No respect for Christianity…so stop demanding it

Atrios was getting some heat (most of it misplaced) for saying he was sick of the Christian whiners on the Left who make up stories of their martyrdom in the Democratic party—the same nonsense I was snarling about. While Atrios can say he's not hostile to religion—he's just apathetic—I can't, and reading some of the other reactions to the whole business just confirms my contempt.

I like Avedon Carol, but she just doesn't get it. Explaining that the Right has successfully portrayed the Left as "godless" and then talking about how wrong they are because the Left is full of good religious people and that there are atheists on the Right too is simply perpetuating the idea the Right wants spread—that atheists are bad, a taint on the culture, and that a good way to demean a movement is to mention that its got atheists in it. Thanks, but no thanks. Can we instead just try to get across the message that freethinkers are good people we aren't ashamed of for a change?

At least Carol isn't quite as exasperating as this guy:

We're not politicians here, but that's exactly what groups largely led by the religious community do: the Interfaith Alliance, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, etc etc Come on, guys. No one is trying to convert you--we're just asking for the most basic respect. We need to keep this coalition intact...Together, we stand for much: for religious freedom as well as freedom from religion, for our own passionate beliefs but also for tolerance and respect for the beliefs and rights of others.

Yes, yes…we know. Some Christians do good things. So do some atheists. We give people the respect they deserve for the actions they do…so why also demand respect for the absurd granfalloon called Christianity? When this fellow "Faithful Progressive" works for the separation of church and state, or for civil liberties, or to help the poor, I'll give him the thumbs up; but when he pulls this smug act of declaring his piety and expecting respect for his delusions, sorry, pal, but no way. Christianity is a crock.

This raises the larger problem I have with many liberal blogs--many of which seem to forget that politics is about building coalitions, building a team and not just cleverly dissing those who irritate you. No matter how tiresome Atrios may find Steve Waldman or Digby Amy Sullivan (or the Booman Tribune yours truly); no matter how tiresome I might find Duncan's poorly considered sophomoric theology--we are all on the same team, dammmit! Why don't these bloggers who should know better get that?

I like that: "sophomoric theology". Theology is sophomoric, attempts to rationalize the absurd with reality, the glorification of foolish beliefs that will be dignified by pretending they are serious. Nice team-building, too; it's the usual cluelessness of the majority that doesn't realize that their assumptions hold no validity and that they are relying on the mutual gladhanding of their fellows to hold up their illusions.

So, no, the final word is that I will never give his religion a bit of respect. I will tolerate it. I will respect his right to practice his religion. But I will not hesitate to express my scorn every time one of my "allies" in this "coalition" thinks the way to better the country is to promote more belief in false fantasies.

Ophelia links to an excellent summary of the materialist/naturalist/scientist position. That's where I stand, and that is my objective—respect that, Christians.

More like this

Nice post. I was trying to get someone to tell me today why it isn't sufficient that one's good deeds are acknowledged, that their motivation as a Christian has to be acknowledged, too. If we're in agreement politically, why can't the liberal Christians just go with that? Why is it so damn important that we make a big deal of their Christianity?

If the liberal Christians get their feelings hurt over just this point, and think it's as important as everything else that is going on, then I'm going to question their entire point of view. Damn, people, can we just concentrate on politics and quit with all the damn religion already?

Our civil society was painstakingly put together by people who were refugees from centuries of bloodshed over religion. the country was put together this way on purpose. I really rather resent the liberal Christians now taking the same position as the religious right and trying to insert religion into politics, especiall liberal politics.

I hope people realise before responding (if they are theistically inclined) that they should think of the following exchange as being respectful:

Right winger: The demoncrats are a bunch of evil Godless monsters who want to destroy America.

Lefty: Nuh-uh. We've got a large number of Christians in our party too.

Right winger: Nuh-uh.

Lefty: WE DO

Right winger: Nuh-uh

Lefty: WE DO

Right winger: Nuh-uh, you're just a bunch of Atheists.

Lefty: You have atheists too!

Right winger: Nuh-uh

Argument continues until the eventual lack of oxygen to the brain kills one or both individuals.

The concept that you can 'demean' a party by pointing out it has a wider degree of religious beliefs is somewhat stupid. If people want their religion to be respected it would at least be decent to reciprocate that respect.

But whatever.

I should add to that last statement:

"The concept that you can 'demean' a party by pointing out it has a wider degree of religious beliefs or non-belief is somewhat stupid. If people want their religion to be respected it would at least be decent to reciprocate that respect to others who think differently."

Let's worry less about respecting people who think differently and more about withholding respect for people who believe stupid things, eh?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

The fundamental disconnect is their failure to differentiate between respecting another person's right to religious belief and respecting the belief itself. No amount of pleading by the Christians is going convince me that Christianity has any merit whatsoever. I am not going to lie just to make them feel better.

Allow me as somewhat down-to-earth Buddhist to throw a bit of water on both your houses...

Look, to me your post is spot on, as is the first comment.

But one thing: a lot of the folks on the right really aren't on the right on everything.

There's evangelicals who voted for Bush, who, with a change of frame would vote against these theocrats. I say do what's necessary to court their votes, as long as it's not bashing anyone, Christian or non.

OTOH, I reserve the right for you and I to ridicule anyone's religion or lack thereof, mine and yours included.

BTW, Liked your Kinkade pick-up.

I'm with PZ on this stuff. I'm way past sick and fed up with religions. Because they have long demanded that atheists should ask themselves the opposite, I think it is high time for religious people to be fair and ask themselves over and over again, what if we are wrong and there is no God. When they can come up with the answer that they should live caring reasoning and fair lives and abide by representative law, they may just start to get it. As for me, religious freedom is no freedom at all, freedom from all religion, now that's liberty!

Hauptman: If you live by this principle of science, I believe you will end up believing as I and most of the other members of the National Academy of Sciences believe: that there is no God.

Liberal Christians need to start asking themselves, do they believe in the scientific method or do they believe in God. You really can't have it both ways.

I'd be really happy if the people who called themselves Christians acted as if they believed it. Instead we get vitriol from them and, so very frequently, outright lies (as, for instance, in the Kitzmiller case, where the devout believers were willing to perjure themselves over and over again for the greater glory of God). They want the ten commandments posted in the public square, they just don't want to obey them.

There is a now-unfashionable usage of referring to a kindly man as a "christian gentleman", in recognition of what a Christian should be. When you look today at Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Alan Keyes, Phyllis Schlafly, and their ilk, only one Bible quote suffices: Jesus wept (John 11:35 ). (Actually, though, he's dead. Very sad. Get over it, folks.)

I think a lot of people on the religious left are surprisingly close to a good strategy, but their religious blinkers lead them astray. The secret is to focus on morality, rather than belief. It is very easy to argue that things like healthcare, a working wage, and responsible custodianship of the environment are the right thing to do, They are moral imperatives for society. In fact, they are so right that the same arguments should work when falling on religious ears (it's God's commandment to love our fellow man) or secular ones (it's the right thing to do to love our fellow man). If people in their confusion think that your argument sounds very similar to statements from the cosmic bearded dude who made some Israelite-Egyptians write on rocks, so be it.

BTW, this is one of Barack Obama's strengths as a speaker, as evidenced by his 2004 convention speech, in that he makes a persuasive and general moral case with very little reference to specific religious points that will divide his audience.

Spot on, PZ. I'm tired of the cheap tactics being used on both sides to infer a sort of moral superiority. Fact is, claiming to be a Christian is obviously no talisman against being a liar, thief, murderer or tyrant. I don't care about your self-professed religion. I care about what you DO, and how you carry yourself in your daily life. All I ask is the same sense of respect in turn.

I will cut the religious left a break when they start putting their money and prestige where their mouth is and start denouncing the immorality of the right wing from the pulpit and on the street corners, when they start taking their tithes away from bishops palaces and cathedrals and start funding missions to bring the Baptists back to Jesus. Until that happens, they have no right to question anybody's influence in the Democratic party.

By justawriter (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

Peezy, you don't know what you're up against. I have no love for religion in general or Christianity in particular. But I think the percentage of us who can live in a no guarantees, "shit happens" universe is a minority. Religion is what gets most people through the night and you will fail in any attempt to persuade most people away from it.

By The Bloody Sergeant (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

PZ said "the final word is that I will never give his religion a bit of respect. I will tolerate it. I will respect his right to practice his religion. But I will not hesitate to express my scorn every time one of my "allies" in this "coalition" thinks the way to better the country is to promote more belief in false fantasies."

I find this very reasonable. The aspects of religion that are positive and could be respected also exist independantly outside of the religous process. An example is working at a community food shelf or tutoring reading at an elementary school--religion could be a motivator but isn't necessary and having some religous beliefs isn't, as we all know, a guarantee of anything.

Also, reading the blogs, I have never seen a person of religion say "thanks for the respect", most all of the communication is a litany of the ways that individual's beliefs aren't properly appreciated by various people and groups. Some of this may be crankiness although I think the only respect that could be fully accepted is to join them in whatever belief system they have, any sort of mutual respect isn't going to be totally satisfactory.

PZ's approach is honest and may even work better that the current sniping.

Volvox

Volox

Far as I can tell, it all depends on where your priorities lie. If you want to get the Democratic party elected, undoubtedly the best approach is to ensure to the best of your ability that it's a place where even fundamentalist Christians can feel at home, and not be mocked by their holier-than-thou friends for being tainted with atheism.

If, however, your priority is to promote a freethinking, reality-based culture, just keep on producing absolutely superb rants like this one :)

"Far as I can tell, it all depends on where your priorities lie. If you want to get the Democratic party elected, undoubtedly the best approach is to ensure to the best of your ability that it's a place where even fundamentalist Christians can feel at home, and not be mocked by their holier-than-thou friends for being tainted with atheism."

If the Democratic party ever becomes a place where fundamentalist Christians can feel at home, we're all screwed. You're talking nonsense. There's no reason for the Democrats to move yet further right than the insane levels it has already reached. There's no point having two parties at all if they're going to be ideologically identical, and that would be the outcome of a fundie-friendly Democrats.

If the Democratic party ever becomes a place where fundamentalist Christians can feel at home, we're all screwed.

Only because you have a personal agenda that extends beyond getting your party into power. I do too. It's a healthy way to live. However, regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, it's important to realise that some people really don't have much of an agenda beyond getting their chosen party into power.

I present the hardcore supporters of Tony Blair as exhibit A.

Amazing how someone who has so much education, and claims to know so much, in fact knows so little.

And like much of the rest of the blogosphere, has his little echo chamber to back him up.

PZ sez:

I will never give his religion a bit of respect. I will tolerate it. I will respect his right to practice his religion. But I will not hesitate to express my scorn every time one of my "allies" in this "coalition" thinks the way to better the country is to promote more belief in false fantasies.

This is a great illustration of how to alienate the religious or even vaguely spiritual people. If you don't respect someone's core beliefs, you obviously don't respect the person in a fundamental way. Do y'all think that by denigrating those who agree with you on policy issues you will make them see the light (or lack of it?)

Look, I agree that we nonbelievers are not respected in this society and a positive, strong assertion of rationalist thinking could do some good. But just as we want to be respected by the religious, so should we show some reciprocal humility and consideration. This golden rule seems like good humanism and good politics...

dkon writes: Do y'all think that by denigrating those who agree with you on policy issues you will make them see the light (or lack of it?)

Are you suggesting that this denigration might be, oh, what's a good word,irrational? Hmm.

What dkon just said.

"This is a great illustration of how to alienate the religious or even vaguely spiritual people. If you don't respect someone's core beliefs, you obviously don't respect the person in a fundamental way."

Love the idealism. What an amazingly impractical approach to coalition-building.

There's a big difference between "loud and proud" and this religion-bashing. People do not practice their religions, they ARE they religions. You cannot criticize one and claim you aren't criticizing the other. That's exactly the same kind of BS hair-splitting that the fundies practice -- "love the sinner, hate the sin."

dkon, it is not that I give my blood, sweat, toil and tears to help elect christians to office, but I must give them my heart and soul and rub their belly when they are good?

By justawriter (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

corkscrew writes: If, however, your priority is to promote a freethinking, reality-based culture, just keep on producing absolutely superb rants like this one :)

I don't see the connection. Are there actual examples of people becoming more freethinking and reality-based after being subjected to such a rant? Let's be empirical about our claims here.

People do not practice their religions, they ARE they religions.

So people ARE lies, hateful old myths, dogma, and fear?

OK, if you say so...but that makes it even more imperative to oppose religion.

dkon, it is not that I give my blood, sweat, toil and tears to help elect christians to office, but I must give them my heart and soul and rub their belly when they are good?

Um, justawriter, respecting someone's beliefs is not the same as agreeing with them or even thinking they have value (or giving your heart and soul). It's just recognizing that you may not have the ultimate belief system suited for everyone, and even if you did, you'd have a hell of a time convincing all them dumbasses. My point is simple: I think everyone's faith or lack thereof deserves respect, unless they believe in something observably false or evil (world is 6,000 yo, hating gays, etc.).

I don't even think my opinion on religion is that different from PZ's (I have no use for it), but it gets to me when in the midst of a logical defense of rationalism and science he will sometime just indiscriminantly poke people in the eye. I see no logical argument for dissing private faith, and it's certainly not going to bring any political benefits for the cause.

dkon said:

If you don't respect someone's core beliefs, you obviously don't respect the person in a fundamental way.

Maybe you should ask professor Paul Mirecki about "respect".

The people who have hijacked (or should I say parasitised) religion in this
country want *obediance*, not respect, and the rhetorical advantage of
attacking their political opponents and not being criticized in return.

By Dark Matter (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

Demoman:
"Amazing how someone who has so much education, and claims to know so much, in fact knows so little."

Amazing how someone who makes such sweeping claims, and in such a smug, patronizing manner, in fact provides so conspicuous a vacuum of evidence or examples to support them.

Demoman:
"And like much of the rest of the blogosphere, has his little echo chamber to back him up."

Granted, I've always hated the times when I've been on forums and found long chains of post after post agreeing almost mechanically with what the initial poster said, with a bit of ego-stroking thrown in (particularly, on both counts, if the initial poster is a moderator). But the comments I've seen here, while they hardly represent a balanced or proportional selection of viewpoints, consistently clarify, add to, and offer counter-arguments on specific points despite general agreement. Most of them also back their counter-arguments up with some sort of example, rhetorical structure, or at least something other than oozing, virulent condescension...

The Bloody Sergeant:
"Peezy, you don't know what you're up against. I have no love for religion in general or Christianity in particular. But I think the percentage of us who can live in a no guarantees, "shit happens" universe is a minority. Religion is what gets most people through the night and you will fail in any attempt to persuade most people away from it."

And which would be more of a "no guarantees, 'shit happens' universe," a naturalistic universe without gods or supernatural influences operating according to discoverable and consistent physical principles, or a universe in which those physical principles can be bent, broken, or outright vaporized at the whim of a deity, at any time, without warning, for mysterious reasons that we're not supposed to question or try to understand (the whole "mysterious ways" thing). The only reason I can see for a person preferring the latter is if one postulates that the deity, despite all obvious indications, A) has our best interests at heart, or B) can at least be persuaded to take them into consideration, or C) will hit them over the head with a really big hammer if they don't (literally or otherwise). In practice, however, all of these possible motives are undermined if one Thinks Things Through enough to recognize the implications of the fact that we have to take other someone else's word for each of them.

It doesn't matter if Christianity is a crock or not, it is beside the point. For Christ sake, how hard is that to figure out.

By thebewilderness (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

Asking questions denotes a lack of Faith.

Here we go again ....

1. No "god" is not detectable
2. All religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
3.All religions have been made by men.
4.Prayer has no effect on third parties.
5.All religions kill, or enslave, or torture.

Christianity, islam, marxism... it doesn't matter - they are all "holy causes" and we don't want any of them .....

By G. Tingey (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

While Marxism contains dogmatic tendencies even in theory, and is very much dogmatic (as well as violent and self-serving) in practice to the extent we've observed it, it's not a "religion" in the commonly understood sense of the term (nor indeed in any sense, unless one expands the definition of "religion" to include any ideological system or set of beliefs).

Alex, what makes you think that you are dealing with beings who have the time or inclination to Think Things Through? Most of us are just trying to Make It Through. It helps us to believe that there is someone bigger out there who cares about us on some level. Your A), B), and C) provide enough motivation and solace to face life. How important this is to people may be determined by the reaction they have to any threat to it. I wish the human race was courageous and rational, but courage and rationality are not the traits that were selected to survive under the hostile conditions under which we evolved.

By The Bloody Sergeant (not verified) on 14 Mar 2006 #permalink

dkon: I see no logical argument for dissing private faith, and it's certainly not going to bring any political benefits for the cause.

KenL: Love the idealism. What an amazingly impractical approach to coalition-building.

Ah, the old "You atheists gotta stop talking, seriously, for the good of the party!" routine.

PZ: "So people ARE lies, hateful old myths, dogma, and fear? OK, if you say so...but that makes it even more imperative to oppose religion."

No.

People ARE Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc. Just the same as they ARE Minnesotans or Michiganders or Southerners or academics or white or Americans.

Religion isn't practice, it's a fundamental part of people's identities. When you say that "religion" is lies, hateful old myths, dogma, and fear, what people hear is:

"PZ just called _ME_ a liar, a hateful person, dogmatic, and fearful."

Again, this is *exactly* the same BS hairsplitting that fundies pull on the gay community: "love the sinner, hate the sinner." Er, no. Homosexuals do not *practice* homosexuality, they *are* homosexual.

When this is how you think about religion, you're not actually being "tolerant". You're simply choosing (for whatever reason) not to thoroughly persecute religious people.

I really can't understand why this is such a tremendous blind spot for you, PZ. But I do understand why some visitors come away convinced that you are a "fundie atheist".

Two points for using the word "granfalloon". (Correctly, of course.)

KenL: When this is how you think about religion, you're not actually being "tolerant".

You mean it's intolerant to think religion is stupid? Does this apply to all stupid things, or just religion? Is it intolerant of astrologers to make fun of astrology? Some people are really into that, you know. They're not just practicing astrology, they ARE astrology.

Why in the world would we want to practice that kind of "tolerance", anyway?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Patrick: "Ah, the old "You atheists gotta stop talking, seriously, for the good of the party!" routine."

How about the old "You blinkered idealists gotta get a clue, seriously. Stop telling going around mortally insulting everyone in the room -- it doesn't matter if you think you're doing it or not, because you ARE you damn fools"

I get that you're a persecuted minority that's tired of being shat on. Join the club. There's PLENTY of us in the (D) party for that reason. I get that you want people to respect your beliefs/weltanschauung. Again, join the club.

Now how about you get over the persecution complex? Cutting on your fellow club members is not going to get them to respect you any faster. Respect can't be *demanded*, not when you're part of a persecuted minority, and particularly not when your concept of self-affirmation includes the denigration of allies. That's just not how the Human Society game works. And frankly, the rest of the coalition gets tired of it.

I mean, you guys DO remember that the (D) coalition isn't The Man, right?

Again, there's a difference between "loud and proud" about yourself and your identity, and being outright insulting of OTHER FOLKS' IDENTITIES. Even accounting for the fact that this is a safe forum for atheists to vent, I simply don't see too many people making the distinction.

The Right-Wing Christians confuse me.

I guess that they want more opportunities to visit the sick and people in prison by screwing up healthcare and putting more people in prison - and more opportunities to feed the hungry by allowing more people to go hungry.

Well, no. But the natural home of Christians is the left, and I really don't understand how they've ended up on the right in the US.

I don't make that distinction because it is a false equation. People are NOT their religion -- this is a lie that religion wants people to believe. It's a very useful strategem to protect themselves from criticism; it takes some really stupid ideas that wilt away into a reeking vapor when inspected objectively, and shelters them by associating them falsely with people.

Transubstantiation, for instance, is a really stupid notion, easily tested and easily shown to be false. Pointing out the obvious, however, is discouraged because people like KenL have absorbed this reactive protective device: an objective, assessable fact about reality is not allowed to be said, because people think this nonsense is part of their identity.

I notice that you're happy to say that "respect can't be *demanded*"...but perhaps you haven't yet noticed that that is exactly what the Christians are doing -- demanding respect for their myths and superstitions. If you look closely, you might notice that that is even the title of the article.

PZ: "people think this nonsense is part of their identity"

Which makes it true until you convince them otherwise.

Insulting them is a monstrously poor strategy to accomplish that goal.

PZ: tangential side-note. Identity is not essentialist. I do not claim it is.

This is why I used "Minnesotan, white, American, professor" as my parallels to Lutheran/Presbyterian/Baptist/Anglican/etc identities.

PZ is in good company, with his disrespect for Christianity.

Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Sarte (advocate of terrorism) or Sanger (advocate of Eugenics) didn't either.

Of course, they were all atheists, and I have no respect for them, either.

Its best to get this out in the open.

Good job letting us know where you stand; I wouldn't want any of you people to actually get political power.

By Stauffenberg (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Going along with their delusions is a monstrously poor strategy for breaking those false beliefs; it's a great way to perpetuate them, though.

Meanwhile, we have representatives of Christianity like Stauffenberg to remind us what it's really about: Christian bigots using their hate to keep people who don't share their superstitions out of political power. It seems their strategy of equating atheists with mass murderers works...yet you choose to harangue me for disrespecting Christianity. Maybe I'm not insulting enough?

Wow, it's the old "some atheists are bad people so they're all bad by association" routine. It's really just been a hell of a day for old arguments, isn't it?

Quick, someone bring up the watchmaker argument! We'll have a trifecta!

Alex,

expanding the term "religion" to denote any ideological system or set of beliefs is a commonly employed tactic among religious believers who spend time debating atheists. common claims go down the lines, "nobody can live without faith", "everybody takes something on faith", and (one i find pitiful yet hilarious) "atheism is a religion too".

which is not to say that they're right in stretching arbitrary words this way. but if and when they do anyway — such as by using communist genocides to show how "atheism kills millions" — it's only fair to use the then-stretched definition(s) to show how they may include, for example, communism as being a religion.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Respect can't be *demanded*, not when you're part of a persecuted minority

if and when you're part of an actual persecuted minority, demanding respect will usually be the only way to get it, because persecuted minorities will be disrespected by default otherwise. really, the historical precedents for this should be painfully obvious.

i don't know why this is, but it's likely got something to do with the watchmaker who designed human society. (hey, blame Patrick, he asked...) sadistic old bugger, that watchmaker!

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Let me see if I understand the situation: A huge, powerful majority is upset that a small, powerless minority is insufficiently deferential.

Does that sound about right?

Meanwhile, we have representatives of Christianity like Stauffenberg to remind us what it's really about: Christian bigots using their hate to keep people who don't share their superstitions out of political power.

And even more to the point, we have moderate friends like KenL jumping on us when we draw a line with them.

See, KenL, my analogy comparing Stauffenberg to Ann Coulter wasn't so far off, after all, was it? "Stauffenberg" (apparently a.k.a. "Emanuel Goldstein") is trying to send the kind of message I was sensitive to; I read him exactly right. He equates atheists with mass-murderers, terrorists, etc., and his out-there word choices were not just casual use of a loose, weak, metaphorical sense of "fundamentalist."

When you pooh-pooh my word sense disambiguation, in favor of your own, you get it exactly wrong. And when you are "affronted" and dismissive of the form or structure of my argument, you get that wrong too; you evidently do not understand the argument I was actually making.

FWIW, I'm guessing that "Stauffenberg" is the erstwhile faux-Jewish Christian kook "Emanuel Goldstein," who has previously claimed that Hitler was an atheist, in order to get Christianity off the hook for millions of Christians' violence against millions of Jews---and to put atheists on that very hook.

Perhaps it's better to just ignore such paranoid kooks, but if you're not going to, it is good to draw some lines here and there.

And KenL, if you're going to make simplistic "whose side are you on, anyway?" arguments, you might reconsider your own priorities here.

"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."

Minority Report: H.L. Mencken's Notebooks [1956], p.3

You've pretty much got it right.

I'd add, though, that science does lend itself well to supporting atheism, as long as we're being consistent in our philosophies. There is no particular reason or demand that human beings have to be consistent, though.

Sorry, KenL, you're not asking for respect, you are asking for a priori deference. There are a number of very religious people I do respect because they are vocal about why their faith demands they be liberal. There was a priest in North Dakota for example, who went to jail several times because of his peace protests and helping undocumented Salvadoran refugees. But they get my respect because of the way they act, not because they show up in a certain building every Sunday.

Liberal clergy and lay leaders will get my respect when they, like Rev. MLK, start telling right wing preachers they are not living up to the ideals of their faith. I was serious about this country needing missionaries to bring the Baptists back to Jesus. If the religious left wants to be judged on the content of its character, it needs to show some and not just complain that they "don't get no respect."

By justawriter (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

PZ: "Going along with their delusions is a monstrously poor strategy for breaking those false beliefs; it's a great way to perpetuate them, though."

--> The response is a false dichotomy? How about we assume we're all rational thinking adults and that we know there are more than just two choices here?

=====
Patrick: "Wow, it's the old 'some atheists are bad people so they're all bad by association' routine. It's really just been a hell of a day for old arguments, isn't it?"

--> It works just as poorly when you substitute other words for "atheist".

=====
Nomen: "if and when you're part of an actual persecuted minority, demanding respect will usually be the only way to get it"

--> You are correct. I was being unclear in my use of "demand". I intended to suggest a pre-emptory claim by force or fiat, not the seeking of what is inherent or due.

My apologies.

=====
PaulW: "When you pooh-pooh my word sense disambiguation, in favor of your own, you get it exactly wrong. And when you are "affronted" and dismissive of the form or structure of my argument, you get that wrong too; you evidently do not understand the argument I was actually making."

--> What a great example of what I'm talking about. I had wished to criticize not Paul W's _argument_, but rather its lousy argumentation. Yet he has continued to believe otherwise. This is of course a great distinction for me to make in a heady intellectual sense, when talking about logical forms and neutral interpretations divorced from human emotion, but for the target of my criticism the two seem inseparable. So far as Paul W is concerned, critiquing the one necessitates critique of the other.

Again, my apologies.

"And KenL, if you're going to make simplistic 'whose side are you on, anyway?' arguments, you might reconsider your own priorities here."

--> You're absolutely right. Since there seems to be a fundamental inability or lack of desire to understand any of the various analogies, metaphors, suggestions, examples, explications, parallels, or otherwise I have put forward, I do seem to be wasting my time. I do sincerely appreciate the opportunity to myself vent in this forum, but I think it's probably best if I go back to being a full-time lurker, and no longer try my hand at commentary.

KenL: It works just as poorly when you substitute other words for "atheist".

Obviously. I'd suspect you were making a point about PZ, but I don't remember him ever saying all Christians were bad because of bad Christians. He's criticized Christianity for that, of course. Oh, right, I forgot! People ARE their religion! Or something! Man, there are a lot of 2000-or-so-year-old people around.

Actually, Marxism looks quite a bit more like a religion than most ideologies. It fashions the world into a grand struggle. It teaches a moral code relevant to that struggle. It claims that the struggle and the morality are not mere human artifice, but instead result from higher law, the dialectic. It includes an eschaton, where after victory, a utopia is achieved in a remade earth populated by a remade Man.

Marxism doesn't have any personal gods, like Athena or Jesus. But its idea of History and its laws provide a kind of ethereal god, and it includes most of the other elements that make for a good religion. In practice, it had its theologians and schisms and inquisitions and congregations and catechisms and rites.

What a great example of what I'm talking about. I had wished to criticize not Paul W's _argument_, but rather its lousy argumentation. Yet he has continued to believe otherwise.

KenL,

I sincerely thought you misunderstood my argument at the outset. You chose to dismiss it in high-level terms that I did not agree with. I explained it some more, and you dismissed it again, calling me pedantic, etc.

Maybe I'm just stupid, and missing your point, but I honestly don't think you clarified the structure of my argument and showed it to be invalid; I think you thought I was making a simpler argument than I actually was making. And when I attempted to clarify that, you ignored the subtleties, made the same simplistic assertions, repeatedly called me "pedantic," etc.

If you would like to seriously discuss the argument I was actually making, or trying to make, and critique it clearly and carefully, in a friendly way, that's one thing.

But if you condescendingly pooh-pooh every thing I say, and call my explanations "pedantic," with snide comments like "you really love the rhetoric, don't you?"---while repeatedly ignoring what I thought were counterexamples to what seemed to be your simplistic point... well, fuck that.

Why explain myself to an evasive, condescending prick? If I don't explain, you'll just assert again that I'm wrong---wrongly, I think. If I do, you'll misunderstand and/or ignore my main points, make the same assertions, and condescend about my "pedantry" some more. Or so it seems to me.

What's the point? It just seems to me that you're being an evasive prick, presumably unintentionally. Perhaps I'm wrong, and stupidly misunderstanding you, but there it is.

If you like, we could have a serious discussion of word senses and what constitutes a legitimate use of a word in what kind of rhetoric, and what constitutes a valid rebuttal... but I think you'd just dismiss that as pedantic, because you think I'm wrong and it's already settled. Too bad.

Until then, if you just keep asserting that my argument was wrong, I'll just keep asserting that I think you're wrong to say so. Or we can just let it go.

And my point about priorities and knowing who your friends are still stands, even if I'm entirely mistaken about our argument about valid forms of argument. If you're going to quibble with my argument against "Stauffenberg," and casually dis me---rather than helping clarify the right response to such claptrap---I think that says something.

Perhaps I'm stupidly wrong about argument forms, but if you just keep asserting that, disdainfully, you are not practicing what you preach.

Unfortunately, PZ, this attitude dooms us to zero political power.

I have friends who read horoscopes. I think they are idiotic to do so. I generally refrain from calling them idiots, though, because they are my friends. I may challenge their beliefs and point out the astronomical fallacies in horoscopes, but I refrain from attacking them directly because they are my friends.

Secularists need friends, too. The secular movement can't succeed without Christians. We need to swallow our contempt a bit if we want to be successful politically. I suspect we can disagree without resorting to outright contempt of religious folks.

Contempt: the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.

The "its my religion so let me say or do what I want" defense is of course indefensible. If one takes a moment to realize that there is no way to generally determine if someone is sincere and "correct" in such a claim, then one comes quickly to the conclusion that religious components to public arguments are to be avoided.

And KenL, if you're going to make simplistic 'whose side are you on, anyway?' arguments, you might reconsider your own priorities here.

You're absolutely right. Since there seems to be a fundamental inability or lack of desire to understand any of the various analogies, metaphors, suggestions, examples, explications, parallels, or otherwise I have put forward, I do seem to be wasting my time.

That cuts both ways. For example, your previous post asserted that I didn't get that you were criticizing the form of my argument. I did get that, and I responded to it. The analogy to Ann Coulter was meant to address that very point, in a way that I mistakenly thought would be obvious. Perhaps I should have clearly and carefully explained what I thought was the obvious significance of that analogy, but I was a wee bit sick of being dismissed as pedantic. Damned if I do, damned if I don't, because you, seem to have a "fundamental inability or lack of desire" to understand the analogies, explications, etc. that I put forth.

I'm willing to chalk that up to an honest misunderstanding, of the usual sort---what's clear to one person is often not clear to another. Analogies are tricky, and if you misjudge, either way, you are either unclear or unnecessarily pedantic. So it goes.

Contempt: the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, worthless or deserving scorn.

Thank you PZ for consistently driving the point that all religions are "deserving [of] scorn".

The sooner we eliminate these delusions from the mass mind, the better.

"Transubstantiation, for instance, is a really stupid notion, easily tested and easily shown to be false."

I'm not sure how you propose to test transubstantiation, as it makes no claims about any physical changes. To use the Catholic terminology, the accidents (physical nature) of the bread and wine do not change, but the substance (spiritual/philosophical nature) changes into the body and blood of Jesus. Any Catholic will tell you that the bread tastes like bread, the wine tastes like wine, but Catholics do not believe that the wine physically becomes Type AB blood and the bread becomes gluteal muscle. So unless you have a test for the spiritual nature of things, I think it will be tough for you to disprove transubstantiation. (Of course, its definitition is meaningless if you do not believe that there is a spiritual nature of things distinct from their physical nature.)

" . . it gets to me when in the midst of a logical defense of rationalism and science [PZ] will sometime just indiscriminantly poke people in the eye."

But, but, but - that's what makes it so much fun!

"But courage and rationality are not the traits that were selected to survive under the hostile conditions under which we evolved."
Existential courage, at least.

The whole tolerance and religion/people ARE their religion bit: I can't beat Mencken, of course, but look at it like politics. You get people who ARE Democrats or Republicans or etc. Can I not criticize one without criticizing the other? Presumably I can admire/respect/be friends with Republicans without having to change my opinion of Republicanism, although whether I go around expressing it to that person or agree to that ol' social lubricant, Not Mentioning Controversial Topics*, depends on personality and the nature of the relationship.

There is a reason the phrase used is tolerance, rather then "overjoyed open-armed acceptance" or something. When we can count on it, then maybe we can try for more? I think your beliefs are stupid and insane, but I don't have the right to beat you for it" is a big step for mankind . .

I've never understood the "you tiny insignificant minority, your refusal to respect/defer/convert to our ways/beliefs is a enormous and intolerable threat," in any of its versions. You occasionally even get a bit of it with folks' response to vegetarianism. Don't get it. What - cracks in the nature of consensus reality?

Stauffenberg scribbled:

PZ is in good company, with his disrespect for Christianity.

Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Sarte (advocate of terrorism) or Sanger (advocate of Eugenics) didn't either.

Of course, they were all atheists, and I have no respect for them, either.

Its best to get this out in the open.

Good job letting us know where you stand; I wouldn't want any of you people to actually get political power.

Another GOP apparachik bleats the designated talking point
at the designated time.

Go ahead and try to stop the evolution of influenza by bleating a party talking point, Mr. Minitrue PR campaign hack. Try it on one of your "friends" should one be unfortunate enough to come down with it.

Or maybe a televised prayer session with Pat Robertson
will do it-just think of the jump in the polls you'll get
for your lame duck president.

We evolutionists will be around to bury the results.

By Dark Matter (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

"To use the Catholic terminology, the accidents (physical nature) of the bread and wine do not change, but the substance (spiritual/philosophical nature) changes into the body and blood of Jesus."

The idea of a "spiritual/philosophical nature" in objects is inherently stupid, testable or not.

The biggest threat faced by Christianity is its own internal contradictions. The fact is that traditional Christianity really is threatened by enlightenment values and reason -- and has been for over 200 years. Christianity is in crisis, but it's purely an internal crisis. Secular humanists, atheists, etc. are simply a convenient scapegoat (read: "powerless minority") chosen to bear the weight of Christianity's flaws.

You do have groups like the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, et al, insisting that Christianity must change or die, and they're absolutely right. The current resurgence of anti-intellectual "fundagelicalism" is simply an attempt to avoid change. And it's doomed to fail in the long run.

Unfortunately, we all live in the short run, and an awful lot of ugly shit can happen in the meantime.

...the absurd granfalloon called Christianity...

Only some of what they are spreading is foma, the rest includes plenty of lies, damn lies, and dangerous misapprehensions.

Transubstantiation, for instance, is a really stupid notion, easily tested and easily shown to be false."

I'm not sure how you propose to test transubstantiation, as it makes no claims about any physical changes.

One of those trying-to-prove-a-negative things. Hard.

On the other hand, I think it's easier to prove a negative, in the scientific sense of "prove," than people often realize.

For example, consider phlogiston. I'd say it's pretty well proven that phlogiston does not exist. Turns out there's no substance emitted by fires or animals that causes suffocation of fires and animals. Suffocation is caused by something else---a lack of oxygen. Turns out fires and suffocation don't work the way that would be required for phlogiston to exist, so it doesn't. We can prove that negative.

Likewise, consider Thor. Thor doesn't exist. Sure, its logically possible that there still could be some mysterious guy named Thor, who has a Bear and occasionally appears and throws the odd lightning bolt. But that's not Thor; Thor was supposed to be an important guy who throws thunderbolts in general. Like phlogiston, he's a theoretical construct with a job to do. Something else turns out to do that job, so he is unemployed. There is no God of Thunder, so in any reasonable sense we can say Thor does not exist. We can prove that negative, too.

Then there's transubstantiation. Transubstantiation made more sense when people believed in essences---essences of life, of flesh, and of blood. But it turns out that life, flesh, and blood don't have essences. There's no vital force, or essence of meat or blood, just a bunch of nanomachinery doing its job.

So now we know pretty well what life is, and what flesh is, and what blood is. In principle, at least, we could construct living tissues out of carbon and hydrogen and whatnot, leave out the magical essences, and we'd nonetheless get living flesh and blood. So the vital essences that make life life, flesh flesh, and blood blood do not exist.

Whatever might happen to a wafer during transubstantiation, if anything, it isn't a conversion of bread and wine to flesh and blood. The belief that it is hinges on failing to understand what flesh and blood actually are. Without the requisite nanomachinery, it simply isn't flesh or blood. Adding a supposed essence doesn't help with that. Bread or wine with mysterious essences for flavor still isn't flesh or blood. We know that now.

We can scientifically prove that negative, too, in the same sense we prove many things in science.

PZ, that's a shame. When all is said and done, you're driving a few people to vote for Bush because it's worth more to you to tell a Christian that "I will never give his religion a bit of respect" than to defeat McCain (or whatever evil numbnut the Republicans nominate in 2008).

When it comes time to vote, there's somebody I talked to at an interfaith picnic who's going to be thinking, "Hmm. That McCain, he's going to be starving kids, hurting the environment, killing our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. That's not they way of God. But who else can I vote for?"

Yes, yes, yes, I get it. We get it. We all get it. Theocracy=bad. Freedom of conscionse=good. Sky Fairy=Silly Delusion. Funny Stuff there.

Is it really costing you that much to give somebody respect?

By Little Heroes (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

People are their religion canard:

People claim to believe lot's of things, but rarely act on those beliefs. Respecting a person for what they do strikes me as far more reliable than respecting a person for what they claim to believe. Most Christians are good and charitable people. That puts them in the same league as most Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, pagans, Jews, Unitarians, uncommitted, and other as yet unclassified people. They may claim that their personal religion or philosophy is the motivating factor for their good and charitable dispositions, but then they have a hard time differentiating themselves from others. Perhaps its best to respect people for what they are and not what they claim to be.

But the natural home of Christians is the left, and I really don't understand how they've ended up on the right in the US.

And this is the crux of it.

The right is not the home of Christians. It's actually pretty close. The point is that a huge mass of Christians are on the fence. There's a huge mass of liberal Christians - like, say, almost every black American, many Catholics, a lot of Episcopialians, Unitarians, etc. There's a huge mass of fence sitters - other Catholics, in particular.

It's like anything else in politics - the goal is to get the moderate "Christian" voter by convincing that voter that the Democratic party is more closely aligned w/ Christianity. RIght now, the press is convinced that the Republicans are that party - because the Republicans have convincingly argued to the media that Christianity is about "family values" (abortion, creationism, repressed sexuaility, and Christmas) instead of the Golden Rule (ending poverty and disease, peace, brotherhood, etc.).

What the liberal Christians are saying, and saying very, very badly, is that Democrats need to say forcefully that the Democratic platform is Christianity. Christianity is feeding the poor, not invading pointlessly harmless countries, looking out for each other, educating our children, and so on.

The Sermon on the Mount could be our 2008 Platform. That's what we're trying to say. It has nothing to do w/ trying to convert PZ to Catholicism, and everything to do with converting the Media to viewing Christianitiy as more than a coathanger and a 10,000 year old earth.

And it starts with respect. It will be impossible to convinve a few swing christian voters in Ohio that the Democratic party represents Christian ideas if the Democratic party seems to say "I don't even respect you.

By Little Heroes (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Is it really costing you that much to give somebody respect?

Why are you asking me to lie?

Like I say up top, I freely give my respect to people who do good things, no matter what their beliefs about gods...in spite of any other superstitious beliefs. But I have no respect for religion, and I consider it rather offensive to ask someone to misrepresent their position.

And this is even worse, much worse:

What the liberal Christians are saying, and saying very, very badly, is that Democrats need to say forcefully that the Democratic platform is Christianity. Christianity is feeding the poor, not invading pointlessly harmless countries, looking out for each other, educating our children, and so on.

FUCK NO. The Democratic platform is NOT christianity. Feeding the poor is NOT christianity. Education and peace are NOT christianity.

Those are human values. They are shared by the atheists and agnostics and muslims and buddhists and just about every decent human being on the planet. They are universals, as is the golden rule.

When Christians try to appropriate those values to themselves and label them "Christian", they are stealing from me, they are insulting every non-Christian here. They are lying. Christian history doesn't even support the claim that Christianity has contributed to those virtues.

Thanks for implying that freethinkers are pro-poverty, pro-war, and anti-education. That's precisely the kind of help we don't need, and exactly the position that will drive more secular people out of the party, turning it into Republican Lite.

I liked Michael Koppelman's analogy of religion with astrology, and think it can perhaps be used to point out one of the problems with the entire "respect" thing. Sure, if friends are into astrology, we may choose to forgo the scientific critique out of personal respect for their feelings. It's what I call "Thanksgiving Table Diplomacy" -- just pass the gravy and don't argue with your Uncle Bob about Iraq. Let it go. There are more important matters, like being a family.

But the issue here isn't about people who believe in astrology or religion deserving respect, or being cut a little slack when we're working together doing something else. They're bringing their different views into the forum on purpose, as part of the rationale. And now it's a different ballgame.

It's as if someone standing by your side to advocate a common political position is saying that this is the right thing to do *because that's what the stars say.* Stop the war, institute universal health care, defeat this bill, promote this law -- because astrology says this. It works, it's true, therefore we have the right course of action here. This is simply how some people arrived at the same conclusion you did.

Letting someone go unchallenged for this kind of reasoning because they're on "your side" and we need all the support we can get fails to acknowledge that this is just plain dangerous kind of reasoning. It can just as easily support the other side. Or another side. Or any damn side you want.

Is it really costing you that much to give somebody respect?

Is your respect worth so little that you give it freely? Why then are you so upset that respect is being withheld? If it's that cheap, surely it won't be missed.

My respect is earned, not given, and I consider it to be very valuable. I don't give it away.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Perhaps we atheists were put here by God to test the faithful. We present them with a choice - vote for the party that will actually do some good, alleviate hunger and suffering - or vote for the party that will pander to your professed religion, but will increase suffering.

It is pride (which is a sin, by the way) that keeps Christians from voting the correct way. Some of them are so wrapped up in this "respect my beliefs" crap that they cannot do the right thing, and vote for inflicting pain on others. Satan would be proud.

It is pride (which is a sin, by the way) that keeps Christians from voting the correct way.

Who cares whether some group will alleviate suffering? (And incidentally, if you think the Democratic party is such a group, you're out of your mind. They are not "correct" in any meaningful sense.)

Suffering is of this world and is inherently transitory. People's eternal souls are in danger, and the thing about eternity is that it lasts forever. How can we help people by making them more comfortable here while depriving them of eternal salvation in the hereafter? Better to vote for those who will push to save every last soul than those who would deny the true faith.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

poverty rates fall more under Democratic administrations than Republican, people get more health care, etc. Are they perfect? Of course not, but things do go better for the poor under them than under Republicans.

I must have missed the part in Scripture where "feed the hungry, clothe the naked" was said to no longer apply.

What the liberal Christians are saying, and saying very, very badly, is that Democrats need to say forcefully that the Democratic platform is Christianity. Christianity is feeding the poor, not invading pointlessly harmless countries, looking out for each other, educating our children, and so on.

FUCK NO. The Democratic platform is NOT christianity. Feeding the poor is NOT christianity. Education and peace are NOT christianity.

Those are human values. They are shared by the atheists and agnostics and muslims and buddhists and just about every decent human being on the planet. They are universals, as is the golden rule.

I believe that you've misunderstood the intent of Little Heroes. In order to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, it is necessary that you visit the sick and feed the hungry, etc. Therefore in order to be a Christian, you need to hold these values. Therefore they are Christian values because in order to be a Christian you need to hold them. Whether non-Christians hold them or not is on a separate axis.

I'm currently thinking of a really scary Democratic attack advertisment based simply on someone reading out Matthew 25:31-46.

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Neutral introductory images with a very definitely blue background.

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Outline of Democratic increases in welfare

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Democratic plans to reform the healthcare system and possibly the prisons.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

(Not sure what to put here).

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Background fades gradually from blue to red

42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

Images of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, cut with George Bush doing nothing.

43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:

Minutemen and border control.

naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Iconic image of man with box from Abu Ghraib

44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

(Not sure what images to put here either).

46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Fade to black for five seconds of silence.

In order to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, it is necessary that you visit the sick and feed the hungry, etc. Therefore in order to be a Christian, you need to hold these values. Therefore they are Christian values because in order to be a Christian you need to hold them.

This is simply not true. Many Christians do hold those values, but it is often independent of their church doctrines. I was brought up Lutheran, and we get thoroughly indoctrinated in the distinction between faith and works, and that whole conflict that triggered the Reformation. Many more modern sects are quite adamant that all it takes to be Christian is to fully believe, to "take Jesus into your heart", to be "born again".

Whether non-Christians hold them or not is on a separate axis.

So what? I know this. What's being done, though, is to falsely associate Christianity with moral values. There was also a weird branch of my family that was thoroughly racist, and similarly associated charity, intelligence, courage, etc. with being a Caucasian. Would you say there was nothing offensive about my second cousin telling me I was being White when I did something praiseworthy?

Good point, Sastra, but we do need some political power, we secularists. Christian secularists are a huge asset to us. Most of these are motivated by secular, political ideals, not spreading the word of Christ or some such nonsense. However, we are lumping them in with the rapid, evangelical Right Wing dolts because we don't like religion. This is selling them short.

I guess I don't care why you are a liberal progressive so long as you are a liberal progressive.

It's long occurred to me that the reason many atheists/agnostics (and quite a few non-Christian-but-nevertheless-religious/spiritual folk) have such little "respect" for Christianity is that Christianity, in practice, doesn't have much "respect" for anyone else. I mean, I'm an agnostic that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. I'm going to hell, right? Isn't that the basic, core tennent of Christianity, and to deny that is to deny salvation. I know there's several schools of Christian theology that don't quite follow the whole Augustinian thing to the letter, but still, isn't the best I can hope for is, what, an eternity knowing the abscence of God (which is still supposed to be a bummer). I was raised Southern Baptist, and for the life of me, I can't understand why I should respect a school of thought that says I'm not only looking at spending an eternity in torture and agony for decisions made during a less-than-a-century lifespan, but I deserve what I'm getting.

What is there to respect in any of that?

You have a right to believe whatever you chose, but you have no right at all to tell me I cannot call what you believe a silly thing. The Constitution says the government cannot outlaw your faith, and I'll be the first on the line to fight against that if such things were to ever come to pass. But respect? Why should I? You don't respect me.

This is simply not true. Many Christians do hold those values, but it is often independent of their church doctrines. I was brought up Lutheran, and we get thoroughly indoctrinated in the distinction between faith and works, and that whole conflict that triggered the Reformation.

*mutters something unprintable about false dichotomies and bad theology*

The Catholics and the Lutherans have come to a common understanding of justification through faith and works.

The cause of the reformation was that the Roman Catholic Church of the time was utterly corrupt and Martin Luther happened to be the flashpoint for something that had been brewing for a while. The ultimate problem the Lutherans (and others) had with works was that works were reguarly defined as works for The Church - and hence works were completely discredited as a measure (having fallen victim to the old problem of "Measure what you value or you end up valuing what you measure") and so they needed to go for something other than works as a measure to avoid the same corrupting influence taking them over immediately.

Many more modern sects are quite adamant that all it takes to be Christian is to fully believe, to "take Jesus into your heart", to be "born again".

*mutters something even more unprintable about corrupt sects who say "Lord, Lord" and who prey* in public places for all to see*

I know this. What's being done, though, is to falsely associate Christianity with moral values. There was also a weird branch of my family that was thoroughly racist, and similarly associated charity, intelligence, courage, etc. with being a Caucasian. Would you say there was nothing offensive about my second cousin telling me I was being White when I did something praiseworthy?

And again you are slightly distorting what is being said. All A do x does not mean that all who do x are A. You've also hit on the really insecure version there. A better analogy would be if your second cousin found $1000 in an open lockbox with a name as the only protection and wanted it for something he considered very important, but returned it because "White men don't steal".

But to do that properly requires bone deep confidence in yourselves and the ability to be resistant to pressure from the environment. The focus must entirely be on yourself and that "I will live up to these standards whatever the world does" rather than using them as a club to beat others over the head with - and instead of praise for others in the group for living up to standards, condemnation when they don't is more likely. That they will live up to such standards is assumed.

And no, I am not a Christian.

* Intentional typo.

Yes, it's bad theology (but then, what's good theology?), and yes, I find that many Christian sects are hopelessly corrupt, but so what...they are Christians. Christianity is such a rag-tag tatty-assed collection of haphazard beliefs, it simply adds more force to my statement: don't expect blanket respect for religion. Being religious means nothing.

Atheism/secularism is the default position. Respect for it should also come by default! Atheism wouldn't even exist if theists didn't; notice, e.g., non-believers in leprachauns aren't called "a-leprachaunists".

Not that it's surprising, but the consensus criticism of PZ's points here seems to be the contention that outspoken antipathy toward religion scares away religious people who could be useful allies in pursuit of various important liberal causes.

As a fellow liberal atheist (who strongly agrees that the Sullivan/Waldman line of whining about seculars brutally sells us out), I'm wondering what steps we are willing to take to address that alienation concern. I'm sure we all understand the alleged problem--that giving deeply religious people the idea that the left, or the Democratic Party, is hostile to their religion puts hopes of a broad coalition for liberal ideals at risk.

PZ, like a lot of us, maintains that there are lengths to which we cannot be justly expected to go--for example, as PZ has repeatedly noted in this thread, you can't legitimately expect us to declare our love for belief systems (e.g., Christianity) that we consider misguided at best and horrendous blights on humanity at worst. Critics of the "secular left" routinely ignore this kind of concern entirely--we nonbelievers are expected to kowtow to orthodox religion because... well, because that's what acceptable people do. Dissent is antisocial, and damn your principles.

So forget the measures that would require out-and-proud atheists to forfeit our basic intellectual integrity, or our civil rights--those aside, what are we willing to do to assuage (or at least avoid contributing to) the fears that religious people aren't welcome on the left?

PZ or anyone--any ideas?

(The whole hypothetical presupposes, of course, that there are religious people who (1) are potential allies with nonbelievers for important liberal ideals, (2) can be enticed to ally with us without requiring us to prostrate ourselves to their beliefs, and yet (3) are also alienatable by some kinds of anti-religious action or speech. I tend to think that such people do exist, though I suppose it's debatable.)

but then, what's good theology?

A genuine and sincere attempt to understand the whys (as opposed to the hows) of the world and man's place in it.

And before you tell me that some of the premises are warped, believing in miasma theory of disease did not make one a bad scientist, nor did believing in Ptolomaic Crystal Spheres. And there aren't too many proof-tests you can apply in theology.

Atheism/secularism is the default position.

How many atheist societies can you name before the Enlightenment? Not believing in any specific God is the default position - but not believing in any God(s) at all does not appear to be the human default.

Stauffenberg:
PZ is in good company, with his disrespect for Christianity. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Sarte (advocate of terrorism) or Sanger (advocate of Eugenics) didn't either. Of course, they were all atheists, and I have no respect for them, either. Its best to get this out in the open. Good job letting us know where you stand; I wouldn't want any of you people to actually get political power.

Hi! My name is: Communist Terrorist Atheist Traitor. I understand that I'm an advocate of totalitarian governments, terrorism and eugenics, but I wanted to take some time away from tossing Christian babies in a furnace (while laughing) to suggest that it may not be wise to play this game, particularly given that there aren't that many atheists and religious folks have had a very long time to kill people for any number of appalling reasons. While I know I'm supposed to be baking Christians into a pie right now (and I'll get back to that in just a second, after the lions are done making ropa vieja), I'd also like to add that since you're a righteous Christian and all (and I might add, very good with chutney), it may not have occured to you to observe that most Americans are Christians and that it's virtually impossible for atheists to be elected to any sort of office because Christians tend to vote for Christians. Now maybe it's because of all of those times that I ran over nuns with my car (those snow chains are a godsend), or that time with the inverted crosses and the Christmas decorations, but, really, what can you expect? After all, without God I'm just bound to commit any number of heinous acts. I just can't help it!

In fact, I have to say, that if I were elected president, I would immediately do something crazy and diabolical, because I think that the basic unit of a free society is a free person. And I might cause right-thinking people to gasp in innard-wrenching horror, because I think that the government of a free society is obliged to defend the rights of the people who created it (that would be us), including the free exercise of religion, which includes the right to not be a member of any faith at all. Now I know, that I am surely damned by these eldritch (and perhaps even cyclopean) thoughts, and that certainly no society could do more than tremble in abject godlessness were it to be subject to them, but that is not the worst of them! Nay, I say to you that, in my free time, when I am not drowning Christians, setting them on fire, pressing them under heavy stones, or just hurting them with my words, I think that human beings are one of several products of four and a half billion years of evolution, that we made our gods, and that the universe has no innate purpose or meaning, because 'purpose' and 'meaning' are human terms, defined in the context of human societies.

I know, I know, it's like I'm just hammering those nails in the Savior's hands, that no decent human being could possibly stand to suffer my like to live in a decent and godly world, and that hell is simply too good for a creature such as myself, but you can at least rest knowing that I won't ever have the opportunity to defend your right to call me a monster, because I would.

By Hellesfarne (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

So forget the measures that would require out-and-proud atheists to forfeit our basic intellectual integrity, or our civil rights--those aside, what are we willing to do to assuage (or at least avoid contributing to) the fears that religious people aren't welcome on the left?

PZ or anyone--any ideas?

I'd start by using the big tent of Liberalism - and having spokesmen that include overt atheists, ordained priests (probably Catholic and Episcopalian - is there a current equivalent to +Spong?), Reform/Liberal rabbis, ministers etc. Make sure religion isn't an "Elephant in the room" - but that real respect between the spokespeople comes through.

And try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left (a somewhat different thing from Liberal - although the Liberals and the Left often ally) - that is where the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (rather than Saul of Tarsus) would place it.

The whole hypothetical presupposes, of course, that there are religious people who (1) are potential allies with nonbelievers for important liberal ideals, (2) can be enticed to ally with us without requiring us to prostrate ourselves to their beliefs, and yet (3) are also alienatable by some kinds of anti-religious action or speech. I tend to think that such people do exist, though I suppose it's debatable.

I know that in Britain the Quakers certainly fit that definition. As, for that matter, does a lot of the Church of England (Episcopalians in the US) - and they are a lot easier to alienate than the Quakers.

Francis says "good theology" is: "A genuine and sincere attempt to understand the whys (as opposed to the hows) of the world and man's place in it."

I suspect a genuine, sincere, and RATIONAL attempt will fail to find any "whys," except for man's and whatever other purposeful beings we discover. The end result is philosophy, not theology.

Francis wrote:
And try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left...

Sorry, but that suggestion severely violates the "don't require atheists to forfeit our basic intellectual integrity" precondition that I mentioned.

Lots of us think that Christianity is bad, Francis. We will not agree to enlist in some useless crusade to "reclaim" it on behalf of one sect or another. Christianity is of course not ours to "reclaim" in the first place, and plenty of us think that trying to read worthwhile liberal messages into it is dishonest and counterproductive.

- that is where the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (rather than Saul of Tarsus) would place it.

Oh, really? Teachings ( http://tinyurl.com/brxcm ) like Follow me or you'll burn in Hell for eternity?

* "He that is not with me is against me"? (Gee, who does that sound like?)

* "And that slave, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes"?

* Spend money on good ol' me, not on the poor, because "ye have the poor with you always"?

* "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me"?

You can keep that bloodthirsty garbage, thanks. I'd prefer "teachings" that paid any attention whatsoever to basic human rights like the freedom of conscience. Nothing of the kind is evident in the Jesus of the Gospels.

More to the point, Francis, any solution to the problem I've outlined that requires nonbelievers to kiss Christianity's ass is not a solution. (The same goes for plenty of other religions' posteriors, of course.)

I'm still interested in more practicable ideas for ways we can "assuage (or at least avoid contributing to) the fears that religious people aren't welcome on the left."

Now here is a curious thing. It is believed by everybody that while he was in heaven he was stern, hard, resentful, jealous, and cruel; but that when he came down to earth and assumed the name Jesus Christ, he became the opposite of what he was before: that is to say, he became sweet, and gentle, merciful, forgiving, and all harshness disappeared from his nature and a deep and yearning love for his poor human children took its place. Whereas it was as Jesus Christ that he devised hell and proclaimed it!

Which is to say, that as the meek and gentle Savior he was a thousand billion times crueler than ever he was in the Old Testament -- oh, incomparably more atrocious than ever he was when he was at the very worst in those old days!

Meek and gentle? By and by we will examine this popular sarcasm by the light of the hell which he invented.

- Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

Francis; OK, it's the default position in the sense that newborns have no beliefs, and which god(s) subsequently believed in, depends more on geography than on personal choice!

The extent to which humans are "hard-wired" to believe in the spiritual/supernatural is currently an open question... Do certain individuals have a born ("god-given") "talent" for religious belief? Individuals such as Jim Jones, Mother Teresa, Popes etc. Would these people have had any religious beliefs had they been raised entirely in isolation fom any religious influences? Very interesting question....

"Would these people have had any religious beliefs had they been raised entirely in isolation fom any religious influences?"

Probably not; AFAIK people who has been raised in complete or part isolation (with animals or locked rooms) aren't reported to be, in the cases they can make themselves understood. Such beliefs seems to be entirely cultural constructions. But the propensity to found and accept these constructions in a group may still be innate.

By Torbjorn Larsson (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Sauffenberg is wrong - why?

Because "Marxism" is a classic religion.
It has its holy truths, and schisms and holy wars, and presecutions of the heretics ...etc.
The whole thing is modelled on the RC church!

By G. Tingey (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

Sorry, but that suggestion severely violates the "don't require atheists to forfeit our basic intellectual integrity" precondition that I mentioned.

You mean that accepting allies is "forfeiting basic intellectual integrity"? No wonder the American Right is walking over you guys.

Lots of us think that Christianity is bad, Francis.

And then you wonder why Christians turn away from you and join the side that pays lip service to their religion? I have known for a long time that if you start out by looking for the bad in a human belief system you will find that in spades, but if you look for the good you will find that.

The same applies to Athiests looking at Christianity as does Christians looking at Atheism.

* "He that is not with me is against me"? (Gee, who does that sound like?)

You?

And when it comes to changing things, people who aren't with the changes are providing inertia and are hence part of the problem...

* "And that slave, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes"?

Jesus talked in the language of his time. There was slavery, slaves were beaten, and knowing what is right and then ignoring it is not good.

* Spend money on good ol' me, not on the poor, because "ye have the poor with you always"?

You mean "Don't use a generous action by someone else as a cause to start a fight"?

* "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me"?

In a parable. And whoever said that Jesus was soft was talking out of his hat.

As for the linked page, it's not quite as bad as the average Creationist page giving quotes from "evolutionists" - but goes in the same directions.

More to the point, Francis, any solution to the problem I've outlined that requires nonbelievers to kiss Christianity's ass is not a solution.

And I was never proposing that it was. What I was proposing was that you show very clearly that religion is not an insurmountable obstacle to respect at a personal level.

Tingey,

I agree with you that marxism is a religion, but I wouldn't say it compares very closely with the catholics at all.

The Catholics have a single leader.
The Catholics gave up mass murder and human sacrifice hundreds of years ago.
The Catholics preach tolerance of other faiths.
The Catholics are noted for serious scholarship of many subjects.
The Catholics are not willfully ignorant of basic economics.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

It is quite amusing to see fanatic atheists berating fanatic theists.

The worst leaders in history have been atheists, and it didn't affect their behavior one bit.

They still gave free reign to whatever the hell they wanted to do.

(I know atheists don't believe in hell though, thats why they create it here on earth...gualags, brainwashing camps, re-educations centers, "mental" facilities, etc.)

My parents got away from life in a regime that was officially atheistic, so quit PRETENDING that you don't know why a lot of us are...bluntly...AFRAID of what would happen if the political climate ran your way.

MYERS rant, and this from a professor at a major state university, indicates that nothing has changed.

Who ya kiddin?

Besides yourselves?

By Stauffenberg (not verified) on 15 Mar 2006 #permalink

They're so cute when they spout off with no idea of what they're talking about, aren't they?

"The worst leaders in history have been atheists, and it didn't affect their behavior one bit."

A few of the all-time mass murderers have been atheists, but that number doesn't include Hitler, for example. I would also contend that Stalin and Mao were not in fact atheists, but rather self-worshippers, rather like the later Roman emperors.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 16 Mar 2006 #permalink

John, you could certainly contend that Stalin and Mao were not it fact atheists, because they were self worshippers.

I like that! In fact, you could contend that there are no atheists at all...they are all self worshippers.

I mean, why pick on poor misunderstood Stalin and Mao?

Bahahahahahahaha!!!

By Stauffenberg (not verified) on 16 Mar 2006 #permalink

(I note in passing that our virulent anti-atheist troll can't even spell "Singer" and "Sartre" correctly.)

Marxism (in its extreme, bastardized, authoritarian form, anyway) is an example of what some sociologists call a "functional substitute" for religion, as I recall. Football is also one, in some contexts.

It is quite amusing to see fanatic atheists berating fanatic theists.

I've yet to work out which side is sillier.

The worst leaders in history have been atheists, and it didn't affect their behavior one bit.

I'm sure Genghiz Kahn, random Livonians, and the Aztecs would have a few things to say about that.

(I know atheists don't believe in hell though, thats why they create it here on earth...gualags, brainwashing camps, re-educations centers, "mental" facilities, etc.)

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. The religious have been at least as enthusiastic as the atheists on such measures because they do believe in Hell (and that they are saving others from it whatever the cost).

My parents got away from life in a regime that was officially atheistic, so quit PRETENDING that you don't know why a lot of us are...bluntly...AFRAID of what would happen if the political climate ran your way.

I'm afraid of solid atheism and I'm afraid of a theocracy. In contemporary America, a theocracy looks much more likely.

The Catholics gave up mass murder and human sacrifice hundreds of years ago."

Sure, like all that good work the catholic church has done in Africa.

"The Catholics preach tolerance of other faiths."

The Atheists don't try to take away liberty of conscience, as the way to be "tolerant".

"The Catholics are not willfully ignorant of basic economics."

Care to back that up?
"The Catholics are noted for serious scholarship of many subjects."

The Atheists are noted for serious scholarship of many subjects.

Hey Keith, Singer is a Professor of Philosophy at Princeton who is famous for arguing for animal rights, and that babies aren't persons until at least 30 days old. Sanger was the "mother" of planned parenthood and an early advocate of eugenics; she thought there were too many lower class from eastern europe and such places coming to America.

Two different people if that is who Stauffenberg is talking about.

Both atheists, though, and neither deserving of respect.

So stop demanding it.

Blair's Syllogism:

1. There exist atheists who are not deserving of respect.
2. uh...
3. Therefore no atheists deserve respect.

That's funny, Patrick...Myers said the same about Christians.

I mean, it worked for him!

Didn't it?

Bahahahahahaha!!!

Francis wrote:
You mean that accepting allies is "forfeiting basic intellectual integrity"?

You've moved the goalposts a mile. My comment was in response to your suggestion that we atheists "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." That's not "accepting allies," pal, it's capitulating to their theology.

You're missing the basic point: I want to know what steps we can take toward "accepting allies" that don't require us to actively sell out our ideals the way you smugly expect us to.

Lots of us think that Christianity is bad, Francis.

And then you wonder why Christians turn away from you and join the side that pays lip service to their religion?

They do that because we don't approve of their religion? And their ridiculous expectation that we shut up, abandon our beliefs, and kiss their religion's ass is our problem? (I note that they certainly don't approve of our irreligion! And of course no one, least of all you, would ask them to do so. Respect is apparently a one-way street in this area.) You're just forwarding the same atheophobic bigotry that Amy Sullivan and company traffic in constantly.

You're doing nothing more than demonizing dissent, buddy. I submit that there's no place on the Left for the forced acceptance of religious dogma that you demand.

I have known for a long time that if you start out by looking for the bad in a human belief system you will find that in spades, but if you look for the good you will find that.

There you go--dissenters are ipso facto haters. You have no respect for the freedom of conscience.

As for the linked page, it's not quite as bad as the average Creationist page giving quotes from "evolutionists" - but goes in the same directions.

Yeah, screw you too. Reactions to religious dogma aren't horrible or wrong just because Saint Francis disagrees with them.

More to the point, Francis, any solution to the problem I've outlined that requires nonbelievers to kiss Christianity's ass is not a solution.

And I was never proposing that it was.

Bullshit. You suggested that we atheists "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." You're happy to back that demand up with demeaning crap directed at people like Dan Barker and Mark Twain merely for holding religious beliefs that differ from your own. If your flavor of groveling obeisance to Christianity is what you think "respect" for Christians requires of us, we're happy to ignore you.

The respect I talked about is asked for the person qua person--not for their beliefs. I don't care if you respect religion or not. But respecting another's most deeply held beliefs is also rational in most instances--in part because it is better not to rile people up where their passions are at stake. For example, when Bush says that God is on our side and that his reckless wars are a Crusade against evil-doers he taps into the long bitter history between faiths--not too smart. When Atrios unnecessarily offends potential allies, he is not serving his own interests very well.

And what do you recommend for the majority of pro-science, pro-Evolution believers? Shouldn't we speak in a language that the fundamentalists can relate to as we try to engage them on these issues? Or should we lead a Crusade on behalf of science and shut them all up? Good luck with that one.

FP

Blair: That's funny, Patrick...Myers said the same about Christians. I mean, it worked for him! Didn't it? Bahahahahahaha!!!

Really? How odd. See, using my amazing powers of Reading Comprehension, I came up with the following:

Myers' Syllogisms:
1. Christianity is a useless falsehood.
2. Useless falsehoods deserve no respect.
3. Therefore Christianity deserves no respect.

1. People earn respect based on their actions.
2. Some Christians perform actions worthy of respect.
3. Therefore some Christians are worthy of respect. (By virtue of their actions, rather than their religion.)

Hm, that sounds almost exactly unlike Blair's Syllogism. Surely you knew that, though, since I'd hate to think that you were just a trolling moron.

What is it with people who are unable to separate people from their beliefs? I can respect people who have beliefs I find ridiculous by respecting them for other aspects of their lives and personalities that I admire. Likewise, I can not respect people who have beliefs I agree with because of other aspects of their lives and personalities that I do not admire. See how easy that is? Christianity is silly, but even people who believe silly things can do other things with their lives that aren't so silly.

It is very easy to argue that things like healthcare, a working wage, and responsible custodianship of the environment are the right thing to do, They are moral imperatives for society.

Yeah, and then you get tagged with the bleeding-heart, feel-good liberal label.

You mean that accepting allies is "forfeiting basic intellectual integrity"? No wonder the American Right is walking over you guys.

Dominionism is stronger than its political model, the (remnants of the) civil rights movement, because the civil rights movement is divided against itself. PZ's hardline atheism looks like pandering inclusiveness compared with the schisms of the various movements for racial and gender equality; as far as oppressed minorities go, gays and atheists tend to be pretty well-behaved.

And then you wonder why Christians turn away from you and join the side that pays lip service to their religion? I have known for a long time that if you start out by looking for the bad in a human belief system you will find that in spades, but if you look for the good you will find that.

It's because currently American conservatism happens to have good rhetoricians at its service, whereas the best American liberalism can field is the hopelessly counterproductive Lakoff.

Francis wrote:
The respect I talked about is asked for the person qua person--not for their beliefs.

The hell it is. You contended that we atheists should "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." Again, that's not respecting Christians, it's capitulating to their theology. You don't seem to understand the difference--or the fact that your position constitutes demanding that capitulation.

But respecting another's most deeply held beliefs is also rational in most instances--in part because it is better not to rile people up where their passions are at stake.

So a lack of respect for a given group's beliefs, in and of itself, leads to "riling [that group of] people up"? I say baloney.

You're still contending that Christian unhappiness with the mere fact that we don't like their religion is our problem and that it's incumbent upon us to abandon our principles so that we can "respect" their "beliefs." Freedom of conscience dies under that analysis: we're then only free to dissent from ideas that Approved People(tm) like yourself find worthy of dissent.

When Atrios unnecessarily offends potential allies, he is not serving his own interests very well.

"Unnecessarily" is in the eye of the beholder. Given the ugly religious dogma you expect us to swallow with a smile, I don't think nonbelievers can trust you to decide when the offense (of easily offended pious folks) is in fact unnecessary.

And what do you recommend for the majority of pro-science, pro-Evolution believers?

I dunno--that's why I posted, dammit. Thanks a lot for sidetracking the whole thread into your laundry list of the ways that nonbelievers ought to throw out our basic principles and publicly bow down to Jesus Christ the Super-Leftist.

Shouldn't we speak in a language that the fundamentalists can relate to as we try to engage them on these issues?

Depends upon what they "can relate to." If they demand that we start with "Oh, yeah, Jesus was great" and/or throw in "God" every third word, then hell, no, we shouldn't. (And can't.) That's capitulation.

If they can hang with real science and real discussion of earthly values, they're welcome in as far as I'm concerned.

Or should we lead a Crusade on behalf of science and shut them all up?

Sure. Keep telling yourself that dissent from religion implies an intent to silence and destroy it. That couldn't be coming from rank bigotry--oh, no, certainly not.

You've moved the goalposts a mile. My comment was in response to your suggestion that we atheists "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." That's not "accepting allies," pal, it's capitulating to their theology.

In which case, either I mis-stated what I meant or you misinterpreted. I think it's a bit of both (and I'm certainly guilty of oversimplifying). The left needs to reclaim Evangelical Christianity and this needs to be lead by the Evangelical Christians who are on the left - and should be supported by the rest of the left.

(I note that they certainly don't approve of our irreligion! And of course no one, least of all you, would ask them to do so. Respect is apparently a one-way street in this area.)

No, is is seemingly a no-way street in this area. You don't respect Christianity and Christians don't respect your beliefs. You have control of one of those, but not the other - but if you offer people respect and attempt to understand them, in my experience they usually reciprocate. If you don't make any attempt to respect them and their beliefs, in my experience they reciprocate that as well.

You're missing the basic point: I want to know what steps we can take toward "accepting allies" that don't require us to actively sell out our ideals the way you smugly expect us to.

As your "ideals" do not seem to include tolerance of the religious or the possibility of working with them to mutually beneficial goals (and pointing out that this is possible so that others can see it), I guess you can't accept allies. I'm sorry to hear that and have a better idea now of why so many American Christians are on the right wing.

And please elaborate on which ideals you think I want you to sell out?

I have known for a long time that if you start out by looking for the bad in a human belief system you will find that in spades, but if you look for the good you will find that.

There you go--dissenters are ipso facto haters. You have no respect for the freedom of conscience.

No. People who hate ideologies are ipso facto haters. I don't care if they are dissenters or the mainstream. As for respect for freedom of conscience, I have the utmost respect for it as a value even if I abhor some of the manifestations of it and see others as short-sighted and counterproductive. In words attributed to Voltare "I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ... and my right to try to talk you out of it.

Yeah, screw you too. Reactions to religious dogma aren't horrible or wrong just because Saint Francis disagrees with them.

No. They are, however, wrong when they take short snippets out of context and try to build a case from them (often missing the point), they unfairly paraphrase and they simplify and attack strawmen. As I said, the page goes in the same direction as creationists.

Bullshit. You suggested that we atheists "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." You're happy to back that demand up with demeaning crap directed at people like Dan Barker and Mark Twain merely for holding religious beliefs that differ from your own.

Given that I don't hold any religious beliefs at all, that's an interesting accusation. There is a lot of bad in Christianity, but it has at times been one of the strongest progressive social forces around.

And as for Dan Barker, I find it amazing to hear he hasn't ever been told what the context he is taking things out of is given that I've given some of that context in this thread.

If your flavor of groveling obeisance to Christianity is what you think "respect" for Christians requires of us, we're happy to ignore you.

There are a lot of Christians of my aquaintance who would be amazed to hear anyone accuse me of "groveling obeisance to Christianity" - for that matter, this is the first time I've ever been accused of groveling obeisance to anything (see my comments to Stauffenberg above for my more normal reactions to militant Christianity).

But you do not gain allies by harrassing them, swearing at them and saying you have no respect for their beliefs. You gain them by courting them, being polite to them, speaking their language and providing something for them. Politeness costs nothing - and trying to attack Evangelical Christianity directly is like getting in an arse-kicking contest with a massochistic centipede. (Lopping off a limb whenever it tries attacking where it really shouldn't (such as Creationism) and otherwise improving things and letting it die from lack of hardship would be a much better approach).

A hate site has been defined as one that is devoted to attacing and individual or group on the basis of race, sex, creed, or national origin.

I am very disappointed to see Myers and Pharyngula taking that route.

You are going beyond anything science is capable of with your metaphysical specualtions.

You are playing into the hands of your opponents...they are already quoting some of these rants on other sites.

For all I know, some of the more vicious atheist rants my be plants by theists.

Wake up to whats happening here!!

Dominionism is stronger than its political model, the (remnants of the) civil rights movement, because the civil rights movement is divided against itself. PZ's hardline atheism looks like pandering inclusiveness compared with the schisms of the various movements for racial and gender equality; as far as oppressed minorities go, gays and atheists tend to be pretty well-behaved.

Indeed. The American Left reminds me of the Judean Peoples Front out of Monty Python and the Life of Brian.

So a lack of respect for a given group's beliefs, in and of itself, leads to "riling [that group of] people up"? I say baloney.

OK, so you would not be riled with someone who thought that Atheism was bad and could not provide a moral framework? And you would happily side with them? I say baloney.

You're still contending that Christian unhappiness with the mere fact that we don't like their religion is our problem and that it's incumbent upon us to abandon our principles so that we can "respect" their "beliefs."

No I'm not. I'm contending that there is unhappiness on both sides caused by the actions of both parties. You only have control of one of them, however.

Freedom of conscience dies under that analysis: we're then only free to dissent from ideas that Approved People(tm) like yourself find worthy of dissent.

No. You're free to dissent. If you want them as allies rather than opponents, you aren't free to tell them that something fundamental about the way they define themselves is bad without a massive lead up and a lot of evidence to support it.

The trick is to take the actions rather than the motivations as the litmus test and then try to work with those you disagree with and listen to them and hopefully be able to bring them on board with a good understanding of what they are saying.

It's because currently American conservatism happens to have good rhetoricians at its service, whereas the best American liberalism can field is the hopelessly counterproductive Lakoff.

Urk.

And Rieux, I am not FP (who, I assume, is Faithful Progressive of the linked blog).

The problem with courting Evangelicals is that they're a high-cost group. Just like you can't gain Evangelical votes without appealing to their religious sensibilities, so can't you gain secularist votes without showing that you don't appeal to people's religious sensibilities.

Now, let us consider the political ramifications of Democratic appeals to Evangelicals. Some Evangelicals will vote Democratic instead of Republican. But at the same time, there are numerous voters in the Northeast who regard themselves as socially liberal and economically conservative and still lean toward the Democrats. These people are captivated by appeals to liberals' being the reality-based community as opposed to a faith-based ones, and often find themselves supporting left-wing economics based on purely pragmatic arguments.

Semi-disjointly, there is a contingent of secularist or otherwise anti-Evangelical Democrats. Some form the core of the gay rights and feminist movements; others don't, but need convincing that the Democrats care for separation of church and state.

Now, it is possible to get Evangelical votes, but the policy cost is too high. Evangelists' values with respect to gender equality, gay rights, abortion, and science are incompatible with these of liberalism; secularists', in contrast, are exactly these of liberalism.

Indeed. The American Left reminds me of the Judean Peoples Front out of Monty Python and the Life of Brian.

I think I made that exact comment in another context a few days ago (and if I didn't, I certainly intended to).

James: A hate site has been defined as one that is devoted to attacing and [sic] individual or group on the basis of race, sex, creed, or national origin.

It's a good thing there's none of that here. I see a lot of attacks on a particular creed, and I see a lot of attacks on people with a particular creed because they also happen to exhibit detestable behavior, but oddly I don't see too much of attacking people based solely on their creed. Perhaps a quote will help.

Now, it is possible to get Evangelical votes, but the policy cost is too high. Evangelists' values with respect to gender equality, gay rights, abortion, and science are incompatible with these of liberalism; secularists', in contrast, are exactly these of liberalism.

Now, that is a more sensible argument (although "Liberalism" has many different meanings - and I specifically said win Evangelicals over to the Left which is a somewhat different beast). Although it depends which strand of Evangelical you are talking about. But you can not win over the Evangelical Christians as is, you need to help them change what they consider important - whether they consider feeding the hungry and curing the sick more important than homosexuality (which from a biblical perspective it certainly is). Part of the point is that they should be more in tune with the left than the right but the right appears to be far better at holding a coalition together.

I surmise that FP is not Francis. D'oh. My apologies, FP, for putting his words in your mouth.

Francis wrote:
The left needs to reclaim Evangelical Christianity and this needs to be lead by the Evangelical Christians who are on the left - and should be supported by the rest of the left.

But what of those of us who believe that Christianity is not fundamentally compatible with the left (or at least with many aspects of the left that we think are of extreme importance)?

I dissent from your contention that "the left needs to reclaim Evangelical Christianity." I don't think we need to do any such thing. You have consistently read that to imply that I want to drive Christians out of the left, which is absurd--you're merely responding to a bigoted stereotype rather than what your opponents are actually arguing.

You don't respect Christianity and Christians don't respect your beliefs.

That's right (albeit not for all Christians). That will not change unless one side converts wholesale.

Some of us take that fact as a given and would like to try to build coalitions notwithstanding the internal disagreements about "beliefs." Christians and atheists can find other areas of agreement and other grounds for respect.

You, meanwhile, demand that we respect things we cannot help but find unworthy of respect. That's tyrannical.

You have control of one of those, but not the other.

Wrong. I can't respect bloody injustice no matter how hard I try. My fundamental beliefs are not matters that I can change pursuant to my whims (or yours).

but if you offer people respect and attempt to understand them....

I'm doing both. Christians are not Christianity.

As your "ideals" do not seem to include tolerance of the religious or the possibility of working with them to mutually beneficial goals....

A damnable lie. Dissent from Christianity is absolutely not the same thing as refusing "tolerance of the religious." Neither have I ever denied "the possibility of working with them to mutually beneficial goals"--to the contrary, my basic presumption is that we can work together.

Again, you're arguing with the Atheist Boogeyman of your imagination, not with me. Disliking Christianity--even severely--is not remotely the same as the ludicrous positions you're imputing to me.

And please elaborate on which ideals you think I want you to sell out?

How about my idea that Christianity is bad, and my grounds for that? D'you remember how you responded to that above? Look it up.

[In response to Francis' summary dismissal of Dan Barker's essay "Why Jesus," http://tinyurl.com/brxcm ]:
Reactions to religious dogma aren't horrible or wrong just because Saint Francis disagrees with them.

No. They are, however, wrong when they take short snippets out of context and try to build a case from them (often missing the point), they unfairly paraphrase and they simplify and attack strawmen.

All totally baseless criticisms of Barker's essay.

You suggested that we atheists "try and reclaim Evangelical Christianity for the Left." You're happy to back that demand up with demeaning crap directed at people like Dan Barker and Mark Twain merely for holding religious beliefs that differ from your own.

Given that I don't hold any religious beliefs at all, that's an interesting accusation.

Really? How about this one:
the Left ... - that is where the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (rather than Saul of Tarsus) would place [Evangelical Christianity].

That's plenty close enough for this argument. You've accepted that as dogma, and you're happy to shellack Barker, Twain and me for dissenting from it.

And as for Dan Barker, I find it amazing to hear he hasn't ever been told what the context he is taking things out of....

You obviously have no idea who Dan Barker is. Suffice it to say that he knows more about "the context" than you ever will. Again, look it up.

There are a lot of Christians of my aquaintance who would be amazed to hear anyone accuse me of "groveling obeisance to Christianity"....

Well, as we've noticed, some Christians are touchy. Sometimes it doesn't take much impiety to get yourself labeled a heretic.

But let's see: you (1) stick doggedly to the "Jesus Christ the Super-Leftist" idea, (2) summarily dismiss as creationist-style idiocy any contrary perspective and (3) demand that dissenters abandon their considered positions on such matters and instead respect Christianity.

If the brown nose fits, Francis, wear it.

But you do not gain allies by harrassing them, swearing at them and saying you have no respect for their beliefs.

Well, if all you're offering is "allies" who demand as a precondition that our beliefs (such as the ones regarding the character of the Gospels' Jesus) conform to and "respect" their dogmas, then there's no room for an alliance anyway. We haven't lost much if the only people we're alienating are the ones who insist that we change our most basic beliefs merely to get into the discussion.

You gain them by courting them, being polite to them, speaking their language and providing something for them.

As long as they don't demand the kind of ridiculous things you do, that seems theoretically acceptable to me. But if "courting" and "speaking their language" and whatnot require the capitulation you call for, it's all pointless.

[T]rying to attack Evangelical Christianity directly is like getting in an arse-kicking contest with a massochistic centipede.

I'll merely point out that the only "attacks" I have launched here have been direct responses to your attempts to impose religious dogma (i.e., "respect" for Jesus Christ the Super-Leftist) on people who want no part of it.

I'm plenty polite to people who don't argue that I need to give up my principles--to love Big Brother--in order to even deserve consideration. Your "try reclaiming Evangelical Christianity" bit is consistently falling well short of that standard, and I've shown you exactly as much respect as you're showing atheists' freedom of conscience.

Well, if you demand monolithic unthinking conformity, and get it, it's not too hard to hold your "coalition" together. Tolerating diversity and dissent inevitably means you have more diversity and dissent in your ranks. *But that's not necessarily bad* - sometimes the dissenter is the guy warning you the bridge is out. Leaders surrounding themselves with yes-men are *dangerous*.

I just don't get people interpreting PZ's fairly mild verbal criticism as "attack" or "oppression", though. Do they really not know what oppression based on belief systems is? Are they *that* ignorant of history?

Of course, we can't use the guilt by association argument to say that the Inquisition, or any other evil act committed by Christian people or organizations, makes Christians today evil. That's why somebody didn't just hit Stauffenberg over the head with Hitler, Torquemada, Urban II and Simon de Montfort and call it a day - his "argument" doesn't work, so reversing it is useless.

It isn't even useful to say that it makes "Christianity" evil - Christianity isn't cohesive enough to be uniformly evil. Some Christians are evil and others aren't. Some Christian sects have evil doctrines and others may not.

So how can anyone "respect" something that amorphous? What does it even mean? Why should one person refuse to criticize another's religious belief he disagrees with, when the same rule doesn't apply to economic, political, or social beliefs? Some people believe in racism as strongly as a religion (or have racist tenets *in* their religion) - should that be immune to criticism too? Why?

My position (and I suspect PZ's too) is that any belief should be subject to criticism, and that any person has a duty to abandon beliefs that are contradicted by sufficiently strong evidence. Atheist beliefs aren't, and shouldn't be, immune to criticism; they should survive only as long as they withstand that criticism. I don't expect, or respect, a double standard.

What extent it's acceptable to compromise on your principles for electoral success is another question, but seems beyond the scope of this discussion. If electoral success is taken as a rationale to discourage free expression, then we've already lost long before we get to the ballot box.

But what of those of us who believe that Christianity is not fundamentally compatible with the left (or at least with many aspects of the left that we think are of extreme importance)

Then leave things alone or attack the Christians as you are. It is only if you think you have a chance of getting them on side (or at least to be neutral) that you actually need to be civil to them.

Some of us take that fact as a given and would like to try to build coalitions notwithstanding the internal disagreements about "beliefs." Christians and atheists can find other areas of agreement and other grounds for respect.

I suspect that we have different definitions of "respect" in that case.

You, meanwhile, demand that we respect things we cannot help but find unworthy of respect. That's tyrannical.

I don't care how evil Stalin was. When he was alive, he was worthy of the same respect you give to someone with far too much power. Were Christianity on the lunatic fringe, you might be able not to respect it - but at the very least you need to give it the respect due to a dangerous opponent.

All totally baseless criticisms of Barker's essay.

Try attacking the points I made about the quotations from the essay rather than simply claiming that the summary is baseless. This reminds me of a classic dialogue between Creationists and Evolutionists. Creationist "My webpage (or Kent Hovind or whoever) says [Foo]". Evolutionist: "Your webpage is wrong because of [Bar]". Creationist: "But the webpage..." Evolutionist "... is rubbish. Did you have a point?". Creationist: "But the webpage!"

That's plenty close enough for this argument. You've accepted that as dogma, and you're happy to shellack Barker, Twain and me for dissenting from it.

I'll shellack Barker for simply missing the context I have posted on this thread. And that you have completely ignored. I actually haven't bothered with Mark Twain as you would have seen if you weren't concerned with beating up a straw man. And I've shellacked you. I suppose 2/3 isn't bad.

You obviously have no idea who Dan Barker is. Suffice it to say that he knows more about "the context" than you ever will. Again, look it up.

Oh. An ex-evangelical priest who went to a Christian bible college. Wouldn't be the first priest (and certainly not the first evangelical) I've met who has a weak knowledge of theology because they haven't tied it into context (due to the contemporary evangelical parody of Sola Scriptura). Who appears to have shifted from fundamentalist Christianity to fundamentalist Atheism. Your point?

But let's see: you (1) stick doggedly to the "Jesus Christ the Super-Leftist" idea, (2) summarily dismiss as creationist-style idiocy any contrary perspective and (3) demand that dissenters abandon their considered positions on such matters and instead respect Christianity.

Point 1 demonstrates that you are dealing with a simplification of my position. I have said that the natural home of Christians is on the left - and have also differentated that from contemporary American Liberalism. Personally, I believe that the person in the 20th Century he would have got on best with is Mahatma Gandhi (who also made comments about desiring arms - and a lot of Jesus' teachings can be read as guidance for passive resistance) and he'd definitely be on the left but not a perfect fit with contemporary American leftism. Point 2 - when you can present actual evidence that I can't rebut (or even try defending your evidence after it has been rebutted) you might have a point. Point 3 - feel free not to respect Christianity if you wish to render yourselves irrelevant and to create enemies where you don't need to. I just think that it's a monumentally stupid and counterproductive course of action.

If the brown nose fits, Francis, wear it.

You really haven't seen me arguing with Christians, have you? I'm every bit as forceful with them when they say they don't respect (whoever - usually atheists because they can't be moral without a God) as I am being with you.

Well, if all you're offering is "allies" who demand as a precondition that our beliefs (such as the ones regarding the character of the Gospels' Jesus) conform to

And once again you completely miss what I'm saying. I'm saying that you take them as allies when their beliefs and your beliefs are in line - and that you try to influence their beliefs to be closer to yours rather than rejecting them entirely and pushing them into the opposition camp.

We haven't lost much if the only people we're alienating are the ones who insist that we change our most basic beliefs merely to get into the discussion.

And once again you demonstrate how fundamentalist Atheists are like fundamentalist Christians. What I am saying is that you do not insist that others change their most basic beliefs merely to get into the discussion (which is what you are doing by not respecting Christianity).

The only other thing I am insisting on is that you try to talk in language that they will understand because without one side (or preferably both) doing that then discussion is pointless.

What in that is ridiculous?

The rest of what I've suggested is to try to get them on side - remember that you want something from them rather than the other way so you need to offer them something in return. One of the cores of politics is compromise. Would you rather give a little to the Evangelical Christians or would you rather hand Karl Rove millions of votes on a plate?

Incidently, does America even have a concept of the Loyal Opposition - the belief that the other side may be wrong and dangerous but that they are trying to do what they believe best?

A hate site has been defined as one that is devoted to attacing and individual or group on the basis of race, sex, creed, or national origin.

So you consider Operation Clambake to be a hate site?

You go to hell, sir. You go to hell and you die.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 16 Mar 2006 #permalink

I liked Tena's remark at the very beginning:

"I was trying to get someone to tell me today why it isn't sufficient that one's good deeds are acknowledged, that their motivation as a Christian has to be acknowledged, too. If we're in agreement politically, why can't the liberal Christians just go with that? Why is it so damn important that we make a big deal of their Christianity?"

and would add this, from an extremely religious--but generous and open-minded--man of England, in the 18th century:

'If we are told, a Man is religious; we still ask, "What are his Morals?" But if we hear at first that he has honest moral Principles, and is a Man of natural Justice and good Temper, we seldom think of the other Question, "Whether he be religious and devout?"'
-- The Third Earl of Shaftesbury, "An Inquiry Concerning Virtue and Merit," Book I, Part I, Section I (Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times [1711], Vol. II, p. 6)

In other words, this whole debate sinks behind what was written in the 1700's. A nice backslide of at least 200 years.

By blog responder (not verified) on 16 Mar 2006 #permalink

Well, blog responder, it could "sink" back 15 centuries before that:

Rabbi Chiyya bar-Abba quotes G-d [Eicha Rabba (midrash to Lamenations), Introduction, 2]:
"If only they had forsaken Me yet kept My Torah!"

As for PZ's forthright post:
About two centuries ago, R. Levi Yitzhak, the Berdichever Rebbe, was headed to his shul for Shabbos morning prayers, when he encountered one of the town's maskilim (partisans of the Jewish Enlightenment), walking along smoking his pipe -- and thereby violating at least two Sabbath commandments. "Don't you know it's Shabbos?" gasped the Rebbe. "Yes, I know," replied the maskil (who may have looked much like PZ), puffing his pipe. "Surely you know that it's forbidden to kindle a fire or carry in the public domain on Shabbos?" persisted the Rebbe. "Yes, I know," answered the maskil, puffing and glaring. The Rebbe turned his eyes heavenward. "Such a fine man you have here, Ribbono shel Olam [Lord of the World]! He may not be so observant of some of your commandments, true -- but no one can coerce him into telling a lie!"

Mr. Myers, at Kansas Citizens for Science we are fighting a tough battle to have the present school board replaced.

When you, and Robert Madison who invited you over (and who is an outspoken atheist) link your atheism to science, going beyond anything science can provide, you are playing in to the hands of our opponents.

The primaries here are coming up, and having atheists swarming our site will not, AT PRESENT, be helpful.

Your choice.

Gee, Dave, as an atheist and long-time science teacher in Kansas, I can sure tell you that if you represent the way things are supposed to be in Kansas, Kansas Citizens for Science can not count on any support from me. You clearly wish to stay in the Dark Ages, it just seems that you want them to be the Dark Ages of your own choice.

Look, it seems to me that it is the Christians who are linking atheism with science, and faith with creationism. Okay, yes, if the lines are drawn that way atheism and science and evolution will suffer in the short run but will benefit in the long run (when Christians in the future will make the inevitable assertions about creationist Christians "not really being Christian" as they always do when they're updating themselves). Fine.

So, let's have it out. Atheism and science versus religion and creationism. Bring it on. Science is going to win in the end, and even if it were to disappear from the earth, there is nothing viable with which to replace it! I am not afraid.

We are not telling believers to support evolution but to hide their faith, are we?

I have not been able to download the whole "Root of All Evil?" program but did listen to the audio of the first half yesterday and Richard Dawkins is asking the very questions that need to be asked, not only by atheists but by believers, of believers. He is a man of principle and I for one am sick of atheists being portrayed as harmful social deviates. When people say, "Keep it in the closet," it is not out of concern for science or evolution but because they don't want to think about our icky atheism (just like people being gay repulses some other people). They just don't want to think about it.

(BTW, I'm seeing the whole two parts of "Root of All Evil?" tonight at someone's house! Ha, ha! I shall be one of the elect. No more downloading snippets from websites and secretly watching at work, because I have a dial-up at home. Guess that's what happens when you don't pray for something.)

PZ I agree with alot of what you said, though it is blatantly obvious that your wraw pessimism and shere lack of tactfulness are what got you fired from your last job and now have you writing articles for blogs (j.k.) :)

This has been a really interesting debate, but I will say this: Even in this discussion it's appeared that several people don't even respect the other person they're talking to, without really having any knowledge of that person, what their beliefs are, or where they're coming from. I think that's rather telling... Before we can begin working on respecting other belief systems or politcial leanings, first we should learn how to respect individuals for simply being who they are and having an opinion.

Secondly, I think that in these kind of arguments, you have to keep things pretty civil, or it weakens your point. People shouting "FUCK NO" just creates an atmosphere of hostility and/or desperation, which rarely helps communicate the point you're trying to put forward.

Rather than hope for a time when one "side" will emerge and be viewed as "right", I hope for a time when people can work together even if they completely, totally, and vehemently disagree on certain issues. For example, poverty. If there's a guy who hates blacks and gays, pickets outside abortion clinics, and spews pollution into the air, but wants to come out and help serve soup at a homeless shelter... well, lets save that argument for another day, check our opinions at the door, and work together at giving out food to those who need it.

Sound reasonable?

Some say science is neutral, neither supporting nor denying religious beliefs. PZ Myers, on the other hand, states that his being a scientist leads him to have no respect for Christianity (or any religion).

Myers is entitled to his personal views on religion, on the same basis that a buddhist or an animist is entitled to his views on science. So long as it is understood that these are merely personal points of view, they raise no issue.
But, does Myers statement represent the views of the scientific community on the subject ?

To find out, one has to try to find an official statement by representative scientific associations which support the same views expressed by Myers. I dont think one can find such a statement.

Next, one can try to find out if any such position exists explicitly or implicitly in the writings of the most distinguished scientists and philosophers of science. Let me take two representative, and opposite positions by famous people. Einstein said that he believed in God, because everything he observed in Nature (i.e. in the Universe) showed the imprint of the Creator, who doesnt play dice in the making the world.

Bertrand Russell, for his part, explains in detail the reasons for his unbelief in Why I am not a Christian. In his view, there's too much misery, too many earthquakes, too many wars, on Earth, for the Christian God of love to be behind that. God couldn't have come to Earth and sacrificed himself to save humanity, only to kill them haphazardly after that in blind mass destruction through natural phenomena, or to allow them to kill each other on such a massive scale without intervening to stop the killing.

Einstein and Russell are people who had a great influence on me, when I was growing up. One was the model scientist and the other the model philosopher, and I never could decide whether I was more fascinated by science or philosophy. Thats probably why I became an economist, a field which relies on both the techniques of the scientist and the reasoning of the philosopher. But, I honestly cant say that they had any influence on my religious beliefs.

I think thats the important point I want to make. I can easily understand Einsteins feelings about the glory of God, as well as Russells feelings about wars, misery and earthquakes. But these remain at the level of personal feelings.

None of the two distinguished thinkers demonstrated that his views on the subject were grounded on anything more than personal and cultural values. They didn't rely on the scientific method to reach their conclusions, nor to justify them.

I am more impressed with Cricks views on the subject, if I understand him correctly. He says that studying DNA leads him to the conclusion that nothing is haphazard in the machinery of life, that its clearly the product of intelligence. That kind of statement I can understand, and sympathize with. I would be more inclined to try to figure out whether Crick is right or wrong in his reasoning, because, as I understand it, thats a scientific discussion of the subject.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, when I used to be Aster, if I have to choose between a religious reference book which states that Earth is young, and a geology book that states that it's old, I would take the geology book any time, because I believe in the validity of scientific work, and its statements about the age of Earth. But that would have no bearing whatsoever on any of my religious beliefs, because the existence of God (or lack thereof) is certainly not dependent on such an insignificant finding (in the cosmic scale) as the age of Earth.

So, if a scientist wants to discuss the issue of science and religion, I would suggest to him the following topic :

"Does the study of DNA lead one to the conclusion that the machinery of life was created by an intelligence ?"

If a scientist wants to have a position on the relationship between science and religion, he must use the rules and techniques of the scientific method to make his point. Whether that has to do with God or with animal reproduction, the scientific method is always the same in its requirements.