Author Archives: Roger Schriner

Report from Planet Three

I have not been on this site for a while, but I now may have time to begin posting occasionally – perhaps even regularly – again. Here is a talk I presented at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale, June 5, 2022. I may also post it on some of  my other sites. This is part one of a series. The next post is part two.


Report from Planet Three

©Dr. Chris Schriner 2022

            [Walk to the lectern, wearing antennae.] How very strange and wonderful to be back on my home planet! Two years is a long time to be gone, and it certainly seemed like ten years to me. In case any of you are unfamiliar with my expedition, I should explain that I traveled to Planet Three in Solar System 3079. For two years I lived on that planet among the Northern Californians to study their peculiar humanoid ways of thinking, speaking, and acting.

            Now that I am back on our beloved planet Centros with you, my fellow participants, I am ready to report my findings. (But first, if you don’t mind my being a bit casual, I’d like to remove my formal antennae. Ahhh, that’s better.)

            This morning I will discuss a concept that is used every day among Earth people, but which is quite difficult for us here on Centros to understand. This concept is expressed by a word that is spelled S-E-L-F, pronounced, “self.” This syllable is combined with other words that refer to persons – myself, yourself, ourselves, and after two years on Earth I will probably lapse into using these terms “myself.” Earthlings use the word self in referring to who they are – to themselves, as they would say. We have translated this word into our term centerspace, because you and I think about who we are in terms of centerspace – we are centers of consciousness, centers of feeling and thinking and activity. Such a translation could not possibly have been more misleading! The term centerspace and the term self, as used on Earth, are totally different.

            Center implies that the center is part of something else. If I hold up this paper and say to you, “Show me the center of the page,” you point toward the middle of it. Obviously this central area is continuous with the rest of the paper; it is not something separate. But the Earth idea of self actually implies separateness, as if humans were free from outside influences. One of their most famous poems reads, “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul” (From “Invictus,” by William Earnest Henley).

            The line of demarcation between the self and the “outside” world is presumed to be the human skin. Seriously! You and I are vividly aware that our skin is interpenetrated as we breathe and eat. Cosmic particles pass through us all the time, and perceptions penetrate us as well. My voice enters you through the ears; your faces enter my eyes. Earth people know this too, because their bodies are quite similar to ours, and just as permeable. Yet they still imagine that whatever is inside of the skin, is them.

            Some of their scientists are now questioning this myth of the separate self. While visiting California, I went to a lecture by a minister – his name was Dr. Shiner or Schrimer – who talked about “Family Therapy.” In the past few decades psychotherapists on Earth have discovered that members of a family interpenetrate each other psychologically – imagine that! – and that the best way to change the behavior of one member of a family may be to gather the whole clan and work on the family system. This is an example of what they call “systems thinking,” and Dr. Schrimmer was so charmingly excited about this idea. I endured his little sermon, smiling to think that this is apparently a new insight for Earth people.

            Systems thinking seems to be catching on in this fellow’s church, the Contrarian Universalizers I believe it was called. I heard their choir singing about the interdependent web of existence, but I doubt that Schimer and the others really understand this idea.

            One Earthling who actually seemed to see through the illusion of separateness was a writer named Alan Watts, now deceased, and I’m going to quote him a lot. Listen to this wonderfully ironic passage from a work of his called, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.

Society … pulls [a] trick on every child from earliest infancy. … the child is taught that he is … a free agent, an independent origin of thoughts and actions – a sort of miniature First Cause. [The child] … accepts this make-believe for the very reason that it is not true. He can’t help accepting it…. (P. 65)

We seldom realize … that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, … We copy emotional reactions from our parents … we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body.

[And Watts concludes:] Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he [or she] is indeed separate! (P. 64)

            But – even as some humans are questioning the illusion of the separate self, others are reinforcing and exaggerating this idea. Certain popular psychotherapists not only say that each so-called “individual” is like a little walled city, they imply that our personal walls are tall and strong enough to withstand any outside force. One should take total responsibility for one’s own fate. So obviously if people have financial problems, it must be their fault. If someone catches a cold, a pop-psychologist might ask, “Are you in touch with how you created that cold? Why did you want to get sick?”

            Here’s another problem. Since they don’t realize how much they are influenced by outside forces, humans are dismayed that their so-called social media are warping people’s political beliefs, pushing them into extreme camps that are all confident of their own righteousness. Here on Centros, most of us make the default assumption that “I can be manipulated.” This helps us guard against those who want to pull our strings, conning us into feeling fear and anger, fear and anger, warping our ability to look at personal and political issues calmly and compassionately.

            So the first key difference between our concept of the personal center, here on the planet Centros, and the human concept of self that I discovered while visiting Earth, is that Earth-people see the self as separate from the rest of reality, whereas you and I know that our personal centers are continuous with everything that surrounds us.

            A second remarkable oddity about the Earthling idea of “self” is that the self supposedly continues through the passage of time. When you and I speak of the way we “were” in the past or “will be” in the future, this is just a convenient way of speaking. Obviously I’m not the same person I was five or ten years ago. Earth people dimly realize this, and yet they actually maintain that they’re the same person when they were conceived as when they die. I’m not making this up!

            Perhaps this illusion of personal continuity is reinforced by the strange custom of using the same name throughout their lives. On our planet. you and I are identified by a code-cipher. But by adulthood each of us has acquired well over a hundred names, which would be quite confusing to humans with their lower intelligence. We have fun with this diversity, but on Earth, there is one name, and they take that little identifying tag so seriously! If you want to irritate Earthlings, just mis-pronounce their names or make fun of them. They get so upset. And this ties into what I said earlier about their delusion of separateness. As Alan Watts put it, “Confusing names with nature, you come to believe that having a separate name makes you a separate being” (The Book, p. 63).

            Because they assume that their identity persists, many humans feel great pride or shame about what they did or did not do in days long gone by. They also obsess about death, wondering whether their continuous stream of personal identity will keep going in an afterlife. Here on Centros we also treat death as a mystery, but it is just one small aspect of the greater mystery of change; we’re changing all the time. But Earth people find it almost impossible to see that all creatures are dying and being reborn every second.

            Again Alan Watts tries to help them see the obvious. He writes that,

A human body is like a whirlpool; there seems to be a constant form, called the whirlpool, but it functions for the very reason that no water stays in it. (P. 43)

            Watts was influenced by a religion called Buddhism, which declares that “all things are impermanent, all is without a self.” But I wonder how many Buddhists truly grasp this teaching.

            So humans think their skin separates them from the rest of the world, and they believe that the contents of this bag of skin persist through time. The third and final difference between our view and theirs is that they conceive of themselves as internally consistent. Inside their skin there is a single united personality. Of course, you and I are keenly aware of having many, many “selves” – hundreds of potential ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. We expect to experience internal conflict and ambivalence, and we set up our lives and our society in ways that reflect this reality. Earth people have even more inner conflict than we do, but they will not admit that this is their natural condition. There’s something wrong with them if they have mixed feelings and contradictory thoughts. They become particularly upset if their government leaders show any sign of inconsistency; they call this flip-flopping. You and I would assume that any leader who is unable to “flip-flop” must be mentally defective.

            If humans thought twice about it they would realize that they undergo radical personality shifts from one situation to another. The very same individual may be a doormat at the office, a tyrant at the dinner table, and a whimpering child in the dentist’s chair.

            One of their psychologists, Robert Ornstein, seems to realize that each person has many facets, and he cites examples of human inconsistency. He wrote about an experiment in which people role-played guards and prisoners, and took on those roles to an unsettling extent, and also a study in which people made obviously false statements about the length of a line, after several other people – who were actually actors who were lying about how long the line looked – had made such statements. Here’s one more example from his book, Multimind:

Imagine that you are alone in a room and hear someone cry for help … Would you help? Probably. Now, imagine that you are sitting with a few other people when you hear a cry for help. Would you go to help? … No, probably: you are three times less likely to help if there are six people in the room than if you are alone. The group we are in has a profound effect on us, more than we would like to think. … we compare our attitudes with those of the group; we make decisions we never would have made if we had been alone. (P. 88.)

            Thinking every person has a single unified personality blinds Earthlings to the possibility that if circumstances change, they may change, and change radically. For example, Americas have a horrible problem with gun violence, and many say the solution is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with serious mental illnesses. Of course, that is important. But on our planet we realize that in the right circumstances ordinary individuals may do terrible things. That is also true of humans, and many who kill with guns are not criminals or obviously mentally ill. Even though they were “normal,” they had the potential for violence. Here on Centros, one of our default assumptions is: “I may be dangerous without knowing it.” If normal humans have the potential to become dangerous to others or themselves, should Americans own so many firearms?

            We here on the planet Centros also understand that even if someone commits a terrible crime while one aspect of the personality is in control, other aspects of that person may be positive and even compassionate. But some of the most influential religions on Earth teach that God judges each person as either good or bad, and sends the good ones to paradise and the bad ones to eternal damnation – as if each person were consistently good or evil. They sometimes sense that there’s a saint in every sinner and a sinner in every saint, but usually their view of the goodness or badness of each center of consciousness is astonishingly one-dimensional. They then project this limited and ignorant understanding onto their deities.

            Earth people are insightful in some ways, and deluded in other ways, but I think this idea of self is human illusion number one. They imagine that the self is separate from what is not-self, endures through the passage of time, and is internally consistent. And unless one realizes that Earth-people really believe these three ideas, one cannot begin to understand what it is like to dwell on Planet Three of their solar system.

             If I could give any gift to the Earthlings, it would be the gift of a multi-dimensional sense of “self.” I’ve even imagined giving this talk where I saw Dr. Schweimer speak, to those University Contrarians, since they seemed rather open-minded. After the talk, I would have asked them to think about these issues for perhaps a week; noticing that the outside world does penetrate their skin, that they do change from moment to moment, and that their minds keep shifting so that various aspects of their personalities take turns running the show. After that we could gather and talk about these ideas further. And now, due to a remarkable breakthrough in intergalactic hyper-zoom, today Dr. Shreener has been listening to my lecture and he will respond to it this time next week. Please come back in seven Earth days to see what he has to say. It should at least be entertaining.

            I want to close with a speculation. Perhaps the root of their odd idea of self is just a simplistic desire for neatness and order, a tendency to force reality into tidy little compartments. . But I hope that some humans have flashes of lucidity in which they realize that every conscious moment possesses such open potential and such delicious complexity! For to see through the illusion of the separate, continuous, and consistent self is to expand that little centerspace and join the larger self, the vast interconnected community of all that has breath.

Your Many Minds

This is a continuation of the above post. I am also posting this entry on some of my other sites.


Your Many Minds

©Rev. Chris Schriner 2022

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale

June 12, 2022

            Two weeks ago you and I managed to eavesdrop on a lecture which was presented on another planet. Isn’t wireless technology amazing these days? The space alien who gave that lecture was actually willing to come here today and speak with us for free, but he wanted 50 cents a mile for travel which is an amount somewhat larger than the National Debt.

            This space creature was an intergalactic anthropologist who had recently visited Earth to study human beings. He ended up being quite puzzled by the human concept of “self,” for three different reasons. First, he said that Earth people seemed to think each person is separate from the world around them – as if their skin is a wall, with the “self” on the inside and everything else on the outside. Second, humans imagine that they continue through the passage of time, as if there were some personal essence that stays the same from the moment of conception onward. And third, Earthlings believe that each body contains a single personality, even though our inconsistent and even contradictory actions show that there are many, many minds inside every human head.

            So do I agree with the spaceman? No – and yes. I do think our human concept of “self” is useful and fits a lot of the time, but sometimes it misleads us and gets us into trouble.

            It’s easy to assume that the concepts we use must be either right or wrong. If an idea is right, keep it. If it’s wrong, throw it out. But concepts are only tools for helping us deal with our lives. Our little beliefs about the world do not match its complexity, and reality can be described in many ways. Instead of asking whether we do or do not “have a self,” we should ask in what ways this idea is useful and in what ways it is not.

            Sometimes we should actually accept two contradictory beliefs, because each one gives us part of the truth. Think of the way physicists talk about light. In some ways light is like a wave; in some ways it’s like a particle, and neither of these is exactly right. Saying my own personality is separate from yours, endures through time, and is internally consistent is also helpful, but not exactly right. So we can ask in what ways the idea of self is useful or is not.

            I mostly agree with the spaceman about the way our supposedly separate selves are interpenetrated by the world around us, especially the social world of culture and relationships. It has been said that the basic unit of humanity is not the individual. The basic unit of humanity is two or more people in relationship. We are born into relationship, and even a long-time hermit cannot live or die alone. Other people will always be inside of us. A rabbi once commented,

“If I am I because you are you, and if you are you because I am I, then I am not I, and you are not you” (Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, p. 102).

            So I mostly agree with the spaceman that our supposedly separate selves are interpenetrated by the world around us. But I don’t entirely agree with him about continuity and consistency. I’ll talk about these issues now, and then I’ll mention some implications for UU theology.

            The speaker from the planet Centros last week claimed that instead of continuing through time, we are actually being born again each moment. I partly agree, but some aspects of us stay the same for long periods of time. Each of us is like a flame, always changing and yet somehow retaining its shape. Or think of a river. A river’s flowing waters never hold still, yet the river is always there. Just like a river, people both are and are not the same from moment to moment. We needn’t argue about which side of the paradox is “correct.” And most all of us have sometimes wished we could change, wishing we could outgrow some old habits or emotional patterns.

            My favorite way to picture both personal change and continuity is to imagine myself as a sequence of beads on a string. If you think of this day as a long string of moments, the various states of mind you will experience today are like beads threaded onto your life-string, one at a time. Right now you may be feeling curious, the next minute confused, then interested, then irritated, then amused. Each of these attitudes uses different parts of your brain, as different beads slide into place on the long strand of time. To a great extent, each of us draws upon the same collection of beads, but in various quantities and in varying sequences. Your pattern of beads is different from mine, and therefore it’s a different necklace. Because each of us has a unique pattern of small, transitory minds, each of us is unique. Spiritual growth involves changing the beads on our string so that some of them appear less frequently and others appear more often. When that happens, we have changed.

            Becoming aware of our own mind-shifts can help us realize our close kinship with each other. For example, when I’m angry, I am probably much more similar to the way you are when you’re angry than I am to myself when I’m not upset. That’s obvious, but it has important implications. For one thing, it gives us realistic hopes for human progress. If each person contains various sub-personalities, various colors and shapes of beads, we can find ways to call forth the more positive sides of ourselves and each other, calling forth love instead of hate, compassion instead of aggression. And if a destructive sub-personality is currently in control of someone, we may be able to awaken and mobilize a more positive sub-self that is momentarily hidden behind anger or mistrust.

            So perhaps the spaceman was a little one-sided in emphasizing our changeability. But I admit that over time many small changes may add up to major transformations, so that we are surprised as we look back at the way we were. And as a psychotherapist I found that people often underestimate the extent of their own positive changes. We should give ourselves credit for these improvements. Sit down some time and think about how you were 20 or 30 years ago. One way to do that is to get out an old photo album and gaze at pictures of yourself. This may remind you of old attitudes and behaviors that you have outgrown.

In one of Ben Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, Calvin is looking through a photo album, and says to Hobbes, “This is a photograph of me when I was two. It’s strange. I know that’s me, but I don’t feel any connection to this image…. Isn’t it weird that one’s own past can seem unreal? This is like looking at a picture of somebody else.”

            Hobbes looks at the photo and agrees: “A slobbering nudist with legs like link sausages.”

            And Calvin adds: “You know, now I can’t stand to wad a soggy blanket in my mouth.”

            Sometimes we find ourselves clearly moving from one phase of life to the next. We have rites of passage for some of these changes–graduations, weddings, retirement parties, religious vows, and coming of age ceremonies. But there are many other transitions that alter personal identity: getting divorced, switching careers, moving to another town, confronting or recovering from a serious illness, seeing our last child leave home, or committing ourselves to breaking free from some addictive behavior. When you enter a new phase of life, why not create your own rite of passage to mark this transition? Unitarian Universalists have full permission to invent their own rituals, and I’ll bet some of you have done that and benefitted.

            So last week the spaceman emphasized how humans change, and I would balance that by recognizing our continuity. He also criticized us for thinking we are internally consistent, and I agree that we often underestimate our inconsistency. From moment to moment, we may change so much that it’s as if another personality took charge. I’m not saying we have what psychotherapists call multiple personalities. For one thing, with multiple personalities, the different personalities are often unaware of each other’s existence. But even with “normal” individuals, inside each person’s head is not just one mind, but many. It’s as each of us contains an enormous theater company, performing a drama in which only one character can be on stage at any moment. The various actors keep stepping in and out of the spotlight. And these little selves are so nimble that they can hop on and off stage in just seconds. Listen to this reading, adapted from the writings of a spiritual teacher named P. D. Ouspensky.

A person has no … single, big I, but is divided into a multiplicity of small I’s. And each separate small I is able to call itself by the name of the Whole, to act in the name of the Whole, … to make decisions, with which another I … will have to deal. This explains why people so often make decisions and so seldom carry them out. Someone decides to get up early beginning from the following day. One I, or a group of I’s, decide this. But getting up is the business of another I who entirely disagrees with the decision and may even know absolutely nothing about it. Of course the person will again go on sleeping in the morning and in the evening will again decide to get up early … it is the tragedy of the human being that any small I has the right to sign checks and promissory notes…. People’s whole lives often consist in paying off the promissory notes of small accidental I’s” (P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, cited in Elizabeth O’Connor, Our Many Selves: A Handbook for Self-Discovery, pp. 36-37).

            So those are some thoughts about what the visitor from Centros told us. I also want to say a little about theological aspects of this multi-dimensional view of self. Two weeks ago the spaceman noted that “some … religions … teach that God judges each person as either good or bad … They then project this limited and ignorant understanding onto their gods.” Of course I completely agree. And since we contain many little minds, our philosophies of life may very well contain contradictions. Many believers have doubts, and skeptics may have sub-personalities that pray. But traditional religions often say it’s sinful to have more than one religious viewpoint. That can be a problem, in a mixed-faith marriage. But if both spouses can realize that there are lots of good ways of looking at reality, that may help them become more accepting of each other’s beliefs.

            Unitarian Universalism allows theological inconsistency. When I was minister at Mission Peak UU in Fremont one of our members told me, “In other churches I always felt like I had to suppress part of my own spirituality, But here I can talk about all of my religious ideas, even if some of them clash with each other. And if I change my beliefs, no one calls me a heretic or a backslider. I have finally found a place where I can feel at home with every side of my personal philosophy of life.”

            So human personality is full of paradoxes. In some ways I am separate from the rest of the cosmos, but in other ways I am part of all that exists. In some respects I persist through time, but I can also imagine myself being born again each moment. Sometimes it helps to think of myself as one organism, but other times it’s better to see myself as a committee, or an entire congress.

            One more idea: Self-acceptance is selves-acceptance. And if we learn to notice and welcome and become acquainted with our many minds, guess what happens? Another sub-personality begins to appear more and more frequently, a special sub-personality that sees all the other little minds, noticing them just as they are without judging them. The spiritual teacher Ram Dass called this inner observer the witness. The witness knows that change and multiplicity is our natural condition. We can “turn on” this inner observer when we notice that a destructive part of us has taken control. In most people this meta-viewpoint barely exists, but the more we observe our minds, the more powerful the witness becomes. This enables us to see ourselves more clearly, minimizing self-deception. And as this fair witness watches without judgment, it speaks an impartial and unending benediction of acceptance – “Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be.”

Update: Some Thoughts for Those Who Voted for Donald Trump – and Those Who Didn’t

This is an update of an entry from 11/23/16. Items that are unimportant or no longer relevant have been deleted and marked with […]. Updates are colored purple. Everything else is from the 2016 text:

My reaction to the election of Donald Trump is intensely negative, but some people I respect did vote for him. I want to explain to Trump voters why many of us are appalled by this fellow. […] I don’t expect to convince people that I am right. I just want to explain why I feel so strongly. […] I’ll start with a short list of issues, followed by more details in the “footnotes.”

  1. Donald Trump loves to brutally humiliate people. “She had blood coming out of her wherever.” “Look at that face.”*1
  2. He brags almost nonstop.*2
  3. He changes policy stands repeatedly and erratically.*3
  4. He speaks impulsively without considering the consequences.*4
  5. He has encouraged violence against protesters.*5
  6. He has no experience in government, and it shows.*6
  7. He is prejudiced against people due to their race or religion.*7
  8. He was taped bragging about being a serial sex offender, and he has been taped many times saying things about women – including those in his own family – that are absolutely creepy. […]*8
  9. He has accomplished a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. It looks as if the party will keep its name and lose its principles.*9 […] (Update: During his term I have seen three additional problems:)
  10. Contempt for expertise. This has damaged America in innumerable ways, most of which are invisible to the general public. But in the pandemic the results are obvious. Many medical professionals are astounded and appalled. The highly respected New England Journal of Medicine, for the first time since its founding in 1812, has taken a stand in the presidential election: “This crisis has produced a test of leadership. … Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy. … although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands … our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.” *10
  11. Authoritarian ambitions. Trump makes admiring comments about strong-man leaders like Putin, and despises our constitutional checks and balances. He even thinks he should be allowed to pardon himself for crimes! His current Supreme Court nominee refused to rule that out. That would mean the president is utterly above the law. *11
  12. Encouraging insurrection. Many Americans who are armed to the teeth seriously contemplate attacking political leaders, police, soldiers, or members of some ethnic, political or religious group they despise. For years Trump has hinted that he could use their help.*12

(Back to 2016 text:) Because he is so unpredictable, I have no doubt that Donald Trump will surprise us in some positive ways. Play roulette fifty rounds and sometimes you’ll win big. But overall, what are the odds?

Update: I haven’t seen the dazzling flashes of brilliance I hoped we would occasionally witness. What seems to impress people the most about his presidency is the pre-pandemic economy and the stock market. But the economy was juiced up by cutting taxes without cutting spending, passing on a big national debt increase to our children. Nothing brilliant here. As Trump knows well, you can make yourself look rich by going into debt.

And now, the gory details:

#1. See:

Do we really want a sadistic bully as President? Here’s an example of verbal sadism and erotic aggression. In front of a big audience Trump calls Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins on stage and makes a bizarre reference to an orgasm, implying that he’s talking about her. She is obviously and understandably uncomfortable:

I’m amazed that he often publically humiliates his own appointees. For instance, when he thought Fed Chair Jay Powell wasn’t stimulating the economy enough he tweeted, “Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!” Ironically, in 2016 presidential candidate Trump criticized Fed Chair Janet Yellen, saying she should be “ashamed of herself” for keeping interest rates low! (He feared that would help the economy and make Obama look good.) But when he became Pres, he wanted rates cut to zero to make him look good. He knows most people won’t notice the flaming contradiction.

Trump evidently thinks it’s fine to make his subordinates hate him as long as they’re also terrified of his wrath. No doubt some future politicians will imitate his example.


#2. Here’s part of Garry Trudeau’s list of boasts by Trump.

“No one is more conservative than me!” “No one respects women more than me!” “No one reads the Bible more than me!” “There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have!” “There’s nobody who feels more strongly about women’s health issues!” “Nobody knows more about taxes than me, maybe in the history of the world!” “I have studied the Iran deal in great detail, greater by far than anyone else!” “Nobody’s ever been more successful than me!” “I’m the least racist person you’ll ever meet!” […]

In the Presidential Debate, October 22, 2020, Trump said confidently that he was the “least racist person” in the room, acknowledging that he could not actually see who was out there in the audience. He makes lots of these absurdly grandiose comments, which should tip people off that there’s something wrong upstairs.

#3. For a truly astonishing number of policy flip-flops:

#4. (Moved from above): Example: saying the US might not fully repay those who hold US government bonds! An unbelievably irresponsible comment. […]

#5. For many examples of encouragement to violence: I did some checking on these quotes encouraging violence, because internet articles can just make things up. Unfortunately it looks as if Trump really did make these statements.

Here’s a recent example, as reported on “President Trump continues to mock MSNBC’s Ali Velshi for getting hit with a rubber bullet while covering Minneapolis protests, repeating the story on Tuesday at a Pennsylvania rally after initially calling it a ‘beautiful sight’ last week during a campaign event. ‘That idiot reporter from CNN got hit on the knee with a canister of tear gas, right, and he went down,’ Trump said on Tuesday of the reporter who actually works for MSNBC.” Velshi tweeted: “So, @realDonaldTrump , you call my getting hit by authorities in Minneapolis on 5/30/20 (by a rubber bullet, btw, not a tear gas cannister) a “beautiful thing” called “law and order”. What law did I break while covering an entirely peaceful (yes, entirely peaceful) march?”

#6. Just one example: North Korea’s nukes are a gigantic problem. Chinese cooperation in pressuring that country to give up these weapons is incredibly important. […] China props up North Korea’s economy and could force them to disarm if they felt like helping us out, but Trump is busy insulting them about all sorts of things (and some of his gripes are valid). His communications with Kim Jong-un have been peculiar, mocking “little rocket man” and then saying they had fallen in love.

Kim now has many more bombs than four years ago and he unveiled a huge new intercontinental missile a few days ago. It would be awkward if they launched one of these toward us by accident.

#7. Evidence of his prejudice is so widespread and well-known that I won’t bother to repeat it.

#8. For Donald Trump’s sex-abuse admissions see Read and listen carefully, because some of these charges against him may be debatable. But there’s plenty of damning evidence in recordings of Trump’s own words. […]

#9. Republicans have emphasized being tough with our adversaries, but now Trump is cuddling up with Russian oligarchs. And Trump tells CEOs how to run their businesses – commanding them, for example, to make their products in the US. In the past Republicans have at least given lip service to free-market capitalism, opposing the idea of a managed economy where government dictates business decisions. If Obama had tried to push CEOs around like Trump does, that would have been “proof” that he’s a Communist.

Although I’m not a Republican, I appreciate intelligent conservatives such as George F. Will, who sometimes correct my biases. Will has long protested Trump’s anti-conservative policies, and finally left the Republican Party to protest Donald Trump’s racism. When Trump tweeted insults in response, Will wrote: “He has an advantage on me, because he can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters and I can’t.”

Snarky, but we get the point. Trumpism is not conservativism and his authoritarian style is the OPPOSITE of libertarianism. For a conservative critique of Trumpism, see:

#10. Contempt for expertise. There’s too much ghastly information to include here on politicization of the Pandemic. One analysis of the administration’s interference with the Center for Disease Control concludes:

Some longtime senior scientists at the CDC are grappling with whether they are too tainted to lead the rebuilding of trust.
“Many of us who might be viewed as complicit need to decide whether we need to leave,” one of them said, “Or can we be part of the ‘never again’ so that the agency never gets this kind of political interference again?”

#11. Authoritarian ambitions. Trump is pushing Attorney General Barr to conclude his investigation into Biden, Obama, and others before the election — just one of many examples of bending the power of government to serve his needs. His rhetoric about this issue is astonishing, even for him, accusing them of “the greatest political crime in the history of our country.”

#12. Encouraging insurrection. On August 9, 2015, Trump told a North Carolina rally that “Second Amendment people” could take action if Hillary Clinton were elected. He later said he was referring to their voting power. Sure he was. In a recent presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace implored him to tell violent racists to stand down but the president very clearly and pointedly told them to stand back and stand by.

[…] Back to the original post:

Many voted for Trump so he’d appoint justices who will kill Roe v. Wade. But even if you see this as a high priority, would you vote for absolutely anyone for that reason? Of course not. You wouldn’t vote for Hitler, right? So where do you draw the line? How about a sadistic, impulsive, hostile braggart with no experience in government who makes bizarre policy proposals, encourages violence and bigotry, throws away traditional Republican principles, causes the agonizing deaths of thousands of Americans, encourages violent insurrection, and brags about being a serial molester? […]

Obviously Trump supporters could disagree with some of these points and add arguments of their own. But I hope I’ve made it a little easier to understand why many us are dreading the next four years.

It’s incredibly dangerous to be led by a demagogic genius with a twisted personality. And there’s a boatload of evidence that this is exactly what we’ve got.

Reflections on Earth Day, 2018

This post is based on a talk I gave recently at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos: Learning from Our Losses, to Better Love Our World:

Kermit the frog was right. “It’s not easy being green.” Not on Earth Day, 2018, after all the setbacks suffered by the interdependent web of existence. And on this Earth Day I’m going to focus on the overall political and human context within which Unitarian Universalists try to better love our world. I want to talk about politics because environmental concerns have been swept away in an astonishing political hurricane. And all of this directly ties into our great human journey.

I myself tend to be politically progressive, but I also appreciate moderates and conservatives who support humanitarian values. Sometimes our country has made good progress from a creative tension between liberals and conservatives, as when liberals suggest new programs for helping disadvantaged Americans and conservatives warn us about ways that these programs are poorly designed or even counterproductive. But instead of a creative tension today, we have “my way or the highway.”

And even though I’ll be talking about party politics, I don’t presume to say how you should vote. For one thing, someone I criticize quite sharply might run against someone you think is even worse. But before we turn to that pleasant topic, let’s reflect upon the very big picture, our unique and challenging human condition.

In April of 2013 I preached a sermon here called Graduates of Eden, and it was about human nature. I stated that our mental and physical nature fitted us well for living in small bands of hunter-gatherers. When food was plentiful this was at times a sort of Eden. And we didn’t get kicked out of this Garden of Eden because we were naughty. We did so well in our prehistoric “Eden” that we graduated. We grew into larger, more complicated societies. Our human accomplishments transformed the human world, but human nature is still fitted to the old world that we lost. And I mentioned three crucial mismatches between human nature and the new world we have created. First, we are easily confused by complexity, and our lives are more and more complex. Second, we are tribal creatures, who love those who are on “our team,” but often ignore or attack outsiders. And third, we are generally oblivious to problems that develop slowly – such as climate change.

Today I’ll add one more item to this list: our obsession with dominance. One day while reading about dominance hierarchies among monkeys I had one of those AHA moments like a lightbulb over my head. I suddenly realized that a huge amount of human behavior is strongly shaped by our love of dominance. Dominance involves who wins and who loses, who’s “right” and who’s “wrong,” who’s “good” and who’s “bad.” Have you noticed how often people argue about issues that could be resolved without acrimony? But without an argument, how are we going to jockey for position on the ladder of domination?

So we try to oversimplify complexity, we divide ourselves into tribes, we ignore problems that develop slowly, and we make domination a great big deal. In all of these ways, we are being faithful to inner biological imperatives. We humans are not evil or stupid, by and large. But we are dangerously successful.

No wonder it’s not easy being green. No wonder, in 2018, we’re such a long way from Eden. But many of us are trying to correct the mismatch between our biological programming and today’s planetary crises. And we can carry out this good work with positive attitudes, so we don’t get discouraged and give up.

My first suggestion is that we should just assume that humans have huge challenges that we’re not good at solving. Let’s stop being so shocked that people are often clueless and destructive – sometimes including ourselves. OF COURSE we have big troubles. The modern world is too complicated for us. Of course we love it when our leaders feed us solutions that are charmingly simple and ridiculously wrong. And some leaders actually believe there are simple solutions. As one of them said in dismay, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Recently I received an email mentioning a web site that advocates action to reduce global warming and climate change ( The site lists 197 arguments by those who deny that the climate is changing catastrophically, and refutes each of them with factual information. I appreciate this information, but let’s be careful here. Getting into detailed discussions of issues like whether cosmic rays are warming the Earth may be the wrong approach – because most people either cannot or will not deal with complicated details.

It’s often possible to tell the truth by saying something that’s simple but significant. For example, if you were driving and came to a blind intersection, where buildings blocked your view to the right and to the left, would you zip through at 30 mph or would you slow down and look both ways? Obviously you’d slow down, even if you thought there wasn’t much cross traffic. Even if it’s a small risk, the cost of being wrong is too high. And with issues like global warming and rising sea levels, it takes a long time to “put on the brakes” and stop putting so massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So even if there was only a small chance of disastrous warming, we should reduce these emissions just in case. And since most climate scientists say it is very likely that the Earth is warming, we’d be as foolish to ignore them as we would be to zoom through a blind intersection without slowing down.

By the way, people on both sides of the debate still argue with each other about whether climate change is mainly caused by human activity. That seems completely irrelevant. It’s another example of the way we frame things in terms of dominance. If we caused global warming that implies that we are bad. That brings up feelings we had when we were naughty children and some grownup scolded us. That makes us feel as if our status has gone down a few notches. That sets off our dominance alarms. Therefore we don’t want to face the possibility that we are to blame for climate change – so we deny that it’s happening. But I don’t much care if humans are the main cause. I mostly care about whether we can do something about it, whether human action can make a positive difference. And I’m sure it can.

I also want to suggest that we could stop being shocked that humans are so tribal. They are, they will always tend to be, and we will always have to help our children cope with this natural but often-counterproductive biological programming. Conservative columnist David Brooks recently reported a remarkable example: “As late as 2015, Republican voters overwhelmingly supported free trade.” Just three years later “they overwhelmingly oppose it. The shift didn’t happen because of some mass reappraisal of the evidence; it’s just that tribal orthodoxy shifted and everyone followed.” And no doubt this happens with Democrats too.

Cartoonist Dan Piraro lampooned our tribal tendencies in a Bizarro comic strip, in which a pollster asks: “OK last question: If you disagreed with all of your candidate’s positions, he spoke no known language, and he set fire to everything he touched, would you still vote for him?” Well, if he or she is on “our side,” maybe so.

So we can help ourselves stay positive by just assuming that people in general do not deal well with complicated modern problems, and stop being shocked at their ineptitude. I also want to explain how we can stay positive by welcoming painful truths that we have been avoiding. I want to explain how to do that, but I’m not sure I can. It’s tough to welcome disturbing realities, difficult to embrace disillusionment. It may help if we remember that we’ve all had to do that with various life issues, and we became stronger after losing illusions. And in politics, in the past couple of years, some veils of illusion have been ripped away. Certainly anyone who thought we have mostly overcome racism should lose that illusion now that we have elected a chief executive who makes statements that many people interpret as bigoted.

We have also become dis-illusioned about human gullibility. Political leaders have long known that they can get away with lying to the public, but now we see that a brash, confident candidate can lie a hundred times as much as we once thought possible and get away with it. Aleister Crowley:

Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudices, fears or passions – he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word.” I think this is also true of people who are far above “average.”

But here’s something hopeful. When the veil of illusion is ripped away so violently, people wake up and mobilize. Think of those bright, passionate, resourceful young people who led the March for Our Lives. Yes, humanitarian and environmental causes have suffered alarming losses, but that can be our alarm clock. It’s time to wake up, and “stay woke.”

We human beings are not inherently evil, but we are perilously successful. We are so good at creating complexity and so clueless about taming ancient tribal impulses and the drive toward domination. It’s not easy being green, but step by step we can become more skillful in loving Mother Earth. After all, there is no Planet B. I have no doubt that we have what it takes to move forward. Whether we will depends on each of us.

Trump Lives in a Western Nation – So Is He an Oxy-Moron?

Secretary of State Tillerson reportedly called the President a moron, but he recently passed a cognitive exam with flying colors. So why does he keep making what a sportscaster would call “unforced errors?”

I am frankly surprised to hear that his frequent signs of stupidity are not due to cognitive decline. It certainly seems as if his blunders are getting worse. But by comparison, it may seem as if a pain I’m having now is worse than the pain I had yesterday – because I’m having it, not remembering it.

Trump’s recent insults to Haiti and Africa seemed like a new low, but he has a longstanding reputation for crude gutter language. And of course insulting people, and groups of people, is one of his personal hobbies. Even so, it was clearly stupid to speak of “shithole” or “shithouse” countries when Dick Durbin, a Democrat, was in the room. Did he forget who Durbin was, or not realize the consequences of someone reporting his vicious remarks?

As far as I know Trump has not had his head examined, with an X-ray or MRI. So he could have a brain tumor. But it may just be that deeply rooted personality defects distort his thinking – impulsiveness, arrogance, hostility, cruelty, a short attention span, and a love of risk-taking. Something is clouding his judgment. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Our Eight-Year-Old President

I recently read a wonderful column by the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto CA. She compares the behavior of DT, age 71, to the way her daughter acted at age 8. At 10, she’s outgrown it, but it seems very unlikely that DT ever will:

Unreality-based leadership

Roger Christan Schriner

The Fine-Tuning Argument for God’s Existence

I have recently posted a four-part series on the “fine-tuning” controversy on my theological blog, Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground. Some scientists claim that if the basic physical laws of the universe had been just slightly different, intelligent life could never have existed. Is this true? And if it is, does that show that the universe was designed by God as a home for humans?

The series includes some comments from the Closet Atheist blog and some passages from my book, Bridging the God Gap: Finding Common Ground Among Believers, Atheist and Agnostics. Click here if you’d like to check it out.

Roger Christan Schriner

Abortion and the Bible

One of my web sites deals with “Biblical inerrancy,” the idea that a supernatural being essentially dictated the entire Christian Bible so that every word is true. To some of you this may seem like a silly idea. But at least in the United States, Biblical inerrancy or literalism has a big impact on the way people live, think, feel, and vote. Continue reading

The Bible — God’s Word? A New Post on my “Bible blog”

I’ve just added this post to my blog about the Bible —

Why Read “Did God Really Say THAT!?”

This poat explains the purpose of that blog, and uses The Heartblink as an example: Continue reading

An Atheist Daughter Talks to Her Mother

I’ve recently run across a poignant communication from a college-age atheist to her Christian mother. It’s well-expressed and heartfelt, and it ties in with my blog on Theists & Atheists: Communication & Common Ground. See:

Roger Christan Schriner