Pharyngula

Imagine you found a population in the US where the majority of the people believed that 2+2=5, and that attempts to correct them with the actual, correct result of adding two numbers were regarded as insults to their revered traditions. I think we’d all agree that they a) they were wrong; b) they were misled, misinformed, and miseducated; c) that they were ignorant of arithmetic; or d) might very well have been maliciously deceived by someone in their midst. Somehow, though, if the ridiculous error involves God, some people take a big step backwards and are appalled that anyone might criticize them. Those “revered traditions” become more than mere excuses, they are inviolate.

You guessed it, once again someone was aggravated that I have dared to call adherence to religious belief a case of being “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed.” This time our indignant contestant is Mark A. R. Kleiman, who considers it atheistic bigotry to enumerate the reasons why people might come to absurd and erroneous conclusions. That 80-90% of this population, which is not hypothetical at all but is the entire US, believes that chanting their wishes into the sky might get them granted by a magic being, or that over half use the excuse of their religious dogma to reject the basic facts of modern biology, is something we must not question and especially must not criticize. Because it is religion, it must be respected.

Except, well, Kleiman has an out. There is a “childish” religion that can be criticized, but then there’s this mature, adult religion that is “always metaphorical.” He’s not really defending those ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed religious kooks that believe the earth is 6000 years old or that we go to war in the Middle East to smite the wicked brown-skinned Muslims, oh no — those are the negligible, unrepresentative fringe elements. True Religious People™ know that everything in their religion is a metaphor. They don’t really believe in an anthropomorphic god … why, that is only a symbol for “an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being”.

This is ridiculous on two counts. One, talk to some real people sometime, willya? The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough. This god of the rarefied nebulous metaphor is the product of theologians who’ve studied the subject long and hard enough to know that the god of the people is untenable nonsense, and must be cloaked in metaphor.

Two, there’s no reason to believe in a metaphorical “infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being,” either. There is no evidence, no explanation, no mysteries which we need to fill with this superman — excuse me, superentity — of the supernatural, so why should saying that this silly concept is actually just a metaphor for that other silly concept salvage either one? It’s a shell game: the abstract deity exists only as a distraction, a pawn to use to draw away attacks on the invisible man-god, and if we criticize the metaphor, the man-god can be mocked to let our theologian pretend to be sly and clever and just as skeptical as his interlocutor.

I have to wonder, too…if this god is a metaphor, why are people always building real monuments and cathedrals to him, and donating real money and effort to his worship? Why not just stay home on Sundays, watch football, and say you’re metaphorically being religious? There’s a real disconnect here: the institution of religion is not committed to a metaphor.

Kleiman also complains that my reason for stating my opinion is that I’m just trying to get the truth across — apparently, trying to hammer home that 2+2=4 means I have claimed possession of absolute knowledge of all. The only truth to which I hold here is that there is no god and no evidence for one. If someone wants to rebut that firm rock to which atheism is anchored, that’s the idea they have to address. None do. And saying the absence of god can be replaced by a metaphor for god is dodging the issue.

After trying to undercut my argument with puffs of metaphorical smoke, Kleiman does ask an interesting and revealing question.

I’ve always wanted to ask someone like Meyers — or Dawkins, or Pinker — how much smarter he thinks he is than, let’s say, Heraclitus or Socrates or Maimonides or Newton, who thought hard about religion and didn’t dismiss it as nonsense.

Why would anyone think I regard myself as smarter than Newton? I think there are religious people who are much smarter than I am even now. I do not make the logical fallacy of believing that because people are wrong in one thing, religion, they are therefore wrong in all things; I don’t believe that Christians are irreparably stupid or that their gullibility about god translates into some gross systemic defect in their entire ability to reason. I also do not equate “smartness” with “infallibility,” and know that even certifiable geniuses like Newton can also believe fervently in erroneous matters … like alchemy or Christianity. It would be like noting that Mark Kleiman cannot spell “Myers” properly, therefore he is incompetent in all things and must be less intelligent than me, who can spell it correctly.

In fact, I might assume that he misspells it to goad me, and is therefore wicked; or that perhaps he is merely ignorant of the correct spelling, because he hadn’t seen the word written out before; or that someone misled him and told him the wrong spelling; or perhaps he has grown up in a tradition of inserting a redundant “e” in the name and made the error unthinkingly. If I point that small error out, though, am I going to be accused of both bigotry and elitism in thinking that I must believe myself superior in all ways to Mr Kleiman? At least, that’s the impression I get from his complaints.

Perhaps he should learn that poor ideas about a god should be as subject to rejection as poor spelling — even more so, since the latter is trivial and isn’t going to drag us back into an age of superstition. This knee-jerk deference granted to religious absurdity, this belief in the sanctity of belief, is something that contaminates even good minds, and that’s too bad.

(By the way, both Meta and Meta and Norm Doering noted this strange blind spot in Kleiman’s reasoning, too.)

Comments

  1. #1 solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short
    July 18, 2007

    LLLLLET’S GET READY TO RRRRRUMBLE

  2. #2 tony
    July 18, 2007

    I need to write a little scipt to go back and capture refs to all my previous posts on this…. then I can save my fingers for more important things (like holding donuts)

    I’m scared. I can’t afford the time these idiots steal from my life!

  3. #3 Mark Powell
    July 18, 2007

    But wait. I’ve heard people who build sophisticated biological models claim that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2 and very small values of 5. Does this mean that I’m allowed to insult their revered traditions?

  4. #4 Caledonian
    July 18, 2007

    It’s not just traditional religion. I assert that if a significant majority of people believed 2+2=5, then public opinion would denigrate any criticism leveled at the belief.

  5. #5 divalent
    July 18, 2007

    “… Heraclitus or Socrates or Maimonides or Newton, who thought hard about religion and didn’t dismiss it as nonsense.”

    Of course, it never occurs to folks who make such statements that those brillant people also lived at a time when there were huge gaps on our understanding of nature and the universe. They would be atheists today.

  6. #6 Bobber
    July 18, 2007

    As they say here in NC, “Hurt dog always yelps the loudest.” I have read with great interest, and no small amount of amusement, the complaints over the vociferous denunciation of magical thinking by Professor Myers, Mssrs. Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris, and others, and I have to believe that the discomfort of the spiritual is a GOOD thing. The so-called extremist religionists (true religionists?) have been molly-coddled by the relative silence of their more moderate brethren for too long. It’s time that the human species start choosing sides: that is, are we for reason, or for mysticism? Let the braying continue!

  7. #7 greensmile
    July 18, 2007

    PZ, you are only right in a math class way. And you have an image of religious people that smears their logic errors together with a suggestion of inescapable selfishness. Do you know how many consider prayer to be petitioning of a deity to grant wishes [which I agree wholeheartedly with you is dangerous and absurd] and how many consider it only a way to recognize how little is in their control…and still feel ok?

    Be more thorough in your characterizations or you will get not only the feckless animosity of nitwits as you expect and enjoy, but of people who are just trying to locate themselves in the universe using far weaker tools than you possess.

  8. #8 tony
    July 18, 2007

    When I was a child I had a very strange image of “molly-coddling” that involved sponges, warm soapy water, and me naked…

    Makes it *hard* for me to use or see the phrase now…

  9. #9 phat
    July 18, 2007

    This is the same argument I get all the time. I have a lot of “liberal” friends who are attached to a “moderate” view of religion. I tell them that they cannot confirm that their belief is true for other people. It’s something they “feel” or “understand” through personal revelation. Because of that they have absolutely no right to criticize any other revealed truth. Because they would be invalidating their understand of revealed truth itself.

    A “liberal” Catholic can’t, by any theological argument, claim the Opus Die Catholics are crazy.

    phat

  10. #10 Jason
    July 18, 2007

    What does it mean to say, as Kleiman does, that the proposition “God exists” is a metaphor? And that all other non-childish religious thinking and writing is metaphor? Metaphor for what? He just doesn’t seem to have any clear idea of what he’s trying to say.

  11. #11 Bobber
    July 18, 2007

    Tony: Depends on if Molly is doing the sponging, eh? : )

  12. #12 TW
    July 18, 2007

    I recently came across this text of a speech titled “Is there an Artificial God?” by Douglas Adams:

    http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/

    He takes a long road to get to:

    So, my argument is that as we become more and more scientifically literate, it’s worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it’s worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there. I suspect that as we move further and further into the field of digital or artificial life we will find more and more unexpected properties begin to emerge out of what we see happening and that this is a precise parallel to the entities we create around ourselves to inform and shape our lives and enable us to work and live together. Therefore, I would argue that though there isn’t an actual god there is an artificial god and we should probably bear that in mind. That is my debating point and you are now free to start hurling the chairs around!

    Which I take to mean that groups of people create these artificial gods as a way of moderating our interactions. But, like the fiction of money, it requires a buy-in from everyone to make it all work. And people don’t like the faith in the fiction challenged because it upsets the social order.

    So I guess we’re in a transitional stage where the old artificial gods are no longer serving the need, while the new ones haven’t yet emerged and/or been widely accepted.

  13. #13 Thad Ritchards
    July 18, 2007

    “If a great state has decided by law that twice two is five, it would be foolish to allow mathematicians to testify.” – Comment during the Scopes Monkey Trial.

  14. #14 Bob
    July 18, 2007

    Religious thought, writing, and speech, at its adult level, is always metaphorical. [...] (Of course religious writers don’t generally assert that “God” names a metaphor rather than an entity[...]

    So, most religious writers are not adults. Well said.

    But if, like anyone who has thought deeply about these matters, you think of God as an especially potent metaphor (or, to put in more flowery terms, “a mystery to be understood only in part, and then by faith”) — if you think that, then the whole debate is pointless.

    Well, then of course the debate is pointless, because now you’re agreeing with P.Z.

    Am I missing something here, or is this guy a dope?

  15. #15 Christian Burnham
    July 18, 2007

    Good grief! What is it about trollish critics who can’t spell ‘Myers’? Maybe they should just refer to ‘PZ’ instead.

  16. #16 Skemono
    July 18, 2007

    This is ridiculous on two counts. One, talk to some real people sometime, willya? The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough. This god of the rarefied nebulous metaphor is the product of theologians who’ve studied the subject long and hard enough to know that the god of the people is untenable nonsense, and must be cloaked in metaphor.

    Ah yes, the old “Sure, what people actually believe is nonsense; but you haven’t debunked what they don’t believe, therefore I win!” tactic.

  17. #17 Stephen Wells
    July 18, 2007

    Fundamentalists: believe 2+2 =5 because It Is Written. Somewhere. They have a lot of trouble on their tax returns.

    “Moderate” believers: live their lives on the basis that 2+2=4. but go regularly to church to be told that 2+2 once made 5, or will one day make 5, or in a very real and spiritual sense should make 5.

    “Moderate” atheists: know that 2+2 =4 but think it impolite to say so too loudly as people who think 2+2=5 might be offended.

    “Militant” atheists: “Oh for pity’s sake. HERE. Two pebbles. Two more pebbles. FOUR pebbles. What is WRONG with you people?”

  18. #18 halcy
    July 18, 2007

    Clearly, 2+2 can not be 5, since god dictates otherwise. It’s true, look: http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/ ! (As a bonus, here’s an ongoing discussion thread with this guy. I wouldn’t waste time on replying to him, though.)

  19. #19 Jason
    July 18, 2007

    greensmile,

    Do you know how many consider prayer to be petitioning of a deity to grant wishes [which I agree wholeheartedly with you is dangerous and absurd] and how many consider it only a way to recognize how little is in their control…and still feel ok?

    Huh? How is petitionary prayer a “way to recognize” how little is in your control, and “still feel ok” that it isn’t? You seem to be suggesting that the act of asking God to do something that you don’t really expect or want him to do somehow makes you understand that you can’t do it yourself and come to terms with that limitation. As if you wouldn’t recognize the limitation unless you petitioned for divine intervention. The claim is just nonsensical. Do you really think people who pray for their child to be cured of cancer or whatever it may be don’t already know that they can’t do that themselves?

  20. #20 Caledonian
    July 18, 2007

    But it makes them feel that they can do something useful.

    Delusion, the lot of it. It really is the heroin of the masses.

  21. #21 jeffw
    July 18, 2007

    the invisible man-god

    Exactly. We were not created in God’s image, He was created in ours. Perhaps that’s why he’s such a monster.

  22. #22 Bronze Dog
    July 18, 2007

    Doggerel #103 and #107 noted, Kleinman.

  23. #23 The Physicist
    July 18, 2007

    Unfortunately, someone here is in real trouble, go to the topical optogon and read the latest comment, if I am wrong I will eat my hat. I ain’t stupid, and neither is the FBI and Homeland Security.

  24. #24 The Ridger
    July 18, 2007

    Oh, come on. If Newton or Heraclitus or Socrates or Maimonides were living now, with access to the knowledge we have now, does this guy really think they’d still have their old – in some cases really old – viewpoint?

  25. #25 PalMD
    July 18, 2007

    Excuse me, a big “WTF?” on that last comment by Physicist.

  26. #26 Pete
    July 18, 2007

    I was going to say 2+2=5 is just a metaphor for 1+1=3, but Stephen Wells won the thread already.

  27. #27 The Physicist
    July 18, 2007

    Excuse me, a big “WTF?” on that last comment by Physicist.
    Posted by: PalMD | July 18, 2007 08:30 PM

    Go here: http://topicaloctagon.blogspot.com/

    And read one of the last few comments on the the et ecce vates post. and you will understand real quick.

  28. #28 Bob
    July 18, 2007

    Aside

    I’ve been lurking a while, and started posting only a few days ago, but I want to know – is this blog always so full of trolling christers? Not that argument isn’t fun, just curious.

    Thanks, Bob

  29. #29 CalGeorge
    July 18, 2007

    I have no problem calling the god-intoxicated stupid idiots.

    They’ve turned their brains off.

    That’s a stupid thing to do.

    Think of all those idiotic suicide bombers in training – if enough of the sensible people they associate with would take the time to say that belief in God is the acme of stupidity, who knows, some of those bombers might turn away from violence and learn to live full and productive lives.

    No more mollycoddling of the god-intoxicated!

  30. #30 mjs
    July 18, 2007

    the finer points of swamp gas
    when ground down to the nub
    leave a heap of nothing
    and the wise say “there’s the rub”

    for if what’s left is nothing
    and what was was also naught
    then belief that there was something
    is all that you have got

    literally

    ++++

  31. #31 RedMolly
    July 18, 2007

    Real Mollys don’t coddle. But sometimes we bite our tongues for the sake of getting along with the god-fearing relatives.

  32. #32 Caledonian
    July 18, 2007

    is this blog always so full of trolling christers?

    It’s a bit higher than normal, due to PZ making several anti-religious-stupidity posts in quick succession, but the normal levels aren’t much lower.

    Welcome to the site, by the way.

  33. #33 Aris
    July 18, 2007

    I wonder if Kleiman is OK with anyone calling the adherents to religious belief “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed” as long as he does it metaphorically.

  34. #34 Bobber
    July 18, 2007

    Nothing wrong with a Coddling Molly, as long as the reason for the coddling is generally harmless. Or, as previously noted, maintains family harmony.

  35. #35 tony
    July 18, 2007

    bobber @ 11: mmmmmmmmmmmmoooooollllllyyyyy…. oooooohhhhhh

  36. #36 Sven DiMilo
    July 18, 2007

    “Physicist”: For somebody who “ain’t stupid” you sure do an excellent imitation whenever you write. Thanks for the direct link; nobody would have found your crap without it because you keep referring to “the topical optogon.” Optogonoctagon…Spot the difference!

    By the way, “The Physicist” introduces himself over there as follows:
    “my name is Gregg and I live in Fort Worth, Texas. I am Joining this debate with the expectation of making the case that neither evolution or the diversity of life could exist without the Creator God (God of Abraham, the triune God) I hope I do not disappoint you with my scientific evidence making my case…
    Another thing you might want to know, I was a poor English grammatical student so if I split my infinitive or miss/misplace a comma please forgive me….
    I have a BS in Physics and a Minor in Mathematics from NTSU.”

  37. #37 Christian Burnham
    July 18, 2007

    ‘The Physicist’ appears to be claiming that a poster from Pharyngula hacked into his govt computer and will spend 3 years in jail for it.

    This troll seems like a perfect candidate for disemvoweling or banning to me.

  38. #38 Bob
    July 18, 2007

    disemvoweling

    Not that! Or should that be “Nt tht!

  39. #39 PalMD
    July 18, 2007

    He sounds suspiciously like a couple of the Conservapedia editors I know.

  40. #40 SmellyTerror
    July 18, 2007

    Well PZ, strictly speaking, you didn’t say they were being ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed, you said that were, um, one or more of those things (at least, they were applied as adjectives). There is a pretty big difference between the two statements.

    So yeah, it might be reasonable to conclude that you were making a logically fallacious overgeneralisation in that original post.

    …ya big blow hard.

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that your very many posts like the one above clearly state your quite reasonable point of view, and that one line taken out of context is a bit of a silly thing to have a fight over. But on the other hand, this very post could be seen as a tacit admission that the original was misleading.

    So, will you be taking this opportunity to admit that the original line was poorly phrased? Will this compromise defuse the raging tempest of mixed metaphor? Does SmellyTerror win teh intarnet wiv his diplomatic skillz once again?

  41. #41 afterthought
    July 18, 2007

    ‘The Physicist’ appears to be claiming that a poster from Pharyngula hacked into his govt computer and will spend 3 years in jail for it.

    This troll seems like a perfect candidate for disemvoweling or banning to me.

    I’m thinking maybe the government may be interested in why “The Physicist” is using his “secure” (not so much, I guess, or he/she left the password on a sticky note) government computer to post on a blog.

  42. #42 tony
    July 18, 2007

    RedMolly: All this talk of biting…..

  43. #43 Tulse
    July 18, 2007

    I’m thinking maybe the government may be interested in why “The Physicist” is using his “secure” (not so much, I guess, or he/she left the password on a sticky note) government computer to post on a blog.

    If the hack he his referring to is changes to the blog and/or comments, unless his government department actually owns the servers for blogspot.com and blogger.com, I don’t see how the hack involves his work computer at all. If, on the other hand, someone from outside of a government network can actually hack an internal desktop computer that is presumably behind a firewall and using DHCP, and not just a server, then that department has serious security problems.

    Either way the claims sound profoundly fishy.

  44. #44 Stogoe
    July 18, 2007

    Someone already stole my idea of Coddling Molly.

    Then again, it’s gotta be better than Flogging Molly.

    (Just kidding, that band rocks.)

  45. #45 Phil
    July 18, 2007

    Um, the fact that Newton thought hard about religion and didn’t dismiss it as nonsense is not only the fallacious argument from authority writ large, it’s nigh unto stupid. Newton also thought hard about frigging ALCHEMY and didn’t dismiss it as nonsense. I’d like to see Kleiman base an argument on that.

  46. #46 mndarwinist
    July 18, 2007

    So how much smarter than Einstein does Mr. Kleiman think he is?

  47. #47 Tatarize
    July 18, 2007

    How dare you cite the what the Bible says as having anything to do with what the Bible means!

  48. #48 HP
    July 18, 2007

    This seems fairly straightforward to me:

    Religion is what the religious do.

    Even Jesus (who as far as I know, believed in God) said, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

    It doesn’t matter what people think religion is. The only concrete evidence we have to work with is what religious people do. That’s what religion is. If Christians invade Iraq or kill abortionists, then that’s what Christianity is. If Muslims blow up buildings or decapitate hostages, then that’s what Islam is. Those of us who are not religious will always judge religion by its actions, not by philosophy. And until the religious get their shit together, they have only themselves to blame.

    If you can’t stand the heat….

  49. #49 SmellyTerror
    July 18, 2007

    Huh? How is petitionary prayer a “way to recognize” how little is in your control, and “still feel ok” that it isn’t?

    Ok, I have to back up the Greenmile here. I’m an atheist, but I still use supersititious language and even deeds, largely as an outlet for hope that I know is utterly irrelevant to the universe at large. Examples:

    1. “Thank you sweet baby jesus”. trans: I just got something I really wanted. “It’ll take miracle.” trans: I think this is an unlikely outcome. “Only if god himself comes down and blows me”. trans: no.

    2. I’m a bit of a nervous flyer. On a plane, I spend most of the trip willing the aircraft to stay in the air.

    3. I’m about to roll the dice to see if my vorpal sword will cut the head off the dragon. I need a natural 20 to do this and thus avoid taking 3d8 damage in return, possibly reducing my hitpoints to a crtically low level. Since it’s a roll I care about I shake the dice just that little bit longer, and I throw it with a drawn out cry of “Come ooooooooooooooon!”

    Any of that make a difference? Of course not. But it all acts as an outlet for my human feelings of helplessness in the face of an uncaring universe. It also tells you that I am (or have been at some time) a big fat nerd.

    So I’m happy to accept that a proportion of praying people don’t think it’ll do any good, but do it to express their hope and show solidarity with others who hope the same thing.

    Of course, I also accept that an inverse proportion of praying people are the deluded followers of an imaginary sky fairy. But I suspect that the number of “religious” who don’t really beleive

  50. #50 RedMolly
    July 18, 2007

    Biting, flogging… hey, it’s all good.

    Sponge baths, though, are right out. *shudder*

  51. #51 tony
    July 18, 2007

    RedMolly: who said anything about sponge *baths*

    HP: By their fruits you shall know them.

    So… the religions with a lot of homosexuals are the *correct* ones?

    that makes it …. none of them?

  52. #52 Dan
    July 18, 2007

    Real Mollys don’t coddle. But sometimes we bite our tongues for the sake of getting along with the god-fearing relatives.

    Posted by: RedMolly

    I find my god-fearing relatives to hardly be a reason to bite mine or anyone’s tongue.

    Aside from that, Hooray for the non-coddling, tongue-biting Mollies of the world.

  53. #53 Tatarize
    July 18, 2007

    Sure, you could take away their belief that 2+2=5 but what would you replace it with?!?

  54. #54 tony
    July 18, 2007

    redMolly:

    I mentioned the sponge in conjunction with warm-soapy water and me being naked… and you think of *baths*

    baths are *cold*!

    warm soapy water is for something else entirely…

  55. #55 Bobber
    July 18, 2007

    In my family, we look forward to the arguments between myself and my Italian Roman Catholic mother. They provide a great deal of entertainment for the whole clan on Sunday afternoons. I’m also the lone Yankee fan and leftist-socialist-progressive, so I am an endless source of fun for the relatives.

    Nope, no coddling there, be it of Mollies or anyone else. Being an outspoken atheist begins at home, perhaps.

  56. #56 Dan
    July 18, 2007

    Sure, you could take away their belief that 2+2=5 but what would you replace it with?!?

    Replace it with two things:

    First, 2+2=4,

    And, Milk. It does a body good.

  57. #57 tony
    July 18, 2007

    goodnight all

    I’m almost certain that tomorrow we’ll find a whole new world with an entirely new pantheon of Xian apologists to partake of our feast of fun and frolics that is Pharyngula

    bonsoir!

  58. #58 Aerik
    July 18, 2007

    PZ, you are only right in a math class way. And you have an image of religious people that smears their logic errors together with a suggestion of inescapable selfishness. Do you know how many consider prayer to be petitioning of a deity to grant wishes [which I agree wholeheartedly with you is dangerous and absurd] and how many consider it only a way to recognize how little is in their control…and still feel ok?

    Be more thorough in your characterizations or you will get not only the feckless animosity of nitwits as you expect and enjoy, but of people who are just trying to locate themselves in the universe using far weaker tools than you possess.

    Except, if they felt OK with it after the first time, they don’t need to do it over and over and over and over again, do they? Nor would they want to force others to do it by usurping the Constitution and slipping it into school board policies, etc. etc etc. You haven’t refuted Myers’s point at all. If they feel it’s so metaphorical, why do they keep doing all this real bullshit to support it?

  59. #59 cm
    July 18, 2007

    There’s this meme out there that Kleiman thinks he thought up: “Point out how unsophisticated, obtuse, and hamhanded the atheist advocate is by showing how religion is actually metaphorical, or a rich intellectual tradition, or complex and refined.”

    This has been thrown at Dawkins a lot. It’s such a crock. Most religion on Earth, by weight, is just talking to imaginary guys with beards, and half-to-fully thinking they’re hearing you. Can we just agree to that easily observable fact?

  60. #60 Norman Doering
    July 18, 2007

    divalent wrote:

    They would be atheists today.

    It would be very hard to predict what Heraclitus or Socrates or Maimonides would believe in our day, their cultures were so different.

    Newton I suspect would not have become an atheist, he was too hungry for metaphysical knowledge and science offers less and less of that. It would not have held him long enough to be great. Newton would probably have become a modern day Frank J. Tipler.

  61. #61 SmellyTerror
    July 18, 2007

    Aerik: even athiests hope. What’s the point, though? Will it make a difference? When you say you hope your friend’s kid gets better, are you invoking some supernatural power?

    Prayer, at least some times, can be another way of expressing hope and nothing more.

    To finish my broken sentence from above, I suspect that a large number of the nominally religious don’t really believe (how many are afraid to die, or mourn loved ones who *should* be receiving their eternal reward), but use their lip-service as a kind of wishful thinking. It’s deluded, willfully deluded, but I think for many it’s no different to an atheist hoping, or a spouse who refuses to notice the signs of infidelity, or any of a thousand human follies.

    No idea of the proportions, but for *some*, I’m sure “prayer” is just a word.

  62. #62 Steve
    July 18, 2007

    There is a problem with your math analogy.

    In math, it is possible to prove the correct answer, 2+2=3.9999999999999876 (damn Pentium!).

    In religion, however, you cannot prove the _non-existence_ of God, therefore you do not have a “correct” answer to use. Of course, it is also impossible to prove the _existence_ of God. It’s one of those questions that does not lend itself well to empirical validation.

    A religious person can say “I have faith that 2+2=5,” while you say “I think 2+2=4,” but neither you nor the believer can claim to have an absolute proof of correctness.

    The problem arises because too many people don’t understand this fundamental difference between the two paradigms.

    I wonder if this makes you a (dare I say it?) “fundamentalist”.

    Keep up the good work.

  63. #63 Jsn
    July 18, 2007

    The people who will argue 2+2=5 BY GOD (Neocons) are featured in a fantastic article I saw at Boing Boing. For a head shaking, mind numbing good time
    GO to this link:http://www.alternet.org/story/57001/

  64. #64 Dale
    July 18, 2007

    Mark Kleiman says…

    “I’ve always wanted to ask someone like Meyers — or Dawkins, or Pinker — how much smarter he thinks he is than, let’s say, Heraclitus or Socrates or Maimonides or Newton, who thought hard about religion and didn’t dismiss it as nonsense.”

    Newton was an anti-trinitarian. Does Mark agree with this position? Presumably Heraclitus and Socrates didn’t believe in the christian god. Were they correct? If not could they have been convinced by newer information (perhaps some guys in white shirts and ties knocking on their doors?)
    Mark, can we ever expect better knowledge to trump the beliefs of clever people from the past?

  65. #65 Ernie
    July 18, 2007

    Right on, #62. The author’s being as dogmatic as a fundy when he says, “The only truth I hold to here is that there is no god and no evidence for one.”
    Quite a claim for a finite mind, claiming to grasp the infinite, and wanting empirical evidence derived from scientific tools that are only extensions of the measly five senses. BTW, PZ, if you’re going to be a 50-cent wordsmith, please note that “aggravated” means “made worse”. “Irritated” is the word you were looking for.

  66. #66 Superhappyjen
    July 18, 2007

    “In fact, I might assume that he misspells it to goad me, and is therefore wicked;”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. There was something sinister about that mispelling. :)

  67. #67 Jason
    July 18, 2007

    Smelly,

    I have no problem believing that many people who engage in petitionary prayer do not believe it will have any effect. The claim I am questioning is that such prayer is a “way to recognize” our human limitations and a source of comfort in the face of that recognition. How does asking God to do something (whether you really want or expect him to do it or not) cause or help you to recognize that you cannot do it yourself? How does asking God to do something comfort you, especially when you don’t really want or expect him to do it? I would have thought that learning to accept one’s limitations and to accept the fact that sometimes bad things just happen would be more conducive to mental health than engaging in futile requests to fix them.

  68. #68 Baratos
    July 18, 2007

    Of course, it is also impossible to prove the _existence_ of God.

    What? So if God appeared and did all sorts of miracles, you would not accept that as proof of his existence? I can think of a million ways a godlike entity could prove their existence.

  69. #69 SmellyTerror
    July 18, 2007

    Jason: Desperately gripping the armrests of my seat on a plane, chanting “don’t crash” over and over, comforts me even as I recognise my fear is purely a symptom of my own sense of helplessness.

    Telling my friend that I hope his kid gets better, even when we both know he probably won’t, is still worth doing. It is, like most expressions of hope, a pointless gesture in real terms, but in a way it is an expression of our own helplessness, and regret at that helplessness. “I would change this reality if I could”.

    Being an insignifcant and largely powerless mote of the universe is a common human experience. I’m just saying that people express it in way dictated by their culture. That a religious person will express this entirely hopeless hope in religious terms should not be surprising.

  70. #70 ike
    July 19, 2007

    Newton was a brilliant mind. He also believed in witches and alchemy.

  71. #71 greensmile
    July 19, 2007

    jason: you said petitionary prayer. I did not.
    “asking god to do something”… is not the only mentation that gets called prayer.

    You can also just feel grateful. To whom are you grateful about, say, the grand canyon? Having no entity, how ever personified it maybe, to aim the thanks at doesn’t stop a sane person from having that feeling. What name or interpretation they give that feeling upon later introspection is…well, its their business

    And thanks, Smelly.

  72. #72 drivel
    July 19, 2007

    #65. If a deity does not impinge on our measly five senses, it may as well not exist. BTW, to aggravate can also mean to annoy persistently, so you owe PZ 50 cents.

  73. #73 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    July 19, 2007

    To further your analogy: the sect also wants 2+2=5 right next to 2+2=4. And they want another sect’s 2+2=-3 not included.

  74. #74 Alvaro
    July 19, 2007

    Here we are again. Instead of adding my 2 cents, let me try a different angle. Let’s see if this quotes by James Zull, Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at Case Western, help illuminate the learning and teaching process that needs to take place to move people from A to C:
    —————————

    AF: What other tips would you offer to teachers and parents?

    JZ: Always provoke an active reaction, ensuring the student is engaged and sees the connection between the new information and what he or she already knows. You can do so by asking questions such as “What does this make you think of? Is there some part of this new material that rings a wild bell for you?” To ensure a safe learning environment, you have to make sure to accept their answers, and build on them. We should view students as plants and flowers that need careful cultivation: growing some areas, helping reduce others.

    AF: Please give us an example.

    JZ: Well, an example I use in my books is that middle school students often have a hard time learning about Martin Luther and the Reformation because they confuse him with Martin Luther King Jr. We can choose to become frustrated about that. Or we can exploit this saying something like, “Yes! Martin Luther King was a lot like Martin Luther. In fact, why do you think Martin Luther King’s parents named him that? Why didn’t they name him Sam King?”

    More at
    http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/10/12/an-ape-can-do-this-can-we-not/

    Maybe we should stop shouting that “C is right, you moron!” and instead focusing on how to move people from A to B and then to C.

  75. #75 386sx
    July 19, 2007

    It’s a shell game: the abstract deity exists only as a distraction, a pawn to use to draw away attacks on the invisible man-god, and if we criticize the metaphor, the man-god can be mocked to let our theologian pretend to be sly and clever and just as skeptical as his interlocutor.

    Bingo. All of your big fancy “moderate” theologlians talk the talk about how so very sensible and open minded they are about their religion, but then on the next page you’ll find them quoting a bunch of lame Bible crap like it means something.

  76. #76 Christian
    July 19, 2007

    Interesting blog Kleiman has. It isn’t published for debate, since I couldn’t find how to comment. It is late this evening though, so if someone knows how to comment on there, I would be interested in knowing the method. As much as I may agree or disagree with PZ, at least here I know that someone can post an idea here and have it either stand or fall.

  77. #77 Christopher Gwyn
    July 19, 2007

    “The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough.”

    Or assume that they absolutely must say they believe and act as if they believe, an assumption so deeply rooted that they perceive questioning it as questioning their own legitimacy and not just the legitimacy of their assumptions. I suspect that a lot of people do not believe, as shown by their living lives that are not much in accordance with the tenets of their faith (and often not even in accordance with their own understanding of their supposed faith). However these same people deeply believe they must assert that they believe, often so strongly that they fool even themselves.

    “This god of the rarefied nebulous metaphor is the product of theologians who’ve studied the subject long and hard enough to know that the god of the people is untenable nonsense, and must be cloaked in metaphor.”

    And the same is true of the fancy theologians too. They are conceptually unable to comprehend that there metaphors have no legitimacy as anything other than metaphors…but they still feel they must insist that ‘God’ somehow has a reality that their beloved metaphors just do not have.

    All the theists have to do to make their problems with atheists go away is simply admit that ‘God’ is in no way ‘real’, that ‘God’ is only a metaphor that, like all other metaphors, humans made up. Such an affirmation would not prevent any of them from living their lives as if ‘God’ was real…after all their supposed desire is to live a life of faith – and surely the strongest of all faiths is to dedicate your life to something you know is a fiction. Admitting that ‘God’ is not real may free the theists to succeed at the very best of their goals. (or maybe not)

  78. #78 The Physicistr
    July 19, 2007

    The Physicist’ appears to be claiming that a poster from Pharyngula hacked into his govt computer and will spend 3 years in jail for it.
    This troll seems like a perfect candidate for disemvoweling or banning to me.
    Posted by: Christian Burnham | July 18, 2007 08:59 PM

    Im not the one who will be di em bowed, the protologist exam is coming, and it won’t be pretty, and I am not happy about it. And I really do feel sorry about it, but there ain’t a damn thing I can do. Ive already been told what;s about to happen, it may sor may not smell fishy, but it is going to ruion a life.

  79. #79 BlackSun
    July 19, 2007

    PZ, you are only right in a math class way.

    Thanks, greensmile, for that insipid appeal to “deeper” unquantifiable truths that don’t melt under the harsh light of analysis. (You can dress up mysticism, but you can’t take it out in public without embarrassment.) Now, on to patronizing:

    of people who are just trying to locate themselves in the universe using far weaker tools than you possess.

    In other words, you agree with PZ that the superstitions make no sense, but they’re still OK to help the stupid people feel less bewildered.

  80. #80 The Physicist
    July 19, 2007

    Have you ever been taken away from work im hand cuffs, and had a physical exam from the Nazi’s? Then shut up in a cell with more people than chairs. I have, it ain’t mo fun, I hate the bastards. Good luck this is my last message here.

  81. #81 Anton Mates
    July 19, 2007

    Do you know how many consider prayer to be petitioning of a deity to grant wishes [which I agree wholeheartedly with you is dangerous and absurd] and how many consider it only a way to recognize how little is in their control…and still feel ok?

    According to a Free Inquiry phone poll (of Americans) from 1995, 88.6% of their respondents professed belief in a personal god which answered prayers. In 1998 the Teal Trust conducted a similar church-based poll of Christians, mostly from the UK, and found that 86% claimed to have had prayers answered. Neal Krause et al. have done a number of studies, mostly on older Americans, and found similar results. I’m not aware of any larger and better-controlled studies of the general American or global population–but there’s also the data point that three state governors have (individually) declared days of prayer for rain in the last year or so.

    So, basically, it looks like the vast majority of people who pray in the US are doing it in the professed belief that they can actually get the attention of their god.

  82. #82 bad Jim
    July 19, 2007

    I learned in college that GOD is real, unless declared integer. I think that was just Fortran IV, though.

  83. #83 386sx
    July 19, 2007

    All the theists have to do to make their problems with atheists go away is simply admit that ‘God’ is in no way ‘real’, that ‘God’ is only a metaphor that, like all other metaphors, humans made up.

    Bingo again. Another bingo moment. That, and plus they want to make things happen with their invisible mind powers. Oooooooooooo invisible thought rays, oooooooo…

  84. #84 Who Cares
    July 19, 2007

    @Steven(#62):
    You state:

    A religious person can say “I have faith that 2+2=5,” while you say “I think 2+2=4,” but neither you nor the believer can claim to have an absolute proof of correctness.

    There is a problem with your analogy. This is because religion is about having claims to absolute truth while mathematics works with absolute truths (spelling of both truth & truths is as intended).
    In mathematics I can produce an airtight proof that 2+2=4 (at least with the axioms on which normal arithmetic is based).
    This is something no religion can do with their belief seeing that they even have problems getting the internal logic of said belief consistent. And pointing that out (logical consistency) just doesn’t get you on the good side of the people adhering to said belief.

  85. #85 Lepht
    July 19, 2007

    people. there was no hack. the Blogger servers are very, VERY difficult to get into – with that many subsites, i’d be disappointed if anyone did manage access – and that site has not been “hacked”. i dunno if there are any other militant atheists with information security qualifications on Pharyngula, but i for one can’t see that it’s anything other than a malfunction or misedit.

    now, it wouldn’t be impossible at all to get into the Physicist’s computer, even if he is on the American government networks. but why the hell would we want to? what has an atheist got to prove by wanton damage like that?

    besides, any decent h4xx0r would’ve scrawled “OMG PWNED” all over the site, not removed one paragraph. fundies. jeez.

    Lepht

  86. #86 Shazam McShotgunstein
    July 19, 2007

    This slippery switcheroo to defending the liberal, modern innovation of the fluffy, indistinct, espresso-sipping metaphorical religious musings of Krista Tippett and other highly educated coastal urbanites, that represents only a tiny outlier of contemporary American religious thought, is the same crutch almost universally employed by the legions of condemnatory reviewers of Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, & company.

    One big problem with all of the new salvos being launched in the “New Atheists” kerfuffle is the almost absolute lack of pinned-down definitions. Kleiman is interested in defending traditions of religious thought as they represent metaphors for contemplative and interpersonal insight, while, *of course*, to interpret traditional religious teachings literally “makes no… sense”; but of course everyone understands the absolute limits on religion as no more than metaphor, in the same way that everyone understands a play or a novel are not literal depictions of actual events.

    In other words, lots of Americans are intellectually and emotionally invested in the Bible in the same way that they are invested in Charles Dickens and Aesop…

    Continued at Reality-Based Community Secretly Replaced by Metaphor-Based Community

  87. #87 Dr. Strangelove
    July 19, 2007

    Am I the only one who thinks The Physicist has crossed the line and is now in need of professional help? His last two posts give me the creeps…

  88. #88 Robert Waldmann
    July 19, 2007

    You are too kind to Kleiman and present his argument as something much more coherent than it is as if he wrote “They don’t really believe in an anthropomorphic god … why, that is only a symbol for “an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being”” This is not Kleiman’s belief. He does not say that an anthropomorphic god is a metaphor for an abstract God. He says that God does not exist and “God” is a metaphor for something which is not a being at all.

    Note the context of the words “an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being” that is “a religious tradition that says that God is an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being.” Here Kleiman is not describing his beliefs . note he does not belong to any religious tradition “I’m not a member of any congregation or an adherent of any denomination.”

    When he talks about metaphor, he means that God does not exist at all. Clearly he is an atheist who doesn’t want to admit it. Thus he talks about your manners while saying that all people who believe that God exists are not really adult.

    Kleiman’s feelings about religion fascinate me (partly because I think so highly of him in general) but I don’t think he is an important case to study, because he is so unusual (he is an atheist who dedicates huge amounts of time to bible study). The attitude “of course God does not exist but it is rude and intollerant to say so” is very widespread and powerful (not as widespread and powerful as the belief that God exists) but Kleiman is an extreme case.

  89. #89 MartinM
    July 19, 2007

    Am I the only one who thinks The Physicist has crossed the line and is now in need of professional help? His last two posts give me the creeps…

    He’s probably just panicking because he knows he’s going to have to eat his hat.

  90. #90 MartinM
    July 19, 2007

    In religion, however, you cannot prove the _non-existence_ of God, therefore you do not have a “correct” answer to use. Of course, it is also impossible to prove the _existence_ of God. It’s one of those questions that does not lend itself well to empirical validation.

    That’s a nice, roundabout way of saying that the concept of God is incoherent.

  91. #91 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    July 19, 2007

    It doesn’t matter what people think religion is. The only concrete evidence we have to work with is what religious people do. That’s what religion is. If Christians invade Iraq or kill abortionists, then that’s what Christianity is. If Muslims blow up buildings or decapitate hostages, then that’s what Islam is. Those of us who are not religious will always judge religion by its actions, not by philosophy. And until the religious get their shit together, they have only themselves to blame.

    Ahem. “Stalin was an atheist and so…”

  92. #92 Ed Darrell
    July 19, 2007

    Thad Richards said:

    “If a great state has decided by law that twice two is five, it would be foolish to allow mathematicians to testify.” – Comment during the Scopes Monkey Trial.

    Got a citation for that? I ask at some risk: While the Texas Lege has packed up and gone home for a few months, the Texas State Board of Education works year around, and sure as I use that quote here, some fool will assume that “great state” means Texas, and that it’s a good idea.

  93. #93 Justin Moretti
    July 19, 2007

    those ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed religious kooks that believe the earth is 6000 years old or that we go to war in the Middle East to smite the wicked brown-skinned Muslims

    If these, and only these, people are the ones you belittle as religiously deluded, perhaps you should have made that clear a long time ago. Because many God-believers would be with you on that one.

    However, to say that all people who believe in the Christian God are like this is untrue.

  94. #94 hoary puccoon
    July 19, 2007

    Re Kleiman, as a matter of fact, Socrates had faith in a ‘mythical’ golden age of Greece, when giant, one-eyed creatures roamed the land and built walls of huge stones, called ‘cyclopean’ construction. In fact, there were lost, Greek civilizations– the Minoan and Mycenean eras– which classical-eras Greeks only knew from legends and massive, ruined walls, and giant skeletons (of mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses) did show up from time to time. The conclusion that the giant creatures built the giant walls was wrong but plausible.
    To equate Socrates’s faith– when he was actually closer to reality than the complete skeptics of his time– with modern ‘faith’ which willfully ignores the facts in favor of a woozy, feel-good state, is to pull a shameful bait-and switch.

  95. #95 Patrick Quigley
    July 19, 2007

    Dale wrote (post #64):
    Newton was an anti-trinitarian.

    That is an interesting and potentially useful tidbit. Do you have a source that you can point me toward?

    Good points in your post, by the way. I was thinking along the same lines.

  96. #96 bernarda
    July 19, 2007

    “However, to say that all people who believe in the Christian God are like this is untrue.”

    Certainly not. Not all the adjectives apply to all of them, but at least one or more. The noun does certainly apply to all.

    Believe it or not, Dinesh D’Souza actually once said something sensible.

    http://newsbloggers.aol.com/2007/07/16/with-friends-like-peter-berkowitz-religon-doesnt-need-enemies/4#c6011725

    “Now we see why his arguments in defense of theism are so bad. The whole project is political. I suspect that the atheists are laughing uproariously at Berkowitz’s sophistries, and I for one am on their side here. With friends like Berkowtiz, does religion really need enemies?”

  97. #97 Paul A
    July 19, 2007

    The bit that really stuck in my craw from Kleiman’s article was:

    “It’s my liberalism that’s offended, and my suspicion that there might be something to be learned from very old and widespread traditions.”

    I hate this argument, just HATE it. Yeah, just because it’s old, widespread and traditional let’s give it a chance. Let’s get back to feudalism, slavery, subjugation of women and torture for heresy while we’re at it. Do these people not have an internal filter that checks what they’re going to say before they say it?

  98. #98 Bob
    July 19, 2007

    Paul A @ 96

    I would expect there’s more to learn from old and isolated traditions than old and widespread traditions. And what I mean here are plant remedies from isolated communities. By definition, if something is widespread, it is pretty well known. Nothing to see here, move along.

    And a personal beef about all these True Christians. Why focus any energy on us atheist folks when the religious reich is giving all religions a bad name? If you aren’t trying to shove your beliefs into law, why don’t you speak out against the thumpers who are? Silence is consent.

  99. #99 Calilasseia
    July 19, 2007

    @ #91:

    Ah, the old “Stalin was an atheist” canard.

    Actually, Stalin wasn’t an “atheist” in the sense understood by those of us with critical faculties intact, he was at best an adherent to a secular theology (Marxism), and at worst a psychotic power-hungry reprobate motivated solely by self-aggrandisement who didn’t give a damn about metaphysical questions of any sort unless they provided him with tools for acquiring more power. That phrase in Das Kapital about religion being the opium of the masses wasn’t intended as a metaphysical statement, it was purely a matter of practical Machiavellian politics – namely “here is your biggest obstacle to power, set about removing it”. Which was in a sense true when Marx wrote that line, because organised religion has always been at the very least a partly political entity, though perhaps less nakedly political in more recent times than during the Dark Ages.

  100. #100 Bob
    July 19, 2007

    WRT Stalin, let me pile on. Hitler was a Catholic. He was also vegetarian (mostly). So why did he have so many people exterminated? Because he was a power hungry psychopath duh.

  101. #101 greensmile
    July 19, 2007

    Anton, thanks for the statistics. I am aware that, to use Sagan’s title, we live in a demon haunted country. But am I then perhaps also 14% correct? [that would be an improvement over my previous scores;^] I was only arguing with PZ because he wrote a blanket statement. Assualting the whole damn enterprise of religion as if every kind of person who ever sat in a pew were a fundie just polarizes. The exceptions improve the drool.

  102. #102 Chris
    July 19, 2007

    A religious person can say “I have faith that 2+2=5,” while you say “I think 2+2=4,” but neither you nor the believer can claim to have an absolute proof of correctness.

    Likewise, if I put two pebbles on the ground next to two other pebbles, I have no absolute proof that a fifth invisible, intangible pebble doesn’t appear among them. But I don’t live my daily life pondering the mystery of the fifth pebble. Until the Church of the Fifth Pebble went up across the street and started preaching about the evil and immorality of militant four-pebble-ism I didn’t bother thinking about it at all.

  103. #103 MartinM
    July 19, 2007

    But am I then perhaps also 14% correct? [that would be an improvement over my previous scores;^]

    If you were talking about the UK, perhaps. If 88.6% of the US population as a whole believe in the power of prayer, then once you remove the atheists, agnostics and any others who don’t actually pray you’re down to a few percent at most, I suspect. That’s a lot of drool. Need a towel? :P

  104. #104 Curt Cameron
    July 19, 2007

    …and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough.

    To bend over backwards to be fair, I don’t think that there are many Christians who pray for their football team to win. I think even they realize how crass and inappropriate this would be.

    But you could use the example of people who pray for God to non-metaphorically make it not rain on their wedding day. That’s just as ridiculous, and no one could argue that it doesn’t happen. In fact, it was hearing someone talking about praying for just this, early in my development as an atheist 25 years ago, that helped push me farther down this road. I would have gotten here anyway, but that sped up the process.

  105. #105 PalMD
    July 19, 2007

    Physicist is “leaving and never coming back”! 5…4…3…

  106. #106 PZ Myers
    July 19, 2007

    To bend over backwards to be fair, I don’t think that there are many Christians who pray for their football team to win.

    Then you’d be surprised. The ones who’ve got a bet on the game do; the ones who have a kid on the team do; the ones who read their bibles fervently do. There’s a spooky strain of “god wills it” in the average person’s christianity that leaks into lots of phenomena.

    What I really want is someone go give me a thorough exegesis of the subtle, metaphorical theology of the football players who prance in the end zone and point their index fingers heavenward. They aren’t really thanking the Supreme Overlord of the Cosmos for adjusting the nature of reality to allow them to make a touchdown — they are making a metaphorical gesture to the natural laws of the universe.

  107. #107 Ian H Spedding FCD
    July 19, 2007

    I’ve never met anyone who believes 2+2=5 but I was staggered to find college-level students who didn’t know the Earth orbits the Sun.

  108. #108 Bob
    July 19, 2007

    Ummm, a group of local christers (Fredericksburg area VA) prayed to have a particular teacher removed from a particular school. They meant it, and met several times to pray for it. Naturally, when said teacher left, they felt validated.

    FWIW.

  109. #109 frau im mond
    July 19, 2007

    God? Are you there? Listen, could you give me a hint on how to win a argument on Pharyngula? What’s that? There is no way? The combatants are going hammer and tongs over two fundamentally irreconciable issues? Oh…well…could I at least have a ham sandwich then?

  110. #110 Jsn
    July 19, 2007

    Frau, looks like you’re going to go hungry…

  111. #111 frau im mond
    July 19, 2007

    Happens every time I order from the God’s Will Bar & Grill…

  112. #112 Steve_C
    July 19, 2007

    Did you pray for that sandwich or did you actually have to pick up the phone?

  113. #113 Jason
    July 19, 2007

    smelly,

    Sorry, but you still haven’t explained how making an insincere request to God to fix or pevent a bad thing is supposed to be a “way to recognize” your own inability to fix or prevent it. How does it make you aware of that limitation?

    I understand that ritualized behavior (such as your “chanting” on planes) can relieve stress and bring comfort against irrational fears. But that doesn’t answer my question.

    And I think your and greensmile’s characterization of the motives or goals of most of those who pray to God is simply false, anyway. You would have us believe that it’s all done with an air of ironic detachment. They’re not really asking God to do something, they’re only going through the motions of asking him. They’re only pretending to ask him. In my experience, there is usually nothing ironic or pretend about it. The request is entirely sincere. They really do want God to produce the requested outcome.

  114. #114 Oliver
    July 19, 2007

    The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough.

    The majority of christians, however, do not live in “this country”. Believing your nation to be the axle of the world certainly isn’t a very rational line of argumentation.
    There’s how many? A bit over 300 million people in the US? That would be less than 15% of christianity.

    There is no evidence, no explanation, no mysteries which we need to fill with this superman

    there’s a lot we don’t need. There’s also quite a lot we shouldn’t do. One is abusing science for issues it was never meant to address. The great fundamental hows and whys are left to philosophy, and if someone wants to fill them with “this superman”, then science is the wrong tool to fight it.

  115. #115 Thomas
    July 19, 2007

    I personally prefer to ridicule the bible in saying that Pi = 3.

  116. #116 Pablo
    July 19, 2007

    “The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough. This god of the rarefied nebulous metaphor is the product of theologians who’ve studied the subject long and hard enough to know that the god of the people is untenable nonsense, and must be cloaked in metaphor.”

    I see this problem show up in arguments about “In God We Trust” on money and “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. They are argued to be acceptable because they are no big deal sayings and just constitute “ceremonial deism.” Odd, I figure, considering how worked up so many people get to try to protect their ceremonial deism.

    I haven’t heard too many people say they were going to their deism ceremony on Sunday, but plenty will go to “worship God.”

  117. #117 Brownian
    July 19, 2007

    Of course Frau picked up the phone.

    Don’t you people know that God helps those that help themselves?

    Or, if you’ve read the neocon bible, God helps those that help themselves (to fat recontruction contracts in the aftermath of wars that they themselves start.)

    With respect to the Physicist’s claim of ‘hacking’: no one here would hack his blog, because no one here needs to. His arguments are vacuous, weak, and are mostly a lot of hand-waving with retractions whenever he feels he’s in trouble. (Note: the poor spelling and grammar in his posts are not the result of hacking or disemvowelling; the responsibility for those lie with him alone.)

    I strongly suspect his claims of ‘hacking’ are merely setting the stage for cries of ‘foul’ when he loses his debate.

  118. #118 Steve_C
    July 19, 2007

    Science fights the deluded where necessary… as in creationsism/metaphysical woo.

    Rationality fights delusion everywhere else.

    To say that a god’s existence is a purely philosophical question is absurd. Why? Because theres’s no evidence for one?

  119. #119 Brownian
    July 19, 2007

    The majority of religious people in this country do believe in a completely non-metaphorical god, who acts non-metaphorically, who has non-metaphorical desires and plans, and who non-metaphorically wants their high school football team to win the championship, if they pray hard enough.

    The majority of christians, however, do not live in “this country”. Believing your nation to be the axle of the world certainly isn’t a very rational line of argumentation.

    Oliver, from what sentence do you infer that PZ claim that the majority of Christians live in the US?

    He talked about the “the majority of religious people in this country”. He never claimed that “the majority of religious people live in this country.”

  120. #120 tony
    July 19, 2007

    Brownian: When I read Don’t you people know that God helps those that help themselves? I couldn’t help thinking about Ken Hovind….

    he helped himself to money not his
    god helped him get to jail (so he could “do gods work” on the inmates (his letters))

    Not sure this is what it was supposed to be about, though…

  121. #121 twincats
    July 19, 2007

    PZ, you are only right in a math class way. And you have an image of religious people that smears their logic errors together with a suggestion of inescapable selfishness.

    I see loads of inescapable selfishness, not just a suggestion of it. Religious people have, and have had for a long time, “knee-jerk deference” for their beliefs. They will not give that up without a bitter, nasty fight. No group or individual who possesses that kind of power would. So, I think inescapable selfishness just about sums it up.

  122. #122 tom
    July 19, 2007

    I only had time to scan the comments so pardon any duplication. Perhaps it is good to recall what H. L. Mencken said of respect for other’s religion: “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but, only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

  123. #123 frau im mond
    July 19, 2007

    Did you pray for that sandwich or did you actually have to pick up the phone?

    Why, do you want one? But you might not like the kind of sandwiches they serve at God’s Will Bar & Grill: there’s not enough meat, waaaay too much cheese, very, very white bread, and in spite of all efforts to spice things up the product is always somewhat dry and tasteless.

    Plus they never get your order right, and when the bill comes…many find the price too high, but you gotta pay, since dine-n-dashers go straight to hell

  124. #124 slim
    July 19, 2007

    To bend over backwards to be fair, I don’t think that there are many Christians who pray for their football team to win. I think even they realize how crass and inappropriate this would be.

    Obviously you’ve never been to a Georgia-Florida game.

  125. #125 Mooser
    July 19, 2007

    Delusion, the lot of it. It really is the heroin of the masses

    Oh come on, Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?
    Heroin is much better than religion. It’s no contest.

  126. #126 tony_the_anti-christ
    July 19, 2007

    Hey, Moon-mamma: Feel free to dine-n-dash… plenty of room down below…. and we can guarantee a *warm* reception!!

  127. #127 Anton Mates
    July 19, 2007

    Anton, thanks for the statistics. I am aware that, to use Sagan’s title, we live in a demon haunted country. But am I then perhaps also 14% correct?

    Well, probably not; as MartinM says, the percentage of self-declared nonreligious Americans is close to that value. (8% in 1990, 14% around 2000, probably a little higher now). Take them out of the picture, as well as the Americans whose self-labeled religion doesn’t involve prayer (some Buddhists and Unitarians, for instance), and the set of folks who pray but don’t think they’ll get anything as a result is vanishingly small.

    I was only arguing with PZ because he wrote a blanket statement. Assualting the whole damn enterprise of religion as if every kind of person who ever sat in a pew were a fundie just polarizes.

    By that argument, what political or religious or philosophical position can you criticize? There’s always someone who identifies with that position but doesn’t do whatever it is you’re complaining about.

  128. #128 ironicname
    July 19, 2007

    Another comment with a Stalin interpretation:
    Stalin was a megalomaniac who would do anything for power. He also studied in a seminary as a kid/young man and understood what religion is and how it could be used to serve his goals. Stalin created a state religion – he took the admiration that the soviets had for Lenin and the october revolution as a base and created myths about the salvation of Russia. He then placed himself in the center of these myths and became the supreme diety of the official soviet state religion. He did it on purpose to enhance his control.
    Mao did much the same, but IIRC, he studied at a traditional confuscian academy and not at an overtly religious shchool.
    Both these guys relied on propaganda with religious overtones (salvation, follow the messiah to utopia on earth, righteous struggle against evil) and terror.

  129. #129 wrg
    July 19, 2007

    In my experience, there is usually nothing ironic or pretend about it. The request is entirely sincere. They really do want God to produce the requested outcome.

    The examples presented, including the use of language drawn from religion (“Jesus”, etc.) and wishful thinking as a response to stress, are not prayer. Those are the sorts of things that atheists raised in a religious culture might do. If prayer consisted of nothing more than that, then we’d be done: everyone’s really an atheist and doesn’t take this whole God thing seriously. That’s rather profoundly at odds with the public political acts of the faithful, the great deal of effort and expense put into religion, the privileges (including tax breaks) granted to religious enterprise, and this very conversation.

    If prayer were just a moment’s lapse into superstition to help cope, we wouldn’t have these sorts of arguments. I certainly don’t protest loudly that it’s unfair to call the irrational things I do in times of stress irrational. Know why? That’s because I don’t believe in an imaginary patriarch whom I must worship every day of my life. That Guy’s not much of a Father, anyway, as although he never calls or writes you’re damned if you don’t keep the faith.

  130. #130 Dale
    July 19, 2007

    Patrick Quigley wrote (#95)…

    “That is an interesting and potentially useful tidbit. Do you have a source that you can point me toward?”

    I had heard of this before, so searched around before posting and found Wikipedia (has a small entry on it), but the main reference I found was from http://www.isaac-newton.org.It has a pdf on his beliefs.

  131. #131 Will Von Wizzlepig
    July 19, 2007

    My two cents:

    I know, because science is demonstrably correct in most cases, that we are evolved of other creatures and that this universe is vast, complex, and difficult to comprehend even for the experts.

    But I also know that at the end of the day, the question of how this all got here or the illogical urge to ask “Why?” go unanswered.

    If you draw a circle around big bang through present day and all that incorporates, and consider it quite possibly understandable by us someday, that still leaves out some things.

    Some would tend to stick the name ‘god’ on what is outside that circle (or, better yet, on the possibility that there *is* something outside the circle), and I can’t blame them- but I’ll certainly not line up with them and pray to this fantastical abstraction of what may or may not exist.

    I have a first person shooter to play, after all, and no time for praying.

  132. #132 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Jason: I certainly hope I didn’t say or imply that *most* people pray purely as a way of expressing their helplessness. I don’t know what the proportion is, but is probably a small one. I’m saying that it’s possible to pray without any expectation, and that some people almost certainly do. I probably do sometimes (that is, use the words that sound like prayer, but aren’t). As you said, and as in the old atheist-in-a-fox-hole story, sometimes the vocalisation, the ritual, is just a comfort thing. It does not necessarily prove belief.

    Greensmile wasn’t terribly diplomatic about it, but I agree that PZ overgeneralises a little too much, and that’s what has got this blog-war going. See my first post in this thread for a (possibly) more diplomatic approach. As far as I can see, PZ himself repudiates (at least a bit) his earlier statement with this very post.

    Where I got to talking about a large proportion, perhaps a majority – and this is a bit of a side issue – is that I think a lot of religious people don’t, deep down, genuinely believe what they say they believe. They WANT to, they want to desperately, and by going through the motions vigorously enough they can fool themselves into thinking they do believe. But when the provin’ puddin’ is et, they still “sin”, they still ignore most of the directives of their “god”, and they sure as hell are afraid to die (most of ‘em).

    It’d be like someone who talks about some amazing country, where everything is perfect and wonderful, and how all you need to do is buy a cheap plane ticket and you can go there forever …but then they don’t buy the ticket, and if offered a free one will do almost anything to get out of going. Do you think this person believes what they’re saying? Pfff.

    Self delusion is a powerful force. Look at any superstition, or look at climate change / AIDS denialists. Look at perpetual motion machine investors. I strongly suspect that religion is simply the biggest denialist game in town.

    In my experience, there is usually nothing ironic or pretend about it. The request is entirely sincere. They really do want God to produce the requested outcome.

    And I really want my friend’s kid to get better when I say I hope he does. I really want my words and will to somehow effect the universe, and for all of reality to comform to my will.

    That doesn’t mean I think it will.

    The argument in this thread, afaik, was started when Greensmile said that not all people pray with the expectation that god will do anything. I think that’s pretty much self evident.

    The argument in general here in Blogistan is against PZ’s blanket statements. On one hand he says “I don’t believe that Christians are irreparably stupid or that their gullibility about god translates into some gross systemic defect in their entire ability to reason.”

    On the other he says the religious are “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims”. Not that they are acting like X, not that they are being X, but that they are X.

    These two positions do not agree. One is reasonable, one is an overgeneralisation that, as PZ’s own post here implies, is a logical fallacy.

    I should point out that PZ’s post above is great. I totally agree. But “the famous line” that triggered all the angst lately is actually *not* PZ’s repeatedly stated position. I’m not quite sure why he doesn’t simply point that out. He wrote a poorly worded line. Happens. Deal.

  133. #133 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Christ that was a long post. Sorry!

  134. #134 Jason
    July 19, 2007

    smelly,

    I agree with PZ’s statement exactly as he said it: religious people are ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed. They don’t merely “act like” they are. They actually are.

    And I don’t know why you keep harping on the fact that it’s “possible” for someone to pray for something in the kind of ironically detached sense you have described. My response is, (1) I see no evidence that that is how most people who engage in prayer view their activity, and (2) the postulated alternative explanations for praying don’t make sense. The evidence I have seen is that most theists who pray to God asking him to do something are perfectly sincere in their request. They may not expect their prayer to change anything, but they certainly seem to hope and want it to do so.

  135. #135 Anton Mates
    July 19, 2007

    The argument in general here in Blogistan is against PZ’s blanket statements. On one hand he says “I don’t believe that Christians are irreparably stupid or that their gullibility about god translates into some gross systemic defect in their entire ability to reason.”

    On the other he says the religious are “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims”. Not that they are acting like X, not that they are being X, but that they are X.

    These two positions do not agree.

    Sure they do. “Ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish or oppressed victims” is a much wider category than “stupid.” You don’t have to be stupid–or even delusional, for that matter–to be deluded in a particular belief. You don’t have to be stupid to be ignorant of the evidence against that belief, or of the lack of evidence in favor of it.

  136. #136 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Anton: If I say you are being ignorant, or if I say you are ignorant with respect to X, or if I say you are showing your ignorance, these are qualified statements. They all limit your judgement to the topic at hand, and could equally be applied to every human on earht with regards to some topic.

    But if I say you are ignorant, then I am applying this you in general. I am saying that you are an ignorant person, not just in one element of your knowledge. I am making a blanket statement on the quality of your education and/or cognitive abilities.

    Some people are ignorant. It could be argued that all Christians are ignorant with respect to some elements of their worldview, but as PZ himself argues in this post it does NOT follow that they are ignorant in general.

    Similarly, you could say they must be one of those descriptiors with respect to this element of their worldview, but it’s a different matter to say they are one of those things.

    So again, the positions do not agree.

    If it sounds like a pathetic quibble, I agree – see my original post here. It’s not worth fighting about. But they do have a point.

    Jason: I’m “harping” because greensmile said something fairly reasonable (if impolitically phrased, and possibly a little irrelevant) and the counter-arguments don’t really make sense.

    You say: I see no evidence that that is how most people who engage in prayer view their activity. I don’t care about most people. I’m saying that an activity is possible. I don’t need “most” people. I need one.

    So most of your post, with all due respect, doesn’t really say anything.

    To address the bit that does: the postulated alternative explanations for praying don’t make sense. Maybe not to you… though I don’t understand why it’s such a leap to see that an atheist can “hope”, and even couch this in terms of “prayer” (how many people say “well thank god for that” or simply put their hands together in a prayerful attitude when hoping for something?) without invoking god, but you can’t believe that believers could do the same. Why not? We are all products of our society, with rituals and forms of address provided to us.

    Take some hypotheticals: Imagine a believer who didn’t think a request was “worthy” of god’s direct intervention. Would that person suddenly change the actions and language that even an atheist might unthinkingly use, to avoid accidentally invoking the sky fairy? Not even believers think about god all the time. If they’re used to saying “I pray that happens” rather than “I hope that happens” – well, it’s not likely they’ll change that just for exceptions.

    How many believers shuffle on their knees in church, mumbling, while they think about work or sex or stunning blog-comment ripostes?

    Or what about the last prayer of a born-again atheist? The last time a believer prays, but think “hang on a second. This is a load of tosh!” Or the believer who just doesn’t think prayer does anything (after repeated evidence), but doesn’t want to rock the social boat and does it anyway?

    And finally, imagine if a believer was sitting there praying for god to smite his biology-professor neighbour. A giant Monty-Python foot suddenly stomps the house next door flat. Do you think the average believer would be a little surprised? I think so. Similarly for any prayer, imagine if a booming voice came out of the clouds and said “OK”, and did exactly as asked. I think most (or at least some) believers would be utterly stunned. Happy, yes, even vindicated and self-righteous, but almost exactly as surprised at that moment as the average atheist, I think.

    If you still say it’s impossible to pray without expectation, I’m going to call you ignorant… in this one case. :P

  137. #137 Jason
    July 19, 2007

    smelly,

    You write so much, but almost everything you say is trivial or wrong.

    Yes, it’s “reasonable” to say that it’s “possible” to pray in the ironically detached sense you described. But since the vast majority of actual prayer by actual religious believers does not seem to fit that description, the fact that it’s merely “possible” isn’t terribly relevant.

    The phrase “Thank God for that” is an idiom. It’s rarely meant to be taken as a literal expression by the speaker of thanks to God. Petitionary prayer isn’t like that. In most cases, it seems to be a sincere request to God to produce some outcome. When someone prays to God asking for their loved one to recover from some illness, it is usually done in the hope–not necessarily in the expectation, but in the hope–that the prayed for outcome will in fact happen.

    I never said “it’s impossible to pray without expectation,” or anything like that. I’m not sure why you think I did.

  138. #138 tony
    July 19, 2007

    Smelly:

    I need to disagree!

    You have unfortunately quote-mined when you state that Ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish or oppressed victims is unqualified, therefore represents an opinion of the entire state of the person thus addressed.

    The whole quote, oft repeated, includes the qualifier “of religion”.

    Your argument (on this) is thus unfounded.

  139. #139 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    I never said “it’s impossible to pray without expectation,” or anything like that. I’m not sure why you think I did.

    Then why are you arguing with me? That’s all I said.

    Way back when we were young, you disagreed with greensmile’s statement with included this:

    Do you know how many [...] consider it only a way to recognize how little is in their control…and still feel ok?

    He’s not saying everyone does, or even most do, but that some undefined proportion of believers do. One believer will do to satisfy that claim. And he’s right. The type or prayer he describes is an exact parallel of an atheist’s hope, and it is also what some people consider prayer to be. Honest. End.

    Tony: a “victim of religion” is a person. The descriptors were applied to people. The qualifier simply makes it clearer – that the people he’s talking about are the religious ones.

    Look at the post. He says the map “…shows the concentration of ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims of obsolete mythologies in the United States…”

    The map actually shows “Religious adherents as a percentage of residents”.

    He has plainly said that “religious adherents” are “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims”.

    If I had a map showing the concentration of mammals in an area, and I said “This map shows the concentration of marmosets” – wouldn’t you say I was making an unjustified overgeneralisation?

  140. #140 Caledonian
    July 19, 2007

    Not all mammals are marmosets, to put it lightly.

    But all religious believers are either ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed. Usually more than one at once.

  141. #141 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Caledonian, PZ wrote: “I do not make the logical fallacy of believing that because people are wrong in one thing, religion, they are therefore wrong in all things; I don’t believe that Christians are irreparably stupid or that their gullibility about god translates into some gross systemic defect in their entire ability to reason. I also do not equate “smartness” with “infallibility,” and know that even certifiable geniuses like Newton can also believe fervently in erroneous matters … like alchemy or Christianity.”

    …and yet you think what he actually means is that all religious believers are necessarily ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed?

    I mean, doesn’t everyone have at least one deluded or incorrect belief? Shouldn’t any scientist expect that some element of his belief will some day be proven wrong? So by this rationale everyone is ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed, and the statement becomes meaningless.

    That doesn’t make sense. That’s what I’m saying here.

    PZ says in this post that he does not make the fallacious leap to judgement on a body of people based on one data point, but then apparently does so in the earlier statement that – if taken as written – is either an unjustified accusation against all religious believers (a claim which he seems to be saying in the quote above that he’s NOT making), or completely meaningless.

    I conclude that the previous fallacious and/or meaningless statement was in error.

  142. #142 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Errr, actually, you’re right. “Deluded” and “oppressed” cover a lot of ground. I was focussing unfairly on the more judgemental bits…
    :/

    Ahem. There sit a lot of pointless words. I mean, a lot. Talk about getting carried away with an argument.

    Still right with the prayer thing, though, Jason. Not that it ever had much relevance in this thread… :P

  143. #143 PZ Myers
    July 19, 2007

    Context, smellyterror, context. It’s obvious what I was talking about, and it wasn’t about their skill as plumbers.

  144. #144 Caledonian
    July 19, 2007

    Furthermore, PZ was wrong: religious people *do* have a gross systemic flaw in their reasoning. It might be more of a result than a cause of their religious belief, but once you choose to set aside reason in order to believe what you would like to be true, the integrity of your thought becomes compromised.

  145. #145 SmellyTerror
    July 19, 2007

    Pfff, rub it in why donchya? :P

  146. #146 Anton Mates
    July 20, 2007

    But if I say you are ignorant, then I am applying this you in general. I am saying that you are an ignorant person, not just in one element of your knowledge. I am making a blanket statement on the quality of your education and/or cognitive abilities.

    Not if you’re discussing a particular area of knowledge immediately before and after your claim. If I were to say, “Those people who think George Washington had wooden teeth are ignorant,” I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m not criticizing their knowledge of nuclear physics or Iron Chef contestants. Nor am I talking about their cognitive abilities at all. I’m merely saying they don’t know the relevant facts.

    I mean, doesn’t everyone have at least one deluded or incorrect belief? Shouldn’t any scientist expect that some element of his belief will some day be proven wrong?

    Well, deluded and “incorrect” aren’t synonyms. A delusion isn’t just a false belief, but one held in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. A scientist expects that some of his beliefs will turn out to be wrong, but he’s also prepared to drop them if evidence makes that apparent.

    So no, I would not say that everyone is deluded about something. It might be quite reasonable to believe that, say, thunder is the sound of Thor’s hammer, if you knew nothing of meteorology and had never ridden in an airplane.

  147. #147 Haakon T
    July 20, 2007

    Great article PZ. It exposes the double standards of the recent articles against atheist critics. Hey it’s a double standard, it’s got to be double the value of an ordinary standard! :P

  148. #148 Caledonian
    July 20, 2007

    It might be quite reasonable to believe that, say, thunder is the sound of Thor’s hammer, if you knew nothing of meteorology and had never ridden in an airplane.

    You would still need reasonable grounds to believe that a) Thor existed, b) his hammer made a sound like thunder), and c) Thor’s hammer was actually responsible for the sound of thunder.

    That has never been the case. People made up a story that was consistent with the few facts they had, and then chose to accept it for emotional reasons.

  149. #149 xgh
    July 20, 2007

    PZ missed the point (again). It’s not about logical or scientific arguments as to whether God exists or not, or whether we can prove it or not, or whether there is evidence or not, or even whether it is rational to believe in God or not. People believe in God because it fills a great need (in most people, not everyone). If you can invent something better than great, but nobody has (yet). Until then, people like PZ are just wasting their time trying to point out how non rational it is, as if the masses of humanity are going to change their lifestyles simply because some belief is non rational! Also PZ does have a somewhat childish understanding of religion. You atheists should read up on the comments that Scott Attran made to Harris & Dawkins, two others with rather immature views on the nature of humanity and religion. Yelling ‘but there’s no evidence!’ and comparing religion to bad math is just dumb, and isn’t going to get anyone anywhere.

  150. #150 Brownian
    July 20, 2007

    xgh, that argument is tired. Maybe for some religion fills a need, but I would suggest for the vast majority religion is merely another cultural artifact handed down by their parents.

    It’s the theists whose views on theology are immature. You suggest “if you can invent something better [then] great, but nobody has (yet)” but how many actually apply this to their own religious beliefs? How do you know that there aren’t religious traditions out there that fill the needs you claim are filled even better (more efficiently, more completely, or whatever ‘better’ is supposed to mean) than whatever your belief structure is?

    There’s some sort of irony that the people who claim their belief system fulfills some deep human need invariably spend more time selecting toothpaste than they do their belief structures. If the need for religion is some fundamental human trait that atheists are hard-pressed to surmount, then how come the majority of theists are satisfied with believing whatever their parents did?

  151. #151 arensb
    July 20, 2007

    I’m surprised no one has asked Kleiman the obvious question: “What’s a meta for?”

  152. #152 ruejacobs
    July 20, 2007

    faith is an excuse for believers to belittle others while simultaneously applauding themselves for thier meek and humble natures. thier belief in god gives them a sense of personal empowerment which is a desire inheirant in the human race as a whole. that is why, unfortunately, we are stuck with the concept of religion in place of rationality.

  153. #153 Anton Mates
    July 20, 2007

    You would still need reasonable grounds to believe that a) Thor existed, b) his hammer made a sound like thunder), and c) Thor’s hammer was actually responsible for the sound of thunder.

    Which could reasonably be provided by hearsay. (Well, that and the fact that thunder does sound as much like a really big hammer as it does like anything else.) I’m sure Norsemen claimed to see Thor doing his thing about as often as Catholics see the Virgin Mary. In an age where most of the rest of the world was known only by hearsay, why wouldn’t that be sufficient?

  154. #154 Anton Mates
    July 20, 2007

    People believe in God because it fills a great need (in most people, not everyone).

    Which God? What emotional need is filled by all of the varied religions in human history, yet is incompatible with atheism? And why is the fraction of openly non-religious people steadily rising in the West? Is a recent mutation granting us all superhuman emotional self-sufficiency?

    You atheists should read up on the comments that Scott Attran made to Harris & Dawkins, two others with rather immature views on the nature of humanity and religion. Yelling ‘but there’s no evidence!’ and comparing religion to bad math is just dumb, and isn’t going to get anyone anywhere.

    It got PZ and Dawkins to atheism. Why shouldn’t it get others to draw the same conclusion? Dawkins in particular has said that his main object is to empower closet atheists.

  155. #155 roy belmont
    July 22, 2007

    “at a time when there were huge gaps on our understanding of nature and the universe”.
    There it is.
    Whatever’s really going on, the idea that the only voices in the moment that matter are the delusional sheep and the illuminated new non-superstitious human, and the contest is over before it begins because the delusionals don’t have a leg to stand on, and we’ve filled in most of those gaps by now…
    Kind of makes you wonder what’s really going on.
    Standing next to idiots like Falwell and Robertson makes even the most dull and unimaginaitive rationalists look good. The delusion is that’s all that’s happening. Win the battle against relgious stupidity and pedal-to-the-metal, let’s go!
    Those huge gaps are still here, and they’re infinite my brothers, and the fact that institutional religion is corrupt and delusional doesn’t mean jackshit against your flailing efforts to justify your own myopic anthropocentric nonsense.
    Replacing the Big Bang with some mealy-mouthed mumbo jumbo so you don’t have to confront the infinite universe and its eternal presence, and the distinct possibility that that’s generated some sort of being – almost has to have if you think seriously about it – isn’t going to get you all the way.
    Either the universe is a cold and empty void, save this local and transient warmth and some few islands of anthro-parallel worlds here and there, or it isn’t. There’s no reason to think it is, and much to suggest the opposite. But then we’d lose that all-permissive sense of being sui generis and alone with our little bags of tools at the crest of evolutions inevitable wave, wouldn’t we?
    Where we are is beyond our ken, the more you learn about things the more obvious that becomes, until the sheer magnitude of the abyss threatens to overwhelm you, if you look and don’t turn away. Not that the effort isn’t heroic, just that it’s never going to achieve culmination without something a lot like religious enlightenment. Understanding that’s not autistic and insectile.
    At that confrontation with the abyss most weak minds scuttle back toward some safe haven of rationalization and comforting illusion. One such most obvious here is that the pricking of asinine beliefs makes the absence of belief the only way through. Progress is not inevitable, nor is its course. Knowing how far the fall would be has no real merit for the tightrope walker, in fact it’s cpounter-productive. Pandora’s box resonates all these centuries down the line.
    What you’re helping to create is going to eat you and everything you hold dear.
    Blame it on the fundamentalists, they’re surely a horrible pain in the ass and most immediately dangerous indeed. But your own failures and inabilities are what’s going to doom you.
    Maybe you could stop using them to bolster your own ignorance and make it look like knowing.

  156. #156 Paul Powee
    July 24, 2007

    Newton said that “If I can see further than others it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants”. We stand on the shoulders of Newton, Einstein, Darwin and others and so we know better than Newton. Old Isaac would have been appalled at the implication that we cannot improve our knowledge and do better then those who came before us.

    Besides, it’s not a matter of being smarter than the likes of Newton but of having superior knowledge, as intellects great and (merely) brilliant advance our understanding.

  157. #157 Keith Douglas
    July 24, 2007

    Yet another person trying to point the compatibility between theism and smarts and points to at least three people who were theists, yes, but not orthodox believers of the ambient religion – and Socrates even was killed for it!

    Jason: It is supposed to be, according to some at least, an expression of our most deep and profound feelings. I don’t know why telling a dear friend that you love her doesn’t count, and why it has to be wrapped in bafflegab.

  158. #158 Rayed Darwish
    July 26, 2007

    If Jesus were real, and he came down to earth today, would he embrace the schism within Christianity or cry for its fractured soul?

  159. #159 Thomas McCay
    July 28, 2007

    Personally I grow weary of the believer who insists that he or she is one of the “true” believers not to be confused with the great majority of apparently “untrue” believers.

    It is often an attempt to avoid relevant discussion via misdirection and feigning innocence. A way of avoiding the argument that belief itself is the problem, not any specific set of religious beliefs.

    It is also a silly plea for respect where it is not deserved.

  160. #160 xgh
    July 31, 2007

    “xgh, that argument is tired. Maybe for some religion fills a need, but I would suggest for the vast majority religion is merely another cultural artifact handed down by their parents.”

    Nice theory, but not supported by the facts. In every society, even Communist Russia where religion was heavily supressed, religion is making a comeback. The leaders of the enlightenment thought everybody would turn atheist, but it hasn’t happened. If you remove religion, even crazier religions step in to fill the void. Even worse, compare recently created religions to the older religions, e.g. compare Scientology to Judaism – Scientology is way crazier, and has some very dubious practices. The old liberal religions have had 2000+ years of maturing to improve themselves. We are much better off with these established religions than with a void which could be filled by who knows what. Your best bet is to encourage those liberal religions which basically have decent morality and values (obviously thats all very subjective but then so are atheistic values) and which are pro science. This is the exact opposite of Sam Harris’s argument and rightly so.

  161. #161 Limbo
    August 21, 2007

    I recommend everyone watch The Power of Myth series by Joseph Campbell on google video.

  162. #162 Limbo
    August 21, 2007

    Oh, I forgot to add. After you watch the series, if you have any questions about religion, myth, or metaphor come visit me here:

    http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=21215

  163. #163 rafael
    December 5, 2007

    AUTHENTIC RECORD AND GEOLOGY SCIENTIS CAN’T CALCULATE THE AGE OF THE EARTH.
    The subject of evolution among those who understand it, they must be aware that there is the danger of excessive subjectivity concerning one owns knowledge. This is not healthy, is a means of cultivating the mind with vain thoughts, and be fill with self examination. Is better, to be objective. The subject of evolution is easy to refute but difficult for man to apprehend. Evolution was a psychological, economical, sociological, political, philosophical, atheist; theory that has gotten into the cosmos (grk. world system) is thought everywhere. This theory is having its end in a microscopic world. Darwin called evolution of species, cells and his follower’s genes or DNA.
    Wiseman said: ‘even one who, like myself, has been for many years a convinced adherent of the theory of selection, can only reply: We assume so, but cannot prove it in any case. It is not upon demonstrative evidence that we champion the doctrine of selection as scientific truth; we base our arguments on quite other grounds’ (1870).
    Jacques Barzun In our century, said: Darwinism has triumphed as an orthodoxy, as a rallying point of innumerable scientific, philosophical, and social movements Mr. Darwin became the oracle, as Barzun suggests, and the Origin of Species the fixed point with which Evolution moved the world`(1930).
    Darwinism was accepted by eugenics which was Hitler idealism or dream, never accomplished in Germany but applied in North America, where is up to now working, nevertheless the biggest lied on humanity is ending microscopic world. Evolutionist as well those who support the design theory have fall into this category cells, DNA manipulation, little machines, it can get as little as the micro lenses can get. The fact is DNA manipulation does not exist. In plants where is the effects of manipulating a fruit plant by means of DNA? Why a blueberry is always small, big orange size would be nice. What about the clones like dolly, the fact is that never a clone has taken place.
    And that we have X and Y genes which are combined in males as well in females , allow me to say one thing X and Y in genetics are symbolism they mean something so it must be interpreted, is like and abstract picture which is observe by a paint collector and find the meaning in the symbolisms that he sees , others see something else and others nothing point in fact everyone sees what they understand , this is the principle in symbolisms.
    When this principle is applied of X and Y in referring to male and females and states u have 50% of woman to a male, and to say a woman 5o% or a combination XXXX and YYYY the assumption of that teaching will cause a big impact in the life of the person, if thought in the school, it will have a ambiguous effects X and Y in math’s science are empirical measurements never in human genes. Male are 100% male and female 100% female. In the last years Darwinism who lowers mankind to the status of animals has told the world psychologically that symbolism can be as math or measurements there is not a reasonable explanation, therefore not scientific knowledge.
    And who can say what is the IQ level of a person, can be measure what are the roots and the methods apply a group of teacher did it in the
    History of the I.Q. Test

    Although the literature emphasizes that Charles Darwin was Galton’s older half cousin, and Galton’s penance toward the involvement of heredity in intelligence was prompted by the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species (Clark, 1979; Davis & Rimm, 1989; Howley, Howley, & Pendarvis, 1986), Galton’s predisposition toward a heredity controlled intellect was set much earlier.
    From infancy, Francis Galton was programmed for and expected to be successful. He was the youngest of seven children in a wealthy, prominent English family.
    When Galton eventually entered the larger realm of education beyond his home at age eight, he discovered that there were others who could perform academically better than he. During the next ten years he watched his scholastic aspirations for greatness evaporate. Although he did well, he failed to earn the highest honors. This phenomenon was inconceivable to him, since he had grown up with all the social advantages. He began searching for an alternative rationale for his limited greatness. The conclusion he eventually drew was that there must be some innate difference between those whose achievement went beyond his and him. The ground work was set for his later work in intelligence theory and testing..

    Because Galton did not believe education was a key factor in intelligence, the only hope he saw for “improving society” was to develop a genetically superior breed of humans. He went so far as to propose that the state arrange and support a eugenics program which would develop a superior breed (Fancher, 1985). Since individuals usually do not attain eminence until middle age, he needed to find a way to assess an individual’s intelligence earlier, while he or she was still at childbearing age. This led to his attempt to measure intelligent

    In an 1883 article entitled “Le ?Raisonnement dans les Perceptions,” (Reasoning in Perception) published in Revue Philosophique Binet wrote:
    The operations of the intelligence are nothing but diverse forms of the laws of association: “all psychological phenomena” revert to these forms, be they apparently simple, or recognized as complex. Explanation in psychology, in the most scientific form, consists in showing that each mental fact is only a particular case of these general laws. (Fancher, 1985, p. 52)
    Binet began working with Charles Fere’ under the direction of Jean Martin Charcot on the relationship between hysteria and hypnosis. Charcot believed the in-depth study of a few subjects was preferable to working with a large sample of subjects.
    The case study approach left an impression on Binet. The experiments in hysteria and hypnosis that Binet and Fare’ conducted with a subject named Blanche Whitman were tainted with poor design and were eventually discredited because the two had failed to recognize the subject’s sensitivity to unintentional suggestion. Despite public humiliation, Binet had learned case-study method well from Charcot while at the Salpetriere Hospital. He also managed to produce three books and 20 articles on topics as esoteric as sexual fetishism, illusions of movement, and child psychology (Fancher, 1985).
    In 1908 the first IQ test was done 25 kids achieve 140 of IQ 40 kids 90 and the poor 75IQ” This kind of measure of intelligence it’s entirely psychological.

    The reality is that nobody can measure the can measure the intelligence, so how smart we are? and account said that the first man that was created and love his creator was trusted to Govern the whole world, God entrusted him to do this job , he was not only the governor of the earth, but he had dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the earth and all living creatures he was not lazy but a hard working man this was his normal power, he never got tired after he work .
    Intellectually was able to name not to read from a book, to give the name to all animals so he was intelligent to the utmost and was rich in memory , rationality and had a tremendous administrators powers, so about being intelligent nobody told him, nowhere his IQ was measure he acted in the way he was created, that was that way he was made 100%man and his woman 100% woman.
    He loved the God that is in Gen chapt 1, John chapt1

    Regarding the universe its scientific explanation, the meaning it was made, how the microscopic world interact with the cosmic universe please go to the following site

    http://theatheistofdelusion.blogspot.com/

    Please pay attention to this.

    Rafael.
    Nee.
    We believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God, and every word of it is inspired. A very grievous thought in the mind of godly ones is that men have despised and opposed His Word. God’s children are grieved because men do not respect God’s statutes. Among the sixty-six books of the Bible, Genesis has been subjected to the most doubt. Those who oppose the Bible often try to overturn God’s clear revelation with geological ages and prehistoric discoveries. The evidences in geology prove to them that the earth has been in existence for tens of thousands of years, and that the record of six thousand years of history in the Bible is untrustworthy. In the name of science, the world hurls its attacks on the book of Genesis. Many dear brothers in the Lord are not that scholarly (the author being one of them) and become lost in this storm. Although geology does not form part of our meditation, for the benefit of all, we will study the Word of God by the Lord’s grace at the commencement of our meditation and will consider how perfect is His Word, so that we can silently behold His beauty in His presence. Genesis is God’s revelation, while geology is man’s invention. God knows the whole truth. As such, His revelation can never be wrong. Man only sees in part. As such, his conjectures are not accurate. When we place Genesis side by side with geology, we should follow Genesis and not geology, because it is God who stands behind Genesis. If there are any basic differences between Genesis and geology, the error must be on the side of geology. The authority of the Bible is undisputed. Everything that is contrary to the Bible is wrong. Thank God our Father that He has given us such a complete revelation. If there are any incompatibilities between God and man, we would rather give up man and accept God. If there is no incompatibility, should not feeble human beings all the more believe in the revelation from heaven? Men often laugh at the ridiculous stories of creation circulated among the Chinese, the Babylonians, and other countries. No scientist has to spend much effort to refute these myths. The reason is that there is not much weight to these traditions. This is why they have not attracted much attention. But men’s attitudes towards the Bible are very different. The very fact that they have tried their best to resist the Bible proves the power of the Bible. They cannot treat the Bible the same as the traditions of the nations because they have recognized the extraordinary nature of the Bible. All those who have read Genesis 1 cannot fail to marvel at the beauty of its record. How ordinary it is, yet how marvelous! It is a plain record and contains no theory or arguments to prove its authenticity. The writer of the book was not bound by the book, but was transcendent above its record. The true author of the book is the One who is far above the universe it describes–God. Had the recorder of the book, Moses, written this book according to his own learning and ideas, his thoroughly Egyptian-trained intellect would surely have been influenced by the Egyptian theory of creation. Yet who can detect a trace of Egyptian philosophy in Genesis 1? Why is this? It is because God was the One who inspired Moses to do the writing. Otherwise, how could Moses know that the land came out of the water? This is, of course, a fact established by geology and is a modern discovery. Had Moses not been inspired, it would be difficult to explain this fact. As to the development of life on earth, although the Bible does not support the theory of evolution, it does not altogether reject the fact that there was a progression. First, there were aquatic organisms, and then there was man. Would not a scientist marvel at the record of Moses? The omniscient God must surely have given inspiration according to facts; those who were inspired by such an omniscient God cannot be in error. Yet the Bible is not a textbook of science. Its goal is to guide sinners “unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). Nevertheless, the Bible does not contain any scientific errors. If there are any contradictions with science, it is either a misinterpretation of the Scripture or a misjudgment of science. Many of the definitive statements by geologists in the past have been overturned! Many of their assertions have been proven wrong. Cummings said, “Geology has made mistakes in the past. It is possible that it will be wrong again. The hasty and loud assertions by those who are not too familiar with its theories may be proved inaccurate again.”Since the Bible is not a science textbook, it only mentions the “what’s” of creation without mentioning the “whys.” Science is interested in the “whys.” Of course, in many cases it is successful in doing this. But one must not overturn the “what’s” with theoretical “whys” just because man’s finite mental research has come into conflict with God’s record. What God said are the facts because He knows everything. If the world wants to study what God has said and why He has said it, it must not hold on to its own ideas while rejecting God’s authority. It is a good thing to have wisdom, but there is one kind of foolishness which is more blessed. Among Christians, there is a popular theory that Genesis 1:1 is a kind of general introduction, and that the work of the six days is actually an expansion of the record of verse 1. In other words, they consider the words “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” as merely a subject of Genesis 1. They say that in the first sentence the writer wrote down a summary of what he was about to say, after which he went at length into an explanation of this sentence. After telling us that God created the heaven and the earth, Genesis goes on to tell us the condition of the earth after creation, and how He created light, air, the land, the plants, and the animals day by day. This popular theory considers Genesis 1 as a record of the creation of the universe, and that the universe was created out of desolation. If we study the first chapter of the Bible carefully, we will see the error in this supposition! This erroneous supposition, not the Bible itself, has put the church into a great debate with the world. This supposition gives men the excuse to say that Genesis is incompatible with geology and casts doubts in the minds of many young people concerning the accuracy of the Bible. In Hebrew, the original language, there are altogether seven words in Genesis 1:1. Each of these seven words has independent meanings. God’s inspired record does not say that at the beginning of time, God molded the heavens and the earth into being, or that He made them out of some elements. It says that the heavens and the earth were created. How clear is the word created! To create is to make something out of nothing; it is to create something out of void. It is not to make something out of some existing elements. The word create is Bara in the original language. “In the beginning , God Bara the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The word Bara is used three other times in Genesis 1 and 2: (1) “And God created (Bara) great whales, and every living creature that moved, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (v. 21). (2) “So God created (Bara) man in his own image” (v. 27a). (3) “In it he had rested from all his work which God created (Bara) and made” (2:3b).To create is to make something out of nothing. The great whales and every living creature do not have an outward body only, but a life-element within them. The only way that this can be done is through God’s direct work of creation. This is why it says that God created the great whales and every living creature (1:21). There is a very good reason for the Bible to say “created” instead of “made.” In the same way, although man’s body was made from the dust, 2:7 tells us that man has a spirit and a soul which cannot be made from any physical material. This is why the Bible says that God created man according to His own image. In Genesis 2 there are three words for the act of creation: (1) Bara, which means to make something out of nothing. We have covered this briefly. (2) Asah, which means to make. This word is very different from the first. Bara is to make something out of nothing, while asah means that there is some raw material first, and then something is made out of the raw material. A carpenter can make a chair, but he cannot create a chair. In describing most of the work during the six days, this word is used. (3) Yatsar, which means to complete, has the sense of a potter molding a piece of clay into shape. This is the word used for formed in 2:7. Isaiah 43:7 shows the relationship between these three words: “Everyone who is called by my name, / whom I have created, formed, and even made for my glory.” To create is to make something out of nothing, to form is to mold into shape, and to make is to work from some material. Genesis 1:1 uses the word Bara. The phrase in the beginning is a further proof that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. There is no need of any hypothesis. Since God has said this, man should believe. If man wants to fathom God’s work in the beginning with his finite mind, he will only expose his own presumptuousness! “By faith we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God” (Heb. 11:3). Furthermore, who can answer God’s challenge to Job concerning the creation? God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning. The heaven does not refer to the heaven that surrounds our earth but rather to the heaven of the stars. This “heaven” has not changed since the creation of the universe. Although the heaven has never changed, the condition on earth has changed! If we want to understand Genesis 1, it is very important to differentiate between the earth in verse 1 and the earth in verse 2. The condition of the earth in verse 2 was not the condition at the beginning of God’s creation. In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, His creation was perfect. God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore, the condition of void and confusion in verse 2 was not the original condition at the time of God’s creation. How could God possibly have created an earth that was void and without form? We can answer this question by reading one verse alone. “For thus says Jehovah, / Who created the heavens– / He is the God / Who formed the earth and made it; / He established it; / He did not create it waste, / But He formed it to be inhabited: / I am Jehovah and there is no one else” (Isa. 45:18). How clear this is! The word waste in this verse is the same as the word without form in Genesis 1:2, which thou are in Hebrew. Unfortunately, translators of the Bible have not used the same word in both places. “He did not create it [the earth] without form.” Why then does Genesis 1:2 say that “the earth was without form”? It is easy to find the solution. In Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth that God created then was not void and without form. Later there was a cataclysm, and the earth became without form and void. Verse 3 does not refer to the original creation, but to a restored earth. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and then during the six days, He re-created the world. The world in Genesis 1:1 was the original world, while the world in 1:3 is our present world. Genesis 1:2 describes the transitional condition of desolation after the initial world and prior to our present world. We do not base our explanation on Isaiah 45:18 alone (even though Isaiah 45:18 alone is sufficient as a proof). We have other evidences. According to Bible scholars, in Hebrew the first word in verse 2 is a conjunction, which should be translated as and. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void.”The “and,” according to Hebrew usage–as well as that of most other languages–proves that the first verse is not a compendium of what follows, but a statement of the first event in the record.
    For if it were a mere summary, the second verse would be the actual commencement of the history, and certainly would not begin with a copulative. A good illustration of this may be found in the fifth chapter of Genesis (Gen. 5:1). There the opening words, “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” are a compendium of the chapter, and, consequently, the next sentence begins without a copulative. — G.H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, p. 31.
    “Therefore, what follows in Genesis 1:2 is not a detailed explanation of the record in 1:1, but an independent, distinct, and later event”. The creation of the heavens and the earth is one thing, and the earth becoming without form and void is another. Later we will explain why the earth became void and without form. About a hundred years ago, Dr. Chalmers pointed out that the word was in “the earth was without form” should be translated became. Dr. I.M. Haldeman, G.H. Pember, and others also pointed out that this word is the same as the word became used in Genesis 19:26. “And she became a pillar of salt.” If the same word is translated became in 19:26, why should it not be translated the same way here? Even the word became in 2:7 is the same word as in 1:2. Therefore, it is not hypothetical to translate 1:2 the following way: “And the earth became without form.” When God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was not without form and void. Later it became such. Let us read a few more verses:”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea,
    and all that in them is” (Exo. 20:11). Comparing these two verses, we can see that the world in Genesis 1:1 was very different from the world in 1:3. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, but in the six days, God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. There is a vast difference between create and make. One is to have something from nothing, while the other is to improve the things that are in existence. The world can make, but it cannot create, while God can both create and make. This is why Genesis says that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Later because of the cataclysm, the earth became desolate, and “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exo. 20:11).Second Peter 3:5 through 7 says the same thing. The heavens and the earth in verse 5 are the heaven and the earth in Genesis 1:1. Verse 6 speaks of the world flooded with water, which is the earth that was without form and void and that was under the water in Genesis 1:2. “The heavens and earth now” in verse 7 is the restored world after Genesis 1:3. There is a clear difference between God’s work in the six days and His work of creation at the beginning. The more we read Genesis 1, the more we will see that our explanation above is the proper one. In the first day light was called into being. Before the first day there was already land, but it was “without form and void” and was buried in the deep under the water. On the third day God did not create the land; He merely caused it to appear. F.W. Grant said that the work of the six days merely put a new order to the earth; it did not create something out of nothing. The earth was there already. The Bible never says that the earth was created during the six days. Grant also said, “At which point did the first day begin? Some may think that it began from desolation. Yet this is not true. The `evening’ on the first day indicates light had been there since the beginning. `The darkness he called Night,’ yet the `evening’ is a darkness that is already under the control of light.”In the first day God did not create the light; He merely caused the light to appear on the darkened earth. In the same way in the second day, He did not create the heaven. The heaven there was not the heavens, but the atmospheric “heaven” which surrounds the earth. This was not created then. Where then did the atmosphere come from? Our answer is that it was created in verse 1. Therefore, there was no need now to create; there was only the need to restore.”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” There is no detailed discussion here. We do not know if the primordial world was created in an instant or became what it was through an endless period of time. We do not know if it was completed in a few thousand years or millions of years. We do not know the shape and the size of it. All that we know is that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” We do not know how many years there were between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. We do not know how long ago God created the heaven and the earth, and we do not know how many years after the creation of the primordial world did the desolation of verse 2 occur. But we believe that there was a long period of time between the perfect creation at the beginning and the later change into something that was without form and void.”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” How much later was it that “the earth became without form and void”? We cannot tell. But we know one thing: there was a long gap between the two expressions. This long gap between the first two verses of Genesis covers the whole prehistoric period. But from verse 3 until now there are less than six thousand years. Since we have proved that there is a big gap between the first two verses of the Bible, all the years which geology demands to exist and all the geological periods associated with these years can fall within this period. We do not know how much time passed on the earth and how many changes occurred on the earth’s surfaces and in the atmosphere before there was the condition of void and formlessness; the Bible does not say anything about it. But we can say for sure that the Bible never says that our earth is only six thousand years old. The Bible only testifies that there are six thousand years of human history. If the Bible has not said something, science can conjecture all it wants. But science cannot form conjectures on what the Bible has already said. After we understand the first two verses of the Bible, we can be assured that there is no contradiction between the Bible and geology. All the attacks by geology on the Bible are beating the air. How wonderful is the Word God has written! We are not saying this to please science. God’s revelation never wavers before man. We do not give up the Bible’s authority in order to accommodate man’s inventions. If there are any contradictions between the Bible and science, (and we would expect there to be some, because fleshly man is always at enmity with God), we have no intention to reconcile and annul these differences. The above assertion was not proposed after some geological discoveries, in an effort to reconcile the Bible with science. There were men in the ancient church who spoke about this. At that time, geology was not yet in existence! When men like St. Augustus interpreted Genesis, the world did not yet have the term geology! A Christian does not trust in human wisdom, but in God’s Word. We need nothing other than the sure rock of the Bible. As long as we have the “it is written” (Matt. 4:6) in the Scripture, everything is solved. Unfortunately, many apologetics have forgotten their ground; they change the words of the Scripture to accommodate man’s teaching. An example is given by A.W. Pink, who noted that after the translation of a certain Assyrian tablet, the apologetics enthusiastically reported that much of the Old Testament history was verified! This turns things upside down! Does the Word of God need verification? If the record on the Assyrian tablet coincides with that of the Bible, it only shows that the Assyrian tablets have no historical error. If they do not agree, it merely proves that the tablets are in error. Worldly men and vain scientists will of course scorn at our logic. But this only goes to demonstrate God’s Word which says, “But a soul’s man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he is not able to know them because they are discerned spiritually” (1 Cor. 2:14). We must never lower ourselves to appease men. It seems like a good idea to change the Bible to suit man’s taste, but doing so changes the true nature of the Bible. How wonderful is Genesis 1! It devotes only one verse to the description of the first creation! It uses only one verse to describe the desolation of the world! This is far less than the thirty or so verses that describe the restoration of the world! Who can come up with a composition that matches the record of Genesis 1? The subject is difficult, yet the explanation is clear; the facts span a long time, yet the description is simple. It does not talk about science, yet it is scientifically accurate. Who except God can compose such writing? The reason God did not say more than this is that He only intended to show man His own relationship with man. J.N. Darby said: This revelation from God is not a history by Him of all that He has done, but what has been given to man for his profit, the truth as to what he has to say to. Its object is to communicate to man all that regards his own relationship with God…But historically the revelation is partial. It communicates what is for the conscience and spiritual affections of man…Thus no mention is made of any heavenly beings…Thus also, regards this earth, except the fact of its creation, nothing is said of it beyond what relates to the present form of it. — The Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, reprinted 1970, p. 9.Indeed, God’s revelation is not given to satisfy human curiosity, but to manifest His Godhead, the world’s sinfulness, the way of salvation, and the coming glory and judgments. The present worldly knowledge is indeed dangerous. Unless God bestows grace on man, man would boast in himself and use the knowledge he acquires as a basis to oppose God. How difficult it is for an intellectual person to humble himself! Man can search for knowledge as much as he wants. But God will not supplement this with His revelation. This is why He does not say much in Genesis 1. Our present need is not more science, but deeper spiritual fellowship. Only this will reap real fruit in eternity. We have to praise God the Father because He is full of love! He not only created us, but re-created us, and made us a new creation in the Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus! How sweet is this name! God has given us His Son. What a marvelous grace this is!
    THE ORIGINAL WORLD AND AFTERWORDS DESOLATION
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth perfect. Later, after an unknown period of time, the earth which was originally good became waste and empty, without any life whatsoever. God then rose up to recreate the world; He restored the desolate world in six days. In the next chapter we will study the work of the six days. Now we will consider why the world became desolate. How could God allow the work of His hands to be destroyed? Why did such a catastrophe come upon the once beautiful earth? There is probably no other reason besides sin. The question we are considering has no perfectly clear explanation in the Bible. Nevertheless, we can find many shimmering lights in the Word of God which will enlighten us concerning this question and which will enable us to have a little more understanding concerning the former world and the cause of its desolation. Only the Word of God can guide us and our thoughts. The understanding of His Word, regardless of the question being discussed, always brings us edification. The greatest vanity is the reasoning’s in man’s mind which do not rest on the foundation of God’s Word. Although in reading Genesis 3 we cannot find Satan’s name, we all know that the serpent was Satan’s vessel and perhaps was even the embodiment of the devil. Revelation 12:9 say, “And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan, he who deceives the whole inhabited earth.” Genesis 1 gives no record of the creation of Satan. Where did he come from? This is a problem. Furthermore, we can see many evil spirits in both the Old and New Testaments; we meet them even more frequently in the Gospels. Where did they come from? We also do not see the creation of angels in the six days of work in Genesis 1. Where, then, did the angels who are frequently mentioned in the Bible come from? These questions are all related to our subject. Since the creation of the angels and the other supernatural beings is not recorded in Genesis 1, which covers the work of God during six days, we know that they were not created during that time. Since they were not created within these six days, when were they created? The only explanation is that they were creatures of the former world–the original, perfect world. As the fossil remains clearly show, not only were disease and death–inseparable companions of sin–then prevalent among the living creatures of the earth, but even ferocity and slaughter. And the fact proves that these remains have nothing to do with our world; since the Bible declares that all things made by God during the Six Days were very good, and that no evil was in them till Adam sinned…Since, then, the fossil remains are those of creatures anterior to Adam, and yet show evident tokens of disease, death, and mutual destruction, they must have belonged to another world and have a sin-stained history of their own, a history which ended in the ruin of themselves and their habitation. — G. H. Pember, Earth’s Earliest Ages, 1942, reprinted 1975, pp. 34-35.By reading Jeremiah 4:23-26, we see the reason why the earth became waste and emptiness. Verse 26 says that it was due to “His [Jehovah's] burning anger.” Why was the Lord so angry? It was probably because of the sin of the creatures at that time. Isaiah 24:1 says that “Jehovah now makes the earth desolate.” Why would the Lord destroy the earth of His original creation? Judging from the history of our own world, we can answer that it was probably because of the sin of the earth’s inhabitants which forced God to judge them. We have said before that when we read Genesis, we do not see the origin of Satan. As we look into the cause of earth’s desolation in the beginning, our mind will naturally think “an enemy has done this” (Matt. 13:28). Other than attributing the cause to Satan, it seems that we cannot find any other clues in the Bible. We will study a portion of the Bible which seems to tell us the origin of God’s enemy and thereby we may know the condition of the former world and the cause of its becoming desolate. Let us now read Ezekiel 28:1-19. These nineteen verses are divided into two sections: (1) verses 1-10 concern the prophet’s warning to the prince of Tyrus, and (2) verses 11-19 concern the prophet’s lamentations upon the king of Tyrus. The first section, a word to the prince of Tyrus, is easy to understand. He was exalted with pride, considered himself God, and thought that he was wiser than Daniel. Due to his progress in commerce, he became puffed up. Therefore God punished him, causing him to be slain and destroyed by the terrible of the nations. Soon after this prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans came and destroyed Tyre. Josephus believed that the prince of Tyrus was Ithobalus, who was called Ithobaal II in the history of the Phoenicians. Since we know that this prophecy has already been fulfilled, it is not difficult for us to interpret verses 1 through 10. But when we read on from verses 11 through 19, we find many places that we do not understand. Since this portion of the Word is very much related to the subject which we are studying now, we quote the text in full: Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou seals up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou was created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covered; and I have set thee so: thou was upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more (Ezek. 28:11-19).This section is indeed hard to understand, for it contains many expressions which cannot be applied to any mortal man. If the “king of Tyrus” were only a mortal man, how could we explain the things in verses 11 through 15? How could the king of Tyrus have been in the Garden of Eden or upon the holy mountain of God? How could he have been the anointed cherub that covered the ark? None of the things mentioned here had been the experience of the king of Tyros’. We cannot explain this section simply by spiritualizing it. It is unfair if we spiritualize the interpretation of a section when we encounter difficulties in it. I believe that the first section (vv. 1-10) addressed to the prince of Tyros’ was a word spoken to King Ithobalus II, and the second section (vv. 11-19), the lamentation upon the king of Tyros’, denotes the coming Antichrist. Verse 2 of this chapter speaks of Tyro “in the midst of the seas.” By reading Daniel 11:41-45, we know that when the coming Antichrist will be in Palestine, perhaps he will dwell at Tyro. That is why he was called the king of Tyro here. Moreover, Antichrist is Satan incarnate; therefore, numerous expressions in this section refer to Satan himself. Mr. Darby said, “Verses 11-19, while continuing to speak of Tyro, go, I think, much farther, and disclose, though darkly, the fall and the ways of Satan, become through our sin the prince and god of this world.” Dr. A. C. Gaebelein also said that the king of Tyro is a type of the last great sinner (Antichrist), that behind this evil king, we see another power that is Satan; Satan was the power behind the king of Tyros’ then, and he still is the god of this age now, who rules the nations of this world. If we have studied the Scriptures carefully, we will realize that the justification for merging Satan and Antichrist in this passage into one being is not contrary to the general teachings of the Scriptures. We know that, although human beings have their own will, their walk is either directed by God’s operating (Phil. 2:13) or by the operating of the evil spirits (Eph. 2:2). Human beings are never totally free. Ordinarily, human beings are under the control of the evil spirits. Sometimes, in important matters, Satan himself, in addition to the working of evil spirits, will also participate in the work. Hence, we see him personally coming to tempt Christ in the wilderness. Later, in trying to hinder Christ from going to the cross, he personally used Peter. After that, in attempting to destroy Christ, he entered into Judas. Eventually, on the world stage he will be united to Antichrist. Scripture says that the works of Antichrist are “according to Satan’s operation” (2 Thess. 2:9); it is Satan who “gave him his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). Since Antichrist is the incarnated devil, the Holy Spirit speaks of him together with Satan in this passage. In these few verses, the superhuman aspects all refer to Satan himself, and the remainder to Antichrist. Since our purpose is not to study the question of Antichrist, but to know the creatures of the former world and the cause of its desolation, we shall put aside the verses in this portion concerning the Antichrist and concentrate on Satan, who is related to our subject. Now let us consider the words that refer to Satan. Ezekiel 28:12 says that Satan (Note: “Satan” is the name used after he had sinned; he was called the “son of the dawn” and also “Daystar” or “Lucifer” (Isa. 14:12) before his fall. “Satan,” which means “adversary,” is his name after the fall. For the sake of convenience, we shall call him Satan in the following paragraphs.) “Sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” This depicts his condition before he had sinned. He was superior to all the other angels. Phrases like “sealest up the sum,” “full of,” and “perfect” reveal that he was the greatest of all the creation. God had put him above all the creation. Being “full of wisdom” probably refers to his understanding of God’s will; if this is true, he might have had the office of a prophet already. The first part of Ezekiel 28:13 says, “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering.” When we read Genesis 3, we indeed see Satan there. However, he was not being covered by “every precious stone”; he was tempting Adam and Eve. Hence, the two gardens of Eden are not of the same time. In Adam’s Garden of Eden, Satan had fallen, whereas here, it clearly depicts the situation before his fall. Hence, the garden of Eden here must be earlier than the one at Adam’s time. If so, then it must not have belonged to the present world but to the previous one. This Garden of Eden, like the coming New Jerusalem, had many precious stones, such as sardius, beryl, etc. The Garden of Eden where Adam lived was not like this. The Bible focuses only on the trees and does not say anything concerning their being covered with precious stones. Hence, the Garden of Eden here must be different from that of Adam and is much earlier. His being covered with the precious stones reminds us of the precious stones on the priest in Exodus. He probably had been appointed by God to be a priest. The latter half of the verse says, “The workmanship of thy tablets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee.” In the Bible musical instruments are used by kings. We see how David played the harp for king Saul. When the king of Babylon was destroyed, the sound of his lutes were said to be brought down to Sheol (Isa. 14:11). And when the king of Babylon was pleased, various musical instruments were played (Dan. 3). Satan was a king at that time and these musical instruments were given to him by God. The first half of Ezekiel 28:14 says that he is “the anointed cherub that covered.” Anointed indicates that he is consecrated. The work of the cherubim is to lead men to worship the Lord (Rev. 4:9-10; 5:11-14). Therefore, his work in the beginning was also to lead the creatures at that time in the worship of God. This also refers to his priesthood. The latter part of verse 14 says that he was “upon the holy mountain of God” and had “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” The holy mountain of God probably is the place where God’s glory is manifested. As the priest of God, he would, of course, stand before Him to minister. What does it mean to walk “up and down in the midst of the stones of fire”? Ezekiel 1:26 reveals that the position of the cherubim is below the throne. Now when Moses took seventy of the elders of Israel up the mountain of Sinai, “they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness…And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount” (Exo. 24:10, 17). The paved work of sapphire stone in the appearance of devouring fire probably was “the stones of fire.” This indicates that Satan enjoyed a very high place, right below the throne of God, and was very intimate with God. Verse 15 says that he was perfect in his ways from the day that he was created, but that later God found iniquity in him. All of God’s creation was perfect; God is not the author of sin. Iniquity was initiated by the archangel who sinned. He was created and given a free will by God just as we were. Unfortunately God’s created angel abused his freedom! And how many people are still following his footsteps! The first part of verse 16 says that by the multitude of his merchandise they have filled his midst with violence, and he has sinned. We may refer this word solely to Antichrist. During the end time commerce will be very prosperous (Rev. 18). Many sinful things will be brought in because of this. This can be proven by history.Nevertheless; the same clause may be applied to Satan. Mr. Pember points out that “the word translated `merchandise’ may also…signify `detraction’ or `slander’; and we know that the very name `Devil’ means `the slanderer,’ or `malignant accuser’” (Earth’s Earliest Ages, p. 52). Thus, we can find out the meaning here. We see how Satan accused Job and tried to destroy him with insidious acts. Also in Revelation 12:10 we read, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ, for the accuser of our brothers has been cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night.” The casting down here probably corresponds to the casting of Satan out of the mountain of God in Ezekiel. The reason for the casting out in Ezekiel and in Revelation is one and the same, that is, accusation (or slander). Perhaps what was recorded in Ezekiel was the conviction of Satan by God and what was written in Revelation was the sending of Michael by God for the execution of that conviction. Then why would God still allow Satan to remain in the heavens? The reasons seem to be: (1) the time of God has not yet come, and (2) His own children need the furnace to purge away the dross still in them. Ezekiel 28:17 reveals the cause of Satan’s fall. His heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom was corrupted by reason of his brightness. The king of Babylon as described in Isaiah 14:12-14 bears much resemblance to this verse. Many servants of God believe that the Holy Spirit is not only pointing out the king of Babylon, but in a deeper sense, the cause of the fall of Satan who was behind the king of Babylon. In my view, the record in Ezekiel reveals the cause of his pride, while in Isaiah it shows the manner in which he exhibited his pride. It is probable that after comparing himself with God’s other creatures, his heart was lifted up. In the end he tried to exalt himself to be equal with God and thus suffered God’s judgment. “How you have fallen from heaven, / O Daystar, son of the dawn! /…But you, you said in your heart: / I will ascend to heaven; / above the stars of God / I will exalt my throne. / And I will sit upon the mount of assembly / On the sides of the north. / I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; / I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:12-14). Since he was so proud, God punished him. His authority in the heavens was removed and abolished by God. The remaining part of the prophecy in Ezekiel is not relevant to our subject, and we shall stop here. From the prophecy contained in this passage in Ezekiel, if our interpretation is correct, we can see how God created Satan the fairest and wisest of all His creatures in the former world and made him their leader. God placed him in the garden of Eden, which was long before the Eden of Adam. The things in the former garden, if not altogether different from those of the latter garden, were at least more numerous than the latter. They resemble the future New Jerusalem. He was a prophet there, teaching all the inhabitants of the earth with his wisdom to know how to serve God. He was also there as the priest of God, directing them in the worship and praises of God. He was also the king among the creatures, having been placed in a position that was above all the creation. He must have been in such a condition for a lengthy period of time (v. 15), but because of his sin, he became the greatest enemy of God. So far we have covered the origin of Satan. We shall now proceed to cover Satan’s angels and demons, which are under him, and to investigate how they fell and how this affected the earth, causing it to become waste and void. From the New Testament we see that under the hand of Satan there are two living beings: (1) angels and (2) demons. Let us first look at the angels. Matthew 25:41 speaks of “the devil and his angels.” Revelation 12:4 says that the dragon’s “tail drags away the third part of the stars of heaven, and he cast them to the earth.” The stars denote the angels (Rev. 1:20). Therefore 12:9 says, “And the great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the Devil and Satan,…he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.” These angels were probably the ones established by God in the beginning to assist Satan to rule the world. They were “the congregation of the mighty” and “the gods” in Psalm 82 (cf. John 10:35). When Satan fell, they either conspired or sympathized with him. Therefore, they fell together with him and became today’s “rulers,” “authorities,” “world-rulers of this darkness,” “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenliest” (Eph. 6:12). Note that the numbers are plural. These angels are not disembodied demons; they have ethereal bodies. This is why the Lord promises that the children of resurrection will be like the angels in the heaven. Satan has another class of subjects, the evil spirits. Demons and the evil spirits (or filthy spirits) are the same. We can tell this by checking with the translation of the Mandarin Bible. In Matthew 8:16, it firstly mentions the demons, then the spirits. But the Bible translators, seeing that the Holy Spirit used the words “demon” and “spirit” interchangeably, translated both into “demons.” In Luke 10:17 the word “demons” is in the original language, but in verse 20 the word “demons” should be “spirits.” In these two verses of the Bible we see the Lord Jesus acknowledged the “demons” and the “spirits” to be the same and thus the Chinese Bible translator again translated both as “demons.” Matthew 17:18 speaks of the Lord casting out a demon, yet Mark calls this demon an unclean spirit and dumb spirit (Mark 9:25). Demons and spirits are the same. These demons, or spirits, probably were the race who lived in the former world. They helped Satan in his sinning; or, perhaps after Satan sinned, they followed him rather than forsaking him and obeying God. Therefore, they were cut off by God and their bodies were removed from them. Hence, they became disembodied spirits. Although we cannot find any clear evidence in the Bible to confirm this theory, we can find some clues. In Matthew 12 we see the situation of a demon when he left the human body. He became helpless and wandered about. Besides the human body, he could not find another resting place. Therefore, he eventually returned to his original place, the human body. If they were not disembodied spirits, why did they have to enter into man’s body? As we read Luke 8, we see how the legion of demons was unwilling to leave the human body. When they had no way to remain in the human body, they even entered the bodies of the swine. Presently in the world they still cling to human bodies. Even some believers are unconsciously possessed by them. They are different from Satan and his angels who do not like to enter human bodies. Satan and his angels still have a spiritual body, but the demons do not. Their character and liking seem to prove that they are the disembodied spirits. Since they are disembodied spirits, where were they when they were disembodied? We know that the spirits of all the dead are in Hades. So, where do these spirits come from? They must have come from the former world. While they were alive, their habitation was probably the former world where Satan exercised his rule. In the Bible we can find another clue that tells us that there were inhabitants in the pre-Adamic world. Isaiah 45:18 shows that the world created by God in the beginning was not waste and empty. Since this verse speaks of the original world, one expression suggests to us the existence of mankind in the previous world. It says, “He is the God / who formed the earth… / He did not create it waste.” This clearly refers to the original creation. Following this it says, “He formed it to be inhabited.” This seems to clearly tell that the earth then was inhabited by some race. As we read the Bible further, we find clues which indicate that there is a detention place for the demons now. The legion of demons in Gadara must have known this. They were in great fear and begged the Lord that He would not “order them to depart into the abyss,” (Luke 8:31) because they would be tormented there (Matt. 8:29). Mr. Pember says that this “abyss” in the original language is abussos; and that “in some passages, such as the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, this term is evidently applied to a fiery hollow in the centre of the earth: but it is also used for the depths of the sea, a meaning which accords well with its derivation” (Earth’s Earliest Ages, p. 60). In the future Satan will be detained in a bottomless pit in the center of the earth. This is revealed in the book of Revelation. The demons are also detained in an abyss now, yet some of them still have freedom. We must wait until God’s appointed time comes for them to be completely shut inside. This abyss is probably different from the one in the heart of the earth; it is in the sea. Furthermore, at the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) when all the prisoners will have been thrown into the lake of fire, there will be no more sea in the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1). However, there may be only one abyss that is divided into two parts. There are other clues concerning the sea being the place of detention for demons. In the Septuagint Bible, the word “deep” in Genesis 1:2 is the same as “abyss” here. We have said that these demons are probably created races that lived in the first world. This corresponds to what we read in Genesis 1:2 because they originally lived on the earth. After sinning, their bodies were destroyed by God; their habitation was judged by God and became without form and void. The whole earth was covered by water and was characterized as “the deep.” It follows then that the spirits of the races at that time were in this “deep”! Finally, on the third day when God restored the earth, He commanded the earth to come out from the water and called the gathering of the waters the sea. This earth was prepared for mankind in the new world. Where then have the former demons gone? We can spontaneously answer that they went into the sea. As we read Revelation 20:13, we often do not understand why the sea will give up the dead which are in it. It is understandable to say that death and Hades will deliver up the dead which are in them, but why will the sea give up the dead who are in it? The common interpretation is that the sea surrenders the bodies of those who are drowned. If so, then the earth should also give up its dead because there are more bodies buried in the earth than in the sea. Yet the earth does not give up its dead. Therefore, the sea will give up the spirits of the imprisoned ones and not the bodies of the dead. Men’s spirits are in death and Hades; the Bible does not say that the spirits of man are kept in the sea. Then whose spirits will the sea give up? It will give up those who are from the other world, that is, the former world. The sequence here indicates this. “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them.” Those who lived in the former world died first. Therefore, they will be the first beings to be given up; then, we who are of this world will follow after because every man will be judged in his own order. Thus far we have seen the probable origin of Satan, his angels, and the demons. As to how man lived on the former earth, this is something beyond our knowledge. However, we can see some hints in the Bible. Many Bible scholars, Dr. Scofield being one of them, believe that Jeremiah 4:23-26 refers to the condition of Genesis 1:2, in which the earth was without form and void. Although the context of this passage is the desolation of Judah, these few verses of the Scripture have a notably broader view, as if God caused the prophet to view the desolation of the earth in the beginning. If our belief is accurate, then we know that in the former world there was “the fruitful land” and “its cities” (v. 26). The inhabitants then dwelt in cities and some took up farming as an occupation. When they were deceived by Satan, the burning anger of Jehovah came upon them (v. 26) and the earth became “waste and emptiness” (v. 23).From these biblical clues we see the original situation of the earth, the races who dwelt on the earth, the paradise, and the princes, etc. If we are not mistaken in our meditation, we can draw a conclusion concerning the first world and the cause of its desolation as follows: In the beginning of “time” (as opposed to eternity) God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was not waste (Isa. 45:18) but very beautiful and perfect. On this earth there were inhabitants and the number of the inhabitants was great. Before God created the earth and human beings, He had created the angels (Job 38:6-7). He assigned Satan, whom He created, as the leader to be above all the angels. Satan, the most beautiful and wisest of all, the prime of all God’s creation, dwelt in the Garden of Eden. God made him the ruler of the world; therefore, he was called “the ruler of the world” (John 14:30). Many angels were under his rule, and these angels shared in ruling with him. Then, because of his position and honor, he became proud. Due to pride, he rebelled and lifted himself up to be equal with God. He was not satisfied with being a creature, but desired to be the Creator. Therefore, he slandered God before the people and accused the people before God. God found out his iniquity and condemned him. When the time comes, he will be cast to the earth. One third of the angels (Rev. 12) followed him in rebellion and, therefore, became the angels of the devil. God has prepared hell for them (Matt. 25:41), and when the time comes, Satan will be cast into it. In the former world, the inhabitants of the earth, being under Satan and his angels’ rule, were also deceived and filled up with sins. (We can readily understand this when we consider our world situation today.) Therefore, God’s anger was fierce, and He completely destroyed the earth and all the races therein and locked up many spirits in the abyss in the sea. These evil spirits, angels, and Satan himself formed the kingdom of darkness. We do not know how long this period lasted. Later, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters again, and the Triune God began His restoration work on the world. After His restoration of the world, He created Adam and his wife and asked them to guard it, so that there would be man on the earth to cooperate with Him in heaven to stop Satan’s power. Perhaps God used Adam to test Satan to see whether he would repent. However, he came to tempt Adam; therefore, God cursed Satan. Because Adam fell, he could not bring the world which was under Satan’s rule back to God. On the contrary, the world Adam received from God’s hand was given anew to Satan. Since angels and mankind had failed, God came in the person of the Son to be a man, the last Adam. The Lord Jesus became God’s prophet, priest, and king. When He was on this earth, He was God’s prophet without blemish. When He was about to die, He was able to say, “The ruler of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing” (John 14:30). At His death all who are in Adam were crucified in Him. He was able to include all of the old Adamic creation in His crucifixion because He is God, and He is able to continue on as the new man. His human living had nothing to do with Satan. Through His death and resurrection, He regained the world lost by the first Adam. Every sinner, who is destined to die in the old Adam, can return to God and be saved if he rejects the first Adam through the death of the last Adam and joins himself to Christ in life. This is the meaning of believing in the death of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, whoever believes in the Lord Jesus becomes an enemy of the devil. In everything he attacks us, and in everything we resist him, his angels, and the demons. This is God’s purpose in saving man, and this is a real spiritual warfare. Satan was judged once on the “holy mountain of God,” and he was judged again on the hill of Golgotha. He has been convicted, yet his judgment has not yet been executed. When the time comes he will be cast down from heaven and when the Son of God returns to this earth, he will be cast into the abyss. After one thousand years he will forever suffer in the lake of fire. Now the Lord Jesus holds the authority which Satan had abused, and He will hold it until all traces of rebellion disappear. He has brought His own blood into the Holy of Holies and has cleansed the heavens; He is now a Priest of God. When He returns, it will be the time of the restoration of all things. He will be a King, ruling this world from heaven with all the overcoming saints, in the same way that Satan ruled with his angels in the former time. At that time He will teach the inhabitants of this earth to know God’s will and to worship God, in the same way that Satan did in the former days. The situation in the millennium will be like the situation in the world before Satan sinned. Christ will restore all things to the condition in the “beginning” in order to accomplish God’s original purpose. After this He will burn up the whole world, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which the righteous will dwell. Therefore, as God’s children we ought to have a deeper enmity for the devil. For thousands of years God’s only purpose has been for man to be joined with Him to destroy Satan’s authority. Our God is a law-abiding God. He will not take back by force the world which was lost through man. Therefore, He sent His Son to become a man in order to regain what man had lost. We, men who have been saved, ought to cooperate with the unique “Man,” the Lord Jesus. In our life, in our work, in our environment, in our dwelling, and in the world, we should resist the works of the devil. Our resistance is in firmness of faith (1 Pet. 5:9), and not by means of fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10:4), which is the way of social reformers who are being utilized by the demons. Satan was wise and beautiful! But because of his pride, he ended up in complete ruin. It is dangerous for frail mortals to esteem themselves wise and beautiful! Beware, lest being lifted up with pride, you fall into the judgment of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6). Being self-exalted with pride is not a blessing to man; wisdom rests only with those who fear the most high God Jehovah.
    THE EARTH RESTORED THE RECOVERY OF THE EARTH IN SIX DAYS
    We have seen that in the beginning God created a perfect world. Later, because of the sins committed by Satan and those who dwelt on the earth, they and the earth were judged by God, and the earth became without form and void. Now we will see God’s work of restoring the earth. In the book of Job, Job mentions the failure of Satan’s rebellion in order to show that it is foolish to dispute with God. “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? which removed the mountains, and they know not; which overturned them in his anger; which shakes’ the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; which commanded the sun, and it rises not; and sealed up the stars” (Job 9:4-7). When did God do this? When did He shake the mountains and the earth, and alter the position of the celestial bodies due to man’s stubbornness towards Him? Since the time of Adam, such an act of God in the world has not been seen. This passage must be a description of God’s judgment on Satan and on the earth under his dominion when he rebelled. At that time God shook the earth and overturned the mountains. The calamity came so swiftly that the mountains were overturned unnoticed. In addition to the earth, the positions of the celestial bodies were also affected. Because of God’s judgment, the sun disappeared completely and the stars did not shine. The world was plunged into darkness. There was no sun and no heat was produced. Consequently, this led to the glacial epoch on this earth. Then, after a long period of time, possibly due to internal heat at the earth’s

  164. #164 Stevie_C
    December 5, 2007

    Awwww man. The loon is back…

    what was the nic you were using in the other thread?

    You just kept posting quote mine after quote mine fro AiG…

    Give it a rest. You’re deluded.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!