Saturday, February 28, 2004

Perverted Passion - The Greatest Nonsense Ever Told

Christians love the movie Passion precisely because it is so violent and gruesome and portrays pain so graphically. The more Jesus suffered, the more christians can sell their trivial story that Jesus paid a hefty price for humanity's sins. But no matter how well the movie succeeds at making the audience feel the pain, the facts remains that many people have died more painful deaths for lesser causes (picture Mel Gibson getting disemboweled in Braveheart), many INNOCENT people have died more painful deaths at the hands of christians in the name of Jesus, and all those people didn't have the luxury of coming back to life in 3 days!!!

Christians like to say that Jesus sacrificed himself for humanity but where's the sacrifice if he came back to life in 3 days?

What kind of benevolent god would be willing to let an innocent person, let alone his own son, pay a price for someone else's crimes?

The story of Jesus is trivial nonsense, but it did have an impact on humanity. Superstition often has an impact on society but never a good impact. Take, for example, Salem Massachusettes during the witch hunts. If you could travel back in time and ask some poor lady burning at the stake, she would readily agree that religious superstition is having a serious impact on her life at the moment. The Salem Witch hunts were a direct result of religious superstition.

The story of Jesus is not the only trivial story that ever gained a following. Look at the mormons. What could be more silly than a convicted con-man creating his own religion (Joseph Smith - creator of the mormon religion)? Yet mormonism has quite a momentum of followers around the world. I've even spotted a pair of bicycle-riding, proselytizing clowns in the far reaches of northern Thailand!

The truth is, religion is the greatest evil on earth. The key to peace on earth starts with atheism. When people start thinking for themselves and relying on human reasoning instead of mystical superstition, then humanity has a chance to achieve true peace in the world. All the terrorism and suicide bombings we're seeing in the world today comes directly from religious superstition. How would the leaders of suicide bombers justify themselves if you take religion out of the equation? If the world had experienced 1600 years of human reasoning and clear objective thinking instead of religious superstition, would that community of christian clowns in Salem Massachusettes have been able to perpetrate their heinous crimes? How would they prove someone to be a witch if they had to use objective science instead of unprovable religious dogma? Would the inquisitions that tortured and killed thousands of innocent people have occurred? Clearly, if religion is removed from the equation, there are not many excuses for acts of violence and evil against our fellow man.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Wealthy John Stossel Rips Off Taxpayers

Reason magazine has a great article written by John Stossel titled, "Confessions of a Welfare Queen". John talks about how the taxpayers bought him and other wealthy people a new ocean-front beach house after theirs was washed away in a storm. He also talks about the ridiculous farm subsidies handed out by the government.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Fair Taxes and Improved Economy

Here's a simple solution that will finally make income taxes fair and simple and, at the same time, will fix our economy.

  1. Eliminate income tax on business. Tax only individual people. Business owners should be taxed ONLY on the money they take out of the business as personal income.

  2. Tax individual people at a flat tax rate of 25% of the income above their first $40,000 per year. No loopholes. No deductions. No progressive rates. No subsidies for any "special" groups like home owners or married couples or people with children.

  3. All money coming in to the individual should be taxed including wages, interest, dividends, capital gains, inheritance and gifts etc.
There are two variables here the government can play with: the flat percentage rate and the baseline amount (25% and $40,000 in number 2 above). There should be a constitutional amendment declaring that federal income taxes must follow this structure and that these two variables are the only aspects of this structure that congress gets to modify and play with. That same constitutional amendment could declare that sales taxes are illegal, forcing all states to eliminate sales taxes and hopefully follow the example of the fair, simple federal income tax. If the federal government as well as the state governments followed this guideline, taxes would be fair and our economy would take off like a rocket.

Some details: In the case of estate taxes and any income derived from the death of a person, the baseline amount should be set at a million dollars. To calculate withholding, any predictable payments such as regular salaries should calculate the appropriate withholding based on the annualized income. Any unpredictable payment such as website commissions should be subject to a withholding of half of the flat percentage rate. Naturally there are a lot of details that are not addressed here but this principle of simple, fair income taxes on individuals only is sound and will lead to better compliance and a more prosperous economy.

This approach is fair to everyone because everyone, rich and poor alike, is taxed by the exact same formula. The baseline amount protects low-income people. There is less incentive to cheat because the system is fair to everyone equally.

What about a capital gain on the sale of your home? The capital gain is the sales price minus the purchase price and that is what should be taxed. Keep it simple - interest rates and payments should not factor into the equation. This rule should apply to anything an individual sells at a gain such as a car or a boat or artwork (few individuals own anything that gains value other than a house). These rules are exceedingly fair, simple and consistent. There are NO special rules for houses versus artwork and there are NO mathematical gymnastics to deal with changing interest rates. Just fair and simple.

What if your home loses value? Too bad. There are no deductions for capital losses because there are no deductions.

Why not tax business? Because "business" is just a concept. Without people, there is no business. People are the atomic level entity making and spending money. In addition, taxing business is complicated. Some businesses like grocery stores have very low margins whereas other businesses have margins over 30%. It's these differences in margin that make it necessary to tax based on "net" income and that's what introduces all the complexity and unfairness in the income tax system. The concept of taxing "net" income opened the door to special subsidies for home owners and other such nonsense that simply isn't equally fair to all parties.

This flat individual-only income tax will improve our economy because businesses will be able to focus soley on good business rather than red tape and tax impact. Will the absence of income tax from businesses significantly reduce federal tax receipts? Not much. It's a little-known fact but individual tax payers provide the bulk of federal tax receipts. Businesses don't really pay much into the government anyway, but they do spend a lot of resources managing their income tax liability.

The budget of the IRS is somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 Billion (with a B) per year! That's an instant nearly $10 Billion dollar savings if we can reduce the vast IRS beauracracy.

Some people advocate a national sales tax to replace the income tax system. That's a pretty ridiculous idea. There is already a pretty good incentive to cheat on sales tax by purchasing online or out of state. How much more incentive would there be if the sales tax was high enough to replace the income tax system? On top of that, sales tax receipts by the government would fluctuate wildly with the economy and therefore, predicting receipts and setting the budget would be a guessing game. Receipts from a flat income tax would be much more stable and would lead to a much healthier economy.

Some people argue for a national sales tax on the basis that government should tax consumption rather than production in order to encourage people to save but it is NOT the business of government to decide if people should spend or save their money. This is a common mistake but it's very important to remember that government exists in order to protect the rights of its citizens, not to influence the activities of its citizens. It is not government's job to be promoting family values or savings or sexual abstinence. With this principal in mind, it's easy to see that a flat income tax on individuals only and not on businesses is far superior to a national sales tax.

My prediction is that this flat individual-only income tax system would lead to the strongest economy the world has ever seen, even surpassing the dot-com bubble of recent years.

The day we have a fair, simple, transparent flat tax where everyone follows the exact same formula is the day that national debate on limited government will really begin.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Agnostic is the same as Atheist

The conventional definitions are that an agnostic is one who believes it is impossible to prove the existence of a god whereas an atheist is one who says there is no god.

Are these really different definitions?

No! They are really the same thing! If there were a good reason to believe in god then both the atheist and the agnostic would be believers. They are both non-believers due to a lack of evidence or reason to believe. In fact, if there existed reasonable evidence for the existence of god then all rational people would be believers and the non-believers would be the wackos instead of the other way around.

The atheist says there is no god is because there has never been any evidence for the existence of a god. The atheist does not hold to his belief due to faith or conviction in his heart. He simply refuses to believe in something when there is absolutely no evidence or reason to believe in it. If the atheist were to say there is no god simply out of emotional desire to believe that way then, in fact, he would be acting the same as a religious person and could properly be called a religious atheist (also known as a superstitious wacko).

The agnostic says he does not believe in the existence of god because it can't be proved. He says it can't be proved because, duh, it can't be proved and there is no evidence for it.

If there were evidence for the existence of god, then there would be no need for faith since faith is believing something when there is no evidence or reason to believe in it. If there were evidence for the existence of god then both the agnostic and the atheist would believe in god. They are logically the same thing.

The bottom line: the agnostic is an atheist trying to avoid confrontation or else is sheepishly trying to cover his bets out of fear that if he's wrong, he will be tortured in burning fire for eternity by a "benevolent" god and thinking that perhaps, if he doesn't explicitly deny the existence of god he might have a chance to avoid hell. The agnostic knows in his rational human mind there is no god but is afraid to say so directly. In other words, an agnostic is just a cowardly atheist.

Mike Newdow put it much more succinctly:
The distinction [between atheist and agnostic] may be illusory. An atheist denies the existence of god; the agnostic claims that the existence cannot be known. Thus, the agnostic (in actuality) denies the existence of the proof just as the atheist denies the existence of the entity. In any event, both are saying that no proof exists to justify a belief in god, and both would believe in god were such proof to arise.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Everyone is Born Atheist

  1. Atheism simply means the absence of belief in any gods. Obviously, a baby cannot be born believing in god anymore than he can be born believing in Santa Claus. Clearly, all people are born atheist.

  2. Being atheist says nothing about a person other than the person does not believe in the existence of any gods. Being atheist does not indicate whether a person believes in free enterprise or socialism. It does not indicate whether a person is moral and ethical or not.

    It is highly probable, however, that an atheist in America has much higher standards of morality and ethics than a religious person because in America, religion is so pervasive throughout society that a person has to commit some serious mental effort to escape the brainwashing. A person putting that much effort into thinking is likely to have objective, rational morals and ethics much greater than any religious wacko who unthinkingly goes along with the majority.

    I don't know if law enforcement maintains statistics on the religion of criminals but I predict very few murderers are atheist. Let's suppose the population is 10% atheist. I predict that much less than 10% of murderers are atheist. Whatever the true percent may be, it's likely that the relative percentage of atheist murderers in prison is much lower.

    It is not mere coincidence that the mafia has its origin in the same country as Jesus and Catholicism. Any religion that teaches a person he can commit any kind of crime and then simply go to confession and have it forgiven and washed out of his conscience is really inviting the deterioration of society.