Pharyngula

So how about this one: Should atheists be barred from public office?

It’s mostly going our way already, but would you believe a quarter of the votes so far say “yes”?

Comments

  1. #1 Zifnab
    July 30, 2008

    But if we start letting atheists into public office, it will only be a matter of time before men start trying to marry their box turtles. Is that what you want? Is it?

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    That’s still better than W’s father saying that atheists aren’t even citizens.

    Somehow, I doubt we’d do anywhere near that well in Louisiana (47th in educational quality, aiming for 50th).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  3. #3 Gizmo
    July 30, 2008

    Im surprised it actually is only 25%. However I think the reason is the way its asked. There is a difference between asking “Should atheists be barred from public office?” and “Would you vote for an atheist?”

    I suspect the numbers would be far different, unfortunately. A followup poll should be asked “Should rational people be barred from public office?” Im sure the numbers would be different as well. Just curious ramblings by me ;p

  4. #4 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    If a man will not acknowledge a Creator, why would he show any reverence for creatures?

    If an atheist is consistent in his beliefs, he has every reason to be a tyrant when given authority over others. He has no compelling reason to respect anything in creation.

  5. #5 zer0
    July 30, 2008

    Article VI in the house bitches!!!!!

  6. #6 zer0
    July 30, 2008

    #4′s post reeks of baiting… don’t feed the troll!

  7. #7 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    Background on this poll: Local fundie on the high school district board is running for re-election. He’s the one backing the “In God We Trust” posters recently put up in high school classrooms. He’s threatening the local County Supervisors over their failure to pass a county ordinance banning same-sex marriage, and he’s a big local loudmouth on ID Creationism.

    He was recently quoted that his responsibility to a Higher Authority supercedes his oath of office, and furthermore atheists can’t carry out that oath at all.

    Now he says that’s a translation error, of course.

  8. #8 stevogvsu
    July 30, 2008

    Who the hell votes yes to something like this?

  9. #9 Ollie
    July 30, 2008

    @#4
    You see, atheists behave morally because it is the right thing to do… not because they are afraid of being punished. See the difference, you frigtard?

  10. #10 Michelle
    July 30, 2008

    *what the hell*

    Why are they even asking such a question? Why are people so narrow minded?

  11. #11 Eris
    July 30, 2008

    Only the intolerant and arrogant minds of the religious would even think this is an askable question. It simply would not even occur to anyone else.

  12. #12 onclepsycho
    July 30, 2008

    The mere unquestioned existence of this poll is disgusting and I refuse to answer it (not that this matters too much, I know). Why not: “Should jews be allowed to live?”; “Should women be allowed to vote?”; “Should chess players be barred from pizzerias?”.

  13. #13 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    If an atheist is consistent in his beliefs, he has every reason to be a tyrant when given authority over others. He has no compelling reason to respect anything in creation.

    Don’t know if you’re only trolling, but the fact is that atheists don’t believe in the depraved nature of humanity that many Xians do.

    Evidently you’ve never heard of psychology…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  14. #14 Bob O'H
    July 30, 2008

    Perhaps the 15% (as it is now) comes from Local Fundie and his mates crashing the poll too.

  15. #15 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    atheists behave morally because it is the right thing to do

    Who determines what the right thing to do is? What if people have contradictory ideas about what the right thing to do is? Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, I imagine.

  16. #16 Deepsix
    July 30, 2008

    I think a better question would be, “Should atheists be allowed to drive cars”? Much more thought provoking.

  17. #17 Bunk
    July 30, 2008

    I wonder what that would look like if they put it on a national ballot? First, public office, next, public restrooms.

  18. #18 aleph1=c
    July 30, 2008

    I’m a Prophet of Baal. That’s pretty much the same as Jehovah, right? So, as a theist, I promise to try to get Baal to send down fire from heaven. If Baal doesn’t deliver with the fire, it may be that he’s sleeping or off hunting. At least that shows he’s human. Vote for me.

  19. #19 katie
    July 30, 2008

    It kind of reminds me of my mom’s church that was so proud of itself for debating whether to allow gays to enter the church (I don’t mean join, I mean actually ever step foot on the ground).

    Yeesh.

  20. #20 Ric
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, that’s the most hackneyed, shallow argument. Just because you need someone bigger than you to force you to be good doesn’t mean everyone does.

    Personally as an atheist, I am a good person for the following reasons, among others:

    1. I feel a natural empathy for my fellow humans and it pains me to see them suffer.
    2. It is beneficial to me to get along well with others. When I help them, they seem to help me.
    3. I think we have only ourselves (the human race) to rely on, and we’re all in this together.

    And of course, last but not least, I evolved from ancestors who were mostly ethical. I have the genes to be ethical. You see, and I noted this above, unethical people didn’t do so well over the course of evolution, apparently.

  21. #21 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    For the record, I’m not here to “troll.” I’m actually interested in understanding what the moral landscape of an actual atheist would look like.

    Glen, you wrote:
    atheists don’t believe in the depraved nature of humanity

    Then how do you explain the genocides of Rwanda, the Sudan, or Nazi Germany?

  22. #22 Jacques
    July 30, 2008

    If a man will not acknowledge a himself, why would he show any reverence for others?

    If a christian is consistent in his beliefs, he has every reason to be a tyrant when assuming moral authority over others. He has no compelling reason to respect anything in creation because he believes himself to be beyond reproach.

  23. #23 Ric
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton said: “I’m actually interested in understanding what the moral landscape of an actual atheist would look like.”

    An actual atheist? Oh my god. Lordy, lordy. An actual atheist.

    Look around you. I bet you know more actual atheists than you think,

  24. #24 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    The 15 percent doesn’t surprise me. This *IS* Bakersfield, after all. It gets pretty weird here. There’s a local talk-radio host who adores Hannity.

  25. #25 Dave in Escondido
    July 30, 2008

    Is the poll still up? I clicked on the link at 11 AM Pacific Time and did not find it.

  26. #26 John
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, religious people have been responsible for terrible acts of brutality as well. I don’t see your point.

    Also, the genocides in Rwanda, Sudan and Nazi Germany had nothing to do with their citizens’ lack of a belief in a supernatural entity.

  27. #27 Jason
    July 30, 2008

    Godwin

  28. #28 James F
    July 30, 2008

    This reminds me of Penn and Teller’s petition protesting the right to protest around the Captiol Building (given to people around the Capitol Building).

  29. #29 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    Yeah, it’s still up. Bottom center of the page. Now 90/10 in favor of us godless heathen.

  30. #30 Badjuggler
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, when you ask about atrocities from Nazi Germany, are you referring to that good Catholic boy Adolf Hitler?

  31. #31 Chris J.
    July 30, 2008

    I used to laugh this kind of ignorance off, but to be honest, I’m starting to get angry. I have yet to see a single action done by an atheist in America that even warrants more than a raised eyebrow. Yet almost every single bad action/scandal/offense to morality in public office, some other position of power or otherwise, is done by a person of faith. The same type of person who would proclaim total morality over an atheist. Something just doesn’t seem right..

  32. #32 Qwerty
    July 30, 2008

    The yeses are down to 10% now.

    I voted yes, but perhaps athiests should be barred as they can’t swear on the Bible when they take an oath of office?

    Of course, they could say, “Fuck that Bible, I’ll do a damn good job. I can even work on Sunday and not feel guilty!”

  33. #33 juhan
    July 30, 2008

    yes 9%, no 91%. PWN3D.

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    Glen, you wrote:

    atheists don’t believe in the depraved nature of humanity

    Then how do you explain the genocides of Rwanda, the Sudan, or Nazi Germany?

    OK, so you’re too stupid to pick up on my mention of psychology. Sociology is also needed for a more complete explanation. And it’s all well beyond your ignorant prattle.

    Your simplistic dishonest “answers” are no explanation at all.

    And yes, it’s time for me to point out that “discussing” these things with you is as useful as discussing physics with my dog (well, if I had one). Neither of you understands a damn thing I say about such matters–the mere fact that you know the words does not indicate that you have a clue about the concepts. So I’ve wasted enough time on you, and likely I will waste no more in your direction.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  35. #35 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    Ric, you wrote:
    Just because you need someone bigger than you to force you to be good doesn’t mean everyone does.

    You misinterpreted me. That was not my point at all. In the Christian view, God is not a tyrant forcing someone to be good or to do anything. Man freely chooses his destiny.

    My point is that morality requires reverence — a recognition and awe before the beauty/goodness of another. You would seem to agree.

    You locate the source of reverence internally, in what we might call conscience. I would agree, but only add that conscience has its source or point-of-reference in one who created everything and declared it good.

    Without reference to an objective source for conscience, each man could create his own moral landscape. What is right for one person would be wrong for another. Co-existence becomes difficult, if not impossible, in such a world.

  36. #36 Alverant
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, let me ask you this: where does god’s morals come from? If he makes up his own moral code, how is that different than what you accuse Atheists of being? If he gets his morality from an outside source, what’s to prevent Atheists from using that same source? Either way, your question can be applied to god. At least Atheists don’t burn people for questioning them.

    Why should a christian respect anything in creation if god forgives everything? Why can’t respect exist outside religion? Why are you unaware that Hitler was catholic and catholics have committed mass murder? That’s where Hitler got his ideas.

  37. #37 Ollie
    July 30, 2008

    Who determines what the right thing to do is? What if people have contradictory ideas about what the right thing to do is? Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, I imagine.

    Seriously, this may be fun chitchat when you’re drinking with your buddies and getting all “philosophical,” but if you honestly can’t tell right from wrong, you are majorly fucked up in the head. Let me guess, you are religious?

    Try starting with the Categorical Imperative, if your intuition about right and wrong is that broken. Maybe you can reason it out.

    Or maybe you can’t.

  38. #38 Snitzels
    July 30, 2008

    I second the motion from #6, let’s not feed the troll.

  39. #39 CortxVortx
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton asks standard troll questions, then claims he’s not trolling.

    100%!

  40. #40 Bureaucratus Minimus
    July 30, 2008

    Zero @ 5: you da (wo)man!

    Zero is referring to Article VI of the US Constitution, which states “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    So these yahoos in Bakersfield are having a poll on something that’s already a matter of settled law. How utterly embarassing.

  41. #41 Janine ID
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, before you demand answers to your questions, please know what you are talking about. The Wehrmacht were issued belt buckles with the motto “Gott Mit Uns”. It means “God is with us.” Even if, for the sake of argument, Hitler was an atheist and did not belief in his public declarations of faith, many German christians, both protestant and catholic, acted upon the anti-semitic roots of christianity.

  42. #42 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    it’s time for me to point out that “discussing” these things with you is as useful as discussing physics with my dog (well, if I had one). Neither of you understands a damn thing I say about such matters–the mere fact that you know the words does not indicate that you have a clue about the concepts. So I’ve wasted enough time on you, and likely I will waste no more in your direction

    Glen is making my point for me. Note the lack of reverence me (and for dogs, by the way).

  43. #43 J Myers (no relation)
    July 30, 2008

    Who determines what the right thing to do is?

    The same folks who invented religion: people, collectively. The fact that the vast majority of people are empathetic by nature and have strong behavioral aversions to things such as murder, assault, etc is helpful as well (much more so than looking to religion for moral guidance; religions can’t seem to agree with each other on the appropriateness of any number of behaviours, and those relying on divine command ethics are undermined by the Euthyphro dilemma).

    I’m personally interested in a coherent explanation of the “moral landscape” of any theist; there doesn’t seem to be one. And you certainly don’t, in general, behave as though you actually believe God exists; not only are you constantly re-interpreting your supposed immutable religious truths to accommodate whatever questionable behavior tempts you, you seem to get awfully upset when friends and family members perish. I mean, are you all honestly that selfish that your loved ones’ passage into the eternal bliss of heaven is such a grievous occasion for you?

    Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, I imagine.

    Only two posts, and you’re already trying to Godwin yourself?

  44. #44 Evolving Squid
    July 30, 2008

    I’m actually interested in understanding what the moral landscape of an actual atheist would look like.

    Well, if I were king for the day, my “moral landscape” would look something like this:

    If you do it and it doesn’t injure someone else without their consent, the government will leave you alone.

    So…

    - Pornography? I’m all for it.
    - Child pornography? Jail forever+1 day.
    - Drugs? Whatever floats your boat.
    - Stealing to support a drug habit? Jail + drug treatment program.
    - I’d probably label churches as adult venues on par with bars and strip clubs. A child isn’t responsible enough to make such a life-altering decision as following a particular superstitious cult.
    - Censorship? Gone.
    - Responsibility to publish the truth? Increased. If you publish it, and it can be shown to be false and shown that you knew or ought to have known it was false, you must redact it and/or face penalties. Call it “spreading false news”
    - Sex education? Early and often.
    - Abortion? reduced cost.
    - Birth control? free
    - Marriage? State recognition gone. The state will not interfere in your religious or personal recognition of your relationships. However, if you choose to partner with one or more people for mutual benefit, corporate law will be altered to accommodate civil partnerships and deal with children etc.
    - Age of majority? equalized across the board. When you can quit school, drive to the recruiting centre and join the army, you are responsible enough to enter into contracts, drink, vote etc. Think: age 16.

    Does that give you a sufficient taste of life in the future Cephalopodia?

  45. #45 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton #4 wrote:

    If a man will not acknowledge a Creator, why would he show any reverence for creatures? If an atheist is consistent in his beliefs, he has every reason to be a tyrant when given authority over others. He has no compelling reason to respect anything in creation.

    All moral systems require a prior commitment to be moral, and to seek love, harmony, and fairness for their own sake. There is no moral system (including Christianity) which will appeal to the psychopath.

    You forget that you are beginning with the assumption that “we should have reverence for (love) the Creator.” If you were asked WHY we should revere the Creator, would you shrug your shoulders and say “huh, gee, I don’t know. Just because.”

    I doubt it. You would appeal to characteristics we already admire, because we experience them in our lives. God is just, God is loving, God is generous, God is virtuous, God is compassionate, and so forth. Therefore, without a preexisting desire for the principles of justice, love, generosity, virtue, and compassion, there would be no reason to revere God. And if God existed, and was NOT just, loving, etc. — there would be every reason to refuse to obey Him, as a moral obligation. For both Christians, and atheists. The common ground is how we experience what is Good when we deal with each other.

    So what is our “compelling reason” to refrain from tyranny? Bottom line, it is the same as yours. A prior commitment to the ideals of Goodness — for their own sake. You simply represent The Good with a symbol you call “God.”

  46. #46 Celtic_Evolution
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton –

    How many murders, genocides, and atrocities have been carried out in the name of a god? The bible even spells out a few…

    Thanks, but I’d much rather trust the moral compass of a person that wasn’t inclined to follow a doctrine where there are built-in excuses for murder… you know… “god wills it!”.

    It’s been quoted before, but I’ll quote it again:

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.” ~ Steven Weinberg

  47. #47 Ric
    July 30, 2008

    You misinterpreted me. That was not my point at all. In the Christian view, God is not a tyrant forcing someone to be good or to do anything. Man freely chooses his destiny.

    So you freely choose an eternity of suffering or an eternity of bliss? Some choice.

    My point is that morality requires reverence — a recognition and awe before the beauty/goodness of another. You would seem to agree.

    I don’t entirely agree. Respect and empathy, yes, reverence and awe, not necessarily.

    But let me ask you, why do you think that without an objective source for ethics, people would choose to be murderers and thieves anymore so than they do now, with religion theoretically giving us that source? Is it because we are “fallen”? Wait, that can’t be your answer, because we are for this exercise theorizing that there is no god, so why would humans be evil through and through?

    Anyway, the world and existence provide us with enough of an objective source of ethics: it’s called natural reward and natural punishment. Fight, and we get hurt and die. Work together, and we succeed and prosper. Treat people well, and we do well, by and large. No religion need tell us this, and humans knew this before religion’s advent. The only “ethics” religion gives us are strictures and codes that keep people in the religion. Real ethics is shared by atheists and Xtians, and it has nothing to do with religion.

  48. #48 Janine ID
    July 30, 2008

    Ric, you wrote:
    Just because you need someone bigger than you to force you to be good doesn’t mean everyone does.

    You misinterpreted me. That was not my point at all. In the Christian view, God is not a tyrant forcing someone to be good or to do anything. Man freely chooses his destiny.

    The threat of eternal torment does not enter the equation at all. snort

  49. #49 aleph1=c
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton @21 (rhymes with Satan!)

    Atheists don’t believe in the idea of original sin and the need for redemption.

    Of course atheists recognize that evil deeds are committed by humanity. Personally, I think it is largely an in-group/out-group thing, which can be explained evolutionarily. Groups of people who are more similar genetically and are in environmental conflict with another group will have an advantage if that other group somehow disappears.

    I hope that sometime in the future genocide will disappear, not because Baal says it’s wrong, but because we have truly evolved as a species.

  50. #50 CortxVortx
    July 30, 2008

    The Christian god is no model for morals, anyway, judging by its actions in the Bible. So Clayton has no moral grounding, either.

  51. #51 Jason Failes
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton: “Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, I imagine.”

    Actually, Hitler thought he was doing the Christian thing:
    http://www.nobeliefs.com/hitler.htm

    As for your post @#4:
    1) Atheist behave at least as well on any moral metric as the religious (better on many, but that’s not the point). Basically, your argument is: I’ve made up my own reasoning why atheists should act evil, even though they don’t. Because they don’t live according to my reasoning, they are inconsistent. Weird.

    2) I am curious what you mean by “If an atheist is consistent in his beliefs, he has every reason to be a tyrant when given authority over others.”

    Because we don’t believe in imaginary God(s), we should be nasty when it comes to social interactions with very real fellow humans? Complete non sequitur. That’s perhaps more absurd than saying that people who don’t believe in the tooth fairy are inconsistent if they lose their baby teeth.

    Or do you mean that because nearly all of us understand and accept evolutionary theory, we should, to be consistent, be eugenisists? To that I say : Naturalistic Fallacy, look it up.

    If you accept gravitational theory, do you push people off cliffs?
    If you accept germ theory, do you infect people with diseases?

    Nature may be “red in tooth and claw” but we don’t have to be.

  52. #52 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    Glen is making my point for me. Note the lack of reverence me (and for dogs, by the way).

    Who says you deserve reverence or even respect for that matter? You come in displaying your broad ignorance and repeat the same idiotic points we’ve heard and refuted thousands of times before and you think you deserve reverence?

  53. #53 steve_1
    July 30, 2008

    What’s the context of this poll? I searched the page the poll was on to see if there was a story related to an atheist running for public office in Bakersfield and I didn’t notice anything of the sort. Did I miss something, or is this just a random “hey, let’s hate on somebody for today’s poll?”

  54. #54 Dreadneck
    July 30, 2008

    @4 – I have a question. Is murder wrong only because your god says it’s wrong? What say you?

    As for the poll, I just voted. The Yays are at 73 and the Nays are at 774. :)

  55. #55 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    You misinterpreted me. That was not my point at all. In the Christian view, God is not a tyrant forcing someone to be good or to do anything. Man freely chooses his destiny.

    If your god is all knowing and infinite, you do not have free will. You god knows what you will chose every time.

    Predestination is not free will. And the idea that your god knows your every move, is predestination.

  56. #56 Sarcastro
    July 30, 2008

    Well Clayton, you’re making Glen’s point for him as well. Note the lack of logical connection between reverence and ethical behavior. You need to do more than just proclaim reverence as the wellspring of morality, you need to tell us why that is the case. Until you do so you are just showing that you know the words, not that you understand the concepts.

  57. #57 steve_1
    July 30, 2008

    Ah…didn’t see your comment (#7) until after I posted. Thanks, Randomfactor.

  58. #58 Alverant
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton: In the Christian view, God is not a tyrant forcing someone to be good or to do anything. Man freely chooses his destiny.

    LOL, if we’re free to choose our own destiny, then why does god punish those who pick “wrong”? Your god does force people to be good by offering bribes and threatening punishments. That doesn’t strike me as being free. And I ask you, what’s your god objective source of conscience? Why should I trust an entity who claims perfection and everything he does is good by right of his own existence? Atheists don’t do this, gods do and by extension so do their churches.

  59. #59 Qwerty
    July 30, 2008

    From my previous post:

    I voted yes, but perhaps athiests should be barred as they can’t swear on the Bible when they take an oath of office?

    Correction: I voted NO!

    Hey, Clayton, if God and the Bible is sooooo goood, perhaps we should go back to stoning people who commit adultery! Ahhhh, the good old days….

  60. #60 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    I know that Hitler was baptized a Catholic. And that the leader of the Sudan is a Muslim.

    Anyone who claims to honor God and acts as Hitler did is a liar and a hypocrit.

    The Christian claim is not that Christians always do the right thing. It’s that they live in a universe in which:
    good and evil exist;
    the inclination to evil is strong; and
    the ability to do what is good is possible, but not without reference to the Good itself.

    BTW, what is the definition of a troll? Is it simply someone who disagrees with the author of the blog? I thought it had to do with leaving endless comments without having any interest in a dialogue…

  61. #61 Newfie
    July 30, 2008

    The truth is, Americans will not vote for atheists. Though, I suspect there are plenty of closet atheists in Congress. The American electorate can overlook plenty of short comings in their candidates, but not loving Jeebus, is for the most part, unacceptable, and the politicians all know this. The US public wants strong “American Values” in their leaders first and foremost. Personally, I’d like to see their college science, history, and geography scores.
    There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief. Representative Pete Stark (D) of California has acknowledged that he is an atheist in response to the Secular Coalition’s inquiry. He’s been in Congress since 1973 and is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Commitee and is the Chair of the Health Commitee.

  62. #62 Fred
    July 30, 2008

    In fact, Clayton, the Kantian sense of morality (his Deontological Ethic) does not found morality in the Judeo-Christian god. Historically, any deity-of-the-month, is imagined to form and legitimate the groundwork for all systems of morality. The only common denominator is that all deities are created in the image of humans, and thus the source of morality lies with and within the human actors, to be molded further by many external and internal conditioning influences.

    Nope – no god is necessary for any moral system to function. Only as a symbolic and wholly earth-bound input, does the divine hold any more than a role of minimal sufficiency – a harmful vestige of the Medieval misunderstanding and superstitions concerning the inclinations of human action.

  63. #63 jynnan_tonnyx
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton @#35: “Without reference to an objective source for conscience, each man could create his own moral landscape. What is right for one person would be wrong for another. Co-existence becomes difficult, if not impossible, in such a world.”

    That’s the world we live in. Every human has their own perspective on what is moral and what is not (although many of these perspectives overlap). The fact that many people attempt to justify their moral position with religious texts, thereby giving themselves the illusion of some degree of “objectivity” (as if that were relevant or beneficial in this context) does not change the fact that morality varies wildly from culture to culture and from individual to individual…or that the majority of people happen to agree on the most basic elements of morality universally.

    Your cynical view of human nature is noted, but I think you’ll find that, on the whole, atheists demonstrate that your fears are quite unfounded.

  64. #64 Flippin
    July 30, 2008

    Now at around 93 percent. I would say it is successfully boosted. Now, how do we get them into office? I think a better question in all this is will we see an open, strong atheist run for office in the near future? I would vote for them, but I just want to know where the hell all these people are. Simply put, if we all talk about doing the right thing by humanity, relying on our noble conscience and all that, when does thought turn to action.

    PZ, why don’t you run against Thune in six if he wins?

    Not that the rest of you are off the hook.

  65. #65 Hap
    July 30, 2008

    1) Well, if we ignore the law, it’s not there, right? Worked for W (signing statements, anyone?).

    2) Funny, the Bosnians, Croatians, and Serbians all have concepts of God and moral values – they didn’t exactly stop them from raping and murdering others in contravention of those beliefs (or helping the Nazis to do so in WW2). Of course, the long history of witch/Jew/heretic hunts in Christianity (run by the Church) indicates that as well (or better, considering that the people managing the massacres, etc., claimed authority by adherence to those principles). Even having a divine pointer to good and evil hasn’t prevented people from doing evil, or whatever the hell they want. Knowing what the good is but doing the opposite doesn’t really help.

    History could for example provide a guide in finding appropriate behavior and principles – some principles are consistent with stable societies, and some are not. A god is not a requirement for conscience and morality – and as the examples above indicate, sometimes people use their belief in one against both conscience and morality.

    Thanks for playing.

  66. #66 Qwerty
    July 30, 2008

    From the same website as the atheist poll:

    SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — DNA tests confirmed that a body found off the coast of Brazil is that of a priest who disappeared while flying over the Atlantic buoyed by hundreds of brightly colored party balloons, authorities said Tuesday.

    The Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli flies using 1,000 helium-filled balloons on April 20.

    The Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli set off from the Brazilian port city of Paranagua on April 20 strapped to 1,000 helium-filled balloons in an attempt to raise money to build a rest stop and worship center for truckers.

  67. #67 Neil Vickers
    July 30, 2008

    In reply to #16 – “I think a better question would be, “Should atheists be allowed to drive cars”? Much more thought provoking.”

    I was hit head on while waiting at a stop sign last year by a car driven by a nun. She’d failed to notice that it was a two-way stop and not a four-way stop, and pulled straight out in front of speeding traffic.

    Kind of made me re-evaluate whether it’s really a good idea to have Jesus as your co-pilot, ‘cos he seemed to be a bit distracted at the time.

  68. #68 Rev. BigDumbCHimp
    July 30, 2008

    I know that Hitler was baptized a Catholic. And that the leader of the Sudan is a Muslim.

    Anyone who claims to honor God and acts as Hitler did is a liar and a hypocrit.

    So the fact that Hitler didn’t behave as you (and others) think a Christian should makes him an Atheist?

    Wow your logic is impeccable.

  69. #69 Emmet Caulfield
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton,

    Just because you need to take lessons in ethics from bronze-age middle-eastern goatherds doesn’t mean everyone else is such a moral cripple.

  70. #70 Celtic_Evolution
    July 30, 2008

    To this point, Clayton, you are engaging in a dialogue and are not being overly “trollish” about it to this point, but please understand the knee-jerk reactions… we’ve heard this tired argument before… so I’ll hold off on giving you the “troll” label with the following caveat:

    You’ve been given several very good counter-arguments to the claims you’ve made so far and as of yet have not effectively attempted to address them… if you want to carry on the dialoguue, then please respond to the criticisms and points we’ve made… otherwise… troll.

  71. #71 Flippin
    July 30, 2008

    I also noticed the previous poll question: “Officials have called off the search for the bear that attacked a woman in the Piute mountains. Where did the bear go?”

    The most popular choice (with 53 percent of the vote) was: “Writing poll questions for Bakersfield.com”

    Lovely.

  72. #72 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    grumble

    f- on my block quoting above. First two sentences only in blockquotes.

  73. #73 Dustin
    July 30, 2008

    Kind of made me re-evaluate whether it’s really a good idea to have Jesus as your co-pilot

    It’s even worse to make that strung-out hippie your DD. I will never make that mistake again!

  74. #74 freelunch
    July 30, 2008

    If a man will not acknowledge a Creator, why would he show any reverence for creatures?

    Just because I don’t believe the made-up stories that are passed on as religion, that does not mean I will not acknowledge a creator. It only means that I won’t buy the totally unsubstantiated stories that religionists try to feed me. When they have some evidence for God, I will acknowledge it. In the meantime, don’t waste your time threatening me with your imaginary hell.

    By the way, the most radical religionists in America have chosen to side with those who refuse to do anything to protect our environment. Maybe your question tells us a lie by assuming a fact contrary to the evidence. Maybe you would have done better to ask: “If a man acknowledges unsupported stories about a Creator, why does he show no reverence for other creatures?”

  75. #75 Screechy Monkey
    July 30, 2008

    So Clayton’s already gone for the Godwin Attack and the No True Christian Defense. All I need is The Courtier’s Reply and a Grandma Gambit for bingo!

  76. #76 Dreadneck
    July 30, 2008

    “Anyone who claims to honor God and acts as Hitler did is a liar and a hypocrit.”

    By that standard, God himself – who ordered the genocide of the peoples who inhabited the ‘promised land’, who accepted Jephthah’s daughter as a burnt offering, who murdered the innocent first born of Egypt – is a liar and a hypocrite.

    Have fun trying to twist that one around, lol!

  77. #77 Ouchimoo
    July 30, 2008

    If a man will not acknowledge a Creator, why would he show any reverence for creatures?

    Oh right, we don’t have morals because some invisible space man didn’t tell us (which he didn’t anyways, some book supposes he said it, but c’mon that book is 2000 years old and takes place sometime a little after Zeus and Ra’s reign) – “BE NICE OR I SHALL BURN YOU FOREVER!”
    Besides that, numerous other Christians have told me that being good to other people doesn’t have anything to do with being a good and moral person. It was all about the ‘I want to believe’ rhetoric. Please.
    At any rate, I am a lady so I suppose I could just sidestep that question all together since it seems to be addressed to ‘men’.

  78. #78 Ollie
    July 30, 2008

    BTW, what is the definition of a troll? Is it simply someone who disagrees with the author of the blog? I thought it had to do with leaving endless comments without having any interest in a dialogue…

    Your post sounded suspiciously like a typical “drive by” where a “believer” poops out a faith-bomb and thinks the atheists have all been pwned, and has no interest in dialogue.

    If you are really interested in why we have morality without any gods, trying Googling “evolutionary psychology.” As for why no god is needed for morality, others have addressed that issue above quite well.

  79. #79 Schmeer
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton,
    Since Christian morality has changed: slavery is no longer acceptable, were Christians using flawed morality? Or did God change? What does this say about your all powerful God?

    Since the genocide supported in Old Testament stories sounds at least as bad as the genocide you cited in your post, that must those things both Christian and moral according to the Bible.

  80. #80 Celtic_Evolution
    July 30, 2008

    If a man will not acknowledge a Creator, why would he show any reverence for creatures?

    Here’s a better quandary for you, Clayton… despite the “belief” of a creator by so many humans and the “reverance for creatures” you insist that carries with it, why is it that we are one of the only species on the planet (if not the only… it’s somewhat debatable I suppose) that kills for sport?

  81. #81 astroande
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton: “I know that Hitler was baptized a Catholic. … Anyone who claims to honor God and acts as Hitler did is a liar and a hypocrit (sic).”

    Then why did you trot him out as an example of what atrocious acts not believing in a Christian god will supposedly compel you to commit?

  82. #82 Kseniya
    July 30, 2008

    Given the religious leanings of many of our founding fathers, the fact that the poll question was even asked is beyond ironic.

    Clayton. Did you forget to plug in your brain again this morning?

    Yes, that was a rude question, but your initial post was excruciatingly shallow and predictably dull. You must be scolded.

    Ok, scolding complete.

    Then how do you explain the genocides of Rwanda, the Sudan, or Nazi Germany?

    People are capable of great evil, particular when goaded by charismatic men like Hitler who leverage nationalism, religious divisions, and ethnic hatreds in the service of their twisted vision. It was God’s Work, dontcha know. Credulous German Catholics were more than happy to follow Hitler’s dream.

    The key here it so try your best to see the world as it actually is, not as it was seen by superstitious shepherds (or whatever) thousands of years ago. Sheep will become rabid wolverines if the shepherd says “Bite!” The enemy here is tribalism and authoritarianism. The exploitation of the conjunction of those two isms explains quite a bit of the dark side of human history.

    None of this means that we are “born into sin” – a wretched, contemptible, sickening bit of dogma if ever one was vomited up by the theistic mind – and that’s what Glen was driving at.

  83. #83 freelunch
    July 30, 2008

    I’m actually interested in understanding what the moral landscape of an actual atheist would look like.

    And what gave you the idea that offering an insulting comment to atheists would help you understand them better? Apparently you were badly taught by your religion.

  84. #84 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    Should atheists be barred from public office? Most likely all 79 YES votes came from creationists. Probably most of the 1,338 NO votes came from the people who read this blog.

    A better poll question would be ‘Should creationists who attack science education be put in prison for treason?’.

  85. #85 jparenti
    July 30, 2008

    Poll’s down to 5% on the fundie side. Woot!

  86. #86 Mathematician
    July 30, 2008

    The Past Polls page shows 9 previous polls, none of which made it to a total of 300 votes. I think they’re going to know something unusual happened here :-)

  87. #87 MicroZealous
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton (#21) has asked an important and relevant question, and deserves a respectful answer. I don’t presume to speak for others, but here’s what I have experienced.
    I seem to have an inborn sense of empathy, objectivity, and rationality. I judge my actions by their positive or negative effect on others. I don’t want to do anything that I would not want others to do to me. This simple concept works very well as a guide in my life. Many traditions claim this idea; one tradition calls it “the golden rule”.
    I think it this is an innate instinct in most people, as is selfishness. Much of human life is the struggle of balancing these two opposing forces.
    Clayton, I expect that you were born with this sense of empathy, objectivity, and rationality. If I could convince you that you weren’t born with it, and could sell it back to you, I would have me a nice little tax-exempt bidness.
    But that conflicts with my inborn sense of empathy, objectivity and rationality. Oh, and I’m also ‘atheistic’ about gambling, investment frauds, miracle healing potions, aliens, and the endless variety of frauds and hoaxes that people invent.

  88. #88 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    Without reference to an objective source for conscience, each man could create his own moral landscape. What is right for one person would be wrong for another. Co-existence becomes difficult, if not impossible, in such a world.

    Which is why all theists (Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jains, etc.) agree completely on what is right and what is wrong. Hell, if we were to leave it up to the atheists, they might go so far as to eat pork and shellfish, draw representations of God or other personages, neglect the ?tman, or even deny the Holy Spirit.

  89. #89 Will E.
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, try checking out some books on the topic of the origins of morality: The Moral Animal by Robert Wright; The Science of Good and Evil by Michael Shermer; The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley; The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker. All those are well-written, recent, popular science titles and can be found in any library or bookstore.

    Humans and their ancestors have been evolving for millions of years, and along with bodily evolution, our minds developed plenty of ways to cooperate (although of course our minds are physical too). It’s a complex subject, and not something we can easily “see,” so people invented god(s) that “gave us” these morals.

    Read, then come back and discuss.

  90. #90 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    I think they’re going to know something unusual happened here :-)

    An act of Zeus.

  91. #91 freelunch
    July 30, 2008

    Well, if we ignore the law, it’s not there, right? Worked for W (signing statements, anyone?).

    Maybe the question is whether religious people should be allowed to hold office. Bush’s religious nuts such as Goodling are a great example of crimes excused by ‘moral necessity’. Christians can be a powerful argument against Christianity.

  92. #92 Ollie
    July 30, 2008

    I expect that you were born with this sense of empathy, objectivity, and rationality. If I could convince you that you weren’t born with it, and could sell it back to you, I would have me a nice little tax-exempt bidness.

    Very. Well. Said.

    If you don’t mind, I will add that to my collection :^)

    This book does a decent job of showing what this innate sense of justice is and why we have it: Moral Minds by Marc D. Hauser.

  93. #93 Craig
    July 30, 2008

    Atheism should be a prerequisite for public office!
    If only that was an option in the poll…

  94. #94 spurge
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton posted

    “It’s that they live in a universe in which:
    good and evil exist;
    the inclination to evil is strong; and
    the ability to do what is good is possible, but not without reference to the Good itself.”

    I don’t find the inclination to do evil strong at all.

    I guess that is why the religious label things evil that people are inclined to do ,like fucking, even though they are not evil acts at all.

  95. #95 Rev. BigDumbCHimp
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton (#21) has asked an important and relevant question, and deserves a respectful answer

    Ignoring the fact that he asked it in a completely insulting way. But I have thick skin.

    Socially beneficial responses to times of stress are easily explained by evolutionary processes. The better chance for survival for our ancestors was with the “pack”. Doing things that lowered your status with the rest of the pack would not lead to better survival rates. In the same rate doing things that elevated your status in the pack would also lead to better survival rates.

  96. #96 erik542
    July 30, 2008

    79-1552 in favor of heathens from the sea!

  97. #97 Craig
    July 30, 2008

    Atheism should be a prerequisite for public office!
    If only that was an option in the poll…
    Perhaps it should have been phrased “Would you vote for someone who has an imaginary friend?”

  98. #98 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    For the record, I’m not here to “troll.” I’m actually interested in understanding what the moral landscape of an actual atheist would look like.
    Glen, you wrote:
    atheists don’t believe in the depraved nature of humanity
    Then how do you explain the genocides of Rwanda, the Sudan, or Nazi Germany?
    Posted by: Clayton

    Clayton, you need to look up the definition of ‘Godwin’s law’.

    I find it hard to believe there’s many atheists in Rwanda and Sudan. Also, Germany, back when they were exterminating Jews, was a Catholic nation. Their leader was Catholic and the Catholic pope was on very good terms with the German government. You got a lot of bloody nerve blaming the holocaust on atheists when it was religious nuts killing religious nuts.

    Atheists live a good life because they want to live a good life.

    God nuts live a good life because they fear the wrath of their invisible friend.

    Actually God nuts (they’re all nuts) are the most immoral people in human history. A good example is what they do to their own children. They lie to them about science and they teach them there’s an invisible man in the clouds watching over them. They make their children as insane as they are.

    I noticed the more religious a person is, the more likely he’s an asshole.

  99. #99 J Sea
    July 30, 2008

    Isn’t this backwards. Shouldn’t we be deeply distrusting of the God Fearing people who want to be in public office.

  100. #100 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    I find it hard to believe there’s many atheists in Rwanda and Sudan. Also, Germany, back when they were exterminating Jews, was a Catholic nation.

    I’m getting the impression that Clayton’s definition of Atheist is anyone who doesn’t practice Christianity exactly like he does. He can feel free to correct me.

  101. #101 Emmet Caulfield
    July 30, 2008

    I expect that you were born with this sense of empathy, objectivity, and rationality. If I could convince you that you weren’t born with it, and could sell it back to you, I would have me a nice little tax-exempt bidness.

    Except that the men in the religion bidness don’t appear to give back the objectivity and rationality as part of the package or, indeed, keep it for themselves.

  102. #102 Jason Failes
    July 30, 2008

    @#95: “Socially beneficial responses to times of stress are easily explained by evolutionary processes.”

    Ants.

    In terms of social cohesion, what could be called their in-group morality, ants are perfect citizens…

    …with no religion at all.

  103. #103 Andrés Diplotti
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton: if you were to ask me “where does the morality of atheists spring from?”, my answer would be: “From the same source as the morality of religious people.” People who profess a religion (barring zealots) use to share the same moral standards as atheists in their culture. Now, I don’t have any expertise in this area, so I don’t claim to know what the source of that morality is; but saying “it comes from God” is the same thing as saying that the Universe comes from God: it assuages the question, but doesn’t really answer it.

  104. #104 SplendidMonkey
    July 30, 2008

    @#102 – Ever been to a picnic? I think ants are definitely pastafarian.

  105. #105 Nikhil
    July 30, 2008

    When someone like Clayton asks questions about atheist morality, I do not understand why we try to argue that we have good morals and that they are a natural phenomenon not related to god (as true as that is). Being an atheist is not about moralities, it’s about the truth. I would rather lead an “immoral” life based in facts and evidence than a “moral” one based on lies and deception.

  106. #106 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    Without reference to an objective source for conscience, each man could create his own moral landscape. What is right for one person would be wrong for another. Co-existence becomes difficult, if not impossible, in such a world.

    Posted by: Clayton | July 30, 2008 2:07 PM

    Sort of like how people who believe in a God disagree on what is right and wrong? If there is an objective source of our consciences, there seems to be no way of determining who is in touch with it and who isn’t.

  107. #107 Brian Coughlan
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton, here is a little something I put together earlier. It covers most of the questions you asked and more besides, while clocking in at a modest 7 minutes, enjoy : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elEYKpo7kFk

  108. #108 Kseniya
    July 30, 2008

    I must defend Clayon on one particular point:

    His question about Rwanda, Sudan, and Nazi Germany wasn’t meant to imply that atheism was behind any of those atrocities. We can’t hang him on that particular (and rightly oft-used) hook. He used them as examples of “the depraved nature of humanity,” in which atheists (according to Glen) do not believe. My reply addressed that point, at least in a small way.

    People can be selfish, petty, cruel, narrow, dishonest, and violent. This does not mean that humanity IS selfish, petty, cruel, narrow, dishonest, and violent by nature. This does not mean that children are born into sin. This does not mean that we are guilty as charged from the moment we are born. What it means is that we are capable of depravity. The church teaches us that the depravity is innate, and that we can only fight against it.

    I find this worldview deplorable. No infant is guilty of anything other than being a pooping machine. Infants are supposed to be selfish, myopic, unempathetic – it’s part of their survival mechanism. Maturation and socialization cure us (to some extent) of these “sins”.

    The lesson should not be “You are born bad, born guilty of the sins of Adam and Eve.” It should be “You are born innocent, innately flawed yet innately good, and must strive to nurture and nourish your goodness while starving the tendencies to go against the good nature.”

    Something like that.

    When my book comes out, it’ll all be clear. *smirk*

  109. #109 GrayGaffer
    July 30, 2008

    Poll is still up. Percentage ‘yes’ now down to 4%.

    COTUS Article 6 forbids any test of religion, so the poll is about an unconstitutional question: neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ answers carry any actual weight.

    clayton, this is how and why:

    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/carrot&stick.html

  110. #110 Bob L
    July 30, 2008

    Got to love Clayton, stick his fingers in his ear and pretends that the Nazis and Rwandans were Catholics and the Sudanese are Muslims.

    No Clayton, the kind of people who do these things are people exactly like you Clayton; someone who thinks their personal beliefs trump reality, reason and morality. Whoever is the conman whom you listen to Clayton told you God wanted you to kill babies you’d be out there smashing their skulls against the wall and laughing.

    Atheist; someone who lost God to reclaim their own soul. :P~

  111. #111 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    For those with the stomach to listen to the fundie on the Hannity-wannabe’s show, he can be heard here:

    http://people.bakersfield.com/home/Blog/ReasonRulesUs/30939

  112. #112 Maria
    July 30, 2008

    2% YES
    98% NO

    And the total number of votes is more than 10 times the average on other days.

  113. #113 Tom
    July 30, 2008

    what do you get when you cross an athiest with a Jahoova Witness?
    Somebody who knocks on your door, for nothing.

  114. #114 Flippin
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton stopped posting, can we move on now?

  115. #115 Kseniya
    July 30, 2008

    Unfortunately, my proof-reading sucks. Of course, I meant “Clayton” not “Clayon”. A clayon is the subatomic particle that was used by Prometheus to create mankind. My bad.

    And I meant to write “you must strive to nurture and nourish your goodness while starving the tendencies to go against that good nature.”

    Sigh.

  116. #116 Spinoza
    July 30, 2008

    Beliefs about morality among philosophers, and secularists, and non-believers vary widely. You will not find consensus among us.

  117. #117 astroande
    July 30, 2008

    @105: “Being an atheist is not about moralities, it’s about the truth.”

    True (heh), but that doesn’t mean we can’t have morals, which is what Clayton is saying.

  118. #118 TimJ
    July 30, 2008

    Hi Clayton,

    Hopefully this suggested link will go through, but for fairly well thought out and thorough arguments to your questions on morality and atheism, you may want to check out http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/carrot&stick.html (I didn’t want to simply reinvent the wheel here). The arguments Ebonmuse made therein are probably familiar to regular posters here and will give you some common ground on which to continue your discussion.

  119. #119 Will E.
    July 30, 2008

    #105: Being an atheist is not about moralities, it’s about the truth. I would rather lead an “immoral” life based in facts and evidence than a “moral” one based on lies and deception.

    A good point. I have indeed argued this myself–I hear “Well, atheism leads to nihilism.” Well, so be it. I certainly don’t think it does, but atheism is about a lack of evidence for god(s), not what’s necessarily good for society.

  120. #120 Maria
    July 30, 2008

    @113: But hopefully she will be able to type.

  121. #121 MicroZealous
    July 30, 2008

    Hey Rev BDC (#95): Where is your empathy? Clayton is in a hole, but at least he’s looking up and wondering. Should we show him how to build a ladder, or kick dirt in his face?
    Also, you ain’t no “Reverend”. I done seen you”re webb sight, you heat hen.

  122. #122 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    Hey Rev BDC (#95): Where is your empathy? Clayton is in a hole, but at least he’s looking up and wondering. Should we show him how to build a ladder, or kick dirt in his face?
    Also, you ain’t no “Reverend”. I done seen you”re webb sight, you heat hen.

    Poe

  123. #123 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    You are born innocent, innately flawed yet innately good, and must strive to nurture and nourish your goodness while starving the tendencies to go against the good nature.

    So, is trichotillomania a part of our good nature, or our tendency to go against it?

  124. #124 Propagandhi
    July 30, 2008

    Did the person that thought up this question get fired?

    If an atheist had phrased this question the other way, they probably would be.

    Currently YES 4% NO 96%

  125. #125 Celtic_Evolution
    July 30, 2008

    You could probably never get this kind of statistical information… but I’m willing to bet that Google has never seen so many spontaneous searches for “trichotillomania” at one time… ever… heh heh.

  126. #126 raven
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton the troll:

    Hitler thought he was doing the right thing, I imagine.

    Hitler was a Catholic. By himself he would just be another troll waiting around for the internet to be invented. But he had millions of helpers and followers and they were all Lutherans and Catholics.

    Theocracy got a bad name because societies controlled by religions always end up hells on earth. So much for your fairy tale of where morality comes from.

  127. #127 Arno
    July 30, 2008

    And to expand on the list of possible sources for information on moral development:
    - The general work of Jonathan Haidt (including his book The Happiness Hypothesis)
    - Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio
    - The Situationist (a blog which discusses lots of psychological research into morals)

    The general conclusion: our moral system is largely based on automatic emotional responses, from various primitive brain systems. Almost every human with a properly working brain will be unwilling to murder someone, commit incest, steal etc. It either takes damage (usually in the prefrontal cortex), emotional stress or intense training (desensitization through videogames in the US army, brainwashing in other countries, the belief that your own country is superior) to suppress our very social gut instincts.
    And even then it is tough: look at all the Vietnam veterans and the new bunch returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

  128. #128 Glen Davidson
    July 30, 2008

    The thread should move on, IMO.

    Before it does, I’d just like to point out a real problem with religion exemplified by Clayton: Religion has non-answers to the problem of evil, and thus it (with some exceptions) refuses to listen to the honest line of research into why people often act well, but can act quite evilly.

    Indeed, it doesn’t want us to ask why, despite the severe commands of religion, most religions rely upon lies at their very foundations. Obviously, the problem of evil in religion itself is an important question that should be asked.

    Religion (if not all religions) short-circuits the discovery process which has developed to be able to address the questions of altruism and its opposite. The very fact that we are altruistic “by nature” to insiders has been tied (using game theory) to the fact that we can be quite genocidal to outsiders. Religion does well to not ask the meaningful questions about good and evil, because the “good” of religion is about easily turned to producing the “evil” of which humans are capable, as are any other societal organizations and cliques.

    Ultimately, of course, (Western, anyway) religion is creationist in conception (even if it accommodates biological evolution), claiming that good and evil exist because of undiscoverable creation events. Therefore it can supply no reasons for our good and our evil, and thus has no answers for our modern problems (to give religion its due, it did often embody working mores in past societies, so had its uses). Above all, it could not have provided the knowledge with which to build modern liberal democracies, rather the architects of these had to rely on Greek and Roman (largely secular) models, and later upon more empirical methods.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  129. #129 Tom Coward
    July 30, 2008

    Just visited the poll: 4% Yes, 96% no. Would this have anything to do with us?

  130. #130 JohnA
    July 30, 2008

    I’ve gotta chime one in for Clayton:

    Do you REALLY think that people thought that murder, theft, and adultery were OK until after Moses came down from that mountain with his “Ten Rules”? Do you really think that Confucians and Buddhists are all depraved maniacs?

    An ethical life is its own reward, Clayton, and atheists find that neither the carrot of heaven or the stick of hell are necessary inducements to lead just and ethical lives.

    You might also want to look up statistics on the relative numbers of atheists and xians in our prison population. It may surprise you.

    And I for one still think you were trolling.

  131. #131 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    OK, in the interest of brevity, and to avoid dragging out this conversation out any further, this will be my last post. You can contact me if you have a further comment you want to make to me.

    @ #70: It really is virtually impossible to have a dialogue with more than one person at once. That’s the problem with blog comments, I think.

    I have spent the last 45 minutes going through the dozens of questions generated for me in the past hour. If I haven’t responded to every person simultaneously, it’s because I am not God. :)

    And by the time this comment is posted, others will have appeared as well. Here are my responses to the first 70, plus a couple of other notes/observations.

    @ #4: See #35

    @ #22: Not true. Christian faith does not hold that Christians are beyond reproach. On the contrary. And have never claimed this for myself.

    @ #26: See #60

    @ #30: See #60

    @ #36: God is, by definition, source without source. It’s a mystery, not a scientific explanation, I know.

    @ #37: Yes, I’ve studied Kant, etc. He appeals to a morality beyond the individual, but can never situate a definitive source for morality.

    @ #41: I am not demanding answers, only making inquiries. Also, see #60

    @ #43: The “you” referred to in your comment is amorphous and full of straw-men depictions of religion. Some comments here imply that those who are religious are identical and that every denomination of Christianity is identical. A little investigation would show otherwise. For the record, I am a Roman Catholic. Don’t claim to speak for all Christians.

    @ #44: The moral landscape you describe seems consistent to me, and also hellish. Many of the behaviors you would condone appear to me to be selfish and destructive.

    @ #45: You make some good observations. I could imagine a dialogue with you.

    @ #46: Just because someone identifies themselves as a believer does not mean they are wise or good. But why live without believing in a reference point for goodness? Without it, there is no reason not to do whatever one desires.

    @ #47: I would argue that any moral impulse is, at its base, some kind of a religious impulse, however inchoate

    @ #49: Given the widespread bloodshed in the 20th century, I don’t see evidence for a definitive moral evolution of the human race.

    @ #50: Like several other commenters, you draw strict lines of equivalence between Old Testament conceptions of God and Christianity. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) brought a much fuller sense of God

    @ #52: Not expecting reverence. But a little respect would be okay by me.

    @ #55: Predestination is not an orthodox Christian belief. That would be Calvinist. Granted, Calvinism is common in America, but it is not where I’m coming from. Being made in the image of God = being free

    @ #56: read The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis. In particular, his concept of the Tao

    @ #58, 59: Again, this is a straw man conception of the God professed by Christians

    @ #62: Being a theist is no guarantee of good behavior. But being an atheist leaves one without an ultimate rationale for it.

    @ #63: I don’t have a cynical view of the human person. Orthodox Christian belief sees man wounded, not depraved, by the Fall (again, I’m not a Calvinist).

    @ #69: Okay. If Nietzsche is your thing, it’s your thing

    @ #70: I appreciate your observations

    @ #87: Thanks for taking my question at face value

    @ #89: Thanks for the references

    @ #98: I should have left Hitler out of it. I obscured my point. My point was not that atheists have been responsible for genocide. The people I mentioned were not atheists. My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity. The Judeo-Christian tradition does have a way of accounting for it: ha satan

    ***

    Thanks everyone. Again, if someone wants to follow up, you could via the e-mail address that is on my website. I’ll leave the conversation with a link to a document describing where my faith tradition comes from on the question of God as it relates to ethics and society (see, in particular, section 36): Guadium et Spes

  132. #132 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton (#15): Who determines what the right thing to do is?

    I’ve heard this dumb question from Christians many times. They think people are not able to figure out on their own the difference between right and wrong, so preachers and holy books are required to make these decisions.

    It’s not difficult for a normal person to figure out, for example, murder is wrong. The human race didn’t need an imaginary sky fairy to tell us “Thou shall not kill”.

    I suppose anyone stupid enough to believe in a magic man, is also probably too stupid to figure out what’s moral and what’s immoral. So they get their moral values from the most immoral people on earth, the con artists who call themselves priests and preachers.

  133. #133 Nino
    July 30, 2008

    # 131 Clayton

    You said:
    “@ #98: I should have left Hitler out of it. I obscured my point. My point was not that atheists have been responsible for genocide. The people I mentioned were not atheists. My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity. The Judeo-Christian tradition does have a way of accounting for it: ha satan”

    Well, as Satan is a figment of the Judeo-Christian Religion, we seem to have the same suspect in mind. Atheists tend to suspect that it is Religion that is behind a lot of the evil being done “in the Name of the Lord” and other genocide.

  134. #134 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton in #131, wanting to prove he’s a total wacko, invoked Satan.

  135. #135 Jason Failes
    July 30, 2008

    Hey, he skipped me @#51!

    Does that mean I win?

  136. #136 King of Ferrets
    July 30, 2008

    Pffff; don’t crash an insane poll like this PZ; crash a better one! Like mine. (Yay, shameless attention whoring!)

  137. #137 Maria
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton dixit

    I would argue that any moral impulse is, at its base, some kind of a religious impulse, however inchoate

    So that kind of negates your claim to be asking honest questions, doesn’t it? You’ve defined morality in such a way that you cannot be a true atheist and moral at the same time.

  138. #138 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    Glen D #128 wrote:

    Religion has non-answers to the problem of evil, and thus it (with some exceptions) refuses to listen to the honest line of research into why people often act well, but can act quite evilly.

    Part of the problem is that the religious perspective on morality seems to encourage a blurring of distinction between different kinds of questions.

    1.) What is the objective standard of right and wrong?
    2.) Why choose what is right?
    3.) Where do we get the impulse to be good?
    4.) Why be good if you won’t be rewarded or punished?
    5.) How do we know what is good?
    6.) How do we justify the good, as really being good?
    7.) In a material universe, how can an abstraction like “Goodness” exist?
    8.) Where did “Goodness” come from?
    9.) How did humans evolve a concern for others?
    10.) If there is no parent to obey, then how could there be morality?

    Each one of those questions goes off on a different tangent, requiring a different kind of answer. Religion, as you point out, either doesn’t really answer the question, or gives a superficial answer to a rather shallow question.

  139. #139 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    Atheists tend to suspect that it is Religion that is behind a lot of the evil being done “in the Name of the Lord” and other genocide.

    Yes. For sure. I agree. Here’s a sample of the immorality of religious people.

    Both wars we are in right now, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Daily suicide bombings.

    The Christian war against science education.

    Mental abuse of children, also known as religious indoctrination.

    Sexual abuse of children.

    The extreme dishonesty of creationists.

    The extreme out of control stupidity of creationists.

    Christian harassment of biology teachers.

    I could spend all day writing about the immorality of people who believe there’s an invisible man in the sky.

  140. #140 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    @ #137:
    Maria: Bingo. I have never encountered someone — atheist or otherwise –who is completely amoral.

  141. #141 Timothy Wood
    July 30, 2008

    I have the ultimate answer to the question of evil. We all have psychic gnomes. Some of them are good. These are the ones that you will find scurrying around homeless shelters whispering in the ears of volunteers. Some of them are bad. Those are the kind that you will find in the offices of oil companies and most importantly… anywhere where disco is played.

    The fact that churches promote morality is just a coincidence. It is obvious that the steeples are like good gnome magnets.

    You can try to argue with me… but my belief is based on faith. You atheist have no basis for your beliefs unless you really try to understand the nature of the gnomes around you.

  142. #142 casey
    July 30, 2008

    The Judeo-Christian tradition does have a way of accounting for it: ha satan

    hey! leave the jews out of this. they don’t beleive in satan!

  143. #143 atheist trich sufferer
    July 30, 2008

    So, is trichotillomania a part of our good nature, or our tendency to go against it?

    what the hell does trichotillomania have to do with anything on this thread??

  144. #144 thegomezsymbol
    July 30, 2008

    ANOTHER POLL!
    These polls needs serious help from us…

    http://www.thegodpoll.com/

  145. #145 BobC
    July 30, 2008

    You can try to argue with me… but my belief is based on faith.

    Let me fix that for you. You meant: “You can try to argue with me… but my belief is based on STUPIDITY’.

  146. #146 Matt Penfold
    July 30, 2008

    What would be interesting, but not possible anymore, would be a re-run of the Milgram experiment only this time breaking down the results by religious belief.

    I would bet a fair bit that atheists, and those who have moderate religious beliefs would be less likely to turn up the voltage than those belonging to more dogmatic and authoritarian religions.

  147. #147 Randomfactor
    July 30, 2008

    Fundies down to 3 percent…

  148. #148 Dustin
    July 30, 2008

    My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity.

    Evidently not, since they happened.

  149. #149 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton #131 wrote:

    I would argue that any moral impulse is, at its base, some kind of a religious impulse, however inchoate.

    It is much easier to argue that any religious impulse is, at its base, some kind of moral impulse, however inchoate. This is because the existence of fair and unfair relationships between people is not in dispute. Neither, for that matter, is the existence of people.

    I’ll respect the fact that you’re overwhelmed with questions and bowing out, but suggest one last series of questions, to answer for yourself:

    Does God’s nature of Goodness — what God say is right and good — make sense? Is Christian morality reasonable? Can it be justified by its consequences here, on earth, to rational people of good will, of any religion or none?

    If so, then there is no need to invoke God — not as a source, and not as a justification.

    If not, then someone in your own religion is going to come along, and say “Now, Clayton, your understanding of God’s will makes no sense; surely you have God wrong.” And where you had one religion, you now have two.

    Invoking “God” is only really required when justifying narrow, sectarian rules like “do not eat pork” or “do not work on Thursdays.” Once you appeal to universal values shared among all human beings, that is where your sense of right and wrong is actually grounded.

    God is just the (!)

  150. #150 Alexandra
    July 30, 2008

    Religion (if not all religions) short-circuits the discovery process which has developed to be able to address the questions of altruism and its opposite

    True, but much too specific Glen. Religion short-circuits the discovery process period. Claiming to have the answers (usually all the answers) is what religion does. And, of course, that’s also why it’s so pernicious, it replaces inquiry with ignorant certainty.

  151. #151 Evolving Squid
    July 30, 2008

    @ #44: The moral landscape you describe seems consistent to me, and also hellish. Many of the behaviors you would condone appear to me to be selfish and destructive.

    I’m not going to call you a troll, because I interpreted your question as an honest one. So let me respond honestly to your reply.

    It’s not a matter of condoning the behaviours, it’s a matter of not punishing behaviours that cause no harm except to the willing participants. Just because I don’t punish you for doing something doesn’t mean that I want to do it, or that I don’t prefer that you not do it. It simply means I welcome you to be as silly as you like if you don’t hurt anyone else, and that the state will not stand in your way.

    In what way is that destructive? That the government should leave people alone unless they are messing with other people who do not consent to be messed with? If *THAT* is your idea of hellish or destructive, then you are actually justifying my view of how society should be structured.

    In effect, you’ve just said that people should be legislated in some way to behave to what must be some arbitrary standard of behaviour that is not “destructive” or “selfish”. That’s frightening. Who should decide what moral behaviour is and by what providence can they make such a declaration?

    Certainly the Bible is big on hurting other people as a matter of morality, but the Bible would be filed under “Adult Fiction” in the libraries of Cephalopodia.

    I’m not sure how you get selfish out of what I put in any case. People are free to be as altruistic as they wish to be. True, they’re also free to be as selfish as they like… but so what? It’s not like we force people to be nice even now.

    I’m going to offer a guess that my imposition of a sanction against spreading falsehoods would be a particular challenge for a religious person, since a proseletyzer could be challenged in civil court to demonstrate the veracity of their claims. There’d be no creationist museums, no astrologers, no Sylvia Browne. I fail to see how that would be a bad thing.

    On the flip side, a person really would be welcome to whatever weird beliefs they want to have… as long as they don’t annoy anyone else with them, or rot the minds of children with them. And so much of morality is “for the children” right?

    So now my curiosity is piqued! Please, explain your claim that my atheist morality is destructive and hellish. Enquiring minds want to know.

  152. #152 jagannath
    July 30, 2008

    Dang, Clayton left and I wanted to rub Rwandan named Athanase Seromba, a catholic priest who got life sentence on charge of genocide, on the face of his god pal.

  153. #153 llewelly
    July 30, 2008

    I have the ultimate answer to the question of evil. We all have psychic gnomes. Some of them are good. These are the ones that you will find scurrying around homeless shelters whispering in the ears of volunteers. Some of them are bad. Those are the kind that you will find in the offices of oil companies and most importantly… anywhere where disco is played.

    Timothy Wood, your words are valuable and profound. But you forget to mention that Evil Gnomes also steal underpants and separate matched socks.

  154. #154 Jason Failes
    July 30, 2008

    “You can try to argue with me… but my belief is based on faith.”

    Then why are you here at all, if you are immune to learning?
    Get off the internet. Go to church.

    “God is, by definition, source without source.”

    Ok, you can define all you like, but that doesn’t mean it’s real. God is the source without source. God is invisible. God is undetectable, etc.

    None of these things have anything to do with any actual deity, they are just what believers have HAD to believe to keep their beliefs, well, somewhat believable.

    The fact that our collective idea of God has slowly morphed from something that could be seen (burning bushes) and could be seen acting (iron chariots and all that) to something that is indistinguishable from something that doesn’t exist at all speaks greater volumes about God’s dubious existence than any logical argument ever could.

  155. #155 JoJo
    July 30, 2008

    I would argue that any moral impulse is, at its base, some kind of a religious impulse, however inchoate.

    So if you have morality, you’re religious. Therefore, a true atheist must be immoral. And when did you stop beating your wife?

  156. #156 Tom Coward
    July 30, 2008

    Anti-Athiests holding @3% in the original poll.

    Is clayton really gone, or will he have another last last post?

  157. #157 Azdak
    July 30, 2008

    @ #146
    Good luck getting that through an ethics committee… =P

    It would be an interesting experiment, assuming you could find a population of subjects who wouldn’t recognize the paradigm. I suspect the effect would still be strong for all groups, but given that many of us have arrived at atheism due to a predisposition to being contrary, it’s possible that atheists would be slightly less punitive.

    …unless the cohort is a cracker.

  158. #158 Not that Louis
    July 30, 2008

    I decline to be lectured on morality by any Christian not named Berrigan. Too often it descends into gibber. We are good and what we do is by definition good because we stand for the right things. They are evil because they stand for the wrong things. What does god have to do with it? Well, he’s the one who’s there to reassure us that we are right because he is on our side.

  159. #159 Neural T
    July 30, 2008

    “Should atheists be barred from public office?”

    That’s a serious question?

  160. #160 Julian
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton: the genocides in Rwanda were the result of an artificial ethnic distinction created by the Belgians when they ruled that area of Africa. They invented the idea of two great tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis, forced everyone to attend physicals where their skulls were measured, and on this basis declared who was part of which group. Then, they granted those declared Hutu’s positions in government and ostracized the Tutsis. Over time, this lead to a great amount of hatred between the two groups, a hatred which both justified by ancestral claims to the land and pronunciations of their favored status in the eyes of the creator.

    The situation in Sudan involves the Sudanese government inflaming Muslim herders into attacking and killing pagan and Christian farmers in the South. The reason the government is doing this is to try and establish total control over the oil wells in the south of the country so they can keep the profits for themselves, because the Muslim herders would rather live a settled life and they’ve been promised they can keep the land, and because they’ve been riled up by the Northern settled Muslim populations to see these communities, which they have quarreled with on and off for centuries, as heretics. So really, this is an attempt by a government with close ties to the religious right in their country to drive out the disbelievers at great profit to themselves, hardly an atheistic move.

    Thirdly, it is a lie that Nazi Germany was atheistic. You don’t have to take my word for it, you can look up speeches given by Hitler, passages in Mien Kampf, and radio addresses given by Goebbels. In general, a close study of any high-ranking Nazi official’s statements will reveal a deeply religious view. Hitler was a practicing Catholic. His goal in killing the Jews and gypsies was to “return” Germany to a purified, Christian state(I use quotes because it never was such a thing). The German impulse to exterminate Jews has a long history, going back through Martin Luther to the first Crusades. The Catholic church supported Hitler in the beginning, not out of fear of him, but because of his strong opposition to Communism, a opposition he cast, in part, as a defense of the German Church. It is true that some members of the Nazi regime practiced a kind of neo-pagan cult built around the Nordic gods, but how does this prove them atheistic? Worshiping Odin or believing that all human beings have souls with which they can communicate with one another and see the future is just as religious an act as going to a church every Sunday(many Nazis also believed in psychic powers). Atheism is not anti-Christianity; it is a rejection of the necessity of spiritual or supernatural beings for life and the assertion that humanity created all of those things, in our own minds, as a way to deal with a difficult and often frightening environment very early in our evolutionary history. So you see, an atheist would be just as dismissive towards the idea of Thor or fairies as they would be to the idea of Yahweh, any that isn’t, is not a real atheist.

  161. #161 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    sorry, but for Clayton, no matter WHAT you say, it will (and has, for those that recall having this exact same exchange with him before) always end up thusly (#131):

    Without it [his religion], there is no reason not to do whatever one desires.

    I see over a dozen posts directly refuting that statement prior to his posting it for the 3rd(?) time, with evidence and references.

    all hand-waived away.

    you can’t argue with someone who lives in a perpetual state of denial.

    don’t waste your time on HIM.

    On the plus side, I noted several excellent references listed on the philosophy and evolution of social behavior, which will no doubt be useful to those onlookers not constrained by their own personal sets of denial and projection.

    In case it wasn’t listed yet, I would also add to that body of work, the commentary of WD Hamilton on human social behavior that can be found in his collected works (Narrow Roads of Gene Land – especially volume 1).

    http://www.amazon.com/Narrow-Roads-Gene-Land-Collected/dp/0716745305

    much cheaper used copies can be found around and about.

  162. #162 Dan
    July 30, 2008

    It makes me laugh that you would post this because given the nature of the comments that you & many of your blog readers have given, I am certain that if the question were rephrased to “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!

  163. #163 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Glenn D writes:
    the fact is that atheists don’t believe in the depraved nature of humanity that many Xians do

    That’s too broad a generalization. The more nihilistic of us atheists look at the evidence and see that humanity is nasty, vicious, cruel, selfish, untrustworthy, and prone to justify its actions with unadulterated bullshit.

    Put another way: half of mankind is below the mean in terms of any moral scale you wanted to try to measure them against.

  164. #164 SC
    July 30, 2008

    It makes me laugh that you would post this because given the nature of the comments that you & many of your blog readers have given, I am certain that if the question were rephrased to “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!

    Ichthyic’s here, so I’m sure I needn’t bother, but: PROJECTION.

    (By the way, Ichthyic, did you hate my diss or what?)

  165. #165 astroande
    July 30, 2008

    Dan: “I am certain that if the question were rephrased to “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!”

    I wouldn’t. As someone pointed out earlier, we have a Constitution that doesn’t allow for religious tests to run for public office. I, and I’m sure most people here, don’t give a flying flip what religion someone in public office is, as long as they don’t use that office to try and force others to share their religious beliefs.

  166. #166 NanuNanu
    July 30, 2008

    @dan #162
    HAHA WTF? It’s like he doesn’t even know what site he’s on. Do these idiots just choose any random atheist site and spout inanities? Is it like a wheel of fortune spin or what?

  167. #167 casey
    July 30, 2008

    @ #162 – you know what they say about assumptions.

  168. #168 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton writes:
    My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity

    That’s silly.

    I am not “satan” but if given the opportunity and the power, I could commit atrocities that would make hitler’s look like a walk in the park in comparison.

    Note: I said “could” not “will” or “would.” Although if someone demanded proof and placed themselves within my power, and I were safe from the law, I could be talked into it.

    Christards’ notion of “satan” is a boogeyman for the unimaginative. A supremely evil being would be vastly worse than the silly little thing thing that christards always go on and on about. Did I mention, by the way, that if christards’ beliefs were actually accurate, “satan” would have to be more powerful than “god”? After all, “god” had to dick “job” over to prove something to “satan” and “satan” is able to carry out his covert operations scattering “fossils” all over the place to fool the christard multitudes. If “satan” were not more powerful than “god” then “god” would have waved away all the bad stuff, like a proper loving supreme being thing, right?

  169. #169 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton dixit:

    I would argue that any moral impulse is, at its base, some kind of a religious impulse, however inchoate

    So that kind of negates your claim to be asking honest questions, doesn’t it? You’ve defined morality in such a way that you cannot be a true atheist and moral at the same time.

    Maria: Bingo.

    ’nuff said.

  170. #170 observer
    July 30, 2008

    Dan@163,

    Nonsense! It’s a far cry from believing that certain views are wrong to believing that the person who holds those views should be barred from office. There is no religious for public office in the USA, and I’m willing to bet the the enormous majority of posters here are glad of that.

    How about you? Would you support barring a person office because of religion (or lack thereof).

  171. #171 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    (By the way, Ichthyic, did you hate my diss or what?)

    sometimes things happen we don’t expect.

    My father was in the hospital for all of last week, and passed away on Monday.

    I’ll get back to it in a couple of weeks.

    sorry.

  172. #172 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    astroande writes:
    As someone pointed out earlier, we have a Constitution that doesn’t allow for religious tests to run for public office. I, and I’m sure most people here, don’t give a flying flip what religion someone in public office is

    Sorry; I don’t know about “most people” but you could be wrong.

    I give a flying flip about whether someone holding a public office is religious or not. Presumably, we want qualified people holding public positions of trust, and if they’re getting advice from little men in their head, or carrying around pieces of gods in their pocket, or believe that their morals only come from an imaginary supreme being — they are not qualified. Public office involves making important decisions about the here and now; in other words reality. How can someone be qualified to hold public office if they demonstrably have no grasp on reality?

  173. #173 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    Dan #162 wrote:

    “Should Catholics be barred from public office?”

    No. Of course not. “Heaven” forbid! ;)

    I’ve voted for many Catholic candidates, as have most atheists. Can you say the same about voting for atheists?

    A Catholic (or Lutheran or Muslim or neo-pagan) who wanted to have their sectarian beliefs enforced as law, without sufficient secular justification on the common ground, is a different case. It wouldn’t be a matter of their religion, then, but their personal failure to respect the Constitutional separation of church and state.

  174. #174 Rev. BigDUmbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    It makes me laugh that you would post this because given the nature of the comments that you & many of your blog readers have given, I am certain that if the question were rephrased to “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!

    Dan,

    Article VI Section 3.

    thanks

  175. #175 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    observer asks:
    Would you support barring a person office because of religion

    Absolutely.

    Would you support barring a person office because they’re an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic who takes orders from the vibrations in the fillings in their teeth?

  176. #176 SC
    July 30, 2008

    Oh, Ichthyic, I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I know how hard it is, and I’m not really the person to tell you it gets easier, but you have my deepest sympathy. It goes without saying that I don’t care about the other thing. Please feel free to drop me a line if you want a sympathetic ear.

  177. #177 Rev. bigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic, sorry to hear about your dad. A friend of mine just went through the same thing this week.

  178. #178 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    How can someone be qualified to hold public office if they demonstrably have no grasp on reality?

    That’s the point though, right? To be sure, I rather doubt you would conclude that all religious adherents of any particular stripe have no grasp on reality.

    compartmentalization works pretty well for most folks. I think you would agree that we judge a person’s grasp of reality on their words and actions, not on their professed mythological beliefs.

    would you vote for Ken Miller for public office?

    He’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders, and does a pretty decent job of compartmentalizing his religious ideology.

    Of course, OTOH we have Huckleberry, who stated loudly and proudly that he wanted to rewrite the constitution to have it fit better with “xian norms”, and then there’s folks like Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps…

    all religious folks, but having an obviously different grasp of reality, and some apparently better able to compartmentalize than others.

  179. #179 Sven DiMilo
    July 30, 2008

    Bummer, Ich. I too am sorry to hear about your dad.

  180. #180 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    thanks for the wellwishes.

    I find that I spend enough time here, that it gives me some peace of mind to post a bit.

    I doubt anyone would disagree that it’s a great distraction!

  181. #181 Benji
    July 30, 2008

    We’re now at 97% that say no. Encouraging.

  182. #182 mds
    July 30, 2008

    Casey @ #142:

    hey! leave the jews out of this. they don’t beleive in satan!

    Well, technically they believe in satans, just not a Manichean being who tries to confound the efforts of God and draw as many souls as possible to a Hell that they don’t believe in either. The more common depiction is as an agent of God who tests people; certainly never as anything capable of opposing Him.

  183. #183 Nick Gotts
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic,
    Sorry to hear about your Dad.

  184. #184 John Lewandowski
    July 30, 2008

    As a Catholic, I would have no problem voting for an atheist. A conservative atheist, that is. I’d absolutely vote for a conservative atheist over a liberal Catholic.

    But I would never vote for a liberal atheist who desecrates the sacred objects of other people’s religions for fun. That kind of atheist is unfit to hold any office whatever.

  185. #185 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic argues:
    compartmentalization works pretty well for most folks. I think you would agree that we judge a person’s grasp of reality on their words and actions, not on their professed mythological beliefs.

    Compartmentalization, like most rationalizations, “works” because it’s easier and more comfortable than the alternative.

    We judge a person based on their actions because we cannot really know what their beliefs are. And, of course, they can lie. When you look at the US – $400 million of taxpayers’ money under the “community and faith based initiatives” to teach abstinence instead of safe sex – and you can easily see how someone’s belief in the supernatural can subtly affect public policy.

    How can you say compartmentalization ‘works’ when all I have to do is say “George W Bush”? Unless you want to play the “no true compartmentalization” card?

  186. #186 Rev. bigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    But I would never vote for a liberal atheist who desecrates the sacred objects of other people’s religions for fun. That kind of atheist is unfit to hold any office whatever.

    Would you vote for a Hindu?

    How about someone who eats hamburgers on the 4th of July?

  187. #187 Sven DiMilo
    July 30, 2008

    But I would never vote for a liberal atheist who desecrates the sacred objects of other people’s religions for fun. That kind of atheist is unfit to hold any office whatever.

    Fortunately, John, the liberal atheist you have in mind isn’t running for any office whatever.
    By the way, how many “conservative atheists” can you name? Anybody?

  188. #188 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    John Lewandowski #184 wrote:

    But I would never vote for a liberal atheist who desecrates the sacred objects of other people’s religions for fun.

    I agree. Of course, PZ did not do it “for fun.”

    Ichthyic:

    I, too, am sorry to hear about your dad.

    But, glad to see you back. (Also, perhaps, Etha Williams?)

  189. #189 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    But I would never vote for a liberal atheist who desecrates the sacred objects of other people’s religions for fun.

    I hold the intellect as sacred. By believing in an imaginary playmate, you desecrate the intellect – the thing I hold most sacred.

    Wow. “Being offended by desecration” is a fun game.

  190. #190 John Lewandowski
    July 30, 2008

    I would vote for a conservative Hindu, yes. I would also vote for a conservative Orthodox Christian, Protestant, Jew, Buddhist, pagan, or (fill-in-the-blank religion).

    But I would not vote for a liberal fill-in-the-blank. Not even if he ate hot dogs on the 4th of July.

    I think I would even vote for a conservative Satanist over a liberal Catholic.

  191. #191 Rev. BigDUmbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    I would vote for a conservative Hindu, yes. I would also vote for a conservative Orthodox Christian, Protestant, Jew, Buddhist, pagan, or (fill-in-the-blank religion).

    But I would not vote for a liberal fill-in-the-blank. Not even if he ate hot dogs on the 4th of July.

    I think I would even vote for a conservative Satanist over a liberal Catholic.

    So is your problem the Liberal or the desecration of sacred objects? Or both?

  192. #192 John Lewandowski
    July 30, 2008

    Sastra, you’re right – Myers desecrated the Eucharist out of blind hatred. Not for fun.

    Sven, Christopher Hitchens is a libertarian atheist. “Allahpundit” of blogosphere fame is a conservative atheist.

    Marcus, liberal atheists shouldn’t feign intelligence. It’s unbecoming.

  193. #193 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    John Lewandowski writes:
    I would not vote for a liberal fill-in-the-blank.

    I suspect that if I gave enough of a shit to dissect your notion of what a “liberal” is, we’d both discover that you actually have no idea what you believe.

    Labels clarify, but they also conceal much detail. When I see someone saying they make decisions based on a label, I know I’m seeing a self-professed fool.

  194. #194 observer
    July 30, 2008

    Marcus Ranum@175,

    It all depends on what the voice in thier fillings tells them to do.

  195. #195 John Lewandowski
    July 30, 2008

    Marcus, didn’t I tell you to knock that off?

  196. #196 John Lewandowski
    July 30, 2008

    Chimp, does it really matter?

  197. #197 PatrickHenry
    July 30, 2008

    #187 Posted by: Sven DiMilo

    By the way, how many “conservative atheists” can you name? Anybody?

    If Ayn Rand were still alive, she might be considered conservative — at least on many issues, like defense, free enterprise, etc. I’m sure there are many like that.

  198. #198 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 30, 2008

    You’re the one making the big list. I ‘m just curious where you stand.

    Would you vote for a conservative who desecrated a sacred religious symbol?

  199. #199 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Marcus, liberal atheists shouldn’t feign intelligence. It’s unbecoming

    Are you trying to label me?

    That’s funny. Tell me what I believe in. Please. Don’t just throw around buzzword labels.

  200. #200 Dan
    July 30, 2008

    “HAHA WTF? It’s like he doesn’t even know what site he’s on. Do these idiots just choose any random atheist site and spout inanities? Is it like a wheel of fortune spin or what?”

    Silly NanuNanu….. I thought this was a SCIENCE blog, not an atheist blog.

  201. #201 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    John Lewandowski
    Marcus, didn’t I tell you to knock that off?

    Wow. As a display of your power, that was pretty disappointing, wasn’t it?

  202. #202 Nick Gotts
    July 30, 2008

    By the way, how many “conservative atheists” can you name? Anybody?Sven DiMilo@187

    Some will probably conceal their atheism – religion is useful for keeping the lower orders in line, so elite atheists should show outward conformity:
    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca

  203. #203 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    John Lewandowski #192 wrote:

    Sastra, you’re right – Myers desecrated the Eucharist out of blind hatred. Not for fun.

    Not “blind hatred” either. He did it to make a larger point on the limits of “respect for religion” in the public square.

    You disagree with his argument, or perhaps his method of making it.

  204. #204 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    How can you say compartmentalization ‘works’ when all I have to do is say “George W Bush”?

    I didn’t say it worked for everybody, and do you truly judge GW based on his “professed” religion, vs. the absolute level of crap he has pulled over the last 30 years (current administration included)?

    I think judging him based on his professed religion in that case would be tremendously shortchanging his particular level of insanity.

    Like i said, there are examples of those able to functionally compartmentalize, and there are those who can’t (or won’t).

    also, by your own measure:

    And, of course, they can lie.

    If we judge someone based on their professed religion, for better or worse, how do we know we aren’t basing that on a lie anyway?

    so, don’t the justifications (lies or not) become irrelevant to the actions themselves?

    religion can of course be (and all too often has) utilized as a convenient excuse for egregious behavior, but we can only really judge based on the expression of the behavior itself, not the excuses used to justify it.

    George is a demented fuckwit, no doubt, but I don’t need to know his religious ideology to figure that out (c’mon, do people REALLY think he’s some sort of “born again xian” at this point anyway?), or make conclusions about what he is likely to do next.

    likewise, I don’t need to know Miller’s a Catholic to figure out what he is likely to say in his next anti-ID writings.

    does that make what I’m getting at a bit clearer?

    Moreover, if you wish to judge a political participant based on their professed religion, how does that not inevitably become part and parcel of the very thing we are trying to avoid by saying that there should be no religious test for public office?

    Last, it seems to me that your critique would be better directed at the large swath of american citizenry who apparently feel like “Clayton” does, that for whatever stupid reason, anyone who doesn’t profess to xian faith must be untrustworthy.

    politicians, having subjected themselves to the whim of the voter, I’m sure feel the need to kowtow to the majority of the voter’s wishes.

    you know…

    wearing a nice suit, good tie, well groomed… and professing some sort of xian mythology.

    *sigh*

  205. #205 Canuck
    July 30, 2008

    They didn’t have an “are you fucking serious?” choice. The question is absurd. We have the same right as anyone to seek public office. If you meet the requirements of the law, you are good to go.

  206. #206 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    Chimp, does it really matter?

    No, John, it’s pretty clear that what you think doesn’t really matter.

    wait, is that not what you meant?

    Wow. As a display of your power, that was pretty disappointing, wasn’t it?

    LOL

  207. #207 Hap
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic: I am sorry about your father. Hope that everything will go well. I can’t imagine very well what will happen when my parents become infirm, let alone when they die – I can imagine it, but I don’t know how to deal with it.

    And, oh, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking when I read “…liberal atheists shouldn’t feign intelligence. It’s unbecoming.”. Does anyone know where to find industrial-grade irony meters? Mine keep burning out.

  208. #208 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    what the hell does trichotillomania have to do with anything on this thread??

    The short answer is nothing.

    The long answer is that I’ve been toying for a number of years with the idea that physical and mental traits might be better understood as sitting somewhere on a distribution across the population and that the dichotomous concept of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ may not be the best approach to understanding them. The best I can offer as a replacement would be ‘more adaptive’ and ‘less adaptive’ and even then I’d suggest even those categories would be contingent on place and time. As someone being treated for depression resulting from a complex of thought patterns that were adaptive when I was young but are increasingly less so as I age, I find mental conditions to be well-suited to this sort of analysis: Where does that behaviour come from? Might it have been adaptive at one point? Is it still adaptive under certain conditions? Is it a spandrel, coevolving with or otherwise related to a different trait? I tossed off trichotillomania for reasons unknown, but I could have listed any condition or behaviour, physical or mental.

    At any rate, it was a quick one off without much thought, and I certainly didn’t mean to single out people such as yourself, atheist trich sufferer. I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I was poking fun at you.

  209. #209 Sven DiMilo
    July 30, 2008

    I thought this was a SCIENCE blog, not an atheist blog.

    And I still think it’s an Ineffable Magical Baked-Goods Blog, but I’m used to occasional disappointment.

  210. #210 Nick Gotts
    July 30, 2008

    Of course liberal atheists shouldn’t feign intelligence; why feign a quality you actually possess?

  211. #211 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    Oh, and my condolences to you Ichythic on the loss of your father.

  212. #212 Brownian, OM
    July 30, 2008

    I thought this was a SCIENCE blog

    It is–or did you not notice how often the unscientific claims of the religious are shredded here for lack of evidence?

  213. #213 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity. The Judeo-Christian tradition does have a way of accounting for it: ha satan

    Posted by: Clayton | July 30, 2008 3:54 PM

    Since humans carried it out, it can’t be beyond human capacity. We account for that evil the same way we account for good – human nature.

  214. #214 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    I can’t imagine very well what will happen when my parents become infirm, let alone when they die – I can imagine it, but I don’t know how to deal with it.

    All I can say is that you will be able to deal with it, when the time comes.

    Family is like that in my experience; the bonds formed when all is right help out tremendously when things go wrong.

  215. #215 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    given the nature of the comments that you & many of your blog readers have given, I am certain that if the question were rephrased to “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!

    Posted by: Dan | July 30, 2008 5:21 PM

    Then you would be very, very wrong.

    Hell, I voted for a Catholic for president of the US in 2004. I had many, many, mnay reservations about voting for the douchebag, but none were because of his religion.

  216. #216 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    “Should Catholics be barred from public office?” – the reponse would quite likely be a resounding YES!

    no, but if you reword that to:

    “Should atheists run for public office?”

    Then I’m sure the response would be a resounding affirmative.

  217. #217 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic writes:
    I didn’t say it worked for everybody, and do you truly judge GW based on his “professed” religion, vs. the absolute level of crap he has pulled over the last 30 years

    I realize that he’s a terrible example to bring into a discussion like this. :) Sorry!!

    Seriously, though, I don’t separate GWB’s professed religious beliefs from his nutbag deeds – nor do I believe any of us should have to. He sets the bar very, very low, doesn’t he?? But he’s a great case in point of how impossible it is to separate the ridiculous irrational beliefs of faith from their ridiculous or destructive expression in public life. Arguing about whether GWB really believes he’s getting advice from “god” is about as pointless as arguing whether Stalin was really an atheist. In both cases we have critical political, economic, and social decisions being made based on wishful thinking and delusion.

    We need to demand rational thinking from our leaders – and it’s not as simple as “are you religious or not” but by golly being able to build your world-view around faith sure seems to correlate pretty highly with being out of touch with the real world.

    Here’s another case in point, stepping away from GWB for a second: since most religious faiths offer some kind of afterlife, how can a political leader be expected to make rational decisions if they truly believe in such a thing? “Sure, I’ll send soldiers into another country to go kill people – after all, they’re going to go to heaven!” Right? In my opinion any belief in a religion that offers some kind of afterlife arguably renders suspect your decision making ability in the here and now.

    don’t the justifications (lies or not) become irrelevant to the actions themselves?

    True. But by the time the decisions are formed and the actions are underway, it’s really hard to go “wait! can we have a do-over?” Ideally, we’d see decisions that were based on the best available understanding of the situation as it exists – I can’t think of any significant way in which believing in something supernatural or fictional is going to help a good decision-making process.

    if you wish to judge a political participant based on their professed religion

    It’s just another piece of information that I’d unhesitatingly use. Yes, they could lie – and if I found them to be lying that would be another piece of information.

    it seems to me that your critique would be better directed at the large swath of american citizenry who apparently feel like “Clayton” does, that for whatever stupid reason, anyone who doesn’t profess to xian faith must be untrustworthy.

    I think I’ve posted more than enough contemptuous words aimed in that general direction; I was just trying to keep focused on the “public service” thread. Personally, I’m amazed that some of the creotards out there are smart enough to figure out how to fart, never mind holding a position of public responsibility. The fact that the current state of affairs has worked, so far, is more a testament to mankind’s resilience in the face of self-inflicted adversity than an argument that we’ve been doing the right thing.

    When you look at political leaders like Jefferson and Franklin, their deistic beliefs were so watered down that, basically, they (allegedly) had near-zero impact on (supposedly) their decision-making process. If you water faith down to just some generalized feel-good woo-woo that doesn’t affect decision-making in the real world, then I’ve got no issue with it.

    What’s really wrong is that this nonsense can be cleared up by people asking clearly and unambiguously “upon what did you base your decision?” The problem is that we delegate decision-making authority to people in a way such that it’s very difficult to call it back. Typically someone will respond “that’s the only way to get things done; deliberating on all decisions results in stasis.” Where do I sign up for stasis? I don’t see the supposed benefits of governments being able to accomplish more; it usually just means bigger carnage. (I could hoist the anarchist banner here, but that’d be a bit too simplistic)

  218. #218 celegans
    July 30, 2008

    Lol, all of the old polls have like 180 votes, the one about atheists has more than 4000!!

  219. #219 Observer
    July 30, 2008

    Marcus,

    You’ve made your case for why you would vote on the basis of religion, but that’s not the same thing as barring a religious person from office. If you could do that, would you?

  220. #220 Sastra
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic #214 wrote:

    All I can say is that you will be able to deal with it, when the time comes.

    True: when it gets right down to it, there are seldom any alternatives to dealing with whatever crisis “it” is. We don’t and can’t just melt away, and when that sorry fact sinks in it often helps to focus immediately on the details. We draw strength from family, or friends, or activity, or principles, or the past, or literature, or religion. Whatever works.

    There can be a strong temptation to lean heavily on what makes things better for oneself and think “I simply couldn’t have gotten through it all if it hadn’t been for (my sister) (my bank account) (my religious faith in God.)” The religious are, of course, particularly prone to this, since they’re encouraged from an early age to think that ONLY a belief that Nothing Bad Every Really Happens and It All Comes Out Happy in the Afterlife can give one strength to get through things. I think that’s one major reason people often find atheism incomprehensible. We must have nothing to draw strength and comfort from.

    It’s different for everyone, though. And, in some ways, the same. You’re faced with no other alternative than to muddle through somehow. The belief that it’s natural and normal to have NO resources to pull from whatsoever is one reason people give for believing in God. They “know” they couldn’t have managed their own crisis without His help. The regular and common ability to weather a storm, as Clayton might put it, “far surpasses human capacity.”

  221. #221 Hank Roberts
    July 30, 2008

    Worth a thought:
    from http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/

    _________excerpt_follows__________

    FUNDAMENTALS OF LIBERAL VS CONSERVATIVE THINKING? —

    ‘A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in “fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity”.’ . http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/aug/13/usa.redbox

    Well… for the sake of credibility, let’s be fair: as we’ve seen, there are countless leftists who exhibit precisely the same neurotic failings. Indeed, these are traits far more typical of romanticism – of left or right – than conservatism, per se. And romanticism, as a deep, memic imperative, most definitely is deeply opposed to the entire Enlightenment project.

    Certainly, it seems quite valid to make a distinction between most “liberals”– who tend to be non-dogmatic, adaptable, and sensitive to nuance — and the “leftists” who fixate on dogmas, litmus-tests and nonsensical political correctness. The latter are classic romantics and can be as anger-drenched as anyone on the right. Only with one major distinction…the loony lefties do not – and never have – control a major American political party, while the loony right has seized total control over theirs.

    Are conservatives statistically more likely, en masse, to be romantics than liberals are? I think that can be argued with a great deal of confidence. Still, I am frankly disgusted with “psychological researchers” who are so blind to the common threads that link the far right and left, rather than dividing them.

    Vastly more interesting is the work of Jonathan Haidt, who found a liberal-conservative distinction that seems to have far more generality, correlation and explanatory power. Haidt found five general drivers of moral opinion and fervor: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt07/haidt07_index.html

    1 ingroup/loyalty,
    2 authority/respect,
    3 purity/sanctity,
    4 harm/care
    5 fairness/reciprocity.

    Cultural conservatives work hard to cultivate moral virtues based on all five of these… in keeping with the patterns that are seen in nearly all predecessor cultures.

    Liberals are the ones who are historically anomalous — raised in a modern society with high degrees of personal safety, predictability, comfort, physical and social mobility and education, they tend to pick only the latter pair of fundamental moral drivers — (4) who is being harmed/neglected and (5) whether a situation seems fair. Hence unusual marriage patterns and/or recreational drugs seem less threatening, lacking any victims. Indeed, Haidt’s research reveals a very powerful point — one of the things that has driven the decline of liberalism has been its refusal to credit any validity to the other three moral drivers, even though all five were potent in every known, prior human culture.

    In fact, liberalism’s refusal to grant any honor or dignity to the “older” three drivers would have to qualify as a form of… well… bigotry. Let’s admit it, and try to listen better, so we can fight for the future more effectively. (Oh, and consider the many ways in which liberals, especially of the left, actually carry dogmatic passions of “sanctity and purity and authority” themselves! What is political correctness, then?)

  222. #222 Patricia
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic – So sorry to hear of your loss. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. Sorry.

  223. #223 Wowbagger
    July 30, 2008

    Humans invented god to fill the gaps; this applied as much to morals as it did to the night sky and where lightning comes from.

    We no more need the existence of god to explain why we’re capable of good (or evil for that matter) than we need god to explain why there are rainbows.

  224. #224 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    In fact, liberalism’s refusal to grant any honor or dignity to the “older” three drivers would have to qualify as a form of… well… bigotry. Let’s admit it, and try to listen better, so we can fight for the future more effectively.
    Posted by: Hank Roberts | July 30, 2008 7:35 PM

    It would be bigotry if we rejected 1, 2, and 3 for no reason or for bad reasons. But we reject them for very good reasons – because they lead to more harm than good. They may have been useful in the past, but they have long outlived any usefulness they may once have had. Those concepts don’t deserve honor or dignity.

    (Oh, and consider the many ways in which liberals, especially of the left, actually carry dogmatic passions of “sanctity and purity and authority” themselves! What is political correctness, then?)

    Posted by: Hank Roberts | July 30, 2008 7:35 PM

    I agree with that analysis, but from it I conclude that we liberals should always be on the lookout for dogmatism in ourselves, and should strive to avoid it. We should also strive not to regard the concepts of sanctity, purity, and authority with honor or dignity.

  225. #225 Ichthyic
    July 30, 2008

    Here’s another case in point, stepping away from GWB for a second: since most religious faiths offer some kind of afterlife, how can a political leader be expected to make rational decisions if they truly believe in such a thing?

    well, see, that’s where that compartmentalization thing comes in.

    the fact is, that people can, and do, make rational decisions about some things that are in complete ideological conflict with things they also profess to “believe”.

    happens all the time.

    I do understand your search for a bellweather, and I do tend to agree with Dawkins that professing belief in mythological beings as if they were real tends to paint one as being credulous in general (and that the overall trend tends to lead to “bad” places – as well documented in just looking at Dawkins: Root of all Evil documentaries), but there ARE exceptions, as we both know, so utilizing religion itself as such a bellweather might not be the most productive thing. Just to be clear: like PZ, I’m of the opinion that I would hope to see religion eventually end up being of little more social importance than your standard knitting circle.

    The reality is, though, that we are still a few generations away from that, and those that have been indoctrinated into this nonsense still have to find ways of dealing with it, and yet still hopefully be able to function rationally in the world as it is. This is why I have said that compartmentalization works. No, I understand it’s certainly little more than a “chewing gum plugging a hole in the radiator” solution, but it sure does seem to work for many.

    not to harp on Miller too much, but since he is well known around these parts, it’s rather obvious that he represents an example of someone who believes absolutely nutty shit on one side, but doesn’t let that affect the science he does, or writes about in texts, in the slightest.

    ask him about his rationalizations for his personal apologetics though, and you’re likely to find yourself scratching your head at the very least.

    Over the years, it’s been my experience that political agendas rarely end up following one person’s professed religious ideology (honest or not) in this country. You have to admit, even if you associate GW with pure fundy-dom, he’s done a rather poor job of passing their legislative mandates as a whole.

    In fact, if you go on the really whackaloon fundy forums (like that for “Christian Exodus”), you will find more than not that the fundies feel GW has abandoned them, and are rather holding their nose about McCain, too.

    If you water faith down to just some generalized feel-good woo-woo that doesn’t affect decision-making in the real world, then I’ve got no issue with it.

    Oprah for president?

    :p

    Typically someone will respond “that’s the only way to get things done; deliberating on all decisions results in stasis.”

    well, that appears to be the response of “THE DECIDER” and his crack team of idjits, but recalling back to Clinton, he was the exact opposite.

    While GW surrounded himself (Cheney?) with yesmen, Clinton was smart enough to realize that surrounding himself with policy wonks was the way to go. Clinton, unlike Georgie, actually listened to them because they ended up having useful things to say.

    now, do you think the difference in approach boils down to their respective professed religious beliefs?

    here, maybe this will help?:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Presidential_religious_affiliations

    What’s really wrong is that this nonsense can be cleared up by people asking clearly and unambiguously “upon what did you base your decision?”

    oh, most heartily agree with that 100%.

    …and if someone actually responds with:

    “God told me to.”

    THEN we can conclude that they are simply bugfuck nuts (or have carefully calculated that the response would NOT be seen as being nuts by the majority of constituents, and are thus happy to hide their actual decision making process).

    too bad apparently most people in this country think “bugfuck nuts” is cause for re-election.

    again…

    *sigh*

  226. Poll seems to be about shoes now. Stupid time zones, I missed the fun.

  227. #227 Ray M
    July 30, 2008

    Getting back to the poll… I looked at the “past polls’ section, where I discovered that the typical number of responses is around 250. Pharyngulation bumped this one to well over 4000.

  228. #228 John Squire
    July 30, 2008

    Some trivia related to the original post:

    From the Tennessee State Constitution (Article IX: Disqualifications):

    § 1. Clergy; eligibility to serve in legislature

    Whereas Ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no Minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

    § 2. Atheists holding office

    No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

    § 3. Duelists holding office

    Any person who shall, after the adoption of this Constitution, fight a duel, or knowingly be the bearer of a challenge to fight a duel, or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of the right to hold any office of honor or profit in this State, and shall be punished otherwise, in such manner as the Legislature may prescribe.

    I’m sure sections 1 and 2 are nullified by the U.S. Constitution. Tennessee fundamentalists are always shocked to hear that the state’s founders had tried to keep the clergy out of government.

  229. #229 Hap
    July 30, 2008

    If one could convince voters here that the substitution of “God told me to.” or “Because I said so, and if you think otherwise, we have a spot at Guantonomo(sic?) for you” for “Because of (insert rational reasons here)” is the cause of jobs and respect leaving the US as fast as they can (along with money), and lots of people in other places losing respect (and their lives) for us, then people might reconsider that stance.

  230. #230 Wowbagger
    July 30, 2008

    Ichthyic,

    I, too, am sorry for your loss.

    As someone who has almost no relationship with his own father I always feel a special sadness for guys who’ve lost a dad who they’ve been close to.

  231. #231 Eukaryote
    July 30, 2008

    Sadly, the Arkansas Constitution bans Atheists from holding office OR from testifying as a witness.

    Interestingly enough, another section of the Constitution states that there shall be no religious test, and another states there shall be no discrimination based on religion.

    So, in other words, just like PZ was saying yesterday, it doesn’t matter which kooky beliefs you have, just so long as you HAVE kooky beliefs.

  232. #232 ndt
    July 30, 2008

    Sadly, the Arkansas Constitution bans Atheists from holding office OR from testifying as a witness.

    Posted by: Eukaryote | July 30, 2008 8:17 PM

    It’s sad that it’s in there, but it’s completely unenforceable. The US Supreme Court invalidated such restrictions some time ago.

  233. #233 Ian
    July 30, 2008

    Aw, they closed it and put up some boring new poll about McCain’s shoes. I didn’t even get to add my vote.

  234. #234 S.Scott
    July 30, 2008

    It’s freakin’ gone! I checked “past polls” and the “no’s” won handily… 97%-3% .

  235. #235 JPS, FCD
    July 30, 2008

    On the question of whether persons professing a religion should be barred from public office, I’ll try to split a hair:
    Not necessarily.
    I personally hope the USA never elects a Mormon president. But I remember that in 1960 I couldn’t see why Kennedy’s Catholicism was such a problem for many of my adult relatives. OK, so maybe I’m not a paragon of rationality.
    But clearly no person who believes that his* “responsibilities to a higher authority” (see post # 7) supersede his* responsibility to, e.g., “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” belongs in public office. And no evangelist for young-Earth creationism belongs on any public school board.
    *or her
    Ichthyic, my sympathy. My father also died quite unexpectedly. At times this afterlife idea is just so damn seductive. . .

  236. #236 elizabeth
    July 30, 2008

    Who should not be allowed to run for public office, and I’d argue they should maybe not even be allowed to vote, are people who believe in a “Jesus Kitten” – or should it be called “The Kitten of Turin” maybe.

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/offbeat/2008/07/30/stang.holy.cat.wndu

  237. #237 Cheezits
    July 30, 2008

    My point was that atheists have no way of accounting for that kind of evil, which far surpasses human capacity.

    *boggle* Whaaaaat? Did he just say that the evil that *humans* did surpasses human capacity?

  238. #238 llewelly
    July 30, 2008

    Now if only we could pharyngulate congress into impeaching the president for his gross high crimes and misdemeanors.

  239. #239 Marcus Ranum
    July 30, 2008

    Observer asks:
    You’ve made your case for why you would vote on the basis of religion, but that’s not the same thing as barring a religious person from office. If you could do that, would you?

    I guess we’ll eventually wind up arguing “how insane is too insane to hold public office” if we go down that path. The short answer is “absolutely.”

    Would you favor removing someone from office if they were diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic?

  240. #240 Kseniya
    July 30, 2008

    Yup, there was an Etha sighting earlier.

    Is it just me, or is there a pattern emerging that suggests that commenters named “Dan” or “John” are likely to have been born without brains?

    Nice to see you, Ichthyic, though of course I’m sad for your loss. My mother passed away when I was 19, so I have been down that road too.

    Hug for ya.

  241. #241 Ted
    July 30, 2008

    I have popped in and out of this blog for the past couple of weeks and what always strikes me – hard – is how so many of the comments left by the purportedly rational anti-religionists are rooted in emotional responses (aka contempt/hatred, etc), and express, not rational arguments, but arguments that range from ad hominem to…ad hominem, basically.

    You guys are a hilariously bad advertisement for the superiority of the “Bright” “rational” perspective that (wait for it) is perfectly capable of being – nay, eager to be – as kind, ethical, and caring as the nicest theist and really, really smart to boot.

    Read these threads as an inquirer into the aggresively athesit, rational position. What do you come away with?

    It’s actually pretty funny – the Brights resorting to arguments that are nothing but hurling contemptuous invectives 99% of the time.

    Heh.

  242. #242 Clayton
    July 30, 2008

    Just to clarify something: I never said an atheist should not be allowed to serve in public office. I simply tried to explain why some might have reservations about it.

    To quote one of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent addresses in Sydney, Australia:

    There are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith, while fine for individuals, should either be excluded from the public forum altogether or included only in the pursuit of limited pragmatic goals. This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator. It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone. But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a world-view. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the “good” begins to wane.

  243. #243 Steve_C
    July 30, 2008

    Ted.

    Whine whine whine.

    Blah blah blah.

    Thanks for your concern. We’ve heard it all before.

    99%? Really? DId you count them all? Or was that just a small sample?

    Are you Catholic?

  244. #244 Wowbagger
    July 30, 2008

    Ted,

    Please find me a recent post where someone here at Pharyngula refers to themselves as a ‘Bright’. In fact, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that many posters here decry it.

    Don’t mistake passion for irrationality.

    Oh, and as for your ‘vicious invective 99% of the time’ perception: either you’re poor at statistics or reading comprehension.

    Or is it both?

  245. #245 Wowbagger
    July 30, 2008

    Clayton,

    Let me put it this way: if your country became a theocracy, and that religion the government adopted as mandatory was a Protestant one – i.e. you would have to give up many of the doctrines and practices specific to the catholic church and worship as dominant sect ordered – how would you feel?

    It means ‘no religion makes the rules’ – not ‘no religion at all’.

    Secularism is as much about protecting religious groups from each other as it is about protecting the non-religious from the religious.

  246. #246 Sastra
    July 31, 2008

    Clayton #242 quoted:

    “When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the “good” begins to wane.

    If the “natural order, purpose, and the ‘good’” make reasonable sense no matter what the religious belief, then you don’t need to bring in God to justify it.

    But if it doesn’t, then you’ve lost that objectivity you claim is so important for morality. It descends into an argument then over who understands God better, with every side insisting that they’re the humble seekers, and others only form God in their image.

    And God never, ever, directly steps in to settle the matter. That would make God’s existence a matter of science and reason, instead of faith. Without reason, there is no persuasion. It will come down to propaganda, rhetoric, and force. Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Islam vs. Hindu vs. neopagan vs. the rest of the gods. All with different facts which frame a vision of the natural order, purpose, and good which brook no argument, because they all come from God.

    So please don’t be too quick to belittle that secular form of government which tries to be “neutral, impartial, and inclusive of everyone.” Without knowing in advance which religion will win the power war, it will always be on your side as far as you can reason.

  247. #247 Clayton
    July 31, 2008

    I never advocated for a theocracy.

    Secularism tends toward ideology, however, and if it became the religion of the state, I would feel like the people of Ireland when the European Union tried to impose the Lisbon Treaty on them.

  248. #248 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Ted,

    It’s actually pretty funny – the Brights resorting to arguments that are nothing but hurling contemptuous invectives 99% of the time.

    Heh.

    probably worth your time to actually know what the fuck you are talking about before you come in spouting all off like that.

    heh

  249. #249 Sastra
    July 31, 2008

    Ted #241 wrote:

    Read these threads as an inquirer into the aggresively athesit, rational position. What do you come away with?

    Don’t mistake style for substance. I think there’s a lot of solid ground beneath the invectives, jokes, and shennanigans.

    I suspect your criticism of Pharyngula could apply as well the internet as a whole. It is not for the faint-hearted. Methinks they’ll rip your liver out for preferring white wine to red.

  250. #250 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 31, 2008

    Secularism tends toward ideology, however, and if it became the religion of the state, I would feel like the people of Ireland when the European Union tried to impose the Lisbon Treaty on them.

    So not advocating a religion is a religion now?

  251. #251 Sastra
    July 31, 2008

    Clayton, I would be against an officially atheist State as well. It’s not the business of the government to decide whether God exists or not. How would it do so? Popular vote? Members of Congress taking peyote and going on a “spirit quest?” Fund a scientific investigation?

    “Secularism” is one of those words with many meanings. Some nontheists use it to mean “atheism,” and that’s a mistake. It means “of this world” or perhaps “of this age or generation.” When used in speaking of government, it means neutrality between views on religion. Atheism is a view on religion. Secularism must be neutral towards it, too.

  252. #252 Wowbagger
    July 31, 2008

    Clayton,

    I know you didn’t advocate a theocracy; my example was to illustrate why secularism is important – because unless you happen to belong to the religion making the rules then it might not go so well for you.

    For you that’s a religion other than your own; for atheists it’s any religion which has disproportionate power over society.

    I don’t know how secularism could become a state religion since (apart from it lacking anything that could be used as a foundation for religious belief) it is based on the premise that there cannot be a state religion.

  253. #253 Elf Eye
    July 31, 2008

    Ichthyic, my sympathies. My brother and my aunt both died unexpectedly this year.

  254. #254 Kseniya
    July 31, 2008

    When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the “good” begins to wane.

    Self-serving pap.

    What he means is, “My importance begins to wane.”

  255. #255 Kseniya
    July 31, 2008

    Wowbagger, the answer is simple: Clayton sees everything in theistic, religious terms. Therefore, to him, atheism and secularism are religions – competing religions that must be discredited.

  256. #256 Wowbagger
    July 31, 2008

    I guess it’s the same sort of mindset that allows them to make comments like, ‘oh, you atheists believe in god; you’re just angry at him for some reason’ that appear here from time to time.

    They can’t comprehend that it’s actually possible to do without deities. There’s a christian at my work who takes that position – she’s convinced herself everyone believes in god but atheists are just ‘in denial’.

    Funny, for me it’s the opposite – I’ve never believed in god and I find the idea that anyone does is very strange, to the point where I doubt that most self-proclaimed believers are just saying that they’ve been taught to say.

  257. #257 Wowbagger
    July 31, 2008

    correction – that last line of my post should say ‘…I suspect that most believers are just saying what they’ve been taught to say.

  258. #258 Kseniya
    July 31, 2008

    Exactly!

  259. #259 J Myers
    July 31, 2008

    I’ve never believed in god and I find the idea that anyone does is very strange, to the point where I doubt that most self-proclaimed believers are just saying that they’ve been taught to say.

    Precisely my impression as well, which I conveyed in admittedly antagonistic terms in #43… which Clayton managed to horrendously misconstrue and dismiss without addressing a single one of my points. (Clayton, do you know what “straw man” actually means?)

  260. #260 reason
    July 31, 2008

    J Myers…
    To be fair I read your post #43 and you do project things onto Clayton which cannot be directly inferred from his posts. But of course God is the ultimate strawman.

    #221

    You should have also referenzed Woozle’s excellent repost which can be found at
    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8587336&postID=7318976108114014409

  261. #261 Observer
    July 31, 2008

    Marcus#239,

    No, I would not.

  262. #262 Sili
    July 31, 2008

    Ah well. I’m too late.

    I’m a bit dismayed by the new poll, though:

    What do you think about John McCain’s $520 Italian shoes?

    2% – He walks miles on the campaign trail. Give him a break, he needs comfy shoes.

    3% – Not as ludicrous as John Edwards’ $400 haircut.

    41% – Typical politician: Out of touch with the average person.

    53% – Let’s worry about the issues, not his shoes.
    (Total 1445)

    Anyway – I though J. Sidney III wore a lucky pair of shoes at all times. $520 isn’t that much if he only has the one pair.

  263. #263 J Myers
    July 31, 2008

    To be fair I read your post #43 and you do project things onto Clayton which cannot be directly inferred from his posts.

    I do no such thing; I merely mention a few readily observable facts (religions contradict each other, religious doctrine is interpreted in convenient ways, religious people grieve the loss of loved ones). Nothing Clayton posted has any bearing on the truth of these statements. I was obviously referring to a class of theists (monotheists who believe in heaven), not Clayton specifically, and I explicitly state that I was speaking of their behavior in general, not in every instance (while I’ve never known anyone who didn’t grieve the loss of a loved one, I’m sure there are many theists who manage to adhere to the more inconvenient tenets of their particular faith, or, if they fail to do so, at least consider it a shortcoming on their part).

  264. #264 Clayton
    July 31, 2008

    Atheists could be hypocrits, too, I imagine — praying during difficult times, etc.

    This is not the unique domain of theists, and so is not a valuable critique of theists as such.

  265. #265 Linda
    July 31, 2008

    Guess I’ll have to resign my elected office. I am an Atheist on the council, who took the Affirmation, not the swearing, and the oath ends with the idea that the laws I promise to uphold come from “the people.” No “so help me god” part.

    The laws come from the people. I could not be prouder of this office I hold.

  266. #266 dysphemism
    July 31, 2008

    Clayton @ 264: “Atheists could be hypocrits, too, I imagine — praying during difficult times, etc.”

    Makes perfect sense. I know whenever times are tough and I’m facing a major challenge, I feel an inescapable urge to drop to my knees and commence a’cowering to my great Sky Daddy in the hopes of alleviating the pain, rather than, say, facing the problem realistically and actually doing anything about it.

    Totally natural. I mean, everybody does it!

  267. #267 andrew
    August 1, 2008

    the morals of a good christian

    1543 CE: Martin Luther, the founder of the Reformation, publishes “On the Jews and their Lies”:

    He refers to Jews as “a brood of vipers and children of the devil” (from Matthew 12:34), “miserable, blind, and senseless,”

    “truly stupid fools,” “thieves and robbers,” “lazy rogues,” “daily murderers,” and “vermin,” and likens them to “gangrene.”

    He then goes on to recommend that Jewish synagogues and schools be burned, their homes razed and destroyed, their writings

    confiscated, their rabbis forbidden to teach, their travel restricted, that lending money be outlawed for them, and that they

    be forced to earn their wages in farming. Luther advised “if we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share

    in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad

    dogs.”

    In conclusion, he wrote:
    There is no other explanation for this than the one cited earlier from Moses — namely, that God has struck [the Jews] with

    ‘madness and blindness and confusion of mind.’ So we are even at fault in not avenging all this innocent blood of our Lord

    and of the Christians which they shed for three hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the blood of the

    children they have shed since then (which still shines forth from their eyes and their skin). We are at fault in not slaying

    them. Rather we allow them to live freely in our midst despite all their murdering, cursing, blaspheming, lying, and

    defaming; we protect and shield their synagogues, houses, life, and property. In this way we make them lazy and secure and

    encourage them to fleece us boldly of our money and goods, as well as to mock and deride us, with a view to finally

    overcoming us, killing us all for such a great sin, and robbing us of all our property (as they daily pray and hope). Now

    tell me whether they do not have every reason to be the enemies of us accursed Goyim, to curse us and to strive for our

    final, complete, and eternal ruin! [30]
    Luther advocated an eight-point plan to get rid of the Jews either by religious conversion or by expulsion:

    1. “First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man

    will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. …”
    2. “Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. …”
    3. “Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy

    are taught, be taken from them. …”
    4. “Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. …”
    5. “Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. …”
    6. “Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.

    … Such money should now be used in … the following [way]… Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a

    certain amount]…”
    7. “Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews

    and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… For it is not fitting that they should let us

    accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting

    and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one

    should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”
    8. “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They

    must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad dogs.” [31]

  268. #268 J Myers
    August 1, 2008

    Atheists could be hypocrits, too, I imagine — praying during difficult times, etc.

    Irrationality precipitated by desperation or fear is hardly the equivalent of behaving, as a matter of course, in a manner inconsistent with one’s professed metaphysical beliefs.

  269. #270 SEAN CARTER
    August 4, 2008

    they can’t. Thanks to the Constitution. Which is why anyone who is busy spreading rumors of a certain presidential candidate possibly lying about his religion really need to move on.

  270. #271 bezoar
    August 4, 2008

    I live in an area where all the public offices are held by god fearin’ folk. Deliver me from evil!

  271. #272 Ichthyic
    August 4, 2008

    Atheists could be hypocrits, too, I imagine — praying during difficult times, etc.

    and yet I don’t know any that do, including myself.

    I’m sure the reason you imagine such is simply because you personally live in a perpetual state of ignorance about how people who are not religious live their lives.

    You can fix that, but I rather doubt you will, and my guess would be that the reason is that your faith is rather like a house of cards, and when you start to imagine that you could live without just fine, or better even, you get scared.

  272. #273 Clayton
    August 4, 2008

    Ichthyic,

    I’ve never met a person — theist or otherwise — who was perfectly consistent in the relation between ideals and practice.

    Can we agree that atheists are not perfect? And that they share this condition with theists?

    Or is there some belief in the Immaculate Conception of atheists, of which I am unaware?

  273. #274 J Myers
    August 5, 2008

    I’ve never met a person — theist or otherwise — who was perfectly consistent in the relation between ideals and practice.

    This concern regarding perfect consistency is a red herring. Sure, anyone may behave inconsistently due to desperation, fear, or an inability to instantaneously identify and reconcile every subtle implication of the myriad opinions they hold. Such causes easily explain the sort of inconsistencies you hypothesized (and, as Ichthyic noted, prayer isn’t something any atheist I know of will lapse into on account of mere “difficult times”). These causes do not, however, explain the sort of fundamental inconsistency exhibited by many theists regarding interpretation of doctrine, mourning the death of friends and family… indeed, for the exhibition of any significant concern for earthly affairs whatsoever. I’m not talking about perfect consistency, I’m talking about basic consistency.

  274. #275 Clayton
    August 12, 2008

    But there are Christians who demonstrate a basic consistency. In the Catholic Church, the best example would be those who have been canonized as saints. Among them, the many martyrs: those who were willing to die instead of compromising the principles they lived for.

    Granted, not every Christian is a saint, but the existence of saints and martyrs would indicate that hypocrisy is not a fundamental attribute of being a theist.

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