Pharyngula

PZ and the preacher?

A small mob of atheist students (and a confused, deluded mob of hapless Christians) are going to be making a trip to New Orleans to help rebuild homes. This is a wonderful idea, and I commend all of the students, even the misled theistic ones, for making the effort. However, they need money to cover expenses. Not a lot, just $1500, so they are doing an online fundraiser on 16 January.

I’m not quite sure how this is going to work, but they are asking for donations that will give you a chance at prizes…and the opportunity to ask questions of some poor preacher man in a webcast on blogtv.

Pastor Weyer must have one of those martyr complexes. I’m going to be on with them in an interview, and I think we should chip in a little extra every time we make him cry. If you’ll all make some good donations here, I’ll try especially hard to twist the knife on his foolishness. Fun and profit for a good cause, how can you lose?

Comments

  1. #1 fishyfred
    December 26, 2009

    I met Weyer at the SSA conference this year. He’s a nice, cool guy. Definitely on our side.

  2. #2 TheDailyJokelahoman
    December 26, 2009

    First to donate!

  3. #3 Sven DiMilo
    December 26, 2009

    “our” side, Kemosabe?

  4. #4 Eamon Knight
    December 26, 2009

    I don’t know this Weyer guy, but as Russell Blackford says: the genuine religious moderates are not our enemy. Disagree with, yes: but if your movement contains only people with whom you agree on everything, you’re probably pretty lonely….

  5. #5 John Morales
    December 27, 2009

    Eamon:

    I don’t know this Weyer guy, but as Russell Blackford says: the genuine religious moderates are not our enemy.

    Speak for yourself.

    I don’t know him either, but he’s a pastor. His job is to push and sustain superstition.

  6. #6 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    December 27, 2009

    If you think you’re going to eliminate all superstition, you’re outta luck. Even without bringing God into it, you’ll have math educated nerds swear that their dice are lucky.

    Personally, I’d rather direct my energy on the poisonous ones who are actually fighting science in the political arena and trying to ruin everything for everyone else.

  7. #7 destlund
    December 27, 2009

    Personally, I’d rather direct my energy on the poisonous ones who are actually fighting science in the political arena and trying to ruin everything for everyone else.

    Well, even if you don’t believe religion poisons everything, it certainly poisons the well when it comes to human progress. I have no qualms telling a religious moderate that I don’t believe what they believe, and furthermore I think that what they believe is often used for harm. I recognize their right to end the conversation at that, but it’s too important to stay silent on the topic except in certain situations. I really don’t care how nice they are to me; I can disagree pretty politely.

  8. #8 mountainsarehigh
    December 27, 2009

    If it wasn’t for the moderates religion wouldn’t be nearly the problem it is now.

  9. #9 Zeno
    December 27, 2009

    Did anyone say “unholy alliance” yet?

    Okay, I will:

    Sounds like an unholy alliance. Who is at greater risk, PZ or the preacher man?

  10. #10 destlund
    December 27, 2009

    Sounds like an unholy alliance. Who is at greater risk, PZ or the preacher man?

    Depends on what risk you’re talking about. At risk of blinding, life-changing revelation of truth? My bets are on the preacher man. At risk of physical collapse from restrained hilarity and/or rage? PZ. Although this guy seems awful… nice.

  11. #11 aratina cage
    December 27, 2009

    This should be fun to watch the Beastmaster Preacher futilely pray to his god to turn the animals against PZ while PZ reaches into his pocket full of tasty treats and teaches the ferocious beasts to “sic Pastor”.

    Science. It works, cracker-crunchers!

  12. #12 F
    December 27, 2009

    He scares me with his face in the camera like that.

  13. #13 Laura
    December 27, 2009

    hmmm, his opening remarks seem to be a modern version of Catholic indulgences. :)

  14. #14 Uncle Glenny
    December 27, 2009
  15. #15 Dust
    December 27, 2009

    Brad Pitt also builds houses in New Orleans for charity…PZ, are trying to make peace with him ’cause you Pharyngulated him from winning that poll??

    Just askin’

  16. #16 Bob O'H
    December 27, 2009

    Ooh, PZ Meyer and Pastor Wyers together!

  17. #17 Pastor Farm
    December 27, 2009

    I hate to say this, but I’m not very outspoken regarding my atheism. However, since I’ve shed myself of religion, I haven’t yet had anyone attempt to push theirs on me.

    It’s funny, when I was in high school, I was a religious liberal and I would fight anyone about anything if I were sure they were wrong. Now that I’m (arguably) an adult, I shy away from any potential arguments and cower under my bed-covers. It’s got a bit of a funk, but it’s warm and no one can see me if I can’t see them.

    I live in the Bible belt and have a couple friends who are also atheist. Otherwise, I believe I know 2 or 3 other people whom I trust enough to confide in and they–out of respect–only pray for my eternal soul when I’m not watching. Likely without pants. I hope.

    I can’t even imagine the nightmare living here would be to a gay black atheist of Muslim decent. I’m almost positive such a person would cause several people’s heads to violently explode. And who would be left to clean it up? That’s right, the illegal atheists Walmart hasn’t yet exploited.

  18. #18 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    and the opportunity to ask questions of some poor preacher man in a webcast on blogtv.

    But they haven’t answered the last lot of questions…like… what do we really need religion for? isn’t it all just superstitious feelgood nonsense and is religion really a force for good in the world?

    oh, no, wait…Stephen Fry answered that last one.

  19. #19 dannystevens.myopenid.com
    December 27, 2009

    Just an aside, as a foreign bloke, so appologies, but… Why is this 3rd world style act of charity necessary in the USA? What is wrong with you guys? We have had massive scale disasters in Oz and everyone just chips in, lead by the gummint’ and make repairs to the highest standard possible. New Orleans was friggen ages ago and its still not fixed?

  20. #20 Miles670
    December 27, 2009

    @#19

    I’m from the uk and have often thought the same thing but i think it’s unfair to say ‘what’s wrong with you guys?’. Something is clearly messed up, but i doubt that there are any americans that don’t think the same thing themselves. Well, alright there are probably plenty right-wingers that don’t give a fuck but surely there are more sane people…

  21. #21 Strangest brew
    December 27, 2009

    Anyone that gets all dewy eyed and breathless over a fairy story is bottom line, flaky and deluded by degrees!

    From moderate to retardgelical and all flavours b’twixt ‘n’ b’tween.

    The retardo’s seem beyond salvation to rationality for the most part.
    And a significant percentage are, shall we say, politically compromised, or at least deeply influenced by right wing rhetoric.
    Presumably that gives them leeway and carte blanche to voice their bigoted racist homophobic views without fear of sanction.

    The moderate wing of dog inc, well they are rather more prone to my ire actually.

    They boast that they are the majority moderate leaners in the church, of whatever denomination, they should then logically be able to control the wilder more extravagant liars for jeebus in the evangelical clans.

    The fact that they do not is one thing, it is possibly an ‘allegiance tether’ to the main delusion they both share to a greater or lesser extent, but beyond that one might expect some form of ‘correctional’ badinage from moderate delusionals seeing as the majority of so called ‘moderate’ jeebus freaks are fairly convinced that evolutionary theory is a valid premise to boogie by!
    Very few and very quietly are any contra views actually expressed!

    The most verbose mutterings are reserved for the section of society that calls the nonsense for what it is…
    Either deathly silence or patronization along with quoting passages either biblical or Declaration of Independence wise are the mandatory retreat of these heroes!

    Moderates have no intention of any serious correctional teaching even mild approbation
    It is indicative that xian religious fervour requires numbers, and any port in a storm to collect allies is good enough.
    They will not bite the insanity that sustains them all!
    They are in fact intellectual cowards, a harsh but a fair analysis methinks!

    Any delusion that requires suspension of reality and rationality is by definition, ‘Barking fit ta rapture!’
    Whether moderately practised or fundamentally adhered to it is either woefully negligent education or more likely it is fucking blatant insanity coupled to rancid intolerance of anything or anyone not like deluded.

    I do appreciate the point that some sociological aspects are administered by jeebus lusters and fair enough, but that does not give them any right to insist that they are the only ‘good’ in the world.
    They are the harbingers of immorality in a great deal of what they preach…but recognising irony was never their strong suit.
    In fact most harm and sadness and fear in society they provide far in excess of any ‘benefit’ they think they have!

    Some, maybe a majority, might not indeed spout evangelical effluent on a regular basis, though few would refuse to actually not contemplate it, tis the nature of the infection.

    They do not deserve misplaced respect or indulgent privilege for believing nonsense.
    By default all are fair targets for ridicule, even if tempered with a little compassion for their combined malady, but not to much!

    After all they do have a brain but with just damaged minds…maybe actually using the brain that has evolved more logically might just heal the mind that is twisted!

    Or maybe pigs might indeed fly at supersonic velocity without an RB211 to give the wherewithal.

  22. #22 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlXHpQCsk6_61yxq8DJ3KM7GXGsiAIr4B4
    December 27, 2009

    @#19

    Sadly, there is no local leadership in New Orleans and much of the Federal money has gone to intermediates. Much (most?) of the actual work helping the residents has been done by volunteers, including many church groups. Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, and others have also helped. [Perhaps the worst problem is that the levees (and marsh buffers) are still in bad shape with no definite plans for improvement. As one of Bush's appointees said, New Orleans was a human-caused disaster more than nature-caused.]

  23. #23 Legion
    December 27, 2009

    Pastor Farm @17:

    Otherwise, I believe I know 2 or 3 other people whom I trust enough to confide in and they–out of respect–only pray for my eternal soul when I’m not watching. Likely without pants. I hope.

    We don’t know any other heathens in meatspace, only on the Internet. We suppose we’ve probably crossed paths with some, but most atheists are flying under the radar.

    We live on a island of reason surrounded by a raging sea of religious ignorance, so it’s just not safe to come out of the choir in some places.

    However, since I’ve shed myself of religion, I haven’t yet had anyone attempt to push theirs on me.

    Sure about that?

    Every “god bless you,” “I’ll pray for you,” “Have a blessed day,” etc. is a subtle, but pernicious bit of coercion based on the assumption that you believe what they do — and if you don’t, then you ought to.

    The trappings of religious belief (language, customs, etc.) and the assumptions that go with it are so tightly bound up with our culture, that they don’t need to push their beliefs on us. We’re already swimming in a cultural stew of religion, from the iconography that surrounds us, to affirmations of belief printed on our money, to the US National Anthem.

    Consider this. If our money had “In Cthulu we trust,” printed on it or if every piece of religious imagery were replaced by the tentacled horror, then we’d notice a lot more, how much religious coercion we encounter everyday.

  24. #24 shonny
    December 27, 2009

    @ dannystevens.myopenid.com

    Danny, don’t you remember that during the Katrina disaster, and immediately afterwards, the US government saw it as more important to kill any looters than it was to help the poor sods that had lost everything?
    Capitalism, US style, at its most charitable.
    And they don’t fix things, they just pretend it has been fixed as soon as the newsmobs have lost interest. Though, the rest of the world is picking up quickly on that one! Out of sight, out of mind!

  25. #25 The Thomas Society
    December 27, 2009

    Sorry, PZ, I don’t cry easily. Maybe when my kids do something cute and Ohio State loses. Maybe.

    However, if it brings in money for the trip, then I’ll rub an onion on my cheek before the interview ala Robert Tilton. Give! Give! Give!

  26. #26 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    They boast that they are the majority moderate leaners in the church, of whatever denomination, they should then logically be able to control the wilder more extravagant liars for jeebus in the evangelical clans.

    Meh, scratch a moderate and all sorts of strange delusions pop out.

  27. #27 Legion
    December 27, 2009

    Forgot to mention. We received an electronic christmas card from one of the few people who know that we’ve joined the ranks of the heathens.

    The card featured a colorful image of a rape victim, a cuckold, and a bad seed — that would be Mary, Joseph, and baby Jeebus. The accompanying text was even more overtly religious.

    Now the person who sent us this card knows quite well where we stand. There were thousands of other more secular cards that she could have sent, so the fact that she sent the most maximally religious card she could find, was nothing more than a “fuck you heathen”.

    We would never have sent her a card proclaiming “Heathen’s Greetings,” or “There probably is no God, so Happy Winter Solstice.”

    This is the type of passive/aggressive pressure nonbelievers face 365 days a year.

    BTW, we responded with several well worded paragraphs explaining the history of Winter Solstice celebrations and the religious mythology that has grown up around them.

  28. #28 madbull
    December 27, 2009

    All this talk about difficulty coming out as an atheist amazes me. I am from India a land submerged in superstitious beliefs from a multitude of religions. However, whenever I declare myself to be an atheist people just nod and shrug. Many of our cabinet ministers are atheists and it doesn’t bother anyone.
    Its amazing that creationism is unheard of in India, the Hindus believe their truck load of rubbish but accept all of science also. Strangely, some of the ancient hindu myths have features comparable to a theory of evolution. Everytime science contradicts a religious belief they claim that there is no contradiction, everything was already revealed in the religious texts through allegory, science is only rediscovering ancient truths.
    The fact that humans can hold 2 contradictory beliefs in their head is most prominent in the largely Hindu India. A science teacher would teach evolution with full conviction and then invoke the blessings of Brhama the four headed creator with the same conviction. I have tried very hard to understand the psyche of these people, its just very hard to do.
    The good thing though – they dont have much problem with atheists.

  29. #29 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    BTW, we responded with several well worded paragraphs explaining the history of Winter Solstice celebrations and the religious mythology that has grown up around them.

    No doubt they were left shrieking about atheist fundamentalists and how they were just trying to be nice.

  30. #30 Cruithne
    December 27, 2009

    Try coming out as an atheist in Northern Ireland. last woman I discussed it with insisted I was still a protestant, no matter how much I tried to explain I wasn’t.

  31. #31 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    Oh, hey, I just put two and two together. This is Johnathan from the Thomas Society. Yeah, he’s a nice guy.

    I’m guessing the treat him mean bit is an in joke, since you should have already met him a couple of times.

  32. #32 Miki Z
    December 27, 2009

    @#28

    Do you think that part of the acceptance is the variety available in Hinduism as far as the belief in God/Gods? I find that atheism is no big thing here in Japan. Several of the Buddhist sects are atheistic, some are polytheistic, and a few are monotheistic — though the monotheistic sort usually believe in multiple manifestations of the same deity.

    At one of the offices I worked in here, I was asked, in all seriousness, by the secretary to check for ghosts a few times. The superstitions differ but remain.

  33. #33 Strangest brew
    December 27, 2009

    # 31

    ‘This is Johnathan from the Thomas Society”

    You gotta be kidding…a ‘John Thomas’
    how colloquially quaint yet apt at the same time ;-)

  34. #34 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    OK, the Bad Christian Art series is fantastic.

    But then…

    That?s the point. It?s supposed to be. Orthodox Icons aren?t meant to be mistaken for the real thing. That would be idolatry. Rather, they are meant to be pictures reminding us of an unseen reality. It?s meant to unsettle us, disturb us and then, to bring about worship of the God who is near.

    How do you know? How would you know if you’re wrong?

  35. #35 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    Do you think that part of the acceptance is the variety available in Hinduism as far as the belief in God/Gods? I find that atheism is no big thing here in Japan.

    Probably. Christianity is Jesus or DOOOOOM… so everybody has to convert and be saved. And if you don’t want to be saved then you are clearly possessed. I’m guessing there isn’t that push in hinduism so much.

    I often wondered if the free market of religion in the US didn’t just mean that only most viral versions survived and expanded.

  36. #36 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    How do you know? How would you know if you’re wrong?

    For the same reason that an art critic knows that “3 blue squares and a red circle” is about the anguish and torment of the painter as he tries to explain to us the sub-reality of the modern world. Rather than it just being…yknow…3 blue squares and a red circle.

  37. #37 sj3364
    December 27, 2009

    PZ, don’t hurt him too badly. He seems like a really nice guy. He may be pushing superstition, but he doesn’t realize it. Maybe you can give him something to think about.

  38. #38 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    Gah! People keep answering questions intended for others! Stop that! :)

    Perhaps it was confusing (that’s why I used the bold), but I wasn’t asking how he knows what the artists were trying to convey. I was asking how he knows of the existence of this “unseen reality.”

  39. #39 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    I was asking how he knows of the existence of this “unseen reality.”

    The same way that an art critic knows that “3 blue squares and a red circle” is about the anguish and torment of the painter as he tries to explain to us the sub-reality of the modern world.

    I got your bold meaning. I just felt like picking on art critics today :)

  40. #40 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    The same way that an art critic knows that “3 blue squares and a red circle” is about the anguish and torment of the painter as he tries to explain to us the sub-reality of the modern world.

    No, it isn’t. An art critic can refer to writings and utterances of the painters themselves to verify a psychological reality and artistic intent. If you read the rest of the post, you’ll see that the unseen reality he’s referring to is assumed to exist outside the minds of the creators of icons. That’s the one, and only one, I was getting at (if the “sub-reality of the modern world” involves empirical or supernatural claims, I would ask the same). He’s probably right about what the artists who made the icons were trying to signify, but that wasn’t what I was asking about.

    I got your bold meaning. I just felt like picking on art critics today :)

    Well, knock it off. :) You’re confusing things, and I want him to answer!

  41. #41 Antiochus Epiphanes
    December 27, 2009

    What questions would any of us possibly have for a pastor? Now if he were in a dunking booth…

    Seriously, though, no one who makes a living as a pastor is a moderate. That people can be partially deluded about the existence of the supernatural is I suppose not so surprising. I consider my sister a moderate. She’s a Catholic and has admitted that her faith isn’t absolute. Rather she assigns 75% personal probability of the existence of god. She spends most of her day involved in non-religious activities. However, the clergy are either so deluded that they admit no doubt, or are necessarily lying to their “flock” to parasitize them. Bullshit to both. This Pastor is no more qualified to answer questions on the nature of the almighty than my three-year old.

  42. #42 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    No, it isn’t. An art critic can refer to writings and utterances of the painters themselves to verify a psychological reality and artistic intent.

    You mean like the guy who painted Jesus on a dinosaur. Yep, i’d trust his utterences on psychological reality ;)

    Its philosophical wrangling. Johnathan will turn around and tell you its what he believes. A belief the painter probably shared.

    Will you then ask for proof?

  43. #43 The Tim Channel
    December 27, 2009

    I’ll be looking forward to the next bout of “The Heathen vrs The Holy Man”. Always entertaining.

    Let’s hope you don’t have to fly to get where he is.

    http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/bending-america-over/

    Enjoy.

  44. #44 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    You mean like the guy who painted Jesus on a dinosaur. Yep, i’d trust his utterences on psychological reality ;)

    I’d trust his utterances on his psychological reality. If he said, “I was trying to depict such-and-such,” I would believe him. This is a separate question from whether what he was depicting captured any empirical reality.

    Its philosophical wrangling.

    And I want to wrangle.

    Johnathan will turn around and tell you its what he believes.

    If he does, then he does (it wouldn’t really be a response to what I asked, though). I wanted him to answer the questions. After all, “He is the founder of The Thomas Society, a student led ministry dedicated to answering questions from skeptics, doubters, agnostics and atheists.”

    A belief the painter probably shared.

    They probably did. But that wasn’t what my questions were about.

    Will you then ask for proof?

    What are you talking about? I asked him specific questions concerning how he knows of the existence of this unseen reality/present god and how he would know if he’s wrong.

  45. #45 John Frum
    December 27, 2009

    @19
    We spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined spends on their’s. We spend more on our military than all 50 states combined budgets. The money is there we just choose to spend it on things.

  46. #46 https://me.yahoo.com/a_ray_in_dilbert_space#6e51c
    December 27, 2009

    madbull@28,
    While I agree that the traditional Hindu cosmology is compatible with an old (or even VERY OLD) Earth, India has its religious nutjobs as well, as the History Textbook Controversy under the BJP government shows. Falsifying dates of archeological dates is as reprehensible as falsifying fossil evidence, is it not? And the nutjobs in BJP remain popular even with a moderate and competent Prime Minister from the other side of things now in office.

  47. #47 Pastor Farm
    December 27, 2009

    #23 “Sure about that?

    Every ‘god bless you,’ ‘I’ll pray for you,’ ‘Have a blessed day,’ etc. is a subtle, but pernicious bit of coercion based on the assumption that you believe what they do — and if you don’t, then you ought to.”

    You brought up something there that I’ve kinda wondered about. It’s such a cultural thing to say, “bless you” (not necessarily God bless) that it’s ingrained in me to say it as well. I don’t consider it any more religious than wishing someone a Merry Christmas, but I wonder if anyone else feels that way. Secular nose blessings, anyone?

    I occasionally get people wishing me to have a blessed day, but they’re often insurance adjusters that I’m about to bill and I’m pretty sure they’re being sarcastic. Ironically, the day-blessers generally tend to be the rudest and meanest people, so their attempts at bringing me back into the fold are in vain. And stupid.

    As far as when people say they’ll pray for me, I’ll politely suggest something else they could do that may actually, you know, help.

    I do have an uber-fundamentalist acquaintance at work who occasionally mentions her religion in the context of what she’s planning to do after work but, amazingly enough, hasn’t tried to discuss religion with me. When she makes an off-comment that something happened or exists because “God done it,” I have used those opportunities to insidiously and subtly plant the seed of science and rationality in her. Since I’m a nicer person than the day-blessers I hope what I say gets through little by little.

    I admit, I haven’t crushed her with the evolution truck, but these things take time. Due to my brief nursing background, she sees me as some sort of expert in health-related issues (only because she hangs with people who have zero knowledge, someone with ANY is a boon of information) and refers to me often when she needs some reliable facts or advice, so maybe one day I can properly fertilize the seed.

    Oh wow, that quickly turned into a sexual metaphor.

  48. #48 mims h. carter
    December 27, 2009

    A noble cause, but, hey, I know New Orleans is a great place (it is my hometown), Mississippi could use some help, too. It seems that people only think of New Orleans when they think of Katrina, but my MS coastal community was destroyed in the storm. We also have had the bad fortune of having a Republican governor, Haley Barbour, who left a lot of needy people out of the KCDBG funding stream. AND, after all, this is Mississippi. Due to the overwhelming christian piety of our populace, we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, the lowest percentage of college graduates in the nation, high infant mortality, low access to health care, high criminal rates, and all the other goodies that come along with high religious commitment.

    In other words, we weren’t doing too well before the storm, and we are in big trouble now.

    I still work for a recovery agency trying to help people get their lives and homes back together down here. Think about coming down and helping me out.

  49. #49 BoxNDox
    December 27, 2009

    First and foremost, I think the people we’re talking about here who self-identify as “religious moderates” are *not* your everyday sorts who merely sleepwalk through a few of the steps their religion defines without giving any of it a moment’s serious thought. Rather, these are people who believe pretty strongly, but their belief is in a watered down, sanitized, and/or modernized version of what their various holy books actually say. And this is an important distinction.

    I see some notable similarities between strong religious belief and addictions to things like alcohol or gambling.

    Religious moderates are like addicts who think they don’t have to forgo the object of their addiction entirely. They are convinced they can keep on having a “just one drink now and then” and will never “fall off the wagon”. The problem is, they often do fall of the wagon into one deep pile of nonsense or another with depressing regularity.

    And when atheists give this stuff a total pass, we are to some extent enabling their addiction.

    Now, I freely admit the analogy is far from exact, but some of the places where it breaks down don’t make the case for tolerance of religious moderates either. For example, it is quite common for religious moderates to vigorously defend the excesses of the true zealots – something addicts do not, as a rule, do.

  50. #50 Pastor Farm
    December 27, 2009

    BoxNDox, as a former religious moderate, I have to say that my own belief was through indoctrination. It was so because I was told it was so. Why would should I think any different?

    On the other hand, I never questioned science because I was raised knowing that science was nothing less than an exploration of reality. Sure, reality was made by God and aside from a miracle here and there, God was pretty much hands off.

    The primary thing was the philosophy, or the “Good Stuff” about Jesus. Love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, orgies are bad, etc. So long as you were a good person you were cool.

    I didn’t get introduced to fundamentalism until I moved to TN. The crazy wasn’t enough to knock me off the wagon, but introduced me to more lunatic aspects of the Bible. I first tried to reconcile it, but failed miserably, so I just ignored it.

    It was a few years ago when I realized the only reason I was religious was because I desperately wanted there to be an afterlife. I didn’t want to accept the mortality of my loved ones and wanted to believe I could see them again.

    Once I accepted that would never happen, I ended up realizing that life is so much more precious now than it ever was before. I’m not doing any better at living it, but I at least I know it. And knowing is half the battle.

  51. #51 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    December 27, 2009

    “Well, even if you don’t believe religion poisons everything, it certainly poisons the well when it comes to human progress.”
    Really? You’re going to use conservapedia to talk about non-insane people? The people who are rewriting the bible because it’s too liberal? By all means, oppose the insane. I mean that literally; They deserve no break, and are going to ardently oppose pretty much any real progress. Oppose them by all means that don’t involve sinking to their level (Such as venomous litigation like The Church of Lawology)

    “I have no qualms telling a religious moderate that I don’t believe what they believe, and furthermore I think that what they believe is often used for harm. I recognize their right to end the conversation at that, but it’s too important to stay silent on the topic except in certain situations. I really don’t care how nice they are to me; I can disagree pretty politely.”

    As long as you’re polite, I can’t really see an ethical problem in what you’re doing, I just think targetting folks who /aren’t/ using what they believe for harm is wasteful. Yes, there’s no empirical evidence, and yes they’re wasting a bit of their own and their kids lives on what is no more substantiated then black cats bringing bad luck, but they’re not causing significant harm even to themselves as long as they also accept empirical evidence as a rule.

  52. #52 destlund
    December 27, 2009

    SC:

    “He is the founder of The Thomas Society, a student led ministry dedicated to answering questions from skeptics, doubters, agnostics and atheists.”

    I’m confused. I think the only question I would have for members of The Thomas Society is, “What would I possibly want to ask you about?” The only thing they are an authority on is something I don’t believe in, and often know more about than they do.
    Pastor Farm:
    As for secular nose-blessings, I made a conscious effort as a teenager to clear my vocabulary of religious signals: gesundheit or salud when someone sneezes, happy holidays for this time of year (this is even juicier now that I celebrate Holiday). It has been quite liberating, and it pleases me to deny the religious their expected congratulations.
    mims h. carter

    Due to the overwhelming christian piety of our populace, we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, the lowest percentage of college graduates in the nation, high infant mortality, low access to health care, high criminal rates, and all the other goodies that come along with high religious commitment.

    I think that’s a bit harsh. I would reverse it, and name Christianity a result of those factors, albeit that both scenarios result in something of a negative feedback loop. It’s very easy to develop a head full of woo when you’re kept needy, insecure, and at risk of catastrophe.

  53. #53 destlund
    December 27, 2009

    Rutee, Shrieking Harpy etc.

    Really? You’re going to use conservapedia to talk about non-insane people? The people who are rewriting the bible because it’s too liberal?

    It’s just an extreme example of how irrational belief necessarily imposes an irrational filter on reality. And this filter is very toxic to modern political discourse.

    As long as you’re polite, I can’t really see an ethical problem in what you’re doing, I just think targetting folks who /aren’t/ using what they believe for harm is wasteful.

    It’s more complicated than that. Sure, I won’t begrudge a Quaker their beliefs, but a Mormon? A Catholic? A Southern Baptist? Do they tithe? Where is that money going?

    Anyway, I don’t stand in the street preaching the gospel of atheism; I’m talking about when these things come up, usually from them inviting me to church or telling me they’re going to pray for me. And it’s never phrased as a condemnation, and certainly not a personal one; I’m just suggesting that they think about the organization they are a part of and take an active role in ensuring it behaves ethically. I doubt any of them are going to switch to atheism anytime soon.

  54. #54 Sastra
    December 27, 2009

    Rutee #51 wrote:

    Yes, there’s no empirical evidence, and yes they’re wasting a bit of their own and their kids lives on what is no more substantiated then black cats bringing bad luck, but they’re not causing significant harm even to themselves as long as they also accept empirical evidence as a rule.

    The “significant harm” has to do with promoting the basic idea that faith is a virtue — and doing it in a way that makes it seem relatively benign. In some ways, it’s more dangerous than what the fundamentalists do, because it’s more insidious. The conservative Christians think atheists are going contrary to reason, because they are of evil intent, and God will judge. The moderate and liberal theists think atheists are reasonable, but going against the human heart, because they lack the significant type of good intent — but please, don’t take that the wrong way or anything, we’re not judging — only God does that. Right.

    Sometimes I’m not sure which is worse.

    But the ‘moderate Christians’ are only our “enemies” in the philosophical arena of epistemology: when it comes to the humanitarian aspect of humanist action, they are friends. There are dozens of “sides,” and shades of gray. This sounds like a good cause, and this preacher seems awfully good-hearted. Sure, he can’t justify it or anything, but what the heck… ;)

    I like the ecumenical effort. New Atheists should be able to tell the difference between Religious Accomodationism, and accomodating the religious, in our common goals.

    I’ve said it before, but the test to see if your religion is humanistic is to ask what you’d change, if you decided its special claims about the spiritual realm, were false … because they really are false. Did people only matter because of a Good God — or did God only matter, because of the goodness in people?

  55. #55 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    If there weren’t any moderates I wouldn’t be able to practice rolling my eyes. I treat them generally as I would treat a new age hippy type. Gently with the occasional barbed prod towards rationality.

  56. #56 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    I’m confused. I think the only question I would have for members of The Thomas Society is, “What would I possibly want to ask you about?” The only thing they are an authority on is something I don’t believe in, and often know more about than they do.

    They’re experts on themselves. If they’re dedicating their organization to answering questions from atheists among others, I certainly want to ask them how they’ve come to believe what they do and how they support those beliefs rationally (which is what I was doing above). I’d also like to ask them about their views on secularism, other religions, the skeptical/evidence-based movement, what being a “moderate” means to them, etc. Asking questions of someone is about understanding what and how they think and challenging them to look critically at their beliefs and epistemic practices. It doesn’t mean accepting their views on anything as authoritative.

  57. #57 eddie
    December 27, 2009

    I’m now watching on Channel 4; Tsunami: Where Was God? I am looking forward to Katriona: Where Was God.

  58. #58 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    “What would I possibly want to ask you about?”

    You could ask what he thinks of us atheists. An honest barometer of your effect on the world never hurts. Does he think he’s a moderate? Why did he choose Doubting Thomas to represent him? What does a preacher actually yknow…do day to day? What does he think of the new new atheists (3.0) Do other christians like him hanging with the cool rebel kids? (us, of course…)
    What would make him swap Jesus for the great spaghetti monster? Does he think christianity can survive the atheist agenda.. what does he think of mormons?

  59. #59 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    I’m now watching on Channel 4; Tsunami: Where Was God? I am looking forward to Katrina: Where Was God.

    I saw that advertised, but i’m drinking… Let me know if god turns up. Wouldn’t mind nowing how religious the tv channels in England are.

  60. #60 eddie
    December 27, 2009

    They are smacking down westboro!

  61. #61 Sastra
    December 27, 2009

    I sent a donation — and a question. A multi-part question, though, so it’s a bit annoying that way. And, because this is clearly a kindly, open, humanist kind of man and type of group with an awful lot in common with us and an eagerness to build bridges of good will and fellowship, I asked a question designed to tease us apart. So it’s annoying that way, too.

    It’s okay. I’m used to annoying Unitarian Universalists.

  62. #62 eddie
    December 27, 2009

    Questions inspired by katriona and asia tsunami:

    Does your god have a doctrine of collective punishment? Is http://www.godhatesfags.com the same as the nazis in occupied france; punishing whole towns for the actions of the resistance? Or what the israeli state is doing in palestine today?

    Was ther some sort of collecvtive punishment for the NOLA authorities not conserving the salt marshes or the barriers?

    I will not, tho, give these people money. Can I donate to PZ’s effort in NOLA in a way that doesn’t help the pastor?

  63. #63 Richard Eis
    December 27, 2009

    I will not, tho, give these people money. Can I donate to PZ’s effort in NOLA in a way that doesn’t help the pastor?

    Its all the same thing. You are helping a group of people to build homes. The fact that one group is atheist and one christian isn’t actually that relevant.

  64. #64 BoxNDox
    December 27, 2009

    #50 – I think you’re in something of a minority when you describe your early indoctrinated faith, which you yourself describe as a largely unthinking thing, as being a “religious moderate”.

    Again, I’m calling out the distinction between the very common “tepid and untested belief in whatever ‘the book’ says” and “a strong belief in a toned down version of what ‘the book’ says”. It has been my observation that when people loudly proclaim themselves as religious moderates, they almost always fall into the latter category, not the former.

    Here’s another way to think about it: “Moderate” is a relative term, but relative to what? More fanatical religious belief, of course. So implicit in the term is an intentional distancing from fanaticism. So implicit in the proclamation of personal moderation is a rejection of the extreme. That requires a lot more thinking about this stuff than many people ever do.

    But it’s so very easy to fall off the wagon. A neighbor of mine is a fairly well known historian. I’ve heard him describe himself as a religious moderate, and the shoe mostly fits. But every so often he goes off on a homophobic bender and becomes obsessed with “those sodomites” (his term) and pens a nasty screed straight out of Leviticus.

    Mind you, I’m not saying that tepid beliefs are harmless. They are anything of the sort, because of their tendency to firm up into those original indoctrinated patterns when pushed. I believe this is what’s behind the gay marriage failure in Maine after the polls predicted success.

  65. #65 eddie
    December 27, 2009

    Tsunami… A very dodgy ending. The presenter was describing how, shortly after the disaster, his dad died, and how that made him think about redemption. Somehow jebus dying was to console him for his dad. I felt like pointing to the line of dead children, millions long ()from tsunami, katrina and others) and asking; why did they die?

  66. #66 destlund
    December 27, 2009

    Thanks for the responses re: why I should care what this group thinks. I still think most questions would either (A) get a dishonest answer [Am I going to hell?] (B) get a useless answer [Because the Bible, that's what!], or (C) get a ‘not even wrong’ answer [My faith is strong; my doubts are tests of my faith.] Richard Eis posted a nice list of possibilities:

    You could ask what he thinks of us atheists. An honest barometer of your effect on the world never hurts.

    I guess, but depending on how “moderate” the person responding is, we’ll get at best half-answers. Only a fundamentalist would tell us what he really thinks, which is “DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.”

    Does he think he’s a moderate?

    Doesn’t everyone? Except for Fred Phelps and his ilk, few Christians embrace the terms extremist or fundamentalist.

    Why did he choose Doubting Thomas to represent him? What does a preacher actually yknow…do day to day?

    Don’t care.

    What does he think of the new new atheists (3.0)

    We already know the answer: He thinks it’s super-rad that we’re so committed to “something” but wishes we weren’t so rude about it.

    Do other christians like him hanging with the cool rebel kids? (us, of course…)

    They love it. It’s his mission to bear [false] witness to the heathen.

    What would make him swap Jesus for the great spaghetti monster?

    Proving a negative.

    Does he think christianity can survive the atheist agenda..

    Of course. There have always been atheists dontcha know?

    what does he think of mormons?

    He won’t/can’t answer this honestly.

  67. #67 Mr T
    December 27, 2009

    SC OM, #44:

    I’d trust his utterances on his psychological reality. If he said, “I was trying to depict such-and-such,” I would believe him. This is a separate question from whether what he was depicting captured any empirical reality.

    I don’t entirely agree. People can be extremely vague about things like that. They will report rationalizations, exaggerations, vague associations to cultural references, and all sorts of half-considered metaphorical narratives; rather than any actual insight into their own psychology. Obviously these are relevant to a person’s psychology, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I trust everything a person honestly says about their own mind.

    I like BoxNDox’s comment @ #49.

    In one sense, “moderate” could refer to the strength or certainty of belief, but it could also mean the degree to which a belief accords with reality (i.e., our best understanding of what is real). I’ve gotten into a number of confusing discussions when this kind of distinction was not made clearly enough. At the end of the day, it doesn’t suddenly become more rational to believe in a god if you don’t hate gays, aren’t a YEC, or don’t wear magic underwear. Those other things are (or should be, if you ask me) irrelevant to most people’s theological beliefs. This does not make them “moderate” in the latter sense, though. I would argue that calling them “moderates” does no one any good. They are harmful to society, even if not in the same ways or to the same extent that fundamentalists are harmful.

    First, to state the obvious: there is no rational argument for the existence of a god, souls, an afterlife, etc. There is no good reason to believe there is anything special (read: sacred) about Jesus or his teachings, or anything written in the Bible. There is no reason to believe prayer is effective, or that faith is a virtue; yet you will not find many “moderate Christians” who will disown things like that. They can rationalize it as simply upholding traditions, or make appeals to the moral and personal inspiration they somehow manage to derive from their scriptures, but they cannot make a rational argument in its defense. One can cite verses of Jesus saying nice things, but that is not a moral foundation.

    So, even with a watered-down version of Christianity (or take your pick of any other religion), which only amounts to a few stale aphorisms and a lot of warm fuzzy feelings, there are big problems. A large segment of our population believes it is getting “morality” when it is not, and believes lots of things are “rational” when they are not. Call that whatever you like, but it’s depressing to think it could somehow pass for “liberal” or “moderate”.

  68. #68 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    I don’t entirely agree. People can be extremely vague about things like that. They will report rationalizations, exaggerations, vague associations to cultural references, and all sorts of half-considered metaphorical narratives; rather than any actual insight into their own psychology. Obviously these are relevant to a person’s psychology, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I trust everything a person honestly says about their own mind.

    For Pete’s sake, I was responding to a specific comment. An artist certainly knows what she was trying to depict, and is capable of expressing it; this has no necessary relation to the reality of the subject, and none of this is relevant to the questions I was asking originally. With regard to religious beliefs, the rationalizations, exaggerations, vague associations to cultural references offer insights into people’s psychology. By expressing these they can perhaps (no necessarily, but perhaps) gain some insight themselves.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand the fuss people are making. Sometimes we have purposes for asking questions other than gaining information about the natural world. If I ask a creationist who’s just commented on the Second Law of Thermodynamics about his understanding of said law and its relation to evolution, it’s not because I’m expecting to learn from him about physics or because I’m unfamiliar with the canned responses typically offered. It’s because I know that when drawn out in the open his argument will be shot down, his response may offer insight into his thought processes, and his formulating an answer might lead him or some lurkers to assess their beliefs or epistemic processes more critically. It’s a teaching technique more than anything.

    In this context, quite frankly, I’m interested in what “moderate” means to theists who apply that label to themselves. It’s not that I’m uninterested in what it means to other atheists here, and I read those posts carefully, but atheists’ responses to a question asked of a theist don’t get me anywhere in terms of my other purposes in posing the question.

  69. #69 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    An artist certainly knows what she was trying to depict, and is capable of expressing it;

    To be completely clear, I don’t know what icons he’s referring to – when, where, by whom, or under what circumstances they were produced. It may well be that he’s guessing about the artists’ intentions. They may have been simply working in a common style depicting subjects they were hired to depict, trying to instill fear in a local populace, showing off their technical skills, showcasing particular materials,… In many contexts, they would have reason to speak of their work in certain religious terms for self-protection. But it isn’t likely that they were aiming at a naturalistic depiction, and I was willing to grant Weyer’s contention concerning what they were trying to do since it wasn’t at all relevant to my queries.

  70. #70 Mr T
    December 27, 2009

    SC, OM:

    Just to be clear, only the first paragraph in my comment #67 was meant to be a reply to yours. Sorry, I should’ve formatted it with a dividing line or something.

    An artist certainly knows what she was trying to depict, and is capable of expressing it; this has no necessary relation to the reality of the subject, and none of this is relevant to the questions I was asking originally.

    I only doubt the first part of that. Sometimes artists aren’t even trying to depict things or express ideas. We can ignore that kind of art if you like, but I mention it because it does help to put things in perspective. Not all art is representational; so either there is nothing there to express or represent, or they simply aren’t telling others what it is.

    In general, when I’m talking with other artists about their work, I don’t get the sense that they really can express their subject, or at least not clearly and comprehensively. There is also so much art that is meant to be “open to interpretation”, so as to rule out any way of knowing whether there is a definite meaning. Personally, I know I cannot explain why I make certain choices when writing music. I could give you all sorts of reasons for them. I would probably hit on some of the more important ones, but even at my most honest and thoughtful there would most likely be choices that I could not explain.

    In this context, quite frankly, I’m interested in what “moderate” means to theists who apply that label to themselves.

    That’s fine with me. We should find out what it means to them. It may have other meanings to them which they will not report, and they may not even be consciously aware of what those are.

    That’s all I was trying to say; but again, my comment was dual-purpose. I wanted to respond to your comment, and I also wanted to rant about why it seems wrong to call people “moderate Christians”.

  71. #71 Mr T
    December 27, 2009

    SC OM:
    I understand why you were asking those questions, and why I can’t answer them. I doubt anyone at The Thomas Society can answer them, and I also doubt the original artists could actually answer them.

    Just for fun, here is an excerpt from Osvaldo Golijov’s “La Pasion segun San Marcos” (the Passion according to St. Mark). Golijov is an Argentinian Jew, and he wrote some nice little tangos like this about the crucifixion of all things.

    Is this “bad art”? No, despite the religious references, I personally wouldn’t say so. Is it “Christian art”? Christians should probably answer that, and they may not agree. I’m fairly sure Golijov isn’t an atheistic Jew, so might there be references to some “unseen reality”?

    One might ask the same questions that you did: “How do you know? How would you know if you’re wrong?”

  72. #72 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    I understand why you were asking those questions, and why I can’t answer them.

    No, I honestly don’t think you do.

    I doubt anyone at The Thomas Society can answer them,

    How silly. Of course they can. They’re offering to respond to our questions in return for donations. They’re an organization dedicated in part to answering atheists’ questions. These are pretty natural and straightforward questions for an atheist to pose to a theist; I do so here on a fairly regular basis, as do others.

    and I also doubt the original artists could actually answer them.

    OK, this is annoying. That’s totally irrelevant. But of course they could, too, if they were in fact trying to depict some “unseen reality” that they believed existed.

    …One might ask the same questions that you did: “How do you know? How would you know if you’re wrong?”

    You’re still confused. My queries weren’t art-historical ones, or about the accuracy of Weyer’s art-historical notions, but dealt with his religious beliefs. Again, if you read the post, he takes the existence of this unseen reality/god as a given. I realized my original post may have been confusing even with the bolded words, but I explained this shortly afterwards.

    …Is this “bad art”? No, despite the religious references, I personally wouldn’t say so.

    Did you go to the blog at his link @ #25? I was referring to his series called “Bad Christian Art.” You’re mixing up any number of topics here.

  73. #73 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    Missed this before:

    Thanks for the responses re: why I should care what this group thinks. I still think most questions would either (A) get a dishonest answer [Am I going to hell?] (B) get a useless answer [Because the Bible, that's what!], or (C) get a ‘not even wrong’ answer [My faith is strong; my doubts are tests of my faith.]…

    Frankly, I don’t care what you think you would get. You can’t possibly know what someone will respond until you ask (I highly doubt given even the little I’ve seen of this guy that you would receive such simplistic responses, and your answering for someone you know virtually nothing about is rather presumptuous), none of those answers would be entirely useless if you consider multiple purposes for asking, and your earlier post implied that you thought people were talking about asking questions to get authoritative answers about the nature of reality or something. Look, I’m a social scientist and do have an interest in people, how they come to believe what they do, and how beliefs change. As a skeptic and atheist, I also welcome an opportunity to publicly quiz a theist who opens her/himself up to it, for a number of reasons.

  74. #74 Mr T
    December 27, 2009

    SC OM:
    I did go to their blog. I think I’ve figured it out. When I say “answer a question”, I generally don’t take it to mean “blurt out nonsense”. How silly of me. Of course they can and will respond to questions in whatever way they see fit, but I was saying we may never get meaningful answers.

    I’m not sure why you think the original artist’s beliefs are “totally irrelevant” to the question, but whatever.

  75. #75 SC OM
    December 27, 2009

    I did go to their blog. I think I’ve figured it out. When I say “answer a question”, I generally don’t take it to mean “blurt out nonsense”. How silly of me. Of course they can and will respond to questions in whatever way they see fit, but I was saying we may never get meaningful answers.

    Argh! Who are you talking about? I was asking Meyer the question, and he hasn’t responded. I wouldn’t expect him to blurt out nonsense in response, but even if he did it could still lead to a potentially fruitful (in some fashion) exchange. Again, I want to understand his thinking, challenge his arguments, and get him and others thinking critically about these beliefs and the processes through which they’re arrived at (if not change their minds entirely). I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would oppose fucking communicating with people.

    Of course, we may not share a definition of “meaningful” here, but I’m interested in how you define it, since this appears to exclude a lot.

    I’m not sure why you think the original artist’s beliefs are “totally irrelevant” to the question, but whatever.

    Allow me to clarify a bit more. My (admittedly confusing) original questions: How do you know [of the existence of this unseen reality/god that is near]? How would you know if you’re wrong?

    Had nothing to do with the artists or their beliefs.

    Does that help?

  76. #76 Mr T
    December 28, 2009

    SC OM:
    This is especially frustrating because I’m not actually objecting to your questions, nor would I ever “oppose fucking communicating with people”. I was just trying to communicate why I think it’s not a good idea to accept at face value people’s explanations of their own thoughts. What someone tells you they are thinking is not equivalent to what they are actually thinking.

    Had nothing to do with the artists or their beliefs. Does that help?

    Well, not really. You were quoting this:

    That?s the point. It?s supposed to be. Orthodox Icons aren?t meant to be mistaken for the real thing. That would be idolatry. Rather, they are meant to be pictures reminding us of an unseen reality. It?s meant to unsettle us, disturb us and then, to bring about worship of the God who is near.

    The claim was not only presupposing the existence of “an unseen reality” and so on, but also knowledge of the purpose of Orthodox Icons. Looking at the entire claim rather than only one part of it, it made sense to me to question how he knows what that art is meant to be or do. That is also an unsupported claim, because he doesn’t know the original artist’s beliefs or intentions. If that’s not a claim you wish to question, then so be it. Personally, I think such questions might help to better understand and tease out his “epistemic processes” as you put it.

  77. #77 John Morales
    December 28, 2009

    Mr. T, I wouldn’t venture to lecture SC on interpretation of others’ expressions…

    Oh, and re:

    The claim was not only presupposing the existence of “an unseen reality” and so on, but also knowledge of the purpose of Orthodox Icons. [...] That is also an unsupported claim, because he doesn’t know the original artist’s beliefs or intentions.

    Acheiropoieta.

  78. #78 Mr T
    December 28, 2009

    John Morales: Thanks.

    If only we knew what Jesus was thinking when he painted some of those icons, and how Weyer (or the author of that blog post, whoever it may be) knows what Jesus was thinking. Or, if he doesn’t believe Jesus was responsible, then I wonder what makes him think his interpretation is correct.

    Idolatry? Supernatural paintings? Disturbing reminders of an unseen reality? You decide!

  79. #79 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    This is especially frustrating because I’m not actually objecting to your questions, nor would I ever “oppose fucking communicating with people”. I was just trying to communicate why I think it’s not a good idea to accept at face value people’s explanations of their own thoughts.

    This is absurdly general.

    What someone tells you they are thinking is not equivalent to what they are actually thinking.

    As I said, I was responding to a specific comment there, which was confusing artists’ intentions with the accuracy of their beliefs. Read it again, and try to understand how confused and off-the-mark your suggestion about how “People can be extremely vague” about “things like that” was in context. In the case of artists, we often have evidence of what they were trying to do from them directly. In the cases under discussion, there’s no strong reason to suspect misrepresentation; his contention isn’t contrary to my knowledge of art history; and, once again, it didn’t matter to the questions I was asking.

    If I had the time and energy, I would be interested in learning about these particular pieces and these artists and discovering the basis for his claims about them and whether he was presenting their intentions accurately. But he could be completely wrong about what they sought to depict and it would have no bearing whatsoever on the question of the existence of some “unseen reality” or god. He believes in these, whether they did (or were trying to portray them) or not.

    Well, not really.

    No, apparently not.

    You were quoting this:

    I know what I was fucking quoting, and its context.

    The claim was not only presupposing the existence of “an unseen reality” and so on, but also knowledge of the purpose of Orthodox Icons.

    And in addition to my bolding in the original quotation, I’ve explained now more than once (including prior to your comment) that I was only addressing certain claims and which those were.

    Looking at the entire claim rather than only one part of it,

    But this isn’t responding to my questions, which only dealt with one part of it (the part in bold).

    it made sense to me to question how he knows what that art is meant to be or do.

    It interests me otherwise, which is why I majored in art history, but it wasn’t what I was asking about. Since I had clarified this more than once, no, your questioning didn’t make sense. Say a historian talks about how some Southern painter was depicting the cheerful labor of slaves in the cotton fields in the 19th century, and presents this in a celebratory way as representing a historical reality: that slaves were generally joyously going about their work in a system that didn’t brutalize them. I then grill the historian about the empirical basis for her beliefs about slavery. Of course I could also ask about the basis of her beliefs about the artist’s intentions, which I’d be likely to do in certain circumstances – especially if I have reason from my other knowledge or the appearance of the painting to suspect other artistic motives and thought the artist was being misrepresented. But these are separate questions, and I’ve chosen one as the focus of my questioning.

    That is also an unsupported claim, because he doesn’t know the original artist’s beliefs or intentions.

    Well, he may have some evidence. We don’t know. I was more interested, for reasons that should be obvious, in the sources of his supernatural claims than his art-historical ones.

    If that’s not a claim you wish to question, then so be it.

    How generous of you. It’s not the claim that I was questioning, as I tried to make clear.

    Personally, I think such questions might help to better understand and tease out his “epistemic processes” as you put it.

    Lame. It’s possible, though since I’m trying to get at his religious beliefs a direct question about how he arrived at them is more useful than one about his art-historical methodology.

  80. #80 Mr T
    December 28, 2009

    SC OM:
    I don’t understand what the problem is anymore. I was simply asking other questions than the ones you were. What’s the big deal? Am I allowed to do that?

    Earlier you said this:

    It’s because I know that when drawn out in the open his argument will be shot down, his response may offer insight into his thought processes, and his formulating an answer might lead him or some lurkers to assess their beliefs or epistemic processes more critically. It’s a teaching technique more than anything.

    Those are some of the same reasons I brought up art-related questions. Asking a creationist about thermodynamics isn’t directly a question about religious beliefs, just like the art-related ones, yet now you say:

    Lame. It’s possible, though since I’m trying to get at his religious beliefs a direct question about how he arrived at them is more useful than one about his art-historical methodology.

    One could ask a religious person, “Is Genesis is literally true, a myth, or something else? How do you know?” We might get a purely theological answer, or maybe one involving history or literary criticism. Either way, we might then ask other questions more directly related to history or literary criticism.

  81. #81 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    I don’t understand what the problem is anymore. I was simply asking other questions than the ones you were. What’s the big deal? Am I allowed to do that?

    I know you were going to try this. Bullshit. I can’t imagine that anyone who reads the thread is going to buy this. If your first comment had said anything like “I also find his claims about these artists suspicious, not that it has any bearing on his religious beliefs. I’d like to see the evidence for those claims, too,” it would have been a very different discussion.

    Those are some of the same reasons I brought up art-related questions.

    Please explain what you mean here, describing the specific art-related questions you’re talking about.

    Asking a creationist about thermodynamics isn’t directly a question about religious beliefs,

    It was a reference to a thread yesterday in which a creationist left a comment specifically about thermodynamics in relation to evolution in a discussion of evolution. And yes, a question about creationism is pretty directly a question about religious beliefs.

    just like the art-related ones,

    Why don’t you try spelling out the various analogies you’re trying to construct here in detail.

    yet now you say:…One could ask a religious person, “Is Genesis is literally true, a myth, or something else? How do you know?” We might get a purely theological answer, or maybe one involving history or literary criticism. Either way, we might then ask other questions more directly related to history or literary criticism.

    We can ask all sorts of fucking questions in all sorts of fucking contexts. I’m on an atheist blog asking a theist who’s talking about his belief in an “unseen reality” and a present god to explain the basis of those beliefs. These are the key questions here. Don’t be thrown off because I happened to quote from a passage in a post about art. He may have no basis or a shaky basis for his art-historical claims, he may be wrong about them, but that’s hardly the central issue here. He also has a post about the possible discovery of Nazareth at the time of the mythical Jesus’ life. I would like to ask questions about this as well. I was cutting to the chase.

    ***

    OK, I missed your #70:

    I only doubt the first part of that. Sometimes artists aren’t even trying to depict things or express ideas. We can ignore that kind of art if you like, but I mention it because it does help to put things in perspective. Not all art is representational; so either there is nothing there to express or represent, or they simply aren’t telling others what it is.

    Good grief. This is so far outside the realm of what the discussion in which you were intervening was about that it’s ridiculous. If you want to go off on a tangent about understanding artistic motives, fine, but you should be clear that this is what you’re doing. In the earlier discussion, I was positing a hypothetical case in which an artist did say what he was trying to depict. I was simply saying (with perhaps not enough nuance for your taste) that whether an artist was trying to portray people riding dinosaurs, whether that artist believed people rode dinosaurs, whether and why a writer believes the artist believed this and/or was trying to portray it, whether this writer believes people rode dinosaurs, and whether people did in fact ride dinosaurs are different questions. I was dealing with the latter two questions, and people were responding as if I were conflating them.

    Yes, evidence concerning artistic (or any) motives can be unclear, difficult to come by, and ambiguous. These may not be perfectly clear to the artist. There are complexities involved in interpretation. That’s not at all what I was getting at, and we don’t know in this case what Weyer’s evidence is. In any event, unless you’re suggesting that all evidence of intent from artists’ speech/writings/works is inherently without value and that if someone does say “I was trying to depict/convey this” we shouldn’t take this (with caveats) as good evidence of what the artist was consciously trying to depict or convey rather than assuming deep deception, then no one’s arguing with you.

    That’s fine with me. We should find out what it means to them. It may have other meanings to them which they will not report, and they may not even be consciously aware of what those are.

    So what? I was responding to comments suggesting that there’s nothing worthwhile about asking the dude questions, and yours about “blurting out nonsense” certainly appeared to be in that vein. How are these potential complexities equivalent to your assumption about his blurting out nonsense? What were you getting at with that?

  82. #82 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    One could ask a religious person, “Is Genesis is literally true, a myth, or something else? How do you know?” We might get a purely theological answer, or maybe one involving history or literary criticism. Either way, we might then ask other questions more directly related to history or literary criticism.

    But you do understand the difference between this and your questions about art history in this specific case, right? He’s not saying, “These artists were trying to unsettle people by presenting an unseen reality, therefore that reality exists.” He believes in it regardless of what they believed or were trying to do. I was asking about this belief, a description of which in this case happened to be embedded in that discussion.

  83. #83 Richard Eis
    December 28, 2009

    Amusingly Mr T. pretty much got my original point. That Weyer’s belief about the paintings and whether they represent something that exists is pretty much the same thing that artists and critics can do.
    The end point being that for all your questions you won’t get a straight answer and it will all end in fluffy “i just believe” nonsense (or arty bullshit).

    It just wasn’t supposed to be taken so seriously so I dropped it originally…sorry SC.

  84. #84 Strangest brew
    December 28, 2009

    #83

    “The end point being that for all your questions you won’t get a straight answer and it will all end in fluffy “i just believe” nonsense (or arty bullshit).”

    Yep! cos when push comes to panicky shove all the theist has is unsubstantiated hearsay factoids of dubious source.

    What they do not have, is relevant empirical evidence.

    A fluffy ‘I just believe’ is the only available retreat they have.

    Questions about oppositional cults will be clothed in ambiguous diplomacy and attitude to atheist will be dressed as benign tolerance in public but slightly more poisonous in private.

    And all theists fear and for the most part hate atheist, they are a direct threat to the delusion, they are the enemy!
    Atheist cannot be controlled by pastor priest or minister they fly by their own physics, and that is scary shit to the average gullible fool for jeebus that requires a dogma to control themselves.

  85. #85 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    Amusingly Mr T. pretty much got my original point. That Weyer’s belief about the paintings and whether they represent something that exists is pretty much the same thing that artists and critics can do.

    You have no idea whether this is the case. Again, he believes this “unseen reality” and god exist independently of the paintings and what they represent. You also don’t know the basis for his claims about the artists’ intentions, but they’re unrelated to what I was asking him about, as I tried to explain to you. There might be interestingly analogous examples, and I understood your point, but in general in order to work in your little dig at “art critics” (now it’s “artists and critics”) you had to fail to appreciate the gist of my questions. And I’m amazed that you didn’t stop to think about what I was doing in asking the questions before you posted. Mr T is also confused, and I don’t find it amusing at all.

    It just wasn’t supposed to be taken so seriously so I dropped it originally…sorry SC.

    I don’t care how seriously it was supposed to be taken. You misunderstood what I was asking.

    The end point being that for all your questions you won’t get a straight answer and it will all end in fluffy “i just believe” nonsense (or arty bullshit).

    First, you have no idea what sort of answer I or anyone else will get. Second, are you guys really under the impression that I’m unfamiliar with the nature of religious replies to pointed questions from atheists? WTF? (He won’t have empirical evidence to back up his religious claims? You don’t say!) I’ve been reading and questioning theists on this and other blogs for almost two years. I read posts like this

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2009/12/show-me-the-money.html

    on almost a daily basis. I certainly know what to expect in general. Spend a few days arguing with heddle and then talk to me about frustration with dodgy, evasive, illogical, and empirically-unsupported responses.

    Read my purposes for asking such questions again, though! I have every reason to expect that whatever he answered, Weyer’s responses would fulfill them in some way.

    Third, I should mention another reason I ask such questions, and see particular value in asking them in this instance. I want to see straightforward questioning of religious beliefs become more common and accepted. Here we have someone who seems like an intelligent and reasonably nice guy who’s actually part of an organization dedicated in part to answering atheists’ questions.* If he responds in whatever way, my purpose is served. If he refuses on the basis that such direct questions are inappropriate, he’ll be shown up as a hypocrite and the limitations of his (self-)critical faculties will be publicly apparent. This is useful in other ways. Seriously, I’m having trouble understanding this failure to comprehend why some of us want to ask theists questions.

    * The sorts of assumptions being made about him are somewhat bizarre.

  86. #86 Richard Eis
    December 28, 2009

    but in general in order to work in your little dig at “art critics” (now it’s “artists and critics”)

    I’m an equal opportunity digger :)

    Spend a few days arguing with Heddle and then talk to me about frustration with dodgy, evasive, illogical, and empirically-unsupported responses.

    I have done (shudder). Don’t forget “downright weird” and “fatalistic” in his case.

    It was really supposed to have been an off hand comment, rather than a thread hijack. Now I understand why you are continuing regardless that you know the outcome it makes more sense.

    Have at them my dear SC, cloying fluffy nonsense is in some ways worse than fire and brimstone.

  87. #87 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    It was really supposed to have been an off hand comment, rather than a thread hijack.

    Sorry. People responding to questions asked of others is something of a pet peeve, expecially as it often foils my plans, and it seems to have been happening more frequently of late (or I just noticed it more since I’ve been in the classroom more, where I have – um, relatively – more control :)). I was also angry with myself for not being more clear in my original post, which contributed to my annoyance. But my response was disproportionate.

    Now I understand why you are continuing regardless that you know the outcome it makes more sense.

    Have at them my dear SC, cloying fluffy nonsense is in some ways worse than fire and brimstone.

    :)

  88. #88 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    You can’t possibly know what someone will respond until you ask (I highly doubt given even the little I’ve seen of this guy that you would receive such simplistic responses, and your answering for someone you know virtually nothing about is rather presumptuous),

    Presumptuous it may be, but although we won’t get such simplistic responses, they will probably be gilded versions of them. I’ve never seen anything but, and I’ve had a lot of such conversations. Actually, I take that back: I have once had a conversation with an Episcopal priest who acknowledged that God was probably not real, and the whole religion thing was just a coded social control memeset; he still thought it was a “good thing.”

    none of those answers would be entirely useless if you consider multiple purposes for asking, and your earlier post implied that you thought people were talking about asking questions to get authoritative answers about the nature of reality or something.

    So we’re to watch in hopes that the preacher has a eureka moment and converts away from his faith? Not likely. As for the latter point, theists believe they have authoritative answers about the nature of reality, so we’re probably going to get them, on very poor authority.

    Look, I’m a social scientist and do have an interest in people, how they come to believe what they do, and how beliefs change.

    Seems like you’d want something more, you know, measurable than a single person’s testimonial or previously mentioned “authoritative answers.” I’m not a social scientist, but it would seem that you would either seek a deep case study or a set of information from a large group of people to glean anything useful.

    As a skeptic and atheist, I also welcome an opportunity to publicly quiz a theist who opens her/himself up to it, for a number of reasons.

    Well I do too, and for that reason I’ve come around to possibly listening in on this conversation. The better to gird myself for battle and all that. I still think most of us will gain a lot more information from PZ’s questions than the preacher’s answers.

  89. #89 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    Oh and I’m with Richard Eis, now that I understand that the important thing to you, SC, is that the questioning itself is taking place; that the Xian is willing to fall on his sword openly answering (or failing to answer) pointed, reasonable questions about his faith is a good thing. And I agree with you.

  90. #90 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    And now that I think on it further, I was reluctant to watch, because I knew deep down, in my heart of hearts, that God exists and that He loves me. And that if I watched the interview, I would come to love the Lord and accept Jesus Christ into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. And in doing so, I would have everlasting life and everlasting love. Fuck that. I’m not giving God what He wants; he’s a right Bastard.

  91. #91 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    So we’re to watch in hopes that the preacher has a eureka moment and converts away from his faith? Not likely.

    Did you actually read the passage you quoted, or the earlier and later ones listing the several purposes? This is the only reason you’d consider it worthwhile to ask questions of a theist publicly? Look, if you find nothing of value in actually communicating with other human beings, I can’t help you.

    Seems like you’d want something more, you know, measurable than a single person’s testimonial or previously mentioned “authoritative answers.”

    Any information is valuable in generating and designing future research. But in any event, I wasn’t claiming this was research – just that the same curiosity about people (in addition to my interest in social change) that led me to my field.

    Well I do too, and for that reason I’ve come around to possibly listening in on this conversation.

    Then good.

    The better to gird myself for battle and all that.

    There’s yet another purpose.

    I still think most of us will gain a lot more information from PZ’s questions than the preacher’s answers.

    Even if that’s true, who cares? First, others can ask questions, too, as I understand it. Second, we wouldn’t gain any information at all if no one was asking the questions. Again, I’m really struck by this. Some of us are interested not just in being (or being among) skeptics, but in leading other people to an evidence-based orientation. Having public discussions with believers in which we ask tham to defend their beliefs and epistemology is one great way of doing this.

  92. #92 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    Oh and I’m with Richard Eis, now that I understand that the important thing to you, SC, is that the questioning itself is taking place; that the Xian is willing to fall on his sword openly answering (or failing to answer) pointed, reasonable questions about his faith is a good thing. And I agree with you.

    Great. My work here is done. :)

  93. #93 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    Look, if you find nothing of value in actually communicating with other human beings, I can’t help you.

    Ad absurdum, anyone? I’m not an incurious person; I’m just not interested in hearing people blather about their faith.

    But in any event, I wasn’t claiming this was research – just that the same curiosity about people (in addition to my interest in social change) that led me to my field.

    Fair enough. It is safe to say that I am not very curious about people with whom I will never likely interact, at least I am not very curious about beliefs that they hold upon which they can claim little authority.

    First, others can ask questions, too, as I understand it.

    Sorry. What I meant was “the questions PZ asks.”

    Second, we wouldn’t gain any information at all if no one was asking the questions. Again, I’m really struck by this.

    Well, I started out thinking in terms of factual information on the preacher’s Christianity, which a believer gets from the Bible. We already have access to the source material there. I understand your broader desire for information about the believer himself, although I don’t share it, or at least I don’t share it as earnestly as you do.

    Some of us are interested not just in being (or being among) skeptics, but in leading other people to an evidence-based orientation. Having public discussions with believers in which we ask tham to defend their beliefs and epistemology is one great way of doing this.

    I can see your point, I’m just not as motivated to tune in. Having private discussions with believers in which we do the same are a great way too. The only minds that might be changed in public conversations, besides those who are actually having the conversation, are neutral ones who don’t already have an established set of beliefs. Believers who see Weyer painting himself into a corner are just going to decide he didn’t understand the question or hadn’t studied his Bible well enough.

    Again, I concede your point: it’s a good thing. I just don’t see why you’re so bothered by the fact that some of us would be disinclined to watch.

  94. #94 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    I think you understand the argument I was making now, so I won’t beat a dead horse. Too much.

    I’m just not interested in hearing people blather about their faith.

    But…but…but a lot of what we do here is challenge people to blather about their faith (and then slam ‘em). It’s part of the raison date of the blog, I think.

    The only minds that might be changed in public conversations, besides those who are actually having the conversation,

    Not insignificant.

    are neutral ones who don’t already have an established set of beliefs.

    [citation needed]

    Believers who see Weyer painting himself into a corner are just going to decide he didn’t understand the question or hadn’t studied his Bible well enough.

    You don’t know this. And no one’s saying any transformation of even a small number of people is necessarily immediate. It’s about planting the seeds of critical thought.

    Again, I concede your point: it’s a good thing. I just don’t see why you’re so bothered by the fact that some of us would be disinclined to watch.

    I wasn’t bothered by that. I was bothered that people seemed to be making assumptions about the guy and his views based on very limited information and to be stubbornly confused about the various purposes of asking people like him questions publicly.

  95. #95 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    But…but…but a lot of what we do here is challenge people to blather about their faith (and then slam ‘em).

    Therein lies the problem. It’s a Q&A, not a debate. We have to count on Weyer to slap himself, or slap him around after the fact.

    You don’t know this. And no one’s saying any transformation of even a small number of people is necessarily immediate. It’s about planting the seeds of critical thought.

    You’re the social scientist, so I’ll accept that you know otherwise. I’d like more information, though, because information on how to overcome confirmation bias in an audience by asking questions of a victim of said bias could prove very useful. As regards the seed of critical thought, I can accept that. Anything that encourages critical thinking is a good thing, in my view.

    As regards our assumptions about his views, they’re either based on the bible, some social construct based on the bible, or his own personal experience woven into his faith. None of which, I find it safe to assume, are going to be useful to me. That is my core assumption, that I don’t need to know nor do I care what his views on faith are (although I can see why a social scientist might), and I imagine it will bear out. The questions, on the other hand, might be fun.

  96. #96 Richard Eis
    December 28, 2009

    And now that I think on it further, I was reluctant to watch, because I knew deep down, in my heart of hearts, that God exists and that He loves me.

    Destlund, you are weak in your atheistic faith. Our lord and flying monkey feeder prophet PZ will be less than pleased with your progress on the 8th circle of skimptybob. Say 3 heil Dawkins before you go to bed and I will pray for your salvation.

  97. #97 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    heh, you said skimptybob.

  98. #98 Richard Eis
    December 28, 2009

    SC, Destlund, we are clearly after the same thing. A pithy sentence, or phrase that begins a religionist on their journey towards actual “thinking”.

    Obviously not every person is going to be swayed by the same thing so there might be 3 or 4 devastating sentences.

    I have actually been experimenting with this for some time. Maybe 3 sentences or paragraphs with maybe a 30-50% success rate on making a religionist go “oh, wait…”. That would be acceptable.

    I’ve found that mention of egyptian heiroglyphs over the “noah period” works particularly well against young earthers, followed by discussion of linguistics and animal migration. Well, he ran away anyway…

  99. #99 Richard Eis
    December 28, 2009

    heh, you said skimptybob.

    Do not MOCK the Skimptybob. Also, don’t say it 3 times in front of a mirror.

    You will look silly…

  100. #100 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    Therein lies the problem. It’s a Q&A, not a debate.

    I prefer a Q&A to a debate, but I think this is actually more like a Q&A/conversation I don’t think PZ has to only ask questions). And it’s for a good cause!

    We have to count on Weyer to slap himself, or slap him around after the fact.

    Not exactly. But, anyway, of course he’s going to slap himself. We already know that. He has nothing substantive to offer. Will this be immediately evident to all watching? Of course not? Will it plant the seeds for some? Well, it’s a great opportunity. And it’s for a good cause!

    You’re the social scientist, so I’ll accept that you know otherwise.

    You’re the one who made the silly blanket claim, so you’re the one who needs to back it up.

    I’d like more information, though, because information on how to overcome confirmation bias in an audience by asking questions of a victim of said bias could prove very useful.

    There’s nothing more you need to know than that it is possible for certain members of said audience. Read through the past several months of comments here for evidence that it happens. As to the more general question, you’d have to read my work…

    As regards the seed of critical thought, I can accept that. Anything that encourages critical thinking is a good thing, in my view.

    If you accept that this is possible, then what are you arguing about?

    As regards our assumptions about his views, they’re either based on the bible, some social construct based on the bible, or his own personal experience woven into his faith.

    None of which, I find it safe to assume, are going to be useful to me.

    Sigh. I thought you got it, but now I fear you didn’t…

    That is my core assumption, that I don’t need to know nor do I care what his views on faith are (although I can see why a social scientist might), and I imagine it will bear out. The questions, on the other hand, might be fun.

    I can probably predict the questions as well as the answers. It’s the acts of questioning, responding, and listening – and engaging with other human beings generally – that are important (even if you’re not interested in the specific content, which I am).

  101. #101 destlund
    December 28, 2009

    I don’t think we’re actually in disagreement. I’m all for it taking place, and will probably donate. The trip is a fantastic idea, especially the bit about Christians and atheists spending time together. I may even watch part or all of the Q&A, particularly if PZ actually gets to speak and isn’t constrained to JAQ. You’re right about me not getting it, though. At least, I’m not sure what you want me to “get.” Maybe I’m wrong for assuming Weyer’s responses won’t amount to much (for me), but I understand why they might influence a fence-sitter or, I admit, possibly a believer.

    Also, I’m sorry for the silly blanket claim; I still believe it to be true for most, but you’re right: if it’s not always true then it’s irrelevant. As for reading your work, it sounds interesting. It’s fun to find out what makes people, or groups of people, tick.

    If we’re still in disagreement, then either I’m confused or I’ve misstated something. Everything you’ve said makes sense to me (I think) except for the ‘not getting it’ part.

  102. #102 SC OM
    December 28, 2009

    You’re right about me not getting it, though. At least, I’m not sure what you want me to “get.”

    Just:

    …but I understand why they [or some aspect of the conversation] might influence a fence-sitter or, I admit, possibly a believer.

    Oh and I’m with Richard Eis, now that I understand that the important thing to you, SC, is that the questioning itself is taking place; that the Xian is willing to fall on his sword openly answering (or failing to answer) pointed, reasonable questions about his faith is a good thing.

    That’s all. If you hadn’t launched into “None of which, I find it safe to assume, are going to be useful to me” I would have left it there. I thought we agreed on the reasons this activity is potentially useful in several ways, even if the substantive responses aren’t useful in certain particular ways. I don’t think we’re in disagreement at all, actually.

    It’s fun to find out what makes people, or groups of people, tick.

    *headdesk* :)

  103. #103 Mr T
    December 28, 2009

    SC OM:
    Sorry for the delay responding to you. Real life took over. For the record, I wasn’t trying to lecture you, wasn’t trying to hijack the thread, and wasn’t trying to refute what you were saying. I only had a minor quibble and I will let it rest. However, I did want to try to respond to this:

    Please explain what you mean here, describing the specific art-related questions you’re talking about.

    I wanted to how Weyer came up with his alleged purposes of Orthodox icons. Is it based on theology, art history, politics, or what? Where does he get this information? Does it come from a divine revelation, an art history book, pulled out of his ass?

    If there are theological reasons for such a belief (as I suspect there may be), then that could be pertinent to our understanding of his other religious beliefs. No matter what the reason, it might provide some insight into his thoughts about religion because we’d be finding out how he thinks about religious art. He could somehow find some deep spiritual meaning in religious art, or Christian art, or a specific kind of Christian art. It’s also possible he might think art’s not very important. There are plenty of layers that could be peeled back if we ask questions that are not all directly aimed at god-belief itself.

  104. #104 destlund
    December 29, 2009

    If you hadn’t launched into “None of which, I find it safe to assume, are going to be useful to me” I would have left it there. I thought we agreed on the reasons this activity is potentially useful in several ways, even if the substantive responses aren’t useful in certain particular ways. I don’t think we’re in disagreement at all, actually.

    exactly. I didn’t mean to denigrate the activity itself; just the results would be useless to me.

    It’s fun to find out what makes people, or groups of people, tick.

    *headdesk* :)

    I get it: we’d be seeing exactly what makes Weyer tick. Except I’m not informed on just where Weyer is and is not representative of the general religious population. I don’t care what makes him tick because it tells me relatively little about “what they actually believe.” Sorry for any head damage.

  105. #105 SC OM
    December 29, 2009

    exactly. I didn’t mean to denigrate the activity itself; just the results would be useless to me.

    So are you asserting that no religious person will ever have anything to say on any topic that is value to you in any way?

    I get it: we’d be seeing exactly what makes Weyer tick. Except I’m not informed on just where Weyer is and is not representative of the general religious population. I don’t care what makes him tick because it tells me relatively little about “what they actually believe.” Sorry for any head damage.

    But he is a person. So it’s fun to find out what makes people tick, unless they’re religious, in which case you’re only interested in them as a category, and in individuals insofar as they represent that category. OK…
    :P

  106. #106 destlund
    December 29, 2009

    Nonsense. It’s just that hearing an individual’s religious views is a lot like hearing them talk about their zodiac sign: useful as a barometer of their temperament. If faith is a salad bar, you can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their plate. Remember, if it’s not straight Q&A, and PZ gets to raise objections, it’s a different story for me.

  107. #107 The Thomas Society
    December 29, 2009

    For those of you who are curious, I have posted my hopes for the discussion with PZ over at the Thomas Society blog. Feel free to check them out.

  108. #108 SC OM
    December 29, 2009

    Nonsense.

    Bullshit. You said it.

    It’s just that hearing an individual’s [does that include atheists?] religious views [who said that's all that will be discussed? other questions were mentioned, and you responded by putting words in his mouth] is a lot like hearing them talk about their zodiac sign: useful as a barometer of their temperament. If faith is a salad bar, you can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their plate.

    Right, and this is all part of learning what makes someone tick, which you said you found fun. It’s one thing (and fine) not to be curious about people; it’s another (and stupid, in my view) to claim you’re curious about people and interested in what they have to say unless they’re religious. It looks from the blog like he’s an interesting guy who’s involved in some interesting stuff. Anyway, I really don’t think you know what you’re arguing at this point, you keep contradicting yourself, this conversation has grown tiresome, and I’m on my way out, so I’ll leave you with the last word.

  109. #109 destlund
    December 29, 2009

    None of that was what I was trying to say at all. What a colossal communication fail on my part. Sure he seems likeable, even interesting but I have little interest in his religious views. It’s like we’ve spent all this time talking right past one another, arguing over a matter of opinion that we barely disagree on. My original comment was flippant, you called me out and I apologized. The rest we keep going in circles on. I’m travelling with the family and there are constant interruptions and distractions, and I’m putting it down to that, rather than that I’m incoherent or addled.

  110. #110 Michael Riggs
    January 1, 2010

    I know Jon Weyer personally, and I can tell you (as an atheist), he isn’t the enemy. He’s pro-science, pro-logic, and he calls out other Christians on foolishness when he sees it.

    This isn’t the guy to make an ass ourselves to.

  111. #111 John Morales
    January 2, 2010

    Michael Riggs, your personal endorsement is noted; however, he’s a Pastor.

    cf. #5.

    He’s pro-science, pro-logic, and he calls out other Christians on foolishness when he sees it.

    Other than your say-so, can you adduce any evidence for this?

  112. #112 La Croix
    January 2, 2010

    John,

    Could you please define ‘superstition’ as you used the word in post #5 for me?

    Thanks!

  113. #113 Michael Riggs
    January 2, 2010

    If you read his blog (http://thomas2026.wordpress.com/) you’ll see that he actively works against young earth creationism, legal over-protection of religion (like anti-blasphemy laws), right-wing theocrat republicanism, and most of the things that piss us off.

    From personal experience, I can tell you that he’s good about conceding a point when he gets hit. I’ve seen it before, and he’s even conceded points to me publicly.

    Yes, I obviously disagree with his conclusions, but he’s not nearly as weak as most of his fellow Christians. He’s already earned the wrath of a number of fundies (hilariously, Tom Estes), and he’ll back us up on many of our social and ethical points. Our disagreement with him is primarily intellectual, not practical.

    Again, we’d not be doing ourselves any favors being assholes with him. Simply politely and logically taking down his position will be far more useful than verifying our nasty stereotype. Indulging it might feel good, but is useless in actually getting our goals realized.

  114. #114 John Morales
    January 2, 2010

    La Croix,

    Could you please define ‘superstition’ as you used the word in post #5 for me?

    Sure: Superstition.

    “Superstition is a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason, knowledge, or experience.”

  115. #115 La Croix
    January 3, 2010

    Thanks John,

    Because of the way that you define superstition, it means that your claim in #5 is that a pastors job is to push credulous beliefs not based on reason, knowledge, or experience.

    Could you now explain to me how this must necessarily be the case?

  116. #116 John Morales
    January 4, 2010

    La Croix,

    Because of the way that you define superstition, it means that your claim in #5 is that a pastors job is to push credulous beliefs not based on reason, knowledge, or experience.
    Could you now explain to me how this must necessarily be the case?

    Apparently not, since your question makes it clear you don’t think the Christian religion is superstition.

  117. #117 La Croix
    January 4, 2010

    John,

    (a) My asking you to explain why you think that the proposition you asserted in #5 neither entails nor implies that I believe that the Christian doctrine, it simply means that I wish for you to justify your assertion. I am simply curious for your reasons as to why you hold that it is true. Nothing from my question implies that I agree or disagree with what you or even that I am withholding belief as to whether or not your assertion is true, just that I am curious as to why you hold it as true.

    (b) Even if I did think it was true that Christian religion is superstition, this still does not stop you from answering being able to give reasons for why you think something is true. So, I am confused by your response. I really would like to just see what your reasons are for holding the assertion that you made in post #5 as true, and just out of curiosity not to attack your position or anything of the sort. So, if you could give me the reasons why you believe that to be the case I that would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

  118. #118 John Morales
    January 5, 2010

    La Croix,

    My asking you to explain why you think that the proposition you asserted in #5 neither entails nor implies that I believe that the Christian doctrine, it simply means that I wish for you to justify your assertion.

    I presume you meant to write “… neither entails nor implies that I believe that the Christian doctrine is superstition [...], so I’ll respond on that basis.

    I am simply curious for your reasons as to why you hold that it is true.

    Because I think Christianity is superstition, and a pastor’s job is to endorse and sustain it.

    Nothing from my question implies that I agree or disagree with what you or even that I am withholding belief as to whether or not your assertion is true, just that I am curious as to why you hold it as true.

    I disagree; had you originally written “Because of the way that you define superstition, it means that your claim in #5 is that a pastors job is to push credulous beliefs not based on reason, knowledge, or experience.

    Could you now explain to me how this must necessarily be the case? I am curious as to why you hold it as true.”, I would accept that.

    Why would you ask for justification for a self-evident opinion, if you share said opinion?

    Even if I did think it was true that Christian religion is superstition, this still does not stop you from answering being able to give reasons for why you think something is true.

    Indeed. I note it seems to me like I’m being quizzed by a mischievous child who asks “why?” in response to every answer for the previous “why?”.

    I made it very clear that from my first post that I think Christianity is superstition, and its ordained officials job is to endorse and sustain it.

    So, I am confused by your response.

    That’s OK, I’m confused by your request.

    [me @5] I don’t know him either, but he’s a pastor. His job is to push and sustain superstition.

    I really would like to just see what your reasons are for holding the assertion that you made in post #5 as true, and just out of curiosity not to attack your position or anything of the sort.

    Well, my assertion contains two clauses — my basis for the first is he’s identified as pastor Weyer, and I trust PZ is not misrepresenting his title; my basis for the second is that Christianity is superstition.

    Without writing a lengthy essay, I adumbrate my reasons thus: I think belief in and appeal to supernatural causes is superstition; I think belief that faith is superior to reasoned skepticism is epistemically unsustainable and pernicious and also constitutes superstition; I think Christianity requires both of those beliefs in its followers.

    So, if you could give me the reasons why you believe that to be the case I that would be much appreciated.

    Well, I have. I bask in your appreciation.

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