people don’t know something, they start guessing and filling in the blanks, and becoming more and more certain about their guesses.

    We don’t know what most of Jesus’ statements meant, and maybe we should accept that we don’t know. It really bothers me when Christians are intolerant, because I sympathize with the central message. And “educated” people tend to only see the trivial intolerant nonsense.

  47. amba12 said,

    “Believing is pretending to know something you don’t.”

    But not all Christians are conservative, let alone intolerant.

    And the irony is that believing can also confer the power to receive and channel God. It gets the mind with its nagging questions out of the way, or something.

  48. realpc said,

    “And the irony is that believing can also confer the power to receive and channel God. It gets the mind with its nagging questions out of the way, or something.”

    I guess you mean it’s easier to have faith if you feel you know all the details. So the intolerant religious person has stronger faith. I don’t know if that is true, because I don’t feel like I know the details but my faith is ok, I think. People who need to feel certain about the details — like the earth being six thousand years old — have a vulnerable kind of faith. As soon as they take a biology or geology course they can be converted to atheism.

    Doesn’t it take an awful lot of mental energy, for example, to be certain that evolution never happened? Just having to ignore all that evidence has to be exhausting.

    Anyway, maybe I am not a Christian. It’s just a label that could mean a lot of different things.

  49. realpc said,

    “But not all Christians are conservative, let alone intolerant.”

    Well mockturtle said:

    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” John 14:6. Words of Jesus–definitely NOT tolerant.”

    There are some liberal forms of Christianity, but I think they are even less Christian than I am. If you don’t believe in hell or that everyone is a sinner, for example, you can’t be anything like a Christian, in my opinion.

  50. amba12 said,

    I know Christians who would emphatically disagree with that last statement.

    Even a southern born-again friend of mine who is a kind soul once said that she thought there must be two hells—a fairly comfortable one for the good-hearted nonbelievers, and a deeper, hotter one for unrepentant evildoers.

  51. amba12 said,

    There are sophisticated (in the good sense) Christians who take Jesus’s message in a higher and less literal sense.

  52. realpc said,

    “There are sophisticated (in the good sense) Christians who take Jesus’s message in a higher and less literal sense.”

    I don’t know, it depends what you mean by Jesus’s message, or what you mean by “higher.” I think his message was entirely mystical, but there are liberal Christians who think his message was mostly about being humanitarian. i don’t think that is higher, just different, and I don’t think that was his message.

    I don’t know when it started, but at some point our society became very sensitive about certain things. We don’t want to think about things like death or eternal damnation. Everything must always be pleasant. The result is, I think, that we are in denial.

  53. realpc said,

    I know Christians who would emphatically disagree with that last statement.”

    “Even a southern born-again friend of mine who is a kind soul once said that she thought there must be two hells—a fairly comfortable one for the good-hearted nonbelievers, and a deeper, hotter one for unrepentant evildoers.”

    Yes, I know, because they are too sensitive and don’t want to think about something that awful. Ok, that’s understandable, but it is not necessarily reality. Not that we know what is or isn’t reality. But we can’t make unpleasant things unreal just because we don’t want them to be real.

    I think that is one of the big differences between progressivism and conservatism. Progressives think the world can be made nice, with enough effort, and conservatives know that it can’t.

  54. realpc said,

    And I actually think this is so ingrained in us — if we grew up as “liberals” — we don’t even see it. We feel we can make things untrue if we don’t want to believe them. And that is the opposite of Christianity. Christians are supposed to be SCARED. Real born-again Christians, anyway.

  55. realpc said,

    ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved.

  56. amba12 said,

    There’s more than enough hell right here on earth. (Heaven, too, but not enough.)

  57. mockturtle said,

    “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22.

  58. amba12 said,

    Go through someone close to you having dementia. Good cure for denial.

  59. realpc said,

    “There’s more than enough hell right here on earth. (Heaven, too, but not enough.)”

    Maybe we think it’s enough hell, but that doesn’t mean it is enough. What real Christians believe (as far as I know) is that we are given everything we have — everything is grace from God. Even if some aspect of our life isn’t what we want and we consider it hell on earth, it is our gift that we can learn from. And I think that hell is just the complete absence of God in our life. Whatever that means. We can’t even begin to imagine how much every instant of our life depends on grace.

  60. realpc said,

    “Go through someone close to you having dementia. Good cure for denial.”‘

    My mother has it. Maybe that’s what helped to cure my denial.

  61. realpc said,

    A lot of what I believe came from dreams, and I had another one recently. It told me that there is ultimately no escape from reality, whatever reality is.

  62. karen said,

    Real, you said:
    “It doesn’t matter if you call God Jesus or Buddha or the Trickster or the guiding spirit or the Higher Self. They are all just words and words are not adequate for understanding the great mysteries.”

    So, my husband is now reading the Bible– amazing– and you are basically saying that it won’t matter because who can even guess to all that JesusBuddhaGrandShamanetcetc has to say because it can’t be self-explanatory when Christ says “I” to even mean “I” or that it was even He who said what He said… right? And, if one does make decisions on their belief, heh– it’s possibly intolerant and a tragic waste of time to get caught up in the minute details.

    We all have our opinions, for better or worse. I respectfully disagree w/yours in the fact that “those people”(me, for one) who argue for the defense of life at all stages are Tragically wasting their time: it could be a homosexual dying of aids or a woman denied food and water because she was considered a vegetable– already dead in the eyes of her estranged husband– so that she thirsted to death w/out comfort, no comfort allowed from even her Mother– or a child delivered body 1st to receive a thrust from a pair of scissors at the base of it’s infant skull, but slipped form the security of it’s Mother’s womb–

    … what the hell is not to defend??

  63. mockturtle said,

    God [Yahweh] showed exclusivity when He chose the Jews as His people, did He not? He has also made plain what He considers ‘sin’ and is intolerant of sin but obviously loves us sinners enough to have sent His Son as His sacrificial Lamb to die for us. Maybe I don’t always understand Him, nor even agree with Him, but who am I to question God?

  64. realpc said,

    mockturtle, I am not questioning God. I am questioning the texts written by human beings who were interpreting and guessing what God wants. In the old days, if something was written down it was sacred and not to be questioned. But now we know more about human nature, and how people can’t possibly be all-knowing.

    The Old Testament contains many hundreds of laws, most of which we now completely ignore. People select certain ones to focus on. They probably have not even bothered to read the whole long list.

    Modern Christians defy some of the most important Old Testament laws. Then they make a big deal about homosexuality, which was barely even mentioned.

    If you want to be a worshiper of Yahweh, then I think you should at least read the Old Testament laws.

  65. amba12 said,

    Our human ideas about things can’t ever be entirely complete or right, as witness the fact that different groups of Christians disagree about the interpretation and inerrancy of the Bible. One born-again friend of mine was raised Catholic, but she is now anti-Catholic because they don’t rely solely on the Bible. As far as she is concerned the Pope works for the Devil. etc. We do have some information from beyond, and we decide for ourselves which interpretation and interpreter we think is correct. So much depends on this decision that some of us will kill each other over it.

  66. realpc said,

    Christians were fighting over details from the very beginning. You can see that in Paul’s letters. Different sects despised each other. How could anyone actually read the Jewish or Christian bibles and think it’s all clear and definite? I think most don’t bother to read them at all.

  67. mockturtle said,

    I disagree with you on two counts [actually two hundred, but who’s counting?]: First of all, I have attended church since 1983 and could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I heard the words ‘homosexual’ or ‘homosexuality’ even mentioned. And these were conservative churches. Secondly, I have read the entire Bible many, many times. In fact, I am constantly reading it all the way through. When I get to the end of Revelations, I start again with Genesis. It seems clear to me that many of the Mosaic laws were put forth to protect a society from external influences and to maintain health and do not necessarily apply today, with all due respect to Orthodox Jews, who see it differently. As Peter said, “What God has cleansed, let no man call unclean”. He was referring to the Gentiles but as an analogy of meats that God had called unclean but then pronounced clean [in a vision described in Acts].

    Anyway, I could split theological hairs with the best of them and agree there there is much disagreement among Christians on the finer points. We’ll let God, Himself, sort that out.

  68. realpc said,

    mockturtle, I can’t believe you read the Mosaic laws many times and you think it was mostly about food. What about all the little crimes, like wearing the wrong kind of clothes, that were punished by death?

    I think when you read the bible you must be filtering it somehow, not trying to see the information in any kind of objective way.

    And you know that the main focus of Christians in politics these days is abortion and gay marriage.

  69. mockturtle said,

    When did I say the Mosaic laws were ‘mostly about food’???????

  70. mockturtle said,

    And you know that the main focus of Christians in politics these days is abortion and gay marriage

    What you mean is that the MEDIA focus on Christians in politics is largely about abortion and gay marriage. :-\

  71. karen said,

    :-|.
    Word.

    And do you know how long i looked for that little, slanted \ f-er?– and he still got away from me!!!!

    :-|- nailed ‘im that time.

    Heh– i’m a tad buzzed and rather than the above sentiment– this trivial game of nailing the slanted f-er is so funny:0). I keep holding down the shift key-/\\\\\\ and then have to search all over again(while i have my 8yr old calling me… = gotta go.

  72. karen said,

    oooops. )
    I hope my husband can clue me into the OT better than i remember(his mind is the steel trap, mine’s a have-a-heart)– one of my best friends from HS was Jewish and he visited w/his family a few yrs ago. We were talking about ~things~- a very broad subject when not having seen e/other for so long.

    Weird thing though– they celebrate Christmas, but when i wondered why they never raised pigs on their awesome mini-farm- i was gently chided(ok, slightly ridiculed?) by his wife as to– hell-oh-ooo. You know? I was so embarrassed, but it is funny in hindsight. A food thang for real:0).

    I did know– i just wasn’t thinking(blush).

  73. Rod said,

    I’m with Amba. It is a mistake to stereotype Christians, or Jews, or anyone else. About 10% of the people who call themselves evangelicals belong to African American congregations and are liberal on a number of social issues. I attended a fairly conservative church for years, Abortion got mentioned about once a year. Homosexuality, even less frequently. The sermons focused on our sinful nature and the need for redemption. There was a lot more preaching about avoiding marital infidelity and the collapse of families (which is a big issue in all parts of society) than gay marriage. The politics of some issues resonate more with conservative Christians, but that is often not because they are hearing it from the pulpit. Rather, it is part of a world view derived from their reading of few biblical passages which most preachers avoid, or (in the case of abortion) from a more general view of the sanctity of human life.

    The breadth of Christian theology (and Jewish) is what most of us miss in the rush to categorize.

  74. realpc said,

    “It is a mistake to stereotype Christians, or Jews, or anyone else.”

    How can we even thing about anything without stereotyping? I don’t always like being stereotyped myself, but there is no alternative. If we think about each separate thing or person as unique, then we really could not function.

    I have a friend who belongs to a conservative Christian church and she told me they do feel strongly about gay marriage and abortion. Add that to the fact I have heard it innumerable times.

    And notice that Karen is very much against abortion.

  75. mockturtle said,

    So, does that make us chopped liver? The fact that we don’t favor abortion and gay marriage? Some of us are just pointing out that the churches do not emphasize these issues as the media would have us believe. As Rod has stated, they talk about sin in general and the need for redemption because we ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. Romans 3:23.

    This response is not for your benefit, realpc, as I fear nothing will disabuse you of your obvious contempt for Christians, but for others who may have the mistaken notion that conservative Christians care about nothing but abortion and gay marriage. We are neither narrow in our world view nor monolithic in our opinions. What we hold in common is Christ–the Messiah, the Redeemer, the King of Kings.

  76. realpc said,

    I don’t have any contempt for Christians! I already said I think I am a Christian. But I really do not see how gay marriage or abortion have anything to do with the messages of the old or new testaments. And you just admitted you don’t like gay marriage or abortion.

    The reality is that you don’t like gay marriage or abortion because they are not traditional in our American culture.

    And by the way, I don’t like them very much either. I would never want to stop gays from marrying or women from having early abortions. But I do not in any way like or approve of those things.

    What I was saying is that it has nothing really to do with Christianity, or religion. Religion is about relating to God (however we understand that concept) and loving God. It is not about deciding how others should live.

    If gays want to get married, they are not hurting me. If I don’t like the idea, I can just ignore it.

    Abortion is more complicated, since you think it’s killing. I don’t think it is killing if it’s early, but that is only my opinion. However, I do not think God ever said we can’t ever kill.

    “Thou shalt not kill” is obviously not meant literally, since the Old Testament never prohibits killing enemies in war, or killing people who commit crimes (even very minor crimes, by our standards.)

  77. mockturtle said,

    Yes, the stock market is evil. Sort of. I’m not clear what caused the miraculous ‘recovery’. Maybe you economic sharp-shooters out there can ‘splain it to me. :-)

  78. amba12 said,

    Europe closing ranks to shore up the euro?

  79. mockturtle said,

    Europe closing ranks to shore up the euro?
    I guess I’m out of the loop. I thought they had already done that. Or at least come to an agreement.

  80. Randy said,

    You aren’t out of the loop! This is probably the third or fourth time that they’ve “closed ranks.” Maybe this time it will actually work (I doubt it). Then again, maybe it won’t: German economic growth apparently came to a standstill last quarter. Nothing has really change in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, or Italy. BTW, check out Belgium – they’re right behind (if not in reality somewhere in the middle of that group mentioned) and they’ve yet to form a government well over two years after their last election. (IIRC, it’s been something like 33 months since the election was held, but I’m probably wrong.)

    At this point, the only way out for Greece is devaluation. And the only way to do that is to find a way out of the euro. German pockets alone aren’t deep enough to save them, and the average German voter will express their opinion about what has happened thus far in the next national election, at which point those pockets will be even shallower. Seems to be a matter of time as economic growth in Europe isn’t taking care of the various problems in any of the various countries.

    Once Greece leaves, Ireland will find it impossible to remain. Portugal will have to go, too. Spain and Italy will be at the mercy of speculators about their ability to remain within the Euro zone. And Belgium? Well, it would be highly embarrassing for the country the hosts the large part of the bloated, overpaid, and responsible to no-one-but-themselves European Union bureaucracy were forced to exit the euro, so they might be able to muddle along, but I’m not too sure how much longer the thrifty Dutch taxpayer will be interested in subsidizing their southern neighbor.

  81. amba12 said,

    I saw a magazine cover today — TIME? — about the shriveling of Europe.

  82. amba12 said,

    It seems everyone has been living beyond their means. I sometimes naïvely wonder what would happen if we had a jubilee year, like in the Bible — all debts forgiven, start over. (Chaos. The creditor nations and institutions would go bankrupt, that’s what. And no one would ever lend again. Oh well, it’s a nice thought.)

  83. Randy said,

    Oh, they lend again… and again. Just ask Argentina ;-) Although, after the sixth, seventh, tenth (?) time over the course of a few decades, it seems Argentina did finally reach the point almost no one would lend. Which is why, a couple of years ago, they seized all the private pension/401(k)-type accounts of their citizens and gave them shares in a government-operated fund. (Perfomance results of said fund reportedly only marginally better than fuel savings benefit if shares burned to heat home.) Naturally, the intelligent citizens were already sending as much cash as possible to overseas banks (and still are), compounding the problem because local investment and job creation is next to impossible without local capital and local capital is sitting in Swiss, Panamanian, American or Cayman Island accounts.

    EDIT: IIRC, Ecuador defaulted on its debts a couple of years ago and bankers were lined up outside their doors to lend them money the next day. The Greeks won’t be so lucky, but the Irish probably will benefit greatly after devaluation.

  84. Randy said,

    WRT: Jubilee year – sounds like a good idea to me! ;-) But, I think China has a different point of view. It could bankrupt them, what with all their off-the-record “lending” to small and large nations around the world, not to mention their very large reserves parked here in America and Europe. Those are almost all debt instrument, after all.

  85. mockturtle said,

    The European birth rate [at least among native Europeans] is so low that there is insufficient working population to pay for all the generous socialistic programs they have enjoyed for decades. In many ways, their problems are demographic.

    Didn’t I hear something yesterday about EU members passing a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget? Closing the proverbial barn door after the horses have fled, I guess, but it’s a start. We could learn something from this debacle but probably won’t. :-(

  86. karen said,

    Well, we’ve already learned that unicorns do NOT, in fact, poop multi-coloured skittles and that Obama is NOT the savior of the world.

    Now, if he would just get a clue, we might be able to move forward:0)!

  87. salvation rose said,

    I have always that to invoke one’s faith youhave to suspend your disbelief; as children do when they say: “Let’s pretend…!..”.

    That is why only as children do we enter the Kingdom of God; for those who bother….the conversation above has become so far ranging that to actually answer the original question about the relative or absolute evil of the stock market will require to me to quote some sources that I do have access to right at the moment; but I will say conversationally that in chapter 18 of the Revelation of St. John the Divine it shows a rather unwieldy creature that is described as a “scarlet colored beast” carrying a regally caprisioned harlot; and I happen to know that this Scarlet Colored beast stands for: Red China; and the Great Whore it carries seems to stand for Unbridaled Capitlaism Herself: fickle, volatile and unpredictable: a real “Cosmo Girl” in fact; especially since Red China is currently carrying most of our National Debt. The beast “that is, and is not: yet is” is then “Socialist Capitalist Communist” Red China; which is Socialist; but “is not” Marxist because economically capitalist; yet “Is” Marxist because governmentally Communist; but of course there are many wh will disagree with my translation of terms: but they stand: and Capitalism as what the economists call “Creative Destruction” is exactly this “invisible force” of the Market whose psychological existence is well known; as well as being a “living and breathing” embodiment of: Money itself; something inanimate which seems to be “alive”; as Dylan once said; money doesn’t talk; it swears; like the postman; or the god of thieves. How is it that something inanimate rules the animate? That the “living” are ruled by something which is “dead”? More later; but you might want to look at our little with two horns who looks like a lamb; that’s Marxism with the two horns of Communism and Socialism; stolen by Karl Marx the False prophet to set up the kingdom of God: without God; originally pure communism and pure socialism were the two the keys of the Kingdom given to Peter; as when at Pentecost when the congregation all sold their goods and put the money at his feet; the left hand key of Pure Communism as the Collective “hand”; and then Peter and the others at Pentecost used the Pure Socialism of the right hand key as the Distributive “hand”; for first the Old and Sick; then secondly the Widows and Orphans; then thirdly the Poor; and lastly themselves.

    Things are a little different now; but I will add more later….

    There is more, much more; of course…..

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