Jimmy Carter on the Bible

Jimmy Carter has a new book out about the Bible. He discusses it in this short interview over at HuffPo.

He takes a straightforward approach to dealing with morally or scientifically troubling passages:

Thank you so much for talking with me President Carter. As I warned, I am going to be asking the tough questions. So … Did God write the Bible?

God inspired the Bible but didn’t write every word in the Bible. We know, for instance that stars can’t fall on the earth, stars are much larger than the earth. That was a limitation of knowledge of the universe or physics, or astronomy at that time, but that doesn’t bother me at all.

How do you approach the passages in the Bible that talk about God’s creation (Genesis 1:1) while maintaining a positive attitude towards science?

I happen to have an advantage there because I am a nuclear physicist by training and a deeply committed Christian. I don’t have any doubt in my own mind about God who created the entire universe. But I don’t adhere to passages that so and so was created 4000 years before Christ, and things of that kind. Today we have shown that the earth and the stars were created millions, even billions, of years before. We are exploring space and sub-atomic particles and learning new facts every day, facts that the Creator has known since the beginning of time.

Does that mean that Carter rejects Biblical inerrancy? Well, yes:

Should we approach the Bible literally, or metaphorically?

When we go to the Bible we should keep in mind that the basic principles of the Bible are taught by God, but written down by human beings deprived of modern day knowledge. So there is some fallibility in the writings of the Bible. But the basic principles are applicable to my life and I don’t find any conflict among them.

The example that I set in my private life is to emulate what Christ did as he faced people who were despised like the lepers or the Samaritans. He reached out to them, he reached out to poor people, he reached out to people that were not Jews and treated them equally. The more despised and the more in need they were, the more he emphasized that we should go to and share with them our talent our ability, our wealth, our influence. Those are the things that guide my life and when I find a verse in the Bible that contradicts those things that I just described to you, I put into practice the things that I derive from my faith in Christ.

In Among the Creationists I include a chapter about different approaches to Genesis. I argue that for all the genuine challenges science poses to traditional religious faith, conflicts with the Bible should not be considered among them. But I come to that conclusion only because I believe a Christian does not have to be committed to the principal of Biblical inerrancy. A sincere Christian can take the line Carter promotes here, in which the words on the page are a purely human construction.

The Christian committed to inerrancy really does have a problem. The various kludges people devise to protect the notion from science’s onslaught simply do not work at all. The day/age interpretation, gap theory and framework hypothesis are nonstarters. They make a mockery of the text and impose upon it an interpretation too absurd to be taken seriously. Likewise for arguments that God was simply accommodating himself to the limited understanding of the people at the time, or that inerrancy only applies to the theological, and not the scientific, portions of the text. These are just desperation moves.

By contrast, the approach Carter is defending has a long history in Christianity. It certainly solves the problem of how to deal with the morally or scientifically troubling parts; you just ignore them, or find some excuse for giving them a comfortable, liberal interpretation. For example:

A lot of people point to the Bible for reasons why gay people should not be in the church, or accepted in any way.

Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things — he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

Oh please. The Bible doesn’t say much about homosexuality, but what is there is hopelessly, relentlessly negative. Perhaps the reason Jesus doesn’t mention it specifically is that he felt the point had been made sufficiently elsewhere.

The problem I have with Carter’s approach, however, is that from his starting point I fail to see why you need the Bible at all. That is, if you must constantly use your own moral intuitions and scientific knowledge to understand which parts of the Bible are meant literally and which require a more nuanced approach, then why bother with the Bible at all? Why not just trust your own moral judgements directly and cut out the middleman?

Carter cites Jesus’ willingness to reach out to despised minorities and to the poor as something that has guided his own life. That is well and good, but did he really need the Bible to tell him that it is good to be mindful of the least among us? Perhaps he means simply that he finds the example of Jesus to be especially inspiring. Again, well and good, but the annals of history and literature provide countless other examples to provide inspiration. I fail to see why, under Carter’s approach, the Bible is worthy of special veneration and study.

The allure of the fundamentalist approach to the Bible is that it provides you with factual information that can not be obtained in any other way. You need the Bible as an anchor, precisely because your own intuitions and judgments are hopelessly corrupted by sin. Sadly, the fundamentalist approach is untenable for all sorts of reasons, which I’m sure I don’t need to rehearse here.

You can avoid this problem by taking Carter’s approach and dispensing with inerrancy. But then you have reduced the Bible to just one more inspiring work of literature among many others.

More sensible than either of these approaches, I would think, is the one where you simply regard the Bible as an anthology of purely human documents, relevant for their historical and literary value but not for much else. Alas, I don’t think either Carter or the fundamentalists will be too receptive to that idea.

Comments

  1. #1 Steven Carr
    March 20, 2012

    ‘ That was a limitation of knowledge of the universe or physics, or astronomy at that time, but that doesn’t bother me at all.’

    Yes, the people who wrote the Bible did not know what we now know so had all kinds of crazy beliefs, including a belief in a god.

    CARTER
    He reached out to them, he reached out to poor people, he reached out to people that were not Jews and treated them equally.

    CARR
    In other words, Jimmy hasn’t read the disgusting, vile abuse Jesus allegedly poured on to people in places like Matthew 23, 24 and Luke 11.

    I can only thank God that Carter does not behave like Jesus. Pat Robertson behaves like the Jesus character, but Carter does not.

  2. #2 complex field
    March 20, 2012

    steven carr — try re-reading the chapters you cite. while the bible is full of vile, even sociopathic, events and commands, the three chapters you list are not among them.

  3. #3 Steven Carr
    March 20, 2012

    Would you like me to list the vile abuse Jesus throws at people in Matthew 23?

    Or repeat Luke 11’s claim that one generation of Jews will be held responsible for a murder that happened 2000 years before any of them were born?

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    March 20, 2012

    I laugh at people like Carter who try to rationalize what Jesus said or didn’t say or did or didn’t do. Jesus is a fictional character just like all the religious books. Carter might as well use Harry Potter, “Gone with the Wind or “Great Expectations” for his morality baseline.

  5. #5 eric
    March 20, 2012

    That is well and good, but did he really need the Bible to tell him that it is good to be mindful of the least among us?

    Probably not. And God probably didn’t need a bible or a Jesus to tell us about the golden rule, since lots of other people came up with that separately.

    But Jesus also had some more radical things to say which are not necessarily self-obvious to regular people’s moral intuitions or common to many cultures. Such as complete pacifism. Forgiving your enemies. Giving away all your stuff. Forsaking your families to preach. If one believes that those biblical lessons also came from God, then I can see a pretty solid need for God to send someone to tell us to do these things, because most of us would not come to those conclusions on our own. Folk like Ghandi might, but he’s a rare case.

    One could also argue that a concrete example is worth a lot of words. Take pacifism as an example. Simply telling people to turn the other cheek is probably not going to convince normal people that its a viable course of action unless you show them somebody who actually does it. Or take the idea of poverty as a virtue; this is already difficult (for God) to sell. How much more difficult would it be if Jesus had been wealthy?

    So, I can see why a God might need a bible or avatar to communicate some of the more radical christian messages. But you are right, neither was really needed to communicate the more morally intuitive stuff.

  6. #6 Greg Esres
    March 20, 2012

    That is well and good, but did he really need the Bible to tell him that it is good to be mindful of the least among us?

    A hypothesis I have is that having a guiding philosophy that supports your intuitions can lead to a greater consistency of behavior.

  7. #7 Yi
    March 20, 2012

    I think Hitchens puts it really well by showing that not all the things Jesus is said to teach are all moral. To me, He is going to send those who don’t accept him to hell and to be tormented forever. In comparison, all other things just pale.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 20, 2012

    eric —

    I would note, though, that the more radical things you mention are all morally questionable. For example, I do not regard complete pacifism as a morally correct position. Fighting is to be avoided as much as possible, but there are times when it is necessary. People have to decide for themselves when those times have arrived, based on their own priorities and moral beliefs. Likewise for the other principles you mention. Once again I would simply emphasize that we don’t need the Bible to teach us the basic principles, and the Bible is no help at all in working out the proper applications of those principles in messy, complex situations.

  9. #9 Raging Bee
    March 20, 2012

    The Bible doesn’t say much about homosexuality, but what is there is hopelessly, relentlessly negative.

    There’s a lot of “hopelessly, relentlessly negative” shit in the Bible that huge numbers of Christians just disregard every day. And Jesus himself explicitly bends and breaks OT rules, and justifies it by advising everyone to use their judgment and common decency, not to just mindlessly parrot and enforce OT laws without thinking of intent and consequences.

    Perhaps the reason Jesus doesn’t mention it specifically is that he felt the point had been made sufficiently elsewhere.

    If Jesus had thought something was important, he would have said so. The fact that he talked a lot about helping the poorest of us, and never mentioned gayness, is relevant: it tells us what he considered important.

    So yes, Carter is perfectly right to take Jesus’ silence on gayness as an acknowledgement that it’s not something Christians should be freaking out about.

  10. #10 JimV
    March 20, 2012

    As I understand it, Thomas Jefferson also had a great admiration for Jesus’ moral teachings, but did not accept Jesus’ divinity. Based on what I know of Jefferson and Carter, I agree more with Jefferson, but think Carter is the better person. (Of course people are products of their times and who knows how they would compare if their historical times were exchanged.) Arguably, Carter might exemplify the elusive case where religion has made someone a better person. Or maybe such people are more attracted to religion.

    My two votes for Jimmy Carter are the two I was and am most happy with. (Usually by now such illusions would have shattered.) As a human being responsible for our nuclear trigger, that is. I was not always happy with his choice of advisors (cough-Zbigniew Brzezinski-cough).

  11. #11 itchy
    March 20, 2012

    “Why not just trust your own moral judgements directly and cut out the middleman?”

    And, of course, this is what Carter does but does not admit. But I guess it’s more comfortable for him to live and think the way he wants and still be included in his circle of friends and family than to give that all up for what probably does not matter that much to him.

  12. #12 Anthony McCarthy
    March 20, 2012

    Steven Carr, you do know that the people Jesus is condemning in Matthew 23 are the equivalent of the worst of Biblical fundamentalists today, don’t you? Or maybe not.

    “Perhaps the reason Jesus doesn’t mention it specifically is that he felt the point had been made sufficiently elsewhere.” Jason Rosenhouse

    If he’d thought gay sex was a major point, he’d have been far more likely to have mentioned it. He didn’t and that should speak louder than your speculation.

    I’m really wondering what you’ve got against what Jimmy
    Carter said. I wish more people thought like him instead of the way they do.

    Where in materialism do you find a moral requirement for people to observe the rights of glbt people? Where do you find that in science? I’d rather take my chances on Christians like Carter than I would materialists like Coyne who think that rights and morals are figments of some collective and temporary imagination.

    I’d rather not get into the variant readings of the handful of times that the Bible seems to refer to gay sex, though the idea that any of it has to be read in the context of the texts and in light of language scholarship.

  13. #13 complex field
    March 20, 2012

    Steven Carr — please do so. (FYI, i too am atheist, I just find your use of the chapters above off-target…)

  14. #14 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 20, 2012

    Anthony —

    If he’d thought gay sex was a major point, he’d have been far more likely to have mentioned it. He didn’t and that should speak louder than your speculation.

    So when I point out that the Bible specifically and unambiguously condemns homosexuality you say I’m speculating. But when you take Jesus’ silence on a subject as evidence that he was actually speaking loudly about it that’s, what, sound exegesis?

    I’m really wondering what you’ve got against what Jimmy
    Carter said. I wish more people thought like him instead of the way they do.

    Did you read the opening post? I thought I explained rather clearly what I had against what Carter said.

    Where in materialism do you find a moral requirement for people to observe the rights of glbt people? Where do you find that in science? I’d rather take my chances on Christians like Carter than I would materialists like Coyne who think that rights and morals are figments of some collective and temporary imagination.

    Since hostility towards gay rights is almost exclusively a religious phenomenon, I hardly think materialists have to be on the defensive on that score. It’s religious folks who generally have trouble finding a reason to care about gay rights, and highly religious societies that most egregiously trample on the rights of minorities. Secular and non-religious societies have a far better track record on such things. So you’re just talking through your hat here.

  15. #15 eric
    March 20, 2012

    Jason @8:

    I would note, though, that the more radical things you mention are all morally questionable.

    That was my point! That would be a good reason to send an avatar to do them, yes? If your followers are staring at each other going “He can’t be serious, can he?” that’s when it’s time to drop in a bible or Jesus to say “yes, I’m serious.”

    Once again I would simply emphasize that we don’t need the Bible to teach us the basic principles, and the Bible is no help at all in working out the proper applications of those principles in messy, complex situations.

    This assumes your basic principles are Gods. But my point is, a bible or Jesus makes sense if God’s basic principles aren’t ours. Of course, if that’s the case, theists have to answer why we made-in-the-image-of-God folk have different moral intuitions from our maker. I predict the answer to that question will be the same ‘ol “the fall! No, wait, free will! No, wait, its all part of His plan! Did I mention free will?”

  16. #16 Anthony McCarthy
    March 20, 2012

    “So when I point out that the Bible specifically and unambiguously condemns homosexuality you say I’m speculating.” Jason Rosenhouse

    First, there are plenty of people who know the languages who have looked at the context in which sex between males is mentioned in the bible and they don’t find it unambiguous. I’m no expert in either but I think their point that those verses refer to things like pagan temple prostitution makes a lot more sense than that the authors had something like a modern understanding of being gay. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah there are variant interpretations of what the “sin of Sodom” was in later books of the Bible, including that it was acting inhospitably to strangers.

    As I have had to point out a number of times, if I and another man walked into the nearest United Church of Christ to ask to be married (it’s in New Hampshire which has gay marriage) the only question would be if the church was free. I’m sure that Bishop Gene Robinson, also in New Hampshire, would be willing to officiate, if he’s not busy. Or maybe he could suggest who it was who married him to his husband, Mark, for the occasion.

    I read your post, I was trying to be charitable, assuming that your point wasn’t just another occasion to slam religion in general and Christianity in particular.

    “hostility towards gay rights is almost exclusively a religious phenomenon”

    Oh, no it isn’t. Being gay I can say that the hostility I’ve experienced had nothing to do with religion, it had far more to do with machismo and a decidedly non-religious kind of hatred. The several times I was attacked and threatened it had nothing to do with religion, the attackers not being noted for their religiosity. I’d guess they’d probably not be great church goers.

    I think you should review the laws against gay sex under the various atheist regimes. You might also look at how the largely secular, not infrequently atheist, profession of psychology has considered gay people. It was behaviorists who used to apply shocks to genitals in “aversion therapy” within living memory. Robert Spitzer, one of the big names in the “cure the gay away” industry is an atheist.

    Of course, you could point out that much of psychology has developed in its attitude towards being gay, as has much of religion. Though, as in the case of psychology, not all religion has.

  17. #17 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 21, 2012

    Anthony —

    First, there are plenty of people who know the languages who have looked at the context in which sex between males is mentioned in the bible and they don’t find it unambiguous. I’m no expert in either but I think their point that those verses refer to things like pagan temple prostitution makes a lot more sense than that the authors had something like a modern understanding of being gay. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah there are variant interpretations of what the “sin of Sodom” was in later books of the Bible, including that it was acting inhospitably to strangers.

    And there are plenty of others who have looked at it and think it means exactly what it seems to say so plainly. I am perfectly aware that there are many scholars with liberal sympathies who, disappointed that the Bible takes such a primitive view of homosexuality, summon forth strained interpretations to make those verses go away. But it’s not plausible. Even Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky, who recently wrote a book trying to make the Bible take liberal views on a variety of cultural issues, agree that the Bible explicitly prohibits male homosexual acts.

    As I have had to point out a number of times, if I and another man walked into the nearest United Church of Christ to ask to be married (it’s in New Hampshire which has gay marriage) the only question would be if the church was free. I’m sure that Bishop Gene Robinson, also in New Hampshire, would be willing to officiate, if he’s not busy. Or maybe he could suggest who it was who married him to his husband, Mark, for the occasion.

    And if you walk into a Catholic or Evangelical church, which account for a far greater percentage of American Christians than the United Church of Christ, you will be sent on your way. Yes, of course there are liberal denominations that take a more sensible view of these things. Bless them for doing so. But it is the mainline and liberal denominations that have been hemorrhaging members in recent years.

    I read your post, I was trying to be charitable, assuming that your point wasn’t just another occasion to slam religion in general and Christianity in particular.

    You read my post, and only saw what you wanted to see. Had you read it honestly you would have noticed that my criticism of Carter is actually pretty muted, and I even compliment his view at the start of the post. I specifically say that his approach is one that a Christians can reasonably take, and that it completely defuses the conflict between science and the Bible. To the extent that I criticize him at all it is only for being arbitrary about which parts of the Bible he heeds and which he ignores. I am always happy to slam religion in general and Christianity in particular, but I pretty clearly was doing neither in this post. The only thing I slam are certain strained interpretations of the Bible.

    Oh, no it isn’t. Being gay I can say that the hostility I’ve experienced had nothing to do with religion, it had far more to do with machismo and a decidedly non-religious kind of hatred. The several times I was attacked and threatened it had nothing to do with religion, the attackers not being noted for their religiosity. I’d guess they’d probably not be great church goers.

    But we weren’t talking about hostility to gays, were we? We were talking about hostility to gay rights, which is a very different thing. The reason you can’t get married has nothing to do with some schoolyard bully with masculinity issues. It’s the Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons who are going all out, spending millions to defeat gay marriage referendums. It’s the Catholics who would rather abandon their commitment to helping the poor rather than have to employ a gay person who is civilly married, as Andrew Sullivan points out.

    I think you should review the laws against gay sex under the various atheist regimes. You might also look at how the largely secular, not infrequently atheist, profession of psychology has considered gay people. It was behaviorists who used to apply shocks to genitals in “aversion therapy” within living memory. Robert Spitzer, one of the big names in the “cure the gay away” industry is an atheist.

    I have no idea what “atheist regimes” you are talking about. Are you seriously playing the Stalin card? At any rate, you know perfectly well that I was talking about countries today. And if you would care to consider the list of countries that have legalized gay marriage you will find that most of them are countries with strong separations of church and state and large populations of nonbelievers.

    As for psychology, all I can say is that you’re really getting desperate. Sure, for much of the twentieth century psychology viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. But that’s because for most of the twentieth century psychology was a pseudoscience that was biased by social norms ultimately finding their justification in religious notions like natural law. As psychology became more professional in the second half of the twentieth century the tide quickly turned, and since the 1970s every major psychological organization has realized their error. Today, which is what we’re talking about, you’re hard pressed to find many psychologists who treat gayness as a disorder. And the ones who do are deservedly pariahs in the field.

    But I especially loved your invocation of Robert Spitzer. I point out that the largest and most politically powerful religious organizations in the country are so opposed to gay rights that they make it a drop dead issue that trumps all other concerns, and you come back with one obscure guy no one had ever heard of.

    Of course, you could point out that much of psychology has developed in its attitude towards being gay, as has much of religion. Though, as in the case of psychology, not all religion has.

    Yes, that “not all” is highly significant. As I just pointed out, the idea that gayness is a mental disorder is now all but nonexistent in psychology. Religion is progressing far more slowly.

    But it’s irrelevant to my point anyway. I didn’t say all religious people are hostile to gay rights. I actually said that the opposition to gay rights is exclusively religious in origin. And it is.

  18. #18 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    you know perfectly well that I was talking about countries today

    Well, if you’re going to talk about today, talk about today, then. Today there are a lot of religious people who don’t see that gay sex is, in itself, sinful. Today a lot of biblical scholars find the traditional interpretation of the Bible on gay sex was wrong. I’d guess that, the religious demographics of the United States being what they are, the majority of those favoring equal rights, now including equal marriage rights, are religious, most of them being Christians. I’d rather encourage more of the Christians and others who don’t, currently, favor equal rights to have a conversion. As the now centuries long effort by atheists to do away with religion doesn’t seem to have had much success, I’d rather not complicate my struggle for rights with an unrelated effort I’m not a part of to begin with. I’d guess that if atheists barged in and coopted the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s, the laws

    I’m not interested in having my civil rights being used to promote atheism because it’s difficult enough as it is to convince people of my rights without having a group that already has legal protection for those rights (since 1965 and before for many of them) in their frequently petty ideological war with the large majority of people. I’d guess that if atheists barged in and coopted the Civil Rights struggles of the 50s and 60s, the laws passed in 1964 and 65 may well have failed, those laws that made atheists a covered class. When I have the ability to exercise my full rights it will be because a group consisting, by far, of religious believers will recognize and be willing to protect them. That they will have to protect them against a group which uses religious arguments against them is all the more reason I’d like those people to be able to counter those arguments in terms of religion.

    The Rev. Martin Luther King jr. was one of the early figures to publicly and openly practice equality, hiring a gay man in a way that could have been a calamity when he hired Bayard Rustin to organize the March on Washington. Not only was Rustin gay but he had been imprisoned for resisting the draft during WWII and for having gay sex. It wasn’t only religious people who slammed that decision, mostly on the basis of Rustin being gay, that eclipsed even his former membership in the Communist Party in the criticism I remember at the time. But it was the Rev. King who saw into the future on that one, not the secular, not infrequently anti-religious, would-be radicals of the time. Only, as it turned out, Rev. King was far more radical, both in practicality and vision than they were.

    I notice you don’t want to deal with my question of why I should think that materialists who don’t recognize the reality of inherent rights, frequently believing, as Coyne does, that rights are imaginary and so should be considered as changing with the dominant view of societies, are a safe bet with my rights. I’d like to know why, under materialism, it wasn’t perfectly OK for societies in previous times to ban gay sex, since that was the view of the majority in those societies. Where did the rights of gay people back then come from? Where were my rights back then or in those places now? Under that materialist theory, they wouldn’t have existed. If the vast majority of people some time in the future decide that gay people should be given the death penalty and change the laws to allow that, wouldn’t our rights disappear under that materialist scheme? I’d think I’m better off with people who believe that rights are inherent, even better off with those who believe they are equally assigned by a Creator. I’d have a chance to make the case that my rights really existed independent of the beliefs of the majority.

    You might want to look at the history of criminal sanctions against gay sex in the very, very Catholic country of Poland, where it was legal until the Soviet Union made it illegal when they invaded. I’m unaware of any places with officially atheist governments where gay marriage was or is allowed while countries with official state churches have pretty much full, legal equality.

  19. #19 Wow, God
    March 21, 2012

    “Yes, of course there are liberal denominations that take a more sensible view of these things. Bless them for doing so”

    Heh. Just had a thought.

    Rather than tax breaks and so forth for religious organisations and donations thereof, how about we just all bless them for their good works, and NOT give them tax breaks and subsidies?

  20. #20 Wow, God
    March 21, 2012

    “For example, I do not regard complete pacifism as a morally correct position. Fighting is to be avoided as much as possible”

    The way I put it to myself is that violence is NEVER the right answer.

    At some point it may become the least wrong, or even much better than any alternatives now left available. But the lack of better alternatives is probably a consequence of not choosing better earlier.

    I.e. swatting bees is violent, but letting you get stung and go into shock rather than swat them is worse. HOWEVER, you should have considered not kicking the bees nest earlier.

  21. #21 eric
    March 21, 2012

    AMC:

    If the vast majority of people some time in the future decide that gay people should be given the death penalty and change the laws to allow that, wouldn’t our rights disappear under that materialist scheme?

    That depends on whether that future legal constitution protects your rights to self-determination against a ‘tyrrany of the majority.’ If it does, you will be protected regardless of what God thinks about gay rights. If it doesn’t, you will not be protected again regardless of what God thinks of gay rights.

    IOW, whether its inherent or not will likely make no difference on your legal protections.

    I’d think I’m better off with people who believe that rights are inherent, even better off with those who believe they are equally assigned by a Creator. I’d have a chance to make the case that my rights really existed independent of the beliefs of the majority.

    And your opponents would simply argue that these inherent rights do not include the acts and relationships you want to include in them.

    Whether you’re dealing with atheists, christians, scientologists, whatever, you have to convince the humans and the human legal system to respect your rights. I think the nonbelievers are in a slightly more informed opinion in that they recognize that this is a question about humans. But pragmatically, there may not be much difference.

    Invoking god’s support for some right is like invoking god’s support for your football team; every side does it, and it makes no difference to the result.

  22. #22 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “wouldn’t our rights disappear under that materialist scheme?”

    And if a religious takeover of the USA then results in a law forbidding under the thread of the death penalty homosexual acts, wouldn’t your rights disappear under that spiritualist scheme?

    Or, in other words, why is your hypothetical scenario a “materialist scheme” rather than a religious one?

  23. #23 SLC
    March 21, 2012

    Re Jason Rosenhouse @ #17

    The reason you can’t get married has nothing to do with some schoolyard bully with masculinity issues.

    Actually, it is my information that Mr. McCarthy lives in New York City, and since same sex marriage is now legal in New York State, he can, in fact get married.

    By the way, it should be noted that the two most recent states legalizing same sex marriage, New York and Maryland, have Catholic governors, namely Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley who supported and signed the bills. A hat tip, in the case of Maryland, should also go to former Vice-President Cheney, whose lobbying for the bill convinced two Rethuglican member of the lower house to support the it; without those two votes, the bill would have failed as it did in the previous session.

  24. #24 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    Eric, that a materialist would think that there was no difference between taking a side in football and civil rights would have surprised me as recently as eight years ago, it doesn’t surprise me now. Perhaps they don’t realize it, being in a group with legal protection, that those impeached rights include the rights of atheists. I think you just gave permission to anyone who isn’t an atheist to not care about the rights of atheists, if they choose.

    The difference between that materialist view of rights, that they are imaginary, the result of whatever temporary majority decides they are and the view that rights are inherent, inalienable and the equally distributed endowment of the Creator couldn’t be more obvious. Under one “rights” are as imaginary as a teapot in space, under the other they are real and persist no matter what even a majority thinks. A majority, or a minority that has seized power might keep me from exercising my rights but they are there, nonetheless.

    That materialists despise the idea of God so much that they take an potentially dangerous stand on rights that erases any rational claim they could assert the reality of their rights – including the irrational one they always bang on about, the right of atheists to be elected president – could lead someone to believe that their stand is far more emotional than rational. It wouldn’t surprise me if under a regime that takes your view of rights, atheists might be among those who find themselves under attack.

    As I’ve said here before, the history of atheist regimes is, uniformly, that of violent dictatorial nightmares. The chances under even those countries with official state religions are that the results will be far better. With declarations about rights, such as yours, I’m going to have to believe that the experiments on that issue have been run and the results are in.

    I used to say that I didn’t care how atheists accounted for the existence and reality of civil rights, though I couldn’t see how they could believe they were real. Now that so many atheists are questioning the reality of them in public, I do care and I’m not reassured by what they’re saying. Materialism is, inherently, an anti-liberal ideology that inevitably demotes people into objects. I no longer think it’s possible for people who regard people as objects to really respect their rights. Libertarian indifference is no substitute for a belief in real, inherent rights. Neither is opportunistic usurpation of civil rights issues to promote unrelated ideologies. The Stalinists who hijacked part of the left in the U.S. did that. It did nothing for civil rights and, as their hero showed, they were entirely uninterested in civil rights in the end.

    Anticipating the frothing rage on the “atheist for president” issue, NO ONE has a right to get anyone’s vote, the right is that of a person to cast a vote. There is a right to run for president, assuming you meet the qualifications. But voters get to not vote for whoever they choose not to for whatever reason they choose. If you want their vote, you have to persuade them to vote the way you’d like them to. Being rude to people is known to be ballot box poison. I suppose I should be surprised how many Brights don’t realize that. But I really am not.

  25. #25 SLC
    March 21, 2012

    Re Andrew McCarthy

    I would point out to Mr. McCarthy that Spain and Argentina, both heavily Catholic countries, legalized same sex marriage over the vehement opposition of the church and all its officials.

  26. #26 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    SLC, Mr. McCarthy lives in Maine, is a native of Maine and resided in the state except for when he was in college and grad school. He lives on the same farm he grew up on. Maine does not have equal marriage rights now, it did. My ex-state legislator said, when he voted to support equal marriage rights, that his old Catholic mother told him it was the right thing to do.

    And I’m afraid that even Jason Rosenhouse is going to have to defer to my knowledge of my experience. The people who attacked me were thugs, mostly known to me, none of whom were especially pious, certainly if their language was any indication.

  27. #27 julia
    March 21, 2012

    Thanks Jimmy Carter for inspiring such dialog. If only as keepers of our planet and brothers and sisters of each other we would put as much thought into stopping our own self destruction — what a wonderful world it could be.

  28. #28 SLC
    March 21, 2012

    Re Anthony McCarthy @ #26

    My apologies to Mr. McCarthy. I got the impression from earlier posts from him that he was a resident of New York City. Maybe it was a different Anthony McCarthy.

    However, it is a fact that the only significant opposition to the same sex marriage bills in New York and Maryland were from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and, in the case of Maryland, from black churches in Prince Georges County. In fact, it is my information that the only Democrats who opposed the bill in Maryland were from PG county. As occurred in California relative to Proposition 8, the black churches have far more influence over their parishioners then does the Catholic Church these days.

  29. #29 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “that a materialist would think that there was no difference between taking a side in football and civil rights”

    Aawww, bless.

    Go on, then. Wow us. Tell us what difference there is that had to be said in eric’s post.

    “the view that rights are inherent, inalienable and the equally distributed endowment of the Creator”

    Really? What rights are these?

    PS By the way, there is no creator who gave us anything.

  30. #30 eric
    March 21, 2012

    AMC:

    Eric, that a materialist would think that there was no difference between taking a side in football and civil rights would have surprised me as recently as eight years ago, it doesn’t surprise me now.

    Don’t be insulting. The point of my analogy was obvious – claiming to have god’s support doesn’t add anything to either side’s argument. Twisting it and implying that I was trying to trivialize gay rights is obnoxious. I’d ask for an apology, but I doubt I’d get one.

    Under one “rights” are as imaginary as a teapot in space, under the other they are real and persist no matter what even a majority thinks. A majority, or a minority that has seized power might keep me from exercising my rights but they are there, nonetheless.

    Under both, your legal and practical rights extend only so far as the law – not any inherency – protects them.

    Claiming they are inherent is a claim about their metaphysical status. But metaphysical status is irrelevant to the question of legal exercise. A right doesn’t have to be metaphysically inherent to be legally enforced, and metaphysical inherency doesn’t confer any ability to legally exercise it. There is no connection. Which means that if you want gays to have rights in practice, you need to address the question of legal exercise and not the question of inherency.

  31. #31 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    It’s both highly amusing and bafflingly unsupportable how this beansprout AMC turns:

    Invoking god’s support for some right is like invoking god’s support for your football team; every side does it, and it makes no difference to the result.

    Into this:

    “there [is] no difference between taking a side in football and civil rights”

    But when you have nothing on your side, your only recourse is to pretend everyone else is even worse.

  32. #32 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    As a gay atheist who has studied gay bashing for years, I can definitely say that it ALL comes from religion.

    Gay bashing does not exist in religious communities that are gay supportive.

    “Machismo” comes from religiously pronounced masculine roles handed down by god. In religious communities which do not have such predetermined gender roles, there is no machismo.

    So, Anthony McCarthy, your points are in error. Your interpretation of your personal experience is in error.

    Your belief that you have “rights” regardless of whether or not they are observed by the powers that be, is in error. This is an interesting kind of denial on your part.

    Another small point, Maine never had fully equal marriage rights for same sex couples. It could not, unless it was joined hand in hand with federal marriage equality. You see, at NS Portsmouth, you wouldn’t be considered married because it is a military base, and the military doesn’t recognize same sex marriage regardless of what the individual states recognize.

    For Dr. Rosenhouse, there are a few slight corrections. Jesus gave his blessing to a same sex couple when he raised the centurions male lover from the dead. Here’s just one source: http://www.gaychristian101.com/Centurion-And-Pais.html

    Friedman and Dolansky are by far not the final word on homosexuality in the bible — their work is not universally accepted (I, for one, do not agree with all their conclusions).

    That being said, I do agree with your criticism of President Carter. He’s got a lifetime of adherence to his rituals, and I would be extremely surprised if he were to put down his cross and follow us — but he keeps edging closer all the time. And people like him.

    Which is why your posts are so important. They help to create a climate of analytical thinking and skepticism.

  33. #33 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “Your belief that you have “rights” regardless of whether or not they are observed by the powers that be, is in error”

    Not for him.

    You see, if you have inherent rights from a Creator that doesn’t NEED concession from merely physical authority, then AMC doesn’t have to protect your rights or even say that you must be allowed to marry, since The Creator will do that for you. And if The Creator doesn’t, then that must be because of Ineffability (or He Really Hates Gays).

    So you see, if no legislation is passed protecting your rights and you still get vilified, beaten and treated like a third-class citizen, then this isn’t HIS fault, it’s because The Creator doesn’t think you have any rights.

  34. #34 TTT
    March 21, 2012

    I’m not interested in having my civil rights being used to promote atheism because it’s difficult enough as it is to convince people of my rights without having a group that already has legal protection for those rights (since 1965 and before for many of them) in their frequently petty ideological war with the large majority of people.

    You would do well with a little more self-awareness. An openly gay man wishing for marriage rights hasn’t a leg to stand on in trying to invoke “the large majority of people.”

    And it’s funny to see you invoke MLK Jr’s embrace of Bayard Rustin as proof of how great the “Christian” civil rights movement was to gays. Do you even know that civil rights leader Rustin was an atheist? Reminds me of Glenn Beck’s insistence that his tea party rallies are actually “taking back” the civil rights movement to what Dr. King “originally wanted” before those dirty liberals invented a false history of it in the 1970s.

    Marriage is not the only civil right that matters. There are numerous examples of state laws and even state constitutions discriminating openly against atheists, not to mention the significant discrimination within the divorce court system against atheist parents, under all of which cases they are institutionally treated as second-class citizens.

  35. #35 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “Jesus gave his blessing to a same sex couple when he raised the centurions male lover from the dead.”

    Luke (7:12) “When he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man.”

    (7:14) “He came and touched the bier … And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”

    (7:15) “And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.”

    Or was it Matthew:

    8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

    ?

    Now maybe JC brought him back to life, but he doesn’t appear to be blessing any relationship, homo or hetero, between the Centurion and his slave.

  36. #36 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    Wow, are you suggesting that (the non-existent) JC would have raised the dead lover if JC had viewed them as being repulsive deviants actively engaged in sin that was total abomination to himself? Wouldn’t it have at the very least garnered a “go and sin no more” comment?

    Why waste a miracle of resurrection on someone who actively was to be put to death for their particular sin?

    Yes, there is no record of JC saying “I bless your relationship” — but the resurrection without negative comment at the request of the centurion is a clear indication that JC was okay with them as a couple.

  37. #37 Blaine
    March 21, 2012

    It doesn’t matter what rights you have in theory. Rights don’t inhere, adhere, etc, etc. That is all bullshit. It all boils down to rhetoric. If you can convince someone you have rights, then you do. The fact that people are discussing this further establishes the point. There are values and then there is the legitimation of values. The legitimation is done through rhetoric. God talk is just another rhetorical tool to legitimize a set of values. Even the moronic born-agains have to use rhetoric. Its called ‘preaching the word’, ‘spreading the gospel’, ‘sharing my testimony’ and other such talk about ‘blik’. If you can convince someone a moral fact extsts, then it does. If you can’t it doesn’t.

  38. #38 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “are you suggesting that (the non-existent) JC would have raised the dead lover if JC had viewed them as being repulsive deviants actively engaged in sin that was total abomination to himself?”

    No, I’m saying (and not suggesting) that JC didn’t bless their union.

    If he didn’t exist, then he doubly didn’t. :-)

  39. #39 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    And I can see someone in trouble and give them aid.

    I don’t ask for their sex life to be recounted to me before I’ll decide whether to help or not (and note that there was no discussion about this person being any other than “beloved” which, since the apostles were the beloved of Christ, would mean you’re calling him one of the biggest benders of all history (until Bender Rodrigues Bender was crafted some time in the year 2996). So there’s nowt there to say either that JC knew they were lovers, or even approved. Just that one man was honest and his friend died, so JC did what he could to make the honest man’s life better.

  40. #40 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    gr8hands, how do you determine which came first, the machismo or patriarchal attitudes within religion? As it takes people to gay bash, any sociological or anti-religious ideological assertions on that point are moot if the bashers were atheists or anti-religious. But I’d rather concentrate on the situation in recent history and today rather than come up with some Neolithic Just-so Story about that.

    I’ve run into lots of gay bashing by atheists over the years. Your experience is your own but mine, apparently is different. The people I ran into, many who I knew over a period of decades, who were the most homophobic were not religious. A number of them would be most accurately described as irreligious boys who delighted in being as nasty as they could be. I’ve done some reading about Madalyn Murray O’Hair in the past couple of months. Seems the former most famous atheist in the world was a flaming gay basher in private as she made liberalish noises in public.

    I doubt that there would be much chance of running into much anti-gay discrimination in most liberal religious congregations as compared to the general population. I doubt I’d run into much of it even among some of the moderate ones.

    Of course, until there is a federal ruling or law that enforces full legal equality, no state law will be able to confer that.

    TTT, you don’t understand how radical it was for The Rev. King to hire Rustin and the opposition he ran into. He took a huge gamble with one of the major events of the Civil Rights struggle that could have been a disaster to practice equality in a way that was hardly even considered back then. You can contrast that to Harry Hay getting kicked out of the Communist Party for being publicly gay, if you want to push it. I don’t know how old you were in 1963 but, as a gay high school student reading about it, that was a huge deal.

    Don’t be insulting. eric

    You’re the one who made the comparison, which was insulting, I just pointed it out that it was consistent with materialist conceptions of rights being imaginary, created out of nothing but a majority point of view that is liable to change, thus erasing any right that is asserted at another time.

    Imaginary rights are no different from those interplanetary tea pots or fairies you people are always bringing up as the standard of ludicrous ideas. Imaginary rights are as susceptible to denial as any other imaginary entity. The history of materialists denial of them is rather depressingly long and, at times, cold blooded. I’ve known that history since the early 60s. I used to ignore it out of an overly idealistic belief in a leftist solidarity that, in the past decade, I’ve found was certainly not reciprocal. I’ve had enough. I don’t think materialism is compatible with real liberalism. Materialism, no less than conservatism, regards people as objects whereas liberalism is based in the belief that people are more than that. I find that when you really get down to it, many if not most materialists who believe themselves to be liberal are actually just a different flavor of libertarian. I’m not ignoring that problem with materialism anymore.

    I and other consenting adults had the right to do what we agreed to even when it was illegal by majority vote, as long as we observed each other’s rights and dignity. I have a right to enter into marriage with another man, even as that is denied by the vote overturning marriage equality under state law in a referendum that should never have been allowed. If the upcoming referendum to restore marriage rights in Maine fails, I will still have that right. Most of the people I know who are working on restoring that right are religious, some of them Catholics, some of them Baptists. If that restoration depended only on the votes of non-religious people, it would fail. By the standards of materialism, if those rights are denied by a majority vote, they don’t exist.

    If you atheists want to fight it out among yourselves until you come up with an alternative that supports that those rights are as real as the entities studied by particle physics or the discovered the fossil record, I’ll revise my ideas about that. But I’m not waiting up nights for that to happen.

  41. #41 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    Actually, Wow, the centurion told JC that his lover (using local idioms, just like I would say my “partner”) was ill and asked for healing. Everyone listening would have known they were a gay couple — no divinity needed.

    The mere fact the centurion was a roman should have been enough to be turned away. But a gay roman centurion would be even more reason. You should read the link I provided to give you the proper linguistic and historical background.

    If I tell you my partner is sick, needs an operation, and we can’t afford it — and you hand me a wad of cash to pay for it, you have given my relationship your tacet blessing. (If I told you that my sex partner was a 6 year old, would you still have given the cash? Why or why not?)

  42. #42 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy, you are delusional, and need to be seen by competent medical and psychiatric professionals.

    Or, more likely, a troll.

  43. #43 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    “the centurion told JC that his lover (using local idioms, just like I would say my “partner”)”

    How do you know that? The Jews at the time didn’t speak and write 20th Century English, you know.

    And you can say your partner and not your lover.

    In the “local idiom”, Jesus said that his apostles were his beloved followers. Just like the centurion in the “local idiom” said that his slave was a beloved slave.

    “The mere fact the centurion was a roman should have been enough to be turned away”

    Therefore showing that JC could still have considered gay men to be evil and icky, just as Romans were evil and icky (believing in myths and so on like Mithras and having idol worshipping as big on their list of “do”s), but he decided to do so.

    See also the pharisee. Or the whores he healed.

    He healed people whether they were evil or icky.

    If he existed, that is.

    “If I tell you my partner is sick, needs an operation, and we can’t afford it — and you hand me a wad of cash to pay for it, you have given my relationship your tacet blessing.”

    No, I gave you a wodge of cash.

    If I then turned around and said “Now bum be you big hunkalove, you”, then I’d be saying something about heterosexual congress being great.

  44. #44 Wow
    March 21, 2012

    Or are you saying, gr8hands, that you would only aid those who were suffering only when their private activities are ones you agree with and wish to see prosper and flourish?

    Maybe that greater love for my fellow human is because I’m not a Christian :-)

    (ps that should have been “Now bum me…” in the previous post)

  45. #45 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    I’m surprised that even after making the suggestion, you didn’t take the time to follow the link which explains how “I know” what the local idioms were.

    Please note in the other healings JC would say “go and sin no more” — making it clear that he did not approve of their sins.

    This is all academic, of course, as JC didn’t exist and the works attributed are fictional.

    As for who I would aid, I would have to think twice about giving assistance to Fred Phelps or his family, or Santorum, or other rabidly anti-gay people. I would not give money to any beggar with a sign that says “why lie? I want a beer.”

    I note you declined to say whether you would assist an active unrepentant pedophile, or turn them into the police (which is your legal responsibility).

  46. #46 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    gr8hands, I try to resist getting into a name calling fight here as the owner of the blog doesn’t seem to like it.

    You clearly need to read more about the history of the gay rights struggle and the part that religious people have had in it. As I said, if it depended on atheists, nothing would have ever happened because there just aren’t enough of them.

    For several of the people above, I’d like to know how anyone who isn’t allowed their rights by a majority of a society and the law, who asserts that they have a right – which you materialists deem is non-existent under those conditions – isn’t delusional, believing in something that doesn’t exist. Why should anyone who is being asked to support that assertion of rights believe that it’s worth their effort over something that is imaginary. I don’t think believing that will be sufficient to overcome social inertia necessary to make progress.

  47. #47 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy, the delusional/troll, citation please for your statements.

    I’ve been involved in the gay rights struggle since shortly after Stonewall, so you are making an error trying to lecture me about it. Your personal experience, if true, is clearly an outlier on the reality graph. Follow your own advice and read more about it.

  48. #48 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    Well, gr8hands, I came out before Stonewall. Not everything began with that event in NYC. You are familiar with Harry Hay, aren’t you?

    How about The Rev. John T. Graves, who, I believe, was a founding member of The Society for Human Rights. You are familiar with that very early gay rights organization, aren’t you?

  49. #49 gr8hands
    March 21, 2012

    Yes, I am familiar with the groups/people you named, and the Mattachine Society as well (and the Cockettes, and . . . ).

    You will note they were not religious groups, although they had some members who were religious, because the religious were the biggest group of persecutors.

    Oh yes, Harry Hay who supported NAMBLA — and should be ashamed for such support. Hero of yours? Double shame.

    Actually you would have been better to suggest Metropolitan Community Church which was started before Stonewall. But the criticism of them is similar to Dr. Rosenhouse’s criticism of President Carter. They cherry pick what they accept from the bible and pretend to be in compliance with it.

  50. #50 eric
    March 21, 2012

    AMC:

    I and other consenting adults had the right to do what we agreed to even when it was illegal by majority vote…I have a right to enter into marriage with another man, even as that is denied by the vote…If the upcoming referendum to restore marriage rights in Maine fails, I will still have that right.

    I am now curious how you define “right.”

    It seems to me that if you are fighting to change the law, and you call this a gay rights fight, you recognize that rights have something to do with legality. Which is all that I’m saying – in practical terms, rights have to do with what is legal.

    If your point is that convincing people its inherent may then make it easier to get them to vote for gay rights legislation, I may agree. But its that change in law that makes the practical difference in people’s lives. Absent legal acceptance, the right’s inherentness gives them nothing.

  51. #51 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    gr8hands, Harry Hay is part of gay history, like it or not. So is his involvement with the CP and after. As far as I know he wasn’t religious. I was contrasting his history with the CP with Bayard Rustin’s involvement with the March on Washington. I could have brought up Rustin’s involvement with the CP and how he left it when Stalin declared that they were to give up on civil rights in order to pull his ass out of the sling he got into with his non-aggression pact with the Nazis. Though Rustin became a Quaker so he probably benefited from that rift.

    eric, different rights would have different definitions. They are those aspects of someone’s life, choices, conditions of living, etc. that other people have an obligation to honor as well as imposing a reciprocal obligation on that person. Many of them consist of people being allowed to do things unhampered by other people and the state, in so far as they don’t impinge on rights of other people. One of the most important aspects of rights is that they are an inherent possession of people and that their rights are equally entitled to being honored by other people and the state. Equality is one of the most essential aspect of rights, equality is, in itself a right. Equality is a guarantee against the denial or rights of part of the population. Equality of rights means that rights don’t exist due to any other quality of a person other than that they are people. Rights aren’t granted by the state or by other people, they are an inherent aspect of the person.
    Rights can’t be assumed to be limited to a specific codification of them, rights which were not realized to inhere to people often become apparent with changing understanding. Rights are real and not imaginary.

    I’m curious to know how you define rights if you don’t think they are real. Go ahead and tell me why, in light of what’s been said about rights here and by other atheists, why I should feel confident that my rights would be better off with materialists than with people who believe that rights are provided by a creator and that there is a moral obligation to observe those rights. I used to believe they would be at least as safe in the hands of atheists as with religious liberals, I’ve lost my former confidence in that assumption due to what I’ve read atheists on the blogs say over the past decade. Now I think it was more wishful thinking than anything else.

  52. #52 CherryBombSim
    March 21, 2012

    Jimmy Carter was not a nuclear physicist by training, he was a nuclear engineer and he never did learn how to pronounce it correctly.

  53. #53 eric
    March 21, 2012

    Go ahead and tell me why, in light of what’s been said about rights here and by other atheists, why I should feel confident that my rights would be better off with materialists than with people who believe that rights are provided by a creator and that there is a moral obligation to observe those rights.

    Because we don’t just believe your rights should be respected because some deity who threatens hell tells us to. We believe supporting and protecting your rights without any such coercion.

    So, you can trust the folks who are helping you because they’re afraid if they don’t, bad things will happen to them. Or you can trust the folks who are helping you because they honestly want to.

  54. #54 David
    March 21, 2012

    Wow… a bunch of atheists trying to justify themselves by insisting that Jesus Christ (yeah, not JC) wasn’t a real person. That the Bible is full of fiction and irrelevant BS. Really?? Jesus Christ was real. He lived and died as both you and I will one day. As for God, he’s real too. That said, good luck to each of you. I’ll pray for you. Why? Because I can. As a non-believer… well, who are you going to pray to? How can prayer have any relevance if you believe in nothing? Know that God loves you. He wants a relationship with you. I hope you find the wisdom to make the right decision.

    Imagine living a life with no hope, no faith, no belief that your life is more than the time spent on this earth. That this is all there is… nothing more, nothing less.

    Good luck.

  55. #55 Anthony McCarthy
    March 21, 2012

    eric, I’m not convinced you believe that rights have a different status from those unicorns and tooth fairies you people are always comparing to God. Rights under materialism seem to have the same status that you assign to religious concepts, that they are imaginary, the product of group consensus having no more reality than you assign to angels or spirits or God. I don’t believe for a minute that any society that believes that rights are merely the product of imagination would allow their exercise except to those it wanted to and in those ways it wanted to.

    The right of equality was especially vulnerable to attack by materialists, as Galton and Thomas Huxley and other materialists explicitly gave inequality the imprimatur of science and promoted political and social means to give their claims of inequality real consequences for real people. Eugenics was not considered to be anything but science until the crimes of the Nazis were fully known, it was put into effect in North America, which the Nazis explicitly pointed to as supporting their early policies.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Wir_stehen_nicht_allein.png

    Ironically, in the land of it’s obscene birth, Britain, it was a Catholic, G. K. Chesterton who waged a campaign against eugenics and prevented it gaining the same legal status it had in the United States, even as it had the support of most of the big names in alleged liberalism – most of them being quite anti-religious – as well as many conservatives. But, then, I pointed out above that both materialism and conservatism consider people as being objects. It’s also interesting that as eugenics was becoming all the rage with the materialists, Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection but no materialist, held it in disdain, calling it “the meddlesome interference of an arrogant scientific priestcraft” and “in every way dangerous and detestable”.

    And neo-eugenics is making a come back now as those with memories of the Second World War die.

    I’ve yet to hear anything from the atheists in this audience that would lead me to believe that they think rights are real. I don’t have any confidence that materialists are more reliable guarantors of rights than religious people who believe that they are as real as any physical force or object because they are an endowment from God. Given the topic of the thread and my repeated requests for you to explain how your ideology allows for the reality of rights, you’re coming up with nothing to dispel those doubts. I’m not buying that materialism is compatible with liberalism, I don’t think that you can really believe that a physical object has rights that you are required to recognize and respect. That’s hard enough for people to do consistently when they believe rights are real, I have no confidence that a society that doesn’t has any chance of retaining a free, democratic government. Pragmatic selfishness is no substitute for moral restraint.

  56. #56 Wowbagger
    March 21, 2012

    Anthony ‘The Hagfish’ McCarthy wrote:

    eric, I’m not convinced you believe that rights have a different status from those unicorns and tooth fairies you people are always comparing to God.

    Er, how about because rights affect actual living people, for whom most of us have empathy?

    This, of course, is something you already know and understand full well; it’s only your fundamental dishonesty – fueled by your woo-soaked devotion to spreading anti-science, anti-rational and anti-atheist dogma – that’s inspiring you to affect a position of such cluelessness.

  57. #57 Steven Carr
    March 22, 2012

    ‘Steven Carr, you do know that the people Jesus is condemning in Matthew 23 are the equivalent of the worst of Biblical fundamentalists today, don’t you? ‘

    You are allowed to abuse religious people are you in the most vile terms?

    And they must have been really bad people. The Bible says so.

  58. #58 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    Steven Carr, Jesus was a person, even Christians who believe he was also divine believe that. Maybe he was engaging in hyperbole to make a dent in their conceited self regard. Having argued a lot with arrogant people, it’s something one is always tempted to resort to. If you want to get into a quote duel the big heroes of atheism have provided more than enough to make what Jesus said in Matthew 23 sound innocuous. Some of what was said around eugenics is hair raising. Especially those things said within the two decades before the Holocaust. Some of the biggest names in the atheist pan-atheon said and did some pretty horrible things, in retrospect. Many of them were quite cold blooded even outside of the context of what was to come.

    Of course, when you look at what Hitchens and Harris and many others have said in the period after the Holocaust, it’s clear a lot of them haven’t learned much from that event. Which only adds weight to why it’s so important for atheists to square their materialism with the reality of rights. I think that’s a lot more important than your bound to fail war against religious belief. If the Soviet Union couldn’t wipe out religion, I doubt you guys can. But there will be collateral damage, I think there already is.

  59. #59 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    Anthony the McCarthyist blithered thusly:

    Where in materialism do you find a moral requirement for people to observe the rights of glbt people? Where do you find that in science?

    We find it in the “materialist” observation that GBLT people are not a threat to anyone, so there’s no rational basis to treat them differently from the rest of us. If you had even one scrap of honesty, you’d notice that it’s scientists who are flatly disproving all of the ignorant assertions that religious conservatives have made about LGBT people.

    (Also, same question back to you: where “in materialism” do you find a moral requirement NOT to observe the rights of LGBT people?)

    I’d rather take my chances on Christians like Carter than I would materialists like Coyne…

    “Christians like Carter” means the kind of Christians who incorporate what you call “materialism” into their beliefs, and are better people because of it. Using “Chsitians like Carter” to bash “materialism” once again proves what a lying stupid bigot you are.

    Also, what, specifically, did this Coyne person say or do to make him less trustworthy than Carter? Your credibility is zero, so you’ll need to provide citations, not just assertions.

    Worthless troll is worthless.

  60. #60 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    Of course, when you look at what Hitchens and Harris and many others have said in the period after the Holocaust, it’s clear a lot of them haven’t learned much from that event.

    Specific citations, please, or admit you’re full of shit.

  61. #61 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    Also, Anthony, “Christians like Carter” are the kind of Christians who get viciously attacked by other Christians precisely because they’ve incorporated what you call “materialism” into their beliefs. Using a target of anti-“materialist” bigotry to justify anti-“materialist” bigotry, is even lower than blaming atheist bloggers for bigotry against Jessica Alquist.

    Anthony McCarthyist is so low he needs a twelve-foot ladder to get into Don Imus’ Volkswagen.

  62. #62 eric
    March 22, 2012

    AMC:

    eric, I’m not convinced you believe that rights have a different status from those unicorns and tooth fairies you people are always comparing to God.

    If you’re asking if I believe there is some platonic form for “freedom of speech” (and other rights) floating around in metaphysical space, you are correct, I don’t believe that.

    I have no idea what this has to do with you not trusting atheists to support them, though. If an individual thinks gay rights derive from general concepts like self-determination and reciprocity rather than being god-given orders, how does that make them less trustworthy?

    I’m not buying that materialism is compatible with liberalism, I don’t think that you can really believe that a physical object has rights that you are required to recognize and respect.

    Required is the key word there. You feel required to obey god in this matter. I respect and fight for your rights out of my own free choice, not because I feel compelled or required to.

    I do it because I think its a good idea on its own merits. I do it because I think equal rights leads to greater peace, prosperity, social stability, and so on. I do it because I have empathy for you. I do it because I’m smart enough to recognize that an unequal system that priveleges me in the short term can easily come back to bite me or my children in the ass over the long term. I do it because I want to leave the world in better shape than it was before I entered it, and supporting people’s rights to self-determination is one of the ways I accomplish that.

    Look, the belief that rights are god-given clearly doesn’t correlate with support for gay rights, since you have religious and non-religious people on both sides of this aisle. So I fail to see why your point would even matter if it were correct. If every single human being throughout history agreed with you that rights have some objective reality, we’d still be arguing about which proposed or hypothetical rights were real ones. Thus, your point solves no argument and goes nowhere.

  63. #63 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    …I don’t think that you can really believe…

    Who died and made you the arbiter of what other people can or cannot “really” believe?

    This is an example of classic bigotry: the refusal to even suspect that the “other” can be anything other than what the bigot thinks he is.

    Self-centered troll is self-centered.

  64. #64 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    eric, no place did I talk about rights as being unassociated with people, @51 “they [rights] are an inherent aspect of the person”. Bringing up “platonic forms” is a dodge to avoid addressing my questions. I asked those questions based in what you and others here have said and what I’ve been reading from materialists since the time I first picked up a volume on Nietzsche when I was in high school. Materialists have denied the existence of rights for centuries.

    I’m finding when challenged to explain that rights have a status as other than imaginary entities, atheists, who spend enormous amounts of time ridiculing imaginary entities, can’t do that. They can’t account for why rights should be considered to be any more real than the FSM or Hello Kitty.

    You haven’t addressed what I said about the history of the denial of equality, something that has had terrible consequences in a number of countries including the US and Canada, both in eugenics and scientifically permitted racism. That is something that can be traced directly to materialists in the 19th century. I’m quite sure that they would have little if any problem worrying about their children being attacked by those kinds of laws, even as they supported them as very scientific and even progressive in the case of other peoples’ children. I did mention that without the right of equality that kind of thing would happen.

    You obviously can’t do what I asked you to do because there is no way to account for rights being real under materialism. Materialism considers people to be objects, objects don’t have rights. There is no way to explain how people can have rights under the ideology of materialism unless you change the meaning of “rights” to mean something that is imaginary. And people have no problem getting over any reluctance to violate imaginary prohibitions against their exploitation or injuring mere objects. Nothing in your last response supports the idea that rights are anything but make believe, which I find profoundly unencouraging as to their prospects under a regime of materialism. A regime such as those atheist regimes mentioned, the results of which are consistent with that aspect of materialism and its objectification of people.

    I’ve learned a lot from questioning the new atheists online. Just how liberalism is undermined by it, one of the more recent things I’ve finally admitted. Materialism is the death of liberalism. Leftish libertarianism is not a real replacement for it.

  65. #65 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    Bee, I think your neurons have suffered colony collapse. Metaphorically speaking.

    I’m only going to talk to serious people from now on. The others are just sock puppets with nothing to add but lots to deduct from the conversation.

  66. #66 TTT
    March 22, 2012

    Imagine living a life with no hope, no faith, no belief that your life is more than the time spent on this earth. That this is all there is… nothing more, nothing less.

    Imagine living a life where your time spent on this earth doesn’t matter at all because after you die you just actually get more of the same. Things that last forever are not special. Everything you do and everyone you know is immediately devalued. Why bother protecting life, if everyone has a spare? Of course, believing you are actually a ball of mud and dust brought to life by a magic spell doesn’t make life sound very worthwhile either, since there’s plenty of mud and dust to go around and, since this “God” character of yours is supposed to be all-powerful, plenty of magic spells to create your replacements.

    You didn’t think this through, did you? Of course you didn’t. None of you ever do.

  67. #67 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    Materialists have denied the existence of rights for centuries.

    Name names and provide specific quotes, or admit you’re full of shit.

    I’m only going to talk to serious people from now on.

    Thank you for admitting you’ve lost the argument. Cowardly troll is cowardly.

  68. #68 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    Imagine living a life with no hope, no faith, no belief that your life is more than the time spent on this earth. That this is all there is… nothing more, nothing less.

    Who the fuck are you talking about, moron? I don’t know a single agnostic or atheist who thinks this way. They make the best of the life they have while they have it, and seem no less happy or fulfilled than the theists I know (and a hell of a lot MORE fulfilled than some).

    As a matter of fact, I read a story of one person who, when she was a Christian and believed in Heaven, was thinking of killing herself. She figured this life was irredeemably miserable, so why not just skip ahead to the better afterlife her ministers and parents promised her? Then she stopped believing in God or any afterlife (IOW she became what you call a “materialist”) — and suddenly decided that she should work to make her life better because now that she was an atheist, that’s all she believed she had.

    This “sad meaningless empty atheist life” meme is pure fantasy — and a pretty sad, meaningless, empty fantasy at that. If you’re that desperate to imagine misery behind every face you see, you should probably get help. (I think the proper label is “delusional.”)

  69. #69 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    …there is no way to account for rights being real under materialism.

    If rights are made real only by a supernatural being who doesn’t even prove its existence, let alone announce or enforce said rights, then they’re even LESS real under religion (and more subject to change without notice) than under atheism.

  70. #70 eric
    March 22, 2012

    You obviously can’t do what I asked you to do because there is no way to account for rights being real under materialism. Materialism considers people to be objects, objects don’t have rights.

    I have good reasons for treating human beings equally. I listed a bunch of them. That is all I need to support gay rights. I don’t need rights to be real in your sense of the word. I don’t need them to be god-given.

    I haven’t addressed your historical arguments because they are fallacious. ‘Evil dictator believed x, therefore x-belief will lead to evil behavior’ is fallacious reasoning.

    I’ve learned a lot from questioning the new atheists online.

    No, I don’t think you have. You keep implying that non-believers are going to turn into 19th century eugenicists at first opportunty, even when actual non-believers are telling you to your virtual face that we find those policies abhorrent, would act against them, and that we support civil rights, gay rights, etc.

    You seem, in fact, to be ignoring online comments by nonbelievers whenever they don’t fit with your preconceived notion of how nonbelievers ought to act. Your line of reasoning is no different from a preacher who says God-belief is needed because otherwise everyone will rape, pillage, plunder, etc… somehow completely ignoring all the millions of non-raping, non-pillaging, non-plundering non-believers.

  71. #71 dean
    March 22, 2012

    rb, eric, for support of am’s assertion that rights are better protected by the religious, just look at how the religious right is protecting women’s rights of access to reproductive care. much better than his hated “materialists” (he seems to have moved on from the “new atheist” enemy he had before).

    Oh, wait, the rights of women are under attack by the RR. Never mind.

    (cue the “not the religious to whom I was referring” defense)

  72. #72 Lenoxus
    March 22, 2012

    It seems to me that at least two different definitions of “rights” have been going around. One of them is Anthony McCarthy’s (paraphrasing here): aspects of peoples’ lives that other people (or governments) are obligated to honor. A second definition would be aspects of peoples’ lives that other people (or governments) do in fact honor. So under the second definition, North Koreans do not have the right to criticize their government, but Americans (more or less) do. I tend to prefer the first definition, though the second has its uses. I hope that clears some things up.

    I think that hardly anyone would dispute that second-definition-rights exist, except those who would dispute nearly all abstractions. Unless you are rather cynical, you should agree that there are indeed certain types of actions that people are permitted by their governments to perform. In various times and places, people have exercised (at least to a limited degree) various religious beliefs, the ability to possess weapons, the receiving of healthcare from their governments, etc. (I have no intention of editorializing on the desirability of those various rights; they are just a few examples.)

    The tricky one is the first. It really seems to come down to what your meta-ethics are. I think mine are pretty close to Jason Rosenhouse’s as he puts them in this post. But at the end of the day, I don’t think meta-ethics matter nearly as much as people assume they do – or to be more precise, that they have nearly as strong an effect on behavior as people assume.

    In any case, the meta-ethics argument is frequently wielded against atheism, materialism, reductionism, etc. It holds no weight whatsoever. All the objections raised against the various atheist models of morality can be turned against whatever one’s “spiritual” morality is.

    For example, some say that without a Creator, good and bad are just our whims or preferences. Yet they can never justify why it’s unproblematic for such things to be the Creator’s mere whims and preferences.

    (Don’t tell me there’s some fundamental rule that creators deserve to have complete power over their creations. One, that itself needs further justification. Two, that seems to contradict the idea that the source of morality is God, since God apparently didn’t make up the “creator is always right” rule. And three, most importantly, it’s just wrong. If I were to buid a machine that had thoughtts and feelings, it would have lots of first-definition-rights, regardless of my desires for it.)

    Sometimes the argument is made that if we’re all “just chemicals”, then nothing can have any meaning and thus there can be no right or wrong. The problem is that whatever we and our emotions and minds are, they’re going to be “just” something, be it molecules or spirit-stuff. I’ve never heard a counter-argument that that point which isn’t a variation on the divine command morality discussed above (namely: we are created, and thus there is a purpose given to us which “mere” chemicals don’t have). Such a counter-argument can be dismissed more or less the same way.

    Ultimately, it seems that however morality, ethics, and rights really work, they will, be necessessity, fundamentally be secular, at least in terms of meta-ethics. (For example, prayer could hypothetically be shown to actually work and help people. If it did, then praying for someone to heal would be ethically good behavior, but for ultimately secular reasons.)

    Anthony McCarthy said:

    Materialism considers people to be objects, objects don’t have rights.

    This is just a language game, using different common connotations of the word “object”. It’s like saying that humans can’t be as jealous as spinach, because only spinach can be green with envy. Or more fairly, it would be as if I stated that creationists cannot possibly believe that birds can fly, because it is a fact that bird wings are evolved complex structures, but creationists don’t think that evolved complex structures exist.

    Either we do or don’t define “object” such that an object can have rights. If people are objects, the assertion “Some objects have rights” is eminently defensible. On the other hand, if “Objects cannot have rights” is an absolute, then people can never be objects. Simple.

    (To put it another way: you can’t assume that atheists dispute the existence of everything you consider non-material, and thus believe there is no such thing as love or even sentient experience. One may as well assume that they don’t believe in rainbows, since rainbows are a divine sign but atheists don’t believe in divine signs.)

    Imagine living a life with no hope, no faith, no belief that your life is more than the time spent on this earth. That this is all there is… nothing more, nothing less.

    In addition to the other counterpoints, I’ve never heard anyone explain why the same wouldn’t apply to an infinite afterlife. What stops someone in Heaven from asking “Is this all there is?”

    In any case, it seems that once we add a Heaven to the mix, then ethics have to become much more complex. Why not murder children if they really, really, really are going to go to a much better place? Why should anyone bother with anything, if the universe accomplishes all our justice for us?

  73. #73 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    (cue the “not the religious to whom I was referring” defense)

    Yeah, that’s another big hole in the McCarthyoid’s “god-given rights” argument: I can say my rights come from God, and the bigot can invalidate that by saying “That’s not the God I believe in.”

  74. #74 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    This is just a language game, using different common connotations of the word “object”.

    Language games are all this bigoted crank is good for. “Materialist,” “scientism,” “scientistic fundamentalist,” are words the MaCarthyoid always uses, but never defines, no matter how many times he’s asked to do so. Like most racists and other bigots, he thinks entirely in abstractions that have no connection to real thinhgs or people, and makes sweeping hateful accusations against labels, without ever specifying which real people he’s labeling, let alone citing evidence to support a specific accusation.

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    dean, if it was only atheists who supported freedom of choice, abortion would be illegal in every state in the country. The vast majority of those who support the right of women to self ownership are religious. The 1.6% who self-identify as atheists are a political footnote. They’d be a slightly longer footnote at 5%. As with the struggle for gay rights, if you knew what you were talking about you’d know that religious people have been part of the fight to legalize abortion and contraception from the start.

    If you think I haven’t talked about materialists in these discussions from the start and if you don’t understand the relationship between atheism and materialism, going back to the before the common era, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    eric, I’m not worried about you, yourself being able to dispose of rights, I’m worried about the ease with which that can be sold to people when presented as “science” and even more when it merely becomes a mental habit of a species in which indifference for other people seems to be endemic. The history of “scientific” attacks on equality present some of the clearest and most important lessons of the 20th century. That inequality began before natural selection was articulated, when it is coupled with natural selection, it has become stunningly effective in producing depravity.

    In the North American context of legally mandated eugenics, speaking English and removed from the context of the Nazis, continuing well into the post-war period and being revived even as its first incarnation was dying, is all real life proof that it couldn’t be more of a danger. This week we were presented with the horrific crime of boys being castrated by the corrupt Catholic hierarchy in Belgium during the 1950s. At the same time the Alberta Eugenics Board approved the castration of boys with Downs syndrome, who were sterile, obviously so some curious scientist could study their testicles. What’s the difference?

    Here’s an interview with a woman who was sterilized by the Eugenics Board during the late 50s. Notice what she says about her conversation with Margaret Thompson, the last surviving member of the Board.

    http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/11/14/leilani-muir-successfully-sues-alberta-govt-for-wrongful-sterilization/

    I have learned an enormous amount from reading and discussing things with blog atheists, not much of it very encouraging except in so far as it has made me admit that a lot that I’ve wanted to believe was unwarranted. When atheism is motivated by materialism and it is mixed with scientism, it becomes an extremely dangerous ideology.

    I’d already concluded that most people will be as bad as they figure they can get away with. It doesn’t seem to me that granting more reasons for people to not inhibit their selfishness is a really bad thing. I think the new atheist fad could turn out to be a lot more dangerous than I’d first thought when I read Harris contemplating nuking tens of millions of people in a day in “preemptive” attacks. That should have been a lot more of a clue than I thought then.

  76. #76 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    Lenoxus, if rights that people are prevented from exercising don’t really exist, how can any claims to those rights be anything but asserting an unreality? An illusion or, as many prefer these days of pop-psychologizing rhetorical discourse, a delusion? I’d think that a right that isn’t realized to be there is no more unreal than an aspect of mathematics that hasn’t been discovered or a physical law that hasn’t been articulated. I’d be inclined to think it’s more real than a lot that is asserted to be science. It’s certainly more real than Dawkins and Dennett’s Paleolithic Just-so Story “behaviors”, which few of the atheists I encounter have no problem believing in with all their hearts.

    If you think it’s a language game, try doing without your basic rights for a while and then get back to me. Listen to that link I posted for eric above.

  77. #77 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    If you think I haven’t talked about materialists in these discussions from the start and if you don’t understand the relationship between atheism and materialism, going back to the before the common era, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    That sentence is both incoherent in itself, AND totally unrelated to anything anyone else has said here. Seriously, dumfuck, no one is saying you “haven’t talked about materialists;” we’re saying you haven’t defined your terms, and haven’t shown a speck of honesty in any of your incessant bloviation.

  78. #78 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    The McCarthyoid’s latest comment #76 is so incoherent I’m inclined to conclude he’s lost the argument and getting upset and flustered about it.

  79. #79 Raging Bee
    March 22, 2012

    And now you’re bringing “eugenics” into a totally unrelated conversation, AND trying to insinuate that the RCC’s castration of boys who resisted their tyranny has something to do with “materialism?” Pathologically hateful troll is pathologically hateful.

    Why the Hell has this hateful, bigoted, obviously deranged one-track attention-whore not been banned? Seriously, this guy is sinking to the level of Larry Fafarman, who was banned from PT and nearly all SciBlogs without controversy.

  80. #80 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 22, 2012

    Raging Bee —

    I’m a hell of a lot closer to banning you than I am to banning Anthony. I don’t agree with much of what Anthony says, but he’s not the one hurling profanity and calling people names. It looks to me like he presents his points with a minimum of rancor. You, on the other hand, just spew a lot of asinine venom. I don’t know why you feel this obsessive need to jump in every time Anthony leaves a comment, but all you’re doing is making him look like the calm reasonable one. So knock it off. Final warning.

  81. #81 Anthony McCarthy
    March 22, 2012

    Raging Bee, I really should tell you should know how encouraging I find it whenever you say I’m incoherent. If you want to worry me, start agreeing.

    Oh, and in the context of the Belgium castration case. Consider the choice that Alan Turing was given of either imprisonment or undergoing “chemical” castration when he incomprehensibly outed himself to the cops in Manchester. That was, apparently, part of current science in the early 1950s in Britain. I’d love to know the religious ideology of the psychologists etc. who came up with that “treatment”. One thing that is fairly certain, the castration in Belgium violated Cannon Law. The Catholic hierarchy was breaking the law of the Catholic church as certainly as the child rapists were. The doctors who screwed around with Turing’s hormones were practicing medical science under the law, no doubt a “treatment” allowed on the basis of science. It’s not only religion that sanctions depravity.

  82. #82 Wowbagger
    March 22, 2012

    Anthony ‘The Hagfish’ McCarthy:

    The doctors who screwed around with Turing’s hormones were practicing medical science under the law doing so because of the laws created as a result of the Judeo-Christian religious prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible, no doubt a “treatment” allowed on the basis of science justified because of the aforementioned Judeo-Christian prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible.

    Fixed it for you.

    Or, of course, you could cite the peer-reviewed scientific literature where scientists – independent of any religious motivations – demonstrate that homosexuality is a problem of any kind.

    Something tells me, though, you won’t do that…

  83. #83 J. Quinton
    March 22, 2012

    Minor (lol) correction: The Nazi rationale for eugenics was virulently anti-Darwinist, anti-materialist, and wholly religious in nature.

    http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/nazi-racial-ideology-was-religious-creationist-and-opposed-to-darwinism/

  84. #84 SLC
    March 22, 2012

    Re Jason Rosenhouse @ #80

    Mr. Bee does tend to rage. However, rather then banning him and Mr. McCarthy, I would suggest that both of them be limited as to the number of comments. In particular, Mr. McCarthy has a tendency to dominate certain threads with multiple comments, most of which are far too long and say very little at great length.

    In looking at Mr. Bee’s comments, I don’t see them as being particularly out of line. Over at Ed Brayton’s blog and Mano Sangham’s blog he has called me a lot worse names. Water off a duck’s back I say.

  85. #85 SLC
    March 22, 2012

    Re J. Quinton @ #83

    Actually, the Nazi ideology rejected common descent, as did Frankenberger in Mein Kampf. It was the Communist government in the former Soviet Union that rejected natural selection in favor of inheritance of acquired traits (Lysenkoism).

  86. #86 eric
    March 22, 2012

    AMC:

    I’m worried about the ease with which that can be sold to people when presented as “science” and even more when it merely becomes a mental habit of a species in which indifference for other people seems to be endemic.

    You have not given any reason why it is easier under science than it is under a religion that considers rights to be inherent. Religions that consider rights inherent still argue and disagree over which rights are real and which aren’t.

    That’s the crux of the issue. Not that humanism can go wrong, but whether it is more or less likely to go wrong compared to the alternatives. And not some hypothetical alternative where every religious person believes in Anthony’s religious precepts, holds hands, and respects gay rights, but actual historical religious sects like Catholicism, Baptists, etc…

    The vast majority of those who support the right of women to self ownership are religious. The 1.6% who self-identify as atheists are a political footnote.

    You must understand why that’s not the statistic that matters for your argument, right? Would you like to tell me what relevant comparison would be, or do I have to describe it for you?

    Don’t worry, if you can’t, I will. I just figure that maybe you were answering some other question, and if so, you should have first crack at bringing up the statistical comparison that would actually matter for your argument.

  87. #87 alex macdonald
    March 23, 2012

    I have to object to the use in your headline of the phrase “endless disupute Between Evolution and Creationism”. It’s good, though, that you wrot ‘evolution’, not ‘evolutinism’.Biologists do not engage in disputes with creationists any more than they do with novelists or sanskritists. Why should the two subjects have nothing to do with each other. Creationists promote one or another of the tales told in Genesis about the creation of the world. The biologists whom creationists attack talk about the origin of species. Biologists assume creation — that is, that life exists and is all around us — but they say nothing about how life came about. Nor does anything Creationists (nota bene: upper case ‘c’)have to say about “the creation” bear on anything biology has discovered. Any biologist who disputes with creationists is on a fool’s errand, as futile an exercise as Obama’s attempts to get the Republican minority in the Senate, or the new and short-live majority in the House, to help the executive branch faithfully execute the laws.

    There are lots of places in any school curriculum for Creationism: history, sociology, logic, philosophy, magic, religions, anthropology, poetry. But there is no place for it in biology or any of the other life sciences. Creationism, by definition, is not about life, but what preceded it.

    Biologists must, however, defend themselves, the rest of us, and their science against the fraud being perpetrated by Creationists (most of whom, I judge from their writings, are trained in law or theology, not in any of the sciences).

  88. #88 alex macdonald
    March 23, 2012

    I have to object to the use in your headline of the phrase “endless disupute Between Evolution and Creationism”. It’s good, though, that you wrote ‘evolution’, not ‘evolutionism’. Biologists do not engage in disputes with creationists any more than they do with novelists or sanskritists. Why should they? The three subjects have little or nothing to do with each other.

    Creationists promote one or another of the truly beautiful and touching tales told in Genesis about the creation of the world and it many wonders. The biologists whom Creationists attack study the origin of species. Biologists assume creation — that is, they assume that life exists and is all around us — but they say nothing about how life came about. They don’t even speculate about the other planets or the galaxies and the universe itself. They are too modest. Nor does anything Creationists (nota bene: upper case ‘c’)have to say about “the creation” bear on anything biologists have discovered.

    Any biologist who abandons his or her subject to dispute with Creationists is on a fool’s errand, as futile an exercise as Obama’s attempts to get the Republican minority in the Senate, or its aging two-year majority in the House, to help the executive branch faithfully execute the laws they are all sworn to uphold.

    There are lots of places in any school curriculum for Creationism: history, sociology, logic, philosophy, magic, religions, anthropology, poetry. But there is no place for Creationism in biology or any of the other life sciences. Creationism, by definition, is not about life, but what preceded it.

    Biologists must, however, defend themselves, and the rest of us as well as their science, against the fraud being perpetrated by Creationists (most of whom, I judge from their writings, are trained in law or theology, not in any of the sciences).

  89. #89 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “where every religious person believes in Anthony’s religious precepts, holds hands, and respects gay rights”

    But doesn’t want to actually do anything other than “respect” them.

    Remember that.

    If God wanted the gays to have rights, they have rights. And if it turns out that they don’t magically GET those rights, this must be because God doesn’t want them to have those rights.

  90. #90 Anthony McCarthy
    March 23, 2012

    You have not given any reason why it is easier under science than it is under a religion that considers rights to be inherent. Religions that consider rights inherent still argue and disagree over which rights are real and which aren’t. eric

    I’ve done nothing but give reasons for that during this argument.

    First, though, my argument isn’t that science, itself, negates rights. Science can’t deal with the concept of rights because rights aren’t physical entities that can be seen and measured. Materialists would have to deny their reality on that basis, as they have been during this argument and as many have in the past. Though, at times, some have redefined the meaning of the word in order to maintain the appearance but denying the reality of the concept.

    Science, when it’s done honestly, would have to remain agnostic on the existence and nature of rights. But there are scientists from Francis Galton and Thomas Huxley to James Watson and up till now who have articulated a denial of the reality of rights, especially of equality, asserting that their conclusion is based in science. Their inappropriate use of science is, fundamentally, a misapplication of science to extremely complex phenomena which science is, in fact, incompetent to judge. There is no more disastrous application of promissory materialism than eugenics and race “science”. Like it or not, natural selection was the idea of science that was most useful to that denial, natural selection contains inequality as it’s most basic feature. If you deny that is true, read The Descent of Man and some of Huxley’s comments about race. The application of it to human society was never grounded in real science, it was a leap of materialist faith. Human society is far too complex to reliably apply something generally defined to it. And if it was not for that faith in materialism, science might have kept its hands clean, so to speak.

    Scientists have not learned enough from the catastrophic mixing of that malignant form of materialist faith with a misapplication of natural selection to keep them from trying it again. Those disasters, from eugenics to the Holocaust should have been enough to show how a fallacious and malignant assertion of science was uniquely potent to end up damaging and killing huge numbers of people. If there’s one thing that science is, it’s a magnification of human power to do things. Including bad things. But I’ll leave commentary on the irony of Steven Weinburg’s most famous utterance to another time.

    It was a bunch of atheists, Gould, Lewontin, etc. among others, who warned about the revival of that in the post-war period, first in Against “Sociobiology”

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/nov/13/against-sociobiology/?pagination=false

    I’d been aware of Arthur Jensen’s scientific racism before then and would come to know how much of it there still was after having read their further critique. At the time I had assumed that their anti-scientistic materialism was a more appropriate opponent of what was clearly a very dangerous trend. But in the last thirty five years it’s become apparent that it isn’t enough, certainly not in the general population and politics where rights have to be protected. The articulation of rights even by well disposed and even honest scientists who are materialists, is not effective. It has not prevented the erosion of liberalism and the increasing attack on its foundations since then.

    As I pointed out above, several times, religions that hold that rights are an equal endowment from God is a great advantage to the protection of rights because it begins by considering rights to be as real as materialists consider objects and physical forces to be. As seen in this argument, materialism has to hold that rights are imaginary or the creation of social consensus. I’ve never heard anyone who believed that equality is one of those rights endowed by God who has held that there are people who don’t have at least some rights, though they might not agree about others.

    Religion that doesn’t hold that belief about rights, obviously, wouldn’t be any less potentially malignant than a materialistic denial of them. However, even a number of those have implied rights in some of their moral assertions. I wouldn’t, though, think that they are especially reliable in judging questions of equality.

    Equality is the key right in society because it forces even very obtuse and selfish people to see that their rights are ensured by it.

    I think I’ve commented enough on these points, though. Reread what I’ve already said.

    Creationism has nothing to do with what I wrote. Though, if you read the early literature of abolitionists you would know that the Bible was frequently where the abolitionists got their arguments from. John Woolman, who talked the Quakers in what would become the United States to give up slavery, is a good example of that. He was certainly more impressive a figure in the history of rights than Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin, though he’s certainly less known.

    The struggle for gay rights is not a product of science or of materialism, it grows out of the example set by the struggle for racial equality and womens equality.

  91. #91 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “I’m a hell of a lot closer to banning you than I am to banning Anthony”

    Why?

    AMC is trolling.

    YOU are letting him troll.

    All RB’s having a problem with is that AMC is getting the required reaction out of him/her.

    But the reason WHY that reaction you so despise is happening is because YOU are letting a whacked out idiot to troll all the time.

    In my opinion, merely so you can pretend to yourself that you’re being “moderate” and “reasonable”.

    But you’re not.

    Letting a whackjob have their say is NOT being reasonable. It’s letting the nuttiest nutters drive the argument and is the entire reason why the USA is so fked up: the real nutcases wind their way a gargantuanly extreme way off to one side, then YOU, letting them put one extreme over there, have the idiotic idea that “the truth is somewhere in the middle”.

    Well guess what, JR, this just ensures that the whack-a-loons like AMC just have to go much much further: if they ask for 3x what they want and you “Compromise” on half, then they’re able to ask for 5x what they want next time to get 3/4.

    You, sir, are part of the poison.

    In a newspaper, it would get labelled “Yellow Journalism” or “False equivalence”.

  92. #92 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “You have not given any reason why it is easier under science than it is under a religion that considers rights to be inherent”

    You have not given any reason why, when the thousands of religions disagree WHICH rights are inherent, it’s easier under religion.

    You have also not given how, if these rights are considered inherent by religionists, this translates into those rights being held in reality without using the same exact methods that you’d use under science.

  93. #93 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    PS JR, I notice that you’ve been unable to answer the rather reasonable question posed by RB:

    “Why the Hell has this hateful, bigoted, obviously deranged one-track attention-whore not been banned?”

    Why is this one-track pony still here fouling the place up?

  94. #94 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “To put it another way: you can’t assume that atheists dispute the existence of everything you consider non-material”

    I.e. Happiness.

    Honour.

    Joy.

    Passion.

    Despair.

    Anger.

    All non-material. All believed by atheists and “materialists” to be real.

    AMC is just a waste of oxygen and the sooner he’s off this planet the better.

  95. #95 Anthony McCarthy
    March 23, 2012

    Oh, and, eric, my argument about the 1.6% of the population who identify themselves as atheists was about the legal and political support for the exercise of the right to reproduction choice. When it comes to politics and the law, the percentage of the population that supports an issue is ultimately relevant to the exercise of rights, certainly in a democracy. My argument was that reproductive choice, just as certainly as gay rights, depends on the support of a group that would necessarily consist mostly of religious believers.

    Given the predominance of religious believers in the world I’d go farther and say that any legal or social ability to exercise rights depends on the the support of religious believers. That would include the right of atheists to enjoy equality under the law, which depends on the support of the majority, who are religious believers. But, just as I’ve told some gay folk for the past forty years, alienating people outside of a small minority group can lose their support. Being obnoxious and rude will have that effect. Not that some people especially welcome that statement of reality.

    Even 1.6% of the population has equal rights, those are inalienable, even if that group doesn’t believe those rights are real. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to exercise those rights without the agreement of a majority, as history proves.

    I wonder what effect the frequent denial of the existence of inherent rights among atheists or the demotion of rights to being imaginary entities (such as they are always mocking) resting merely on social consensus has on the atheists efforts to further their exercise of their rights.

    Much of what I see these days is merely an assertion of authority based on presumed superiority instead of an assertion of equality. But I’ve spent a lifetime assuming that rights were based in equality, not an assertion of unequal rights by a favored class. I don’t think you’re going to find that the majority will join into a consensus on that idea.

  96. #96 Anthony McCarthy
    March 23, 2012

    Wow, if you haven’t noticed, I’m ignoring you. See also: my last comment to Bee.

  97. #97 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    How can you be ignoring me when you post to me saying “I’m ignoring you”?

    Or are you ignoring me in a non-material sense?

    PS You never answer anyone else’s questions, so what, in reality, is the difference between you ignoring someone and you trolling this thread as per usual?

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    March 23, 2012

    I’m ignoring you as a courtesy to the owner of the blog. And because you bore me.

  99. #99 Raging Bee
    March 23, 2012

    Excuse me, Jason, but Anthony IS calling people names — he is, in fact, repeating some pretty vile lies about “materialists,” including equating them (or maybe “us,” depending on his definition of “materialism,” which he’s hever been honest enough to articulate) with eugenics, sexual abuse of boys by the decidedly non-“materialist” Catholic Church, and even the worst policies of Stalin and Hitler. Given a track record like that, blaming atheist bloggers for the religious bigotry and hate directed at a high-school girl is the LEAST vile of his lies.

    He spouts wild accusations against undefined groups of people, refuses to clarify or support any of his charges, and repeats the same groundless charges over and over again, long after they’ve been disputed and debunked. He knows he’s lying, he knows he’s been caught lying, and he keeps on repeating the same lies over and over, knowing they’ve been exposed as lies. And he clearly does this for no purpose other than to monopolize a blog that other people actually read (unlike his own five repetitive crank-sites), and keep attention focused solely on himself and his own longstanding tedious grudges. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who considers such behavior MORE offensive and vile than merely calling someone a moron or a dumbfuck. I know I’m not the only one who considers lying more offensive than calling a liar a liar.

    Allowing a known liar to dump pantload after pantload all over your blog, and then getting sniffy when someone else calls the liar a liar, makes me wonder if you’re really paying attention here.

    But hey, if that’s the kind of “atmosphere” you want for your blog, it’s entirely your call. You can let your blog sink to the level of “ERV Monument Lite,” and the rest of us can thank you for volunteering your blog to be a toxic waste containment facility of sorts — even if we can’t understand why you’d want to do that.

  100. #100 Raging Bee
    March 23, 2012

    You have not given any reason why, when the thousands of religions disagree WHICH rights are inherent, it’s easier under religion.

    More to that point, Wow, it should be noted that when the Founders first claimed inalienable rights given by “our Creator,” that claim was NOT uniformly recognized by the populace who supposedly believed in the same Creator. In fact, large numbers of said believers flat-out despised the Founders (especially the heathen anarchist Jefferson), for not being the “right” kind of Christian; and after the Revolution, many of those believers set out to roll back the people’s inalienable rights, not to uphold them.

    So yeah, our own history clearly shows that rights do not become more secure or “real” when based on supernatural belief.

  101. #101 eric
    March 23, 2012

    AMC @90 – you are still not getting it. Citing bad things that materialism philosophy has lead to does not tell me anything about how it compares to religious theologies. What you need to do is compare the percent of atheists who support gay rights to the percent of theists who support gay rights. This will tell you whether humanist philosophies are more or less likely compared to theologies to support gay rights.

    Slide 3 of this PEW survey is an example of the sort of data that is relevant to your claim. And look at the results! They show the exact opposite of what you are trying to claim. Unaffiliated people are more likely to support gay rights than any religious group that reported. People whose theologies claim that rights are god-given and inherent reject gay rights in greater numbers than the group that makes no such claim about inherency.

    The survey isn’t perfect for your question because they asked about affiliation rather than some belief in inherency. But I doubt any survey has asked that question, so we are stuck with the data we have. This data does not support your claim. If it does anything, it supports the opposite claim – a belief that rights are god-given and inherent seems to lead to greater rejection of gay rights compared to a belief that rights are not inherent.

  102. #102 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “People whose theologies claim that rights are god-given and inherent reject gay rights in greater numbers than the group that makes no such claim about inherency.”

    Partly because their god says they have no such rights.

  103. #103 Wow
    March 23, 2012

    “I’m ignoring you”

    Except you’re not ignoring me.

    “as a courtesy to the owner of the blog.”

    If you wanted to show courtesy to the owner of the blog, you’d stop posting such vile, unsubstantiated yet grandiose conspiracy nut bollocks.

    You are “showing respect” by shitting on this guys dinner plate.

  104. #104 gr8hands
    March 23, 2012

    Dr. Rosenhouse, this thread is the exact reason why I don’t start my own blog.

    You provide insightful, erudite, interesting topics, which bring out thoughtful commentary. Yet, it easily gets polluted by those with an axe to grind and lots of free time (why do zealots always have so much free time?).

    I appreciate your efforts to create a welcoming atmosphere, that encourages discussion and enlightenment (with a dash of humor thrown in). It’s a tough job, and you do it well.

  105. #105 SLC
    March 23, 2012

    Re Raging Bee @ #100

    Mr. McCarthy has also shown up over at Larry Moran’s blog, the Sandwalk, where he, true to form, bad mouths James Randi and posts under a pseudonym.

  106. #106 Raging Bee
    March 23, 2012

    Larry Moran still has a blog? I haven’t been there in a LONG time.

    And why is the McCarthyist trashing a guy whose schtick is debunking magic and other obvious BS? I guess, in the McCarthyite ‘verse, helping people to think for themselves and detect trickery is part of an evil materialist plot to undermine the fantasies and delusions that make up life as he knows it.

  107. #107 SLC
    March 23, 2012

    Re Raging Bee @ #106

    Mr. McCarthy is commenting at Prof. Moran’s blog under the sobriquet The Thought Criminal. He also bad mouthed Mr. Randi, and in addition Martin Gardner, over at Chris Mooney’s blog.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/03/richard-dawkins-defends-reason-rally.html#comment-form

  108. #108 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 23, 2012

    gr8hands —

    Thanks for the encouragement. Actually, I think I’m pretty fortunate in that most of the people who comment here, even the ones who are critical of me, manage to be civil and stick to the subject of the post. But it only takes a few assholes to mess it up for everyone else.

    Time to close this thread.

  109. #109 Anthony McCarthy
    March 23, 2012

    SLC, what did I say about James Randi and Martin Gardner that was untrue? They’re not God, you know. They’re not even iGod, uh, Steve Jobs.

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