Pharyngula

The latest panty-twisting at Uncommon Descent is over the Blasphemy Challenge. The poor dears are so concerned about all the heretics damning themselves that DaveScot is moved to weep and pray over them, and William Dembski writes a letter to Richard Dawkins asking him why he doesn’t expand the challenge to torment the Moslems (note that Dawkins is not responsible for the Blasphemy Challenge, has nothing at all to do with it, and hasn’t promoted it, so it’s rather peculiar of Dembski to act as if he is the Grand Overlord of All Atheists).

This wouldn’t be worth following, except that I think Dawkins’ reply is absolutely perfect.

I had not given the Blasphemy Challenge any thought until you called it to my attention. Now that you have done so, I do not seem to feel strongly one way or the other. As that admirable bumper sticker has it, Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime. So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead. Do I find it offensive that so many young people are sending in their film clips? No. I hadn’t listened to any of them before you raised the matter. I have now done so, and I must say I find them more charming than offensive. They mostly seem rather nice young people, and they are doing their bit, in their own lively and entertaining way, to raise consciousness and set an example to their peers. I am especially pleased to note how young they are, for organized atheists have, until recently, been noticeably and discouragingly grey-headed. I think we may be witnessing the beginnings of a shift in the tectonic plates of our Zeitgeist. I am delighted to see so many young Americans taking part, in a way that suits their age group better than mine or yours.

It’s a weird and rather stupid request Dembski has made. The reason they are denying one of the Christian gods is because that’s what most of these people have been brought up to believe; Dembski himself would probably have no hesitation about denying Mohammed, so that wouldn’t be much of a challenge. What these people are doing in these clips is rejecting the dogma with which they were indoctrinated, and I agree with Dawkins that this is a most excellent and wise thing for them to do. I would similarly think it excellent if young Moslems were all to cheerfully deny Allah, and young Jews to deny their god, and a whole wave of outspoken unbelief were to sweep across the world.

There’s another great bonus that Dawkins didn’t notice: the spectacle of the creationists weeping and having the vapors at the thought of people rejecting their superstition is simply too delicious.


Oh, my. The email revelations continue, with little Billy Dembski showing off a reasonable, polite letter from Dawkins, followed by grandiose, delusional gloating in a letter from Dembski. This is beginning to hurt; I normally wouldn’t have any sympathy for the Baron Munchausen of Intelligent Design, but this battle is so one-sided it hardly seems fair.

So Billy was going to tattle on Dawkins to his neighbor, George W. Bush? Wow.

Comments

  1. #1 waldteufel
    December 20, 2006

    Richard Dawkins’ mastery of the Queen’s English is nothing less than exquisite.

    I deny the Holy Spirit!

    Cheers to all, and a very Happy KvD Day!!

  2. #2 quork
    December 20, 2006

    that DaveScot is moved to weep and pray over them,

    I don’t get over to Uncommon Descent very often (for the same reason I don’t hit myself in the head with a skillet very often), but I recall that DaveScot soemtimes pretends to be an agnostic.

  3. #3 Ophelia Benson
    December 20, 2006

    Ohhhhhhh, that’s rich. Look how Dembski starts off –

    “Richard Dawkins continues to publish my past emails to him without permission and I continue to return the favor.”

    Who was it who published Dan Dennett’s emails to a third party (Michael Ruse, who sent both sides of the exchange to Dembski without Dennett’s permission) last spring? Why – none other than that very same Dembski.

    Man, he’s got gall.

  4. #4 Stephen Erickson
    December 20, 2006

    Just to clarify, Dembski’s letter about Islam is in response to Dawkins’ response to Dembski’s query about the Blasphemy Project.

    Apparently Dembski believes he can outwit Dawkins. Well, Dembski believes a lot of things.

    Uncommondescent.com is getting weirder and more entertaining by the day.

  5. #5 Ophelia Benson
    December 20, 2006

    Look at this. The guy is shameless.

    “Since Richard Dawkins thinks he has the right to reprint my letters to him by posting them over the Internet (go here), I’ll assume the same privilege applies to me.”

    Well, Bill, maybe he thinks that because you published Dan Dennett’s ‘letters’ to Michael Ruse without asking Dennett, last spring. You have got a fokking nerve whining about Dawkins publishing your emails to Dawkins now.

    ————-

    Back talking to Pharyngula now. I’d post a comment on UD, but I’m sure he wouldn’t publish it. I asked him twice last spring why he hadn’t asked Dennett for permission to post Dennett’s emails on his site (I wrote a news article on the subject for The Philosophers’ Mag, so this was research), but I got no reply. Perhaps there was an email failure somewhere along the way.

  6. #6 jeffw
    December 20, 2006

    “Richard Dawkins continues to publish my past emails to him without permission and I continue to return the favor.”

    Ahem. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I haven’t seen any mention of Dawkins email that precipitated this most recent Dembski spewage (probably because dembski didn’t link back to it – I wonder why?).

    http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,428,Christmas-Present-to-Defenders-of-Darwinism,William-A-Dembski,page2#comments

  7. #7 noself
    December 20, 2006

    Bro. Bartleby:
    Be careful what you wish for because you might get it. A focus on “moral” science might just lead us to ignore irrational religious concerns about pre-marital sex and mandate comprehensive sexual education even in parochial schools.

    But aside from that, slight quibble, since a Muslim is someone who believes in Islam, denying Allah would be apostasy. I would think a more analogous example would be young people living in Islamic states or in pre-dominantly Muslim nations (e.g. Indonesia) denying Allah

  8. #8 Dustin
    December 20, 2006

    This was gold:

    So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead.

    Taking that kind of veiled jab at Dembski’s flatulent foley and lack of publications at the same time was a masterful burn.

  9. #9 Ed Darrell
    December 20, 2006

    Okay, from my Christian perspective, a few observations.

    Observation 1: God has a sense of humor. Dembski’s denial of that fact doesn’t change it, though it does suggest Dembski isn’t as close to God as he claims.

    Observation 2: Dembski’s blasphemy challenge is exactly the sort of God testing that Jesus warned against when the Tempter took Jesus to the top of the Temple. Consequently, for God it’s no challenge at all. However, it does suggest that, since Dembski now assumes the anti-Jesus position in his gauntlet-throwing to Dawkins, we know at least on which parapet Dembski stands.

    Observation 3: The scriptures at Mark talk about those who really deny the Holy Spirit — you know, by acting as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist, or by taking other actions that are so contrary to the Holy Spirit. Simply incanting a denial doesn’t do it. Lying wholesale, misleading innocent children into the wicked paths of creationism (wow, there’s a phrase loaded with irony!), cheating on peer review, and in general denying the stuff that creation shows us to be true — THAT’s blasphemy, a rejection of the Holy Spirit.

    The video give-away is fun, P.Z., but if you continue to act ethically and otherwise do the things that God would prefer, a simple video can’t get you out of the club.

    I’ll let you in on a secret that is known only to rationalists, be they agnostic, theist or atheist: It’s not a club.

    If Dembski is really concerned about souls, he needs to start paying attention to footnotes in Jonathan Wells’ stuff, and in the schlock presented to state boards of education under the name of religionists.

    The anti-evolution crowd is a ghastly, ghostly mockery of intellectual discussion these days. Sort of Monty Python, but without the wit, charm, grace, humor, intelligence, high production values, costumes, and talented performers Monty Python had.

  10. #10 Phil
    December 20, 2006

    My favorite comment over there is from “Smidlee”: “I’m sure Dawkins would love to listen to rock groups like AC/DC since their songs often mock Christianity/church.”

    Yes, and he probably also enjoys alcoholic beverages, profanity and casual clothing!

  11. #11 Mena
    December 20, 2006

    We had better be right about the atheist thing since it won’t only be Einstein et al down in hell. Dembski, DaveScot, Ted Haggard, the reglars at freerepublic.com, etc. will be there too!

  12. #12 Brent Rasmussen
    December 20, 2006

    Wow. I mean, wow. Every time I read UD I think to myself, “These people are insane.”

    How do people operating at that level of fantasyland self-deception and conspiracy theory paranoia even walk down the street to the grocery store to buy food, or wash themselves without drowning in the bathtub?

    Incredible.

    (But it is fun to read. Heh.)

  13. #13 Ophelia Benson
    December 20, 2006

    “we all know by now that Dembski is entirely witless and dishonest”

    Ya…well I guess I’m still taking it in; I don’t read him as often as you guys do. I have to admit, I was taken aback at the farting thing. Strange fella.

  14. #14 Ophelia Benson
    December 20, 2006

    When atheists fly south, they always form a v, and then they fight like cats and geese over which poor shmo has to be the point, and whether the point atheist has dropped back too soon. When geese walk to church they form a K just to confuse people.

  15. #15 Steve_C
    December 20, 2006

    Religion teaches them to be that way.

  16. #16 Aaron Kinney
    December 20, 2006

    Friggin excellent. Dawkins’ analysis of the young atheists is spot on. He is such a delightful fellow.

    Dumb-ass DUMBski needs to learn how to figure out who is in charge of what around here. He is too used to structures of singular authority. Clearly, grass-roots movements are a totally alien concept to him.

    I can just imagine his initial reaction to this…. “Oh no! Materialists are damning themselves to hell! Quick, send an email to the Atheist Overlord, Dawkins, and hopefully he will send a decree across the land, forcing his minions to stop! Just like president Bush forced all unmarried people to stop fucking!”

  17. #17 Stanton
    December 20, 2006

    Professor Myers, when you say that creationists will “hav(e) the vapours,” do you mean vapours like anisol or the various organic carcinogens that make up “new car smell”?

  18. #18 Brian
    December 20, 2006

    Dembski posts those emails somehow thinking it will make Dawkins look bad? Just going on those two messages, one party does indeed come off badly, but it isn’t Richard.

  19. #19 Tristram Shandy
    December 20, 2006

    Richard Dawkins’ mastery of the Queen’s English is nothing less than exquisite.

    And he managed to work in a book plug. I imagine delicacy prevented him from adding the clause “…write books instead, like The God Delusion.”

    “Richard Dawkins continues to publish my past emails to him without permission and I continue to return the favor.”

    Surely Dembski should welcome this, since it will allow historians to reconstruct the sociology of the ‘inevitable collapse of evolutionary biology’, just as with his scatological flash animation.

  20. #20 Zombie
    December 20, 2006

    Dembski posts email from Dawkins so he can pretend to be in the same league. I’m sure his fans eat it up, they wouldn’t know the difference.

  21. #21 Fernando Magyar
    December 20, 2006

    Geese flying in V formation to symbolize virgin birth?!
    Shouldn’t that be a P formation for parthenogenesis?

    Hmm, does anyone else think the evil Richard Dawkins may have had something to do with this?

    LONDON (Reuters) – Flora, a pregnant Komodo dragon living in a British zoo, is expecting eight babies in what scientists said on Wednesday could be a Christmas virgin birth.

  22. #22 AoT
    December 20, 2006

    “William Dembski writes a letter to Richard Dawkins asking him why he doesn’t expand the challenge to torment the Moslems”

    Magnus said:
    “Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t all the Abrahamic religions share the same god. Denying god, not capitalized, would be a denial of all gods, at least the monotheistic ones.”

    You are correct. And in fact in Islam there is only the holy ghost, no father or son, there is a whole Sura devoted to talking to christians about the lack of a trinity. So in response to Dembski (oh, how I resist the desire to replace an e with a u): we have expanded the challege, or rather, the religions have expanded it for us.

  23. #23 James Allen
    December 20, 2006

    I don’t know if any has said anything or not yet but the Richard Dawkins Foundation posted a bulletin on MySpace about the Blasphemy Challenge so maybe that is why they thought Dawkins was endorsing it

  24. #24 Patrick
    December 20, 2006

    “Richard Dawkins continues to publish my past emails to him without permission and I continue to return the favor.”

    Na, und? It’s my understanding that when you send an email, the recipient can do with it what they will.

  25. #25 George
    December 20, 2006

    I first noticed signs that Bill is finally cracking up back in October, when he posted this statement:

    “I am Richard Dawkins’ worst nightmare.”

    Delusions of grandeur setting in. Poor guy. The strain of believing a bunch of crappola is getting to him. He’s getting old. Wasting his life on a foolish infatuation. A good day is getting an email from Richard Dawkins. It makes him feel so special. Should we feel sorry for him?

    Nah, pass the popcorn.

  26. #26 Great White Wonder
    December 20, 2006

    “I am Richard Dawkins’ worst nightmare.”

    BWAAAAAAaaaaaa HAAAAA!!!!!

    Yeah, and I’m Casey Luskin’s worst nightmare. Boogah boogah!!!!

    Sadly, Bill Dembski won’t live long enough to experience his worst nightmare. None of the believers will.

  27. #27 Andrew Wade
    December 20, 2006

    … assuming that Billy isn’t lying about not giving permission, then it was not good form for Richard to post it.

    Yeah, that’s my understanding too. However, given the rather bland contents of the letter allegedly published, I’m not inclined to care much. Incidentally, where did Richard post it anyway?

  28. #28 Kristine
    December 20, 2006

    If Dembski is really concerned about souls, he needs to start paying attention to footnotes in Jonathan Wells’ stuff, and in the schlock presented to state boards of education under the name of religionists.

    I tried to ask the dude what he thought of Wells’ stuff. Note this question and this comment from me one the question of what Dembski believes about HIV and AIDS and Wells’ statements regarding same.

    Inexplicably, I’ve never been banned; I assume that I could still post there but no one really responds except to pepper me with off-topic questions (this after I was told I was off-topic). “You can’t have meaning in your life without God! You’re an irresponsible carefree young person but someday you’re going to feel pain and need the Lord! Blah, blah!” (Glad to know I’m young. Thanks. I’m just a little younger that Dembski himself.) Yeah, I was never banned. I stalked away after this insulting thread.

    This crap about HIV not causing AIDS has consequences. All I was looking for was a simple answer. Are the folks at UD upset over the recent death sentences of the Tripoli Six at all? Why do they prefer to focus on Dawkins all the time? Why do they care about other people’s “blasphemy”? It’s our souls, not theirs. Or do they think that they own our “souls,” too?

    The Tripoli Six were sentenced to death and this is what intelligent design advocates focus on–people mocking the holy ghost on videotape. Some priorities.

  29. #29 Andrew Wade
    December 20, 2006

    Incidentally, where did Richard post it anyway?

    Never mind, it seems it was a different e-mail, and jeffw already posted the link. I’m not sure that really merits any confidentiality.

  30. #30 dorkafork
    December 20, 2006

    … assuming that Billy isn’t lying about not giving permission, then it was not good form for Richard to post it.

    This is the post where Dawkins reprinted a Dembski e-mail (according to an earlier post by Dembski on UD). It was that mass e-mail about the farting Flash animation. I’m not an expert on Internet etiquette, but I don’t think posting it is some grave breach of protocol.

  31. #31 Uber
    December 20, 2006

    but if you continue to act ethically and otherwise do the things that God would prefer, a simple video can’t get you out of the club.

    Ed, nice thought and I agree to a large degree but are you saying that you have to be perfect in actionand can work your way into heaven? This seems a dubious thought to me.

    How can you even begin to know what God prefers? All you can do is believe what you believe he prefers in any event. I appreciate your sentiment but your thinking seems wayward.

  32. #32 flame821
    December 20, 2006

    Dawkins can take heart.
    Now that the internet exists and access is available across the land many atheists are able to communicate and speak freely to one another. Many of the younger free thinkers I’ve come across are stuck in red states or drowning in mega church territory and thought they were alone in their doubts. With the advent of blogs, YouTube, LiveVideo and such they understand that no only are they not alone but that many others both young and old share their ideas and doubts.

    They no longer need to raise their children to ‘go along and be quiet’ just to keep them safe. We have a huge network, we offer one another advice and support and sometimes just knowing that you are not alone is all that is needed to find your voice.

  33. #33 Peter Barber
    December 21, 2006

    Ed,

    Observation 3: The scriptures at Mark talk about those who really deny the Holy Spirit — you know, by acting as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist, or by taking other actions that are so contrary to the Holy Spirit.

    Surely if you don’t believe the Holy Spirit exists, then you will naturally behave as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist. Part of that behaviour is being willing to deny the existence of the Holy Spirit. And I understood that blasphemy, in both legal and theological terms, was very much about the spoken (or written) word.

  34. #34 Uber
    December 21, 2006

    Doctrinally, I think Ed’s got it right

    ok, then just explain the ethically thing from above. I mean seriously is a kid who has premarital sex behaving ethically? masturbation? I just don’t see anyway that a works based theology makes any sense. Apparently if an atheist gets into heaven it makes Jesus superflous to Christianity as well. So I don’t see how you can say Ed is doctrinally correct whatever the hell that could possibly ever mean. Dawkins and Harris may be correct when they say moderate believers are part of the problem.

    Any and all religious doctrines have their backers and naysayers and nary a shred of difference evidence wise between them. In my view the faith alone theolgy has way more going for it logically than a works based idea. John 3:16 there friends. :-)

    Dembski is not behaving ethically in this debate but that doesn’t mean I woulnd’t trust him with my car keys. I can’t believe I find myself defending that goof’s character. I just can’t believe it.

  35. #35 Uber
    December 21, 2006

    Doctrinally, I think Ed’s got it right

    ok, then just explain the ethically thing from above. I mean seriously is a kid who has premarital sex behaving ethically? masturbation? I just don’t see anyway that a works based theology makes any sense. Apparently if an atheist gets into heaven it makes Jesus superflous to Christianity as well. So I don’t see how you can say Ed is doctrinally correct whatever the hell that could possibly ever mean. Dawkins and Harris may be correct when they say moderate believers are part of the problem.

    Any and all religious doctrines have their backers and naysayers and nary a shred of difference evidence wise between them. In my view the faith alone theolgy has way more going for it logically than a works based idea. John 3:16 there friends. :-)

    Dembski is not behaving ethically in this debate but that doesn’t mean I woulnd’t trust him with my car keys. I can’t believe I find myself defending that goof’s character. I just can’t believe it.

  36. #36 jpf
    December 21, 2006

    This was gold:

    So, am I going to send in my own film clip denying the Holy Ghost? No, that is not what Oxford professors do, they write books instead.

    Taking that kind of veiled jab at Dembski’s flatulent foley and lack of publications at the same time was a masterful burn.

    Oxford professors write books, young atheists post clips of themselves denying the Holy Ghost on the YouTube, and leaders of the ID movement post Flash animations with fart noises.

    Yep, that all seems just about right.

  37. #37 MartinC
    December 21, 2006

    Heres my favourite bit of the whole hilarious exchange, where an IDiot commenting on a previous post has a moment of pure revelation (but unfortunately fails to notice it !)

    “25. Fross // Dec 20th 2006 at 6:27 pm

    yea, i felt a little embarrassed by this. Personaly I put God and Jesus in the same category as the Easter Bunny and Santa, and I’d feel just as silly if I saw a bunch of youtube videos of kids saying they don’t believe in Santa. I guarantee that most of those kids grew up in a fundy family and while their beliefs have changed, the way they act on professing their beliefs or lack of beliefs has remained the same.

    Comment by Fross — December 20, 2006 @ 6:27 pm
    26. faithandshadow // Dec 20th 2006 at 6:34 pm

    Comparing God to the easter bunny and Santa shows the same level of maturity as these kids making these videos.

    Comment by faithandshadow — December 20, 2006 @ 6:34 pm”

  38. #38 JS
    December 21, 2006

    But ID isn’t about religion – no, siree, and they’ll ban you for suggesting it. To paraphrase Lenny, it’s no wonder they keep losing in court…

    - JS

  39. #39 truth machine
    December 21, 2006

    Don’t you realize how arrogant, self-righteous and smug you sound?

    Of course she doesn’t — or if she does, she thinks that’s proper; righteousness is a virtue, doncha know. For Jesus effing Christ’s sake, get a grip Scott, you saccharine twit.

  40. #40 Numad
    December 21, 2006

    “But in some ways I find Hatfield and Darrell even worse”

    I think that this, on its face, is a load of bunk.

  41. #41 Terry Lorz
    December 21, 2006

    Note to an ID fanatic. The only reason there is an atheist movement (so to speak) and atheists, is because you persist in believing this crazy God, Jesus and Holy Ghost nonsense and delight in shoving it down our throats.

    Think about that.

    Without you, we don’t exist! Now that’s some irony for you.

  42. #42 George
    December 21, 2006

    Susan: “I think PZ is a brilliant person who does very well in describing tightly-focused slices of life, but hasn’t been focusing on the big picture about nature and reality and how everything intersects and what it all means. Once he does, he’s going to be a dynamite addition to the Body of Christ.”

    What part of the body would PZ be, Susan?

    What it all means is this: you’re living in a fantasy world. Come off your Jesus high and learn to think for yourself. You’re bright. You can do it! Stop wasting your time on a pretty tale invented by a bunch of displaced, disgruntled shepherds two thousand years ago.

    It’s readily apparent that you spout the Jesus nonsense to convince yourself of its reality. Repeating your beliefs incessantly doesn’t make them more real, unfortunately.

    Have a nice holiday.

  43. #43 George
    December 21, 2006

    Wow! Scott has written “sourly,” “angrily,” and “grimly” on this post.

    Way to go, Scott! That’s the Christmas spirit. There’s hope for you yet!

  44. #44 Susan Darst Williams
    December 21, 2006

    Ed: Ho ho ho! It makes as much sense to look at a “V” formation of geese and infer that it’s God sending a sign about the virgin birth at Christmastime, as it does for evolutionahooligans to look at nature and infer that it all jumped into place by accident. Migration is enormously complex, and I just don’t see how anyone could look at all those behaviors and avian anatomy and the timing and navigational accuracy and hummingbirds on goosie backs, and believe that it was by random chance that the goosies got into their groove in the first place, all by their chubby little selves. I was trying to zing you guys a little bit with the “V” allusion. It’s abundantly clear that the universe, the Earth, and everything and everybody on it, all the way down to the Christmas goose on your groaning board, are here by divine design.

    Got that Psalm 19 thing goin’ on.

    Hey, belief is a choice. That’s all I’m sayin’. At Christmastime, I just pray that everybody will have a shot at being able to make that choice, by seeing the big picture, and hearing from neighbors and friends that Christmas is for real, and we ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie about why we’re so happy about it.

  45. #45 Tristram Shandy
    December 21, 2006

    and believe that it was by random chance that the goosies got into their groove in the first place, all by their chubby little selves.

    Of course it wasn’t random chance; it’s physics. Flying in a “V” formation takes less overall energy. Birds flying thousands of miles to migrate would have quickly picked up on it, arriving at breeding sites sooner, not dropping from the skies in exhaustion, etc.

    Claiming that birds fly in a “V” formation because for some reason God speaks English, or geese speak English, and desire to indicate “virgin” at the time of the Virgin Birth is an absurd and primitive superstition.

    Why not “parthenos” from Greek, “betulah” from Hebrew, or “b’tooltha” from Aramaic? If birds were flying in a formation indicative of pi, bet, or even better the yod-heh-vav-heh of the Tetragrammaton, then that would be impressive.

  46. #46 Ophelia Benson
    December 21, 2006

    “or look closely at a feather or a hammerhead shark, and NOT recognize the order and design of an all-powerful, all-loving, spectacularly creative God”

    Or a tumor, or the HIV virus, or gangrene, or the aftermath of Katrina, or the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, or a 3d degree burn, or a rattlesnake bite, or dmoestic life in Congo or Ivory Coast or Uganda or Darfur or Zimbabwe or Lebanon or Afghanistan, or poison ivy, or an orphanage, or a genocide (there are plenty to choose from), or a drought, or a famine, or a pandemic, or a battle, or a war, or a sweatshop, or slavery.

    An all-loving god. What a pathetic, cruel, disgusting joke.

  47. #47 Uber
    December 21, 2006

    I like Ed and Scott’s post so I don’t necessarily agree with this:

    in some ways I find Hatfield and Darrell even worse; they think they’re better than her because they have a better understanding of, and superior performance of … Christian doctrine.

    But I do agree with the latter portion of the sentence. I think Ed’s religion would ahrdly be accepted by the majority of Christians and fankly find it very muddled. He has no real way of showing or knowing what he is saying is any closer to correctness than Demski’s crew and as mentioned I think they are much more logically coherent that Ed on this despite the fact he and I would likely agree on real world issues more readily.

    Creationism and IDism deny that possibility. They deny at the foundation the very story of salvation that Christianity is based on.

    No they do not. They may do alot of things but this they certainly do not do. And I’m still waiting to hear how one can ethically(whatever that is) live their way into heaven. Like I said it makes the entire notion of Jesus unnecessary.

    Most people are ethical 99+% of the time. Our mistakes are a relatively minor portion of ours lives which is why they are noticable. That means that on any ‘ethics’ test the vast majority of humans score very high.

  48. #48 Aaron Kinney
    December 21, 2006

    Since everybody is reporting everyones crap without permission these days, I feel the need to repost a comment that Richard Dawkins himself made at his website. I got a feeling that Dawkins wont mind if I report this one as long as I attribute it properly:

    —begin dawkins quote–

    “Now, let me return the favour by reproducing a 2004 e-mail from Dembski to me:

    “Dear Prof. Dawkins,

    I enjoyed this bit of fun in last week’s Guardian. It might interest you to know that Senator Rick Santorum, who is close to President Bush, endorsed my forthcoming book The Design Revolution. It might also interest you to know that President Bush lives in the same Texas county that I do (McLennan County — his home is about 35 miles from my home). It might futher interest you to know that my university, Baylor, today made a bid on the George W. Bush Presidential Library (for the news conference, go to http://www.baylortv.com).

    Why might all this interest you? With the recommendations by Senator Santorum and others close to President Bush, I plan to pay him a visit at his home early next year and have a frank discussion with him about the future of science in the United States and the possibilities for public funding of intelligent design research. I expect your remarks below will help me make my case.

    Thanks for all you continue to do to advance the work of intelligent design. You are an instrument in the hands of Providence however much you rail against it.

    With all good wishes,
    Bill Dembski”

    I would be fascinated to hear the current status of Dembski’s bombastic and vainglorious threat to enlist Bush’s personal involvement in ‘intelligent design’ at his university of Baylor. Oh no, I was forgetting, Dembski’s employment at Baylor seems to have come to an unfortunate end (no doubt there is some good explanation for that). Never mind, perhaps his friend Senator Rick Santorum will use his powerful influence in favour of whichever College of Bible Studies may snap Dembski up. Oh dear, silly me I was forgetting, Santorum too is out of a job, booted out of the Senate in one of the biggest upsets in Pennsylvania’s electoral history. Well well, perhaps Bush himself, buoyed up by the runaway success and popularity of his presidency, will still come to the rescue? No, apparently Dembski has given up on his pathetic little power fantasy. In March 2005 he wrote: “I’m afraid with the war in Iraq and the election, I decided to postpone getting in touch with President Bush.” Oh I see, yes of course.

    Poor loser Demski, such delusions of grandeur, and now he has nothing better to do with his time than make farting noises over the Internet.”

    —end Dawkins quote–

    Dembski sure is good at betting on the wrong horse, aint he?

  49. #49 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    Dawkins has commented on Dembski again:

    “I have been asked to give my reaction to The Blasphemy Challenge.

    [ snipped another elegant but lengthy put down]

    The whole matter has also been picked up by P Z Myers on his Pharyngula site (Josh has posted a link) where there are some splendid put-downs of Dembski. Dembski himself has reproduced part of my letter on his own blog but, significantly, he cut the part about his Santorum/Bush braggadocio.”

    http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,425,The-Blasphemy-Challenge,The-Rational-Response-Squad,page4#14068

  50. #50 Torbj÷rn Larsson
    December 21, 2006

    Dawkins has commented on Dembski again:

    “I have been asked to give my reaction to The Blasphemy Challenge.

    [ snipped another elegant but lengthy put down]

    The whole matter has also been picked up by P Z Myers on his Pharyngula site (Josh has posted a link) where there are some splendid put-downs of Dembski. Dembski himself has reproduced part of my letter on his own blog but, significantly, he cut the part about his Santorum/Bush braggadocio.”

    http://richarddawkins.net/articleComments,425,The-Blasphemy-Challenge,The-Rational-Response-Squad,page4#14068

  51. #51 Susan Darst Williams
    December 21, 2006

    Scott: Yeah, well, there’s a lot more to true love than moon, June, spoon. True love has to do with telling the truth, whether you like it or not. Nobody “loves” traffic signs, either, but they can sure keep you going the right way, and save your life without expecting anything in return. That sounds like true love to me! That’s all I want to be here. Call me . . . a flashing yellow warning light for your soul. :>)

    Tristram: Ooh, you got that John 3:12 thing goin’ on. :>) To understand the supernatural probably takes some time with accomodation theory from apologetics. From p. 1 of Norman Geisler’s Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics: “God, because of infinitude, adapts himself to our finite understanding in order to reveal himself.” Just because we can’t understand the supernatural and miracles doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I can’t understand WHY animals know how to migrate and when, how some people can write such beautiful music, where my 6-year-old’s quirky personality comes from, or what gives animals certain instincts, but I accept that they exist, and that’s all anyone can do, at this point. Beyond that, I credit those things to God, because I know Him, and recognize His style, the way you treasure a recipe or a letter because it’s in your grandmother’s handwriting. That’s why I love to see a “V” of geese fly by; that shows the creativity of our Creator, and I love it. It’s a God thing. Remember that the Bible is all true, but revelation is progessive. Little by little, we’re catching on. Keep trying to understand, and one day, you will.

    Ophelia: I feel your pain. I don’t like “bad” stuff, either. But one of the milestones of maturity is to be able to take the bad with the good in order to glean the meaning of life from what you see around you. What seems “bad” defines what really is “good,” and we wouldn’t realize it without it. Seven years ago, I got knocked up with a late-in-life, surprise, “whoopsie daisy” baby. Our kids are now ages 23, 22, 19, and 6. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and I raged against God, kicked my hubby’s bahoonie and moved him out to the barn, etc. etc. Now, though, I can’t imagine life without our adorable Maddy, and can see every day in so many ways why she’s here, and how much good she has already done in her young life. It’s all a matter of perspective. God didn’t make us as little robots or Stepfords in a perfect world; He made us real, with real choices, real dangers, and real consequences. The key is that He also gave us free will. The whole shebang is so that each of us has a chance to choose Him. No, it’s NOT evidence of an unloving God that these bad things exist and haven’t been preventable or solved or cured yet. Remember, if the age of the universe were equated to one calendar year, then the extent of human history so far would only take one minute. So . . . it’s early! Although, as a true Christian, I’ll also tell you: egads, girl, it’s getting late! :>) But God will come through. He said He would, and He always does. Even death and suffering have a purpose, and God’s direct, loving involvement. The purpose is for Him to come closer to us in order to bring us to Him — that’s the whole meaning of Christmas, after all.

  52. #52 Ophelia Benson
    December 21, 2006

    “But one of the milestones of maturity is to be able to take the bad with the good in order to glean the meaning of life from what you see around you.”

    Great, Susan. How mature would you be if that youngest child you mention came down with a slow, debilitating, agonizingly painful, fatal disease?

    And more to the point, what are slow, debilitating, agonizingly painful, fatal diseases a sign of? Snowgeese flying in an angle formation are a sign of the virgin; what are horrible diseases a sign of?

    To put it more pointedly, why do you find signs in pretty things rather than in ugly ones? Could it be not maturity but selective attention?

  53. #53 Erasmus
    December 21, 2006

    PZ can’t you disemvowel this whore?

  54. #54 doctorgoo
    December 21, 2006

    Susan said:

    Nobody “loves” traffic signs, either, but they can sure keep you going the right way, and save your life without expecting anything in return. That sounds like true love to me!

    Are you actually saying that traffic signs express “True Love” for people? You are quite absurd. Try to use better analogies in the future.

  55. #55 Chris
    December 21, 2006

    Here’s why I find that troubling: The key story of Christian narrative is of a boy born out of wedlock, to a poor family, in such poor circumstances that he had to be laid in the manger of the sheep, in a stable — there among the spittle and loose cud bits, within the aroma of the defecation and urination of domestic animals. And, according to that story, that human of most lowly birth was a manifestation of God. The supreme nobility rising from the supremely humble origin.

    Humble origin? What the heck are you smoking? He was (according to Christian doctrine) the only son of the creator and ruler of the entire universe! You can’t get much more un-humble than that. He was born in humble *surroundings*, which is not the same thing at all.

    If you had the story of an *ordinary human being* sacrificing himself for the good of all humanity and being exalted by that sacrifice, that would be a very different – and IMO, more inspirational – story. (In fact, some literary figures *do* have this kind of story. Frodo Baggins comes to mind.) But that’s not the story of Jesus. Jesus was about as far as you can get from an ordinary human being. His story isn’t about the heroic potential of each and every one of us – it’s about how he was born destined to be great and everyone else should just shut up and accept his greatness.

    It’s practically the exact opposite of the spin you’re trying to put on it.

  56. #56 AC
    December 21, 2006

    In short, creationists and IDists argue that if we are not of noble birth, we can’t be noble in the end.

    Ironic, as you note, considering the whole life of Jesus bit. Of course, megachurches are also ironic considering the whole “sell all your possessions and give them to the poor” bit.

    There is much to be changed in the life, much to be corrected. The issue is whether we choose to understand things and how to make things better, or whether we choose to suffer events as if there were nothing we could do. Geese have enough sense to try to take advantage of a slipstream when they fly long distances. Science is a sort of slipstream for human achievement.

    From this thread, then, I have learned that geese have more sense than Ms. Williams. I have also been reminded of how annoying smug parasites like her are.

  57. #57 Tristram Shandy
    December 21, 2006

    Tristram: Ooh, you got that John 3:12 thing goin’ on. :>)

    I see you’re returning to the Pinocchio smiley. It’s a good choice, since everything you’ve said was an incredibly dishonest attempt at misdirection, starting with your wholly irrelevant Biblical citation.

    To understand the supernatural probably takes some time with accomodation theory from apologetics. From p. 1 of Norman Geisler’s Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics: “God, because of infinitude, adapts himself to our finite understanding in order to reveal himself.” Just because we can’t understand the supernatural and miracles doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    That’s nice, but where in any of that do you find a mechanism for a supernatural entity producing causal change in a natural universe?

    I can’t understand WHY animals know how to migrate and when,

    Then why don’t you read the works of ethologists and find out?

    how some people can write such beautiful music,

    Ask a composer.

    where my 6-year-old’s quirky personality comes from,

    Ask a child psychologist.

    or what gives animals certain instincts,

    Go back to the ethologist.

    but I accept that they exist, and that’s all anyone can do, at this point.

    Some of us think that researching why these things exist and coming up with something better than “They were magicked into existence by an unevidenced deity using an unknown mechanism” is worth the effort.

    Beyond that, I credit those things to God, because I know Him,

    Then why can’t you tell us what mechanism your XY-sex-chromosome god used to enact causal change in a natural universe?

    and recognize His style, the way you treasure a recipe or a letter because it’s in your grandmother’s handwriting.

    So what does Ebola indicate about your god’s style? Or fetus in fetu?

    That’s why I love to see a “V” of geese fly by; that shows the creativity of our Creator, and I love it. It’s a God thing.

    Your creator was creative enough to make them fly in such a way as to be easily explicable using conventional aerodynamics?

    Remember that the Bible is all true,

    Even the untrue bits?

    but revelation is progessive. Little by little, we’re catching on. Keep trying to understand, and one day, you will.

    I understand perfectly adequately. In the absence of reasonable answers, you will superstitiously make some up. It’s nothing more than a little bit of warmed-over animism, glossed over with Christianity and a dollop of passive-aggressive proselytization.

  58. #58 alienward
    December 21, 2006

    Ed Darrell wrote:

    Observation 3: The scriptures at Mark talk about those who really deny the Holy Spirit — you know, by acting as if the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist, or by taking other actions that are so contrary to the Holy Spirit. Simply incanting a denial doesn’t do it. Lying wholesale, misleading innocent children into the wicked paths of creationism (wow, there’s a phrase loaded with irony!), cheating on peer review, and in general denying the stuff that creation shows us to be true — THAT’s blasphemy, a rejection of the Holy Spirit.

    From the NIV:

    I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (NIV, Mark 3:28-29)

    The apologist is telling us denying evolution is a rejection of the Holy Spirit but denying the Holt Spirit is not. This is nonsensical enough, but when apologists like Ed just start making things up to explain away their god sending people to hell for insulting him but not for molesting innocent children, they forget this kind of nonsense is sometimes repeated more than once in their holy book:

    And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (NIV, Matthew 12:31-32)

    Does the apologist want to come back and make up another excuse why saying “I reject the Holy Spirit.” is not a rejection of the Holy Spirit but denying evolution is?

  59. #59 GH
    December 21, 2006

    This is somewhat of topic and I know it is not indicative of the religion as a whole but oftentimes when one discusses the is religion good or bad it tends to focus on large ideas wars, killings, etc. I see it’s primary horror in the day to day renderings and harm done. As an example I was on another site today and it linked to a link to a link and I found this comment involving a religious discussion:

    ‘The situation that Mike described in his response to Lee; is my own…
    My mother was my father’s second wife. My father was and is a minister in the Church of Christ. The year I was born my parent’s moved, and the eldership at the church my father was working at basically said that my father and mother were living in sin, and something had to be done.
    So my father and mother were at that time both convinced that the only way to fix the situation was to divorce (at least until my father’s first wife died, at which time they felt they would be “released” to reunite.)
    As a result, I grew up without a father at home. My mom was a single mom, raising two children, my brother and I, with little to no help from my dad. I speak to my dad about twice a year. He didn’t attend my wedding, either of my graduations, or any school activity I participated in. The stigma of divorce and remarriage led to the secret keeping.
    We became the secret family. I have half brothers and sisters who don’t know my brother or I exist. My mom never once talked with me about what happened with my dad, until my sophomore year of college. My brother and I only talked about what happened for first time last year. My mom is so wounded, that at times I can hardly stand to be around her’

    It is so sad as to make one weep. And why did this tragedy happen to this family. One reason and one reason alone- religion and human indoctrination. I know this is not how most churches operate but if even 10% do how much are they contributing to human misery for not rational reason whatsoever? How is such a thing defensible to any feeling human?

  60. #60 Kseniya
    December 21, 2006

    Tastes like myrrh!

    By the way, GWW, that was a genuine laugh-out-loud. Thanks. Now I’m having Life of Brian flashbacks!

  61. #61 Allison
    December 21, 2006

    “Once he does, he’s going to be a dynamite addition to the Body of Christ.”

    I’m having a good time imagining PZ blowing Jesus’ fingers off come next fourth of July.

  62. #62 David aka barkdog
    December 22, 2006

    I have no problem with Ed’s sentiments, but hasn’t anyone noticed that he is presenting the Arian heresy? I think most seminary-educated Christians would take offence, not that that would bother me any.
    I am now calling myself “barkdog,” a name bestowed by students and colleagues, because there are simply too many Davids (or Daves) around.

  63. #63 morion
    December 22, 2006

    Susan sees a god filled world. Many don’t. Here’s my question, as a non-scientist but someone whose reading of these fora leads me to conclude that no-one seems to change their mind with argument.
    If physicists can argue that quantum particles are one third real and two thirds imaginary, that particles behave differently depending on who is observing them or whether they are being observed at all, why wouldn’t the macro world we see be equally er, independent to one’s view point?
    Evidence: Susan “sees” God everywhere.

  64. #64 John Phillips
    December 22, 2006

    Kali: Yes I can understand and appreciate a good metaphor, unfortunately all I see is an attempted rationalisation by one xtian of their interpretation over another xtian’s interpretation, which is I believe Alienward’s point. I.e. at the end of the day it is all BS, just marginally different BS from either so who cares. Except, not forgetting of course, both Dawkins and Harris’ point that the moderates gives legitimacy to the fundies by justifying belief based purely on faith.

  65. #65 Steve_C
    December 22, 2006

    Go away. You’re wasting post space. Your disconnect from reality is sad and your logic is twisted nonsense. Keep glorifying your ignorance, just do it elsewhere. You’re just pissing of people here. You are not even entertaining anymore.

  66. #66 doctorgoo
    December 22, 2006

    Let’s put the Christmas cookies down on the lowest shelf where the kiddies can reach them

    Don’t forget the Kool-Aide…

  67. #67 PZ Myers
    December 22, 2006

    I try so hard to listen politely when sensible people tell me that religious people aren’t necessarily nuts…but then the Susans of the world come along and confirm my suspicions that Religion Equals Insanity.

    Seriously. When anyone tells me they are a Christian, what comes immediately to my mind is the sincerely batshit crazy piety of people like Susan.

  68. #68 MAJeff
    December 22, 2006

    As soon as I opened up the Bible, I saw the shadow of a cross that had formed on the pages of the open Bible, formed by the moonlight shining past the window mullions.

    This sort of happened to a friend of mine, except the shadow of the cross was from Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Cast by a streetlight, the shadow spread across my bed of my friend’s boyfriend, a Catholic Priest.

  69. #69 Ed Darrell
    December 22, 2006

    Barkdog, all I’m saying is that behavior speaks at least as loudly as words, and that it’s bizarre for Christians so-called to claim they know who will be condemned to hell (if there is one beyond having to deal with such people) on the basis of words that their own actions tend to endorse.

    Now, how that says anything about the person or body of God or Jesus, you’ll have to tell me. I think we see Arianism differently. And, who are you to label it a heresy, anyway?

    I am, as Darwin was, quite tired of people who claim to have a pipeline to God (reason enough to medicate in most cases) who loudly proclaim that whatever I believe must be wrong (many in my church disagree with them — so what?), and that otherwise good people who act ethically and wisely, and who do valuable public service, are so much out of favor with their version of God that even their public service might be looked at as evil. Whoever it was writing as Paul in scriptures said that we should seek after things that are virtuous and of good report, and honor those things.

    Biology is virtuous and does good stuff. Evolution theory, applied, feeds billions and cures millions. The scientists who do the work are good eggs, most of them, and a pleasure to tilt beer glasses with. By most of Jesus’ standards, that means we ought to hang out with working biologists, listen to them, and support their work. A lifetime of trying to live wisely supports that conclusion in my experience.

    So, what is it with these people who get their panties in a wad about magical incantations? You know, around Halloween, Dembski and his bunch probably warn against such superstition. But when trying to get attention at the expense of a distinguished scientist, he doesn’t hesitate. The hypocrisy is ugly, the theology is inconsistent at best (and heretical at worst).

    Is that Arianism? Is it a heresy? Well, as for me and my house, if it be heresy, make the most of it. Give me liberty and good book, and stay out of my affairs with God. It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket if my neighbor believes in no god, or twenty (thanks, T. Jefferson). Faith should manifest itself in ethical behaviors done every day.

    Dembski is looking at YouTube instead? No wonder ID and DI are so lost. They don’t have a clue where to look, and if they did, they wouldn’t know what they’re looking for.

  70. #70 Scott Hatfield
    December 22, 2006

    PZ: You know, there’s something going on of interest in Susan’s last post, a noticeable elevation of intensity as she described what she obviously interpreted as a supernatural encounter.

    I can’t be sure of the full contents of the dish, but I can tell you that I recognize the flavor. I am sure that there are all sorts of people, with all manner of beliefs, who would similarly nod their heads in recognition. The capacity for this sort of experience seems to be one of the hallmarks of humanity, and I would think that both the Templeton Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation would agree that it is eminently worthy of scientific study.

    If the woman in question is regarded as sincere, it is doubtless true that the experience in question is a source of comfort and motivation—to her. But (and this bears repeating) this experience itself is *not* Religion. If Susan had kept it to herself, rather than enlisting it as ammunition for her bully pulpit, I doubt any of us would care. It is the worldview she has adopted in order to make sense of her experience that somehow convinces her to say and write the things we find disturbing.

    As with reports of ‘spiritual’ experiences, the development of a belief system is widely observed and peculiarly elaborated in our species.

    But we can clearly uncouple the latter from the former, as there are elaborate belief systems which do not turn on the question of whether the supernatural exists. One observes that at least one of these (Communism) has demonstrated a potential for savagery and dehumanization that at least rivals the excesses of organized Religion.

    One might counter that Communism as practiced *is* an organized Religion, I suppose, but this has the effect of so widening the definition of religion as to make much routine individual activity religious, which would defeat (I think) the point of pilloring Religion in general.

    If one maintains a more restrictive, common-use definition of Religion, however, then I feel free to conclude that acknowledging the possibility of spiritual experience, of faith, does not in and of itself make me an enabler of folk like Susan, anymore than acknowledging the possibility of a just economic theory enables Pol Pot. So there I would disagree with you.

    On the other hand, if I failed to oppose the attempts of believers to force their Religion down our throats, then I *would* be an enabler. And I can’t argue with you here, in that the vast majority of Christians seem completely unwilling to critically assess the very real threat to our civil liberties, to education and to our very liberty of conscience posed by Religion. Thoughtfully….SH

  71. #71 Tukla in Iowa
    December 22, 2006

    Remember that the Bible is all true,

    Even the untrue bits?

    Especially the untrue bits.

  72. #72 Vadjong
    December 22, 2006

    Susan,

    if you watch migrating geese a bit longer, you’ll notice they don’t just fly in a single “V”. When the gaggle is numerous enough, they fly in branches, eerily resembling tree-diagrams of evolutionary descent, with the foremost goose as the common ancestor.
    Them birds are trueblooded Darwinists.

    Also, for the umptieth time : Evolution is the total opposite of pure chance ! It’s based on the idea of (Natural) SELECTION. Do try to read more than just an old Iron Age book once in a while, it’s liberating.

  73. #73 Davis
    December 23, 2006

    If physicists can argue that quantum particles are one third real and two thirds imaginary, that particles behave differently depending on who is observing them or whether they are being observed at all, why wouldn’t the macro world we see be equally er, independent to one’s view point?

    Methinks you’re misunderstanding physics quite a bit here, since physicists don’t actually argue any of these things. It sounds like you’ve mangled the actual predictions of quantum physics quite a bit here.

  74. #74 Scott Hatfield
    December 23, 2006

    Uber:

    I’m sorry, you’re right, I didn’t pick up on the fact that you were actually interested in making a theological point, distinguishing between ‘salvation by faith’ and ‘salvation by works.’

    I’m afraid I’m so used to folk here generally deprecating the point of theology in the first place that I sort of filtered that out when reading your original post.

    This seems a good spot to mention that Michael Ruse has (somewhat controversially) suggested that supporters of evolution tend to be post-millenialists (eager to do good works to usher in the Kingdom) and creationists tend to be pre-millenialists (convinced the Rapture is due and any attempt to preserve or improve the present world pointless). Ruse even goes so far as to describe the thought of eminent evolutionary biologists like E.O. Wilson (who is not a believer) as ‘post-millenial.’

    Anyway, I have no clue what ‘salvation’ actually means to others, much less how others can achieve salvation with or without works. All I can say is, for me ‘salvation’ doesn’t mean earning brownie points or avoiding the flames of perdition. I’m not interested in a gospel of fear, or doing ‘works’ to earn my salvation.

    Now, you asked for a criteria for judging whether an individual was ethical, given that all of us are imperfect (or, as we Christians would say, are sinners)…..Might I suggest James Leigh Hunt’s poem “Abou Ben Adhem”? The 25th chapter of Matthew is also apropos…..SH

  75. #75 Scott Hatfield
    December 23, 2006

    Ken: This is a longish post. I don’t really disagree with what you’re saying, but I thought I would explore it further in the context of what happened earlier on this thread. I’m sure that much of what I’m about to say you already know, so please don’t feel I’m patronizing. I just don’t want to leave anything out.

    First, we all deal to some extent in metaphor. I would say with Pierce that each of us to some degree experiences the world through symbols and signs, and even the fundamentalist recognizes that much of what they believe is not really available as a direct representation: hence the doves and tongues of fire.

    So, if a liberal Christian (or, for that matter, a non-believer) receives goosebumps at some point from some metaphor that they find personally meaningful that doesn’t make them any more or less of a ‘magical thinker’ than the fundy. All of us ‘interpret’ the Bible, even non-believers, and I am unaware of anyone, even fundamentalists, who interpret every passage literally.

    What, then, would justify reifying metaphors on the basis of such magical thinking? Nothing: I’m with you there, and I share your discomfort with believers who revel in that sort of thing. When I worship, though, I don’t reify the metaphors nor build up theological constructs based on any such reification. Like many others, I simply enter into a state of awareness of what the symbols are, meditate on their *possible* meaning and relevance to my own life, and pray.

    It would, indeed, be the stuff of arrogance to insist that my own subjective experience with sign and symbol in the context of worship and prayer *must* be objectively shared by other ‘right-thinking’ believers. Even worse would be to suggest that such an experiential claim goes a long way toward justifying my theology, which is essentially one of the tactics that Susan applied on this thread.

    That’s a little bit different from a private experience with (as you put it) ‘the voices in my head.’ All of us, believers and non-believers alike, have such voices; they are simply different aspects of human experience, not all of which are reducible to the tools of reason. It is not ‘magical thinking’ to acknowledge this; it is ‘human thinking’, with all of its kludginess, blind spots and biases, personal and otherwise.

    And, I must say that I prefer that sort of experience to the impersonal (indeed, ‘inhuman’) one-size-fits-all indoctrination that comes with any institutionalized belief system….SH

    Merry Christmas!

  76. #76 Ken Cope
    December 24, 2006

    Oh, Scott.

    Anything “not reducible to the tools of reason” isn’t worth discussing rationally. At best, “de gustibus non est disputandum,” but damn… If you’re going to try to tell me all believers/non-believers have ‘voices in our heads’ and call it ‘human thinking’ then why the special pleading for spirit, or whatever edge it is you think theism gives you over atheism? Don’t take Dennett’s multiple drafts, or Minsky’s societies of mind, and post hoc rationalize them as brain farts from gawd.

    There’s a liberal talk show host in San Francisco on KGO, Bernie Ward, a former Franciscan priest. I occasionally listen to him on his Sunday AM show, “God Talk.” He’ll rail against biblical literalists and right-wing fundies, reserving special scorn for creationist IDiots. He’s generally point for point in lock-step with PZ on such nonsense, adding that not only is creationism bad science but it’s bad theology.

    And yet, Offisa Pup, and yet…

    Right in the middle of some point where he’s extolling the value of metaphor and parable, he’ll blurt out that he was praying the other day, and the holy spirit told him he ought to participate more in his son’s after-school sports activities.

    WTF?

    He may as well have been extolling the virtues of snake-handling and drinking sewage, the way it sounded to me. WTF has the holy spirit to do with a feeling about how best to bond with his high-schooler, as far as the atheist, the Jew and the Hindu at the bar are concerned? But because Holy Spirit, whatever that’s supposed to be, spake unto him, or whatever it does, it’s all SPIRITchually sanctified above and beyond whatever it is Homer Simpson might feel, guilting out over missing Bart’s T-ball practice between beer belches at Moe’s Tavern.

    I don’t understand the need to transpose feeling to spirituality, unless it’s to exaggerate the import of some notion and feel all special and singled out. I just want to slap anybody I hear talking like that, and tell them to get over themselves.

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