Pharyngula

How do you kill a god?

Why would the Pope dislike the internet? Why does Islam rebel at mockery? Why do religions demand unquestioning respect?

It’s because open criticism kills them. Thunderf00t explains why.

(via RD.net)

Comments

  1. #1 sd_real619#59452
    April 28, 2010

    Thunderf00t is the best!

  2. #2 iamjustme
    April 28, 2010

    The crazier the things you want your people to believe, and the more unnaturally you want them to behave, the more effort you have to put in to controlling their experience of the world and punishing dissent.

  3. #3 gravendeel
    April 28, 2010

    I guess this would be a good place to restate my suggestion to use this video to counter-act the Mormon “upvoting effort” at YouTube.

  4. #4 PZ Myers
    April 28, 2010

    Ooh, good idea.

  5. #5 RamblinDude
    April 28, 2010

    Your puny god is no match for the power of SIWOTI!

  6. #6 Lynna, OM
    April 28, 2010

    I wonder if we could get Thunderfoot to correct “you” to “your” in the bit about the FSM taking away your chocolate rations. It would be nice to correct that before we upvote it to counteract the mormon nonsense from Jeffrey Holland.

    This is the perfect video to counteract the mormon anti-logic, psychological, and emotional manipulation message.

    In addition to upvoting the video, I suggest that those of us that have social media pages, such as Facebook, etc. add it to our personal sites.

  7. #7 billygutter01
    April 28, 2010

    This guy is one of my favourite YouTubers.

    Shit, I just use “YouTube” as a verb.

    In any case, Thunderf00t has just had his proverbial nuts slapped for a video he posted regarding the South Park / Muhammad nonsense. Naturally the video lambastes the Islamic extremists, but the weirdest twist was the fact that the video in question wasn’t DMCA’d by a religious group (they tend to display an unfathomably twisted interpretation of copyright infringement), but (apparently) Viacom.

    It’s bad enough that Comedy Central was sufficiently scrotumless to censor the living bejebus out of the episode, but Viacom? Hell, they’ve amassed a media empire! Can’t they tell these maniacs to take their game to another playground?

    Somebody’s gotta.

  8. #8 Owlmirror
    April 28, 2010

    “Now watch closely, everyone. I’m going to show you how to kill a god. A god of life and death. The trick is not to fear him.” [...BFG goes here, stuff happens...] “He’s a god, you fools ? it’ll take more than one shot.”
    — Lady Eboshi

    /Princess Mononoke

  9. #9 greg.bourke0
    April 28, 2010

    @6 The “you” works in religious language, I thought he was pulling the piss.

  10. #10 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 28, 2010
  11. #11 Kirk
    April 28, 2010

    PZ, thanks for posting this.

    I have a colleague who believes in belief, with a 3-year old daughter destined for Catholic school because she “thinks we should learn about things greater than ourselves.”

    Maybe this video could influence even those who believe in belief.

    Regardless, it’s great.

  12. #12 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawle5AT5MdyqBI3wlu3aB_mqmgIbGY2413M
    April 28, 2010

    You kill a god with indifference and ridicule. The greatest fear of the religious is not active atheism (however militant) it is rather indifference and ridicule.

  13. #13 Ted Zissou
    April 28, 2010

    Great video. I checked Wikipedia for an entry for thunderf00t, and couln’t find one. Does anyone know if there’s a story behind that?

  14. #14 Kieranfoy
    April 28, 2010

    Meh. I kill gods with chain-swords.

    That are on fire.

  15. #15 DrakeDarkHunter
    April 28, 2010

    @Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom

    Damn, I was hoping I’d be the first to make a Shin Megami Tensei II reference. I haven’t played the game yet but I’m very familiar with the final boss.

    Nevertheless I remember watching Thunderf00t’s video a while ago. I agree with his viewpoint and I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

  16. #16 JohnnieCanuck
    April 28, 2010

    Never met a god yet that could even lay a finger on me. In fact not one has ever even shown up for the fight. Wimps, the lot of them.

    Their followers, on the other hand, those are dangerous.

  17. #17 Bribase
    April 28, 2010

    I freaking love thunderfoot!

    Anyone that has ever read the comments on YouTube understand the kind of howling bullshit that he has to put up with in order to state his message.

    I’ve always seen him as one of the people that when PZ and Dawkins et al. Decide very understandably not to give religious nutbags a place next to them in the public stage in debate it’s guys like thunderfoot that pick up the slack.

    Granted, all of us could make mincemeat of most religious claims but Thunderfoot is out there without a high profile blog, website or lecture hall fighting the good fight at ground level.

    B

  18. #18 JohnnieCanuck
    April 28, 2010

    Decent comment there, AItOawle5?

    I do wish you and all the other Googlers could use a more mnemonic signature on a separate line, so we can recognise you the next time you post.

  19. #19 MATTIR
    April 28, 2010

    The most provocative part of the presentation was the numbers of people who identify as secular/agnostic/atheist. We’re a small percentage in most communities, but in terms of worldwide numbers, we’re up there with the RCC and Islam. Since we don’t rely as much on the weird group-think stuff, we can use the internet more effectively.

    Living as I do in community where I have a bit too much contact with god-bots and “atheist” is a bad word, I found this astonishingly encouraging.

  20. #20 John Morales
    April 28, 2010

    Shame about the phrase “The abuse of the manipulative minds of children” early on.

  21. #21 chgo_liz
    April 28, 2010

    Following on from Lynna @ #6….

    If we’re collecting typos/misspellings for Thunderfoot to fix before we take it viral, here’s my addition:

    @ 2:32

    “The Son of God” correctly predicated the “End of the World” was in 2007

    That was supposed to be “predicted,” right?

  22. #22 TB Tabby
    April 28, 2010

    So if Lady Eboshi had an internet connection, she might have kept her arm?

  23. #23 Rorschach
    April 28, 2010

    If you try something with kids like the lady in that vid in the first world, you’d get arrested.

    The pic of the little boy kneeling next to some adult in that mosque and playing prayer made me want to puke.

    This is why education and especially learning critical thinking is so important, it’s a race between rationality via external sources and religious parents and peers trying to close children’s minds and stuff ithem full of dogma and fears.

  24. #24 Rey Fox
    April 28, 2010

    “He’s a god, you fools ? it’ll take more than one shot.”

    How much do you lead a god?

  25. #25 ehlsever
    April 28, 2010

    How much do you lead a god?

    Infinity, of course.

  26. #26 James F
    April 28, 2010

    Turning to the fringe (and not-so-fringe), however, the internet also gives creationists, 9/11 truthers, antivaxxers, birthers, secessionists, and bigots of all stripes a place to congregate and promulgate. Thunderf00t makes a good point about local groups vs. open discussion areas, but these local groups, in isolation, are quite large. I doubt the internet per se will have the sort of impact on religion that he’s predicting.

  27. #27 kc5tty
    April 28, 2010

    Loved the video! Love the work that thunderfoot does! (apologies if his moniker should be cap’d)

    Seems that light (or real knowledge) scares away cockroaches, con-men and religions (they could be the same thing)

    Anyway …. after a few bourbons and water …. keep up the good work. More religions and gods need to die.

    Steve
    ……. in freakin’ Oklahoma ….. a religinut state.

  28. #28 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    April 29, 2010

    Deities are only powerful if they’re shielded from criticism.

  29. #29 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    @ James F

    I doubt the internet per se will have the sort of impact on religion that he’s predicting.

    In that you are mistaken. 40 years ago, news and information got a kind of general cleansing.

    The catholic child-rape cover-up would not have gotten any news coverage at all. It would have been deemed too salient, too provocative for the general public, to be printed.

    Such a thing would have been edited right out of existence.

  30. #30 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    Oh, yah, it was.

  31. #31 CherryBombSim
    April 29, 2010

    I’m afraid I have to agree with James F on this. What the internet does is allow people with really, really bizarre ideas to find all the other one in 100,000 who has the same wacko world-view. 10 of these people talking to each other so easily gives them positive reinforcement,and with this “groundswell” of opinion behind them, they can never be shaken from their beliefs in things like the Expanding Earth.

  32. #32 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    What the internet does is allow people with really, really bizarre ideas to find all the other one in 100,000 who has the same wacko world-view.

    So it is.

    The Internet also allows all wacko ideas to be exposed to the light of day. There’s no hiding on the Internet. Wacko is available to be ridiculed mercilessly.

    The crazy will indeed find reinforcement on the internet.

    But the world shall be well served by the discourse of rational thinkers exchanging ideas on the Internet.

  33. #33 Jadehawk, OM
    April 29, 2010

    “aposhtrophy is punished by execution”… wow, those are some serious grammar nazis! [/inappropriate humor]

  34. #34 formosus
    April 29, 2010

    How do you kill god? With the subtle knife, of course.

    Oh how I hope someone gets that reference.

  35. #35 WowbaggerOM
    April 29, 2010

    formosus wrote:

    Oh how I hope someone gets that reference.

    Of course they will. Where do you think you are?

  36. #36 Rorschach
    April 29, 2010

    What the internet does is allow people with really, really bizarre ideas to find all the other one in 100,000 who has the same wacko world-view

    Great for fetish dating, though.

  37. #37 God
    April 29, 2010

    Expect a visit from My Secret Service soon. I do not take threats of deicide lightly.

  38. #38 Shplane
    April 29, 2010

    9th level spells, and lots of them.

  39. #39 coughlanbrianm
    April 29, 2010

    Absolutely loved that, and it’s not just bad religious ideas that are getting pounded, it’s everything.

    I posted recently about how Americans are getting flooded with contempt for Republicans from every digital direction and how this will lead to their eventual political destruction; this is more of the same.

    Open discourse and the free flow of ideas has always improved society whereever it has occurred. Now it’s global.

    …there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered.

    On Liberty
    John Stuart Mill.

  40. #40 Cody Lawson
    April 29, 2010

    So first off amazing video. I have to be honest I never thought to compare the rise of atheism & the rise of the internet. I bet you could find some significant data.

    More importantly though, while slightly off topic, I am 99% sure I sold Thunderf00t a box of Delicious Red wine today at Collegetown Wine & Spirits. He looked exactly like him & had the accent. I didn’t think to ask him anything assuming it wasn’t him but after a quick google search he popped up in Ithaca, NY on a number of different websites. I’ve actually seen him on a few different occasion and one of the bartenders at the Nine’s (accross the street) immediately recognized him when I showed him a pitcure. Does anyone here know if he is affliated with Cornell or live in Ithaca, NY? If so I might have to get into some religion bashing over some Delicious Red!!!

  41. #41 "Godless" has no meaning...
    April 29, 2010

    The fundamental problem is that the terms, “Godless”, (as used by the self-described “Godless liberal”), and “religion” have no real/commonly accepted objective/scientific meaning. Are the “religious right” nutjobs out of line for believing that the world was created in 6 or so days, and flag-waving bible thumping (if convincing) can be used to justify virtually any level of neurotic selfishness ? Of course. Are scientific paradigms destined to change in rather sudden jumps, as they have done throughout history ? Of course. There is only science, because at its core, everything is science, because by definition, it is simply evidence-based observation of causal patterns. Is the electrical potential of the human body misunderstood, and by extension, temporarily dampened ? Yes. Has this fact been discovered by various humans, across relatively recent time, and cultures ? Yes. Has this caused immense challenge and desperate attempts to maintain the status quo across said cultures ? Of course. More importantly, is the truth of these words accessible to scientifically trained people, through a natural mechanism of going inward ? YES !!!!!!!!!! Don’t believe me. Look for yourself. Thinking about it accomplishes nothing, ultimately, other than eventually creating an openness for the experience.

  42. #42 "Godless" has no meaning...
    April 29, 2010

    Do right-wing nutjobs need to be called out due to lack of science/evidence-based belief ? Yes.

    Has the scientific paradigm been shattered many times, and will it continue to evolve in rather sudden leaps ? Yes.

    Is the potential of the electrical field around the human organism currently underappreciated, and by extension, dampened ? Yes.

    Have certain people discovered this truth across relatively recent times and cultures ? Yes.

    Did these realizations lead to massive disruptions and attempts to maintain the status quo across times and cultures ? Yes, but not for long, because this time, the deck is stacked, so to speak, because the scientific context is irrefutable. We shall witness the birth of a new technology/scientific discipline. Hear me now, believe me soon enough. The beautiful thing about science is that it always holds up to scrutiny. Enough talk. Go inward and see for yourself.

  43. #43 WowbaggerOM
    April 29, 2010

    Sorry ‘”Godless” has no meaning’, none of us here speaks loon. Can you translate?

  44. #44 Rorschach
    April 29, 2010

    question begger @ 42,

    Is the potential of the electrical field around the human organism currently underappreciated, and by extension, dampened ? Yes.

    Huh ?

  45. #45 Jadehawk, OM
    April 29, 2010
    Is the potential of the electrical field around the human organism currently underappreciated, and by extension, dampened ? Yes.

    Huh ?

    let me translate this for you: “auras are totally real, dude!”

  46. #46 Rorschach
    April 29, 2010

    let me translate this for you: “auras are totally real, dude!”

    Oh, like Dr Manhatten, right? I get it now…

  47. #47 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 29, 2010

    Is Godless @ 42 a complete loon speaking pseudo-scientific bullshit? Yes.

    Is anyone here gonna fall for it? No.

  48. #48 nixscripter
    April 29, 2010

    Number of      Number of
    people who   >=   people who
    join                leave

    He’s assuming, though, that everyone who calls themselves Christian will be in a “surviving religion”, and all the practitioners of the Ancient Egyptian religion (which “evolved” a lot) are all dead.

    It seems too simple and convenient, like one religion is a unified concept if it has a title. I’m not a fan of the Meme idea.

    Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.

  49. #49 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    #12,

    You kill a god with indifference and ridicule. The greatest fear of the religious is not active atheism (however militant) it is rather indifference and ridicule.

    This is part of a fantasy you guys have. This pure fantasy, which I guess is designed to build yourselves up, says: the (in my case Christians) are afraid of us, demand our respect, and tremble at the thought of our ridicule. For only a loud minority of Christians are these things true, but not for the overwhelming majority.

    The majority of Christians I know (and I suspect I know a lot more than most of you) are indifferent to you, certainly anything but afraid of you, don?t give a rat?s ass about your respect, and only care that if you mock us you do it cleverly so at least it will be entertaining . You are not nearly as prominent on our radars as you imagine yourselves to be.

    I said this on this blog some time ago?maybe two years ago?so we can add another two years worth of sermons: I have never heard atheists mentioned in a sermon, other than as general targets for proselytizing. Never as a threat. Never as a group that gives us no respect. Never as a group that mocks us.

    Now some of you will say: ?that?s just heddle pretending to speak for all Christians? while you, as non-Christians, will substitute your convenient bumpkin/loudmouth stereotype as representative all Christians. Like a white man telling a black man that he knows better how black men think and what foods they all like to eat.

    You can try that approach, but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you, and we don?t need or crave your respect.

  50. #50 Jadehawk, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Like a white man telling a black man that he knows better how black men think and what foods they all like to eat.

    an idiotic comparison that would only work if no atheist had ever been christian before deconverting.

  51. #51 Rorschach
    April 29, 2010

    You can try that approach, but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you, and we don?t need or crave your respect.

    Ah heddle, you know, all the wonderful desperately defensive statements by church leaders in recent times, answering to questions asked by not even atheists alone, but anyone not fine and dandy with guys in robes fucking children, here in Australia and all over the world, somehow miraculously must have passed you by !

    Adding to that, the statements from non-catholic church folks here and everywhere made after the Melbourne atheist convention tell me, and it was clear for everyone to see, that religious folks are not used to, and shaken and anxious, about atheists just asking polite questions of them to justify their beliefs.

    So while you guys might not “crave my respect” (why would you anyway, I dont crave yours either after all), lots of christians sure as hell are shitting their pants from atheists just asking polite questions.
    It’s quite amusing.

  52. #52 John Morales
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle:

    This is part of a fantasy you guys have.

    It’s a metaphor, not a fantasy.
    We don’t really think there’s a god to be killed, you know…

    You are not nearly as prominent on our radars as you imagine yourselves to be.

    Actually, we’re not nearly as prominent as you imagine us to imagine ourselves to be, but we’re more prominent than you wish we were. :)

    Now some of you will say: ?that?s just heddle pretending to speak for all Christians? while you, as non-Christians, will substitute your convenient bumpkin/loudmouth stereotype as representative all Christians.

    I note you’re using the plural ‘you’, so of course I use ‘we’ in response. You’re the one who is using group terminology, you can hardly complain when the response reflects your frame.

    Anyway, we know you belong to a small sect of Christianity, which after many centuries of schisms encompasses a vast set of beliefs.

    (BTW, I suspect you meant atheists in your last use of ‘Christians’, but I understand it’s easy to make mistakes when the blood is pounding in your head.)

    You can try that approach, but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you, and we don?t need or crave your respect.

    Yeah, I can tell you don’t think about us… ;)

    Just as well you neither need nor crave our respect (even if it sems like sour grapes), eh?

  53. #53 David Marjanovi?
    April 29, 2010

    “aposhtrophy is punished by execution”… wow, those are some serious grammar nazis!

    Day saved :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

  54. #54 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Jadehawk OM,

    an idiotic comparison that would only work if no atheist had ever been christian before deconverting.

    Fair enough. I was an atheist scientist long before I was a Christian and a scientist. Does that mean I can assume that my memories from my atheist days trump when current atheists say about atheism? Or that doesn’t count? Or do you invoke one on the ten commandments of internet atheism: Every atheist who claims to have been a Christian was, and every Christian who claims to have been an atheist wasn’t.

    Rorschach,

    Ah heddle, you know, all the wonderful desperately defensive statements by church leaders in recent times

    There are about 500,000 churches in the US. How many of those pastors/ministers etc. have you heard from. You do understand that church “leaders” like PZ’s buddy Bill Donohue make their living on the basis of rabble rousing? If there is no controversy, if there is no bogyman, “leaders” like Donohue have no raison d’etre.

    lots of christians sure as hell are shitting their pants from atheists just asking polite questions.

    Not “lots” as a percentage–as a percentage it is microscopic. Lots that you might encounter on blogs or at atheist conventions– and maybe lots of street preachers you might encounter, since all these have chosen to leap into the world of confrontation. But not lots as in a non-negligible percentage of the world’s Christians.

    Pharyngula and Dawkins.net are not “the world” or even a microcosm thereof. They, like any activist gatherings, are self-selected distortions of the world.

    Sorry, you vastly inflate your impact on mainstream Christians–most of whom have not even heard about “new atheism.”

  55. #55 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 29, 2010

    Now some of you will say: ?that?s just heddle pretending to speak for all Christians? while you, as non-Christians, will substitute your convenient bumpkin/loudmouth stereotype as representative all Christians,

    Fine, how about we look at data instead?

    One?s own religious identity and involvement shape attitudes toward atheists. Church attenders, conservative Protestants, and those reporting high religious saliency are less likely to approve of intermarriage with an atheist and more likely to say that atheists do not share their vision of American society.

    http://www.soc.umn.edu/~hartmann/files/atheist%20as%20the%20other.pdf

    On page 9 you can see that 61.1% of Church attenders would disapprove of their child marrying an atheist. 47.7% think that atheists don’t share their vision of America.

    There’s definitely a sizable portion who don’t feel indifferent towards atheism.

  56. #56 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    John Morales,

    Anyway, we know you belong to a small sect of Christianity,

    Yeah, baptists in the American south. There’s only a few of us left.

    (BTW, I suspect you meant atheists in your last use of ‘Christians’, but I understand it’s easy to make mistakes when the blood is pounding in your head.)

    no, I meant “Christians”, but I did omit the word of, it should have read “representative of all Christians.” But the supposed “blood pounding in your head” fits the fantasy, doesn’t it? But I’m not mad at you–if anything I’m mocking you (as a group) for your preening.

  57. #57 echidna
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle said:

    I have never heard atheists mentioned in a sermon

    Crikey, you don’t live in my neck of the woods.

    Religious leaders have used their Good Friday sermons to launch an attack on what they call a recent surge in atheism

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/02/2863269.htm

  58. #58 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad,

    You think we don’t want our children to marry atheists proves your point? That is you evidence? You are aware that many Christians interpret (correctly, in my opinion–but correctly or not doesn’t really matter) 2 Cor. 6:14 as a strong admonition if not prohibition against marrying an unbeliever?

    We don’t tell our kids not to marry atheists because they are big and mean and scary. We tell them not to marry atheists because it is what the bible teaches, or at least how many interpret what the bible teaches.

    And as far as “vision of American society” –again, that is not fear or indifference or non-indifference–that is disagreement.

    What a strange definition “indifference” you have.

  59. #59 John Morales
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle:

    Sorry, you vastly inflate your impact on mainstream Christians–most of whom have not even heard about “new atheism.”

    You’re dodging the point of the featured video (have you even watched it?).

    For the first time in history, anyone anywhere (given access to the internet, the which is becoming ubiquitous) can examine for themselves the claims of religion and the criticisms thereof.

    The actual scriptures and dogmas, the actual arguments pro and con are there for their perusal; inquisitive minds can interact with atheists either on hardline sites such as this, or more softly-softly sites such as deconversion.com.

    Every child who has doubts has access to resources and to like-minded people; the ostracism they would once have faced is averted in cyberspace.

  60. #60 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    John Morales,

    I did watch it. It makes the assumption that a shrinking religion is a dying religion. That is only true for false religions. Since my assumption is that Christianity is not a false religion, I have no concern if the (to use Augustine’s term) “visible” church is shrinking*. The invisible church is unaffected. In fact, I have always argued that I like new atheism because it helps atheists come out of the closet, closing the gap between the visible and invisible church. That’s a good thing, and nothing for us to worry about.

    ———
    * Not that even that is at all certain, world-wide.

  61. #61 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    April 29, 2010

    It is my desire that gods become small enough, you can drown them in a bathtub.

  62. #62 Rorschach
    April 29, 2010

    That is only true for false religions. Since my assumption is that Christianity is not a false religion, I have no concern if the (to use Augustine’s term) “visible” church is shrinking*.

    *raises glass to drink with all the scotsmen*

  63. #63 Aquaria
    April 29, 2010

    Look at heddle, pulling nonsense out of his craniorectum yet again.

    An invisible church?

    You Xian fucks don’t know how to be fucking invisible. Look at you, inserting yourself into discussions way about your skill level.

    You fucks can’t leave anybody alone, can’t SHUT THE FUCK UP if you think you can peddle your imaginary friend like a cheap brush anywhere and everywhere you want.

    Fuck you, you mendacious, narcissistic parasite.

  64. #64 joma
    April 29, 2010

    One of the most striking differences between religious websites and atheist websites is the freedom to comment. Religion simply can’t compete in an uncontrolled debate.

  65. #65 conelrad
    April 29, 2010

    Never eat at a place called “Mom’s”;
    Never play cards with a man called “Doc”;
    Never get into a parsing contest with heddle.

  66. #66 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Never get into a parsing contest with heddle.

    What if Heddle posted, but was in everybody’s killfile. Imagine his disappointment…

  67. #67 John Morales
    April 29, 2010

    I have no concern if the (to use Augustine’s term) “visible” church is shrinking*
    * Not that even that is at all certain, world-wide.

    Speaking of “visible” church, I note you were dismissive of my above claim as to the smallness of your sect¹. Are the other sects (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox) “true religion” or “false religion”?

    ¹ What percentage of Christians are Baptists?
    [Nevermind, I just checked — 5%]

    Of those 5%, what percentage is Calvinist?

    Of those, what percentage is your particular brand of Calvinism?

  68. #68 John Morales
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle:

    [...] but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you, and we don?t need or crave your respect.

    Can you provide a link to your church’s website, so that I may verify this claim?

  69. #69 davita22
    April 29, 2010

    @formosus
    No worries!
    “The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake” – Phillip Pullman

  70. #70 Aquaria
    April 29, 2010

    If you people don’t think of us, heddle, WHY ARE YOU FUCKING HERE?

    Dumbass.

  71. #71 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 29, 2010

    heddle,

    You are aware that many Christians interpret (correctly, in my opinion–but correctly or not doesn’t really matter) 2 Cor. 6:14 as a strong admonition if not prohibition against marrying an unbeliever?

    I wonder how many of those people who answered negatively would be able to cite that passage. In any case, using Biblical justification doesn’t mean it isn’t fear-based. I don’t think I need to cite past examples of people citing the Bible to justify their fear.

    We tell them not to marry atheists because it is what the bible teaches, or at least how many interpret what the bible teaches.

    That to you is ‘indifference’?

    And as far as “vision of American society” –again, that is not fear or indifference or non-indifference–that is disagreement.

    I’m sure many people disagree with Christian conservatives, but only 13.6% of the population thought did not share their “vision of American society”.

    I’ll also note that 52% of Americans wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified atheist for president. [Source]

    Anyway, if you don’t care about atheists why do spend so much time here and why do you have a big scarlet A (a popular symbol for atheists) with a bar over it (used to denote an anti-particle) on your blog?

  72. #72 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I have heddle in my killfile so I missed his ‘My interpretation of the bible says that we cannot marry atheists’ statement. (Not that I had time to comment earlier.) Very nice way to dodge looking at your own biased views: do not blame me, it is how god wants it.

    Asshole.

  73. #73 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Feynmaniac, that is because asshole is defining himself against what he thinks atheist are instead of defining himself as a dogmatic believer.

  74. #74 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad,

    I wonder how many of those people who answered negatively would be able to cite that passage. In any case, using Biblical justification doesn’t mean it isn’t fear-based.

    I already mentioned one internet atheist commandment. Another is: “we know the bible better than the Christians.”

    I’ll also note that 52% of Americans wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified atheist for president

    Again, that is because they don’t agree with you–not because they are afraid. Assume your vision is attained and, say, 80% of the population is atheist–do you think an evangelical Christian will get elected? Truthfully?

    Anyway, if you don’t care about atheists why do spend so much time here and why do you have a big scarlet A (a popular symbol for atheists) with a bar over it (used to denote an anti-particle) on your blog?

    Maybe as everyone likes to point out I am not representative of Christians. Does your argument: You say most Christians don’t think about us but you clearly do actually appear to you (and others who make it) as having any significance?

    John Morales

    Of those 5%, what percentage is Calvinist?

    I don’t know–but unlike new atheism, to which Christendom mostly gives a yawn, it has noticed the rise of Calvinism.

    Can you provide a link to your church’s website, so that I may verify this claim?

    Reluctantly: “http://www.gracebaptistchapel.net” (using quotes because I think it will only allow me one link) And how do expect to verify? Will you demand a page that states: “We don’t pay much attention to the new atheism!”

    Reluctantly because I see as part of your ego-inflation what you do to internet polls.

  75. #75 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 29, 2010

    Wow. I like how he’s defending “You can’t marry atheists” as “We don’t care one bit about Atheists”.

    Absolutely fantastic. There’s no room for parody here.

  76. #76 Jeep-Eep
    April 29, 2010

    When is this guy going to get the banhammer? I mean, he’s already committed serveral counts of Grand Insipidity?

  77. #77 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    April 29, 2010

    heddle,

    I already mentioned one internet atheist commandment. Another is: “we know the bible better than the Christians.”

    This is just from my anectodal experience, but it largely seems to hold. There also have been many surveys out there to show that Christians don’t even know the very basics of the Bible.

    Anyway, explain how one can be indifferent to atheists and not want your child to marry one at the same time?

    Again, that is because they don’t agree with you–not because they are afraid.

    Please, they didn’t even state the political views. They just said ‘atheist’. 38% were unwilling to vote for a well-qualified Muslim. Do you think that isn’t based on fear?

    Assume your vision is attained and, say, 80% of the population is atheist–do you think an evangelical Christian will get elected? Truthfully?

    Your response to this real discrimination is a hypothetical one?

    I don’t know whether in such a scenario they would vote for a well-qualified Evangelical or not. The UK has a relatively large atheist population and they voted in Tony Blair. However, if a large portion of atheists said they wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified evangelical I would say they were wrong and wouldn’t try to justify it.

    Would you vote for a well-qualified atheist?

    Maybe as everyone likes to point out I am not representative of Christians.

    So you were wrong therefore to write:

    You can try that approach, but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you [Emphasis added]

  78. #78 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom

    Do you care to explain–or are you satisfied in declaring that they are inconsistent?

    After all, we would agree, I think, that the fairly widely-held prohibition or admonition (among evangelicals) against marrying unbelievers predates the rise of “new atheism.” So it can’t really be in response to some “fear” of new atheism.

    Why would “we don’t care about atheists” (not what I said–we do care about proselytizing atheists–what we don’t care about is whether you respect us or mock us–from the bible we fully expect that you won’t and you will) be inconsistent with a desire for our children not to marry an atheist? They are unrelated.

    If the bible had taught: marry unbelievers, that’s a good way to convert! Then that’s what we’d do–even though we still would not care if you respected or mocked us. They are unrelated–calling something “beyond parody” is a cop out, not an argument.

  79. #79 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    *yawn* @heddle, the all-knowing god-blitherer.

  80. #80 robinsrule
    April 29, 2010

    @heddle:

    The majority of Christians…are indifferent to you, certainly anything but afraid of you…

    What you’re afraid of is losing your faith.

  81. #81 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    I was an atheist scientist long before I was a Christian -
    heddle #54

    That is funny. Weren’t we all atheists until Christianity or another religion was pounded into our heads? So what happened with you assuming you made it to adulthood as an atheist? Did you find yourself in the company of enough deluded people that you decided to go along to get along, or what?

  82. #82 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 29, 2010

    Do you care to explain–or are you satisfied in declaring that they are inconsistent?

    Are you joking?
    Really?

    You don’t see how “We don’t care one bit about X” is contradicted by “By the way, you can’t do Y with X”? I’m not saying you have to fear us. I’m saying you can’t claim there’s an attitude of uncaring if you have an anti-X attitude.

    You’re a fucking idiot, Heddle. First the “You’re not treating God scientifically. obtw you have to accept his existence, then disprove it, I have no burden of proof”, now you’re just straight up lying. You know we can check on whether or not there are Christians who care about atheists, right?

    Oh look. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=3935043

    And don’t say “I didn’t say they didn’t care”.

    The majority of Christians I know (and I suspect I know a lot more than most of you) are indifferent to you

    Indifference is uncaring.

  83. #83 John Scanlon FCD
    April 29, 2010

    The invisible church pink unicorn is unaffected.

    There, fixed that for you.

  84. #84 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom,

    You are just declaring it again. If you can’t grasp that:

    We don’t care whether you respect us or mock us, and in fact we don’t think much about you at all

    is orthogonal to

    We don’t want out kids to marry atheists, because that is what the bible teaches

    then I don’t know what else to say. I gave you the scenario: If the bible told us to marry our children preferentially to unbelievers as a means of evangelism (it even sounds plausible), then that’s what we’d do–with no necessary change regarding the indifference about whether you respect us or mock us. They are unrelated. You didn’t counter that.

    As for the pope, I already addressed church leaders–perhaps you have data on how many of the world’s ~109 Catholics spend any time thinking about whether or not atheists respect Christians. (And it can be argued that the Vatican is, at the moment, on the extreme defensive.)

    You are simply not on our radar, except as people to evangelize and to befriend. But not because you are any sort of a threat to us.

  85. #85 Celtic_Evolution
    April 29, 2010

    Remember, Rutee… heddle is only talking about christians that fit into the same tiny little box he’s stuffed his idiosyncratic belief into, but thinks he can speak authoritatively about all christians, nonetheless.

    It’s a narrow platform, but heddle will try to balance on it anyhow… he’s no stranger to stubborn adherence to his own flawed thought process.

  86. #86 robinsrule
    April 29, 2010

    @heddle:

    I have never heard atheists mentioned in a sermon

    DO NOT google “sermon on atheism.”

    Incidentally there’s a fascinating article on catholic.com about a “Minnesota college professor” who received multiple Hosts in the mail, And Then He Threw the Hosts into His Garbage Can with Coffee Grounds and a Banana Peel!

  87. #87 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 29, 2010

    Oh my god. You either suck at language, or you don’t understand how
    “We don’t serve your kind here”
    is in direct opposition to
    “We don’t care about you”

    SPOILER ALERT: If you did not care about us, you would have 0 rules about us. See that? That’s a period. Not “0 rules, but…” I don’t care about skateboarders: Therefore, if I see one, my immediate reaction absent other factors is null. I don’t think to myself “Well golly gee, I can’t marry them because they skateboard”, because I don’t care about skateboarding.

    If you want to claim you used sloppy language, and only meant “We don’t care whether you mock us”, then that’s an option, but it’s not my fault you used sloppy language, so acting as if I’m the one at fault is as stupid as believing in an invisible sky fairy who somehow alters history in favor of the elect, and will give them sky cake for the rest of eternity after they die.

    Since you don’t believe in a wish granting one, I figure I’ll go ahead and alter the supposed parameters of the invisible sky fairy.

    As for the pope, I already addressed church leaders–perhaps you have data on how many of the world’s ~109 Catholics spend any time thinking about whether or not atheists respect Christians. (And it can be argued that the Vatican is, at the moment, on the extreme defensive.)

    Remember all those cases that came up around Christmastime about people whining about atheist solstice markers of various forms? Remember all that language about how Christmas and/or their beliefs were UNDER THREAT? Or how they were offensive?

    Nobody here will argue that a Christian spends all their time thinking about atheists (Though boy fucking howdy, for a guy who claims indifference to us, you’re sure around us a lot). But it’s trivial to point to times when you Christians claim we have you under threat, despite you being the majority. If you’d like to be stubborn about it, I really can waste a little time googling it, but I’d like to extend you the offer to join the rest of us in the real world and just remember ANY of them.

  88. #88 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Ruttee,

    Remember all those cases…

    Reflecting what percentage of Christians? Suppose there are 60 million Christians in the US. Did 10% scream about the war on Christmas? Did you hear 6 million whiners? Or was it 1%? Or maybe something closer to 600, or 0.001%–or was it even less than that?

    Is it really hard to grasp that people who are upset about, say, the so-called “war on Christmas” make noise, and people who aren’t upset about it, don’t? Not to mention that it is easier to get publicity if you scream bloody murder than if you yawn?

    Here is another example. I am sure I know more Christians than virtually everyone on here. I am also sure I know and interact with more atheist scientists than most people on here–although clearly by a much smaller margin.

    Not only are mainstream Christians not like those you might encounter screaming loudly about some perceived slight–most atheist scientists are not at all like PZ. The simple fact is the internet community, especially on sites such as this (or their Christian counterparts) isn’t the real world. Somehow you’re missing that boat.

    But hey, I’ve said enough. If you want to pretend that the new atheist movement is a big concern of ours–who am I to ruin your fantasy? Although going through life as a puffer fish seems rather unsatisfying.

  89. #89 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    I am sure I know more Christians than virtually everyone on here.

    Bwahahahahahahaha

  90. #90 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    Oh, I forgot. The ones the rest of us know aren’t “true” Christians. My bad.

  91. #91 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    Many of the 500,000 or however many priests heddle speaks of in #54 aren’t necessarily afraid of atheism and have likely flirted with atheism while trying to make sense of the theology they studied or perhaps are atheists themselves. What they are afraid of is losing their livelihood and their seat of power.

    Although going through life as a puffer fish seems rather unsatisfying.

    Ha! So says the physicist under the spell of the god delusion.

  92. #92 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 29, 2010

    Reflecting what percentage of Christians? Suppose there are 60 million Christians in the US. Did 10% scream about the war on Christmas? Did you hear 6 million whiners? Or was it 1%? Or maybe something closer to 600, or 0.001%–or was it even less than that?

    I don’t care. If the rest of you chose to let them speak and didn’t cuff them while calling them fools, then it stops being my problem if my default assumption is wrong.

    If Christians spoke out with vigour against the nonsense of the nutty complaints, then they might have cause to complain.

  93. #93 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    Exactly what Rutee said. If you (as a group, not you individually) let them speak for you without objection then it’s not our fault if their views are assumed to be accepted. Anecdotally, I don’t recall ever hearing a Christian complain that the “War on Christmas” is a bunch of crap and that the strident majority should shut up about it. The only people I see firing back at the WoC myth are Jews and atheists.

  94. #94 nigelTheBold
    April 29, 2010

    If you want to pretend that the new atheist movement is a big concern of ours–who am I to ruin your fantasy?

    I was married to a fundamentalist baptist christian for a few years, back when I was young and stupid and thought love was enough. Meeting her friends was almost the same every time. We’d meet and talk, and after a time they’d try to draw me into a conversation about how great god is. I’d tell them I was an atheist, and they would exclaim something stupid, like, “But you are so nice! I thought you were a Christian!”

    Then they’d try to convert me.

    While I wasn’t around, they would comment to my wife about my necessary immorality. More than one tried to convince her satan was using me to draw her away from her faith.

    For the most part, I think heddle is right. Most christians don’t think about atheists much, just like they don’t think about satanists much. Atheists just aren’t a part of their lives.

    However, I can state with much experience that, when confronted with an atheist, most christians I’ve met will react with quite a bit of discomfort, at a minimum. Some react with toxic fear, which drives them to poison a relationship. (Actual quote: “You can divorce him. It’s not like he’s a christian.” Yeah.) This claim that “most christians are indifferent to atheists,” seems to be a 930E-2 dumptruck’s load of bullshit. And since heddle presents only anecdotal evidence, I reckon my anecdotal evidence should be sufficient for him.

    When drawn into a conversation about religion, most are not prepared for an actual discussion on scripture. Most are not prepared for the rampant regicide committed by their old-testament heroes, for instance. (Usually, they resort to the “those were different times,” arguments. Which inevitably leads to the question, “So that which offends god depends on the times in which you live?”)

    In any case, I don’t think most christians think about atheists much, because they are not presented with real atheists very often. We’re lumped in the same category as the mythical satanists — something talked about in the abstract, but usually avoided as it makes them uncomfortable.

    I’m not sure if that’s “indifference,” or just willful ignorance. I’m thinking the latter, as willful ignorance seems to be a habit with many (most?) christians I’ve met.

    (And yes, heddle, I’ve met quite a few in my time, especially during the years I was dating, and then married to, a fundamentalist baptist. As an atheist among christians, I have a pretty good clue how they tend to react to, and treat, atheists.)

    That said, I’ve also met very accepting christians. I’m not sure what it means, but many deal with me by saying I’m “spiritual,” so I must not be an atheist. (I don’t know what the hell they mean by that, but so far two different people have said almost exactly that.)

  95. #95 Celtic_Evolution
    April 29, 2010

    heddle: the exception that proves the rule…

  96. #96 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    KOPD,

    I don’t recall ever hearing a Christian complain that the “War on Christmas” is a bunch of crap and that the strident majority should shut up about it.

    Really. I said something to that effect a) on here b) on Brayton’s blog c) on my blog. On multiple occasions. Around Christmas I usually stroll about looking for the inevitable and fatuous “Christians don’t even know they stole Christmas from the pagans” comment. Mostly I then echo what I learned in church–that the bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate Jesus’ birth–only his death and resurrection–and that we co-opted Christmas from the pagans. But hey, I’m just a Baptist in a southern church–not at all representative of American Christianity.

  97. #97 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    Well, I’m glad to know there’s one Christian who’s got a problem with the WoC crowd.

    So to bring it back to:

    Reflecting what percentage of Christians? Suppose there are 60 million Christians in the US. Did 10% scream about the war on Christmas? Did you hear 6 million whiners? Or was it 1%? Or maybe something closer to 600, or 0.001%–or was it even less than that?

    If there are 0.001% of Christians saying something, I can now cite 0.0000017% speaking out against them. Incidentally, pointing out that it is only a small percentage of theists saying something is an argument that won’t always work. Religious leaders happen to be a small minority of believers. What counts is if people are shouting them down. And you’re going to have to do better than 0.0000017% before I’ll believe that the average Christian is on your side of the issue and not the other.

  98. #98 Zabinatrix
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle,

    Around Christmas I usually stroll about looking for the inevitable and fatuous “Christians don’t even know they stole Christmas from the pagans” comment.

    If you don’t care about atheists, why do you spend so much time “strolling around” their blogs and correcting their misrepresentations of you?

    Anyway… That whole “Christians don’t know they stole Christmas from the pagans”-comment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It doesn’t come out of the blue.

    Every year it is repeated – that’s true – but it’s repeated as a direct response to all those Christians who tell us that a) non-Christians shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate at Christmas (I was even told this by a school teacher in very not religious Sweden!), b) atheists/people from non-Christian religions are waging a war on Christmas and c) good Christians must fight back and regain their holiday.

    I mean, good for you that you know the truth about Christmas and its origins. That’s all fine and dandy.

    But that you and your church knows this, doesn’t make the comment “fatuous” – it is still true about very vocal Christians that we have to listen to every Christmas. That you aren’t one of them doesn’t make their shouts about the “War on Christmas” go away – and until they do go away, you can expect us to reply to it.

  99. #99 nigelTheBold
    April 29, 2010

    But hey, I’m just a Baptist in a southern church–not at all representative of American Christianity.

    What is “American Christianity,” precisely?

  100. #100 ehlsever
    April 29, 2010

    heddle,
    You believe the bible is true because it says so in the bible, that’s why your arguments are unpersuasive to people with functioning critical thinking skills. You are like Elmer Fudd shooting himself in the face after Bugs bends the barrel around into a U.

  101. #101 Celtic_Evolution
    April 29, 2010

    But hey, I’m just a Baptist in a southern church–not at all representative of American Christianity.

    heddle, as a former mainstream American Christian who is still in a family of them, and having listened for a long time to you describe your idiosyncratic, semi-Calvanistic notion of god I can tell you that you are not remotely representative of American Christianity. At all. Not close.

    That you think you are may very well be a large portion of your problem with the way we approach christianity on this blog.

  102. #102 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    You believe the bible is true because it says so in the bible,

    Actually, heddle has said he believes the bible is true because he assumes it is. If only I could assume my car is paid off…

  103. #103 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Although going through life as a puffer fish seems rather unsatisfying.

    And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become chefs of fugu.

    That must be much more satisfying, especially if one takes a yearly break to stroll around looking for the inevitable and fatuous.

  104. #104 nigelTheBold
    April 29, 2010

    Actually, heddle has said he believes the bible is true because he assumes it is.

    How do you calculate the mass of an elephant?

    First, assume the elephant is a sphere…

    (Sorry. Old freshman physics joke.)

  105. #105 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Celtic Evolution,

    I can tell you that you are not remotely representative of American Christianity. At all. Not close.

    Yes that’s one possibility. The other is that every time I remind you that you are arguing against a stereotype the only comeback you have is “You are an outlyer. You don’t count. We know Christians and you are not like the ones we know. You are inconvenient. It’s not sporting that you say Christians are not like we say they are. Go away.”

    I agree that one of those possibilities is probably correct.

  106. #106 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    I wish I met more Christians that don’t so easily fit the stereotype.

  107. #107 MrFire
    April 29, 2010

    But not because you are any sort of a threat to us.

    That is quite possibly true.

    In my opinion, your biggest threat is: time. I contend that Christianity will one day pass into the annals of history, like so many religions before it. Alternatively, it may morph into something barely recognizable, the way St. Peter might find most of today’s Christian doctrines (all 30,000 or whatever sets of them).

  108. #108 Jadehawk, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I wish I met more Christians that don’t so easily fit the stereotype.

    ditto. Almost the only ones that don’t are the sort of nominal Christians heddle seems to consider atheists, if his description of himself pre-current-state-of-beliefs is anything to go by (for example my “evangelical christian” friend who believes that after people die, they get the afterlife we believe in, so atheists stop existing, buddhist and hindus reincarnate, etc.)

  109. #109 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    In my opinion, your biggest threat is: time. I contend that Christianity will one day pass into the annals of history
    -MrFire

    You mean Jebus won’t be returning?  :`(  *sniffle*

  110. #110 Zabinatrix
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle,

    the only comeback you have is “You are an outlyer. You don’t count. We know Christians and you are not like the ones we know. You are inconvenient. It’s not sporting that you say Christians are not like we say they are. Go away.”

    I would think that most people here (though of course I can only speak for myself) don’t care if you are an outlyer or representative of True Christians

  111. #111 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    I wish I met more Christians that don’t so easily fit the stereotype.

    Actually, I misspoke.
    I wish I met less Christians that do so easily fit the stereotype.

    There’s a difference.

  112. #112 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    for example my “evangelical christian” friend who believes that after people die, they get the afterlife we believe in, so atheists stop existing, buddhist and hindus reincarnate, etc.

    Strippers and beer volcanoes for me! w00t!!

  113. #113 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Zabinatrix,

    What we do is talk about the things that we know happen, regardless of if they are representative of the typical member of the religion or not – simply because they do happen and do matter.

    Fair enough, but I think you are being generous if you contend that most of the arguments here are not generalized to, say “Christians.” For example, my first post on this thread was in response to the claim:

    The greatest fear of the religious is not active atheism (however militant) it is rather indifference and ridicule.

    That was general, not specific.

    If there is an discussion of something stupid a specific Christian (say Pat Robertson or James Dobson) does, I am more likely to join the criticism than to oppose it.

  114. #114 CJO
    April 29, 2010

    If there is an discussion of something stupid a specific Christian (say Pat Robertson or James Dobson) does, I am more likely to join the criticism than to oppose it.

    For selected values of “stupid”, I’m sure that’s true. But I consider stupid elaborate apologetic edifices designed to shield the Bible from the obvious criticism that it’s an ancient anthology of texts of entirely human provenance that enshrine a pre-modern system of thought that is in direct conflict with the modern empirical understanding of the universe.

  115. #115 nigelTheBold
    April 29, 2010
    The greatest fear of the religious is not active atheism (however militant) it is rather indifference and ridicule.

    That was general, not specific.

    So general, in fact, that it encompasses much more than christianity. Also, “indifference and ridicule” does not specify that atheists will be the ones being indifferent, or ridiculing.

    In fact, isn’t that what’s happening to christianity in general today? A lot of the christians I know seem to be fairly indifferent about their beliefs. So much so, they no longer attend church, or otherwise practice their professed religion. Wasn’t there recently some telling statistics about the number of christians in the US, vs. the number who attend church regularly?

    There was nothing claimed about the effects of atheism, apart from our participation in indifference and ridicule. (Huh. I wonder how you participate in indifference?)

  116. #116 MrFire
    April 29, 2010

    You mean Jebus won’t be returning? :`( *sniffle*

    Sadly, no. But I’m sure you can go back in time and catch him bathing, the way Stewie Griffin did.

    *cannot find link to scene, dammit*

  117. #117 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    If there is an discussion of something stupid a specific Christian (say Pat Robertson or James Dobson) does, I am more likely to join the criticism than to oppose it.

    Yes that’s one possibility. The other is that you’ll neither join it nor oppose it but instead focus on some other generalised comment(s) about Christians and spend your time letting us know why they’re unfair, ill-informed, and unrepresentative of your beliefs, before launching into an explanation of what Christianity really is and believes.

    If Christians on average really lived up this claim (and you’re not the first to make it, so maybe you are representative after all), then us insignificant atheists would have no religion to rail against since you’d all be doing such a bang-up job of policing yourselves.

    If you’ve got a beef with specific Christians like Pat Robertson or James Dobson, then put down the fucking violin and make it, rather than waiting to see that we make it first in a form that’s inoffensive and palatable enough for you to agree with.

  118. #118 Zabinatrix
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle,

    Fair enough, but I think you are being generous if you contend that most of the arguments here are not generalized to, say “Christians.”

    I was actually going to mention that too, but I seem to have skipped it :)

    Anyway, I agree that many statements here may sound very general, talking about “Christians”, “Muslims”, et cetera, but I do not think that this is because we actually believe in over generalizations. My view (again I can only speak about what goes on in my mind, but it is what I believe is the general sentiment here) is that we just sometimes tend to speak a bit lazily about some things here.

    For example; when creationists stunt science education somewhere, while waving around Bible quotes, it’s so much easier to express our outrage by saying “Christians should stop pushing their religious views in science classes!” instead of saying “The subset of Christians who are creationists and members of the subset of creationists who push their creationism as science should stop doing that!”

    It’s still true to say, for instance, “Christians try to destroy science education” – because there are some Christians who do that. But I would agree that the statement can sound as if we’re saying that all Christians do things like that. It doesn’t have to be interpreted that way, but it can be.

    My belief is that most, if not all, people here do not generalize as much in their head as they can appear to do in writing.

    I for one express myself much more carefully in real life, and outside the confines of “New Atheist” websites, but in here I’ll speak in a more lazy manner. Because I expect people to understand that when I complain about Christians (or members of another religious group) doing something bad because of their religion, I am complaining only about those particular Christians who do that particular thing – not all Christians.

  119. #119 MrFire
    April 29, 2010

    For selected values of “stupid”, I’m sure that’s true. But I consider stupid elaborate apologetic edifices designed to shield the Bible from the obvious criticism that it’s an ancient anthology of texts of entirely human provenance that enshrine a pre-modern system of thought that is in direct conflict with the modern empirical understanding of the universe.

    Holy shit. This!

  120. #120 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Brownian OM,

    If you’ve got a beef with specific Christians like Pat Robertson or James Dobson, then put down the fucking violin and make it, rather than waiting to see that we make it first in a form that’s inoffensive and palatable enough for you to agree with.

    I do it all the time on my blog. And not just for the target rich B-listers like Robertson, but for personal heroes too. As is often the case, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  121. #121 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I do it all the time on my blog.

    Are the generalisations about Christians that you object to by people here being made on your blog? If so, then why are you barking about it here? If not, then you can take your blog, print it out, roll it up, and insert in into your rectum right next to the diverticulum from which you pull your apologetics.

    As is often the case, you don’t know what you are talking about.

    I’ll file that under ‘unsupported assertions made by Heddle’ along with all of your claims about what Christians do and do not believe.

  122. #122 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Brownian OM,

    If you’ve got a beef with specific Christians like Pat Robertson or James Dobson, then put down the fucking violin and make it, rather than waiting to see that we make it first in a form that’s inoffensive and palatable enough for you to agree with.

    I do it all the time on my blog. And not just for the target rich B-listers like Robertson, but for personal heroes too. As is often the case, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  123. #123 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    *cannot find link to scene, dammit*
    MrFire #116

    Neither can I, but I do know it is from “Boys Do Cry” Season 5 Episode 15.

    Sadly, no. But I’m sure you can go back in time and catch him bathing, the way Stewie Griffin did.

    :)   Well, the thought is comforting. Apparently that scene offended many believers who tuned in to watch it.

  124. #124 PZ Myers
    April 29, 2010

    You fools. Once again, Heddle sucks you right into his game: he believes in batshit crazy stuff, will not defend his insanity at all, and is just sitting there sublime in his certainty, and feeling all smug and sanctimonious because you crazy people think you can get through to him with reason.

    You can’t. He’s nuts.

  125. #125 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Sorry for the double post.

    Brownian OM,

    Ignoring the fact that I refuted his previous charge of never criticizing Christians– only the way they are criticized on here– and moving the goalposts, writes:

    Are the generalisations about Christians that you object to by people here being made on your blog? If so, then why are you barking about it here?

    Do you read what you write? Are you saying that a blog with a comment facility such as this one is not the place to raise objection to posts or other comments? What are the comments for, backslapping?

  126. #126 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 29, 2010

    You can’t. He’s nuts.

    Let killfile be your friend. If everybody ignored him, I foresee a starfart meltdown…

  127. #127 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Do you read what you write? Are you saying that a blog with a comment facility such as this one is not the place to raise objection to posts or other comments? What are the comments for, backslapping?

    This blog is as good a place as any to raise objections to people like Dobson and Robertson. Why did you not simply point out instances here where you did that, rather than linking to your blog?

  128. #128 KOPD
    April 29, 2010

    Nerd:
    I wish I could killfile in Chrome. I have a real love/hate relationship with Chrome. But that’s a topic for a different thread.

  129. #129 MrFire
    April 29, 2010

    Apparently that scene offended many believers who tuned in to watch it.

    Hee. Might well have something to do with it not being available online, I suppose. Which is not so Hee.

    You fools. Once again, Heddle sucks you right into his game:

    But it seems, by your deciding to comment, that he has gotten to you too!

  130. #130 MrFire
    April 29, 2010

    P.S. Heddle: Have you described your conversion to Christianity, either on your blog or elsewhere?
    I am curious to know your epiphany moment, if there was a specific one.

  131. #131 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Going back to the original comment by the Christan who cares enough to let us know that Christians don’t care:

    I said this on this blog some time ago?maybe two years ago?so we can add another two years worth of sermons: I have never heard atheists mentioned in a sermon, other than as general targets for proselytizing. Never as a threat. Never as a group that gives us no respect. Never as a group that mocks us.

    It would appear this Christian begs to differ. I guess your church and its atheist-free sermons aren’t as representative as you think.

    You can try that approach, but the truth is simple: we don?t think about you, and we don?t need or crave your respect.

    Thanks for spending some time—oh, maybe two years— letting us know how off your radar we are.

    I’m not sure where you live, but perhaps you might find a nearby anthill to which you might send the occupants missive after missive explaining how you never think about them. I’ll bet they’re just as eager as we are to hear your views on Christ, too.

  132. #132 bopnoh10
    April 29, 2010

    Does anyone know where I can find additional footage of the clip where the muslim expert says that the penalty for apostasy is death?

    thanks

  133. #133 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    the penalty for apostasy is death?

    Have you taken a look over at http://richarddawkins.net/ ?

  134. #134 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    @ Brownian, OM

    Thanks for spending some time?oh, maybe two years? letting us know how off your radar we are.

    Still twisting “logic” after all of these years….and like so many woo-meisters, smug and arrogant about it.

    I haven’t killfiled him, though, it’s kind of amusing watching him drive people nuts.

  135. #135 Gregory Greenwood
    April 29, 2010

    Heddle;

    I cannot speak for my fellow Pharyngulites, but if, as you claim, most christians are blithely unconcerned about atheism then this is a situation that I could happily live with.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be a solid argument for the proposition that a substantial number of theists are actively hostile to atheism. Not so much to actual atheists as to the ‘baby-eating godless abomination’ stereotype that some clerics and christian activists propogate. The reason why an openly atheist politician could never aspire to the Presidency in the contemporary US is because prejorative assumptions about what atheism stands for are so widespread.

    If christians such as yourself choose to believe in what, to an atheist such as myself, frankly seems like a ludicrous (not to mention somewhat dark and twisted) fairy tale then this is your perogative. However, the moment that such belief is used to attempt to pass laws based on religious doctorine, or to identify groups such as believers of other theologies/women/homosexuals atheists as second class citizens or as some kind of threat to the ‘true’ social values of a given culture by virtue of no more than their gender/sexual orientation/failure to privilige your mythology over rational thought or an alternative mythology, then religion has polluted the rightful sphere of secular law and has become a threat to the wellbeing of society and to individual liberty.

    Short of the indoctrination of vulnerable minds and the abuse of your fellow citizens and the rule of secular law, I am quite happy to ignore the religious and am happy in turn to be ignored by them. Unfortunately, as of the current moment, many religious groups are not prepared to keep their religious beliefs out of politics or their collective noses out of other people’s business (and in particular out of other people’s bedrooms).

    Until all religious groups acknowlege that the proper place for religion is as a form of individual observance and not as a model of government, then atheists such as myself will continue tweeking the tale of this particular would-be lion.

    As a side note, in relation to your post @ 58 where you said;

    You are aware that many Christians interpret (correctly, in my opinion–but correctly or not doesn’t really matter) 2 Cor. 6:14 as a strong admonition if not prohibition against marrying an unbeliever?

    Are you really saying that you would deny one of your children (if you have any, hypothetically if you do not) the possibility of finding happiness with a person who they are in love with and who would be, in all other respects, a perfect match simply because of an injunction in an ancient book?

    An ancient book that has been (often poorly) translated half a dozen times into various langauges that do not have exact equivilents of various phrases in the original text?

    An ancient book that for a long time was only available in high Latin, a language that few outside the clergy of the era spoke, and that, all evidence suggests, may have been extensively altered to service the political needs of the church on numerous occasions?

    Does this not strike you as potentially foolhardy, not to mention a shade bigoted? Is any christian really automatically preferable to any atheist? Is a christian who happens to be an alchoholic and a spousal abuser preferable to an atheist who is neither? Are your breliefs more important to you than your child’s happiness? If so, does not this narcisistic self-obsession worry you?

    As for the idea that god disbars such a match, would the christian ‘god of love’ really condemn someone for marrying an ‘unbeliever’ irrespective of the personal affection they share for one another? Or condemn the unbeliever simply for following the evidence that, as a christian, you surely believe was put in place either by that deity or at least with its knowledge and, one assumes, consent as some kind of perverse mind game? If so, then I would humbly submit that the god you believe in would have to be borderline psychotic, or at the very least a celestial tyrant utterly unworthy of your devotion.

    Which ever way you spin it, christianity and the christian concept of god does not come out of this very well.

  136. #136 CJO
    April 29, 2010

    a celestial tyrant utterly unworthy of your devotion

    Speak for yourself. Heddle loves Big Brother.

  137. #137 Gregory Greenwood
    April 29, 2010

    CJO @ 136;

    I fear you may be right. Still, I think I put forth a reasonable position. It will be interesting to see what Heddle’s take on this is, assuming he/she chooses to reply.

  138. #138 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Speak for yourself. Heddle loves Big Brother.

    THERE. ARE. FOUR. CHRISTIANS!…and they all go to my church where we never, ever, ever discuss atheists…”

  139. #139 Gregory Greenwood
    April 29, 2010

    Brownian @ 138;

    The ‘no true scotsman’ does seem strong in this one…

  140. #140 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    You’ve been around for awhile, Gregory. Have you never before had an encounter with Heddle?

    Just visited his blog for the first time in years. Noticed that no fewer than four of the ten posts on the first page deal explicitly with atheists or atheism, all of which is just so terribly, terribly uninteresting to a Christian such as himself.

    Don’t expect anything meaningful out of him.

  141. #141 Sastra
    April 29, 2010

    heddle #88 wrote:

    But hey, I’ve said enough. If you want to pretend that the new atheist movement is a big concern of ours–who am I to ruin your fantasy?

    I think robinsrule put it well at #80:

    What you’re afraid of is losing your faith.

    Not you, specifically (necessarily), but Christians and theists in general. It’s not the threat from without (atheist hoards!), but the threat from within. Becoming indifferent towards God. Having doubt. Dropping away. Watching your children drop away. Losing faith.

    There may not be many sermons against atheists in your church — or even against atheism per se — but I am going to guess that there is quite a bit of concern expressed about keeping faith, valuing faith, understanding faith, and defending faith. Believe. There are good reasons to believe.

    The reasons not to believe, are not good.

    Don’t be swayed by them. And don’t be swayed by a culture that values faith, less and less.

    The fact that you think that those who remain are somehow more pure and true, obscures the fact that that’s what you conclude after the fact, when people have already fallen away or been persuaded to change their minds. Good riddance, we didn’t want them. But before people actually leave religion, they are Believers in peril. Insiders.

    Hence, I think, the concern about the vital importance of keeping faith, and the indifference towards the atheists on the outside.

  142. #142 WowbaggerOM
    April 29, 2010

    heddle isn’t afraid of other people losing their faith because, according to his interpretation of scripture, you can only become a Christian if god magically changes you into a believer. As there is no way of undoing that – it means there are no ex-Christians, only those who thought they were Christians but really weren’t.

    This – combined with comments on other threads about his belief that God is not omnibenevolent -makes his statement of being a representative of ‘typical’ American Christianity even more laughable.

  143. #143 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Gregory Greenwood ,

    The reason why an openly atheist politician could never aspire to the Presidency in the contemporary US is because prejorative assumptions about what atheism stands for are so widespread.

    No, the reason is identify politics. People vote for candidates they perceive as being like themselves. Would you not be happy if a candidate was open about his atheism? If he was running against an equally open evangelical, would the atheist not have an edge out of the box in your mind? Or are you claiming that if you rated them on all issues and the atheist had a score of 67.7 and the flaming evangelical was 67.9, you?d vote for the evangelical?

    However, the moment that such belief is used to attempt to pass laws based on religious doctorine, or to identify groups such as believers of other theologies/women/homosexuals atheists as second class citizens or as some kind of threat to the ‘true’ social values of a given culture by virtue of no more than their gender/sexual orientation/failure to privilige your mythology over rational thought or an alternative mythology, then religion has polluted the rightful sphere of secular law and has become a threat to the wellbeing of society and to individual liberty.

    Well I am very much pro separation of church and state?after all we Baptists more or less invented the concept. And I despise mixing religion with politics. I despise the religious right?I think they not doing what is honoring to God. On the other hand we have a constitution and that provides rules. If Christians are out to circumvent the constitution that?s one thing. For the most part they aren?t. Despite raven?s black-helicopter John-Birch-like insistence that there is a dominionist under every bed, they are in fact a quite rare breed (and getting smaller, not bigger). Other things like pushing for anti-abortion laws?well thems the rules. If you get the laws passed and they pass constitution muster?then it?s just like any other law you don?t like. All you can do is try to vote the bums out. But they are not doing anything wrong–they are being citizens.

    Are you really saying that you would deny one of your children (if you have any, hypothetically if you do not) the possibility of finding happiness with a person who they are in love with and who would be, in all other respects, a perfect match simply because of an injunction in an ancient book?

    No, I would advise them against it. If they didn?t heed the advice nothing in our relationship would change. And their spouse would be treated with love and respect, welcomed into the family with open arms, etc.

    An ancient book that for a long time was only available in high Latin, a language that few outside the clergy of the era spoke, and that, all evidence suggests, may have been extensively altered to service the political needs of the church on numerous occasions?

    Actually the evidence does not suggest that. It is true that Jerome made some egregious errors with the Vulgate, and the authorized King James has quite a few god-awful errors and some obvious additions, but we don?t operate on translations of translations. The newer scholarly translations use the older manuscripts and newer scholarship techniques than the King James translators used. While there are undoubtedly some errors, as with any human endeavor the situation is not nearly as dire as you suggest. In this regard things get better over time, they don’t deteriorate.

    In fact since the latest translations use the earliest manuscripts, it would be impossible for you to back up your claim unless a) you found even older manuscripts or b) you demonstrated how the newest scholarly translations mistranslated the manuscripts. So where is your information that the newest translations, for example the ESV, have altered the manuscripts?

    Does this not strike you as potentially foolhardy, not to mention a shade bigoted? Is any christian really automatically preferable to any atheist?

    It strikes me as a shade bigoted that God commanded Joshua to commit genocide?but there it is. And any Christian is not automatically preferable to any atheist?in fact strangely enough (you wouldn’t know it from here) I tend to get along with atheists better than I do with Christians–I’m a bit to “earthy” for many Christians. It is not that an atheist is never preferred (as in seems like a better ?catch?), just like for the ancient Jews it was clear that A Jewish spouse was not always preferred, but rather that a Christian spouse is strongly suggested if not commanded in the bible. The reasons would vary depending on whether you subscribe to covenant theology or not, but they are never ?because atheists are yucky people.?

    As for the idea that god disbars such a match, would the christian ‘god of love’ really condemn someone for marrying an ‘unbeliever’ irrespective of the personal affection they share for one another?

    I don?t know where you got such a notion or what you mean by disbar?but on the contrary every indication would be that the marriage between an unbeliever and a believer (that was my case, by the way, with my wife being the believer) is just as sacred as the marriage between believers: For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor. 7:14). So you are not condemned by god if you marry an unbeliever. We don?t do what the bible teaches because we will be condemned if we don?t obey, we do it because of a desire to please god. You have a distorted view of Christianity and grace. A common misconception?even among all the experts on Pharyngula.

    If so, then I would humbly submit that the god you believe in would have to be borderline psychotic, or at the very least a celestial tyrant utterly unworthy of your devotion.

    So most people on here say. Although I don?t see them worshiping the ?nice? version of god either?so genteel old man or absolute sovereign monarch with a mean streak?it’s really all the same to you, isn?t it?

    sastra,

    but I am going to guess that there is quite a bit of concern expressed about keeping faith, valuing faith, understanding faith, and defending faith. Believe. There are good reasons to believe.

    That’s very true. But even then there is not a fear that atheists can challenge your faith–the primary concerns are materialism, sensuality, and unbridled individualism. (In many ways the American ethos is at odds with Christianity–a peculiar thing.)

  144. #144 ehlsever
    April 29, 2010

    The reasons not to believe, are not good.

    “Only SATAN would say there’s no such thing as GOD! Don’t fall for his evil tricks!!”

    I grew up in a fairly moderate, tolerant, New Testament-y Good News-y church – no snake handling or speaking in tongues, not a lot of fire and brimstone – and even in a place like that, it was made pretty clear that atheists worshiped the devil and tortured small animals just for fun.

  145. #145 Shala
    April 29, 2010

    How to kill God?

    By using the POWER! (/Grahf)

    Or perhaps Pun-Pun…

  146. #146 Meathead
    April 29, 2010

    @142: Our Hedley Lamarr* here is indeed a Calvinist. I knew some of these people when I was a Christian. They register an 11 on the 1-10 smug scale and are shameless about their behavior since God chose them, often in spite of their actions. So you can’t shame them. It’s really the perfect form of Christianity. You get to do whatever you want and still look down on the unsaved. There’s none of that stupid guilt the Catholics and the Baptists have to put up with. You can be as corrupt as you want in the certain knowledge that God loves you and hates the unsaved for his own inscrutable reasons. There’s even a whole political cult in the US Congress based on this theology. Look it up: it’s called “the Family”. Chris Hedges wrote a book on them.

    * Somebody needs to go back and get a shitload of dimes.

  147. #147 Sastra
    April 29, 2010

    heddle #143 wrote:

    But even then there is not a fear that atheists can challenge your faith–the primary concerns are materialism, sensuality, and unbridled individualism.

    Certainly. But the concern here is with slacking, with failing to live up to one’s own values and ideals. I suspect that the fear of intellectual challenge to faith — the loss of faith through following one’s ideals — may be the elephant in the room which nobody notices, or mentions, in hopes that it won’t be considered an option. Faith itself, must remain a virtue, a sign of loyalty, strength, and depth. The focus on loss of faith as surrendering to the weaknesses of the flesh may be part of the design to marginalize the dangers of genuine atheism — a gradual shift towards ethical humanism, and scientific naturalism.

    I suppose it may be self-serving on my part — you’ll probably consider it so — but the fact that the threat of atheism is apparently not even on the radar of the churchgoers you know best, is actually a little heartening to me.

    Know how I think we kill a god? By making it more and more reasonable.

  148. #148 heddle
    April 29, 2010

    Meathead,

    You get to do whatever you want and still look down on the unsaved.

    Amazing. Someone will play the “you get to do whatever you want card” as if it might be, somehow, insightful. As if it might be accurate. (This is, you realize, like coming on Pharyngula and challenging PZ with “if man descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

    ehlserver,

    I grew up in a fairly moderate, tolerant, New Testament-y Good News-y church – no snake handling or speaking in tongues, not a lot of fire and brimstone – and even in a place like that, it was made pretty clear that atheists worshiped the devil and tortured small animals just for fun.

    I doubt that.

    sastra,

    I suspect that the fear of intellectual challenge to faith — the loss of faith through following one’s ideals — may be the elephant in the room which nobody notices, or mentions, in hopes that it won’t be considered an option. Faith itself, must remain a virtue, a sign of loyalty, strength, and depth.

    I can’t say you are wrong because I can’t read minds. But Christians. for the most part, are very open about periods when their faith was/is weak. We are not stoics. If you meet a Christian who says his faith never wavers–you are likely to think he is lying.

  149. #149 Sastra
    April 29, 2010

    heddle #148 wrote:

    But Christians. for the most part, are very open about periods when their faith was/is weak.

    Of course; this is one reason why I think you may be mistaken, when you say that Christians (or most Christians, or the best Christians, or your friends, or whatever) are indifferent to atheism. The strategy of faith-building, or shoring up faith, is an attempt to keep belief in the category of confident trust and hope.

    Atheists are trying to change the entire framework of belief from “losing one’s faith” to “changing one’s mind.”

  150. #150 WowbaggerOM
    April 29, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    I doubt that.

    Why? He’s hardly the only person who’s ever said that, and that includes numerous posters who were once members of Christian churches. You might want to doubt that, but that’s not the same thing.

    Handwave and tapdance all you like but reality says otherwise: Christians are demonstrably concerned by atheism. Which means that of all the things your denial inspires you to come here and argue with those atheists who you claim you don’t spend any time thinking about – a delicious irony – this is probably the most ridiculous.

    And that’s saying something.

  151. #151 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    I doubt that.
    heddle #148

    That statement just about makes my head explode. How can you repeatedly doubt what we say about our personal experiences with other Christians but still believe all that religious bullshit? How about turning your doubt-o-meter onto your own personal beliefs with the same tenacity you use on ours?

    This is, you realize, like coming on Pharyngula and challenging PZ with “if man descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

    How is someone deliberately misunderstanding a science the same as someone not getting a bunch of theological bullshit right? You can’t compare the two, heddle. Such a smug response merely supports Meathead’s contention.

  152. #152 Kel, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I doubt that.

    You doubt that, but not that the bible is the inerrant word of an infinite deity that intervenes in the affairs of humanity? Your baloney detection kit is misfiring ;)

  153. #153 WowbaggerOM
    April 29, 2010

    aratina cage wrote:

    How can you repeatedly doubt what we say about our personal experiences with other Christians but still believe all that religious bullshit?

    Because we didn’t creep into his bedroom one night and sprinkle magic pixie dust over him like his god did.

    That’s the thing people have to remember about heddle; as rational a house as he likes to build, underneath it all is a foundation of the worst kind of rotten, woo-soaked nonsense with nothing more compelling than any other emotionally-held, reason-deprived belief system.

  154. #154 aratina cage
    April 29, 2010

    Because we didn’t creep into his bedroom one night and sprinkle magic pixie dust over him like his god did.

    LOL, Wowbagger. God does share one prominent quality with Tinkerbell: he dies if you don’t believe in him.

    If you believe in God fairies, clap your hands! If you believe in God fairies, say, “I do!”

    I do believe in God fairies! I do! I do!

  155. #155 Anri
    April 30, 2010

    If the bible told us to marry our children preferentially to unbelievers as a means of evangelism (it even sounds plausible), then that’s what we’d do–with no necessary change regarding the indifference about whether you respect us or mock us. They are unrelated. You didn’t counter that.

    And if the bible were to tell us to kill our kids for backtalking, then we’d…

    oh, um, never mind.

    Would you not be happy if a candidate was open about his atheism? If he was running against an equally open evangelical, would the atheist not have an edge out of the box in your mind?

    Yes, because we consider atheism a rational, reality-based position. I would like it even more if the were to say “Mind you own damn business.”

    Or are you claiming that if you rated them on all issues and the atheist had a score of 67.7 and the flaming evangelical was 67.9, you?d vote for the evangelical?

    If you are asking if a hypothetical atheist Ronald Regan would have gotten my vote over Jimmy Carter, the answer is no.

    Amazing. Someone will play the “you get to do whatever you want card” as if it might be, somehow, insightful. As if it might be accurate.

    Ok, then, heddle, maybe I’m misunderstanding your faith, but could you tell us the top three things someone who has been chosen by your god to go to heaven could do to keep himself from going there?
    Remember, that if you assume that all one of the chosen wants to do are godly acts, then “get to do whatever you want” is exactly the point that was raised.

  156. #156 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    April 30, 2010

    So most people on here say. Although I don?t see them worshiping the ?nice? version of god either?so genteel old man or absolute sovereign monarch with a mean streak?it’s really all the same to you, isn?t it?

    It is. They’re both fake. Fucking idiot.
    If a hippy god were real, he might actually get my worship though, for what it’s worth. But the biblical god is YHVH the tyrant. Even if he were real, if the best mandate he’s got is “I’m the strongerest”, then I’d rather be struck down.

    You have a distorted view of Christianity and grace. A common misconception?even among all the experts on Pharyngula.

    Take it up with your fellow Christians, you fucking arrogant asshole. It’s not my fault that I was threatened with hellfire from the age of 10 onward by a catholic mother.

    If I don’t give two shits about God’s Saving Grace* specifically, it’s because I had my fill of all your bullshit already.

    It strikes me as a shade bigoted that God commanded Joshua to commit genocide?but there it is.

    So God said to, and that makes it okay. And you wonder why we question Christian morality. Fucking amazing assholes.

    How is someone deliberately misunderstanding a science the same as someone not getting a bunch of theological bullshit right? You can’t compare the two, heddle. Such a smug response merely supports Meathead’s contention.

    In case you have a hard time keeping up, Heddle, the difference is that the science is empirically true and verifiable, whereas the theological bullshit is argument by incredibly smug assertion.

    Or perhaps Pun-Pun…

    Pun-Pun loses in 2 seconds by virtue of the DM going ATATATATATATATATATATA on you the second you say the first Pazuzu. I hate bad rules lawyering even more then I hate religion, probably because it gives lawyers a bad name.

    *Actually, I do know what Grace is. Hell, I even know it as you define it. I read slacktivist blog in its nigh entirety, and with polite deference to a polite guest, read the religious treatise bits as well as the “Ha ha, Left Behind is fucking awful” bits. It helps that the latter outshines the former, but hey.

  157. #157 Jadehawk, OM
    April 30, 2010

    I doubt that.

    lol, I bet you do. In reality, actively discarding religion makes even European Christians queasy, which is why those atheist bus signs never made it onto a public bus in Germany, for example. Shoot, even my own mother, who hasn’t been to church in decades, found my lack of faith disturbing.

    Seems like it’s ok and normal and acceptable to “struggle with your faith”, but totally discarding it isn’t.

  158. #158 Meathead
    April 30, 2010

    heddle: “Amazing. Someone will play the “you get to do whatever you want card” as if it might be, somehow, insightful. As if it might be accurate. (This is, you realize, like coming on Pharyngula and challenging PZ with “if man descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?””

    Really Hedley? You mean you CAN do stuff that makes you un-CHOSEN by Calvin-God? Let’s say you find out one day that you’re CHOSEN by Calvin-Jesus/God. Then you decide to rape a bunch of kids. Are you un-CHOSEN now? No, of course not. Calvin-Jesus/Calvin-God works in mysterious ways yada yada. You’re still among the elect and while sinners like me are roasting in the lake ‘o fire you’ll be raping babies in heaven, right?

    Oh and if people descended from Monkeys why are there still electrons? Happy now.

  159. #159 Meathead
    April 30, 2010

    Correction: Jeff Sharlet was the author who wrote about the Family, not Chris Hedges. The book is just called “The Family”.

  160. #160 Jadehawk, OM
    April 30, 2010

    oh, no meathead. see, those chosen by god don’t do that. those chosen by god are good, so those who do evil things weren’t really chosen; they only thought they were. it’s the ultimate in No True Scotsmanship!

    from my fairly limited experience with that particular brand of crazy, there’s usually two ways this plays out: the first one is that the Calvinists behave nicely (either because they actually are nice, or because it proves to themselves that they are indeed chosen); or they behave however they feel like, and just readjust God to suit their behavior, to still maintain chosen status. It’s the latter that turn into smug assholes, generally.

  161. #161 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Like I said in another thread, Calvinism seems to have been a version of Christianity developed primarily for those who think like lawyers and/or high school debate team captains – people who can think logically (when they choose to) in order to allow them to feel better about holding irrational beliefs and diminish that unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

    Completely indefensible at heart, yet – compared to other kinds of woo – internally consistent enough to allow the believer to make use of the kind of sophistry heddle revels in.

  162. #162 Meathead
    April 30, 2010

    @161: Well, most of the sleazeballs who inhabit the DC Family* actually WERE trained as lawyers so that certainly fits with what you said.

    * not to be confused with the Manson Family who only killed a few people, these Calvinist assholes have been involved in mass murder all over the planet.

  163. #163 ehlsever
    April 30, 2010

    kick dead horse part eleventybillion

    I doubt that.

    Well which is it, do you require proof of things or do you not? Shit, what is it with the religious mentality and hypocrisy being always joined at the hip like this? Is it a result of the mental gymnastics required to hold multiple opposing views at the same time?

    Deny whatever you want about the first 15 years of my life; I was there, you weren’t. The church was these guys, located (an outpost? Branch, franchise? whatever) in the deep south.

    For instance, despite all the apparent moderateness, I guess somewhere around ’83/’84 we had William Murray as a guest speaker, son of infamous satan worshiper Madalyn Murray O’Hair. He told us aaaaaaal about atheists and their lust for rape/pillage/plunder/blood orgies, how his own mother(omg!) was trying to have him killed, etc. You get the picture. If not, I guess you can get to work building a time machine to get the unassailable hard evidence you (now, suddenly) require.

    I didn’t ‘lose my faith’ out of anger or a sense of betrayal. I just eventually realized what a stupendous waste of time and energy the whole business is. It’s sad, actually. Why not just follow one simple principle – ‘be nice’? It really is that simple. Why fuck it up with all the magic frou frou, the promise of glorious rewards or eternal punishment, the incomprehensible clusterfuck of LOL, the ‘Trinity’, and all the rest? Why?

    Just be nice. Stop preening your fancy ego-plumage, and go do something useful.

  164. #164 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2010

    I doubt that.

    in which it’s made abundantly clear, YET AGAIN, that Heddle apparently never leaves the room in his house with his favorite religious books.

    These books being the only things that inform him, you understand.

    so insular, Heddle. so confident your viewpoint on the world describes everything in it.

    …surely after all these years, you can’t help but understand why we call you irrational?

    frankly, you have all the symptoms of someone living in denial.

  165. #165 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2010

    I can’t say you are wrong because I can’t read minds. But Christians. for the most part, are very open about periods when their faith was/is weak.

    well Hedley, which is it?

    you can read minds, or not?

    or only xian minds?

    again with the projection.

    *sigh*

    you’re a decidedly sad case.

  166. #166 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    Heddle, thanks for the link to your church site; as you say, there were no mentions of atheism (though I didn’t check the sermons, they being mp3′s).

  167. #167 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    ehlserver,

    Well which is it, do you require proof of things or do you not?

    I should clarify. You wrote:

    I grew up in a fairly moderate, tolerant, New Testament-y Good News-y church – no snake handling or speaking in tongues, not a lot of fire and brimstone – and even in a place like that, it was made pretty clear that atheists worshiped the devil and tortured small animals just for fun.

    Some commenters seem to think I meant I doubted you lost your faith and left. I don?t doubt that at all. I doubt the anecdote.

    Maybe I took it too literally. Maybe you really didn?t mean to say that your nice moderate tolerate church actually taught that atheists were devil worshipers. Maybe you were using hyperbole. But I took it literally. I don?t believe they literally taught that atheists were devil worshipers. If you are saying that, then I stand by my statement that I doubt it?it is too convenient an anecdote and doesn?t pass a smell test.

    Meathead,

    Really Hedley? You mean you CAN do stuff that makes you un-CHOSEN by Calvin-God? Let’s say you find out one day that you’re CHOSEN by Calvin-Jesus/God. Then you decide to rape a bunch of kids.

    Here?s the thing. What you no doubt have is a simple definition of Calvinism that probably doesn?t extend much beyond predestination. Now there are three things, all fair questions, that strike people immediately:

    1. That makes people nothing more than puppets

    2. That means people might as well do whatever they want

    3. That?s not fair

    These all are good questions (and it is always interesting to me that the first two are direct opposites) and well worth answering if someone asks them sincerely. Just like I once read PZ (I think it was PZ, maybe someone else on PT) where he said that if someone asked him sincerely ?What good is half an eye?? he would answer?but if they ask with a smirk, as if they have a unanswerable showstopper, he?d flame them. He is right, and I have the same attitude. I?ve answered these questions a million times, and I?ll answer them a million times again?but if someone, such as you did, throws one out like they have found a slam-dunk that nobody ever thought of before?well then I treat them like the idiots they are.

  168. #168 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    I don?t believe they literally taught that atheists were devil worshipers. If you are saying that, then I stand by my statement that I doubt it?it is too convenient an anecdote and doesn?t pass a smell test.
    heddle

    Yet God with a capital “G” passes your smell test. Idiot.

  169. #169 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    Heddle, if someone accepts divine predestination arguendo, then it is idiotic to ask such questions, whether genuinely or as a “slam-dunk”.

    So you should flame them equally, if you were to be consistent.

  170. #170 John Scanlon FCD
    April 30, 2010

    Jadehawk #157,

    even my own mother, who hasn’t been to church in decades, found my lack of faith disturbing.

    OMG, your mother’s scary. ;)

  171. #171 David Marjanovi?
    April 30, 2010

    We don?t do what the bible teaches because we will be condemned if we don?t obey, we do it because of a desire to please god. You have a distorted view of Christianity and grace. A common misconception?even among all the experts on Pharyngula.

    Once again, you mean specifically and only “Calvinism” when you say “Christianity”.

    It’s getting on my nerves.

    In many ways the American ethos is at odds with Christianity–a peculiar thing.

    America is chock full of contradictions anyway, by no means only when religion is involved. Off the top of my head, “it’s a free country” means that the government can’t tell you what to plant in your front yard, but the local homeowners’ association can and does. I could go on for hours, and several book authors have done so.

    Ok, then, heddle, maybe I’m misunderstanding your faith, but could you tell us the top three things someone who has been chosen by your god to go to heaven could do to keep himself from going there?

    You are misunderstanding his faith rather drastically. When God chooses you, you’re destined for heaven, period. You can’t do anything about it. After all, God does not change his mind ? people change their minds when they learn something new, but God already knows everything (including the future), so he never learns anything and consequently never changes his mind, halleluja.

    Seems like it’s ok and normal and acceptable to “struggle with your faith”, but totally discarding it isn’t.

    Seconded. To grow up without religion is considered OK, but to grow up with it and then lose it is considered disturbing where I grew up; at the same time, the church doors were inscribed with “LORD / O LORD MAKE ME SEE”, and I’ve often read (though not heard) prayers that assume you have trouble believing but desperately want to believe and want God to magically make you believe.

  172. #172 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    David Marjanovi?,

    We don?t do what the bible teaches because we will be condemned if we don?t obey, we do it because of a desire to please god. You have a distorted view of Christianity and grace. A common misconception?even among all the experts on Pharyngula.

    Once again, you mean specifically and only “Calvinism” when you say “Christianity”.
    It’s getting on my nerves.

    No I don?t. It is mainstream Christianity to say: ?We don?t do what the bible teaches because we will be condemned if we don?t obey, we do it because of a desire to please god.? Go to any mainstream Protestant church and ask if they agree with that statement. Go to a Catholic church and ask if they agree. If you think only the Calvinists will say ?yes? then you are absolutely clueless.

    Once again you claim I am preaching Calvinism when I am not. But it is not getting on my nerves.

  173. #173 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    It is mainstream Christianity to say: ?We don?t do what the bible teaches because we will be condemned if we don?t obey, we do it because of a desire to please god.? Go to any mainstream Protestant church and ask if they agree with that statement. Go to a Catholic church and ask if they agree.

    Once again, heddle, your propensity for thinking you have intimate knowledge of and can speak for other sects of christianity is simply baffling. I was raised a catholic ans was quite involved with the church for a long time and you are just wrong. The message is both, and is at least equally weighted, occasionally more wighted towards punishment depending on your particular priest’s disposition.

  174. #174 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    So I guess baptism, circumcision, chastity, and being saved all go into the “doing it because I desire to please God” box and not “doing it because God will send noncompliers to Hell” box. And not getting into Heaven, is that the same as going to Hell?

  175. #175 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic Evolution,

    I don?t know what an individual priest might say, but I know, having studied it, what the Catholic catechism teaches, for example, regarding the new law (of grace) that replaced the old law (of obedience):

    The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; [1972]

    That is mappable without ambiguity to what I stated: we obey not because we would be condemned [i.e., out of fear] but because we want to please God [i.e., out of love].

    You obviously did not know the teachings of Magisterium of church of which you once claimed membership?which I guess makes you the resident expert on Roman Catholic Theology at Pharyngyla.

  176. #176 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    Fuck’s sake, heddle, the Bible is littered with parables about punishment for disobeying god… which makes it just like every other religious text ever imagined by humans. The point is to control by fear, and it’s probably the most common characteristic shared by every religion that’s ever been successful.

    Even with your ridiculous, vacuous and ignorant presupposition that you “assume” your beliefs are the correct ones, you still can’t simply dismiss what’s actually written in scripture and pretend that all the lessons of punishment for disobedience in the bible are just insignificant plot points.

    Ask 100 christians of about any denomination why they wouldn’t commit a sin, or fear committing a sin, and I promise you that 95 of them will say that they fear going to hell, and not because they “don’t want to disappoint god”.

    And stop fucking pretending you’re speaking to people who were never part of christian faith, even perhaps more so at one time than you. Self-aggrandizing asshat.

    I refuse to believe that you are that woo-addled that you could simply dismiss the obvious. It’s willful blindness on your part that serves only to prop up your wishful thinking.

  177. #177 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution wrote:

    Once again, heddle, your propensity for thinking you have intimate knowledge of and can speak for other sects of christianity is simply baffling.

    Hmm, I don’t think that heddle is really ignorant of the fact that other forms of Christianity aren’t in agreement with his, it’s just that he thinks that they’re wrong – however, he’s cunning enough to know that he can’t actually say that straight out, since he’s got no way of supporting that beyond his assertion that his sect’s interpretation of scripture is the one correct one.

    Or, in other words, the elephant in the room is wearing a kilt, a sporran and a wee knife stuck in one sock.

  178. #178 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic-Evolution,

    Fuck’s sake, heddle, the Bible is littered with parables about punishment for disobeying god.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t. You are distorting what I said. What I said was we don’t obey out of fear. I didn’t say they we don’t have to obey or that there are no consequences for disobeying–I spoke only of the motivation for obeying. For example, we don’t give to the church because we fear the fate of Ananias and Saphira.

    And stop fucking pretending you’re speaking to people who were never part of christian faith,

    I’m not–In your case I am pointing out what the catechism, which is the teaching that binds Roman Catholics, states. I didn’t say you weren’t a Catholic–I suggested you were an ignorant Catholic. At least on this point.

    Ask 100 christians of about any denomination why they wouldn’t commit a sin, or fear committing a sin, and I promise you that 95 of them will say that they fear going to hell, and not because they “don’t want to disappoint god”.

    I’ll take that bet.

  179. #179 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    I don?t know what an individual priest might say

    Well then why the fuck did you assert this:

    Go to any mainstream Protestant church and ask if they agree with that statement. Go to a Catholic church and ask if they agree.

    Who would I ask if I went to a catholic church but the priest? Now you’re going to shift the goalposts by saying that’s not really what you meant… what you meant was what catholic catechism teaches… as if that has any fucking actual bearing on what actually is taught in the catholic church. I suppose raping little kids is also in the catechism?

    You obviously did not know the teachings of Magisterium of church of which you once claimed membership?which I guess makes you the resident expert on Roman Catholic Theology at Pharyngyla.

    What an imperious piece of shit you are. You obviously think that catholic catechisms have fuck all to do with actual teachings and sermons at christian churches, which makes you the resident Gullible, Blinded, Indoctrinated Christian Apologist at Pharyngula…

    Oh, wait…we already knew that.

    Go stick your head back in the sand, heddle, and keep pretending that what you “assume” about your idiosyncratic god-little-buddy, experience at your cozy little Calvinist church and what you read about fucking catholic catechism have anything to do at all with actual practiced christianity for about 90% percent of christians.

  180. #180 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Why, then, is there such a thing as a Hell House and no such thing as a You Should Feel Bad Because You’ve Disappointed God House?

  181. #181 Mr T
    April 30, 2010

    aratina cage:

    And not getting into Heaven, is that the same as going to Hell?

    Well, not exactly. I’m not getting into heaven, but I’m also not going to hell. ;)

    However, it is true many Christians will say they believe in heaven but not in hell. Others will say everyone’s going to heaven, apparently because their god’s a perfectly nice fellow who is incapable of preventing suffering while we’re alive…

    But, of course, True Christians? like Heddle would never say such blasphemy. No, certainly not. He knows he’s not, because he presupposes that his flavor of deity is the right one.

    Which reminds me, aren’t you supposed to follow Leviticus 24:16 and others like it?

    And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

    That appears to include you, Heddle. Aren’t you required to stone us, or will you weasel out of it by saying it’s some kind of fucked-up metaphor?

  182. #182 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    I didn’t say it wasn’t. You are distorting what I said. What I said was we don’t obey out of fear.

    Then what is the point of these stories, and why do they have such a prominent position in biblical scripture?

    For example, we don’t give to the church because we fear the fate of Ananias and Saphira.

    Of course not… most christians give because it’s expected, and they fear ridicule, isolation and eternal damnation if they don’t. Are you really that ignorant of human nature?

    I didn’t say you weren’t a Catholic–I suggested you were an ignorant Catholic. At least on this point.

    Assuming I’m ignorant of church doctrine is simple pretentiousness on your part. I’m well aware of catechism, I am simply also not naive and ignorant enough to think it has anything to do with actual church teaching. Why? Because I’ve been there.

    I’ll take that bet.

    Easy money.

  183. #183 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    heddle, try starting with this book:

    Fear of Hell by Piero Camporesi.

  184. #184 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Eh, heddle’s position is fucked up, but it’s consistent – remember, according to him you only count as a Christian if you’ve had his god’s magic pixie dust transformation to become a fawning sycophant believer (if you want to see some real shuck & jive action ask him to explain how this doesn’t violate free will); ergo, if you’re a True Christian™ then you know you’re going to heaven and can’t be acting out of fear.

    The problem comes down to the fact that this demonstrably isn’t a belief all Christians hold. However, heddle seems to prefer to ignore this fact because to say otherwise is to effectively put on a cd of bagpipe music.

  185. #185 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    And, to further refute your assertion, I have a study done by Kahoe and Dunn titled “The fear of death and religious attitudes and behavior”, from the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion… all I have is a hard copy and I can’t find any links to the actual paper on the web… but you can look it up if you wish. It’s 1976 issue 14, pages 379-382.

    It showed a positive correlation between fear of death and strict adherence to religious doctrine. The more religious you were, the more you feared death.

    Now why would that be, heddle? What would people be afraid of? And why?

  186. #186 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Mr. T,

    That appears to include you, Heddle. Aren’t you required to stone us, or will you weasel out of it by saying it’s some kind of fucked-up metaphor?

    Such a conundrum, the likes of which I have never seen. I knew I shouldn’t have skipped Leviticus. But everyone skips Leviticus. It is definitely not a metaphor. Can’t use that old standby. What to do, what to do…

  187. #187 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    yup… heddle knows his five “D’s”…
    Duck, dodge, dip, dive and duck…

  188. #188 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution #176 wrote:

    Ask 100 christians of about any denomination why they wouldn’t commit a sin, or fear committing a sin, and I promise you that 95 of them will say that they fear going to hell, and not because they “don’t want to disappoint god”.

    I’m going to agree with heddle here, and say that, if anything, the numbers would be reversed. 95% would insist that they live their lives in hopes of pleasing, honoring, and reflecting God’s Good nature, out of love for God, because God is Good. That’s actually the starting point I use, when I argue for a humanist ethics — and why we can be good without God.

    I think it’s easy to get confused on their motivation, though, because many Christians think fear of God is what ought to keep other people in line. They, and people like them, don’t need the threat of punishment to behave. But, without that big stick of a literal hell and a literal handcart to take you there (“you WILL be caught”), society is going to metaphorical hell in a metaphorical handcart.

    It’s the same as the secular case for policemen. We need them. Not for me, but for you.

    It’s also probably a bit like what Shermer found when he did that huge study on religious belief. The vast majority of theists said that they thought most people followed their religion because that is the way they had been raised. However, when it came to explaining why they held their beliefs, they insisted they came to them through reason. Even if, it also happened to be the way they were raised.

    I’ve a question for heddle:

    Are you Calvinist, or Baptist? Are you a Baptist using a Calvinist form of presuppositionalism? Or is there a special Baptist form of presuppositionalism.

    Presups sound very familiar to me, partly because I have some background and familiarity with New Age beliefs. Yes, New Age is heavily pseudoscientific. But, if you look at how they do apologetics — defenses of the faith — in practice, they do sounds similar to presuppers. It’s not an exact match, of course. But they both seem like they’re using versions of the Argument from Shut Up: I don’t have to defend my beliefs, because I don’t need to — something is seriously wrong with YOU.

    The motto:
    “For those who believe, no evidence is necessary: for those who don’t believe, no evidence is possible.”

    As a general view of what people are like, by nature — that’s about as anti-humanistic, as you can get.

  189. #189 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    crap… can’t believe I borked my “Dodgeball” quote…

    that’s “Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge”…

    I have no excuse.

  190. #190 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Everbody sing along!
    ?Towering in gallant fame,
    Scotland my mountain hame,
    High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
    Land of my high endeavour,
    Land of the shining river,
    Land of my heart for ever,
    Scotland the brave.
    ?

  191. #191 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    Sastra wrote:

    I’m going to agree with heddle here, and say that, if anything, the numbers would be reversed. 95% would insist that they live their lives in hopes of pleasing, honoring, and reflecting God’s Good nature, out of love for God, because God is Good. That’s actually the starting point I use, when I argue for a humanist ethics — and why we can be good without God.

    Oh, you’re probably right – but the fun part is that all it takes is one person to think otherwise, and be able to point to a line of NT scripture to back their interpretation and heddle is hoist with his own petard, so to speak.

  192. #192 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Sastra,

    Are you Calvinist, or Baptist? Are you a Baptist using a Calvinist form of presuppositionalism? Or is there a special Baptist form of presuppositionalism.

    That’s a tough question. Because there is always a “True Calvinist” debate. If you go by the popular definition of Calvinism–affirming the five points of the TULIP acrostic, then there are plenty Baptist Calvinists (including running the Southern Baptist Seminary.) However the text-book Calvinists, the Presbyterians, will sometimes argue that that is not a sufficient threshold –and they include the full covenant theology–which most Baptists would deny–into the definition. In my own case I confuse things further–falling somewhat in between Baptists and Presbyterians. So some Presbyterians might say I am not a True Calvinist, because I don’t affirm every point of the Westminster Confession. And some Baptists might say I am not a true Baptist, because I would recognize an infant baptism by sprinkling as valid.

    As for presuppositional apologetics–it is common among Calvinists bot not considered any sort of litmus test one way or another.

  193. #193 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    I’m going to agree with heddle here, and say that, if anything, the numbers would be reversed. 95% would insist that they live their lives in hopes of pleasing, honoring, and reflecting God’s Good nature, out of love for God, because God is Good. That’s actually the starting point I use, when I argue for a humanist ethics — and why we can be good without God.

    I’m sorry, Sastra, but I disagree… this does not jibe with either what I was taught, what I’ve experienced (anecdotal, agreed), nor the data I’ve seen in the studies that have been done regarding religion and indoctrination by fear…

    Of course, love of god and wishing to please him is always at the surface of the teachings of the church… but reminders of the punishments that befall those who don’t are basic, consistent tenets of every single major religion, and are the real motivations underneath the actions of christians.

    It’s similar to lessons taught by parents to children. You always tell them that you want them to behave you you’ll be proud of them, you want them to do the right thing to please you… but at the end of the day, bad behavior, in most cases, is responded to with punishment, and ultimately it’s that fear of punishment that is the real motivator for behavior, in most kids. Of course they want the parent (or god) to be pleased with them and to love them, but what they really want to avoid is the punishment for disappointing them.

    Again, it’s the very reason these parables are so prominent in religious scripture.

    I think it’s easy to get confused on their motivation, though, because many Christians think fear of God is what ought to keep other people in line.

    Really? Why the christian obsession with confession and penance? Are they confessing other people’s sins and then praying for them? Hardly…

    It’s the same as the secular case for policemen. We need them. Not for me, but for you.

    Mmm… not sure this analogy works… people don’t regularly go to the police station to worriedly confess their crimes.

  194. #194 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    oh for crap’s sake…

    either / or
    neither / nor…

    I blame the chimp… as usual…

  195. #195 Meathead
    April 30, 2010

    Hedley: “These all are good questions (and it is always interesting to me that the first two are direct opposites) and well worth answering if someone asks them sincerely. Just like I once read PZ (I think it was PZ, maybe someone else on PT) where he said that if someone asked him sincerely ?What good is half an eye?? he would answer?but if they ask with a smirk, as if they have a unanswerable showstopper, he?d flame them. He is right, and I have the same attitude. I?ve answered these questions a million times, and I?ll answer them a million times again?but if someone, such as you did, throws one out like they have found a slam-dunk that nobody ever thought of before?well then I treat them like the idiots they are.”

    And in all that wordage there’s still no refutation of my post. Christians use this tactic all the time. It’s the “argument from exhaustion”. i.e. I’m too tired to make an argument right now.

  196. #196 Mr T
    April 30, 2010

    However, it is true many Christians will say they believe in heaven but not in hell. Others will say everyone’s going to heaven…

    Sorry, what I wrote there is redundant. What I meant to say is that there are Christians who believe in neither heaven nor hell, but apparently think of them only as metaphors. There are also other Christians who only believe in heaven (not just as a metaphor), but not in hell (perhaps still as a metaphor).

    It is definitely not a metaphor. Can’t use that old standby. What to do, what to do…

    Don’t evade the fucking question. You’ve said before (some time last year) that it’s okay the Israelites committed genocide, because it was God’s will (or so they thought). Do you think it’s okay if people are killed for blasphemy or not okay? Why or why not? If not killed, but some other punishment, then what do you think it should be?

  197. #197 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    Well, not exactly. I’m not getting into heaven, but I’m also not going to hell. ;)
    -Mr T

    Ah, a wise position to take. :)

    However, it is true many Christians will say they believe in heaven but not in hell. Others will say everyone’s going to heaven, apparently because their god’s a perfectly nice fellow who is incapable of preventing suffering while we’re alive…

    It seems to me that once you drop the threat of H-E-LL, you neutralize all reasons to believe in God except for “Isn’t he nice? I wanna join his fan club!” The effectiveness of Pascal’s Wager on the gullible shrinks to naught, all efforts to link God to morality go flying out the window, the concept of sin becomes useless, and the best a Hell-less proselytizer can hope for is that you have a sweet tooth for the smell of the cotton-candy God being crafted, which is great in comparison, actually, but still really stupid.

  198. #198 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Mr. T,

    Do you think it’s okay if people are killed for blasphemy or not okay?

    Are those my only choices?

    I’m thinking —no. After all Jesus encountered all manner of blasphemers including the dreaded “mother of all blasphemies” the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the unpardonable sin, and never once called for their stoning. Then there is the whole New Testament thingy–but I’ll skip that and just say that if ignoring the call to stone blasphemers was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me. I apply all my stoning decisions to a “who would Jesus stone?” standard.

    Meathead,

    And in all that wordage there’s still no refutation of my post. Christians use this tactic all the time. It’s the “argument from exhaustion”. i.e. I’m too tired to make an argument right now.

    Do I look like I am exhausted? Do the other posters on here think that I am afraid to defend Calvinism, or do they think the opposite–that I am inclined to defended it ad nauseum to the point where PZ tells me to stop? I’m betting the latter. I’m not answering your question not because I can’t, but because you asked it like an idiot. But if you want to assume I have no answer–then enjoy.

  199. #199 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    I’m not answering your question not because I can’t, but because you asked it like an idiot.

    “I don’t think I like your tone, young man”.

    Get a grip, heddle… seems an awfully convenient time for you to start clutching pearls. You’ve been talked to far more shabbily in the past and responded anyhow…

  200. #200 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic Evolution,

    Get a grip, heddle… seems an awfully convenient time for you to start clutching pearls. You’ve been talked to far more shabbily in the past and responded anyhow…

    Maybe, but two things push my buttons. One is the “Even though I have not done any homework I am sure I have a slam-dunk against your position and I’m not just going to lob it at you and destroy you, I am going to lob it at you in the most obnoxious manner possible.” (And that only bothers me when the person’s slam dunk argument is actually trivially naive. If the argument is a strong one, I’d have no problem if they attacked in an obnoxious manner. That would be their privilege.)

    The other is the related “perfect storm anecdote:” Ha ha! Every time I argue with a Christian/Atheist, I always say X, Y and Z! Their jaw drops open and they are stunned into silence! It’s great!

    As you see, I acknowledge both sides have people who do this.

  201. #201 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    your choice, heddle… but it’s still stinks of evasion to me…

    ridicule and rip the questioner if you don’t like the way the question is asked, but ignore the question at your own risk.

  202. #202 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    Ha ha! Every time I argue with a Christian/Atheist, I always say X, Y and Z! Their jaw drops open and they are stunned into silence! It’s great!
    -heddle

    I thought you said you used to be an atheist? Were you perhaps a closeted atheist who never admitted being an atheist and never tried confronting wandering godbots? If not, you should really try it. I’m sure your “god” (what a laugh) will be alright with you faking it to prove us atheists wrong.

  203. #203 PZ Myers
    April 30, 2010

    You know when threads suddenly start to bloat up with lots and lots of comments, all hammering away at the same person? I notice that. And it’s always some damned Christian troll coming along and being obtuse and inspiring lots and lots of frustrated replies at the dogmatic inanity.

    Heddle is trolling.

    You are all feeding the troll.

    Please stop. This thread could easily get to 2000 comments, and Heddle will still be ducking and weaving, and sticking to his baseless dogma. That’s what he does.

  204. #204 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution #193 wrote:

    Of course, love of god and wishing to please him is always at the surface of the teachings of the church… but reminders of the punishments that befall those who don’t are basic, consistent tenets of every single major religion, and are the real motivations underneath the actions of christians.

    Ah, fear is the real motivation underneath the smooth surface of love, love, love? Maybe. And I’d say definitely yes, for some sects.

    I don’t think we’re really disagreeing — or, disagreeing by much. It seems to me that most Christians, as an ideal, as a goal, hold love of God as the motivator. When you ‘live in Christ,’ the relationship is like that between a babe and mother in those moments of perfect bliss — total submission on one side, and acceptance on the other. (I suspect they’re pulling the image from old memories.)

    But spare the rod, spoil the child, for babes have a ‘rebellious nature.’ They don’t always submit peacefully and lovingly, even when they know they should. So it’s constant vigilance, vigilance, vigilance on the part of the believer — and the punishment is there in their best interest, to remind them (and to get those who deserve it.)

    This is how (many) Christians see it. The ultimate motivator is love. Their own fear of God is mostly a fear that they will lose this love. The physical anguish, is icing on the cake.

    If you want to argue that they’re kidding themselves, you can. But we were talking about what the Christians themselves would say, how they’d answer that poll question. I think that if you ask 100 christians of about any denomination why they wouldn’t commit a sin, or fear committing a sin — they will say that they don’t want to disappoint God, and fear hell mostly because they need God’s love. It comes down to love. They are more likely to bring up hell as a punishment if they are trying to persuade an outsider.

    Incidentally, not to bring up a “perfect storm anecdote” on heddle, but one of the answers I sometimes use to Pascal’s Wager has, so far, left the other person confused. When they give me the ‘if you’re wrong, you’ll go to hell’ option, I ask “but if I believed in God because I don’t want to go to hell, wouldn’t that be believing in God out of fear? Shouldn’t I believe in God out of LOVE? Wouldn’t God want that instead?”

    I’ve only tried it a couple times (and it was long ago), but they responded like Pavlov’s dog, and then agreed to drop the argument. I don’t really like that response, though, because my objection has more to do with belief not being a loving action, but a rational conclusion, and this all sidetracks that point.

  205. #205 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    Alright. I thought that it was largely OK to feed trolls in these here lands out of pity (unless goats are on fire), but I’ll surcease at your behest.

  206. #206 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    Sastra –

    If you want to argue that they’re kidding themselves, you can. But we were talking about what the Christians themselves would say, how they’d answer that poll question. I think that if you ask 100 christians of about any denomination why they wouldn’t commit a sin, or fear committing a sin — they will say that they don’t want to disappoint God, and fear hell mostly because they need God’s love.

    Fair enough… I suppose my premise was based on a theoretical “honest” answer… If you were to ask the question, yes, I suppose the answer actually given might be “I don’t want to disappoint god”… but I still maintain that asking them why would elicit a response that points to fear of punishment (while considering that being denied god’s love, to a devout christian, would indeed be severe punishment… but then, isn’t that splitting hairs? Ultimately obedience and adherence is still tied to fear of punishment, even if that punishment is tied to god’s love, or losing it).

  207. #207 Mr T
    April 30, 2010

    Are those my only choices?

    No, I don’t think so, which is obvious from the very next fucking sentence.

    Since you effectively evaded that one too, am I supposed to assume that because Jesus wouldn’t stone me, there is no punishment for blasphemy at all? Does that also apply to all those other “sins” in the old testament?

    Does your brand of Yahweh forgive me, not only for not believing he exists, but also because even if he does exist I wouldn’t worship such an evil tyrant?

  208. #208 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    PZ #203 wrote:

    Heddle is trolling.
    You are all feeding the troll.

    No he’s not; he’s answering legitimate questions.

    And I’m not “feeding” him, because I find his responses interesting. Wrong, but interesting. There’s meat to them.

    Please stop. This thread could easily get to 2000 comments, and Heddle will still be ducking and weaving, and sticking to his baseless dogma. That’s what he does.

    And this is what we do. I don’t understand: you don’t have to join in, so why do you care? Do you feel more obligated to monitor a discussion on Calvinism, than one on bad 70′s videos or problems with libertarian economics? It seems to me that all the comment threads go on and on — and the topics vary wildly.

    It’s your blog, of course, and you are in charge. But I’m a month older than you, so you’re not the boss of me!

  209. #209 KOPD
    April 30, 2010

    Sastra:

    Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be immune to logical arguments and will only engage in emotional ones. Anecdotally, it seems to me that there is a correlation between those kinds of people and usage of Pascal’s Wager. I guess that makes sense, since PW is horridly flawed as a logical argument and is really only an appeal to consequences. That said, it does seem odd that neither person seemed to realize that “if you don’t believe X you’ll be punished with Y” -> “if you fear Y you should believe X”. Then again, that would require somebody thinking through the consequences of their own argument, so maybe it’s not so odd after all. :-)

  210. #210 heddle
    April 30, 2010

    PZ, OK I’m gone. I knew sooner or later the thread would reach your “this line of comments is not sufficiently about me!” threshold.

    (Just kidding. I’m sure bloating is the real problem. What disk can handle a few thousand lines of ASCII? The cost would be staggering.)

  211. #211 nigelTheBold
    April 30, 2010

    Maybe I took it too literally. Maybe you really didn?t mean to say that your nice moderate tolerate church actually taught that atheists were devil worshipers. Maybe you were using hyperbole. But I took it literally. I don?t believe they literally taught that atheists were devil worshipers. If you are saying that, then I stand by my statement that I doubt it?it is too convenient an anecdote and doesn?t pass a smell test.

    You are fucking kidding me. Your entire argument rests on anecdote, and you don’t believe another person’s anecdote? Heaven forfend!

    My ex-wife’s church was fundamentalist, but they knew atheists were satan-worshipers. We just didn’t know we worshiped satan, or (more likely) we lied about it.

    This is a common belief among Christians. Maybe not your church, of course, Shining House of Intellect and Tolerance that it is. However, among run-of-the-mill unwashed plebian christians, it is common to think atheists are tools of the debil, at a minimum.

    This is one of the greatest pieces of evidence against all religions in general, and christianity specifically: if there were a Holy Word Of God, there wouldn’t be so many different Holy Words Of God (and many of them based on the same damned book!).

  212. #212 PZ Myers
    April 30, 2010

    No, he’s trolling. He’s not answering your questions — he’s feeding you the same line of obstinate non-answers that he has been doing for years. He might as well be a robot.

    I’m not worried about the individual comments. You must understand that I have a godlike perspective on the threads — what I see laid out before me in my software is a pattern, and sometimes threads jump out as exhibiting a different pattern. Like that ancient Kent Hovind thread that leaps back into life when some creationist discovers it on a google search. Or the way new threads fire up to dominate the landscape for a day and then decay.

    Heddle threads, from this view, look exactly like threads where a new creationist has stumbled onto the site and said something novel. They flare pretty brightly. They usually fade fast, unless the creationist hangs around to shovel more fuel into the fire. And that’s exactly what this looks like, yet another noisy creationist saying lots of stupid things and invoking the SIWOTI response.

    The only difference is that Heddle has been around for years, almost as long as I’ve been doing this. And I know from long experience that nothing will ever be resolved, that Heddle has a nearly solipsistic philosophy that is pretty much impenetrable to rational thought.

    And what’s the difference between this and the interminable chit-chat about videos or music or whatever? Those threads at least have some amicability to them and are useful for community building. Heddle threads are a bunch of smart people banging their heads hard against a brick wall. One is people being people, the other is people vs. zombie, and it’s painful to see.

  213. #213 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    heddle #210 wrote:

    Just kidding. I’m sure bloating is the real problem.

    No. Read for comprehension. PZ said the problem was that we were “all hammering away at the same person.”

    Come back with more Christians.

  214. #214 CJO
    April 30, 2010

    I’m thinking —no. After all Jesus encountered all manner of blasphemers

    He did? Where? Jesus is accused of blasphemy by the scribes and Pharisees on several occasions, (healing the paralytic, the Sanhedrin trial, et al), but I don’t recall these “encounters” with any form of blasphemy enjoined against in the Torah.

    including the dreaded “mother of all blasphemies” the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the unpardonable sin, and never once called for their stoning.

    Oh come on. Before an audience familiar with the code in question, accusing someone of violating it tacitly refers to the whole of the prescription, certainly including what you were supposed to do about it. If you call someone a murderer in our society and you mean it, you really think they murdered someone, does it logically follow that you believe they should go to prison, or that they should not?

    Then there is the whole New Testament thingy–but I’ll skip that

    Skip it? What the hell else could you be talking about but the NT? Where else would you find anything out about what Jesus thought or did? Does Jesus tell you other stuff that I don’t know?

    and just say that if ignoring the call to stone blasphemers was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me. I apply all my stoning decisions to a “who would Jesus stone?” standard.

    But as far as I know, he never encounters blasphemy against the prevailing Jewish beliefs of the time, which are the circumstances in which a mandate for execution would have any force, so we hardly can claim to know whom he would stone, unless he told you personally. And what about the Sermon on the Mount, specifically 5:18? How can he be ignoring the “letters and strokes” of the Levitical code, which he came “not to abolish but to fulfill”?

  215. #215 MrFire
    April 30, 2010

    Shining House of Intellect and Tolerance

    :)

  216. #216 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    CJO -

    Where else would you find anything out about what Jesus thought or did?

    Joseph Smith and his super-terrific-magic-hat would like to have a word with you… ;^)

  217. #217 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    PZ Myers #212 wrote:

    And I know from long experience that nothing will ever be resolved, that Heddle has a nearly solipsistic philosophy that is pretty much impenetrable to rational thought.

    I think that describes both religion, and pseudoscience as a whole, not just heddle. The tricky part is the modifier “pretty much.” People do move. Or, if they don’t, it’s interesting to see how they avoid it, and stay in place. Either way, I think it’s a learning experience.

    Fighting deeply entrenched irrational beliefs requires a certain amount of acceptance in advance; you are unlikely to “win.” If you are lucky, you break even, and gain some insight into how an argument works, or doesn’t work. The worst thing you can be, is an idealist. You need a certain amount of cynicism, or you burn out.

    Those threads at least have some amicability to them and are useful for community building. Heddle threads are a bunch of smart people banging their heads hard against a brick wall.

    Well, I think there’s community-building and amicability here, but maybe that’s just me. I like heddle. As for banging heads against a brick wall, that’s what we’ve undertaken — as atheists. As skeptics. The wall is not uniform. And my opinion is that heddle isn’t getting as much credit as he deserves: he’s smart, is a scientist, and yet he believes in what amounts to pseudoscience. His reasoning, is going to be different than what we’re used to dealing with from ppl like Ham.

    It’s also likely to be more similar to what we encounter in real life, among scientists who believe. They shouldn’t be a black box.

    But we can stop, since you want.

    ” I stand foursquare for reason, and object to what seems to me to be irrationality, whatever the source. If you are on my side in this, I must warn you that the army of the night has the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and, by its very nature, is immune to reason, so that it is entirely unlikely that you and I can win out. We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right.” — Isaac Asimov

  218. #218 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    Sastr @ #217 –

    All that you said I agree with… plus, occasional “collateral wisdom”.

    And once in a while I learn something from the tangential and often worthwhile conversations that develop alongside the “main event”, as has been the case with my conversation with Sastra (which I always enjoy, by the way) in this thread.

    Given some of the other runaway stupid I’ve seen linger around here at times, I admit to being a little surprised by PZ’s appearance and admonition in this thread, barely 200 posts in…

    But hey… ya know… “it’s good ta be da king”…

  219. #219 Mr T
    April 30, 2010

    I, for one, approve of this decision from our evil cephalopodian overlord. Not that it would make a substantial difference, but I suppose Heddle could still post his absurdities on the endless thread.

    Back to the actual topic of the thread, I’d like to know how we can more effectively use the internet to criticize religious bullshit. No doubt we have been successful. The medium itself is useful for all the reasons Thunderfoot and others have given. Nonetheless, there always seems to be room for improvement. What else can we do?

  220. #220 Gregory Greenwood
    April 30, 2010

    Heddle @ 143;

    I am a little late in replying. Sleep takes up some time it seems.

    No, the reason is identify politics. People vote for candidates they perceive as being like themselves. Would you not be happy if a candidate was open about his atheism? If he was running against an equally open evangelical, would the atheist not have an edge out of the box in your mind? Or are you claiming that if you rated them on all issues and the atheist had a score of 67.7 and the flaming evangelical was 67.9, you?d vote for the evangelical?

    Identity politics is all too often based upon a misinterpretation of what the out group is and what it stands for. If I were an American citizen, an evangelist Christian would likely not get my vote because the policies associated with evangelism are, in my opinion, harmful to society by their very nature. If the evangelist had demonstrably reigned in their religious beliefs in relation to policy in the past, then that would be different. Unfortunately, such evangelists are not the norm.

    Not identifying with someone is one thing. Propogating a distorted ‘boogeyman’ version of their position in the popular mind to maintain their under-representation in the public sphere is entirely another.

    And I despise mixing religion with politics.

    Good to hear. This is not a universal position among Christians, however.

    Other things like pushing for anti-abortion laws?well thems the rules. If you get the laws passed and they pass constitution muster?then it?s just like any other law you don?t like. All you can do is try to vote the bums out. But they are not doing anything wrong–they are being citizens.

    I do not think anyone is suggesting that the process of the passing of bills is to be somehow ignored or circumvented. Where laws that people like myself consider to be unjust are passed then the legitimate response is to campaign for those laws to be repealed.

    As for your ‘well thems the rules’ comment, I find it interesting that you seem to be saying that discriminatory or even oppressive laws are fine and dandy just so long as the appropriate constitutional forms are observed. I would counter that an unjust law is an unjust law, irrespective of how it is passed or implemented. In a free society you are entitled to campaign against such law. Methods up to and including civil disobedience can and should be countenanced if the circumstances warrent it.

    No, I would advise them against it. If they didn?t heed the advice nothing in our relationship would change. And their spouse would be treated with love and respect, welcomed into the family with open arms, etc.

    Then I applaud your tolerance and open mind. There are many Christians who have proved… less than accepting where their children have defied scriptural injunctions. Also, if the atheist was ‘welcomed into the family with open arms’ would this welcome include incessant attempts at conversion? And would the welcome endure if such attempts failed? If no conversion would be attempted and the atheist was genuinely accepted, no strings attached, then all I can say is that such Christianity would be infinitely preferable to the ‘you will burn in hell, unbeliever’ brigade that many Pharyngulites regularly encounter.

    Actually the evidence does not suggest that. It is true that Jerome made some egregious errors with the Vulgate, and the authorized King James has quite a few god-awful errors and some obvious additions, but we don?t operate on translations of translations. The newer scholarly translations use the older manuscripts and newer scholarship techniques than the King James translators used. While there are undoubtedly some errors, as with any human endeavor the situation is not nearly as dire as you suggest. In this regard things get better over time, they don’t deteriorate.

    My knowledge of the history of scriptural translation is too sparse for me to judge the accuracy of what you say, so I will assume that you are correct on this point and concede it for now, pending any superior arguments from better informed Pharyngulites or my own research.

    It strikes me as a shade bigoted that God commanded Joshua to commit genocide?but there it is.

    While it is good to hear that there is no blanket ban on atheist spouses, your statement about Joshua is, frankly, disturbing. Do you really think genocide is OK because god commands it? Or rather because someone claims that god commanded them to do it without any hard proof? This would seem to grant carte blanche to any tyrant or butcher you claims to kill in god’s name and so opens the door to any number or religiously justified atrocities. If the rules are different now to what they were back then, then how do you justify the change in the context of a morally supreme and eternal godhead? Surely if it is wrong now, he/she/it would have known it was wrong then too? Perhaps you should pay heed to the cognitive dissonance this biblical tale causes you, lest something like the attempted Ugandan law to execute homosexuals occurs again with religious justification.

    … on the contrary every indication would be that the marriage between an unbeliever and a believer (that was my case, by the way, with my wife being the believer) is just as sacred as the marriage between believers: For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor. 7:14).

    To an atheist the idea that marriage is sacred is meaningless. To us, marriage is not a mystical ritual but a matter of civil law where the state recognises the relationship between two (or, in some cultures, more) people.

    I think I speak for many here when I say that I find the idea that any child can be born ‘unclean’, under any circumstances, repugnant. The idea that atheists need to be ‘sanctified’ is pretty offensive in and of itself, since it implies that we are somehow lesser humans through our refusal to believe in god without proof.

    So most people on here say. Although I don?t see them worshiping the ?nice? version of god either?so genteel old man or absolute sovereign monarch with a mean streak?it’s really all the same to you, isn?t it?

    For myself as an atheist; yes, they are the same. I will never worship any entity in the way you do, even if the existence of the godhead is proven, because I think it denigrates human dignity. Also, even if god did exist, it could never accrue the moral authority to wield absolute power without accepting the idea that ‘might makes right’, a proposition that is hardly the basis for a just society.

    For theists like yourself, however, this surely is an issue of some import. If god is a tyrant, is it right to worship it out of fear? Is divinity enough, or must god earn adulation through just deeds? If we cannot judge god, then does this not allow those who claim to act in his name to side step moral jugdement of their actions as well? In the wake of such things as the paedophile priest scandal, such an idea is problematic to say the least? Since I do not believe in god, the issue is moot to me.

    But even then there is not a fear that atheists can challenge your faith–the primary concerns are materialism, sensuality, and unbridled individualism. (In many ways the American ethos is at odds with Christianity–a peculiar thing.)

    From your statement in favour of the seperation of church and state, I assume that you accept that Christianity does not have the authority to state that such things are unacceptable for non-believers. Otherwise, you would be advocating Christian theocracy, and every non-Christian (not to mention many Christians) would oppose that. If these are values that you feel should be observed ion your own life without seeking to force them on others, then that is your right.

  221. #221 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    213: Come back with more Christians.

    He didn’t ask and he may not even come back, but I’ll bite.

    64: One of the most striking differences between religious websites and atheist websites is the freedom to comment. Religion simply can’t compete in an uncontrolled debate.

    I think atheist websites are far less free than you assume. You’ll note that PZ wants Heddle to shut up, for example (though I grant it’s not the best example because this site is far looser than most; but you might consider how many people, including Heddle, Jerry Coyne has locked out without notice or comment, simply for disagreeing with the host).

    98: Every year it is repeated – that’s true – but it’s repeated as a direct response to all those Christians who tell us that a) non-Christians shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate at Christmas (I was even told this by a school teacher in very not religious Sweden!), b) atheists/people from non-Christian religions are waging a war on Christmas and c) good Christians must fight back and regain their holiday.

    I find this comment pretty ironic in a week where the Supreme Court is being criticized by many atheists for suggesting (in a convoluted set of opinions) that the Cross isn’t just a religious symbol.

    107: I contend that Christianity will one day pass into the annals of history, like so many religions before it.

    Since the Enlightenment many have made this claim. Many thought it about to happen even — a bit like the Second Coming. So far, not yet, and not nearly so many accept it any more but for the True Believers. You might check out Peter Berger’s work if you care.

    184: Eh, heddle’s position is fucked up, but it’s consistent – remember, according to him you only count as a Christian if you’ve had his god’s magic pixie dust transformation to become a fawning sycophant believer (if you want to see some real shuck & jive action ask him to explain how this doesn’t violate free will); ergo, if you’re a True Christian? then you know you’re going to heaven and can’t be acting out of fear.

    I take Heddle’s view to be that we’re all free to choose Christ but we never will without the direct intervention of God. I think of it as Christian Compatibilism.

  222. #222 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    220: There are many Christians who have proved… less than accepting where their children have defied scriptural injunctions.

    That’s absolutely true and horrible. It is not limited to Christians, however. I have direct knowledge of a situation here in my city where a college student converted to Christianity and was ostracized by her atheist parents — including the cutting off of all support. I don’t mean to suggest that that’s anything like a norm — in my experience atheists have a generally better track record than Christians when it comes to tolerance, I suspect because they are more likely to have suffered intolerance — but the problem seems to me to be more of a human problem than a religious problem.

  223. #223 Gregory Greenwood
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop @ 222;

    That’s absolutely true and horrible. It is not limited to Christians, however….the problem seems to me to be more of a human problem than a religious problem.

    Discrimination certainly does afflict more groups than christians. The atheists you describe behaved abominably and I unreservedly condemn them for it.

    As you yourself have pointed out, atheists have less of a track record than theists in this regard. Can this be put down to the intolerence that atheists may have encountered alone, or is it possible that something about religion encourages the ostracision of those who fail to tow the line?

    If nothing else, we can both agree that disowning someone because of their religious belief or lack thereof is a morally indefensible position.

  224. #224 CJO
    April 30, 2010

    My knowledge of the history of scriptural translation is too sparse for me to judge the accuracy of what you say, so I will assume that you are correct on this point and concede it for now, pending any superior arguments from better informed Pharyngulites or my own research.

    He’s basically correct on this. We’re not dealing with anything like a telephone game of translations of translations of translations, and while the Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, don’t always agree with the Masoretic text (the best attested Hebrew text used for modern translations of the OT) the Biblical manuscripts from the DSS that do follow the same reading as the MT are pretty close, close enough that we can have some degree of confidence that what translators are working with is largely how at least some manuscripts rendered the texts in late antiquity.

    In the case of the NT, we have good Greek manuscripts of the whole thing starting in the 4th century and earlier fragments, so nowhere are translators dependent on Latin or later intermediate translations. But there, we’re looking at a good two centuries or more of manuscript traditions in which these texts were being copied and altered by Christian scribes. The sheer diversity of Christian theologies in those centuries makes it inevitable that the texts as we have them differ from how they appeared “originally,” in the autographs and the earliest copies, now lost. To what extent, of course, it’s impossible to say conclusively. But discrepancies abound between manuscript traditions, and a big part of NT scholarship is various experts propping up their own version of which variations are more likely original, and there is much disagreement.

  225. #225 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    I have direct knowledge of a situation here in my city where a college student converted to Christianity and was ostracized by her atheist parents — including the cutting off of all support.
    -Robocop

    That is terrible and should never happen. Is there any press coverage about it? If not, there should be. Heads should be rolling.

    And for comparison, I have knowledge of a fairly metropolitan Muslim family who stuck by their college kid even when he was accused and convicted of supporting terrorism by the U.S. government. This obviously involved the kid becoming rather fanatically religious, but it didn’t change how much they loved him or fought for him. Shame on those atheist parents!

  226. #226 Gregory Greenwood
    April 30, 2010

    Thanks for the further explanation, CJO. While I was wrong on the translation point, the fact remains that the scriptures themselves are still somewhat disputed between different schools of biblical scholarship, and so basing one’s life on the scripture as the inerrant word of god would seem problematic to say the least.

  227. #227 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    223: Can this be put down to the intolerence that atheists may have encountered alone, or is it possible that something about religion encourages the ostracision of those who fail to tow the line?

    It could be something inherent to religion but, given the severe discrimination against the religious by officially atheist states (think League of the Militant Godless, for example), I suspect it’s more likely a generic “us v. them.”

    225: That is terrible and should never happen. Is there any press coverage about it? If not, there should be. Heads should be rolling.

    There has been no press coverage and I don’t think there should be, although I might reconsider if the student wanted to make it public. I would advise against it, however, since making it a public issue would be really damaging to the parents and, I suspect, make reconciliation much less likely. I only know about it because the student came to my daughter-in-law for help, which has been arranged privately.

  228. #228 RickR
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop, quit being dishonest. This-

    I think atheist websites are far less free than you assume. You’ll note that PZ wants Heddle to shut up, for example

    is not at all equivalent to the way comments are censored or disallowed entirely at theist websites. Try reading for comprehension. PZ said-

    The only difference is that Heddle has been around for years, almost as long as I’ve been doing this. And I know from long experience that nothing will ever be resolved, that Heddle has a nearly solipsistic philosophy that is pretty much impenetrable to rational thought.

    Which is true. Heddle always (and only) brings the same shit to the table again and again. Heddle’s appearances here come in cycles. He usually shows up here after being thoroughly trounced on some other blog and his tail feathers are singed. When he needs a little bucking up. Hence his opening salvo “Pfft. We xians don’t pay attention to you atheists AT ALL.”

    Gregory @220-

    While it is good to hear that there is no blanket ban on atheist spouses, your statement about Joshua is, frankly, disturbing. Do you really think genocide is OK because god commands it?

    Heddle’s positions will start to “make sense” to you when you realize that this is exactly what he believes, and has said so in the past. If god did it or commanded it, by definition, it is good.

  229. #229 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    You are all feeding the troll.

    Please stop. This thread could easily get to 2000 comments

    Aw, come on. This thread is barely a tenth of that.

    You can always cut it off sharp, if it gets too big. But heddle always goes away after a while, for whatever reason.

    ====

    Heddle threads, from this view, look exactly like threads where a new creationist has stumbled onto the site and said something novel.

    Fixed.

    (It’s never novel. It’s always the same sort of presuppositional thinking.)

    And that’s exactly what this looks like, yet another noisy creationist saying lots of stupid things and invoking the SIWOTI response.

    And….?

    The only difference is that Heddle has been around for years, almost as long as I’ve been doing this. And I know from long experience that nothing will ever be resolved, that Heddle has a nearly solipsistic philosophy that is pretty much impenetrable to rational thought.

    I think it’s possible to get through to him, or at least, to get him to change his mind a little. It’s slow, and hard to see if you don’t know what to look for, but I think it’s there.

    Kind of like evolution.

    And what’s the difference between this and the interminable chit-chat about videos or music or whatever? Those threads at least have some amicability to them and are useful for community building.

    Amicability is all very well, but there’s also the challenge of arguing against someone who is intelligent, but has strong emotional defenses against changing his mind. It’s a puzzle, and some of us like the challenge of some puzzles more than others.

    Heddle threads are a bunch of smart people banging their heads hard against a brick wall.

    I’m not banging my head. I’m looking carefully for cracks.

    [As usual, I wrote all this, and then I see what Sastra wrote. Do I need to say that I entirely agree with Sastra in this matter?]

    Oh, well.

    To sum up:

    It’s all very well to see that something is stupid, and to say that it’s stupid, but with religion, that which is stupid is defended by even the very intelligent. Finding the right counter-argument and presenting it with eloquence isn’t easy, and isn’t necessarily something done naturally. It requires practice and patience, and sometimes, taking the argument on its own terms and showing the various inconsistencies.

    So a recurring commenter like heddle is useful for exactly this sort of mental exercise. He says something; someone else points out, “Do you see the implication of what you’re saying, or this point that you missed in making your sweeping declaration?” And maybe he sees it and shuts up, or ignores it, or argues around it, or whatever — but at least I, and maybe those who see the exchange as well, know that the counterargument is a good challenge. Or maybe he has a good counter-counter-argument, which means that I (or we) need to come up with something better.

    Think of it as co-evolution in action, maybe — not of biological organisms, but of understanding and eloquence.

    Anyway. I have a response to what he wrote, which I will make.

  230. #230 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    There has been no press coverage and I don’t think there should be, although I might reconsider if the student wanted to make it public. I would advise against it, however, since making it a public issue would be really damaging to the parents and, I suspect, make reconciliation much less likely.
    -Robocop

    Nevertheless, I think the parents are in serious need of a reeducation, whether it is done in public or private. By disowning their own child simply for their child’s beliefs, they have moved away from whatever kind of freethinking they think they are capable of doing and into the dark territory of dogmatic atheism handed down from on high that we see in personality cults.

  231. #231 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    225: This obviously involved the kid becoming rather fanatically religious, but it didn’t change how much they loved him or fought for him.

    I run the risk of moving even further afield with this, but while I believe in unequivocally loving and standing by a child in that kind of situation, how much fighting for him I’d do is an open question. I wouldn’t turn my back on a child and I would be clear about their retained status as a loved and valued member of the family. But too often parents (in my view) get in the way of allowing kids to face the consequences of their intentional and repeated bad choices to the longer-term detriment of the child. I don’t mean letting kids get run over by a car when they dash into the street. But my wife, who is an elementary school teacher, routinely sees parents defend their children when the child is obviously and demonstrably wrong such that the problem gets worse and the ultimate damage is far greater.

  232. #232 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    Maybe you really didn?t mean to say that your nice moderate tolerate church actually taught that atheists were devil worshipers. Maybe you were using hyperbole. But I took it literally. I don?t believe they literally taught that atheists were devil worshipers.

    If you saw a specific sermon or essay by a religious figure that made that direct claim, would you continue to disbelieve?

    I think it could be argued that Paul of Tarsus at least implied that unbelief and Satan/the devil were somehow related, and later readers and interpreters might well have pushed that further into a “deceived by the devil” equals “worships the devil”. Consider 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 6:15, as some examples.

    Do you disagree that the implication of atheists being Satan-worshippers might at least be taken away, even if you don’t think that’s what Paul meant?

    I don’t actually recall you saying anything about Satan or the devil as the enemy of God in discussions here. If you believe that the bible is the word of God, do you think that Satan is a real being, doing what was claimed about him in the bible?

    What you no doubt have is a simple definition of Calvinism that probably doesn?t extend much beyond predestination. Now there are three things, all fair questions, that strike people immediately:

    1. That makes people nothing more than puppets

    2. That means people might as well do whatever they want

    3. That?s not fair

    These all are good questions (and it is always interesting to me that the first two are direct opposites)

    No, the first two are not direct opposites, or at least, not exactly. They might seem that way, but they both follow from the initial premise. Consider: If people are puppets, then everything about themselves, including their desires, are part of the puppetry. So that strange desire that Ted Haggard had to do methamphetamines with a gay prostitute must have itself come from the puppet-master God, and as such, there was no reason to reject that desire.

    On the other hand, if predestination simply refers to God’s choosing one person for heaven and another for hell based on no choice made by the person, then being puppets refers to where the cosmic “puppet-strings” draw us after we die. In that case, “do whatever [we] want (while alive)” just refers to the inability of any choice we make while alive to change the destination of those puppet-strings.

    You might argue that neither scenario is what predestination really means, but the contradiction isn’t obvious in your examples.

    Or maybe there’s a contradiction inherent in the concept of “predestination” itself.

  233. #233 Celtic_Evolution
    April 30, 2010

    but at least I, and maybe those who see the exchange as well, know that the counterargument is a good challenge. Or maybe he has a good counter-counter-argument, which means that I (or we) need to come up with something better.

    Exactly, this… but I got tired of saying all that to describe it so I instead came up with the term “collateral wisdom”.

  234. #234 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop #221 wrote:

    I’ll bite.

    Well, then, since it was my suggestion, I should probably bite back. :)

    I think atheist websites are far less free than you assume.

    Maybe, but I think atheist websites usually share a common value for debate; religious or spiritual sites, no so much. In fact, many of them take rational criticism of religious belief to be a form of bullying, bigotry, or blindness. They are not interested in “negative thinking” which may challenge or weaken someone’s faith — and they’re upfront about it.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions, on both sides — but I think humanists have to at least go through the motions of allowing in opposing views, or be accused of hypocrisy. Those who come at the issue on the side of faith, however, often buy into the popular consensus that you’re not supposed to say anything negative about religion in general, or try to get someone to “lose their faith.” Praise and worship among those who agree is the harmonious gold standard.

    I include a lot of pseudoscience into the ‘religious’ category, btw, because much of it is disguised spirituality. It may be prejudice on my part, but I think New Agers can give Christians a run for their money, when it comes to being closed enclaves.

    I take Heddle’s view to be that we’re all free to choose Christ but we never will without the direct intervention of God. I think of it as Christian Compatibilism.

    How would you know if someone had chosen Christ without the direct intervention of God? Is there a specific test for that? ;)

  235. #235 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop #231,

    I don’t disagree that there are limits and I wouldn’t argue that all family members are necessarily safe to be around or associate with. I probably should have used “supported” rather than “fought for” because that is what I was alluding to, but they were supporting him in going up against the federal government in court.

  236. #236 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    228: Robocop, quit being dishonest. This-

    ["I think atheist websites are far less free than you assume. You'll note that PZ wants Heddle to shut up, for example..."]

    is not at all equivalent to the way comments are censored or disallowed entirely at theist websites. Try reading for comprehension.

    Backatcha. I was clear and specific about not suggesting an equivalence. I merely pointed out that atheist sites are not nearly as free as you seem to assume. Indeed, as I noted, I’m aware of lock-outs by Coyne for remarkably mild criticism. So “[t]ry reading for comprehension” yourself.

    229: I’m not banging my head. I’m looking carefully for cracks.

    I come to places like this partly because it’s fun and I like to test my ideas (and test drive my new ones), partly because I tend to be a contrarian who likes to argue, and partly to learn. I regularly alter my views and even change my mind due to discussions like these. People who don’t are simply refusing to pay attention. {Straight line acknowledged}.

    230: Nevertheless, I think the parents are in serious need of a reeducation, whether it is done in public or private. By disowning their own child simply for their child’s beliefs, they have moved away from whatever kind of freethinking they think they are capable of doing and into the dark territory of dogmatic atheism handed down from on high that we see in personality cults.

    I see your point, but I’m not sure that making it public would be the right call and am sure that I have no right to make that call.

  237. #237 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    I take Heddle’s view to be that we’re all free to choose Christ but we never will without the direct intervention of God.

    Total depravity — or total inability — asserts that it is impossible for anyone to choose Christ without the direct intervention of God. Which I think is more consistent than your formulation — your “never will” pretty much contradicts your “free to choose”.

  238. #238 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    234: Maybe, but I think atheist websites usually share a common value for debate; religious or spiritual sites, no so much.

    I agree. That’s largely why I don’t hang out at religious sites with the limited (and intermittent) time I have.

    I think humanists have to at least go through the motions of allowing in opposing views, or be accused of hypocrisy.

    It’s my view that the besetting sin of Christians is hypocrisy while the besetting sin (or “sin,” if you prefer) of atheists is arrogance (and we’re all guilty of both, of course). That said, I’ve seen articulate believers banned far too readily at atheist sites for no good reason (in my view) while the dolt-believers are given great leeway (it’s sport, after all). I should add, again, that PZ’s record here is far better than the norm.

    How would you know if someone had chosen Christ without the direct intervention of God? Is there a specific test for that?

    I wish there were and am open to suggestions. If I had one, I’d suggest Dennett try it out secularly too (his “freedom” being merely the lack of coercion, even though he says we’ll never choose other than what we’re programmed to “choose”). It’s one area, at least, where Calvin and Dennett (Dawkins too) are remarkably consistent.

    235: I don’t disagree that there are limits and I wouldn’t argue that all family members are necessarily safe to be around or associate with. I probably should have used “supported” rather than “fought for” because that is what I was alluding to, but they were supporting him in going up against the federal government in court.

    I figured as much, which is why I didn’t respond initially. But, upon rereading, I decided to be clear.

  239. #239 aratina cage
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop,

    FYI, I see Friendly Atheist has had a short discussion about atheist parents with theist children and how it might play out were it to happen.

  240. #240 Knockgoats
    April 30, 2010

    Such a conundrum, the likes of which I have never seen. I knew I shouldn’t have skipped Leviticus. But everyone skips Leviticus. It is definitely not a metaphor. Can’t use that old standby. What to do, what to do… – heddle

    You can always tell when Heddle has no argument – he gets facetious, like this.

  241. #241 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    237: Total depravity — or total inability — asserts that it is impossible for anyone to choose Christ without the direct intervention of God. Which I think is more consistent than your formulation — your “never will” pretty much contradicts your “free to choose”.

    Which is why I link it to compatibilism. Both Calvin and the compatibilists see freedom as a mere lack of coercion. Under both constructs, we’ll never choose otherwise despite this “freedom” (although Reformed theology adds that God can and sometimes does intervene and cause some to come to Christ).

  242. #242 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    By the way, Owlmirror — From the Institutes:

    “We must therefore observe this grand point of distinction, that man, having been corrupted by his fall, sins voluntarily, not with reluctance or constraint; with the strongest propensity of disposition, not with violent coercion; with the bias of his own passions, and not with external compulsion: yet such is the pravity of his nature that he cannot be excited and biased to anything but what is evil….”

    Aratina — Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen it before.

    Knockgoats (240) — For most Christians, the answer is an easy one. Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law, which has been interpreted for centuries to mean that the ceremonial and civil aspects of the Mosaic Law are no longer binding (Jesus violated the dietary restrictions, for example, and instructed Peter to via a vision; Jesus also instucted His followers to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s), while the moral law remains in full force and effect (and has been expanded — or clarified — by Jesus to require positive action).

  243. #243 Sastra
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop #238 wrote:

    “How would you know if someone had chosen Christ without the direct intervention of God? Is there a specific test for that?”
    I wish there were and am open to suggestions.

    You seem to have taken this question as having to do with free will, and testing different interpretations. But, I wasn’t going back that far. I was more interested in trying to test for divine intervention in belief, against the lack of it.

    Two people convert to Christianity: one has done so through inspiration of the Holy Spirit; the other has not. They are otherwise identical. What would be the difference? How would someone, who wasn’t God, tell? How would the believer?

  244. #244 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    243: Two people convert to Christianity: one has done so through inspiration of the Holy Spirit; the other has not. They are otherwise identical. What would be the difference? How would someone, who wasn’t God, tell? How would the believer?

    Most Christians would answer — “By their fruits” (Matt. 7; James 2). More specifically, the Reformed answer is that the true elect won’t fall away while the Arminian answer is that people can move in and out of “saved” status by their choices.

  245. #245 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    Both Calvin and the compatibilists see freedom as a mere lack of coercion. Under both constructs, we’ll never choose otherwise despite this “freedom”

    Which we don’t actually have…

    (although Reformed theology adds that God can and sometimes does intervene and cause some to come to Christ).

    Which might be heddle’s take on the issue; faith by grace as the gift of regeneration, etc, etc.

    “We must therefore observe this grand point of distinction, that man, having been corrupted by his fall, sins voluntarily, not with reluctance or constraint; with the strongest propensity of disposition, not with violent coercion; with the bias of his own passions, and not with external compulsion: yet such is the pravity of his nature that he cannot be excited and biased to anything but what is evil….”

    And heddle has contradicted himself on this point, inasmuch as he acknowledges that atheists can be moral.

    And on the other hand, when asked where this alleged putative “evil” comes from, his answer was “I don’t know”.

    Shrug.

    =====

    Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law, which has been interpreted for centuries to mean that the ceremonial and civil aspects of the Mosaic Law are no longer binding

    Matthew 5:18 being contradicted here, of course — or did heaven and earth pass away, and nobody noticed?

    Why have ceremonial and civil aspects in a set of laws, with death penalty attached to at least some violations, if they aren’t important enough to keep forever?

    Jesus violated the dietary restrictions, for example, and instructed Peter to via a vision

    How convenient…

    I note that Acts 10 and 11 do not specify that Peter saw Jesus.

    while the moral law remains in full force and effect (and has been expanded — or clarified — by Jesus to require positive action

    Such as selling all that you have and giving it to the poor. Huh. I guess there are few, if any, truly moral Christians around, by that metric.

  246. #246 Mr T
    April 30, 2010

    which has been interpreted for centuries to mean that the ceremonial and civil aspects of the Mosaic Law are no longer binding [...] while the moral law remains in full force and effect

    That’s all well and good for things like eating shellfish and pork (mmm… I’m obviously getting hungry). Unless you’re a literalist who thinks the Bible is God’s Wordę and perfect in every way, it would be silly to even bother bringing up trivial stuff like that.

    Still, I would like to know how anyone is supposed to tell which laws are “ceremonial and civil” and which are “moral”. For example, where would idolatry fit into this interpretation? Isn’t that immoral to Christians, or are those Christians mistaken? What about lying? I think lying is immoral, and I assume we’re in agreement on that much.

    So, if they “remain in full force and effect”, then does that mean all the OT punishments for it should also be in effect (full or even partially)? I certainly don’t think we should go old-school on liars just because an ancient book of myths say so. Did Yahweh’s/Jebus’ killing himself somehow change the rules for the “moral law” too? Did the separation of church and state change all the rules once again so that Christians have nothing to do but impotently moan about “family values”?

  247. #247 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    Most Christians would answer — “By their fruits”

    And this doesn’t really answer the question at all, but shifts it to, “What are ‘good’ fruits?”

    I’m pretty sure that Fred Phelps thinks that promoting the hatred of gays (including reminding people that God hates fags), and the vocal denunciation of everything about America that does not condemn gays, is a ‘good’ fruit.

    heddle has pointed out that God does not love everyone equally, and while I think he would disagree with Phelps, he would have no biblical grounds on which to say for certain that Phelps was incorrect.

  248. #248 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    They’re not fruits; they’re nuts.

  249. #249 Robocop
    April 30, 2010

    245: Which we don’t actually have…

    Exactly.

    And heddle has contradicted himself on this point, inasmuch as he acknowledges that atheists can be moral.

    I don’t think so. Calvinists speak often of a “common grace,” which allows people to act in various ways that we would describe as “good” (recognizing that no one is good but God) irrespective of their status as Christian or non. The Arminian also acknowledges a common grace (the Wesleyans call it “prevenient grace”) such that the effects of the fall are offset so that everyone has free will and the moral ability to call on God in Christ for salvation.

    Matthew 5:18 being contradicted here, of course — or did heaven and earth pass away, and nobody noticed?

    The interpretation is that He was speaking of the moral law. Doing so allows for consistency with His not requiring adherence to the ceremonial law and the civil law of the Books of Moses at various times and in various instances.

    Why have ceremonial and civil aspects in a set of laws, with death penalty attached to at least some violations, if they aren’t important enough to keep forever?

    The idea is that those aspects of the Law were designed to be abrogated by the advent of Christ. For example, the ceremonial law is seen as having existed to set God’s covenent people apart and the civil law existed to govern the literal nation of Israel. Today they (we) are a spiritual Israel, set apart on account of our being followers of Jesus. Gen. 12 speaks of God’s covenent with Abraham and his descendents but adds that all peoples will be blessed through it. Jesus is seen as fulfilling that promise and extending the reach of God’s people far broader than physical Israel — Abraham’s literal descendents. Since everyone now has access to the benefits of the covenent through Jesus, the civil and ceremonial laws are no longer necessary.

    I note that Acts 10 and 11 do not specify that Peter saw Jesus.

    You may well be right. I’ve been going by memory.

    Such as selling all that you have and giving it to the poor. Huh. I guess there are few, if any, truly moral Christians around, by that metric.

    “There is none righteous, no not one.”

  250. #250 Meathead
    April 30, 2010

    Hedley @200:

    (And that only bothers me when the person’s slam dunk argument is actually trivially naive. If the argument is a strong one, I’d have no problem if they attacked in an obnoxious manner. That would be their privilege.

    It’s not trivially naive, it’s cuts to the core of the insanity of Calvinism, that’s why you don’t want to talk about it. It shows Calvin-God to be a moron and an ogre. He makes tons of nice people that are destined from birth for hell through no fault of their own and lets some real rat-bastards (like the membership of the DC Family) into heaven instead.

    Granted all forms of Christianity suffer from the “cheap grace” problem where guys like Ted Bundy get into heaven because they convert at the last moment and nice pagans burn in hell but Calvin was the only one who turned this whole process into a robotic stage play where the actors never had any choice but to play their assigned parts.

    All strains of Christianity are more or less harmful but Calvinism is weapons grade crazy that should only be approached in full pressurized biohazard gear.

  251. #251 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop:

    The interpretation [Mat 5:17-19] is that He was speaking of the moral law.

    And, by interpretation, you mean ad hoc casuistic rationalisation. The reference is clearly to Mosaic law.

  252. #252 Owlmirror
    April 30, 2010

    The interpretation is that He was speaking of the moral law.

    And yet, the death penalty was part of the moral law — which no-one implements for anything except murder.

    Hm.

    The idea is that those aspects of the Law were designed to be abrogated by the advent of Christ.

    Is idolatry a violation of civil, ceremonial, or moral law, and what makes it so?

    It certainly wasn’t part of ceremonial law.

    If it was civil law, then Jesus was saying that by his death and resurrection, it was now A-OK to worship Gods other than Yahweh. Are you sure that’s what he meant?

    “There is none righteous, no not one.”

    So much for common grace, then.

  253. #253 CJO
    April 30, 2010

    Matthew 5:18 has “the Law and the Prophets”: a formulation for “the entire scriptures”. “Not one letter or stroke” just adds force to the universality of the pronouncement.

    And I have to take issue with the standard reading of “render into Caesar” that you’ve offered. This is a misreading of Mark. First of all, he isn’t “instructing his followers,” he’s answering a challenge by his ideological opponents. To believe he’s actually instructing anyone to render anything to Caesar, you have to believe he thinks that Caesar can make something his own, and not God’s, by having his image stamped on it. In the context of the Emperor cult and Jewish aniconic worship it’s an untenable reading. He’s settings trap for his opponents on those terms.

  254. #254 Shala
    April 30, 2010

    Pun-Pun loses in 2 seconds by virtue of the DM going ATATATATATATATATATATA on you the second you say the first Pazuzu.

    I think the worst part about it is that it’s countered by a guy jumping off a cliff into a bucket of water.

    3.5 is really strange.

  255. #255 John Scanlon FCD
    April 30, 2010

    Robocop #222,

    I have direct knowledge of a situation here in my city where a college student converted to Christianity and was ostracized by her atheist parents — including the cutting off of all support.[emphasis added]

    aratina cage #230,

    Nevertheless, I think the parents are in serious need of a reeducation, whether it is done in public or private. By disowning their own child simply for their child’s beliefs, they have moved away from whatever kind of freethinking they think they are capable of doing and into the dark territory of dogmatic atheism handed down from on high that we see in personality cults. [emphasis added]

    Maybe it wasn’t the student’s beliefs that were perceived as a problem, but behaviour – as we know, people (including Christians) can be extremely obnoxious. For all we know, s/he may have been stealing from the parents (selling their possessions to give to the poor, or diverting tuition funds to an organization supporting clinic bombers). The religious conversion may have had nothing at all to do with the parents’ response. Without anything on public record or from their side of the conflict, nothing should be concluded about a need for ‘reeducation’.

  256. #256 WowbaggerOM
    April 30, 2010

    It’s always struck me as kind of, well, stupid, that so much ‘interpretation’ is required to understand the bible. Why wasn’t it written so that what God does and doesn’t want, why he wants it, and when (and to whom) it does and doesn’t apply is straightforward?

    Robocop alone has used terms like ‘common grace’, ‘prevenient grace’ – do equivalents appear as specific concepts in the bible, or are the the inventions of those seeking to rationalise their particular guesses as to what the bible means?

    I think that, for me, my dissatisfaction with what appears to be nothing more than rationalisation goes back to the very simple argument that if the bible really was what it’s claimed to be there’d be no ‘interpretation’ required – and certainly not thousands upon thousands of pages of additional material required to justify any of it.

  257. #257 CJO
    May 1, 2010

    Please excuse the typos in 253. iPhone.

    But to put a point on what I’m saying, all this Christian dithering over “good fruits” and the “works of the Law” and jots and tittles and what have you, is interpretation overkill of what was an ancient, essentially intra-Jewish dialogue over how the identity of “Israel”, never more than a concept or an ideal anyway, was going to sustain itself, away from the Judean homeland and after the disasters of 66-70 CE.

    The conflicts in the Synoptic gospels with the Pharisees, when read for ancient ideological conflict understood in light of what we know historically, are I think a case in point for the irrlevance of this literature for any sort of moral guidance. The primary concerns of these disputes are alien to modern ethical questions. The Pharisees were concerned with purity and the Law and were the early incarnation of what became rabbiical Judaism. In the late 1st century, the Oral Torah enshrined in the Mishnah was being codified as an application of what had been specifically sacrament-oriented purity codes, formerly understood only in the context of Temple worship, to everyday life, along with an extensive, discursive commentary on how this balancing act could be acheived. It’s the beginnings of Mishnaic rabbinical exegesis that the author of Mark is reacting to, and the rest of the gospels dutifully repeat the dialogues. It’s just not useful as a guide to behavior in a world where the finer points are irrelevant or obscure.

  258. #258 Kel, OM
    May 1, 2010

    Got to love the idea that it’s through God that one becomes a believer. Talk about taking away any responsibility for a belief…

  259. #259 WowbaggerOM
    May 1, 2010

    Kel wrote:

    Got to love the idea that it’s through God that one becomes a believer. Talk about taking away any responsibility for a belief…

    Hang on, I’ve just realised – if what heddle says is true then why are there Christians who proselytise? Only their god can make someone a believer; what’s the point of them doing what they do?

    This position is also undermined by the existence of even a single argument for Christianity – well, other than ‘I believe because my god makes me believe’. If their god is responsible for their belief, why do they need to rationalise and have arguments to support it? Nothing else should matter.

  260. #260 John Morales
    May 1, 2010

    Wowbagger, that’s one of Heddle’s “gotcha” idiocies.

    Of course God makes one a believer — that’s why the Christians proselytise — it’s God’s way of doing it. ;)

  261. #261 ehlsever
    May 1, 2010

    Arguing these microscopic individual issues of each microscopic sect/denominations only draws attention away from the big issue:

    There’s no such thing as supernatural entities.

    What’s their usual reply to that? It’s always variations on “only a witch would claim there’s no such thing as witches.”

  262. #262 Mr T
    May 1, 2010

    Wowbagger, OM:

    I think that, for me, my dissatisfaction with what appears to be nothing more than rationalisation goes back to the very simple argument that if the bible really was what it’s claimed to be there’d be no ‘interpretation’ required – and certainly not thousands upon thousands of pages of additional material required to justify any of it.

    I agree. Not only is the form and content so transparently parochial and clearly not written by a superior intelligence (or if merely inspired by one, then the writers screwed up big time, meaning sky daddy’s power/intelligence was of little use). It’s also so opaque to useful interpretation that whatever good may be found in it is anybody’s guess.

    To be fair, many Christians fully accept that, although there are claims in the bible to the contrary, it is an entirely human invention. I won’t even try to offer an estimate of their relative numbers. I’m somewhat turned off by claims that “fundies are insane, but at least their beliefs are consistent with the bible, not like those muddle-head liberal Christians”. This may have a grain of truth to it, but since the bible has a bad habit of contradicting itself, this weird notion of “consistency” is neither a possible nor a desirable standard. Anyway, from a non-fundamentalist’s view, problems of interpretation come with the territory, and that there are any at all doesn’t affect their position more than it already has.

    Which brings me back to my earlier point. Some do seem to accept that the bible was not written by a god, does contain contradictions, and records a great deal of evil acts in the name of religion (which one hopes they would reject, lest their heads explode). What these they still don’t seem to appreciate (or rather, depreciate) is the utterly parochial context and the lack of substance for the few remaing shreds of good things they’ve managed to retain. Although they may be strongly supportive of science, secular causes, civil rights, etc.; even so, their perspective on the world suddenly becomes very narrow once religion is brought up. Don’t these caring intelligent people realize how utterly unimportant their absurd religion is in the big scheme of things? It’s very weird. I guess I just don’t understand why anyone would twist themselves into such a mental knot, only to make some inane point about how we should all be good people. It’s such a fucking waste of time.

    Then again, I probably could’ve shortened this comment. I’m not exactly sure where that leaves us. They’re frustrating. Fuck the motherfuckers.

  263. #263 Caine, Fleur du mal
    May 1, 2010

    Mr. T:

    Don’t these caring intelligent people realize how utterly unimportant their absurd religion is in the big scheme of things?

    “People enjoy fighting for their religion,”…”It’s inconsequential enough to matter deeply to them.”

    -John Connolly, The Reapers

  264. #264 aratina cage
    May 1, 2010

    John Scanlon FCD #255,

    Maybe it wasn’t the student’s beliefs that were perceived as a problem, but behaviour – as we know, people (including Christians) can be extremely obnoxious.

    I thought the situation as told in #222 seemed pretty cut and dry, and I expect Robocop would have told us if there was more to it than the parents shunning their daughter for her beliefs.

  265. #265 Robocop
    May 1, 2010

    251: And, by interpretation, you mean ad hoc casuistic rationalisation. The reference is clearly to Mosaic law.

    Except, elsewhere, Jesus explains why parts of the law no longer apply. When parsing two applicable injunctions (in any field, in any situation — even if you’re simply trying to figure out what your boss means), the usual goal is consistency. Thus, at a minimum, it surely isn’t clear.

    252: And yet, the death penalty was part of the moral law — which no-one implements for anything except murder.

    Unless a civil theocracy exists, how could the death penalty be invoked for any moral violation?

    Is idolatry a violation of civil, ceremonial, or moral law, and what makes it so?

    Moral. It’s a part of the Ten Commandments, the clearest expression of the moral law.

    So much for common grace, then.

    Sorry, I don’t see that at all. In practical terms, we all know “good” people who make terrible mistakes and we all recognize, if we’re honest, that we’re each far from perfect — we sin (or “sin”) all the time. In Biblical terms, we’re sinners; we’re not righteous. That doesn’t mean we aren’t often moral and don’t do any number of moral, even laudable acts.

    253: And I have to take issue with the standard reading of “render into Caesar” that you’ve offered.

    I’m getting on a plane for Chicago and then go to DC so I don’t have time to research your thesis at all (and doubt I’ll even get back here anytime soon unless my trip goes much differently than I expect). But even if I grant it, outside of a national, theocratic Israel, how could the civil law be enforced?

    255: Maybe it wasn’t the student’s beliefs that were perceived as a problem, but behaviour – as we know, people (including Christians) can be extremely obnoxious.

    Even if I were to grant the theoretical possibility of your proffered scenario, I have seen not the remotest evidence to support it. Mom and Dad refused to provide any support — no tuition; no room and board; nothing. Since those charges are paid to the university directly, it isn’t possible that there was any misuse. And don’t you think you sound just a bit desperate to suggest it?

    I think that, for me, my dissatisfaction with what appears to be nothing more than rationalisation goes back to the very simple argument that if the bible really was what it’s claimed to be there’d be no ‘interpretation’ required – and certainly not thousands upon thousands of pages of additional material required to justify any of it.

    I read this early today and I’ve been trying to take it seriously ever since. But I simply can’t. Take, for example, the following ten words from the First Amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech….”

    They could not be clearer. They’re a straightforward negative prohibition. But wait, what about yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre? What about publishing war plans or nuclear weapons technology specs in the newspaper? Must defamation laws disappear? Should there be a distinction between “prior restraint” of speech and after the fact punishment for speech that does damage? How does this prohibition relate to state secrets? Valuable commercial information and trade secrets? Commercial agreements to preclude speech (like not telling competitors the “secret formula”)? Copyrights? Patents? Creative ownership and control?

    I could go on in this vein for a l-o-n-g time. Indeed, volumes have been and continue to be written on interpreting these perfectly straightforward ten words. Not 66 (or more) books by scores of different authors over many centuries with multiple agendas and collected into one “whole,” the make-up of which is still debated today. Ten words.

    Truly, I can’t take the criticism seriously, try as I might.

    259: Hang on, I’ve just realised – if what heddle says is true then why are there Christians who proselytise? Only their god can make someone a believer; what’s the point of them doing what they do?

    Long since asked and answered. We proclaim Christ because we are told to and to be able to share in the joy when God’s grace is triumphant i the life of a person.

  266. #266 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    May 1, 2010

    One difference: The constitution isn’t the inerrant word of God. It (and the bill of rights) was a compromise drafted specifically to be vague.

    It’s almost as though the bible was a human work with different gospels selected as part of a political compromise among varying factions with radically different views that wanted different supporting texts.

  267. #267 Mr T
    May 1, 2010

    One difference: The constitution isn’t the inerrant word of God.

    Exactly, although that could be a strawman of Robocop’s beliefs, and since I’m not sure what Robo thinks, let me offer some alternatives:
    1) Only slightly less incredible is the claim that the Bible is merely written by people but somehow inspired by a god — not necessarily an omni-whatever god, just a bare minimum of what might qualify as a deity. If there is anything to support a divinely-inspired Bible, Robo will have to find it. I know I and many others (including theists) have never found anything to that effect.

    2) One could make the claim even weaker by saying the Bible is all just a bunch of old stories written by people, which only document cases of alleged divine intervention (curiously, only for one little desert kingdom in a safely-obscured period of ancient history). In other words, you might claim that perhaps God had nothing to do with all the errors, stupidity and evil in the Bible — that was all the fault of Biblical authors. At the same time, so the claim goes, at least part of what was written is based on a true story (i.e., fictionalized accounts of God intervening in the real world). It seems unlikely a god would act this way, and the evidence for its existence remains as poor as ever. Nonetheless, one could certainly go that route.

    3) Yet another option is that the Bible was written of the people, by the people, and for the people. Here, the existence of God is as far removed from the existence of the Bible as possible. One might still believe in a prime-mover or something, but whatever it is has no necessary connection with what’s written about the God of the Bible.

    4) Finally, one could be an agnostic-atheist, stop worrying, and enjoy your life.

  268. #268 Sili, The Unknown Virgin
    May 1, 2010

    “Now watch closely, everyone. I’m going to show you how to kill a god. A god of life and death. The trick is not to fear him.” [...BFG goes here, stuff happens...] “He’s a god, you fools ? it’ll take more than one shot.”
    – Lady Eboshi

    /Princess Mononoke

    “You’re just not important enough anymore.”

  269. #269 Owlmirror
    May 1, 2010

    It is true that Jerome made some egregious errors with the Vulgate, and the authorized King James has quite a few god-awful errors and some obvious additions, but we don?t operate on translations of translations. The newer scholarly translations use the older manuscripts and newer scholarship techniques than the King James translators used. While there are undoubtedly some errors, as with any human endeavor the situation is not nearly as dire as you suggest. In this regard things get better over time, they don’t deteriorate.

    In fact since the latest translations use the earliest manuscripts, it would be impossible for you to back up your claim unless a) you found even older manuscripts or b) you demonstrated how the newest scholarly translations mistranslated the manuscripts. So where is your information that the newest translations, for example the ESV, have altered the manuscripts?

    I just wanted to revisit this, and point out that heddle is not entirely correct. He may be arguing in good faith as to his understanding, but I don’t think he understands the matter as well as he might wish.

    The problem is that it is indeed the case that even the oldest Greek manuscripts are not “clean”, in the sense of there being only one single version that is the “obvious” source of everything else.

    The oldest complete text of the NT (which, by the way, includes books that are no longer considered properly part of the Christian canon) is the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates back to the fourth century. As the Wikipedia page notes, it has several “layers” of corrections, indicating that even the monks who had it (or wrote it) felt dissatisfied as to how complete and correct it was, and made emendations, presumably based on other manuscripts. So which text is really the “best”? The original basis of the Codex, or the manuscripts that the corrections were presumably copied from? And which “layer” of corrections is really correct — can we be certain that one or more of the sources they used was not in fact corrupt?

    Ultimately, the translators of any revision have to make a judgment call about the proper reading of the text, and its meaning.

    The same goes for the OT, only more so. While it is all well and good to claim that the Masoretic text (MT) is definitive, and even matches to a large (but not perfect) extent the more ancient Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), there are places where the scrolls demonstrate that the Masoretic text was changed to meet theological concerns — Deuteronomy 32:8 being a specific example. The MT has that verse reading that “He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel”, but 4QDeut j has that as “the number of the children of God” (or “the Gods”), reflecting the more ancient view that there were many God-like beings, and while Yahweh was the chief of them, and ruled Israel, the other God-like beings ruled over the other nations. That’s in addition to the point the the DSS has variants that disagree among themselves and with other versions of the standard texts (note below: the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Syriac Peshitta — and variants thereof, and other, less well-known translations).

    I see that the ESV that heddle mentions above says the following about the sources used:

    When necessary to translate difficult passages, the translators referred to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible (as found in the second edition of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), to the United Bible Societies’ fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, and to the twenty-seventh edition of Nestle and Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece. In a few exceptionally difficult cases, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, and other sources were consulted to shed possible light on the text or, if necessary, to support a divergence from the Masoretic text.

    For the Apocrypha, the Oxford translating team relied on the G÷ttingen Septuagint for all of the Apocrypha except 4 Maccabees (relying there on Rahlf’s Septuagint) and 2 Esdras, which used the German Bible Society’s 1983 edition Vulgate.

    Which just demonstrates what they were basing their judgment calls on, not that their judgment calls are necessarily correct.

    Also:

    Many corrections were made to satisfy objections to some of the RSV’s interpretations that conservative Protestants had considered as theologically liberal, for example, changing the translation of the Hebrew “almah” from “young woman” to “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14.

    Again demonstrating that theology drives translation choices; they clearly took the LXX (reading “parthenos”, and interpreting that specifically as “virgin”) over every other version of the OT, since that is what Christians have been using for centuries to support their particular beliefs.

    The translation problem remains very difficult, and is probably intractable. While heddle has a point in that translations do not necessarily deteriorate, translators must face the fact that they are heirs of more ancient deteriorations.

  270. #270 Owlmirror
    May 1, 2010

    if what heddle says is true then why are there Christians who proselytise? Only their god can make someone a believer; what’s the point of them doing what they do?

    I think the proper “Calvinist” answer to this is that people can’t believe that it’s true without knowing about it first. So Calvinists have to preach the salvation of Jesus, even if they themselves are damned to Hell, so that their children, and strangers who hear, might be saved.

    OK, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either, but I never claimed that Calvinism made sense.

    ====

    Moral. It’s a part of the Ten Commandments, the clearest expression of the moral law.

    So too is observing the Sabbath — so that’s moral too?

    Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.
    – Canon 29 of the Synod of Laodicea

    I guess Christians are commanded to be immoral.

    So much for common grace, then.

    Sorry, I don’t see that at all. In practical terms, we all know “good” people who make terrible mistakes and we all recognize, if we’re honest, that we’re each far from perfect — we sin (or “sin”) all the time. In Biblical terms, we’re sinners; we’re not righteous. That doesn’t mean we aren’t often moral and don’t do any number of moral, even laudable acts.

    So what, exactly, prevents Christians from selling all they have and giving it to the poor?

    Note that by that metric, not even God is righteous (after all, if God sold all he had and gave it to the poor, it would not be the case that the poor will always be with us).

    Which reminds me that heddle has agreed that God is not omnibenevolent by human standards. He did not respond to my argument that God is not even properly benevolent, but rather better described as showing favoritism, and showing favoritism as a whim, rather than by any personal consistency (noting God’s behavior in the book of Job).

  271. #271 WowbaggerOM
    May 1, 2010

    Robocop wrote:

    I read this early today and I’ve been trying to take it seriously ever since. But I simply can’t. Take, for example, the following ten words from the First Amendment:
    “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech….”

    Thanks everyone for already handing Robocop his ass on this one by pointing out that the humans writing the constitution didn’t credit the wisdom it contained to any omniscient and/or omnicognisant gods – but it’s probably also important to point out that nor did they imply that misunderstanding the constitution may lead to an eternity of torture.

    When your fate – for all fucking eternity – is on the line, I’d like the instruction manual to be wholly and utterly unambiguous, thank you very much.

  272. #272 sean.carmody2k
    May 2, 2010

    I gotta say that I found this video highly interesting. I agree that young children are being persecuted by religion. I am a believer, but a former Catholic. I left it behind me, as I realised that all the kindness they claimed to be promoting was complete and utter hogwash. I also had started criticising it at a very young age, and the rituals were becoming irrelevant, and I would swear in church, before and after confession, as in straight after. I remember my older brother, who was then about 7 or 8, breaking down crying because he could not recite a prayer he would have to say at his communion, while the primary school teacher was preparing his entire class, my brother included, for their First Holy communion. She admonished him for it, psychologically and not physically, but I just remember how ashamed he was because of it, and more than likely scared that he would not get his holy communion, shaming the family as well as not getting into heaven. He doesn’t remember it now, despite being 2 years older than me, but I do, despite all of my 26 years. I think it was then that I started asking questions.
    I was still defensive about it as a teen, but then I realised, at around 20 or so, that I was just being an idiot. My parents stopped pushing us to go to mass/ church, at a young age, barring a funeral or weddng, and I think this is when I started realising that, while I still believed in God, I had next to no faith in religion.

    I have since met many’s an atheist/ agnostic who were kind, generous, good people, in many respects a better definition of the word “Christian” (Love thy neighbour, treat people with respect, be kind, help the less fortunate) than many Christians who believe. There are jerks in both groups, it’s just the way the world works, some people have a superiority complex that I find incredibly irritating, or some others are just downright ignorant of the world around them. Part of my college degree is to study feminism and other areas, such as what society dictates towards all of us, that we have to get married at this age, have kids at that age and so on, despite the fact I hate kids, would prefer a dog, yet do have, as any heterosexual male would say, a fascination with the oppossite sex. I digress. What surprises me and ticks me off, to put it mildly, is the number of young women in the course who, rather stupidly, do not pay any attention to the stuff we read, and carry on being just as ignorant after as they were before. They do not notice how they are dicated to, how they are expected to conform, or how they ignore the fact that intelligence is the most important area they should work on, and not their physical attributes. One young woman, about 19 or 20, has dropped out to become a beautician. She’s going on to be a part of the problem, and not the solution.
    Sorry, I am ranting, but I had to get that off of my chest.

  273. #273 Robocop
    May 6, 2010

    266: One difference: The constitution isn’t the inerrant word of God.

    Your complaint is silly and about as valid as claiming that God isn’t omnipotent because He can’t make a square circle. The limits of language and the problems inherent in interpreting a text apply across the board.

    271: When your fate – for all fucking eternity – is on the line, I’d like the instruction manual to be wholly and utterly unambiguous, thank you very much.

    Ditto.

  274. #274 Owlmirror
    May 6, 2010

    Your complaint is silly and about as valid as claiming that God isn’t omnipotent because He can’t make a square circle.

    This is a false analogy — or are you trying to argue that it is logically impossible for a putative God to give clear instructions in the bible for what he wants people to do?

    PS: If you have no evidence that God has the power to do anything at all, why would you even argue that God exists, let alone is omnipotent?

    The limits of language and the problems inherent in interpreting a text apply across the board.

    This counter-argument is only valid, though, if the text in question is not from a putative God, but from humans pretending that they know who God is and what God wants.

    Granted, I admit that I’m presuming that the putative God is putatively non-malevolent, and putatively omniscient (or at least, knowing far more than the humans he’s trying to communicate to, and additionally knows that foolish humans will fail to understand anything that can be misunderstood).

    Are you trying to argue that your putative God is too stupid to communicate clearly with humans, or that God is too evil to do so, and therefore deliberately tries to create confusion among humans?

    Ditto.

    “Ditto, ditto!”
    – Tweedledee.

  275. #275 Robocop
    May 6, 2010

    274: This counter-argument is only valid, though, if the text in question is not from a putative God, but from humans pretending that they know who God is and what God wants.

    That’s not too far from my personal view. Most fundamentally, I think the Bible represents people’s search for God and for meaning. I don’t think it’s anything like inerrant.

  276. #276 Owlmirror
    May 6, 2010

    274: This counter-argument is only valid, though, if the text in question is not from a putative God, but from humans pretending that they know who God is and what God wants.

    That’s not too far from my personal view. Most fundamentally, I think the Bible represents people’s search for God and for meaning. I don’t think it’s anything like inerrant.

    But the comments you were responding to @#273 were following up on discussions about the worldview of heddle — who explicitly states that he has a presupposition that the bible is the word of God.

    If you’re going to argue honestly, you need to let people know that the problem is that the premises that they are arguing against are not your own premises — and if you change to arguing your own premises mid-conversation/argument, you need to make that explicitly clear.

    I certainly hope that you, at least (unlike a putative malevolent God), do not relish the confusion of those you are communicating with.

  277. #277 Robocop
    May 7, 2010

    I’m in the Denver airport and about to board, so I have to be brief. I can’t take the time to review the thread, but my recollection is that I gave my personal views except when I stated otherwise (as in describing the traditional Reformed view). That said, I apologive for confusing you. That wasn’t my intention.

  278. #278 Owlmirror
    May 8, 2010

    That said, I apologive for confusing you. That wasn’t my intention.

    If you’re in the mood to alleviate confusion, perhaps you could respond to some more questions…

    Unless a civil theocracy exists, how could the death penalty be invoked for any moral violation?

    Are you saying, here, that the US, and any other state that has (or in the past, had) a death penalty, is (or was) a civil theocracy?

    And could you address the questions raised in #270?

    If committing idolatry is immoral, then is the United States, which enshrines the right to commit idolatry in the First Amendment to the Constitution, a fundamentally immoral state?

  279. #279 Robocop
    May 11, 2010

    278: Are you saying, here, that the US, and any other state that has (or in the past, had) a death penalty, is (or was) a civil theocracy?

    No. I was simply noting that without a theocracy (as the Biblical Israel is said to have been), or a least a governing structure willing to enforce it, the moral law doesn’t stand as part of the state.

    If committing idolatry is immoral, then is the United States, which enshrines the right to commit idolatry in the First Amendment to the Constitution, a fundamentally immoral state?

    The USA was largely founded by religious people looking for freedom to practice their religion in peace in a world that often refused to allow that opportunity. Though it was hardly linear or nearly ideal, in the tension between freedom and enforcement, we have come generally to side with freedom (which I think is the right choice, typically), and to make our policy choices on secular grounds (also the right choice in my view). From a theological standpoint, I would generally distinguish between requiring immorality and giving the freedom to commit acts of immorality when making a judgment about the overall morality of the state. That said, as with issues like slavery, discrimination, economic and political opportunity, abortion, and war, acts deemed to be immoral can become so common and engrained that the question of morality in an overall sense can rightly be asked. Finally, in my view the Church has been least effective when in a position of power. We have often been co-opted by the state and spent time seeking to maintain our status instead of serving those in need. We have been a much more effective force for good when acting as a countercultural voice speaking truth to power.

  280. #280 Owlmirror
    May 11, 2010

    The USA was largely founded by religious people looking for freedom to practice their religion in peace in a world that often refused to allow that opportunity.

    That “in peace” turns out to not be so much the case — unless it means specifically the “peace” that arises from refusing to allow that opportunity to others.

    Note that The Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641 included the death penalty for those who might wish to worship some other god, echoing the Ten Commandments.

    1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.
    2. If any man or woman be a witch, (that is hath consulteth with a familiar spirit,) they shall be put to death.
    3. If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Son or Holy Ghost, with direct, express, presumptuous or high handed blasphemy, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

    And regardless of the above, those who worshipped “the lord god” differently were also punished, even unto death.

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

    Though it was hardly linear or nearly ideal, in the tension between freedom and enforcement, we have come generally to side with freedom (which I think is the right choice, typically), and to make our policy choices on secular grounds (also the right choice in my view).

    So if freedom is the right choice, whence the “morality” of the prohibition on idolatry?

    From a theological standpoint, I would generally distinguish between requiring immorality and giving the freedom to commit acts of immorality when making a judgment about the overall morality of the state.

    I don’t quite understand this.

    How about distinguishing between forbidding “immorality”, like the Massachusetts Body of Liberties does with its death penalties, and giving the freedom to commit acts of “immorality”, like the Constitution does?

    That said, as with issues like slavery, discrimination, economic and political opportunity, abortion, and war, acts deemed to be immoral can become so common and engrained that the question of morality in an overall sense can rightly be asked.

    What does “immoral” even mean, then?

    I would suggest that it refers to how humans behave towards other humans — but obviously, you don’t seem to share that definition, since you include “worshipping Yahweh exclusively” and “not worshipping idols”, which cannot possibly be either moral (or in themselves immoral), since neither has anything to do with humans behaving towards other humans at all. And the same argument goes for violations of those specific commandments.

    Given that the bible positively commands slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide, it cannot possibly be any sort of moral guide by my standards — but I don’t see how that quite works by your standards, either. Especially since you agree that the bible is not the word of God.

    Are the first four of the Ten Commandments, and the tenth, moral or not, and what makes them so? By my standard, they are not, since they have nothing to say about behaviors towards other humans.

    Finally, in my view the Church has been least effective when in a position of power. We have often been co-opted by the state and spent time seeking to maintain our status instead of serving those in need. We have been a much more effective force for good when acting as a countercultural voice speaking truth to power.

    What does “force for good” even mean? “Good”, as defined in what way? Does “good” have anything to do with “morality”, as defined by the Ten Commandments? And if so, then why are theocracies that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments “least effective”?

  281. #281 Robocop
    May 11, 2010

    280: That “in peace” turns out to not be so much the case — unless it means specifically the “peace” that arises from refusing to allow that opportunity to others.

    You might recall my qualifiers. The process was hardly ideal and progress wasn’t linear.

    So if freedom is the right choice, whence the “morality” of the prohibition on idolatry?

    Ancient Israel was a religious state. Such entities have more leeway. That said, I still think it’s a bad idea generally.

    How about distinguishing between forbidding “immorality”, like the Massachusetts Body of Liberties does with its death penalties, and giving the freedom to commit acts of “immorality”, like the Constitution does?

    The Constitution governs and governed a state with many religious views and much moral disparity. 1641 Massachusetts did not.

    I would suggest that it refers to how humans behave towards other humans….

    So morality doesn’t relate to how we treat other animals? How about internal motivations and choices, irrespective of impact on others?

    Given that the bible positively commands slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide, it cannot possibly be any sort of moral guide by my standards….

    You might consider the concept of progressive revelation and how the Jesus who fulfills the Law takes the tribalism of the OT and requires that, from thenceforth, morality applies to how everyone is treated. Read the story of the Good Samaritan again, for example.

    Especially since you agree that the bible is not the word of God.

    You’re putting words in my mouth.

    And if so, then why are theocracies that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments “least effective”?

    Which theocracies do you have in mind? An example of the contrast I have in mind is the moral force of the 1st C. Church vs. that under Constantine, or the moral force of the Abolitionist Movement vs. the Religious Right.

  282. #282 Owlmirror
    May 12, 2010

    Ancient Israel was a religious state. Such entities have more leeway.

    More leeway for what?

    That said, I still think it’s a bad idea generally.

    If it’s a “bad idea”, then why do religious states get “more leeway”?

    How about distinguishing between forbidding “immorality”, like the Massachusetts Body of Liberties does with its death penalties, and giving the freedom to commit acts of “immorality”, like the Constitution does?

    The Constitution governs and governed a state with many religious views and much moral disparity. 1641 Massachusetts did not.

    Ah, but 1641 Massachusetts, as a religious state, “had more leeway”, right?

    Really, you’re evading the central question here. Is a state that permits many religious views and much moral disparity, including idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, and atheism, more moral or less moral than one which punishes all such variants of religion with the death penalty?

    So morality doesn’t relate to how we treat other animals?

    *sigh*. At a minimum it refers to how humans behave towards other humans. If you want to quibble and split hairs about the exact wording, I am willing to change that to a more vague and unspecified “how humans behave toward others”.

    How about internal motivations and choices, irrespective of impact on others?

    How could those be moral, if they have no impact on others?

    You tell me — do you think that something that has no impact on others is moral or immoral?

    Given that the bible positively commands slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide, it cannot possibly be any sort of moral guide by my standards….

    You might consider the concept of progressive revelation and how the Jesus who fulfills the Law takes the tribalism of the OT and requires that, from thenceforth, morality applies to how everyone is treated.

    Uh… Dude, I’m an atheist. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that there is such a thing as revelation from God, let alone some kind of “progressive” revelation, whatever the hell that might mean — “not from a putative God, but from humans pretending that they know who God is and what God wants” — remember?

    And it was you who claimed that the Ten Commandments was “the clearest expression of the moral law” — except that it’s in the same part that commands the slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide!

    Read the story of the Good Samaritan again, for example.

    How about the story of the woman that Jesus at first refused to help? How about the story of when Jesus said it was better to give to him than to give to the poor? How about the stories where Jesus condemned all those who would not follow him? How about where Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law — and if he meant to exclude the slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide, he did not say so at the time.

    Especially since you agree that the bible is not the word of God.

    You’re putting words in my mouth.

    If I misinterpreted what you wrote at #275, it’s your own fault for being unclear. I wrote an atheistic interpretation of the bible as an entirely human document; you agreed with that interpretation — or at least, said that it was “not too far” from your personal view, and you did not distinguish how you disagreed.

    And if so, then why are theocracies that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments “least effective”?

    Which theocracies do you have in mind?

    All those that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments. See 1641 Massachusetts as but one example.

    An example of the contrast I have in mind is the moral force of the 1st C. Church vs. that under Constantine, or the moral force of the Abolitionist Movement vs. the Religious Right.

    Well, that’s using a standard of morality that involves how humans treat others — not enforcing the Ten Commandments, including with the death penalty.

    Make up your mind, will you? Is the Ten Commandments the “clearest expression of the moral law”, including the death penalty for violations of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking — or is it not?

  283. #283 Robocop
    May 12, 2010

    282: Really, you’re evading the central question here. Is a state that permits many religious views and much moral disparity, including idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, and atheism, more moral or less moral than one which punishes all such variants of religion with the death penalty?

    Consistent with what I’ve been saying — more.

    You tell me — do you think that something that has no impact on others is moral or immoral?

    Absolutely. Behavior is simply where the rubber meets the road (so to speak). But behavior comes from our thoughts and motivations. The key to good morality, in my view, isn’t primarily about controlling behavior. It’s about (at least in secular terms) transforming one’s character — reflected by thoughts and motivations nobody else knows about.

    As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that there is such a thing as revelation from God, let alone some kind of “progressive” revelation, whatever the hell that might mean — “not from a putative God, but from humans pretending that they know who God is and what God wants” — remember?

    I get that, but you’re claiming a pretty specific interpretation of the OT and how it should be applied today that is generally rejected by Christendom. Do you want to take cheap shots (similar to atheism results in gulags) or do you want to understand (even though you will still, almost surely, disagree)?

    How about where Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law — and if he meant to exclude the slavery, discrimination, war, and infanticide, he did not say so at the time.

    Except He did. His command was to “love your neighbor” and “neighbor” was defined — quite remarkably for the time — to extend not just to the tribe or even to outsiders, but to enemies. That remarkable idea, together with the idea of the incarnation turned an obscure sect led by an executed convict with less than 100 adherents to an estimated 6 million on the eve of Constantine’s alleged conversion in the early 4th C. Of particular note was that Christianity was attractive to the wholly disenfranchised women of the Roman empire because it treated them (and their children) so much better. Moreover, Christianity succeeded because, in response to horrific disease, Christians stayed and treated those in distress — even the pagans — while others fled. Unlike the culture at large, Christianity placed a high value on human life — infanticide, though common at large, was condemned by early Christianity. With your repeated emphasis on how others are treated, you might recall that Christianity succeeded because it treated others so much better than the cultural alternatives.

    All those that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments. See 1641 Massachusetts as but one example.

    Do you have a recent example?

    Well, that’s using a standard of morality that involves how humans treat others….

    When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

    Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

  284. #284 Owlmirror
    May 12, 2010
    Is a state that permits many religious views and much moral disparity, including idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, and atheism, more moral or less moral than one which punishes all such variants of religion with the death penalty?

    Consistent with what I’ve been saying — more.

    What you have been saying has not been consistent, though, which is exactly the problem.

    You tell me — do you think that something that has no impact on others is moral or immoral?

    Absolutely. Behavior is simply where the rubber meets the road (so to speak). But behavior comes from our thoughts and motivations. The key to good morality, in my view, isn’t primarily about controlling behavior. It’s about (at least in secular terms) transforming one’s character — reflected by thoughts and motivations nobody else knows about.

    And how is idolatry, the topic that started this particular subthread, immoral?

    I get that, but you’re claiming a pretty specific interpretation of the OT and how it should be applied today that is generally rejected by Christendom. Do you want to take cheap shots (similar to atheism results in gulags) or do you want to understand (even though you will still, almost surely, disagree)?

    The problem is that you have been inconsistent on what is and is not moral, and why it is or is not moral. When you praise the Ten Commandments, a large proportion of which are about specific religious behaviors, as being “the clearest expression of the moral law”, and then turn around and contradict that by saying that what the text actually says that it occurs in is “generally rejected by Christendom”, well, I have no idea how I am supposed to understand that as being anything but incoherent.

    His command was to “love your neighbor” and “neighbor” was defined — quite remarkably for the time — to extend not just to the tribe or even to outsiders, but to enemies.

    Except that he was (and Christianity in general is) inconsistent in that regard, as you keep ignoring.

    [Breaking out some responses here so as to avoid link overload -- see below]

    All those that enforce the death penalty for violations of the Ten Commandments. See 1641 Massachusetts as but one example.

    Do you have a recent example?

    I don’t have a recent example in mind, but that’s not the point — I’m trying to get consistent and explicit terminology about theocracies, which you refuse to apply.

    I repeat the question you evaded: Religious states have more “leeway” for what?

    Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list.

    And, in contradistinction to what I wrote, at least, this “most important” commandment has nothing to do with how humans treat others.

  285. #285 Owlmirror
    May 12, 2010

    [Breaking this out so as to avoid link overload]

    Of particular note was that Christianity was attractive to the wholly disenfranchised women of the Roman empire because it treated them (and their children) so much better.

    Your summary is overly simplistic; a more nuanced history of women in Mediterranean cultures shows that Christianity was not that much of an improvement.

    Consider also 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

    Moreover, Christianity succeeded because, in response to horrific disease, Christians stayed and treated those in distress — even the pagans — while others fled.

    Nonsense. Being a physician predates Christianity.

  286. #286 Owlmirror
    May 12, 2010

    [Breaking this out so as to avoid link overload]

    With your repeated emphasis on how others are treated, you might recall that Christianity succeeded because it treated others so much better than the cultural alternatives.

    Ethics long predates Christianity.

    Also: Consider Solon, and Musonius Rufus.

  287. #287 CJO
    May 12, 2010

    Infanticide was a Hellenistic practice. Judaeans did not practice it, nor did other traditional Semitic societies that did not wholesale adopt Hellenistic values and practices. So, it’s hard to say that Christianity itself was instrumental in doing away with the ancient custom, as it arose out of an older Jewish cultural matrix that abhorred infanticide.

    Of particular note was that Christianity was attractive to the wholly disenfranchised women of the Roman empire because it treated them (and their children) so much better.

    Well it’s interesting, then, that patrician and higher ranking women were common converts to Judaism in the Empire, and likely to Christianity as well, as Acts would seem to corroborate. Such upper class women were certainly not the peers of men of those classes, but they were hardly disenfranchised to the extent that peasants were, male and female alike. It is true that many or most of the early converts seem to have been from the disadvantaged strata of Greco-Roman society, but, again, it’s hard to say they were “treated better,” because Christianity in the first two centuries had very little actual power to dictate how people were treated by the society at large and seems in its earliest traditions to encourage humility and the eschewal of striving for better material circumstances. Likely, the apocalyptic message and the promise of Heaven’s reward were attractive to the marginalized, irrespective of any improvements or lack thereof to the material existence of the poor and downtrodden (though communal arrangements were likely also a boon to the most materially disadvantaged –a feature, I would note, not carried forward into the subsequent centuries in which Christianity really took off).

  288. #288 Mr T
    May 12, 2010

    I think I’ve got it now.

    Idolatry is immoral when the Israelites did it, because it was in the Ten Commandments, which are True Morality because Goddidit. Thus it was a good thing that pre-Christian idolaters were put to death.

    Then Jesus came along and said that True Morality applies to everyone. This is also true, because once again, Goddidit. Somehow, Christians got this crazy notion that idolaters and heretics (or basically any of those uppity non-Christians) should be put to death, since True Morality applies to everyone. And it was good. Then Jesus wrote the Bill of Rights — that’s good too because of the Biblical tradition of freedom-something-or-other…. In fact, everything is just peachy. I love Big Brother.

  289. #289 Owlmirror
    May 12, 2010

    Speaking of infanticide, I note — going by an admittedly cursory Wikipedia summary — that while infanticide was condemned by Christian writers, it was nevertheless not the case that Christianity ended the practice.

  290. #290 Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad
    May 13, 2010

    ?The [Catholic] Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants and then immediately dash their brains out: by this means they secured these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so. In countless ways the doctrine of personal immortality in its Christian form has had disastrous effects upon morals.?

    - “Why I am not a Christian” Bertrand Russell (1957)

  291. #291 Robocop
    May 13, 2010

    284: And how is idolatry, the topic that started this particular subthread, immoral?

    Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody. Or, in more secular terms: David Foster Wallace.

    When you praise the Ten Commandments, a large proportion of which are about specific religious behaviors, as being “the clearest expression of the moral law”, and then turn around and contradict that by saying that what the text actually says that it occurs in is “generally rejected by Christendom”, well, I have no idea how I am supposed to understand that as being anything but incoherent.

    The injunctions you criticize aren’t the Ten Commandments, but rather how the Israelites understood and built a huge legal structure around the Ten Commandments. Jesus went in the other direction — cutting the Ten down to two.

    I repeat the question you evaded: Religious states have more “leeway” for what?

    A voluntary religious group, in my view, has the right to enforce more and allow less freedom. I look at them a bit differently than groups that aren’t monolithic.

    285: Your summary is overly simplistic.

    Of necessity. I suggest you take a look at Stark’s The Rise of Christianity (Princeton 1996).

    Being a physician predates Christianity.

    I’m not talking about training or expertise. I’m talking about staying and caring in times of crisis. Even Galen fled the plague. Christians stayed and cared for the sick and dying, irrespective of faith.

    286: Ethics long predates Christianity.

    Of course it did. I’m talking about why Christianity survived and thrived.

    287: …Christianity in the first two centuries had very little actual power to dictate how people were treated by the society at large and seems in its earliest traditions to encourage humility and the eschewal of striving for better material circumstances.

    I meant treated better in the context of the group.

  292. #292 Owlmirror
    May 13, 2010

    Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody.

    When you’re reduced to citing the titles of song albums instead of offering reasoned argument, you fail to make the impression that you know what you’re talking about. Really, you’re just flailing here.

    Or, in more secular terms: David Foster Wallace.

    Who argues that what you worship doesn’t matter as long as it’s sufficiently lofty and/or abstract.

    And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

    This is not an argument against idolatry; it’s an argument that idolatry, when done right, is just as good as Christian orthodoxy!

    Is that in fact what you think?

    The injunctions you criticize aren’t the Ten Commandments, but rather how the Israelites understood and built a huge legal structure around the Ten Commandments.

    Except that you are completely wrong because the Ten Commandments were embedded in the huge legal structure to begin with.

    Jesus went in the other direction — cutting the Ten down to two.

    Matthew 5:18 contradicts you.

    I repeat the question you evaded: Religious states have more “leeway” for what?

    A voluntary religious group, in my view, has the right to enforce more and allow less freedom.

    Including “enforcing more” with the death penalty? The ancient Israelites were in the right to execute those who violated the Sabbath? 1660 Massachusetts was completely in the right to execute Mary Dyer? 1 Mind Ministries was completely in the right to deny a one-year-old infant food and water until he died, because he would not say “Amen”?

    And the Mormon offshoots that include polygamous marriages to underage girl children, and the expulsion of supernumerary adolescent male children — that’s just fine with you?

    Your blanket approval of cults and their right to do whatever they want — just so long as it’s kept internal to the cult — is astonishing to me.

    So idolatry, too, is A-OK as long as it’s done by a “voluntary religious group”? Then were the Israelites in the wrong or not to slaughter groups of idolaters?

    I suggest you take a look at Stark’s The Rise of Christianity

    Richard Carrier shredded that one.

    I’m not talking about training or expertise. I’m talking about staying and caring in times of crisis. Even Galen fled the plague. Christians stayed and cared for the sick and dying, irrespective of faith.

    [Citation needed] for every sentence of this.

  293. #293 Robocop
    May 13, 2010

    292: Richard Carrier shredded that one.

    Do you have a cite? I can’t claim an exhaustive search, but the only Carrier citation of The Rise of Christianity I found was essentially favorable (at Internet Infidels) and related to growth statistics. I found no mention at Carrier’s official website or at his blog (although lots of mentions of Stark re the history of science).

  294. #294 CJO
    May 13, 2010

    Anyway, what was the citation of Stark’s book supposed to show? You refer to it as support for the thesis that women converted to Christianity because they were disenfranchised in Greco-Roman society at large but were not in the early church, but as early as pseudo-Paul in the pastoral letters we have evidence that women were being actively excluded from leadership roles in the Ekklesia, yes? And first-century and early second-century Christianity was very small in terms of numbers. With which Stark agrees? (I haven’t read the book)

    If so, then whatever gains women made as a result of Christian identification could only have been a benefit to a very few, and not for very long. That doesn’t seem like a very lasting ethical advance on the part of Christianity, if it was salient at all.

    BTW, though I haven’t read Stark’s book, I do recommend one I read recently, called The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, by Wayne Meeks. It’s not necessarily apropos of anything being discussed here, but it’s a pretty good bit of history writing.

  295. #295 Owlmirror
    May 13, 2010

    I can’t claim an exhaustive search, but the only Carrier citation of The Rise of Christianity I found was essentially favorable (at Internet Infidels) and related to growth statistics.

    I misremembered which book(s) of Stark’s were being shredded — I was thinking of this post and the podcast files that it links to.

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2009/07/stark-on-ancient-science.html

    I think I linked to the podcasts last time the history of the Classical era came up, but you were busy with wedding stuff, and never followed up.

  296. #296 Owlmirror
    May 13, 2010

    I browsed through Stark’s book at books.google, which does not have all pages, and see that he claims that Galen left Rome during the plague (pp 85-86).

    He also cites Cyprian of Carthage.

    I see that Cyprian said:

    Many of us are dying in this mortality, that is many of us are being freed from the world. This mortality is a bane to the Jews and pagans and enemies of Christ; to the servants of God it is a salutary departure.

    As to the fact that without any discrimination in the human race the just are dying with the unjust, it is not for you to think that the destruction is a common one for both the evil and the good.

    The just are called to refreshment, the unjust are carried off to torture; protection is more quickly given to the faithful; punishment to the faithless….

    How suitable, how necessary it is that this plague and pestilence, which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the justice of each and every one and examines the minds of the human race….

    Text above is not from the book, but found by Google here:

    https://eee.uci.edu/clients/bjbecker/PlaguesandPeople/lecture3.html

    Full text (including ch. 15-20 cited in fragments by Stark) here:

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/SOURCES/MORTAL.TXT

    “This mortality is a bane to the Jews and pagans and enemies of Christ”
    — a real prince, that Cyprian of Carthage.

    Stark also mentions a letter of Dionysus of Alexandria (but those pages are specifically denied to me by google — can’t read 75-76, or 89-93), and claims:

    Stark 1996, pg 74:

    When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival.

    (emph. his).

    That conclusion looks mighty bold to me.

    Stark later (pg 87) cites a biographer of Cyprian which says that he urged his flock to help heathens — but that stands in stark contrast to Cyprian’s condemnation of heathens to death and eternal torture, in his own words. And that “helping heathens” does not appear to be in the context of the plague — or if it is, Stark does not provide that context.

  297. #297 Owlmirror
    May 14, 2010

    Your blanket approval of cults and their right to do whatever they want — just so long as it’s kept internal to the cult — is astonishing to me.

    Just so you know, I don’t really think that you necessarily think this — but it did follow from what you actually expressed in words.

    If you don’t want to be thought of as condoning approval of cults having the right to perform capital punishment for violations of religious rules, you really need to think a little more carefully about what you think moral and ethical principles are, than what you’ve expressed in the past few comments.

    Is an attempt to approach internal consistency in ethics too much to ask for?

  298. #298 Robocop
    May 17, 2010

    292: Who argues that what you worship doesn’t matter as long as it’s sufficiently lofty and/or abstract.

    If that’s what you got out of it, I suggest you read it again. In its most modern form, atheism represents a mere lack of belief — there is nothing affirmative to it. Yet we all must live by affirmatives. We all serve something or someone. What or who is it going to be?

    Except that you are completely wrong because the Ten Commandments were embedded in the huge legal structure to begin with.

    No, the 10 C’s are the starting point for building the legal structure.

    Matthew 5:18 contradicts you.

    Nearly 2,000 years of Christian interpretation and practice disagree.

    Including “enforcing more” with the death penalty? The ancient Israelites were in the right to execute those who violated the Sabbath? 1660 Massachusetts was completely in the right to execute Mary Dyer? 1 Mind Ministries was completely in the right to deny a one-year-old infant food and water until he died, because he would not say “Amen”?

    You’re mixing up states and other associations of various types. I’m not opposed to self-determination at the state level so long as dissenters are free to leave.

    296: That conclusion looks mighty bold to me.

    I don’t see how. The most basic care increases survival rates dramatically, I think.

  299. #299 Owlmirror
    May 17, 2010

    In its most modern form, atheism represents a mere lack of belief — there is nothing affirmative to it.

    OK, more or less — it’s a conclusion about the world, not an affirmation.

    Yet we all must live by affirmatives.

    Is an “affirmative” the same as “service” or “worship”?

    We all serve something or someone. What or who is it going to be?

    I affirm that an epistemology, and its results, must be as consistent as possible; and that an ethical system must be as consistent with that epistemology, and with its own rules, as possible.

    Do I “serve” epistemology? Do I “worship” ethics?

    Except that you are completely wrong because the Ten Commandments were embedded in the huge legal structure to begin with.

    No, the 10 C’s are the starting point for building the legal structure.

    Obviously not, since they hardly come first within it.

    Matthew 5:18 contradicts you.

    Nearly 2,000 years of Christian interpretation and practice disagree.

    The fact that Christians have ignored many, many parts of their own scripture for nearly 2,000 years does not change what their own scripture actually says.

    You’re mixing up states and other associations of various types.

    If I am confused, it is by your own lack of clarity.

    I’m not opposed to self-determination at the state level so long as dissenters are free to leave.

    So you are opposed to ancient Israel, where dissenters were given no such freedom, but were commanded to be brutally killed?

    I repeat: Is an attempt to approach internal consistency in ethics too much to ask for?

    296: That conclusion looks mighty bold to me.

    I don’t see how. The most basic care increases survival rates dramatically, I think.

    The “most basic care” would be useless if the caregivers fell ill and died with their patients. And unless scrupulous care was taken with hygiene, caregivers would also act as vectors.

    Stark, I note, is neither a medical expert nor a historian, and I suspect him of selective reading and citation given his treatment of Galen — he simply says that Galen “got out of Rome quickly, retiring to a country estate in Asia Minor until the danger receded.”

    Yet the Wikipedia article on Galen notes:

    Galen had first hand knowledge of the disease. He was in Rome when it struck in 166 C.E. He was also present in the winter of 168/9 during an outbreak among troops stationed at Aquileia. He had experience with the epidemic and refers to it as very long lasting and describes its symptoms and his treatment of it.

    …And goes on to describe those observations of symptoms in greater detail.

    So somebody is offering false testimony about Galen, and given that Wikipedia cites (R.J. Littman and M.L. Littman, 1973 Galen and the Antonine Plague, The American Journal of Philology 94 no. 3, p. 243-255]) I’m going to guess that it’s Stark who omitted facts inconvenient to his thesis, as he omits Cyprian’s contempt for and condemnation of non-Christians.

    And Stark cannot even plead ignorance, I see, given that he too offers Littman and Littman (1973) in his bibliography.

    I don’t think I have enough information at this time on epidemiology, or demographics in the ancient world, to offer more specific objections on that point.

    I also note that Stark — astonishingly, for a sociologist — treats “Christians” as a monolithic bloc, despite the fact that the various churches all around the Mediterranean Sea were hardly uniform, having different factions within the major cities.

    I think I will need to read more of Stark, and of Stark’s sources, but I suspect, given what Carrier argues about Stark’s other claims about history that Carrier has studied, that Stark is a poor scholar, and arguably even a dishonest one.

  300. #300 Robocop
    May 18, 2010

    299: Do I “serve” epistemology? Do I “worship” ethics?

    Why are you focusing on methods instead of what the methods are used for? What your ethics consist of is indicative of what you “serve” (to use Dylan’s language).

    The fact that Christians have ignored many, many parts of their own scripture for nearly 2,000 years does not change what their own scripture actually says.

    For Christians, interpretation begins with a premise that Jesus was consistent. Apparently, you begin with the assumption that inconsistency and perhaps intentional deception reign. I’m happy to let the texts (all of them) speak for themselves.

    I think I will need to read more of Stark, and of Stark’s sources, but I suspect, given what Carrier argues about Stark’s other claims about history that Carrier has studied, that Stark is a poor scholar, and arguably even a dishonest one.

    This argument gave me a good laugh. You could be right (though his being published by such renowned academic publishing houses suggests otherwise), but I was introduced to Stark and The Rise of Christianity in 1998 or so by atheists on an atheist discussion board as a great scholar and an agnostic who used scientific methods to examine the rise of Christianity in entirely secular, non-miraculous terms. Because of what he later wrote about science and because of his converson to faith, atheists don’t like Stark so much now. I find the irony pretty funny.

  301. #301 Robocop
    May 18, 2010

    Obviously not, since they hardly come first within it.

    Which of the various laws and regulations precede Exodus 20?

  302. #302 Owlmirror
    May 18, 2010

    Why are you focusing on methods instead of what the methods are used for?

    Why are you focusing on what the methods are used for instead of the methods?

    For Christians, interpretation begins with a premise that Jesus was consistent.

    And of course, if you start out with a false premise you will reach false conclusions.

    I note that this is much like the interpretational presupposition I pointed out elsewhere.

    Apparently, you begin with the assumption that inconsistency and perhaps intentional deception reign.

    No, as with atheism, it’s a conclusion based on actually examining the proffered evidence, and treating “it’s all consistent” as a falsifiable claim rather than as an unquestionable fact.

    I’m happy to let the texts (all of them) speak for themselves.

    Except for when you prefer to ignore the parts that you don’t like.

    Speaking of ignoring the parts that you don’t like, I note that you’ve given up on even trying to present any sort of consistent moral argument either for or against states that enforce religious dogma with the death penalty. Oh, well.

    Because of what he later wrote about science and because of his converson to faith, atheists don’t like Stark so much now.

    Meh. I was not actually aware of his religious background, and did not research it, preferring to examine what he was claiming about history.

    Which of the various laws and regulations precede Exodus 20?

    Various verses in Genesis (be fruitful and multiply; the Noachide commandments; rite of circumcision), the first part of Exodus 12, the first part of Exodus 13.

    Can we get back to the original point? The first few of the ten commandments are specifically aimed at enforcing the monopoly of the cult of YHWH. You’ve looked at Exodus 20. Focus on verses 1-10 inclusive. Regardless of whether the penalty for violation was death or not — something you seem to have decided that you don’t want to think about at all — what do those commandments have to do with morality? Who is harmed by violating them?

    I note that the only commandments that actually deal with people occur in two verses total (11,12). Lots of verbiage for “serving” YHWH; almost none for behavior towards others.

  303. #303 Robocop
    May 19, 2010

    302: Why are you focusing on what the methods are used for instead of the methods?

    Because substance trumps form.

    And of course, if you start out with a false premise you will reach false conclusions.

    I don’t think it’s a mistake to begin with a presumption of consistency. The presumption can be overcome, but it’s the proper starting point.

    Except for when you prefer to ignore the parts that you don’t like.

    Interpretation and practice are significantly different. I think the Bible itself shows progressive revelation (from polygamy to monogamy, for example), and I think that process continues. You insist that refusing a fundamentalist interpretation is inconsistent and dishonest. I don’t.

    Speaking of ignoring the parts that you don’t like, I note that you’ve given up on even trying to present any sort of consistent moral argument either for or against states that enforce religious dogma with the death penalty. Oh, well.

    You interpret my attempts at understanding and less than complete rejection as a defense of some sort. Oh well.

    I was not actually aware of his religious background, and did not research it, preferring to examine what he was claiming about history.

    I know Princeton has a long history of publishing the work of academic frauds, but you might want to read the book before making your conclusions about it instead of making a conclusion based upon what somebody else wrote about some of Stark’s other books. Just a thought….

    Various verses in Genesis (be fruitful and multiply; the Noachide commandments; rite of circumcision), the first part of Exodus 12, the first part of Exodus 13.

    None of these is, in any sense, a codification.

    Focus on verses 1-10 inclusive. Regardless of whether the penalty for violation was death or not — something you seem to have decided that you don’t want to think about at all — what do those commandments have to do with morality? Who is harmed by violating them?

    When I violate them, I am.

    I note that the only commandments that actually deal with people occur in two verses total (11,12). Lots of verbiage for “serving” YHWH; almost none for behavior towards others.

    When my priorities and motivations are in the right order, good behavior tends to follow.

  304. #304 Owlmirror
    May 19, 2010

    Because substance trumps form.

    Indeed.

    And a consistent epistemology and a consistent ethical system trump dogma.

    I don’t think it’s a mistake to begin with a presumption of consistency.

    It’s not a mistake is if it’s about the world itself — hence, a consistent epistemology.

    If it’s about anything produced by a human, then it’s a terrible mistake to presuppose that any one human is or was consistent.

    I say this noting your repeated inconsistencies, and acknowledging that as a human, I too am sometimes inconsistent.

    The presumption can be overcome, but it’s the proper starting point.

    The presumption is overcome as soon as inconsistency is observed.

    I think the Bible itself shows progressive revelation (from polygamy to monogamy, for example)

    Or in other words, the inconsistency that comes from it being a human-created document.

    and I think that process continues.

    How?

    You insist that refusing a fundamentalist interpretation is inconsistent and dishonest.

    I insist that you ignore the parts you don’t like, and that fundamentalists, too, ignore the parts they don’t like. The fact that you both have an inconsistent interpretation does not mean that you have the same interpretation, and the fact that you’re inconsistent in different ways does not mean that one or the other of you actually is consistent.

    The only honest interpretation of the bible is one that acknowledges that the human-created text is in fact terribly inconsistent.

    You interpret my attempts at understanding and less than complete rejection as a defense of some sort. Oh well.

    I see no attempts at understanding — just incoherence.

    And just to be clear — is “less than complete rejection” in reference to the death penalty for religious crimes (that do not affect anyone else)?

    And I am baffled why you would not want to defend some consistent interpretation of what morality is. Do you simply not care?

    I know Princeton has a long history of publishing the work of academic frauds, but you might want to read the book before making your conclusions about it instead of making a conclusion based upon what somebody else wrote about some of Stark’s other books.

    It’s obviously not just based on “somebody else”, but on what I was able to observe myself about Stark ignoring important parts of his sources, as I demonstrated clearly in what I wrote.

    Why do you ignore that? Because you don’t like it?

    The fact that Carrier demonstrated that Stark ignores primary sources in his other books made me suspicious, but if I had not been aware of that, I think I still would have been moved to look more closely, given the ease of finding many classical primary sources or references thereunto online.

    Incidentally, I had a notion which might actually support Stark’s general thesis of early Christians having a better survival rate during plagues — but not exactly for the reasons he suggests. I wondered if Christians of that era might have been more likely to be dairy farmers, since cowpox is known to confer immunity to smallpox, which is what Galen’s plague is strongly suspected to have been. But looking up smallpox on Wikipedia, I saw that the wild reservoir for the cowpox virus is in rodents! So, I posit a scenario where Christians, living in poor conditions in ancient Rome, contract the cowpox virus from rodents that seek warmth during cold seasons in their clothes. The Christians share these clothes with each other, spreading the cowpox — and immunity to smallpox.

    This might also work in similar ways for other diseases.

    This is, of course, entirely speculative, and may be wrong for various reasons. But as I wrote above, I would need to study a lot more about epidemiology and ancient history to either bolster or falsify any scenario.

    None of these is, in any sense, a codification.

    Ah. Because the passages that command a holy festival be celebrated — the holy festival on which Jesus was purportedly executed — are not codifications? The passages that command that all firstborn belong to God and must be sacrificed or dedicated and redeemed — much like Jesus purportedly was, and was meant to be — are not codifications?

    Because you get to decide what is and is not a codification?

    Well, I guess you’ve decided that Jesus did not come to fulfill the Law, since it wasn’t Law in the first place.

    Now that you’ve undermined the foundations of both Judaism and Christianity, maybe you’d like to try shooting yourself in both feet.

    Focus on verses 1-10 inclusive. Regardless of whether the penalty for violation was death or not — something you seem to have decided that you don’t want to think about at all — what do those commandments have to do with morality? Who is harmed by violating them?

    When I violate them, I am.

    1) Describe what this “harm” is in more detail. Avoid logical fallacies, especially special pleading.

    2) In light of (1), explain why you have no problem whatsoever with “harming” yourself by violating the Sabbath.

    When my priorities and motivations are in the right order, good behavior tends to follow.

    So are you saying that killing those who violated religious rules that did not affect others was “good behavior”? Or was that a failure of good behavior?

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