No Imagination Without Religion? Lee Seigel is an idiot.

Noted sockpuppet and sniveler Lee Siegel warns us that the new militant atheists may be closing the book on imagination. And for some reason the LA Times saw fit to publish this tripe.

In the last few years, so many books have rolled off the presses challenging God, belief and religion itself (by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger and Christopher Hitchens, among others) that a visitor from another planet might think America was in the iron throes of priestly repression. You'd never know that we live in the age of Paris Hilton, HBO, Internet porn and flip-flops. The 17th century Catholic Church proscribed Galileo -- just imagine what it would have done with the creators of "Entourage."

Here we start out poorly. One assumes you have to object to something only when being persecuted by it. Siegel is saying we can't object to magical thinking unless we're undergoing an inquisition? And that Paris Hilton is the symbol of our freedom? Atheism = tolerance of trashy whores and nudity on the TV (in the US)?

...that the separation of church and state is inscribed in our Constitution; that no priest, minister or rabbi holds any top position in the federal government; and that even the state board of education in Kansas recently forbade the teaching of creationism. The Catholic Church imprisoned Galileo and hounded Voltaire and his fellow philosophers; Harris & Co., meanwhile, are dining out on their self-styled iconoclasm in every corner of the media.

It's true, atheism, in this country, does not result in imprisonment or persecution. We call this progress. But it's also ignoring the points made by Dawkins and Hitchens about religion's influence around the world, real persecution of those that are different in theocratic states, and the quieter discrimination and reviling of science and reason that we must constantly be vigilant of in this country. Siegel then goes on to acknowledge the problems he spends his first paragraphs saying don't exist, and makes the idiotic argument that books about atheism don't do any good unless they're designed to convert opponents.

Who, exactly, are they aimed at? Who is the ideal reader of these attacks on belief in God? Not Muslim or Christian fundamentalists, obviously, because one of the engines driving religious fundamentalism today is, precisely, a hostility toward modern science. If anyone thinks that Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion" -- with its "scientific" attempts to refute the existence of God -- is going to persuade today's religious fanatics, here or abroad, to loosen up and enjoy a little MTV, you have to ask yourself just who is "deluded." It's hard to imagine anyone abandoning his faith after reading Harris' condescending polemic, or the science of Dawkins and Dennett, or Hitchens' vitriol.

I sincerely doubt that the goal of any of these writers is conversion of people like James Dobson or Ted Haggard, and no one realistically thinks that is the objective of the books. There are such things as people without their minds made up, people on the fence, and those that would like to solidify their arguments and understanding of atheist philosophy. Clearly they are selling though, so maybe Siegel should spend less time worrying about their audience.

The attacks in the books often don't make much sense either. For instance, Bush and his gang preach Christian values while lying us into a slaughterhouse overseas, ransacking our public coffers and ignoring social inequities and iniquities at home -- and so our heroic anti-religionists attack . . . Christian values. But shouldn't they be attacking Bush and Co.'s hypocrisy in betraying Christian values instead? Such polemics are a case of throwing the sacred bathwater out with the baby. The analytic philosophers used to call such arguments that so sorely miss the mark "category mistakes."

Ah yes, we call this argument the "Courtier's Reply". The problem is clearly not religion, because Dawkins et al., aren't writing about true religion, you know, people helping out their neighbors and working in soup kitchens. Fanaticism has nothing to do with real religion which is all sweetness and light all the time. As J.J points out, this is a straw man, because the issue isn't the moral lessons of each religion being obeyed (although as Hitch points out many of these are highly questionable). It's much harder to defend what Dawkins actually attacks, the improbability of the existence of deities or the supernatural.

Now so far, all we've seen is the usual tripe. But we haven't really seen how far down Siegel can stoop in his criticism of the new atheists. Prepare to see, quite possibly, the most absurd and offensive arguments yet against the new atheists.

If anything, you could imagine these assaults on religion becoming infamous in the Muslim world, confirming for fundamentalists that the West is every bit as godless -- and hostile to Islam -- as they thought. Hitchens' intemperate invective against Christianity, Judaism and Islam, for its part, will probably strengthen the resolve of fanatics in all three religions. What an intellectual mess.

Wow. Now the argument is, don't write about the danger of fanaticism, because if you do, you'll make them mad, and terrorism is your fault. Don't dare defend free inquiry and rationality, because that irritates the psychotic fundamentalists who burn books, kill gays, oppress women, and blow up people. We must always think first of not hurting their feelings. That's the best argument I've heard yet for faith. Shut up or they'll kill you.

That's pretty low, can Siegel go lower?

These arguments don't offend me or my beliefs. But they make me concerned nevertheless, because I think they strike a blow against something more important (at least to me) than belief in God. In their contempt for any belief that cannot be scientifically or empirically proved, the anti-God books are attacking our inborn capacity to create value and meaning for ourselves.

To be sure, the current assault on religious faith is the product of a centuries-long movement, beginning with the Enlightenment, toward the supremacy of science and empiricism and a rejection of unverifiable beliefs. But that campaign against religious faith and superstition triumphed long ago in the West, where we now live in a technological, irreligious age beyond the wildest Enlightenment hopes. When our anti-religionists attack the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic, they are, in effect, attacking our right to believe in unseen, unprovable things at all. Their assault on religious faith amounts to an attack on the human imagination.

For the imagination is what embodies concepts, ideas and values that cannot be scientifically verified and that have no practical usefulness. Because the existence of God is undemonstrable, unverifiable and the object of an impractical leap of faith, religion, it seems to me, is one of imagination's last strongholds.

The basic proposition seems flawed doesn't it? After all, isn't religion used, again and again, as a tool to avoid thinking about the difficult questions? Where did life come from? God. How did the universe form? God. Religion is a shortcut that short-circuits the imagination! It is dogmatic. By definition, it exists to preclude original thought. Faith isn't some wonderful key to the imagination, it's the lock caging original thought!

It is the rational exploration that is generating new theories, new understandings, and further exploration of the universe. The escape from dogma has freed our imaginations to imagine new (and heretical) possibilities. And it's not just science. Look at art! Who else thinks things have gotten better since artists have been freed from constantly making images of Jesus on the cross or endless pietas? Siegel makes the absurd statement that without faith we somehow are unable to love, or be creative, or be good to one another, as if atheism somehow involves the conversion of humans into heartless automatons. The fact is that atheists love, are altruistic (and not out of fear of being punished by sky-daddy), create art, science, and wonder, just like anyone else on the planet. Their ability to explore the unknown and take leaps of faith is increased, not decreased, because they don't pretend to already have all the answers.

This really should be patently offensive to atheists, as it makes the assumption that without God one somehow becomes subhuman (the implication of course is that atheists already are). Dawkins et al., are not making the argument that we should become robots, tied to cold logic and unable to do anything new because rationality isn't prepared for the unknown. They are making the argument that we should free our minds from dogmatism and illogic which hampers our creativity, our compassion for our fellow men and women, and locks us into patterns of behavior prescribed by ancient texts that are contradictory, bigoted, and irrelevant in our modern age.

Siegel's arguments are absurd, and irrelevant. But then, so is Siegel.

More like this

A Jewish website has an interesting critique of the new popularity of the current spate of books on atheism (I refuse to call it the New Atheism; there's nothing new, different or unusual about it except that a lot of people are reading it). The argument is this: the "militancy" of the new books is…
Truly there is no end to the vapid inanity the HuffPo Religion section will post. Our latest example comes from David Lose, in an essay titled, “Has Atheism Become a Religion?” Want to take bets on whether the answer is “No”? I don't recall who first said it, but it has been wisely noted that if…
Damon Linker reviews Religulous for The New Republic. Let's see, TNR is a left-leaning publication, so they will tend to be sympathetic to Maher's message. But they also fancy themselves very high-brow, which means they have to be turned off by Maher's in-your-face tactics. The review…
In provoking the emotions of fear and anger among non-believers, the Dawkins-Hitchens PR campaign motivates many atheists to be ever more vocal in attacking and complaining about religion. Yet does this PR campaign reach beyond the base, convincing Americans to give up their collective "delusions…

Heh, I just posted about the same article on my blog. My favorite part was where he trots out the "I'm not religious" pose, but what really takes the cake was his argument that faith turns absurdities into facts.

uh-uh, no! They don't get to pin Paris Hilton on free-thinking! Didn't she "find Jesus" in jail.

I thought I heard something about that. Nuh-uh...she's one of theirs now.

Siegel feels threatened that other people don't believe his fairy tale. He's invested his cultural identity in a Boogie Monster, and is just flailing to provide a plausible defense.

There are oped's like this all over the country every day. What you need are inline replies, or newscasters daring to speak rationally in response. This sort of crap is easily trounced on the web, but there needs to be an accountability penalty associated with it. Siegel needs a big sign above his head pointing to the idiocy of this argument.

By interlocutor (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

It's true, atheism, in this country, does not result in imprisonment or persecution.

Smalkowski.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

My favorite part was where he trots out the "I'm not religious" pose

Then you'll love this pice by alleged atheist David Fuhs on WorldNetDaily:

An atheist defends Christian values
...I am an atheist and have been one for a loooong time. I was an atheist long before it became "hip" to be one. I hope that I am, nevertheless, a moral man � due in part to my early exposure to things like the Ten Commandments and due in part to being raised in a primarily Judeo-Christian society....

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

<[blockquote>I sincerely doubt that the goal of any of these writers is conversion of people like James Dobson or Ted Haggard, and no one realistically thinks that is the objective of the books.
I don't know about the others, but Dawkins actually states who the book is aimed at - it's in the preface

By G. Shelley (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

At least he acknowledges that god is merely a product of human imagination.

By Fnord Prefect (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

You can tell that Siegel didn't make it through to the end of The God Delusion, since the conclusion of that book is all about using the findings of science to liberate the human spirit. Actually, he probably never started it in the first place, because if he had, he would have noticed how often Dawkins praises great art and great artists — Shakespeare, Michelangelo, all the usual suspects. He spends more time eulogizing his friend Douglas Adams than he does expounding the "Neville Chamberlain" analogy; did you notice that?

Carl Sagan would never have called Siegel a demented fuckwit, but I know myself, and I am no Carl Sagan.

So? We atheists like Paris Hilton, flip-flops and MTV? What a strange and sad argument. I doubt very seriously that Dawkins is a recuiter for MTV. And atheists lack imagination? Well, say goodbye to Douglas Adams/ five book trilogy. And Jess Whedon's very imaginative TV shows never existed. And just how are scientist able to that findings and come up with ideas to explain them? Why, only theistic scientists are able to do anything.

Methinks this person has snapped away from reality.

The attacks in the books often don't make much sense either. For instance, Bush and his gang preach Christian values while lying us into a slaughterhouse overseas, ransacking our public coffers and ignoring social inequities and iniquities at home -- and so our heroic anti-religionists attack . . . Christian values. But shouldn't they be attacking Bush and Co.'s hypocrisy in betraying Christian values instead? Such polemics are a case of throwing the sacred bathwater out with the baby. The analytic philosophers used to call such arguments that so sorely miss the mark "category mistakes."

Ah yes, we call this argument the "Courtier's Reply".

Wait a minute. I thought the Courtier's Reply parable was an attempt to ridicule the claim "You need to know these irrelevant stuff before you can criticize theism." One can argue that Lee Siegel is delivering a strawman here, since Dawkins and company aren't attacking the kind of "Christian values" to which Siegel alludes, but it's not the same thing as the overshooting that Terry Eagleton did in his flawed attempt at pointing out Dawkins' errors, which seems to have been the original inspiration for the Courtier's Reply in the first place. The only place where there is a connection to the Courtier's Reply is the brief mention of philosophers, and that connection is pretty tenuous.

I suppose I'm being pedantic here, but I've already seen the "Courtier's Reply" misused at least once, and it seems to risk becoming a knee-jerk reply to any criticism of Dawkins' reasoning or ignorance, regardless of the criticism's merit.

Maybe I misused it. My understanding was the Courtier's reply is generally saying you don't know anything of religion if you only point out the bad examples of it. Religion is all the good, high-minded stuff, and it can't be judged negatively because people abuse it etc...

Now I see this doesn't quite fit, I think I'll correct it.

But shouldn't they be attacking Bush and Co.'s hypocrisy in betraying Christian values instead?

I think maybe that's a No True Scotsman gambit. The damaging behaviour of Bush, et. al are not true Christianity.

Such polemics are a case of throwing the sacred bathwater out with the baby.

Show me the baby!

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

And G Shelley, he may say that he hopes to write a book that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down", but I don't feel from reading it that is the honest intention of Dawkins (nor would that have been a realistic objective). I see that as something of a joke, not a realistic goal.

I think Dawkins, similar to other writers before him is laying out a case for disbelieving dogma, the improbability of the big bearded man looking down at us from the sky and explaining the rewards and joy of being free from belief. Rather than limiting one's imagination and diminishing their humanity, it increases it.

It never ceases to amaze me how these article writers blow up five or six books published over two years into some kind of rampaging juggernaut.

It's about time someone called out all those unimaginative atheists like Voltaire, Picasso and Camus. Who needs them and their silly hack "art"?

"This really should be patently offensive to atheists"

Yeah, but who cares about offending atheists? We have no soul, after all.

And G Shelley, he may say that he hopes to write a book that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down", but I don't feel from reading it that is the honest intention of Dawkins (nor would that have been a realistic objective). I see that as something of a joke, not a realistic goal.

(Hopefully that is quoted right this time)
Oh I agree. This seems to be yet another lazy response to Dawkins (and the rest) that is mainly objecting to anyone openly criticising religion and taking very little account of what they actually say

By G. Shelley (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think Siegel makes some awesome points.

By sprezzatura (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

"After all, you cannot prove the existence of truth, beauty, goodness and decency; you cannot prove the dignity of being human, or your obligation to treat people as ends and not just as means. You take a gamble on the existence of these inestimable things."

This is a very valuable and true statement. Values cannot be proven...therefore they involve some element of faith. Do people here disagree with that? It seems to me that a purely rational ethics easily ends up in the sacrificing of minorities for the benefit of the majority, etc. Any insightful, rationalistic rebuttals?

the anti-God books are attacking our inborn capacity to create value and meaning for ourselves.

Could this be more backwards? It is believers who insist that meaning isn't meaning unless it is imposed by fiat from a source outside the Universe. Believers explicitly deny themselves the right to create value or meaning. They insist they need a magic book to tell them what is meaningful.

The appeal to the death of imagination seems to support a suspicion of mine that for many people religion represents a last, desperate attempt to cling to childhood. Games of make-believe are part of the charm of childhood imagination. Society permits adults to cling to this one little parcel of childishness, and their refusal to surrender it, however reasonable doing so might be, is evocative of the I Won't Grow Up song from Peter Pan.

This might seem condescending, and it would seem so even to me if it did not ring so true to my own personal experience.

I agree that deconverting theists was likely not Dawkins' main object in writing The God Delusion, but I think Mark and G. are mistaken to agree with the (overbearing) conventional wisdom that that's an impossible dream.

A significant proportion of atheists were believing theists at some point in our lives. At some point, obviously, we each decided that our former beliefs are untenable. Something changed--some experience, some understanding, some education we were exposed to.

In that light, I don't think that there can be any doubt that a million-selling book like The God Delusion has deconverted some number of believers. Given the sales numbers, it seems to me an unavoidable conclusion that many believing readers were not familiar with the heretical arguments Dawkins sets out--and that at least a few of them were convinced by what they read.

I agree that the "by the time you close the book" part of Dawkins' line is likely a humorous exaggeration; deconversion is not usually so simple or quick, and he presumably understands that. But the points that Dawkins (like generations of skeptics before him) raises are the same ones that have been deconverting believers for a very long time. I doubt they've suddenly stopped working entirely.

Some obvious caveats: Clearly "raising consciousness" and rallying atheists are at least as important to Dawkins as deconversion is. And I don't doubt that the deconversion rate for The God Delusion and its cousins is quite low. But it seems to me that--contrary to what so many reviewers of the Uppity Atheists' books would have us believe--that rate cannot possibly be zero.

Sprez, you say that because you Lee Seigal, and it wouldn't be good for you to go trolling without doing at least some self-indulgent wanking while you were at it.

Sorry, the comment software cut out an "are" after the "you".

Tad:

Values cannot be proven...therefore they involve some element of faith.

But in religion it is not the values themselves that involve faith, but the entity that tells you what they are. In other words, you don't have faith in values, you have faith in some supernatural being, who pronounces what the values are, even if they apparently oppose humane and rational principles (e.g., "Murder all the Canaanites, except for the virgin girls whom you can rape.")

It seems to me that a purely rational ethics easily ends up in the sacrificing of minorities for the benefit of the majority, etc. Any insightful, rationalistic rebuttals?

"Rational" ethics do not necessarily involve utilitarianism -- Kant, and more recently Rawls, proposed non-religiously-derived ethical systems that are not utilitarian.

In any case, if we are not going to use rationality to decide our ethics, how can we then say that one ethical system is objectively more "right" than another? If my "faith" demands that I murder everyone who doesn't believe in it, who are you to complain as I kill you? Contrary to what the religious say, without a rational basis for ethics, literally anything goes.

I think I make some awesome points.

Posted by: Lee Siegel | October 8, 2007 1:57 PM

Fixed. Oh, while you are here, do tell, where are your awesome points? Or do we simpleminded atheists just pass right over them?

Values cannot be proven...therefore they involve some element of faith.

I think you're mixing apples and oranges. Values are not about truth, they are about, well values. How important is X to you? Claims of truth are not involved in that (except of course that you should get your facts straight before you make decisions upon them).
Faith is accepting a truth claim (epistemology) without evidence, or in spite of evidence.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

It seems to me that a purely rational ethics easily ends up in the sacrificing of minorities for the benefit of the majority, etc.

I don't see why we should bother to respond to random trolling like that. Maybe if you would show your work, and explain why it seems that way to you.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

Thanks Tulse and Tegumai for your thoughtful responses.

Tulse: For those of us without faith in a supernatural being, don't we still require a 'leap of faith' in making moral decisions? I'm not an expert on Kant, but from what I know he seems to posit a priori knowledge of the world, that while it starts out being a sort of radical relativism barring us from the 'real' world, ends up letting God back in from behind by suggesting that we have some connection to an absolute truth.

I guess that is my question for the critics of the article that started this discussion. Can we all agree that people who believe in the literal truth of the Bible or whatever holy text or teaching are not grounded in a rational view of the world, but that a view of the world that is only rational and admits no necessity for faith and belief outside of rationality (and I don't necessarily mean a belief in anything supernatural) is not adequate either?

When I first read the title of this post, I thought it would be about something else entirely. Maybe it's true that without religion there isn't as much call for imagination. After all, who is more imaginative than the fictionalists at ICR or AiG when they try to explain away the concordance of dates among geophysical, geochemical, biological, and astronomical history? Who displays more creativity than Creation scientists when they try to invoke the Biblical flood as the cause for dinosaur extinction, sedimentation, erosion, and the (one) ice age? And whose flights of fancy go farther than the hordes of religiously-minded folk who think that the all-knowing, all-seeing creator of the universe may or may not take a personal interest in whether or not you help your donkey out of a ditch on a Saturday?

I could agree that solipsism is unproductive, but I'm not sure that I would categorize the acceptance that 1) there is something rather than nothing, and 2) that there is a real world that is relayed to us more or less accurately by our senses, as positions of faith. This view, after all, is based on evidence. Faith is the acceptance of something without or in spite of evidence.

There are of course all kinds of cognitive illusions which illustrate to us the limitations and quirks of our senses.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

For those of us without faith in a supernatural being, don't we still require a 'leap of faith' in making moral decisions?

If you do not accept my view that "faith" (in the sense of believing something without evidence) applies to truth claims and not to values, please explain. Truth claims fall under epistemology. Moral values fall under axiology. If you are mixing in some other definition of "faith," please disambiguate.

To save you the trouble, dictionary.com says:
e·pis·te·mol·o·gy - noun a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

ax·i·ol·o·gy - noun the branch of philosophy dealing with values, as those of ethics, aesthetics, or religion.

Obviously, the definitions are going to get squishy if they include "religion" in the mix, since religion also makes truth claims.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

MarkH: "And G Shelley, he may say that he hopes to write a book that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down", but I don't feel from reading it that is the honest intention of Dawkins (nor would that have been a realistic objective). I see that as something of a joke, not a realistic goal."

I don't think that the bit "But I believe there are plenty of open-minded people out there: people whose childhood indoctrination was not too insidious ..., etc." was meant as a joke. Dawkins was hoping for at least some deconversion, at least among the less committed or those with the "native intelligence" (Dawkins' words) to overcome one's religious upbringing.

but that a view of the world that is only rational and admits no necessity for faith and belief outside of rationality (and I don't necessarily mean a belief in anything supernatural) is not adequate either?

I disagree.

Belief is neutral. One can believe the earth is flat without consequence. One can believe the earth is round without evidence (I.e. through popular opinion or an authority's dictate). Belief only becomes valuable when it is supported by evidence, and grounded in a methodology that supports it. At that point belief becomes knowledge, which can be effectively shared, built upon and utilized. Knowledge of a round earth helps advance our knowledge in a way a flat earth simply doesn't.

Faith, as in a belief despite evidence, I would say is downright harmful, since it adds psychological blinders to our understanding and inquiry. In the scientific realm, this can stall progress by keeping an individual focussed on a dead end in their research, or lead to outright pseudoscience as people attempt to manipulate evidence to support their beliefs. In the political realm, faith can lead to deadly consequences, as potential solutions are applied or withheld based on ideological preconceptions, rather than real-world evidence.

I would add that Faith and Hope are not synonymous, since hope can exist with or without evidence. Hope plus evidence can help lead to understanding, as we can be encouraged to follow the scant trail of evidence to new and exciting locations.

"After all, you cannot prove the existence of truth, beauty, goodness and decency; you cannot prove the dignity of being human, or your obligation to treat people as ends and not just as means. You take a gamble on the existence of these inestimable things."

This is a very valuable and true statement. Values cannot be proven...therefore they involve some element of faith. Do people here disagree with that? It seems to me that a purely rational ethics easily ends up in the sacrificing of minorities for the benefit of the majority, etc. Any insightful, rationalistic rebuttals?

I'll take the bait, and say that you're not only substantially wrong, but conceptually so. You can no more prove beauty than you can hear yellow, but this does not mean that beauty or yellow are somehow outside the ken of rational understanding.

"Values" don't exist objectively. That does not mean they don't exist. Language doesn't exist objectively either; it is entirely reliant on human societies to carry and propagate it. Nonetheless, language exists, and evolves. Morality, beauty, understanding, decency - all these exist as concepts carried in our collective consciousness. Their existence is as evident, possibly more so, than that of the rocks and trees. They require nothing more than belief to make them concrete. If two people believe in English, it is "true" and it is real. If I believe a flower is beautiful, it is so. As a matter of subjective conception, or of social ideal, it does not matter if we can grind down the universe and extract the essence of truth or beauty - to expect to do so would be to ask the wrong questions of the universe.

But nothing in this even begins to come close to approximating a proof of the existence of God. Beauty and justice and truth exist for no other reason than because we made them up. Fuck the universe, fuck God, fuck all the conceptions about a higher truth. They can fight us for the claim to beauty and honour and wonder if they have the bollocks for it. They're ours, dammit. If we grant God and the higher spiritual truths anything because of the existence of beauty and justice, it can only be existence on the same level, as being things that we made up to make our lives better and that we, ourselves, can use or discard as we see fit. Nothing in granting the existence of beauty means we have to grant the existence of a supernatural being who has the right to preside over us with its ridiculous laws, its childish behaviour or its incomprehensible sense of "morality". Nothing in the acceptance that beauty exists because we say it is so means we have to bend at the knee to our imaginary deities.

I can't prove beauty. I can't hear yellow. Only an abject, craven fool would for a second assume that either of these subjects could be followed by "therefore, God exists." So don't try and pussyfoot in and fuck with me here. I'll fight the universe with my bare hands to keep beauty where it belongs, and you're much smaller than it is. Consider that before you pick your fights.

Dammit, the blockquote tag didn't end properly. That's my fault for not using preview. Anyone want to fix that?

And whose flights of fancy go farther than the hordes of religiously-minded folk who think that the all-knowing, all-seeing creator of the universe may or may not take a personal interest in whether or not you help your donkey out of a ditch on a Saturday?

This is interesting, because of course in the Bible, Christ said exactly the same thing. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Of course take care of any little emergencies, but God was never trying to say that you shouldn't lift a finger. Use your common sense!" In much of what is attributed to Him, Christ is actually a pretty sensible fellow.

And as for the rest, Jonathan, that's not imagination at all; that's either being misinformed or a straight-out liar.

There is no doubt in my mind that the spiritual 'lift' that comes with religion can enable one to create some truly beautiful art (in whatever form, including music), perhaps over and above what a particular artist might have done without it. But I certainly don't believe that it is essential, and I do agree that if religious art were the only art that could be or was done, the world would be a less beautiful place.

By Justin Moretti (not verified) on 08 Oct 2007 #permalink

Monty, Re: "self-indulgent wanking" I ask, Is there any other kind?

By sprezzatura (not verified) on 09 Oct 2007 #permalink

"Atheism = tolerance of trashy whores and nudity on the TV (in the US)?"

I'm an atheist just like you guys, but I don't know that calling a rich woman who dresses scantily and drives while under the influence a "whore" is the right way to go. You may find her trashy (I do!) but using that kind of language to describe a woman you don't like is trashy too.

Possummomma points out that its not just stupid to equate atheism to that stuff, its dead wrong:

http://possummomma.blogspot.com/2007/10/i-can-has-god.html

His examples being "Christian Porn" and "Christian Domestic Discipline" (wife spanking). Yep, its all the atheists fault. lol

Like someone stated on Pharyngula in response to his explanation of the value of belief, and more to the point, that its valuable precisely because it doesn't follow logical rules, can't be proven and makes no logical sense: Credo quia absurdum est - I believe because its absurd.

And that Paris Hilton is the symbol of our freedom? Atheism = tolerance of trashy whores and nudity on the TV (in the US)?

I signed the "Jail Paris Hilton" petition.

I don't like the trashy look, but if other people do, well, what's wrong with people paying money to have it broadcast to their homes?

If you don't want to watch it, don't turn your TV to that channel.

Don't want your kids watching it? Spend five minutes reading up on how to block it. It's not our fault a lot of lazy, irresponsible parents can't be bothered to put limits on their children.

Sprezzatura: I just wanted to hammer the point home there. Extra adjectives don't often hurt. Besides, stop sockpuppeting- we almost all know who you (probably) are.