Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama's Choice for Supreme Court

That would be Justice Sonya Sotomayor. Not the flaming Liberal I would have preferred but a darn good choice that puts the Republicans in a bit of a pickle.

Any significant attempt to block her confirmation is going to make them look like the self centered obstructionists they are. Just a gaggle of arrogant SOBs ready to oppose anything simply for partisan reasons rather than considering what's good for the country.

And they call themselves patriots.

However, on the down side I see that the Center for Inquiry is extending a tentative endorsement. CFI thinks Sotomayor's stand on the Separation of Church and State is a tad murky.

Somehow I doubt she's going to line up with Scalia and Thomas and try to erase the idea that government must be neutral with respect to religion versus non-religion as well as neutral with respect to different religions.

California Supreme Court Upholds Proposition 8

The California Supreme Court today decided that it’s ok for voters to amend the Constitution in order to outlaw same sex marriage.

The decision is a disappointment, but not really surprising. On the plus side, the court ruled that the 18,000 marriages performed while it was legal stand.

This decision implies that there is something fundamentally different about the minority called gays. For some reason you’re allowed to discriminate against gays and gays don’t have the same rights as other minorities.

I’d like to ask the California Supreme Court exactly what that fundamental difference is?

I’d also like to ask the African American and Catholic voters who for voted for Proposition 8 why, since it’s ok to discriminate against gays, it’s not ok to discriminate against Catholics and Blacks?

I’d especially like to hear it from Blacks. Why was it ok for non-blacks to fight to help them secure their rights in the 1960s but now they believe it’s ok to vote away someone else’s rights? I remember the fire hoses, the dogs and the blood. Apparently too many Black Californians don’t.

Ok, enough with the whining. There's only one more thing I'd like to say. This isn't the end of the fight. It's a setback yes, but only a temporary one. It's a longer journey but now we'll just have to get Proposition 8 repealed by doing a better job of explaining to the voters why it's so terribly wrong to let it stand.

Victory is certain. The only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost. “So comrades, come rally, and the last fight let us face.”

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Word of God?

I got hit with the last ditch Creationist defense the other day, “Evolution can’t be right because it contradicts the Word of God.”

Of course by the Word of God the fundie meant the Book of Genesis in the Bible. That’s when it hit me. If you’re looking for the Word of God in some book, allow me to suggest that you are looking for it in the wrong place. If the Word of God is to be found, it’s to be found in Nature. It’s to be found in the wondrous variety of living things and in the laws of the universe.

Ironically it’s science that is searching in the right place and the faithful who are looking in the wrong place. You will excuse me, but if Nature contradicts some musty old book, I’ll go with Nature.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Republic is Safe

As soon as I saw this picture any doubts that I may have had about the safety of the Republic vanished in a twinkling.
As long as we have men with the courage to engage in combat wearing pink “I love NY” undies and flip-flops, we have nothing to fear from anyone.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

A Christian's Grip on Reality

Here's a wonderful quote from a Christian on Global Warming.

"The average global temperature has DROPPED over the past 12 years. Don't give me this man-made global warming nonsense. God, and God alone is responsible for the climate conditions here on earth. It is nothing short of presumed arrogance to think that we can destroy what God has made."

The global temperature has been dropped for the past 12 years? Really? Where are you getting your information from, your pastor?

Here’s a quote from the Earth Policy Institute about 2007, the second warmest year on record.

“The year 2007 fits into a pattern of steadily increasing global average temperature, with the eight warmest years on record all occurring in the last decade.”

Don’t take my word for it though, check it out here http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Temp/2008.htm.

Don’t take their word for it either, check out any of a dozen or so sites with the same information. Are they all in a vast conspiracy with Al Gore to destroy Christianity and Capitalism?

You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.

The average global temperature has been getting warmer; that’s a fact. The warmer average temperatures are melting glaciers, ice caps and ice pack; that’s also a fact. If this trend continues much longer the effects could be catastrophic; that is also a fact.

The only questions are whether this is part of a natural warming cycle or caused by human activity and whether or not there is anything we can do about it. The general consensus in the scientific community is that human activity is at least partially responsible.

If your god is controlling the global temperature then he’s pushing the world toward the brink of disaster. Maybe you should ask him to knock it off.

Hello Ida Baby!

Or should I say GRANDMA!

Ah yes, Darwinius Masillae, nicknamed Ida, is a 47 million year old fossil unveiled in New York after being under study in relative secret for over two years at Oslo University. Ida may be from a species on the branch of the tree that connects primates to the rest of the animal kingdom.

The media is going ga-ga over the specimen and Evangelical Christians are calling it everything from meaningless to bogus.

As far as I can tell Ida looks like another rock on the mountain of evidence supporting evolution. It’s unlikely she’s anyone’s direct Great lots of times Grandma though because she appears to have been about only nine months old when she died.

I’m never amazed by the Faithfull’s ability to arbitrarily dismiss anything that doesn’t fit their narrow view of reality. You think we could fool them into thinking the Rapture is occurring and dump them all somewhere in Kansas?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What’s in a name?

The "Christian Children’s Fund" (CCF) has apparently decided to change its name. As of July 1st it will be "ChildFund International."

Fox news had a segment with a clearly incensed female interviewer interviewing a clearly incensed female interviewee. The interviewee was called the “ex-donator” because she would no longer support the organization after the current child she is sponsoring leaves the program. Of course they were incensed about CCF’s decision to drop the “Christian” in its name.

After the general ranting and raving, they went on to exclaim how Christians were eventually going to rise up from their pews and put an end to such rampant political correctness.

Apparently the interviewee had called CCF and complained. She reported they told her two things. First they said they believed in “truth in advertising.” Then later, after that had clearly failed to soothe her outrage, explained that despite the change in name they were going to continue doing “what they’ve always done.”

Now here’s the good part. CCF is a nonsectarian organization. Despite the name, they do no missionary work. As a matter of fact in 2004, Wall Watchers, a Christian Watch Dog organization, sent an alert saying that CCF wasn’t “Christian” in the way most Christian organizations are viewed because it didn’t bring the gospel along with the more practical charity. Wall Watchers actually accused CCF of purposely misleading people with their name.

Clearly our interviewer and interviewee were of the impression that CCF was a Christian missionary organization that was dropping the “Christian” due to pressure from left wing atheist liberals. It’s a little unlikely they were both incensed about a non-Christian organization dropping the misleading “Christian” from its name isn’t it? Far more likely the wrath was because what was believed to be a Christian organization was dropping “Christian” from its name in order to be more “politically correct,” whatever the hell that means.

So I guess that’s where the “truth in advertising” bit comes in. At first the person she spoke to was being perfectly honest with our enraged interviewee and then, I guess after he or she figured out the interviewee had never bothered to find out that a charity she had supported for years upon years wasn’t a missionary organization, sort of planted the tongue into the cheek a little bit by assuring her they would continue doing “what they’ve always done.”

Of course “what they’ve always done” wasn’t what our incensed Christian apparently thought they’ve always done.

In the meantime the incensed interviewer never pointed out to the interviewee that CCF does no missionary work and thus the name is a tad misleading so I suspect she didn’t have the right scoop either.

So what’s the point of this? The first is to point out that Fox news is run by a bunch of morons for morons. But that’s obvious to anyone who’s ever watched it.

The second is to poke some fun at the incensed interviewee. Apparently based upon the name she thought she was supporting a missionary organization. I can’t say as I blame her, it’s an honest mistake and easy to understand, but if she had really cared that much, she could have checked it out.

Lastly I want to consider a little the right and wrong of the situation. Clearly CCF is right to drop the Christian out of the name. It is definitely misleading.

Our incensed interviewee is sort of right too. If there are multiple charities performing the same sort of work, and there are several similar to CCF including Save the Children and World Vision, and one prefers a charity that also includes missionary work or vice-versa, then one should be able to choose to which charity one donates. Our interviewee was apparently fooled by the name and made an unwarranted assumption. Not realizing that CCF was doing the ethical thing and getting upset over it made her look like a real dummy.

Fox news however has no excuse. They’d aired an interview based upon a total lack of research into the topic. At the very least they should have talked to CCF to get their side of the story. Instead they looked more than a little silly.

Of course it is possible that Fox understood the situation quite well but thought this would be a better story for their bible thumping audience, but I try not to attribute to malice what can be explained by simple stupidity.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What are you afraid of?

I was watching a video between a lady from the Family Research Council (FRC) pitching the idea of “teaching the controversy,” by allowing the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) alongside Evolution in science classrooms, and someone opposing the idea.

During the exchange the FRC type asked “what are you afraid of?” The implication of course being there was reason to fear that students would choose ID over Evolution.

I had to think about that one for a second. Normally it’s the religious types that are trying to censor discussion. I’ve asked that question myself saying let’s put our “truths” on the table and let the light of reason shine on them and see which one wins.

However, there is a hidden assumption here. The hidden assumption is that those making the decision are competent to make that decision and knowledgeable enough to spot spurious claims. You will excuse me but most high school students don’t meet either criterion.

I reject placing ID upon an equal footing with Evolution simply because ID has not demonstrated it is science. The ID proponents have not published in peer reviewed journals and have not impressed even a minuscule portion of the scientific community that what they are pitching is science. There is almost universal agreement that ID is religion and that it violates the scientific assumption of naturalism.

Naturalism is a necessary restriction for science because non-naturalistic hypotheses cannot be falsified and a scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable. Even if ID or Creationism is correct, they are still not science!

I know that sounds a bit weird but its true. Science has a blind spot. It cannot include any hypothesis that relies upon the supernatural.

So ID is not science just like Holocaust Denial is not history. Deborah Lipstadt, the author of “Denying the Holocaust,” was once asked why she doesn’t debate Holocaust deniers; didn’t she want to defend her position against the other side? Lipstadt replied that there is no other side and debating a denier would extend to Holocaust Denial a recognition it did not deserve.

Same thing with the Theory of Evolution, there is no scientific alternative and to treat ID or Creationism as if they were an alternative would be to extend to them a recognition they do not deserve.

The Shift to the Right on Abortion Access

The latest Gallup and Pew polls show that, for the first time, a majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life rather than pro-choice.

A considerable part of the shift is the result of younger voters apparently being more opposed to abortion access than in favor.

This isn’t much of a surprise. Things have been slowly shifting in this direction over the past few years and, if the truth must be told, the pro-life forces have done a better job of pitching their position than the pro-choice forces.

The primary reason for this is that the pro-life side has much better ammunition. It’s hard to not feel queasy about terminating what you can see in an ultra-sound projection. The secondary reason is that the main battle of the pro-choice side, feminism and woman’s rights, has essentially been won. No one considers it a major issue these days so abortion access, always a secondary issue in the feminist movement, no longer has the push behind it that it had in the 1970s.

Women take their rights for granted these days so they don’t consider the abortion access question a part of that rights pantheon.

I think that the abortion debate has also matured. Most people, including myself, would prefer abortion as a choice of last resort. Still, I stand by the assertion that making that choice is not up to me or a gaggle of politicians. Only the woman involved, with advice from her advisers, can make it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Holocaust Denial on Facebook

Facebook has come under criticism for allowing accounts used to promote Holocaust denial, the position that the Holocaust of World War II, during which an estimated 6 million Jews and 4 million other people including homosexuals, Gypsies and the mentally handicapped were murdered by the Nazis, never happened or at least has been greatly exaggerated.

Let’s understand right up front that this is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment restricts the government and does not apply to private companies. Facebook need only answer to its customer base for its actions here. It would be well within its legal rights to restrict accounts which promote what it considers an objectionable message.

Facebook has chosen not to shut down the Holocaust denial accounts. The question is should it?

Holocaust Denial is total nonsense and often uses a façade of history for what is really anti-Semitism. But Creationism is total nonsense as well and uses a façade of science for what is really religion. Should Creationists be banned as well?

What about people who criticize religion? Should that be considered hate speech and banned too?

The problem is if you can justify banning Holocaust deniers then you can also justify banning Creationists who often fall into attacking what they call “Darwinists,” atheists and agnostics. Are anti-atheists hate mongers?

You can then make the same argument for anyone who attacks religion and declare them anti-Muslim or anti-Christian or whatever.

Ignoring the argument that this is simply the slippery slope fallacy for the moment, there are other issues that stir the kind of passions in people that Holocaust denial stirs. Should Facebook ban those types of accounts as well?

Now let’s talk about the slippery slope. Is this concern just that old fallacy? You can only claim the slippery slope fallacy if you can make the case that Holocaust denial is fundamentally different than the other cases. I don’t think it is other than it might be easier to debunk.

As much as I find Holocaust denial distasteful, I have to stand with Facebook on this one. The Holocaust denial accounts should not be banned.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Not all wars are bad. The war in Afghanistan and the emerging war in Pakistan are wars which most definitely need to be fought. The enemy there consists of fundamentalist Muslim fanatics that would happily march the world back to the 12th Century.

These bozos are even worse than their American Christian counterparts. It’s too bad there isn’t some way we could let the Muslim Taliban and the Christian Taliban kill each other while the rest of us watch and munch popcorn.

Trust me, the total annihilation of fundamentalist Muslims and Christians would be no great loss. The average world IQ would skyrocket while intolerance, ignorance and brutality would plummet to an all time low.

Sounds like a worthwhile objective to me. Now where did I put my AKM?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

And then there were Five

Maine has become the fifth state to legalize gay marriage and almost immediately opponents have begun attempts to collect enough signatures to force a referendum to repeal the law in November.

In the meantime, the New Hampshire legislature has passed a marriage equality measure and sent it to Governor John Lynch.

Resistance to gay marriage is collapsing at an unbelievable pace in the Northeast. This is far beyond anyone’s expectations and one can only hope that the momentum will continue.

Then there is the latest Washington Post/ABC Poll where, for the first time by a 49%-46% margin, more respondents favored gay marriage than opposed it.

Then there is California.

The decision in California is monumental. Should the California Supreme Court throw out Proposition 8 it would change the battle lines. Such a decision would establish Gays as a beleaguered minority. Just as one cannot restrict the rights of Blacks, Muslims or any other minority, one would not be able to restrict the rights of Gays.

Then we can all fight over whether marriage is a right or a privilege. That should be a relatively short fight, but a downright dirty and vicious one.

Of course if the California Supreme Court allows Proposition 8 to stand that would sort of imply that gays are fundamentally different from Blacks, Muslims or other minorities. They would be a minority that it’s OK to discriminate against because that discrimination is religiously based. Well, why not make it OK to discriminate against non-believers then? After that we can establish discrimination against those who believe in the wrong religion. Then, as the final step, we can legalize discrimination against different sects of the same religion.

Yes, yes, I’m well aware that I’m engaging in the slippery slope fallacy. But think about it in reverse. If you don’t think it’s OK to ban Blacks or Muslims from getting married, why is it OK to ban gays from doing so?

Please don’t give me the procreation and tradition arguments. We all know that there are marriages that were never intended to produce offspring and I could argue that claiming the tradition covers one white Christian man and one white Christian woman would be as accurate as claiming it covers simply one man and one woman. What do I base that on? I base it on all the restrictions, de jure and de facto, that up until recently were built into the marriage process.

Ok, I’ve beat this to death and then some. All eyes are now on New Hampshire.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Really Weird Dream

I have some pretty weird dreams. I used to have the classic recurring dreams about the final exam approaching in the college class I never attended and the one about my teeth falling apart. A recurring dream that, as far as I know is unique to myself, and which has always bothered me the most is the one where I'm not married to my wife yet but we seem to have drifted apart because I haven't seen her or called her for several weeks. Recently however, all my dreams seem to be of the one of a kind variety.

The other night I had a really strange one.

It started out with me on horseback. The horse was in a leisurely trot and I remember feeling that there was no rush. As a matter of fact I had the distinct impression that I was arriving much too early. I was riding through grassy fields and I remember adjusting the cloak on my back. I was also definitely wearing a helmet of some sort as I could feel the nose guard. There were people all around, men, women and children and they seemed to be enjoying themselves, picnicking perhaps. They all seemed happy.

I remember greeting a number of youngsters with a smile and a pat on the head, but the smile was phony. I rode down to the bottom of a hill and there was a road leading along the walls of a city. The walls of the city were high enough to block the sun and the road was in shadow.

Along the road, perhaps near the entrance to the city, was an older woman up upon a dais or at least she was on something that put her up high enough so that, even from horseback, I had to look up slightly when I spoke to her. I didn’t know her name but I knew she was the queen. I stopped the horse and simply said “They are coming.”

She nodded, thanked me, said that she would give orders for the people to take shelter within the city and gave me permission “to go back.” I remember being tremendously happy even though I knew with absolute certainly that going back would mean my death. I distinctly remember a feeling of absolute joy that I would be in one more battle where I could die. I drew my sword, saluted the queen and began to gallop back down the road. People were already streaming towards the city. They were no longer happy. They were frightened.

Along the road I passed battered and beaten soldiers retreating toward the city. Finally I came to a cathedral surrounded by a very high chain link fence, a chain link fence that was totally out of place with all the 17th or 18th century symbolisms. I was at the bottom of a slope and the cathedral was about half way up towards the top. Along the far side of the fence I saw cavalry moving down the slope of the hill in single file. I immediately recognized them as the queen’s elite guard. They had snow white cloaks and silver helmets topped with thick flopping black feathers. I remember thinking that if the elite guard is retreating, then the end must be very near.

I rode through a gate in bottom of the fence and there were other cavalry there. They were dismounted and waiting on the grass just in front of a very low wall along the right front of the cathedral courtyard. They weren’t dressed in as fancy a uniform as the elite guard. I rode up to a youngish man with very black hair and a thin black beard. His eyes were very tired. I believe he was the commander of the cavalry waiting near the wall. He looked at me and simply asked if I had delivered the message. I nodded.

At that moment a cardinal or bishop came riding into the fenced in area. He was riding a black horse, was dressed in a black gown with red trim and had on the traditional churchman’s cap. Not a miter, just the informal gap that goes with the day to day ecclesiastical cassock. I could see the elite guard continuing its retreat behind him along the bottom of the fence. Then the Bishop cried out in desperation “Will no one stay and defend the church?”

No one answered him.

Then I heard shouting that the rear guard was collapsing. I looked toward the top of the hill and I could see walls and barricades being pushed inward. I was still on horseback. The rest of the men in the courtyard strapped on helms, mounted and drew their swords. I drew mine as well although I don’t remember having put it back in its sheath. The youngish man with the black hair waved us out a side gate and we started up the hill to reinforce the rear guard.

That’s when my alarm clock went off.

I’m not even going to try and figure this one out. It was totally bizarre, crystal clear and burned into my memory. The thing that left the strongest impression was the feeling of total happiness that I was going to die in a known and familiar fashion. The suspense was over. I knew how it was going to end.

I went to a few dream interpretation web sites, but I found nothing even close to this. I read somewhere that dream images are borrowed from people or things you encounter while awake. The queen reminded me of Queen Beatrix of Holland which isn’t too surprising because I had just seen her on a news clip after that maniac drove his car into the royal procession.

The queen’s elite guard I’m pretty sure I got from news footage I’d seen of Imperial German Cavalry from just prior to world war one. The bishop was perhaps the result of me having just watched the trailer for Angels & Demons. If not, then I’ve seen plenty of pictures and films of cardinals and bishops. The black haired officer I can’t place anywhere. I’d say John Derek as Joshua in the Ten Commandments but Derek’s hair was much curlier than this man's hair.

I didn’t see much of the city but it could have been borrowed from the ruins of Lordaeron in World of Warcraft. The cathedral was made of very dark rock. I have no idea where I got that from nor do I have any idea why it would be surrounded by a very high chain link fence. A wrought iron fence I could understand but chain link?

Maybe some night I’ll go back and find out more. I’d like to know who “they” were and why the bishop thought the church needed defending. I had the feeling that “they” may not have been human.

The most interesting thing was that throughout the entire dream, I never felt afraid. The sitution was hopeless but that didn't seem to bother me. I was content. Here's hoping I manage to go out in real life that calmly.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Was Jesus Rich or Poor?

The conventional wisdom is that Jesus came from an impoverished family. Let’s take a closer look shall we.

Born in a Cave and Laid in a Manger
This certainly congers up a picture of homeless poverty, but why where they in the cave? It was because there was no room at the inn. This is roughly the equivalent of sleeping on the beach because you couldn’t find a motel with a vacancy. It says nothing about your economic status.

As a matter of fact, that they tried for a room at the inn implies at least enough liquid funds to afford a room, something well beyond the means of the very poor. If Joseph and Mary had actually been poor, they would have been resigned to sleeping on the side of the road.

First Joseph and then Jesus were Poor Carpenters
The bible never actually says this. As a matter of fact the word normally translated as “carpenter” is the Greek “tekton.” While John Dominic Crossan believes a better translation would be “laborer,” Greeks I’ve spoken to say “builder” or “architect” would be closer to the mark.

In other words it denotes a skilled craftsman more like a general contractor than a table maker.

They could only afford two doves or pigeons as an offering
This is by far the strongest evidence that Joseph and Mary were poor. Leviticus 12 instructs that following a purification period a woman who has given birth must bring as an offering “a year-old lamb” and “a young pigeon or a dove.” But “If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons”

Luke says “Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’”

Granted this implies they were too poor to afford a lamb but let’s consider the circumstances. They were 70 miles away from home. If Joseph was a builder or carpenter it’s not likely he kept too many lambs around anyway. That means they probably would have had to purchase the sacrificial animals at the Temple. Birds take up less room than lambs, so possibly that was all that was available. Or perhaps Joseph had limited cash and since he needed it for food for the trip home, needed to conserve what little he had.

Granted this is evidence they were poor but one has to consider it in context. I might point out that Luke’s not mentioning the lamb at all could be taken to imply that everyone by that time sacrificed two doves or pigeons. Luke certainly doesn’t make a point about they’re not being able to afford a lamb.

He had no where to lay his head
In Matthew 8 and Luke 9 Jesus says “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Yes, but this strikes me as a little poetic license. Jesus, as a wandering sage, clearly has no permanent home but just as clearly it was a choice he made to live that type of life and not something forced upon him.

They went to Jerusalem for the Holy Days
Luke 2:41 says “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.”

Does that sound like they were poor? Every year they journeyed 70 miles to Jerusalem for the holidays? Only people who were reasonable affluent could afford to make the trip every year and could afford to not work during that time.

Jesus was educated
He could clearly read and quote scripture and knew enough to argue the law with the Pharisees. He also had followers who were literate. John and Matthew come to mind immediately. If they wrote gospels, then they must have been literate.

In the first century only the upper 5% or so of the population was literate; literacy was a clear sign of enough wealth to have the leisure for an education.

The Wedding at Cana
This doesn’t sound like the description of a poor man’s wedding. Jesus, his mother and all the disciples are invited. There is a “Master of the Banquet” and when the wine runs out Jesus turns six twenty to thirty gallon stone jars into wine. This clearly wasn’t a small gathering. Whoever was throwing this wedding must have been quite wealthy.

He had rich or influential acquaintances
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are the most obvious but there is also Lazarus, the Centurion in Matthew 8 and Luke 7, Simon the Leper and the woman with the alabaster jar in Mark 14 and Matthew 26 and the Rich Young Man in Mark 10, Matthew 19 and Luke 18 (Luke actually transforms him into a “ruler”).

Jesus also seems to have some personal knowledge when he wryly observes "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Could a poor man have attracted a following?
People are people and the poor are generally meek and not particularly viewed with admiration regardless of their talents while the rich tend to be more outgoing and aggressive and are generally accorded some level of respect by default, even in a so-called egalitarian democracy.

A few years back some folks tried a little experiment. They had the same man stay at a stop light after it had turned green but had him driving different cars. Eventually the cars behind him would honk to bring to his attention that the light was green. What was interesting however was that the more expensive the car the man was driving, the longer on average people waited before honking.

Pilate was his judge
If he was a poor nobody why did Pilate get personally involved? One possibility is as the ranking military officer in Jerusalem at that time it was simply normal military operating procedure. But another possibility is because the accused man came from a well to do, and perhaps even influential family, Pilate felt it prudent to give the situation his personal attention. This could also have been why he was reluctant to execute Jesus.

Pilate Released the Body
Normally the bodies of condemned men would have been flung to the dogs, burned or left hanging as a warning to others yet, if one believes the story of Joseph of Arimathea, Pilate released the body to a friend or relative with little or no hesitation.

This might have been simply to insure no protest over violating the Sabbath in always volatile Jerusalem but it also smacks of deference to the wealthy or influential.

What do you suppose happened to the bodies of the criminals crucified with Jesus?

James took over after Jesus’ Death
Who steps in and takes over after Jesus’ death? Not Peter or any of the other disciples but Jesus’ brother James. Again this smacks of the aristocrat. None of his peasant followers ascended to leadership but rather his brother takes over.

When you put it all together, I think that the preponderance of the evidence is that Jesus and his family weren’t abjectly poor. They were clearly more affluent then most and may even have been among the relatively wealthy. He may have turned his back on the family money when his started his ministry, but it seems to me that he was at least much more affluent than the average.