Pharyngula

How peculiar — I’ve gotten several requests in email to comment on this plaint from Theodore Dalrymple, a fellow who doesn’t like those “New Atheists” like Sam Harris and Dan Dennett. It’s peculiar because I’m here at a conference with Sam Harris and Dan Dennett (and others who do not consider themselves “New Atheists”)— should I just ask them what they think? Actually, if anyone wants to pass along any brilliant questions that I can use to dazzle the luminaries with my insight, go ahead, toss them into the comments.

It’s one of those annoying opinion pieces by an unbeliever who wants to make excuses for belief: the premise is “To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.” It contains many strange arguments, like this one.

The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

For my own part, I think Western civilization was built on the talent and hard work and ideals of its people, and that if you stripped religion from its greatest artists and heroes and leaders and thinkers, they still would have been great.

I detest the argument about gratitude. It’s a deep error: we should exult in our life and a community of purpose that we build, but there is no one to be grateful to, and displacing our sense of obligation to our human aspirations onto a nonexistent deity represents an abandonemnt of rationality. And the reduction of reason to a mere “shopping spree” or feelings of entitlement is simply the old canard that atheists are amoral hedonists in more high-falutin’ pious language.

You can all discuss this for a while. I’m going to go listen to philosophers and historians explain the Enlightenment to me.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    When you are discussing the Enlightenment maybe you can come up with some ideas to get it to spread to those parts of the US it missed last time round ?

  2. #2 firemancarl
    October 31, 2007

    Myabe i’m confused, but how can this guy claim to be a non believer and then make excuses for religion? Maybe you can ask Denett and Harris about that. The crux of his argument is that without religion we’d have no Western Civilizatio? thats funny because i’d be willing to argue that without religion, we’d be far so along on the tech/science advancement that we wouldn’t recongnize our own planet. This is of course, in relation to the millions who would have lived long (healthy?) lives without religion at its’ greatest. Ya know, things like the inquisition.

  3. #3 Kagehi
    October 31, 2007

    Stupidest thing about the argument, at least in this guys case, is that last I looked its rich assholes that thought they got rich via God that feel **entitlement** to do any damn thing they please. So, what was his point about gratitude and entitlement again?

  4. #4 poke
    October 31, 2007

    There’s quite a lot worth regretting in Western civilization. And most of the good stuff, like science and the Enlightenment, happened in the context of the mass importation of ideas and values from various other cultures, both ancient and distant. So maybe he’s right about that.

  5. #5 Cliff
    October 31, 2007

    How does emptying the world of religion equate with emptying the world of purpose? Isn’t purpose man-made (just like religion)?

  6. #6 shiftlessbum
    October 31, 2007

    And most of the good stuff, like science and the Enlightenment, happened in the context of the mass importation of ideas and values from various other cultures, both ancient and distant.

    um….what?

  7. #7 Greta Christina
    October 31, 2007

    “To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.”

    Nope.

    I’m with firemancarl on this one. To regret religion is to regret the fact that, for centuries, the overwhelming majority of creative and intellectual endeavors had to be channeled through the narrow lens of belief in non-existent supernatural beings.

    Also… why Western? Why not just “civilization”? Does this guy not realize that religion — and thus religious art — isn’t purely a Western phenomenon? I mean, what’s Chinese history — chopped liver?

    And I don’t need God to feel gratitude. I feel it towards other people. Alive and dead. I feel an intense gratitude for everyone who worked hard to make my life, and the lives of those around me, easier and better. And that sense of gratitude instills me with an equally intense sense of obligation to do the same for others.

  8. #8 Cuttlefish
    October 31, 2007

    To regret smallpox is to regret Western civilization.

  9. #9 Taz
    October 31, 2007

    I far as I can tell, there are three reasons for the development of religion:
    1. To explain what goes bump in the night
    2. To alleviate the fear of death
    3. To compel people to behave
    “And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality” is just a flowery way of saying we need religion for #3.

  10. #10 Armen
    October 31, 2007

    How do Dennet and Harris break the ice with religious individuals? Obiously, they probably don’t start hostile questioning, but how would they suggest one opens a conversation and enlightens the religious? Is it easier to provide evidence against their beliefs, or would that just have them automatically on the defensive?

    As an example, and I know it’s hypothetical, if Dennet and Harris were called to a conference of the religious heads of various churches to understand atheism, how would they explain their beliefs and persuade the believers? Or even if they happened to talk to a priest on a train, how would they broach the subject with such an individual?

  11. #11 J Myers
    October 31, 2007

    I’d be interested to hear the panel participants’ opinions about Expelled; specifically, how much damage they expect it to cause, and how they plan to counter it.

    I would also like to know when Sam will be defending his thesis.

  12. #12 Ric
    October 31, 2007

    I think that gratitude is necessary for a fulfilled life, but not gratitude to anyone or anything, especially not an imaginary being. The kind of gratitude I mean is the recognition that I am lucky to be where I am and to have what I do, and that many people are not so lucky nor so priviledged. This helps me to appreciate and enjoy life, and to want to help those who are not so lucky. Such gratitude requires no religion whatsoever.

  13. #13 Matt Penfold
    October 31, 2007

    I would also argue that gratitude may well be in order, not gratitude to any deity but to those who have gone before and fought for those rights and values we hold dear. The right to vote for all, the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, the philosophers and scientists who showed that you do not need a god to understand the world.

  14. #14 marc
    October 31, 2007

    Forgetting the Dark Ages, the Crusades, and the Inquisition, the author of that quote seems to think that the great works of art and architecture of the Renaissance would not have come to exist absent an invisible friend. Somehow I doubt Leonardo’s La Giaconda required much religious inspiration. Would the Biblical depictions from the Sistine Chapel be inferior if they depicted the equally fact-based Olympic gods or even scenes from real life?

    That these were religion-inspired already assumes that the artists actually were believers and not just using claimed faith as a convenient means of avoiding being burned alive!

    Much good science was done in Nazi Germany. Are we to applaud those vile creatures for “medical advances” due to Mengele and his ilk?

    The author of that quote deserves whatever scorn is heaped upon him. Rational people don’t need even “non-religious” religious apologists.

  15. #15 Schmeer
    October 31, 2007

    Teddy D claims to be a “non-believer” in the unquoted portion of his writing. So I guess he’s the religion-is-good-for-the-world type of atheist?

    That might help to explain the confusion firemancarl. I think I’ll just file him under “not very interesting” in my mind.

  16. #16 Ginger Yellow
    October 31, 2007

    You know what? I am grateful. I’m grateful to my parents for my upbringing. I’m grateful to my ancestors for putting me in the position I was when I was born. I’m grateful to the person who gave me my first job. I’m grateful to my friends for their love and support. I’m grateful to Nye Bevan for founding the National Health Service. I’m grateful to the Suffragettes for fighting and dying for an egalitarian society. I’m grateful to Newton and Einstein and Bohr and Curie and Darwin and countless other scientists for permitting me to know more about the universe than 99.99% of humans in history. I’m grateful to Shakespeare and Dylan and Kafka for enriching my life with their words. I’m greatful to Caravaggio and Turner and Kapoor and Gormley for the beauty they have shown me. I’m grateful to Bach and the Supremes and Scientist for filling my ears with ecstasy.

    What the fuck has that got to do with religion?

  17. #17 Don
    October 31, 2007

    So we should be grateful that a pan-national, insanely wealthy, savagely violent cult wielding almost unlimited power had a virtual monopoly of talent?

    Of course, no painter would have seen a mother nursing a child as a thing of beauty unless instructed to do so by the church. No composer could have explored the possibilities of the human voice without first accepting the Nicene Creed.

    Should we also be grateful to the SS for all those cool Hugo Boss uniforms?

  18. #18 Mooser
    October 31, 2007

    One thing about this entire debate really, really puzzles me, and maybe it’s OT here, but I hope we could talk about it sometime. Leaving the question of whether I believe in God alone, when someone tells me they believe in God, why the hell should I believe them? Every indicator, to me, is that “I believe in God” is nothing but some kind of verbal social signifier, but has almost meaning in itself. Since there’s no agreement on what God is or isn’t, how do they know that what they believe in is God? How do they (and their auditors) know what quality and quantity of thought is this thing called “belief”. It seems to produce no consistent action or results. I could, if I so desired, attain a mood of sublime spiritual gratitude for the fortuitous accidents of circumstances which have affected my life for the better. I could then call it “God’s grace”. Or does saying “I believe in God” declare to the listener that you are prepared to accept a certain amount of fashionable cognitive dissonance in the service of social equilibrium?
    Frankly, whether God is, or is not, from all evidence “I believe in God” is actually a completely meaningless statement, and useless, in practical terms.

  19. #19 Don
    October 31, 2007

    I see marc got there first.

  20. #20 Jsn
    October 31, 2007

    /how can this guy claim to be a non believer and then make excuses for religion?/

    This seems to be a standard ploy in Xian circles. I confess I don’t know anything about Dalrymple and must take him at his word, but my experiences with the religious( when I was religious) was that many pious, zealous people claimed to be something they weren’t: skeptics, formerly heinous sinners, backsliders, etc., when in actuality they were always bootlicking, suck-up-to-authority, goody-goodies who felt the need to embellish, overexaggerate or out and out lie in order to appear credible.

    His slippery slope rationale is that none of the authors objections to religion is new or groundbreaking and that publicizing these arguments will destroy all the good religion has accomplished. Huh??? He seems to more of a Xian apologist in the guise of a skeptic than a truely rational atheist.

  21. #21 Hank Fox
    October 31, 2007

    For my own part, I think Western civilization was built on the talent and hard work and ideals of its people, and that if you stripped religion from its greatest artists and heroes and leaders and thinkers, they still would have been great.

    I think this statement is about an order of magnitude too modest.

    Yes, there are definitely those among us who accomplished great things despite growing up in a household with a abusive, terrifying father who saw every slightest accomplishment by his children as a threat to his own ego – a father who constantly spied on them, glowered at them, hectored them, instantly and habitually moved to stamp out every sign of their individuality or tentative exploration of personal gifts.

    But imagine the comparative accomplishments of those who grew up with parents and mentors who loved and encouraged them.

    Strip the poisonous influence of religion out of our history, and there would have been a thousand times more “greatest artists and heroes and leaders and thinkers.”

    How many minds have been repressed, terrified, abbreviated, driven into a lifetime of fearful cowering, because of religion? How much have we lost because the thousand DaVincis and Newtons-who-might-have-been were killed in the cradle by repressive priests and holy handmaidens who brutally forced those young minds to focus on holy horrors rather than real things? (And in the same vein, how many of those kids molested by priests, over how many hundreds of years – priests who were in turn shielded and protected by church authorities — achieved their full creative potential?)

    How much artistic creation has been devoted to the sterile, phony depiction of gods and angels – and demons – rather than the beauty of nature, or the magnificent possibilities of Man?

    How much science DIDN’T happen because religion always stamped out innovation like it was a forest fire, and innovative minds like they were child molesters?

    How many people with new ideas of all kinds, over and over and over through thousands of years, were met with threats or torture or excommunication? And how many times did their fates serve as cautionary tales to others, who fearfully self-repressed the best within them, never daring to even THINK their own creative ideas, much less explore or develop them?

    What has the world lost because religion discouraged us from grappling with our own numbers, so that we fly past 6 billion, approach 7 billion, expect 8 billion, rather than stopping at some indefinitely sustainable number that would leave the earth living and we ourselves living with it?

    I’m all for honoring those few productive geniuses who have shone out in the midst of religion over the centuries. But I want a spotlight also aimed at the millions of equally good minds which have been driven literally insane by those same forces.

    In the midst of the cheerleading over what religion has given to human history, I want it noted what religion has COST.

  22. #22 J Myers
    October 31, 2007

    I just read Dalrymple’s article; it is chock-full of stupid, and does not merit discussion here. I would not waste any time on it at BB2.

  23. #23 J-Dog
    October 31, 2007

    What Marc said too. What the friggin heck did religion contribute again? I am going to have to ask Mr. Theodore Dalrymple to kiss my Big Red A.

  24. #24 Mooser
    October 31, 2007

    Obviously, as we are constantly shown in this blog, belief in God does not ensure or cause veracity.

    So what does it do?

    I think they’re lying! They no more believe in God than any atheist, but for any number of reasons, feel compelled to tell that lie.
    Is there a theist who would like to tell us how belief in God can be verified, or tested? Not God, just the belief in Him. (Using the conventional Divine Gender)

  25. #25 Brownian, OM
    October 31, 2007

    Of course, no painter would have seen a mother nursing a child as a thing of beauty unless instructed to do so by the church. No composer could have explored the possibilities of the human voice without first accepting the Nicene Creed.

    Nicely said, Don.

    Does this then mean we can blame religion every time we’ve got to sit through some relative’s boring slideshow of their Caribbean cruise?

    ‘Cause clearly Aunt Gladys would never have taken 15.6 billion photos of Raul, the Lido deck Lifeguard, if it weren’t for the gratitude she feels due to her belief in God.

    This guy is five flavours of dumb.

  26. #26 Reginald Selkirk
    October 31, 2007

    Jake Young over at Pure Pedaresty covered the Dalrymple article rather uncritically. As I pointed out over there, Dalrymple lapses into Creationist drivel:

    For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment?

    Why is this necessary? Religion, unlike believe in evolution, has persisted despite a lack of underlying truth. This is why exploration into its causes is so intriguing.

    Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favor, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations–and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.

    Reads like Creationist drivel to me. Some beliefs are backed up by voluminous experimental data, some are not. This is a false equivalence.

    At any rate, it ill behooves Dennett to condescend to those poor primitives who still have a religious or providential view of the world: a view that, at base, is no more refutable than Dennett’s metaphysical faith in evolution.

    Bold added for emphasis. I’m sorry, when you start throwing around phrases like “faith in evolution,” you flush any credibility you might have had down the toilet.

    To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy.

    This is a pet peeve of mine: why is the phrase in fact more often followed by an opinion than an actual fact? In this case it’s not a particularly well-reasoned opinion.

  27. #27 Taz
    October 31, 2007

    Is there a theist who would like to tell us how belief in God can be verified, or tested?

    Suicide bombers are pretty convincing.

  28. #28 QrazyQat
    October 31, 2007

    Thomas Jefferson disagreed with this Dalrymple fella, and if we’re picking sides, I’m on Jefferson’s side, along with Washington and Franklin. I just like to win.

  29. #29 Science Goddess
    October 31, 2007

    I suspect that the only reason great Western art is so religious is that the churches were the only ones paying! Everybody has to make a living.

    SG

  30. #30 sphex
    October 31, 2007

    Bravo, Hank Fox.

  31. #31 Brownian, OM
    October 31, 2007

    Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

    I hope he’s grateful for all the contributions to medicine made in the name of religion.

  32. #32 Reginald Selkirk
    October 31, 2007

    Maybe i’m confused, but how can this guy claim to be a non believer and then make excuses for religion?

    Richard Dawkins on “I’m an atheist buttery.”

  33. #33 Margaret
    October 31, 2007

    To argue that gratitude has anything to do with religion is bizarre. One thing that has always struck me about the religious is how lacking in gratitude they are. They thank their imaginary god for their food, totally ignoring the efforts of the real cook, the real farmer, the real (possibly illegal) farm worker, the real truck driver, etc. They thank their imaginary god for their recovery, totally ignoring the efforts of the real doctors, the real nurses, the real medical researchers, etc. They thank their imaginary god for their surviving a disaster, totally ignoring the efforts of the real emergency workers, the real engineers, etc.

  34. #34 DS
    October 31, 2007

    Hmmm, not a well-written article. Are we still appealing to Stalin these days?

    I tend to agree that attacking religion as the source of the problem is to miss the mark slightly. The problem to me is that there is a general trend among human social groups to seek dominance over others and using self-deceptive methods to justify it in the process (possibly a trend that has certain evolutionary advantages when it comes to competing for resources).

    So, I think the battle is not really between reason and religious dogma so much as between reason and what appears to be a very widespread and instinctive trait in humans, whether it came about due to providing a distinct evolutionary advantage at some point in the past or that it is the side-effect of some other evolutionary trait.

    I think it’s important to make that distinction because I do think that the urge to control and dictate are not unique to theists, but readily apparent in all human social groups. Even those among our own atheistic group. In short I think the net needs to be cast wider and an attempt made to show that this is more than a God-bashing crusade.

    Perhaps this is just a rather touchy-feely position, but I think our frustration with the stubborn refusal of others to acknowledge, accept and curb the more destructive passions of human nature should be tempered with some compassion given that, although we might arguably be better at controlling them, those same frailties are still inherent within us also.

    Of course, for those on the absolute wings of sanity braying about hell and God’s wrath, no amount of compassion is going to be useful at all. But at least we might be able to assure some of the more moderate among our oppnents that you really don’t need dogma, religious or political, to dictate morality. That such appeals are… well, primitive.

  35. #35 Balaji
    October 31, 2007

    I take offense to associating Religion with Western Civilization. In my opinion religions of the Western World are buried in the ruins of Mexico, South America, Greece etc. What Western Civilization and especially the New Atheists consider as religion is only a cult in my opinion!

  36. #36 Sastra
    October 31, 2007

    Once again, people are trying to divide the world into science and religion, and they forget the little area called philosophy. Atheists call dibs on secular philosophy, secular ethics, secular aesthetics, and secular epistemology. That’s the wisdom, morals, beauty, and understanding of the natural universe – absent the stuff that is specifically attached to belief in the supernatural. In other words, that’s pretty much the entire Western canon, including anything in religion that ever made sense in the world, too.

    Ours!! It belongs to us! The religious can use it if they want, that’s okay. Of course they can. It’s secular ground where everyone can stand. But don’t start going on about love and meaning and ethics and art and history and tradition and forget that atheists have and have always had and always will have the discipline called PHILOSOPHY on our side. Thank you very much.

  37. #37 Rod
    October 31, 2007

    #26 – Science Goddess nailed it. The artists were working for their patrons. Much like commissioned work today, you produce what your employer wants. You look for your inspiration within the subject matter specified. You’d be hard-pressed to find any significant work of religious art that wasn’t commissioned by the church. And many of the most significant artists producing these works were apostate, or outright unbelievers.

  38. #38 Eric
    October 31, 2007

    Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

    And religion fixes this how, exactly?

    And I like Science Goddess’s point. So much art was done for religion because they took money from the poor people and used it to pay artists to make stuff for them – Cathedrals, paintings, all of that.

  39. #39 Jud
    October 31, 2007

    The thinness of the new atheism…

    You can never be too thin or too rich, they say.

  40. #40 Davis
    October 31, 2007

    The purpose of life is to enjoy it while you can. I certainly won’t waste it on superstitious nonsense.

    Apparently the critics of the “New Athiests” haven’t actually read their books. Their descriptions just don’t jibe with what I read (God Delusion and God is Not Great; I’m only 1/3 though Breaking the Spell).

  41. #41 Colugo
    October 31, 2007

    “if you stripped religion from its greatest artists and heroes and leaders and thinkers, they still would have been great.”

    Perhaps, but their works – theories, books, speeches, actions – cannot be divorced from the context of the cultural constructs that informed their private worldviews, even if they were reacting against them. Some worked entirely within these constructs, sometimes they rebelled and tried to replace them with something else (which often was informed by a rival – perhaps a pre-Christian or Eastern – system). There is no reason to believe that they would have arrived at their greatest breakthroughs in thought without them as either positive or negative totems. No one can completely transcend the mytho-ideological framework of their era, as if he or she were a island of untainted reasoning. Anyone who understands Developmental Systems Theory should appreciate that.

    “we should exult in our life and a community of purpose that we build”

    There is no alternative to a structuring, value-laden mythic system – no matter how secular or “scientific” – which is partly non-naturalist in derivation, based on tradition and ultimately, unprovable assumptions.

    Belief abhors a vacuum. Kill God, the soul, the heavenly kingdom, and secular versions of these – the enlightened elect, the downloadable mind, the Singularity, and even more subtle substitutions – will arise. The myth of eternal progress, of advancement towards greater social perfection, of the acquisition of knowledge that will allow us to transcend earthly suffering – these may be “true” myths, but are myths nonetheless.

  42. #42 sinned34
    October 31, 2007

    To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy.

    To regret Santa Claus is, in fact, to regret our childhood and it’s memories, its achievements, and its legacy into our adulthood.

    He sounds like a six-year old who was just told by a teenager that there isn’t any Santa. Humans are growing up. We no longer require the help of deities just like adults no longer require the comfort of their childhood invisble friends.

  43. #43 Mooser
    October 31, 2007

    Ya gotta hand it to the Creationists! They just worship Darwin in a way no rational person ever worships another. I mean, if Darwin’s theory doesn’t answer every physical, metaphysical, philosophic, moral question ever posed that makes it invalid. I guess if they can’t tell their kids at bedtime “Don’t worry, Darwin is watching everything and he’ll see it comes out all right” evolution has let them down.
    The fact that science has ferretted out answers which a lot of nature conspires to keep hidden, to our great improvement, is not good enough. They want more from Charles. He’s gotta tell them why we’re here. Sorry, no can do.

  44. #44 Richard Wolford
    October 31, 2007

    #33

    I think you’ve hit a good nail right on the head there; in fact, I consider it damn insulting when a theist attributes the hard work of men and women to some imaginary sky fairy. It is insulting to be told you are talented or that you have a gift; what people see is the end result, they don’t see the hours, days, months, or years it may take to master your particular craft. To talk about being gifted or talented is an insult, a slap in the face to the hard work you’ve put in to something.

    In our local paper this week there is a woman who is celebrating one year of being cancer free; she had a case of breast cancer which was diagnosed and treated by medical professionals. Those people saved her life, bottom line. Their hard work, their knowledge, their abilities saved her from a very painful death. And what does this stupid, stupid woman do? She says that she attributes her recovery solely to god. Are your f*!$ing kidding me?? I’m glad she’s alive as I don’t wish that type of suffering on anyone, but quite frankly if I were her doctors I would be very tempted to give her a call and remind her that her cancer could very well come back. And of course my advice would be, if it did return, to simply go to church and pray. I mean, papa smurf cured you once, right? Obviously didn’t need us.

    Suffice to say, I am going to write a very lengthy letter to the editor. I’m sure it won’t be posted. In this area of southern West Virginia, there is a single hospital and right about two dozen churches, all within a roughly 8 mile radius.

    This would be such a beautiful state if it wasn’t for all of the idiotic hillbillies.

  45. #45 Mooser
    October 31, 2007

    More than ever convinced that when someone says: “I believe in God” they are lying. Irrespective of God’s actual existence or non-existence.
    How the hell would they know? Cause it “feels so good”?
    Lies on top of lies, that’s what they’ve got.

  46. #46 Bill Dauphin
    October 31, 2007

    To regret smallpox is to regret Western civilization.

    Clearly, Cuttlefish’s Molly-winning recent commentary was no fluke!

  47. #47 Warren
    October 31, 2007

    To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy.

    You know what? He’s right. Let’s return to the roots of the religion that brought us our civilization.

    I’m willing to pay annual tribute to Caesar as long as we’re talking about tossing Christians to the lions in the bargain.

  48. #48 Jon
    October 31, 2007

    If you empty the world of purpose…

    What’s with religious people and this font of purpose they think they exists? Subscribe to Christianity now, and you get a complementary purpose bucket! Draw out as much purpose as you’ll ever need! Order now, and you get a free purpose thermos, for purpose on the go!

    (Some restrictions apply. See your Bible for details.)

  49. #49 Lassi Hippelinen
    October 31, 2007

    #9:

    I far as I can tell, there are three reasons for the development of religion:
    1. To explain what goes bump in the night
    2. To alleviate the fear of death
    3. To compel people to behave

    You just confirmed my theory that religion was invented at a stone age campfire, to keep the kids close.

  50. #50 Lassi Hippelinen
    October 31, 2007

    #9:

    I far as I can tell, there are three reasons for the development of religion:
    1. To explain what goes bump in the night
    2. To alleviate the fear of death
    3. To compel people to behave

    You just confirmed my theory that religion was invented at a stone age campfire, to keep the kids close.

  51. #51 Max Udargo
    October 31, 2007

    Yes, bravo Hank Fox. A stand-out comment among some really great comments in this thread.

  52. #52 Pierce R. Butler
    October 31, 2007

    Yes, religion is woven deeply into the fabric of our cultural past.

    Guess what: if we could track human genealogy in full detail, there are few if any of us who wouldn’t find that many of our ancestors were conceived as a result of rape.

    So, without rape none of us would be who we are. Shall we all therefore be grateful for the institution of rapine, and strive to carry that tradition forward for the increase of future generations?

  53. #53 potentilla
    October 31, 2007

    Theodore Dalrymple, if anyone is interested, is the long-time pseudonym of a British psychiatrist, now retired and living in France, IIRC. He is somewhat off-piste here; his usual themes include the lack of sense of responsibility for their own lives of members of the underclass of the UK (with whom he has had extensive professional dealings).

    You could ask Dan Dennett about TD’s point about teleological language, not so much because TD has raised it, but because the egregious Steve Fuller seems likely to be saying the same in his new book in the spring.

  54. #54 Reginald Selkirk
    October 31, 2007

    Here’s something a wee bit more interesting:
    The Atheist’s Dilemma: Live Right or Live Large?
    by Jacques Berlinerblau

  55. #55 Bill C
    October 31, 2007

    Aks them if they think there is the possibility of having a “jump the shark” moment for religion. Som moment so humiliating or damaging that a precipitous decline follows. It should be possible in an age of YouTube.

    Though, I think the biggest obstacle is the equation of atheism to the violence of Communism. Unless we talk them down off this somehow the meme won’t go away. Are there any prominent historians who could offer up the next “New Atheist” volume? I think we need one with some real credentials to take a swipe at this.

  56. #56 madaha
    October 31, 2007

    It’s a totally specious argument. Some of the best art and literature of the world has been in service of some power hungry tyrannical autocrat. Virgil’s Aeneid, written in the service of the emperor Augustus. Michelangelo’s paintings and sculptures, made to glorify the power-mad pope Julius II (Michelangelo’s life’s work was to be sculpting the massive tomb for Julius, which was to be placed in St Peter’s). I could go on and on. Being grateful and appreciative of achievements like those DOES NOT mean we have to endorse the causes they were created for. Also, in the case of Julius II, a pope, we have a good example of art that’s SUPPOSEDLY in a Xian cause, but is much more about secular power! So suck on that, theists! Motives are never as pure as that. It’s naive to think so.

  57. #57 CalGeorge
    October 31, 2007

    I regret that, after 2000 years of progress in almost every area of knowledge, Christians insist on stubbornly clinging to their idiotic religious beliefs.

  58. #58 Kseniya
    October 31, 2007

    Specious.

  59. #59 Rudy
    October 31, 2007

    I’m usually the contrarian here, but I agree that all the artists, musicians, writers… deserve the credit, not
    religion.

    And keep in mind that the religious themes of many of these works were there because that’s what their patrons wanted, not necessarily because the artist found religion inspiring (with exceptions like Dante and Rembrandt, of course.)

    Vaughn Williams, a composer of much religiously themed choral music, was described by his wife as a “cheerful atheist”.

  60. #60 Tom
    October 31, 2007

    Hank, you just gotta write more. Hitting nails on heads is your trademark.

  61. #61 madaha
    October 31, 2007

    That’s right, Rudy! It’s in the service of the patron. And the patron’s motives were often mixed, to say the least – even religious patrons may not have had “god” in mind, but rather their own cult of personality may have been the impetus.

  62. #62 mzed
    October 31, 2007

    I think that Dalrymple is being somewhat misrepresented and unfairly criticized here (though not entirely). Could everyone who posts here at least actually read the Dalrymple article first?

    With regards to Dalrymple’s “graditude”, Myers says “there is no one to be grateful to”. But why does one need to be grateful to anyone in order to feel gratitude? Why is it so unthinkable, for example, that someone could be grateful towards an inanimate object like the cosmos? Especially one that is responsible for your very existence and most heartfelt emotions! And there are other paths for gratitude as well, as Greta illustrates in #7. And it is clear (to anyone who actually reads the article) that Dalrymple never says that atheists must be grateful towards religion.

    To be sure, Dalrymple can be faulted for claiming we should not “regret” religion. Many believers regret much of the history of their own religion (and many believers of course regret entire religions, so long as they are not their own!) and so it’s simplistic to suggest that even atheists are obligated to respect religion. Nevertheless, I think Dalrymple has a point, however, poorly he states it.

    He just means that religion is a part and parcel of the human character, and is indeed the source of much good, as well as much evil. To deride “religion” in general is as much a mistake as to honor it in general. You can say that human accomplishments are purely human, without need for reference to religion, but this is to black-box the human psyche, to ignore the whole, complicated being that all humans are. Religion is the cause of evil behavior, of course–but it is also the cause of good behavior. To ignore this is to ignore that which makes us human–even to ignore that which makes us excellent humans.

    Of course, the atheist will counter that we can accomplish all this without religion. Perhaps so–Dalrymple’s point is just that some have accomplished this *with* religion. To pretend that religion had nothing to do with it is, I think, to turn a blind eye towards the reality of the human psyche. What if I were to argue that the evils of religion had nothing to do with religion–that it was all just human behavior? How would this argument be any different than the reverse–that all human good is independent of religion? So I think Dalrymple has a very good point–religion is indeed the source for much that is good, as well as evil, and it doesn’t hurt anyone to say so. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that (even though it probably is!)

  63. #63 cm
    October 31, 2007

    Dalrymple’s point sounds just like Dennett’s idea of people who “believe in belief.”

    And there’s nothing wrong with a sense of entitlement, provided you feel your are merely entitled to be treated decently, something that many religions have so often eroded with its promise of “don’t worry, everyone gets their just deserts in the afterlife” stuff.

    The comments here have been particularly good all round.

  64. #64 Sastra
    October 31, 2007

    Colugo (#41) wrote:

    There is no alternative to a structuring, value-laden mythic system – no matter how secular or “scientific” – which is partly non-naturalist in derivation, based on tradition and ultimately, unprovable assumptions.

    I’m curious here — I’ll grant the “unprovable assumptions” part on the assumption that you’re working off values and irreducible fundamentals — but what do you mean by derivations which are “non-naturalist?” Supernaturalist? I don’t think you mean that …(And, come to think of it, what do you mean by ‘mythic systems?’)

    The myth of eternal progress, of advancement towards greater social perfection, of the acquisition of knowledge that will allow us to transcend earthly suffering – these may be “true” myths, but are myths nonetheless.

    I’ll agree those are certainly myths if the belief is “this is what is going to happen because this is the way it must happen.” But falsifiable hopes don’t sound like myths to me. “We can try to do better, and might fail, but might succeed.” That doesn’t sound like much of a “substitute” for the explanatory reassurances of religious faiths.

    Of course, it might depend on what you mean by “myth.”

  65. #65 Dior
    October 31, 2007

    Ok I know this will get me kicked out of the scarlet A club, but I do so enjoy playing and singing religious music, like the “Messiah” etc. What do you think?

  66. #66 Sastra
    October 31, 2007

    mzed wrote:

    What if I were to argue that the evils of religion had nothing to do with religion–that it was all just human behavior? How would this argument be any different than the reverse–that all human good is independent of religion?

    The difference lies in conflict between how an action is labeled. What the hypothetical “reasonable secular person” would consider secular evil coming from religion is usually considered a religious good by the religious person doing it. They have different “facts” from a supernatural source which reveals truths above the common ground, and these facts aren’t shared with either atheists or people in other religions (or with different interpretations of the same religion).

    However, in most cases the reverse is not true. A non-believer will agree with the religious person on what’s good. If they don’t, then we’re back to the first situation.

    In other words, your question assumes an agreement on what is “good” and “evil” in religion from a secular stance, independent of religious interpretation. The religious themselves need not take that stance.

    It comes back to Christopher Hitchens’ question on “is there any good which a believer can do which a non-believer would not?” and the same question on evil. He says nobody has answered the first, but they can answer the second.

  67. #67 Suze
    October 31, 2007

    Imagine what western civilization would have been like WITHOUT religion — with the addition of an entire sex and a large minority contributing to it without artificial constraints.

    Damn the evidence — Christians know what women/blacks/gays/atheists are REALLY like. Uppity atheists, thinking they know what’s best for them.

  68. #68 Amy
    October 31, 2007

    “I feel an intense gratitude for everyone who worked hard to make my life, and the lives of those around me, easier and better. And that sense of gratitude instills me with an equally intense sense of obligation to do the same for others.”

    huMAN!

    Word!

  69. #69 Owlmirror
    October 31, 2007

    Ok I know this will get me kicked out of the scarlet A club, but I do so enjoy playing and singing religious music, like the “Messiah” etc. What do you think?

    I dunno, that you’re a terrible heretic hardly the only one?

    As penance, you might read up on the neurology of music appreciation. Oliver Sacks has a new book out called Musicophilia. There’s also This Is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin.

  70. #70 Sarcastro
    October 31, 2007

    The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core.

    Democracy? Equality before the law? Freedom of conscience? What fucking religion inspired these core ideals asswad?

    Modern western civ is as much, if not more so, a product of Hellenic humanism as it is of Levantine monofaith. In fact, a vast amount of our history is the conflict between the two competing ideals. From, at least, the Greeks of the Age Of Pericles against the Zoroastrian Persians to, hell I doeknow… the Spanish Civil War (if not our own current little dustup in Persia).

  71. #71 Blake Stacey
    October 31, 2007

    In Brainstorms, Dennett describes his adoration for Brahms, and from personal conversation, I know he’s read and enjoyed Borges. Dawkins praises the big names of art and literature repeatedly throughout The God Delusion, and in fact he spends more time eulogizing his friend Douglas Adams than he does calling people “Neville Chamberlain atheists”.

    So, yes, I’d say that Dalrymple is another critic who has read the books of the Uppity Atheists with his eyes closed. Perhaps Dawkins should feel honored that people are treating his book the same way that they treat the Bible?

  72. #72 Mooser
    October 31, 2007

    Will one of the theists please give us a single example of religion working the way it’s supposed to? That is, the prayers of the faithful or the intercessions of religious priests or pastors caused GOD to do something. That people together in a group can do anything from play music to opening a hospital to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked… we know that. I thought religion was about God doin stuff.
    Can anyone supply me with an instance where the efforts of a religion caused God to do something? When was it? Where was it?

    You know, I don’t think they believe in God any more than I do. Why they espouse that particular canard is beyond me, but they do. They don’t believe it themselves.

    I challenge anyone to prove that they believe in God. Cause they don’t.

  73. #73 MikeM
    October 31, 2007

    Justice!

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/10/31/funeral.protests.ap/index.html

    BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) — A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

    Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.

  74. #74 MikeM
    October 31, 2007

    Matt Penfold, #13: Exactly.

    We allow Christians into our house (I say that with a wry smile because, in fact, I happen to like our many Christian friends; I want to roll my eyes at some of what they say, just not most of it), and let them pray at key moments.

    Heck, even I listen.

    But when I hear them thank the Lord for all the wonderful food, the companionship, the laughter… Mostly the food. At the end of these prayers, I always feel like adding, “And I’d like to thank the laborers who picked this food, the truckers who drove it, the loading dock people for moving it, the stocker for displaying it, and the cashier for selling it. Amen.”

    Just because it seems way more relevant to thank people we are absolutely certain exist, than to spirits for we have zero proof of their existence.

  75. #75 Colugo
    October 31, 2007

    “what do you mean by derivations which are “non-naturalist?”

    That’s a bad construction on my part. I mean beliefs (about the way things should be, about the point of it all, about what will most assuredly work) which are not wholly determinable by knowledge gained through the scientific method or more broadly naturalism (rationalist investigation). Of course all things, including supernatural belief systems, have a naturalistic base – since all is natural, as are we. Goals and values require a leap of faith, or at least an imposition of tradition, sentiment, scientifically undecidable propositions.

    In addition, when it comes to social policy, some systems are too complex and understanding of them too tentative to have certain knowledge about which policies will achieve particular goals. So even though these arguments are superficially about empirical data, they are actually rival philosophies which have not yet been fully vindicated nor falsified. For example, it is safe to say that the extremes of socialism and libertarianism have been historically falsified. But given particular goals, where is the correct policy located on that continuum? So these arguments sometimes have an implicit philosophical – or even mythic – element.

    I mean by “myth” a meta-narrative that informs, structures, simplifies, a totemic story that is not just just descriptive but prescriptive. It relates future aspirations to past struggles and accomplishments. A myth is not simply a social model but is infused with heroic and romantic themes. It can be secular or religious, nationalist or universalist, progressive or reactionary… It’s not dissimilar to Sorel’s conception (keeping in mind that Sorel was a terrible human being).

    While some are too dismissive of the constructive role of religion, Madaha is right about Dalrymple’s error in arguing that we should honor religious institutions simply because of their historical role. There might be valid reasons for appreciating religion, but that their influence in the production of creative, scientific, and social accomplishments is not one of them. Some thinkers who were deeply informed by Marxism, or even Leninism or Volkism, have come up with what arguably are admirable works, but we need not admire Marxism. For example, Antonio Gramsci, Eric Wolf, Heidegger (maybe Heidegger is crap, but you get the point…), Carl Jung and so on, and those who they influenced.

    Did Darwin the theist first have to be enchanted by, and then demolish, Paley’s theological argument in order to become Darwin the great scientist? Perhaps so. To paraphrase what one scholar told me, sometimes we honor our intellectual ancestors by crucifying them over and over again.

  76. #76 Colugo
    October 31, 2007

    Sorry, I meant to put Sastra’s name before the question posed before my reply. My bad.

  77. #77 shiftlessbum
    October 31, 2007

    MikeM #72

    Justice? I dunno. When someone can be successfully sued for hurting someone else’s feelings, no matter how vile that person, is I hardly think that is justice. It’s rather alarming, in fact. That slope can get mighty slippery. If there is any justice this will not stand.

  78. #78 John C. Randolph
    October 31, 2007

    I don’t have an issue with gratitude per se, I would just direct it towards those who actually deserve it. This of course leaves out fictitious characters. I’m grateful to Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, H. L. Mencken, Leonardo DaVinci, and many other people whose work has improved my life. (Not to mention the executives and the staff at Apple, as well as their customers and investors, who have drastically improved my financial position over the last few years.) Thanks, guys!

    -jcr

  79. #79 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    I challenge anyone to prove that they believe in God. Cause they don’t.

    not that i disagree with the premise (false faith), but I’m curious as to what proof would satisfy you that someone believed in a deity?

  80. #80 Jason
    October 31, 2007

    Colugo,

    I mean beliefs (about the way things should be, about the point of it all, about what will most assuredly work) which are not wholly determinable by knowledge gained through the scientific method or more broadly naturalism (rationalist investigation). Of course all things, including supernatural belief systems, have a naturalistic base – since all is natural, as are we. Goals and values require a leap of faith, or at least an imposition of tradition, sentiment, scientifically undecidable propositions.

    Why do goals and values require a “leap of faith?” A claim of knowledge unsupported by evidence requires a leap of faith, but goals and values themselves are matters of preference. I don’t need to make any leap of faith to have the goal of living a long life, or the goal of a world without hunger.

    Your basic assertion seems to be that if we get rid of religion, then people will still have a psychological need for some religion-like alternative (“myth,” “meta-narrative”) to replace it. I see no evidence for this claim. Yes, there may always be some small number of people who are religious, or who are adherents of some religion-like “meta-narrative,” but there’s no serious evidence that religion cannot continue its decline to the point at which it is essentially irrelevant to human affairs. There has been a dramatic decline in religiosity in many nations over the past century of so, and there’s no end to that in sight.

  81. #81 Dahan
    October 31, 2007

    You know, in a way what they’re saying is true. Without the church, the Sistine chapel would have never been done. Only the church had enough little boys to pay off Michelangelo.

    wish I was joking…

  82. #82 MikeM
    October 31, 2007

    Man oh man, shiftless, this wasn’t “hurting someone’s feelings”, it was out and out slander.

    I hope the ruling stands.

    If I told you that you smelled like cheese, that’d probably hurt your feelings. Westboro consistently goes way past food-related insults.

  83. #83 Evan
    October 31, 2007

    To regret slavery is to regret western civilization. There would be no Parthenon, no Colosseum, no Plato, no Cicero, no Aristotle, shucks, no US of A!

    Certainly even an abolitionist such as myself would never deign to impugn the motives of people who regard slavery as an unabashed good. We must respect those who value slavery for the foundational civilization building device that it was, even if we feel it should not be happening now.

  84. #84 Owlmirror
    October 31, 2007

    I challenge anyone to prove that they believe in God. Cause they don’t.

    not that i disagree with the premise (false faith), but I’m curious as to what proof would satisfy you that someone believed in a deity?

    One of the things I have been doing recently is trying to remember what it was I believed when I was still religious.

    It was a long time ago, and I was rather young, and I’m not sure I can even express the thoughts coherently. I’m not sure there was even anything coherent to express.

    I suppose, tentatively, that I would say now that I was taught certain things by my community, and those were “the rules”. And part of the rules was to say certain things, and think certain things, about God.

    What was God? I dunno. I suppose I had the vague idea that God was some thing big, powerful, and remote, who wanted us to follow “the rules” that adults were telling us all about. I knew that not everyone followed the exact same rules that I had been brought up with; there was a certain smugness that we knew “the rules”; we knew what this powerful thing called God really wanted, and were doing those things. There was also the occasional youthful self-righteous outrage when seeing those who were supposed to be following “the rules” instead violating them.

    Looking back on it now, it really does feel almost superstitious, like not stepping on cracks so as not break one’s mother’s back. I followed “the rules” because everyone did, and because “bad things” might happen if I didn’t. It wasn’t anything as specific as a broken back; it was just… something bad. And of course, adults would yell at me if I broke “the rules” (the more overt ones, rather than those governing thoughts). And of course, everyone else was following “the rules”. It was just less of a hassle to do what everyone else was doing.

  85. #85 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    Ok, but thinking back to those “halcyon” days, how would you prove to someone else that you “believed”?

    I keep hearkening back to the Inquisition, and wondering what the hell I would say to “prove” I was a “good xian”.

    I think I would have lived a rather short life, with either nooses or much fire at the end (doubt i would have made it to “drawn and quatered” status).

    :p

  86. #86 Owlmirror
    October 31, 2007

    Ok, but thinking back to those “halcyon” days, how would you prove to someone else that you “believed”?

    I dunno. Repeating it a lot?

    Isn’t that how you prove belief? Repeatability?

    Just like science!!!!!!!

    OK, I’m walking away now.

  87. #87 Duane Tiemann
    October 31, 2007

    Do they believe?

    I sure believe they do. I just took up a JW’s invitation to a lecture on the authenticity of the Bible. — Just trying to understand a little better why they believe.

    But it was super shallow stuff. And these folks were soaking it in like children. Not a critical thought in the lot. It was very convincing. Second class citizens, at best.

    You can easily believe that they “just don’t have the necessities” to work their way out of it. But in Europe, it’s not such a problem. Go figure. Somehow, we stunt these folks growth and end up with grown up children that vote. I even heard one comment “I vote for global warming. I like it a little warmer and Jehovah is going to clean this mess up anyway.”

  88. #88 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    Isn’t that how you prove belief? Repeatability?

    AFAICT, that’s about right.

    I can’t figure out how one could disprove someone doesn’t believe in the flying spaghetti monster, for that matter.

    It’s obvious on the face of it, merely by looking at the details of the construct itself (the FSM being specifically constructed as a satire on belief), but how would one go about proving it independent of the construct itself?

    In fact, what makes the whole FSM thing “work” is because of the fact that one can’t independently prove that a follower of the FSM isn’t just as much a “true believer” as any xian is.

  89. #89 Marcus Ranum
    October 31, 2007

    Ichthyic writes:
    I’m curious as to what proof would satisfy you that someone believed in a deity?

    Since beliefs aren’t tangible or observable, I don’t think a strong proof is possible. But one could make a good argument to appear to believe in a diety if one absolutely scrupulously, literally, and always did exactly what was consistent with that belief. Of course that’s problematic with the abramahic religions because then you get to argue about whether god really hates seeing the top of men’s heads and so on and so forth.

  90. #90 Alan Kellogg
    October 31, 2007

    In case the symposium is taking place in downtown San Diego, here’s a bit of advice for the three of you. The service deli in the downtown Ralphs gets real busy around noon. If you’re looking for a sandwhich during the event you’re best off getting one around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

  91. #91 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    and always did exactly what was consistent with that belief

    but that would be an easy test, no?

    If I refined a belief in a deity down to the point where I say that all i need do to demonstrate my belief is to snap my fingers in a generally Westerly direction once per day…

  92. #92 Sastra
    October 31, 2007

    Colugo (#74) wrote:

    I mean by “myth” a meta-narrative that informs, structures, simplifies, a totemic story that is not just just descriptive but prescriptive. It relates future aspirations to past struggles and accomplishments. A myth is not simply a social model but is infused with heroic and romantic themes. It can be secular or religious, nationalist or universalist, progressive or reactionary…

    Thanks. Given this definition of “myth,” I agree that we’ll probably always have — or create — myths. The concern here is that specifically religious myths arrive at their prescriptions by describing states of affairs which can’t be cross-checked. Interpretations can evolve along with a culture, but there is no way to definitively throw out “wrong” supernatural facts. If these facts drive a culture, watch out.

    Evan (#82) wrote:

    To regret slavery is to regret western civilization.

    Heh. I can imagine someone making this argument seriously. Also an argument for the value of monarchy or war.

    Or — even closer to the issue — pseudoscience. Not only have false beliefs about the way the world works shaped our current culture, but there are plenty of people around today who use the “sciences” of astrology, tarot cards, energy healing, and psychic powers to comfort themselves and others, finding joy, meaning, and strength from their encounters with channeled space aliens from Atlantis. Or whatever.

    You can become a better person through pseudoscience just as you can become a better person through religion. And when people only use the nonsense to prop up otherwise sensible advice it can look benign. But an ability to appreciate the power of belief to move human actions doesn’t mean one should not criticize what’s not actually true. Someone has to care, and say it. Nonsense isn’t always used to prop up otherwise sensible advice.

  93. #93 Ichthyic
    October 31, 2007

    You can become a better person through pseudoscience just as you can become a better person through religion

    The manual for Alcoholics Anonymous would certainly agree, and has a proven track record in support.

    A crutch can certainly help to heal a broken leg.
    it’s just that if one ends up worshiping the crutch…

  94. #94 Forrest
    October 31, 2007

    The “Gratitude Thing”…totally agree with many posters here, no need to attribute it to or have it be dependent upon any deity…but why is this so intuitively obvious to many atheists but yet (apparently) such a stumbling block to theists? (And possibly to Dalrymple too?) I suspect that such bridges of opinion will never be gulfed, as some people are just deeply psychologically inclined to theism no matter what practical evidence and experience reveals or suggests. I am also grateful for having the psychology more suited to an atheistic perspective, and I say that because I am not convinced that this isn’t entirely due to chance of birth, whatever DNA pattern I have inherited. I.e., I “tried to be a Christian” for 5 long confusing years in my early 20s, and it just didn’t stick, like a square peg fitting into a round hole. (I thought Christians “had their shit together” to quote a common phrase of the time.) Does ANY “glory” of overcoming this confusion really lie solely with me and my ability to finally come to firmer grips with my environment? I am not at all sure, and am at least partly grateful to whatever influence heredity has played here!

  95. #95 negentropyeater
    October 31, 2007

    I think there are different kinds of people, not everybody’s brain funcions the same way, education received varies a great deal, etc…

    For the more rational, educated people, the PZ, Dawkins, Dennett approach works best.

    But what about the rest ? There are many people in this world who are not interested in finding the answers by themselves, they’d rather be told. Maybe here a religious format will work best, when religion is more tolerant, adogmatic and absent of nonsensical supernatural beliefs. By and large this is what is taking place in the more secular west European countries.

    It is because in the USA, the “religious right” went the other way (ie less tolerant and more nonsensical), that atheists have no choice than to become more vocal, to wake up the more tolerant and socially conscious parts of religion.

    There was a good article by D. Kirkpatrick in the New York Times Magazine : “End Times for Evangelicals”. He claims that the more conservative religious leaders that emerged in the 80s have had their years of glory and are now losing out and being supplanted by a more tolerant, progressive breed.

  96. #96 Ben Abbott
    October 31, 2007

    I challenge anyone to prove that they believe in God. Cause they don’t.

    I’ve known individuals who I was convinced did believe. However, in these instances they had associated personal experiences with their individual desires.

    Personally, it is my opinion that any observable event must have natural causes. Hence, I’ve deported all supernatural claims from my mind.

    I do view those who take an opposing position as individuals who are unable to overcome (1) their ignorance, (2) their desire for influence, power, and wealth … derived from the obedience of others, or (3) their lack of aptitude.

    In the current example, only the 3rd applies.

    I’ll take the debatable position that he should be ignored. He’s intellectual position isn’t worth anyone’s attention, much less the attention it is getting here.

  97. #97 Forrest
    October 31, 2007

    Reginald touched on this in post #26, but upon reading Dalymple’s first paragraph again, criticizing Dennett and asserting that if belief in God is explained per evolution, that belief in evolution must also similarly be explained a a result of evolutionary influence…surely this is twaddle and the several posters who have urged we ignore this folderol are surely on the mark.

    I’ve started reading Edward J. Larson’s “Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory”. I was struck by how men of the early 19th century, even “giants in their field” such as George Cuvier, were committed creationists and disavowed evolution or “transmutation” of any sort. Although undoubtedly influenced by religion, Larson also makes the point fairly clearly that such men actually believed the best interpretation of existing geological and fossil evidence was for repeated extinctions (catastrophes of some ilk, typically flood, but then Agassiz posits glaciation) and then addtional creations, but of different life forms than the previous cycle.

    Whether I am characterizing Larson exactly right or not, the point being that any more confident “belief in evolution” was not DUE to evolution and the domain of the genetic, but instead to further 19th century intellectual and scientific advances, not the least Darwin of course, and thus the domain of the memetic! (Well, maybe there is a gene that explains how a plausible and confident belief in evolution can only occur for people born after, say, 1800!)

  98. #98 mgarelick
    November 1, 2007

    MikeM said:

    Man oh man, shiftless, this wasn’t “hurting someone’s feelings”, it was out and out slander.

    I don’t know anything about the cause of action in that suit, but I wouldn’t expect that it was slander. AFAIK, Westboro didn’t say anything about any specific individuals; certainly not about the particular dead soldier or grieving family. One of the distinct characteristics of the Westboro demonstrations is how pointless and irrational they are. I would almost expect that the defense to the suit would be something like “diminished capacity.”
    As I see it, this kind of case is a real acid test for those of us who value both human decency and open expression. I would love to kick Fred Phelps in the nuts, but I would have trouble articulating a neutral principle that would distinguish tolerable from intolerable speech.

  99. #99 thwaite
    November 1, 2007

    Did Darwin the theist first have to be enchanted by, and then demolish, Paley’s theological argument in order to become Darwin the great scientist? (#74)

    Perhaps so. Michael Ruse’s DARWIN & DESIGN seems to add that it also required the social construction of ‘Natural Theology’ by the Anglican Church, choosing this at its creation as its Middle Way between corrupt Catholic institutions and fundamentalist Puritans. Natural Theology allowed inspiration and devotion by study of God’s handwork in nature, to be as valid as rituals or direct revelations. It’s this Christian tradition (with its accumulated data of biological adaptations) in England which led to Paley, whose logic Darwin merely inverted.

    Perhaps agricultural breeders and stratified fossil discoveries by coal miners would have led to evolutionary insights even without this religious tradition. But the prevalence of Natural Theology certainly allowed the broad import of Darwin’s argument to be immediately accepted in his lifetime … in English culture, if not in the U.S.

  100. #100 coathangrrr
    November 1, 2007

    The manual for Alcoholics Anonymous would certainly agree, and has a proven track record in support.

    Aah, the great myth of the “proven” track record of AA. For sure.

    P.S. Theodore Dalrymple is a right wing nutjob.

  101. #101 heddle
    November 1, 2007

    Armen,

    How do Dennet and Harris break the ice with religious individuals? Obiously, they probably don’t start hostile questioning, but how would they suggest one opens a conversation and enlightens the religious? Is it easier to provide evidence against their beliefs, or would that just have them automatically on the defensive?

    Why do you think we would be on the defensive? I talk to atheists all the time who attempt to provide evidence against my beliefs. There is absolutely no reason to be defensive. Why? Because neither side has an argument that the other hasn’t heard a gazillion times before. Take your pick: Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, … not one has a new argument for atheism. It’s just repackaging (in most cases not even that) of the same-old, same-old Religious people are stupid; Religious people are simply afraid of death; Religious people were indoctrinated by their parents; Everything really bad is due to religion; The religious are hate-filled bumpkins; There have been more wars fought over religion; Blah, blah blah. That goes both ways: no Christian has a new argument for Christianity. It is not that talking to an atheist is so threatening that we go on the defensive–the real problem is that is usually as boring as watching a Seinfeld rerun for the nth time.

    In fact, here is the question I would ask the luminaries; maybe PZ will pass it along for me: Would you make available a collective list of any new arguments for atheism or especially against Christianity that you have developed?

    I hope such a list is not the empty set–then at least the conversation would be interesting.

  102. #102 Moses
    November 1, 2007

    MikeM #72

    Justice? I dunno. When someone can be successfully sued for hurting someone else’s feelings, no matter how vile that person, is I hardly think that is justice. It’s rather alarming, in fact. That slope can get mighty slippery. If there is any justice this will not stand.

    Posted by: shiftlessbum | October 31, 2007 7:03 PM

    Maybe you’re just clueless to and should take “The Consequences of being a Fucktard 201” in college. Because “justice” is what happens to people when they and their low-life friends go out and attack people contrary (physically and/or emotionally) in excess of what is allowed by society.

    That most of these cases do, in fact, go nowhere, doesn’t mean this wasn’t justice or that we have to worry about your “slippery slope.” This is a group of people who behave horribly towards others and without regard to the emotional pain and suffering they inflict on a daily basis.

    It’s this pattern of abhorrent conduct that got them in the end. Not the isolated case of “hurting some-one’s feelings” in which you try to excuse their just desserts.

    BTW, the legal concept is “Harassment and the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.” And it’s been on the books long before these clowns got themselves in trouble:

    Agis v. Howard Johnson Co., 371 Mass. 140, 355 NE2d 315 (1976). Expanded liability to cases without physical harm. Court held that “one who, by extreme and outrageous conduct and without privilege causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress even though no bodily harm may result.”

    This is a 31-year preciden in Massachusetts. Other states have these laws and precidents too.

    In short.

    Justice.

  103. #103 negentropyeater
    November 1, 2007

    Heddle,

    it’s not about the arguments. I am an agnostic, ex Jesuit, but I totally support the new atheist movement in the USA as a call of reason against the rise of the conservative religious right, its intolerance, its nonsensical televangelists and megapreachers, its reading of the bible as a science textbook, its neverending false manipulations of the gospel of christ.
    Because, if they don’t do it, who will ? Where are the cries of the more tolerant, highly educated, progressive clerics ?

    Having said this, I do distinguish between two groups within the new atheist movement.
    On one side the PZ / Dawkins / Dennett who, to me, sound true. I don’t necessarily agree with everyting they say or write, but I understand why they do, and I give them my both thumbs up (for what it’s worth).
    On the other side, I give my thumbs down to Harris and Hitchens. They both sound false, oh they talk well, they have the verve of the best politicians, but I see them as the Robespierres of the New Atheist movement. They want to go for the kill, and I view them as even more dogmatic than the religious right. I shall have nothing to do with these two. They always give me the impression of beautiful rethoric but with no actual substance.

  104. #104 Sastra
    November 1, 2007

    heddle wrote:

    I talk to atheists all the time who attempt to provide evidence against my beliefs. There is absolutely no reason to be defensive. Why? Because neither side has an argument that the other hasn’t heard a gazillion times before.

    Depends on who you’re including on each “side.” Sounds like it’s debaters, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Although plenty of theologians, apologists, and educated laypeople have studied arguments against the existence of God, the vast majority of a believing public not only hasn’t studied them, they don’t seem to be aware that there are any. They apparently think atheism goes no deeper than “some religious people have upset me” or “I don’t like being held accountable by a Higher Power.” The existence of God is taken as either self-evident, rationally inescapable, or aligned with the ability to feel and believe in things like love. And they generally think science has lead to confirming it.

    Atheists have not been on the public radar; they’re not seen as regular citizens with a legitimate viewpoint which allows them to be considered reasonable and normal. And they will stay off that sort of public radar as long as not believing in God is seen as unaccountable and perverse.

    As a Christian, you think atheists are wrong. But I suspect that your contact with atheists and their views has given you a certain modicum of respect for the position itself. Atheism does not merit only a simple or easy rebuttal, taking a few minutes or a couple quips. You recognize that it needs to be painstakingly taken apart and shown to be wrong.

    For many theists, it’s not even at that point.

    Getting it there is an advance.

  105. #105 Stone Monkey
    November 1, 2007

    The argument seems to boil down to; Can Western Civilisation (such as it is…) be “blamed” on religious belief?

    If the answer to this is yes, then that would imply that Christianity is not the only religion responsible (despite what its adherents and apologist would have us believe). It would also seem to imply that this influence does not necessarily have to have been a good one i.e. that Western Civilisation exists despite the influence of religions, not because of them.

  106. #106 Dunc
    November 1, 2007

    For my own part, I think Western civilization was built on the talent and hard work and ideals of its people

    While that is entirely true, it’s not the whole story. There’s a heck of a lot of warfare, piracy, slavery and ruthless colonial exploitation in the mix too. Would “Western Civilisation”* have turned out that way it has without the gold and silver the Conquistadors stole, or without the triangular trade system that built the British Empire on the profits of slavery? No.

    * Whenever I hear the words “Western Civilisation”, I’m reminded of what Ghandi is reputed to have said when asked what he thought of it: “I think it would be a good idea.”

  107. #107 negentropyeater
    November 1, 2007

    Sastra,
    you say :
    “Atheists have not been on the public radar; they’re not seen as regular citizens with a legitimate viewpoint which allows them to be considered reasonable and normal. And they will stay off that sort of public radar as long as not believing in God is seen as unaccountable and perverse.”

    Please, this refers in particular to the USofA. Not to western Europe. I can give you countless examples of famous, respected and reverred people who have been very clear about their atheism.

    On another note, one question that will never stop to facinate me :
    “Why is it, that it is on the very question, that we know the very least about, ie the existence or non existence of God, that there is so much certainty, be it yes or no.”

  108. #108 Sastra
    November 1, 2007

    negentropyeater:

    Yes, you’re right. I was thinking of the US — though I’d be a bit surprised if the average person in Europe was familiar with philosophical arguments. Being non-religious is sometimes simply part of the landscape. Same as being religious, for some people. Not everyone cares enough to think through.

    On another note, one question that will never stop to facinate me :”Why is it, that it is on the very question, that we know the very least about, ie the existence or non existence of God, that there is so much certainty, be it yes or no.”

    How do you know that’s a question “we know the least about?” Are you certain it is? 😉

    I think it depends on how you define God. If it’s defined as “that Great Mystery which lies beyond our understanding” then even the most convinced atheists will be agnostics on that one.

    But then they keep on trying to describe what it’s like and tell us what it does.

  109. #109 zer0
    November 1, 2007

    …which until recently was religious to its core.

    Ummmm… I’d say there have always been skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics etc. The only difference is they were called Heretics and they got murdered, tortured, burned alive by the clergy etc etc. It’s easy to be “religious” if you face a very painful death otherwise.

  110. #110 J Myers
    November 1, 2007

    …one question that will never stop to facinate me :”Why is it, that it is on the very question, that we know the very least about, ie the existence or non existence of God, that there is so much certainty, be it yes or no.”

    I don’t know a single strong atheist, so I can’t speak to any supposed certainty in our camp. Their is a lot of proclaimed certainty from the theist side of the fence, but I don’t know how much of that is genuine, and how much of it is but an arrogant desperation to will into existence the deity of their preference. The fact is, however, that if there were a god possessed of even modest power, and he wanted us to know about him, it would be a trivial matter to provide some evidence. If he exists, he has opted not to do so, for whatever reason, and I can’t understand why anyone would be inclined in these circumstances to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Am I certain? No. Am I certain that no one has a legitimate reason to believe otherwise? Reasonably. The question that continues to intrigue me is thus: How absurd, arbitrary, contrived, self-contradictory, mutually exclusive, unsubstantiated, self-serving, and anthropocentric would religion have to be before most people consider it the most likely explanation that it’s just a bunch of stuff that other people made up?

  111. #111 negentropyeater
    November 1, 2007

    come on Zero, do you deny the logic of the inquistion ? Burning someone alive was a test of hereticity. If you’d survive, you were convicted. Otherwise, it must have been a mistake…
    Compare with Bush and Sadam’s WMD.

  112. #112 Marine Mammal
    November 1, 2007

    I think that what needs to be asked, is how many people now living are not finding their way to rationalism, agnosticism or atheism because Hank Snow doesn’t have his own web site?
    He fits right in with PZ and the rest of the croud, and his last comment was spectacular, in my opinion.

  113. #113 Paul Crowley
    November 1, 2007

    Hank Snow doesn’t have a blog because he’s been dead since 1999. Hank Fox on the other hand does seem to have one, it’s here:

    http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com/

  114. #114 Paul Crowley
    November 1, 2007

    Whoops, that URL should have been this one:

    http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com/blog/86

  115. #115 frog
    November 1, 2007

    “To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.”

    What’s not to regret?

    We’ve cleared two continents of their indigenous civilizations, enslaved another, then turned on ourselves in a genocidal spree when we ran out of foreigners. Our governments have been, all in all, authoritarian or totalitarian, and the non-Westerners who have bought into our model have inevitably become just as barbarous. Until the nineteenth century, we mostly lacked even the freedom of conscience – we believed that the state had a right to our inner minds!

    What our great philosophers, scientists and artists have done was done in spite of “Western Civilization,” not because of it. That’s their heroism, and where my respect comes from – they did it despite the brown-nosing little snivelers that mostly make up our civilization (like Dalrymple).

    Of course, I also regret Muslim civilization (slavers), Eastern Christian civilization (more slavers), Indian civilization (racist, classist, …), Chinese civilization (authoritarian), Incan civilization (totalitarian), Aztec civilization (murderous), and Mayan civilization (back to authoritarian). And those are just the recent civilizations, without even touching Rome. All in all, I regret most of human history and almost all of urban history…

    But what can you do? shrug – Our high point must have been Lascaux. Not my fault – I didn’t get to pick my time and species.

  116. #116 John Danley
    November 1, 2007

    To regret D’Souza is the best thing we can do.

  117. #117 uncle frogy
    November 1, 2007

    when I hear “western Civilization” I remember a quote I may not get completely correct. When asked about western civilization Gandhi said he thought it would be a good idea.

    I tend to go nuts in these discussions. I have no idea what is meant by most of the terms used, seems to me that there are no agreed meaning for all participants. If we were discussing cranial nerves or gill slits or granite or combustion or oak trees we would know what we were talking about. In these threads one person seems to mean one thing while another seems to mean something else all using the same words. I like the question how do we know anyone believes anything just because they say so. I would add how do I know what the —— you mean by that anyway. what is belief or unbelief?
    keep it going these are important questions and I must admit I kind of like going a little nuts anyway!

  118. #118 uncle frogy
    November 1, 2007

    when I hear “western Civilization” I remember a quote I may not get completely correct. When asked about western civilization Gandhi said he thought it would be a good idea.

    I tend to go nuts in these discussions. I have no idea what is meant by most of the terms used, seems to me that there are no agreed meaning for all participants. If we were discussing cranial nerves or gill slits or granite or combustion or oak trees we would know what we were talking about. In these threads one person seems to mean one thing while another seems to mean something else all using the same words. I like the question how do we know anyone believes anything just because they say so. I would add how do I know what the —— you mean by that anyway. what is belief or unbelief?
    keep it going these are important questions and I must admit I kind of like going a little nuts anyway!

  119. #119 Hank Fox
    November 1, 2007

    Paul Crowley: Hank Snow doesn’t have a blog because he’s been dead since 1999. Hank Fox on the other hand does seem to have one, it’s here: http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com/

    I chime in at Unscrewing the Inscrutable on occasion, but I don’t really have a blog there. I shut down my own blog about a year ago, and even quit my job, so I could write two books I wanted to write.

    Coming off that year without income, I’m scrambling to get back on track with the realities of life. After I convince myself I can make a living again, I would like to get back into blogging, so you may see more of me in the future.

  120. #120 heddle
    November 1, 2007

    Sastra,

    You are correct; I do have respect for intellectual atheism. Why strikes me, however, is that today’s spokesmen for atheism do not possess the gravitas of their predecessors. None of the “new atheists,” in my opinion, are in the same league as, say, Bertrand Russell. They are more popularizers than intellectual atheists. As I’ve written in the past, this is not a bad thing. If they make it acceptable for atheists to come out of the closet, everyone wins.

    You wrote:

    You recognize that it [atheism] needs to be painstakingly taken apart and shown to be wrong.

    Actually, I don’t think atheism (any more than theism) can be shown to be wrong. To me, the only intellectual stimulating argument is to accept the other side’s premise and then address self-consistency. That said, I don’t really know how to show an atheist that his position is not self-consistent–though I think the most difficult question for “materialists” is that of free will–but even there I know of nothing new being argued. I am more interested in atheists pointing out where I, as a Christian, am not self consistent. If that is done smartly–like Russell was able to do–then Christianity can learn and advance from addressing those criticisms. But worn-out arguments like “If God designed everything, who designed God?” which Dawkins, for example, likes to make–these are useless.

  121. #121 Owlmirror
    November 1, 2007

    But worn-out arguments like “If God designed everything, who designed God?” which Dawkins, for example, likes to make–these are useless.

    No, not really. It points out a fundamental contradiction of ideas.

    The whole point of the argument from design is that it is impossible for complexity to arise without an intelligence to create it.

    Since intelligence is itself complex, their whole idea is self-negating, since by the logic of their own premise, such an intelligence could never have arise spontaneously.

    Therefore, God cannot exist, by the very logic that says that complexity cannot arise without intelligence.

  122. #122 Scrofulum
    November 1, 2007

    New athiests? What’s the point of trying to label people who don’t believe, have no truck with and generally want nothing to do with imaginary supernatural entities? It’s like naming people who aren’t in your club.

    I don’t collect stamps, so I’m an aphilatelist. If I still don’t do it, am I a new aphilatelist?

    Grumble grumble grumble.

  123. #123 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    With regards to Dalrymple’s “graditude”, Myers says “there is no one to be grateful to”. But why does one need to be grateful to anyone in order to feel gratitude? Why is it so unthinkable, for example, that someone could be grateful towards an inanimate object like the cosmos?

    Because it makes no sense.

    You seem to have confused “happy” with “grateful”.

    For example, it is safe to say that the extremes of socialism and libertarianism have been historically falsified.

    Ouch! The extreme is communism, not socialism.

    Aah, the great myth of the “proven” track record of AA. For sure.

    P.S. Theodore Dalrymple is a right wing nutjob.

    The links don’t work. Please try again: <a href=”URL”>text</a>.

    Please, this refers in particular to the USofA. Not to western Europe. I can give you countless examples of famous, respected and reverred people who have been very clear about their atheism.

    Really? I can’t think of any.

    But probably that’s because it’s simply not considered newsworthy what anyone believes in or not. (Well, except if they’re Muslim. Erm.)

  124. #124 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 1, 2007

    With regards to Dalrymple’s “graditude”, Myers says “there is no one to be grateful to”. But why does one need to be grateful to anyone in order to feel gratitude? Why is it so unthinkable, for example, that someone could be grateful towards an inanimate object like the cosmos?

    Because it makes no sense.

    You seem to have confused “happy” with “grateful”.

    For example, it is safe to say that the extremes of socialism and libertarianism have been historically falsified.

    Ouch! The extreme is communism, not socialism.

    Aah, the great myth of the “proven” track record of AA. For sure.

    P.S. Theodore Dalrymple is a right wing nutjob.

    The links don’t work. Please try again: <a href=”URL”>text</a>.

    Please, this refers in particular to the USofA. Not to western Europe. I can give you countless examples of famous, respected and reverred people who have been very clear about their atheism.

    Really? I can’t think of any.

    But probably that’s because it’s simply not considered newsworthy what anyone believes in or not. (Well, except if they’re Muslim. Erm.)

  125. #125 MikeM
    November 1, 2007

    Moses, #101.

    Late in coming, but thank you.

    Sincerely, MikeM

  126. #126 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    “Believers” see certain advantages accruing to them, whether temporal, spiritual or heavenly, and therefore say “I believe in God”, a verbal formula which they find comforting in the individual and binding in the aggregate.
    Please note: I am not saying God doesn’t exist. I am saying that people who say they believe in God can be assumed to be lying, unless, of course, they can prove it.
    Leaving completely aside the question of whether God exists, I would like just one theist to make even a reasonable representation of the truth of their belief.
    You will also notice- they will avoid this question much, much more assiduously than the question of Gods existence.
    Try it sometime. The first and most crucial step in the process of religious enchantment is not granting or even being willing to debate the existence of God, it is the willingness to grant the believer the boon of assuming he (or she) really do believe in something. And from that first granted assumption, all thier power of argument comes. Take it away! The idea that men “believe in God” is the crucial point at which religion gains its power. God’s actual existence is completely irrelevant.

  127. #127 heddle
    November 1, 2007

    Mooser:

    I am saying that people who say they believe in God can be assumed to be lying, unless, of course, they can prove it.

    I don’t get it. Prove (a) that there is a God–which all believers admit is impossible, or (b) prove that they believe in God, which is just as impossible? Can I likewise assume that you are a liar because you cannot prove to me either (a) God does not exist or (b) that you do not believe in him?

    Leaving completely aside the question of whether God exists, I would like just one theist to make even a reasonable representation of the truth of their belief.

    You will also notice- they will avoid this question much, much more assiduously than the question of Gods existence

    I have no idea what you are talking about. I doubt you case pose a question that I will try to avoid.

  128. #128 heddle
    November 1, 2007

    Correction: The next to last paragraph of my previous post, beginning with “You will also…” should be part of the second block of quoted text.

  129. #129 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Thanks for proving my point, heddle. So, you can’t even, you won’t even try, to prove that you believe in God!
    After that, I don’t see how the question of Gods existence is even worth debating.
    Although a frank admission of why you choose to say “I believe in God” would be interesting, if embarassing.

    And I have no need to prove anything about God’s existence. The only thing I contend is that you (the believer) is lying when you say “I believe in God”
    I am certainly not going to waste my time debating the existence of something you can’t even prove you believe yourself.

  130. #130 heddle
    November 1, 2007

    Mooser,

    Thanks for proving my point, heddle. So, you can’t even, you won’t even try, to prove that you believe in God!

    I have to give you credit. I thought I had heard everything, every possible objection. But you are the first, in my experience, to demand that a believer proves that he believes. Kudos for being interesting!

    Out of curiosity, what would you accept as proof that I (or any other alleged believer) actually believes in God?

  131. #131 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    Out of curiosity, what would you accept as proof that I (or any other alleged believer) actually believes in God?

    cycle back to #78, lather, rinse, repeat.

  132. #132 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Out of curiosity, what would you accept as proof that I (or any other alleged believer) actually believes in God?

    What I would accept is none of your business, frankly! The question is: What do you got? You got nothin’! What should convince me that “believers” Aren’t just playing a verbal game?

    My point, about which I should be less obtuse, is that by the time we get to the Question of God’s existence, just to get to that point we have to give up so much of the field to the believer that the question becomes pointless.

    And so I’ll even concede a point, since theists demand it. Okay, what should convince me somebody believes in God?

  133. #133 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    And I lowered the bar from “proof” to just convincing me, which should be much easier, since I’m fairly credulous.

  134. #134 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    You got nothin’!

    actually I never claimed I did (I’m an atheist, remember?)

    It’s not the premise of your argument that I disagree with, it’s that I can’t see how one could objectify the response to your question.

    still can’t.

    And I lowered the bar from “proof” to just convincing me, which should be much easier, since I’m fairly credulous.

    what’s the point? wouldn’t that be entirely subjective, then?

  135. #135 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    … er, not to cut in on your dispute with Heddle (please, feel free to rip him as many orifices as you wish, as he can commonly be found to be full of shit), but in this case he has the same issue with your question as I do, and it has nothing to do with whether one is a believer or not.

    Maybe if you rethink exactly what it is you wish someone to prove?

  136. #136 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    You got nothin’!

    That’s the rhetorical “You” I’m addressing.

  137. #137 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    hmm, let me try this:

    for example, if I claim a belief in the efficacy of evolutionary theory, I can imagine you might find things like me citing papers, and using it in my own research to be supportive of the fact that “I believe” in the ToE.

    but wouldn’t someone who writes papers oriented theologically, and who attends church on a regular basis, similarly be a “believer” in whatever deity motivates them?

    I’m just confused about what it is, really, that you want to see as answer, so am wondering if it’s really the right question to begin with.

    I mean, the standard question of comparison is “how can you believe when there is no evidence”?

    right?

    so is perhaps the more relevant question “how can one define “faith” as anything more than a verbal game?”

    maybe it’s just a matter of semantics to you, but AFAIK, there is a difference between “belief” and “faith” in most religious ideologies.

    If that’s the case, that you’re really looking for a justification for “faith”, Heddle’s response should be along the lines of his specific religion not needing justification for it.

    IOW, it won’t satisfy you, but it won’t bother Heddle in the slightest.

    also, if I surmise correctly what you seek, a creationist is exploring the same question you are, but from the angle that they NEED justification for their faith, and so invent it in the world around them.

  138. #138 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Maybe if you rethink exactly what it is you wish someone to prove?

    Before I will even debate the existence of God I have to be convinced the person maintaining God’s existence believes it himself. Otherwise, we are just playing a stupid game and I am being made a fool of. (I can accomplish that perfectly well on my own thank you, with neither Divine, human or, for that matter Satanic help.)
    And I am not playing a game, at all! All of my life, when people have told me they believe in God, I have thought they are lying. If they told me about their belief in any other thing in the same terms and in the same way, I would think they were lying. I would say “You don’t really believe that, do you”. Well, it finally occurred to me that when this debate is joined, I was not debating honestly. I would give the person who says “I believe in God” the benefit of that statement as a parameter for the debate. But the problem is, I don’t believe them. I don’t think they do believe in God, they’re just saying it, for whatever reason. (I can think of several) Why debate from a dishonest stand? It’s useless. So there we are, or rather, I am. Before I can even begin to debate God’s existence on that level, I’ll have to be convinced the person does believe it, when the most likely answer is that they don’t, they are just saying what they think, or know, will bring them some advantage. That is where the debate on God’s existence should start, not after I have conceded the greatest majority of the territory. And convincing me, or proving to me, or proving that you believe in God is what, I am convinced, is really being done when people try and prove there is a God. So you have to end up rejecting them if you wanna reject the existence of God.
    Theists (those who profess a belief in God) are not honest, and the depths of their dishonesty must be plumbed and exposed to level the field, or make the debate useful in any way.

  139. #139 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    Before I will even debate the existence of God I have to be convinced the person maintaining God’s existence believes it himself

    the point is, how would you be able to tell if someone was sincere beyond accepting their say-so on the matter?

    All of my life, when people have told me they believe in God, I have thought they are lying. If they told me about their belief in any other thing in the same terms and in the same way, I would think they were lying.

    maybe it would help if you defined what specifically makes you think they are lying.

    Why debate from a dishonest stand? It’s useless

    ever played devil’s advocate (pardon the pun) in any given debate?

    it’s hardly pointless, as the debate still can proceed. It’s just the goal of conversion becomes pointless.

    However, the tenets of the xian faith itself would likely say that if one is able to be converted by debate out of believing in god, then they had no faith to begin with, right?

    so why would anybody who professes to be a believer ever answer your question for you?

    AFAICT, that’s WHY the issue of “faith” is constructed in the way it is for most religions: by default, those who are truly “faithful” require no justification for their faith.

    so, a theistic evolutionist still claims to be “faithful”, even if they have a different interpretation of the writings that form the basis of their religion to begin with.

    yes, I understand the logical catch 22, but what I’m saying is that you will never get the answer you wish from the question you are asking.

    does that help any?

  140. #140 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    I am not looking for a justification for faith. Got those, by the dozen, so many I could bundle ’em and sell ’em at a discount.

    Everything I know about people, all my experience, and every indication I’ve ever gotten tells me that when someone says: “I believe in God” they are lying. They are repeating a verbal formula, which like “please” and “Thank-you” results in certain advantages. When they can convince me, or prove, I don’t care, that they believe in God, well maybe at that point we can discuss whether I should, too. But not before.
    Don’t dine where the chef doesn’t eat his own cooking! It’s a good way to get ptomaine poisoning.

  141. #141 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    well, we got a “true believer” on the other thread in the form of Leigh, who i just directed over here to answer your question.

    *evil laugh*

    (apologies, but I just had to)

  142. #142 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    the point is, how would you be able to tell if someone was sincere beyond accepting their say-so on the matter

    Hey man, we’re talkin God here, fella! It ought to be goddamed easy, I would think, and it is. Except they don’t believe it themselves. If they did, they would have no problems with proving it.
    Many people make the mistake of thinking that credulity is the first prerequisite for religious thinking. It’s not. It is, and has always been, dishonesty. Why so many dishonest people have decided to use God or religion as a vehicle for their fraud is very worrying, but that’s the way it is.

  143. #143 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    so why would anybody who professes to be a believer ever answer your question for you?

    Even worse, they keep on asking “What would convince you?”
    Can you think of a clearer way to say “I am a fraud”?
    Gee, I think I’ll tell the next attractive theist woman: “If you made mad passionate love to me right here on this “cruddy, cruddy couch” (as Philip Roth said) I would believe you”. I’d get laid all the time, no doubt.

  144. #144 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    I’m not sure Leigh is actually intelligent enough to click on a link, but if not, you should go grab him in the other thread.

    that should be good entertainment for you. heddle won’t satisfy, trust me.

  145. #145 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    the point is, how would you be able to tell if someone was sincere beyond accepting their say-so on the matter?

    Cause if I accept their say-so on that matter, I have accepted their say-so. That puts me where they want me, halfway to accepting the existence of God on their say-so.
    And I can’t do that, cause they’re not honest, and not to be trusted, if they can’t be honest about the first question, they damnsure won’t be honest about the second.

  146. #146 Sastra
    November 1, 2007

    I don’t quite understand where Mooser is coming from. It almost sounds like a noncognitivist argument (the concept of “God” has no coherent meaning, so nobody can believe — or not believe — in what amounts to gibberish), but I’m not sure. Earlier I think he talked about people not living up to the standards one would expect them to live up to if they really believed there was a God, which is a different issue.

    I have often heard the trite “there are no ‘real’ atheists: deep down, everyone secretly knows there is a God” and of course there is no way to debate this. Perhaps Mooser feels that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    If someone said “I believe that everything happens for a mysterious but good reason which will be revealed to me one day” or “before we were incarnated into this life our souls selected every event so that we could learn a lesson” I might doubt that they really believed it, deep down, because given a real tragedy it’s rather hard to maintain this sort of Panglossian optimism. Maybe this is Mooser’s point.

    Or he could be a hardline advocate of Dennett’s “belief in belief” — only he thinks it goes for everyone, not just some, as Dennett does. At any rate, it’s sounds suspiciously like a presuppositional atheist argument.

  147. #147 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    frankly, I’m rubbing my hands together waiting for Leigh to jump in here from the other thread.

    *hangs (smiling) head in shame*

  148. #148 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Hi.
    Ichy, I don’t want to hijack this thread do you want to start a thread specific to post?

    Yes I believe in the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible.
    The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Generally better to get our definitions sorted as a starting point.

    If this is just gonna be a poke fun at the Christian thing it’s all gonna flop and sadly be a waste of everyones time (mine included).

    I live in a house in the countryside with no phone line and am posting over a cell phone uplink so it takes a bit of staying power to keep up with rapid multiple posts, please be patient.

    I tend to use caps for emphasis, I am not shouting. I’d like to get this understood and out of the way. I will attempt to keep this to a minimum anyway.
    I have crap spelling. I type badly so this sometimes contributes. Slagging my spelling will not earn you any points all I will do is shrug.
    It is also 3:15 am here so I may go off air in an hour or two but as long as the comments are intelligent and not to vitriolic I will hang about and do my best to answer the challenge fully.
    Also I will not swear and would like if the discussion could be kept civil and rational.

    Ichy, you insisted on pretending to miss the point in the other chat please don’t do it here, it is really rather disingenious and childish even if it does amuse you.

  149. #149 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Earlier I think he talked about people not living up to the standards one would expect them to live up to if they really believed there was a God,

    Not my concern at all. Which particular standards do you live up to if you “believe in God”? I’ve never noticed any. Good or bad.

    (the concept of “God” has no coherent meaning, so nobody can believe — or not believe — in what amounts to gibberish),

    Not my problem. You’re trying too hard. I’m making only the statement that “When a person says they believe in God, they are lying”, and just a little investigation or rather discussion will make that obvious. And really, once you find out that a person is lying about that, is there any point in continuing the discussion?
    Are there exceptions to this rule? Maybe.

    But I don’t understand why, in this discussion, I should have to cede ground I wouldn’t in any other type of discussion. I don’t see why I shouldn’t say “You don’t really believe that” when every indication is that they don’t, let alone any way of proving that they do. I don’t see why I should have to begin a discussion by giving the other person permission to lie. That accomplishes nothing.

  150. #150 Ichthyic
    November 1, 2007

    mooser, meet leigh.

    leigh, meet mooser.

  151. #151 Sastra
    November 1, 2007

    Mooser wrote:

    I’m making only the statement that “When a person says they believe in God, they are lying”, and just a little investigation or rather discussion will make that obvious.

    All of my life, when people have told me they believe in God, I have thought they are lying. If they told me about their belief in any other thing in the same terms and in the same way, I would think they were lying. I would say “You don’t really believe that, do you”.

    What is it about the concept of “God” which makes it different from souls, ghosts, angels, reincarnation, energy healing, karma, or ESP? Although we probably agree that none of those things exist either, they seem to be accepted on similar terms and in a similar way. Or do you think nobody sincerely believes in them, either?

  152. #152 Sastra
    November 1, 2007

    Well, it’s late. I’ll let Mooser and Leigh play and Ichthyic can pop corn and watch.

  153. #153 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Can we establish some definitions please?
    Is it fair to say that someone who has murdered a person is a murderer?
    Is it fair to say that a murderer will always be a murderer even if they never murder anybody else for a long time?
    Is it fair to extrapolate that out and say that anybody who has told a lie is a liar?
    Is it fair to say that a liar will always be a liar even if they never lie to anybody else for a long time?

  154. #154 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Yes I believe in the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible.

    Leigh de Paor |

    Leigh, please don’t try and start a conversation with outright dishonesty. You are willfully prevaricating about that. You most certainly do not believe that, and having been untruthful about that, you will more than likely continue the mendacity. Please provide something, anything which can substantiate that. Than we have something to talk about. If you can’t we are just wasting time, and it’s getting late.

  155. #155 Leigh de Paor
    November 1, 2007

    Also I want to make it clear that I am not aligning myself with Theodore Dalrymple.

  156. #156 Mooser
    November 1, 2007

    Or do you think nobody sincerely believes in them, either?
    Sastra

    I wouldn’t know, Sastra. Haven’t had much experience with those things. The “belief in God” thing, unfortunately, has been something I have had experience with, and they are lying. The other things you mention don’t affect me much. The lies about believing in God affect me much more, and it has been necessary to try and find out if they are telling the truth. They are not.

  157. #157 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    *sigh*

    You state “You most certainly do not believe that”

    Is the challenge that You can know the intent of my statement and have intimate knowledge of my mind? Or is the challenge for me to prove that I believe that and you are playing saying don’t start with a lie?

    I do most certainly believe it, beyond anything else.
    I am a liar (as are you) if you agree with my previous definitions.
    So if that is established is the question
    1: Am I lying now
    or
    2: Are you lying when you say you don’t believe that I do believe?

  158. #158 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    Can we establish… lie to anybody else for a long time?

    Please don’t play games. I don’t understand why this is something you can’t talk about in a plain, conversational manner.

  159. #159 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I do most certainly believe it, beyond anything else

    Not even close, you are repeating a verbal formula which has had good results, by your standards. You might as well say abra-cadabra. I hope you can give more than that. I would hate to be reduced to actually use the appelation “liar”

  160. #160 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    If you don’t like rules of engagement what am I to do?
    I’m making it pretty simple for you and you are trying to make yourself look smart by making it complicated.

    You have experienced liars telling you deceitfully they believe in God before, I don’t doubt it. I also don’t doubt that you have met sincere people who you believed were lying about a belief in God because what you saw in their life didn’t align with what you believed was true about this “God” they claimed a belief in.

    I have come from an athiestic worldview and studied science and people for so long that eventually the sheer weight of evidence convinced me there is a God.
    Experience has subsequently confirmed that God is indeed the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself to be.
    I may (and most likely do) have an incomplete understanding of who and what God is but I have a reasonable description of his traits which He gave me to go by so I can only hope I’m better at understanding what he writes than you are at understanding what I write.
    *Shrug*

  161. #161 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    “Not even close, you are repeating a verbal formula which has had good results, by your standards”
    Seriously Mooser that is an intellectually bankrupt statement.

    I don’t mind if you call me a liar, we both are get it out of your system if it makes you feel better. Vent your spleen, whatever.

    You know it’s almost 04:30 here in Ireland?

  162. #162 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    *Shrug*

    See how easy that was? He ran right to literary descriptions of God, not the same thing at all. Are you saying I should believe you cause you read something in a book?
    And then the dismissal. Wow, pal, for something you “most certainly believe (it), beyond anything else” just the fact that I ask you to talk to me one-person-to-another chases me away.
    Just like a grifter, you can qualify your “mark” real quick. And you know when someones not gonna go for the con.
    Yup, you believe, and your compassion for your unshriven, unannealed brethren is touching. (That was snark, sorry.)

  163. #163 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    “chases me away” should be: “chases you away”
    sorry.

  164. #164 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    I actually would like to help you out if I can with the understanding. But I find it hard to pull meaning from your statements.
    So here I am talking to you as one2one as can be on a blog post.
    Whaddaya wanna know?: What does believe mean?

    I have a personal relationship with God, I know Him and more importantly, He knows me.
    As a result of this relationship I understand the depth of His love for us (humans) and the depth of our (human) rebellion against Him.
    I am genuinely grieved by sin in my own life and in others and I have become aligned with His will in not wishing others to perish for ever in Hell by their own choice.
    I agree with personal choice and the consequences of those choices.
    I have grieved more for strangers who refused to want to know God than for any one close to me who has died.
    Does this make me inhuman? I don’t think so, I prayed for the Lord to give me His heart for the lost and I know He gave me a little taste of it.
    It is gut wrenching.

  165. #165 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    Leigh, I know my own intellectual faults much better than you do, believe me.
    So your answer is to criticise me for not believing you? Man, that’l get ’em flocking to Mass on Sunday.
    If this doesn’t matter to you, we can just go to bed.
    Could you please show me, as one person shows another, that you are not lying about your belief in God? That you want me to believe you believe,as long as it doesn’t take too much effort, that I can see.
    But that you do believe, well, you’re not even gonna make an effort, are you. I don’t blame you. “Go for the easy score” is the maxim of all sucessful confidence men.

  166. #166 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I shouldn’t have to remind you that the fate of my eternal soul depends on this, don’t it?
    I’ve had people make more of an effort to sell me magazine subscriptions.

  167. #167 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    Are you saying I should believe you cause you read something in a book?

    Nope. I’m sure I mentioned experience in there somewhere.

    Man you wouldn’t believe the speeds I’m getting right now, my PC says it’s around 45Kb Woohoo!

  168. #168 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I have a personal relationship with God, I know Him and more importantly, He knows me.

    Good Lord, is this what’s it’s come to? Sounds just like the prospectus for a fraudulent investment. Do you really think that collection of cliches changes anything?
    You’re just going for the easy mark.
    C’mon man, this matters! And all you do is make unsupported statements, and brag about your compassion.
    I’m getting the distinct feeling you want me to believe in you, not your belief in God.
    By the way, the continous disrespect you show me (look at all the assumptions you make starting with the assumption I’m going to curse at you or make fun of your religion) doesn’t help things.
    But the cliches, man. the cliches! I don’t mean this prejoratively, but is that the best you can do. I’ve met time-share salesman more passionate about their product than you.
    Believe it? I don’t even think it gets you excited.
    Please give me something! We are talking about the most important thing in the world, friend, are we not?

  169. #169 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    I’m not a deceived Catholic, I’m not relegious.
    I am indeed spiritual.
    To show you belief you would have to see me.
    I’ll do my best in this 10 dimensional medium

    If you want to measure my belief by do I put my life where my mouth is we could do that…
    Yes, I trust God with my health – don’t need insurance.
    I trust God with my wealth – I support two missionaries, three sponsored children, an evangelism ministry and a church out of my own income, which I work for. I do not solicit financial gifts or donations, ever.
    I trust God with my time – I spend two to three evenings a week on the streets speaking to strangers about the things that matter most (where will you go when you die).
    I enjoy reading and studying the Bible (nobody who doesn’t believe in God does that!)
    I have been changed so that I find the idea of spending eternity worshiping God as an attractive prospect which I’m looking forward to instead of thinking that’d be boring.
    I go to church most weeks, not because I have to or because I think it’ll earn me points but because I have a genuine love for the people of God and for teaching of His Word.
    I like long walks and technical books.

  170. #170 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    What does believe mean?

    You are asking me that? I thought you would know!
    So I tell you what my conception of belief is, and you adapt your story to it? Not gonna happen, pal.

    What does believe mean?

    It means you give me a million dollars!

  171. #171 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    the continous disrespect you show me
    Sorry man but Ichy introduced us and I just assumed you would be guilty by association. You are right. I apologise.

    Now your argument about cliches seems more about whether or not words have the meanings people assign to them then whether or not they believe in God.

    I most certainly am not bragging about my compassion. I am a heartless, deceitful, sickening human being without the power of God in my life to make me different.
    I’ve broken every one of the ten commandments in mind or deed. I stand morally bankrupt in front of a Just and Holy God.
    Thankfully He is not only Just and Holy but also full of Love, Compassion and Grace.
    I have recognised what I am and turned from that towards God.
    And by God I mean the God of Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who became a man, Jesus Christ of Nazereth, who lived a perfect life and died horribly in my place so I wouldn’t have to, was resurrected so that I could join Him in eternal life.

    A much better prospect than the choice of eternal flames and punishment.

    There will be no good people in Heaven only sinners saved by grace.

  172. #172 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I’m not a…I like long walks and technical books.

    I don’t see why cutting and pasting your personal ad is gonna convince me, but if you want to go on a date, you sound like my type. You seem to do some very nice things.
    But how does any of this prove you believe? Yeah, your a nice guy, but how does doing any of those things prove anything? Maybe you get paid to do them. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you get a kick out of it. I don’t know, but why you think that should make me believe that you believe I don’t know.
    I’m starting to believe in you, tho. Hmmm, do ya think that might be the point.
    Free warning: Please don’t confuse yourself with God. Or is it too late.
    It’s starting to look like what you believe is that you are God. That won’t fly.

    According to Elton John, “the New York Times said God was dead” and old Elton’s pretty reliable!

  173. #173 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    It means you give me a million dollars!

    You’re pretty funny Mooser

    Believe means I would die before I would recant and as I live in Catholic Ireland and voluntarily preach about the truth on the streets that is quite a likely prospect.

    Look man it’s 05:10 I’m off for a snooze before work.
    If you tell me what state you live in I can see if I can point you in the direction of a street preacher some evening.
    You can go along and heckle him, I mean ask him your question. 🙂

    I’ll check back for one or two more posts but I’m really stuffed now.

  174. #174 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    According to Elton John, “the New York Times said God was dead” and old Elton’s pretty reliable!

    But does he believe it?

  175. #175 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I have grieved more for strangers who refused to want to know God than for any one close to me who has died.

    I most certainly am not bragging about my compassion. I am a heartless, deceitful, sickening human being without the power of God in my life to make me different.

    Pal, which is it? If I want tap dancing lessons, there’s a studio down the street.

    Are we starting to see how much dishonesty I’ll have to accept before we can even begin to debate the existence of God. And every dishonesty slants the field in the theists favor, if you accept it. I certainly don’t understand why I can’t meet a theist with the same skepticism I would apply to a vacuum-cleaner salesman.

    I’ve broken every one of the ten commandments in mind or deed. I stand morally bankrupt in front of a Just and Holy God

    Now we’re getting someplace! And what is the first commandment, my friend? And you break the hell out of it, don’t you? Case closed, or are you going to tell us that you, alone among men who didn’t have the extraordinary hassle of having to tear through an intact hymen to be born, have kept it?
    Yup, I thought so.
    Do you ever think about how off-putting (except for those who think they might get a piece of the action) your hubris is? It certainly doesn’t encourage any belief in your belief.

  176. #176 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    The God who became a man, Jesus Christ of Nazereth,

    Not so fast, boyo! We haven’t even come near that little imbroglio yet. Why drag Him into it?

    It’s impossible. They just go into a spiel! It’s all schtick, and warmed over Gnostic schtick at that. Please leave Jesus out of this.

  177. #177 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    This is what I get so far. First I should believe you believe because you’re such a good person, than I should believe you believe because you’re such a bad person.

    That’s called salesmanship. A good pitch can turn on a dime. But it’s not belief.

    And your willingness to throw whatever you think will work at me is not gonna fly. I can go back and read the preceding posts, you know.

  178. #178 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    Mooser I think perhaps your should change your handle to Messer. Or TimeWaster.

    I pray that God reveals Himself to you in a very personal way. Although I’m pretty sure you’ll stick your head in the sand and deny His existance even as he enables every single breath you take.
    The evidence is all around you, the creation.
    You just need to be willing to look and be willing to see what you see.
    Sadly you may already be beyond human help.
    Thankfully what is impossible with man is possible with God!

    Night night, it’s been real.
    Although reality is only a bunch of quantum fields behaving as if they are stuff. Do quanta believe they are matter?
    Theres one for you.

    It was a pretty juvenile set of parameters for a discussion anyway.
    “I’ll believe you if you show me, but I’m not gonna look!”
    I think you will find that this discussion was indeed a straw man.
    Thanks you for blinding me with your dazzling intellect and stimulating verbal parry and riposte.

  179. #179 Ichthyic
    November 2, 2007

    leigh, meet mooser

    mooser, meet leigh

    30 posts later….

    and I’m all outta popcorn.

    ROTFLMAO

    thanks.

  180. #180 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    Believe means I would die before I would recant and as I live in Catholic Ireland and voluntarily preach about the truth on the streets that is quite a likely prospect.

    Those Irish atheists pretty murderous, Leigh? I didn’t know that the troubles were between Catholics and Hibernian atheists.
    But know that you have told me this, I’m so ashamed of myself. How could I question a man who takes his life in his hands, preaching the truth to the violent, kneecapping, bombwielding atheists in Ireland.

    And you might die? My (as another famous Irish guy, George Harrison said) sweet Lord! How can you stand that prospect, I mean, that’s never happened to anybody else! And not only has it never happened, the thought that it might happen, well, just because, or for a foolish reason, or because of old age, or illness, well, that’s just foolishness, we won’t dwell on it.

    Leigh, I am convinced, completely convinced, that you are a clever and effective proselytiser. But you don’t seem to believe in anything, far as I can see, except your own personal religious advantage.

    And I think the fundamental dishonesty, by your own lights, your own lights, is obvious to all.
    Or haven’t you broken the first commandment?

    I gotta go, so God Bless you and the floor is yours, and I won’t interupt you. Good night and thanks.

  181. #181 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I pray that God reveals Himself to you in a very personal way.

    You seem to be laboring under a severe misconception. When did I ever say I was an atheist, or even an agnostic?
    I don’t believe I did.
    Besides, there you go again! When did the question become what I believe or don’t? You sure are desperate to change the subject from your own inability or unwillingness to believe.
    And watch out for those Belfast atheists, they’ll kill you in a flash!

  182. #182 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    My wife has just informed me that all the trouble in Ireland is between Catholics and Protestants! But I thought that they BOTH believed in God, and a whole lotta stuff besides. And they’re fighting? Frankly, I don’t believe it. All men (well, white men, anyway) believe in the same God, don’t they? And doesn’t he tell them all the same thing?
    What’s that dear? God doesn’t tell people stuff personal like, they read it in a book and it’s hard to interpret so they fight and murder each other over it? C’mon, that’s gotta be blarney, right?

    Jeez, I thought it was the Atheists who would kill ya’ if you didn’t preach the right stuff. Oh it’s gotta be the atheists, cause God can’t work his Divine will on you if you don’t believe? Wait, that doesn’t sound right, that’s not very omnipotent!
    Now me, I do believe in God’s Omnipotence! In fact, I believe that God can suspend natural laws, even bring back the dead. So if someone was willing to throw themselves over a cliff to show their belief, I’d believe it.
    I’m no atheist, but I’m a really lousy believer, so I keep away from the edge. In fact, my belief is weak as dishwater, inconsistent, and uncertain.
    You have no idea how lonely it is being the only one with an inconsistent, uncertain, contradictory and very weak belief, among all these strong believers who are willing to put their very lives in the hands of God. Besides, God don’t like me, and that’s lonely too, on account of how He loves everybody else but me. Why, my religious beliefs are weak, just like my ethical and moral beliefs, subject to change and moods and my little needs at the time. Do you know how lonely it is to be the only one in the world in that condition?
    Gosh, how did I get this way among all those strong, consistent believers? What did I miss?

  183. #183 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    Although reality is only a bunch of quantum fields behaving as if they are stuff.
    Leigh

    Finally, a bit of truth about what he really believes.
    Right outa nowhere, unsolicited.
    Sad, ain’t it. This poor guy really needs to get him some religion. That New Age-y psuedo-science is no help with anything, but if that’s what you believe, fella, you’re welcome to it.

  184. #184 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    When did I ever say I was an atheist, or even an agnostic?

    You didn’t have to say anything directly, it was easy to inferr.
    I knew you by your fruits!

    Anyway good morning.
    I have a solution for you Mooser.

    Here’s the problem: I must show Mooser that I actually do believe in God without reference to the term “believe” or even the concept of belief and without reference to God (as Jesus)

    The solution is so simple as to be quite funny actually.
    I must needs reference the owners manual in order to provide support for my argument. Of course if I am not also permitted to use the supporting documentation for my belief then it’s back to silly mind games.

    Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
    And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

    And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.

    Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.

    And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    So all you have to do is die and I’ll see you then Mooser. I’ll wave at you or something so you’ll spot me. I’ll be with the crowd not being thrown into the lake of fire.

    Simple eh? And I don’t have to prove anything you’ll do it all by yourself.

    There are some interesting things coming out in the other posts here. It is quite clear that many people have identified the ol’ established churches as being representative of Christianity.
    This is simply not true.
    If you guys can see the fruits don’t line up with what is commanded do you think God is gonna be fooled?

    That whole Catholic/Protestant thing here is about money and power, so I don’t get involved but sadly other people do tend to lump me in with one side.
    If you understood your nations’ background you would see it has it’s roots in people fleeing the same persecution by established and enforced relegion against conscience which is actually an anti-Bible stance, but just serves to prove how wicked man really is.

    I deplore the many wicked things done in the interest of furthering all relegions – Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Atheism, etc.
    The many of people tortured & murdered over the many years by men such as Stalin (athiest), Hitler (Athiest), Pol Pot (Athiest), the many Popes (pretend Christians) will be vindicated by a Just and Holy God on that day of judgement so we can at least gain some comfort in that.
    God hates relegion but He does desire relationship.
    If you study His book you might see that.

    However I suppose you will have difficulty grasping it because “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    This should explain a lot for you.

  185. #185 Hank Fox
    November 2, 2007

    I must needs reference the owners manual in order to provide support for my argument.

    In my book, anybody who uses the phrase “must needs” is automatically a hoser.

    If he tries to blame the killings of Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot on atheism, but can’t even manage to spell “atheist” as he makes his lame argument, he’s an uber-hoser.

  186. #186 Sastra
    November 2, 2007

    I was going to write that I think Leigh “won” this one, but then the fact that I had to put that word in quotes made me think some more and take it back. This wasn’t a debate. Or even an argument.

    The purpose of a debate is to persuade the other side. But “you’re a liar” is an accusation. You can (in theory at least) say “you’re deluded” and then proceed to make a case which eventually makes the other person go “hey, you’re right — I have been kidding myself! Thanks.” But you can’t bring someone else around to the realization that they’re a deceiver. They would already know that.

    In all these posts, Mooser hasn’t brought out anything special about why “I believe in God” is any different than “I love my mother.” God could exist, or not exist, and the accusation wouldn’t change. This really has nothing to do with the existence of God.

    I’m an atheist, but I see nothing extraordinary about the assertion that other people believe things I don’t. As I said before, the only legitimate way I can see to deny this would be to point out that what they “believe” in is so vague, incoherent, and contradictory that nobody — including them — would know what it would look like if it suddenly stopped existing, or really existed but with opposite properties. You can’t actually believe in that sort of thing — you must mean something else. But that doesn’t seem to have been Mooser’s point.

    M: I came here for a good argument.
    A: No you didn’t; no, you came here for an argument.
    M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    A: It can be.
    M: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    M: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    A: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn’t!
    A: Yes it is!
    M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
    (short pause)
    A: No it isn’t.
    M: It is.
    A: Not at all.

  187. #187 Leigh de Paor
    November 2, 2007

    I believe that God can suspend natural laws, even bring back the dead. So if someone was willing to throw themselves over a cliff to show their belief, I’d believe it.

    It’s already been done (Crucifixion) and you don’t accept it and the funny thing is that Jesus told us about exactly this situation!

    In Luke 16:
    “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “

    Will you listen to Moses and the Prophets?

    Why not scoot on over to http://www.livingwaters.com and listen to Hell’s Best Kept Secret and True & False Conversions. You may find them helpful, I certainly did.

    Why don’t you also, if you are sincere, go to the library and get a copy of Lee Strobels “Case for Christ” a well researched and appendixed book on exactly this matter.

    I don’t agree with everything Lee Strobel does but that’s OK, we agree on the essentials and he is free to choose to believe whatever he chooses, just like you and I currently are but many devout athiests want us not to be.

  188. #188 negentropyeater
    November 2, 2007

    Leigh,

    you say : “Of course if I am not also permitted to use the supporting documentation for my belief then it’s back to silly mind games.”

    Can you please be more precise and indicates which version of the Holy Scriptures you are using as documentation, and in which language have you read it ?

    Thank you

  189. #189 negentropyeater
    November 2, 2007

    I am surprised that noone has brought up the notion that “Belief” is inherently related to “Trust” ;

    Do I believe that Mt Everest is the highest mountain on earth ? Yes I do. (never verified myself) Why ? Because people who I trust told it to me either directly or via books, and never met anybody that I trust that said to me the opposite.

    Now, it is very likely that with God, the same applies.

    Are there people who really believe in God. Of course. If all the people they trust told them so, (and also told them not to trust someone who said the contrary), they’d probably end up believing in it as much as I believe in Mt Everest being the highest Mountain.

    Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t also people out there who just pretend to believe, but don’t really.

    Just came back from a trip to Madagascar, which is very poor, very low litteracy, and very catholic. I can assure you that these people really believe in what the Church is brainwashing them with. No doubt. Anybody there with a mental illness is a Demon and receives exorcism. If it doesn’t work, they are chained to a tree and brought food by the people as with a dog. There are no psychiatric hospitals, and even the few general practitioners resort to this kind of practice and continue enforcing those beliefs. In 2007.

  190. #190 Carlie
    November 2, 2007

    I think I know where Mooser is coming from, but he doesn’t. He dismissed the “lying because they don’t act in accordance with their own text” argument, but then ran right back to it when Leigh started to bait him. Deep down, no matter how faithful a person thinks they are, they’re still hedging. We simply don’t see Christians of any sort doing what they ought to do if they believed the tenets of their own faith and the Bible – giving away all they have to the poor, witnessing like there’s no tomorrow because there may not be, being constantly driven and obsessed with God at all times and places. They don’t act like that because somewhere, deep down, there’s a tiny shred of pragmatism and realism.
    That’s a decent point, and worth discussing with theists, but framing (augh! That word!) it as “you’re lying”, or even believing that they’re lying rather than deluded, isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  191. #191 Brownian, OM
    November 2, 2007

    I don’t agree with everything Lee Strobel does but that’s OK, we agree on the essentials and he is free to choose to believe whatever he chooses, just like you and I currently are but many devout athiests want us not to be.

    What a wanker. Have you guys seriously been entertaining this clod?

  192. #192 David Marjanovi?
    November 2, 2007

    So all you have to do is die and I’ll see you then Mooser. I’ll wave at you or something so you’ll spot me. I’ll be with the crowd not being thrown into the lake of fire.
    Simple eh? And I don’t have to prove anything you’ll do it all by yourself.

    Not exactly a repeatable observation, which is what would be required for science.

    But I don’t expect coherent thinking of someone who is too stupid to sleep.

    The many of people tortured & murdered over the many years by men such as Stalin (athiest), Hitler (Athiest), Pol Pot (Athiest), the many Popes (pretend Christians)

    Stalin: Communist. Believed, religiously, in doing the best for the future of mankind. Communism is a salvation religion, with the only major difference to Christianity that its kingdom is of this world.
    Hitler: You don’t know what you’re talking about. The man was a devout Christian, even though what he believed in was a quite bizarre distortion of Christianity.
    Pol Pot: See Stalin.
    Any pope: Meet the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    It’s already been done (Crucifixion) and you don’t accept it and the funny thing is that Jesus told us about exactly this situation!

    That proves it then.

  193. #193 David Marjanovi?
    November 2, 2007

    So all you have to do is die and I’ll see you then Mooser. I’ll wave at you or something so you’ll spot me. I’ll be with the crowd not being thrown into the lake of fire.
    Simple eh? And I don’t have to prove anything you’ll do it all by yourself.

    Not exactly a repeatable observation, which is what would be required for science.

    But I don’t expect coherent thinking of someone who is too stupid to sleep.

    The many of people tortured & murdered over the many years by men such as Stalin (athiest), Hitler (Athiest), Pol Pot (Athiest), the many Popes (pretend Christians)

    Stalin: Communist. Believed, religiously, in doing the best for the future of mankind. Communism is a salvation religion, with the only major difference to Christianity that its kingdom is of this world.
    Hitler: You don’t know what you’re talking about. The man was a devout Christian, even though what he believed in was a quite bizarre distortion of Christianity.
    Pol Pot: See Stalin.
    Any pope: Meet the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    It’s already been done (Crucifixion) and you don’t accept it and the funny thing is that Jesus told us about exactly this situation!

    That proves it then.

  194. #194 stogoe
    November 2, 2007

    Thank you, Carlie, for trying to make Mooser vaguely comprehensible. I’m not sure it worked, but thanks for trying.

    Here’s what I got:

    People who say they’re Christians aren’t actually observed following all the tenets of the Magick Booke of Christianity. Also, saying the Magick Wordes gets you real-world benefits regardless of whether or not you have ‘Belief’ in the Magick Booke (like not being burned at the stake). So maybe all this ‘Belief’ is just an acquired, subconscious way to not get burned at the stake.

    But here’s where I have a problem. One of the more recent parts of the Magick Booke says, “Say this Magick Spelle and you can ignore the rest of what the Magick Booke says”. So they really are following all the tenets of their Magick Booke just by reciting the Magick Spelle.

  195. #195 Colugo
    November 2, 2007

    David Marjanovi?: “Communism is a salvation religion, with the only major difference to Christianity that its kingdom is of this world.”

    Communism is driven by a mythic imperative, and myths can be entirely secular, scientific, and “rationalist.” They can be either moderate or extremist – that is, apocalyptic, Utopian, and eliminationist. A religious myth can be moderate. A secular myth can be extremist.

    As I wrote in #74 above:

    “I mean by “myth” a meta-narrative that informs, structures, simplifies, a totemic story that is not just just descriptive but prescriptive. It relates future aspirations to past struggles and accomplishments. A myth is not simply a social model but is infused with heroic and romantic themes.”

    Many atheists, notably the “New Atheists,” misdiagnose the role of religion in the atrocities and miseries created by fanaticism. The relevant factor is not supernaturalism vs rationalism/naturalism, nor is it the absence or presence of theism – which excludes Buddhism (and certainly not monotheism vs polytheism, as the “monotheism is especially bad” school of thought asserts). Atrocities arise when the mythic imperative instills in believers a sense of mission that is both fanatically dire in its urgency and dangerously intolerant of any rival worldview.

    There is no need to redefine Communism as a religion. Where is the supernaturalism, much less the theism? I certainly see the parallels between Communism and fundamentalism in the fanaticism and the inerrant sacred texts. But those features are not universal in religion (especially not contemporary milquetoast variants of Judeo-Christianity) nor are they unique to religion.

    Many atheists seemingly cannot decide whether religion is bad because of its supernaturalism or because of its propensity for fanaticism and associated atrocities. If it is the latter, their real target includes more than religion and does not even include all religions. If it is the former, then their target is all religion and mysticism.

    If it is both, then atheists ought to engage in a self-critique of any unwarranted metaphysical certainties of their own. How secure is our ontological knowledge? How much of our belief system is based on undecidable philosophical preferences, even aesthetics? In addition, we should check ourselves for any incipient totalizing tendencies. Is raising a child in a faith system really a form of child abuse? Should regular science declare the nonexistence of God and the soul?

  196. #196 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    I’m so sorry I’m not being clear, and it’s not surprising, since this is very new to me. Let me make it as simple as I can:

    Up until recently I thought that credulity was at the bottom of a professed “believers” beliefs. I have begun to see that this is ceding much too much ground.
    I am coming to the conclusion that dishonesty, not credulity, is at the bottom, and the center of the whole thing.

    Leigh de Paor is a perfect example of this. Apply the techniques he uses to any other subject, and you will be picked out as a liar and minipulator way, way before you got to the main subject.
    In Mr. de Paor’s case. I think the dishonesty is quite obvious in so many ways.
    And the dishonesty starts with the first exchange. Dealing with that kind of dishonesty makes it a waste of time to even go near a discussion.

    And again, I am most certainly not an atheist, nor an agnostic.

  197. #197 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    And I most certainly do not care which of their tenets any believer does or does not live up to. That is not germane to this discussion.

  198. #198 Brownian, OM
    November 2, 2007

    Colugo:

    Many atheists, notably the “New Atheists,” misdiagnose the role of religion in the atrocities and miseries created by fanaticism. The relevant factor is not supernaturalism vs rationalism/naturalism, nor is it the absence or presence of theism – which excludes Buddhism (and certainly not monotheism vs polytheism, as the “monotheism is especially bad” school of thought asserts). Atrocities arise when the mythic imperative instills in believers a sense of mission that is both fanatically dire in its urgency and dangerously intolerant of any rival worldview.

    I really enjoyed your post, and I think you made some very good points. I’m still thinking through some of them, but the paragraph I quote above touches on the heart of the matter (I think, at least.)

    I agree absolutely with the statement I’ve bolded. However, I think you may be incorrect in suggesting “[t]he relevant factor is not supernaturalism vs rationalism/naturalism”, or at the very least, you’ll have to provide more evidence (or rationale) for why it is not relevant factor.

  199. #199 Owlmirror
    November 2, 2007

    A Mser once bit my sister creobot … N, really, it kept insisting on the most incherent ideas you can imagine outside of a Mnty Pythn movie…

  200. #200 Owlmirror
    November 2, 2007

    We apologise for the fault in the comments. Those responsible have been sacked.

  201. #201 Owlmirror
    November 2, 2007

    Mynd you, Mser arguments Kan be pretty tricki…

  202. #202 Rey Llama
    November 2, 2007

    Ol!

  203. #203 Carlie
    November 2, 2007

    Up until recently I thought that credulity was at the bottom of a professed “believers” beliefs. I have begun to see that this is ceding much too much ground.
    I am coming to the conclusion that dishonesty, not credulity, is at the bottom, and the center of the whole thing.

    Then how do you explain that some people really do believe it? Dishonesty means knowing consciously that you’re wrong and saying the opposite. I spent almost 30 years as a True Believer(tm), and I can tell you with all certainty that I did, indeed, believe every single word of it as I understood it. I was not dishonest when I told people I was a believer.
    Perhaps self-deception is at the bottom of it, but dishonesty is not unless you completely redefine dishonesty.

  204. #204 Colugo
    November 2, 2007

    Brownian: “you’ll have to provide more evidence (or rationale) for why it [supernaturalism vs naturalism] is not relevant factor.”

    Two notable examples of fanatical mythic imperatives are Marxism (excluding watered-down social democratic variants) and Haeckel’s Monism. Fascism has many confessional variants, from the anti-clericalism of Futurist-identified early Fascism to the Catholic Ustasha and the Orthodox Iron Guard, but they shared a core ethos. Modern neo-Nazism ranges from the theistic Christian Identity to atheistic Creativity and White Aryan Resistance.

    “Rationalism” is trickier concept. Who proudly announces that they are irrational, after all? But more narrowly, rationalism suggests materialism, valorization of science (AKA scientism), and typically but not obligately, determinism. Marxism and Objectivism are twin rationalist ideologies, however dubious their rationalism in the vernacular sense. Fascism can be non-theistic but is generally antirationalist; not that it is necessarily more crazy than communism, but in being voluntarist (as opposed to determinist) and vitalist (as opposed to materialist).

    The wide-ranging support for eugenicist policies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – shared by many progressives and conservatives, scientists and politicians, theists and atheists – was founded on what at the time were regarded as wholly rationalist, secular, scientific principles and apparently logical and ethical goals, including the reduction of poverty and crime. The rationalist, socialist Fabian Society advocated the project along with Leonard Darwin, Leon Trotsky, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Margaret Sanger, and – not irrelevant to the Watson controversy – Harry Laughlin of both Cold Spring Harbor and the Pioneer Fund. Yet in hindsight, the eugenics movement was a mass delusion, a projection of elitist prejudices, and a grievous injustice, even when it led only to the involuntary sterilization of genetic “inferiors” rather than mass murder.

    Transhumanism is generally professedly secularist and rationalist, but also clearly transcendentalist, and often millenarian and Utopian. Read about the recent transhumanist meetings in Chicago to get a flavor of the mythic imperative of that movement – as well as some of the illustrious figures involved in it, including Marvin Minsky.

    But having noted the fanaticism of certain supernaturalist and secular movements alike, let me note that sometimes zeal has its place. The abolitionist movement and the still-controversial figure of John Brown, for example, or the anti-British militant patriots of the immediate pre-Revolutionary War period.

  205. #205 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    Perhaps self-deception is at the bottom of it, but dishonesty is not unless you completely redefine dishonesty.
    Carlie

    You may very well be right. I think, as far as it concerns me in my interactions with them, the self-deception is a form, or shows itself,as dishonesties.

    Again, I’m probably not very coherent because this is a new direction for me. For years I too thought “they may be wrong or deceiving themselves but they believe it themselves. Now I’m not so sure, not so sure at all. Most of all, I see no reason to cede that good faith in their belief when they won’t extend it to me.
    And I can’t speak to the people in Madacasgar. I don’t know anybody from Madagascar, more’s the pity, and I don’t deal with people from Madagascar (more’s the pity). I can only observe and try to draw some conclusion about the people I have to deal with, almost entirely middle and lower-middle class white Americans, many of whom profess belief.

  206. #206 J Myers
    November 2, 2007

    Mooser, you’re not an atheist or agnostic?

    Liar.

  207. #207 Stevie_C
    November 2, 2007

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Leigh posted a link to the disaster that is Kurt Cameron’s ministry.

    Hey everyone! The banana was designed by god just for us! Hallelujeah! Amen!

    *poot*

  208. #208 Mooser
    November 2, 2007

    It was PZ Myers postings (and there were many) on the dishonesty of creationists and ID proponents which got me, if somewhat incoherently, thinking in this direction. Maybe the religions in the US I’m familiar with don’t make belief a requirement, but many people are willing to mouth the verbal formulas of belief when religious piety is popular.
    But the more professions of belief I hear, as time goes on, the more sceptical I become, that is doubting that the pro-fesser even believes it themselves. Or, frankly, even has an idea of what it is they’re trying to believe.
    And Lord! The glib self-assurance of their comprehension, and presented completeness of belief alone is really off-putting, to put it mildly, but I try to overlook that.

  209. #209 Carlie
    November 2, 2007

    That’s a good point, but I’d bet that the people who just mouth it aren’t the ones who will spend time arguing about it – they’re more the ones who say “meh”. I can see your point about people who don’t extend to you the courtesy of thinking that you know what you believe, though. If someone pulls the “You can’t really be an atheist deep down because you’re a nice person” argument, it’s perfectly reasonable to come back with “You can’t really be a Christian because you’re a sane person”. Just like with any group, there are people who really believe it and people who don’t.

  210. #210 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 2, 2007

    Communism is driven by a mythic imperative, and myths can be entirely secular, scientific, and “rationalist.” They can be either moderate or extremist – that is, apocalyptic, Utopian, and eliminationist. A religious myth can be moderate. A secular myth can be extremist.

    Er… yes. I said nothing against that. Except the “scientific” part: myths cannot be scientific by definition. And indeed, there are holy scriptures in communism which must not be questioned, complete with different denominations fighting over the correct interpretation… Again, all that’s missing is the afterlife: only Kim Il-sung, who is still president of North Korea, has so far got one. Oops, I forgot Mao’s apotheosis: some people in China sacrifice things like oranges to Mao in temples. It probably helps that Chinese gods are not automatically assumed to be omnibenevolent.

    Should regular science declare the nonexistence of God and the soul?

    Nope, because they aren’t falsifiable. OK, I haven’t read Stenger’s book, but I can’t see how he can falsify a sufficiently ineffable deity.

    Atrocities arise when the mythic imperative instills in believers a sense of mission that is both fanatically dire in its urgency and dangerously intolerant of any rival worldview.

    I agree.

    There is no need to redefine Communism as a religion. Where is the supernaturalism, much less the theism?

    I don’t define communism!

    The supernatural is in there, though. For example historical inevitabilities like the march of progress from the slaveholder society over the feudal society, the capitalist society, and the socialist society to the communist society. Or the creed that all problems between the nationalities had been solved in the best possible manner — heresy against that point was punished, at least in Yugoslavia and the USSR. Or the miracles that reading the Little Red Book was supposed to work: things like increased harvests. All those things had to be taken on faith.

    Stalinism, Maoism and Kimilsungism go very far towards theism, outright reaching it in some Maoist cases (see above).

    If it is both, then atheists ought to engage in a self-critique of any unwarranted metaphysical certainties of their own.

    I’m an apathetic agnostic, muahah. B-)

    Marxism and Objectivism are twin rationalist ideologies, however dubious their rationalism in the vernacular sense.

    Maybe they should be called rationalist but not rational: they claim to hold rational thought in the highest regards, but don’t apply it to some of their core concepts.

  211. #211 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 2, 2007

    Communism is driven by a mythic imperative, and myths can be entirely secular, scientific, and “rationalist.” They can be either moderate or extremist – that is, apocalyptic, Utopian, and eliminationist. A religious myth can be moderate. A secular myth can be extremist.

    Er… yes. I said nothing against that. Except the “scientific” part: myths cannot be scientific by definition. And indeed, there are holy scriptures in communism which must not be questioned, complete with different denominations fighting over the correct interpretation… Again, all that’s missing is the afterlife: only Kim Il-sung, who is still president of North Korea, has so far got one. Oops, I forgot Mao’s apotheosis: some people in China sacrifice things like oranges to Mao in temples. It probably helps that Chinese gods are not automatically assumed to be omnibenevolent.

    Should regular science declare the nonexistence of God and the soul?

    Nope, because they aren’t falsifiable. OK, I haven’t read Stenger’s book, but I can’t see how he can falsify a sufficiently ineffable deity.

    Atrocities arise when the mythic imperative instills in believers a sense of mission that is both fanatically dire in its urgency and dangerously intolerant of any rival worldview.

    I agree.

    There is no need to redefine Communism as a religion. Where is the supernaturalism, much less the theism?

    I don’t define communism!

    The supernatural is in there, though. For example historical inevitabilities like the march of progress from the slaveholder society over the feudal society, the capitalist society, and the socialist society to the communist society. Or the creed that all problems between the nationalities had been solved in the best possible manner — heresy against that point was punished, at least in Yugoslavia and the USSR. Or the miracles that reading the Little Red Book was supposed to work: things like increased harvests. All those things had to be taken on faith.

    Stalinism, Maoism and Kimilsungism go very far towards theism, outright reaching it in some Maoist cases (see above).

    If it is both, then atheists ought to engage in a self-critique of any unwarranted metaphysical certainties of their own.

    I’m an apathetic agnostic, muahah. B-)

    Marxism and Objectivism are twin rationalist ideologies, however dubious their rationalism in the vernacular sense.

    Maybe they should be called rationalist but not rational: they claim to hold rational thought in the highest regards, but don’t apply it to some of their core concepts.

  212. #212 Rey Fox
    November 2, 2007

    ” OK, I haven’t read Stenger’s book, but I can’t see how he can falsify a sufficiently ineffable deity.”

    Having read just the Preface to that book, I can say that he concentrates on the fairly anthropomorphic Abrahamic God.

  213. #213 Stogoe
    November 2, 2007

    Okay, now my understanding is this:

    Mooser: Christians are just like AIMBots – they’ve just got pre-programmed responses. They don’t think about it, so they can’t believe.

    Sorry, Mooser, if I don’t ‘get’ it, but you don’t seem to have the faculties to describe your viewpoint without simply repeating “they’re lying.”

  214. #214 Colugo
    November 3, 2007

    David Marjanovi?: “I don’t define communism!”

    You’re right, I should have written “there is no need to redefine religion to include secular ideologies like communism.”

    Was communist doctrine a deluded naturalism, a pseudoscience, than supernaturalism? (And what is the difference? Is all religious faith just a poor science based on the wrong methods?) However, I definitely see the religiosity of communist belief, as well as of other secular ideologies.

    Frida Kahlo’s ‘Marxism Will Give Health To The Sick’ certainly looks like religious iconography.
    http://flametree-studios.com/paintings.php?ref=2108

    But how far can the concept of religion be extended? Not all supernaturalist religions are apocalyptic like communism was. Is the Lincoln Memorial an idol of a civil religion? What about restoring The Beagle and other relics?

    Note the spiral mandala in this image:
    http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/foundation,growingUpDVD

    Compare with Dore’s illustration of Dante’s Paradiso:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Paradiso_Canto_31.jpg

    In an expanded concept of religion that includes secular, civic, and scientific “religions,” – faith in something, veneration, icons, ritual – is religion as inevitable as any feature of human life?

  215. #215 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 3, 2007

    negentropyeater #186 says, “I am surprised that noone has brought up the notion that “Belief” is inherently related to “Trust” ”

    Great points following that. However, off this thread, that first sentence just ain’t so. Personally, I don’t mind the fine reminder in the least! You’re right and the relation between belief and trust ought to be hammered more often. 😉

  216. #216 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 3, 2007

    Mooser #204 says, “It was PZ Myers postings (and there were many) on the dishonesty of creationists and ID proponents which got me, if somewhat incoherently, thinking in this direction.”

    Oh, yes, DEFINITELY incoherently…

    “Maybe the religions in the US I’m familiar with don’t make belief a requirement, but many people are willing to mouth the verbal formulas of belief when religious piety is popular.”

    But the religions in the US that you are “familiar with” in fact DO make belief a requirement. That’s the essential requirement of religion. What the hell are you talking about?

    “But the more professions of belief I hear, as time goes on, the more sceptical I become, that is doubting that the pro-fesser even believes it themselves. Or, frankly, even has an idea of what it is they’re trying to believe.”

    Oh, don’t tax your little judgement circuits in your brain overmuch. Most people are every bit as unsure as you are, and a small proportion actually embrace the uncertainty with a CERTAIN measure of joy.

    “And Lord! The glib self-assurance of their comprehension, and presented completeness of belief alone is really off-putting, to put it mildly, but I try to overlook that.”

    How CRAFTY you are to assign bogus self-assurance in others as you bask in the brilliance of your personal estimation of your own. How CRAFTY you are to capitalize “lord”. (Let me guess…just in case, right?). How CRAFTY you are in exposing your overarching “acceptance” of “incomplete beliefs” in others, who are all fallible human beings, who cannot become infallible just because they BELIEVE in anything, no matter how strong or fervent or accurate it may be.

    Oh, yes, indeed. You “try”…

    “To put it mildly”…

    What the heck do you suppose this is all about anyway? Why do you think it has anything even remotely to do with what anybody “believes”? Why can’t it possibly be that you are in fact THAT incredibly stupid?

  217. #217 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 3, 2007

    PZ says, “For my own part, I think Western civilization was built on the talent and hard work and ideals of its people, and that if you stripped religion from its greatest artists and heroes and leaders and thinkers, they still would have been great.”

    ABSOLUTELY.

  218. #218 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 3, 2007

    Oh, and Mooser? #179: you sure like to ‘hear’ yourself “thinking”, don’t you? You get off on it, don’t you? I know lots of assholes like that. It’s all a performance suited to shocking the presumed sensibilities of what is imagined their audiences possess.

    This is done principally in order to distinguish themselves as superior. Definition: “asshole”.

    Problem is that your audience isn’t nearly as stupid as you might imagine, since you aren’t much concerned with the limitations of your own imagination.

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